Earlier this month we discussed not being ashamed of having a story, or of wanting to share your story. Being a survivor of sexual violence isn’t something that you need to be ashamed of. I know many survivors are made to feel like their assault was their fault and therefore they have something to be ashamed of. In truth, your assault was/is not your fault, and you have nothing to be ashamed of. I know it is easier said than believed and that it will take time, but these words are true. It took me a long time to understand and believe that and I can only hope that those of you reading the article and judging yourselves will work your way into believing that you have nothing to be ashamed of because you are guilty of nothing.
In our last column we also touched on the fact that sexual violence is a violation of our human rights. As a human being, as a woman… I have the right to feel safe and secure in my body. As a human being, I have a right to not fear my body being violated. As human beings, we should all want to address issues of sexual violence as sexual violence affects everyone whether directly or indirectly. In this week’s article I thought we would discuss recognizing when you have reached your limit and addressing it. As we continue in the article, should you begin to feel anxious or triggered, please stop reading. Should you start having flashbacks, or start feeling short of breath, take a moment to re-center and then decide if you want to continue reading. As you continue or start your healing journey, part of the process is learning to trust yourself and learning to listen to yourself and what your body is saying it needs. There is nothing wrong in having to stop; your body is not betraying you, your mind and body are not weak. You have suffered a traumatic experience; your mind and body are still healing from it. Don’t be hard on yourself. The articles will always be here, what is more important is learning and adhering to your limits.
The past few months have been extremely challenging for us all. For many of you, your lives have been turned upside down and inside out. Many of you have felt very traumatized and confined by everything happening in the world right now. You may have been trying to cope by ignoring your emotions, ignoring your needs, etc. It is in many ways not so much ignoring what you are feeling but understanding that you may not be able to process much more. As time goes by, as more things are being piled on top of the other, many of you are finding it hard to continue to ignore feeling overwhelmed. So, this week I am suggesting that you try to work on listening to yourself, acknowledging what your body is saying, and stopping when your body has reached its limit. Let’s for one moment truly describe the situations many of us are living under: many are current unemployed; many are not sure when or if they will be employed in the near future or what that employment will look like. Many are worried about the future of their children – what will schooling look like? Even more are worried that upon returning to work their salaries will be reduced and their work level increased. We are all worried should this happen, we will be in no position to stand up for our rights, to demand to be treated better.
So many of us are worried about the rising cost of living when there is little to no income coming in. You may also be worried about getting sick and what that may look like. People all over the world, especially those who have suffered traumatic experiences, are worried about their future and what that will look like. The world is in chaos; our country is in chaos. We are seeing images of people having their rights trampled on. We are also witnessing that many people have had enough and are demanding that change happens, and that it happens now. With all that happening we are overwhelmed; we are carrying around a lot of uncertainty which is placing extra pressure on us. I am asking that we begin to decide when we have reached our limit, to take a moment to hone in on what we need to calm down, or take a moment to be honest with ourselves, what we can handle, and when enough is enough.
There has been a lot of pressure during this pandemic to use the time to do more… to be more. Many are behaving like the stress level experienced during the pandemic is non-existent or minuscule, and as though they would be failures for not using the time to become a better version of themselves. But in reality, you and any of us may very well be justified in doing nothing… in only surviving the panic and uncertainty. When you have reached your limit in what you are able to deal with, in how much you are able to give, to do, to help with… you have the right to say; as much as I care about you, I need to take a step back for myself, for my mental health. I had grand plans of learning new languages, or reading countless books, or doing online courses, but during the period I was unable to leave the house. I was unable to focus on anything other than the basic tasks. Life before the pandemic was tumultuous, life after has only compounded things. It is right to not feel guilty for needing a break, to not feel guilty for not being able to undertake countless tasks, for not being able to always be the emotional rock for others. You get to take care of you, you get to put you first, you get to decide I can’t do more right now, I need a break. The time spent home during the pandemic wasn’t/isn’t a holiday… many are spending time worried, depressed, and feeling out of control and fearful of the future. Those are very overwhelming feelings and you deserve to be able to say not today, I’m sorry I can’t help, I’m sorry I’ve reached my limit, I’m sorry, I need a break. You get to say those things and not feel bad. You get to say those things and should not be made to feel bad. Remember that if your well is dry you can’t give water to anyone else. As you read this week’s article, I want you to work on being more aware of what your body and mind need. I want you to be more aware of focusing on being honest and gentle with yourself. I want you to focus on being ok with not being ok… to focus on acknowledging that you have reached your limit and can’t do more.
To the survivors reading this article, I know that you may be even more triggered than usual, it is ok. You have not fallen off the healing journey, you have not slipped back, and you are going through a period in time that is pushing many of the buttons that remind you of your assault. There are periods on the journey where you take a step to the side because going forward seems too much, and that is ok. The journey is not a rigid uphill climb, but a feeling through of what is the best next course of action for your current position. Imagine rock climbing; it’s not a straight climb up, but a feeling through of what spots are ahead… what’s spots are to the side, and sometimes what’s spots are behind that will help as you advance on your journey. Don’t get disheartened… you are doing what is best for you right now. Work on listening to your inner you. Work on acknowledging what you need and being ok with not judging yourself for it. Should you feel triggered and feel like you may be a danger to yourself or others please reach out. You survived a traumatic experience, it doesn’t define you, it is not your entire story. You are on a path to healing; it takes time and patience. Be gentle with yourself. You deserve peace and happiness.
Always remember, call if you need to vent, or if you need company to just be on the phone. We are here to help. Text, email, call, you are not alone.
Souyenne Dathorne, Velika Lawrence, Miguelle James & Jayde Jean
Facebook: Surviving Sexual Abuse in the Caribbean
Telephone: 1-758-724-9991 (Sue) 1-758-723-6466