encouragement

101 Distraction Techniques: Tools for Intrusive Trauma Symptoms

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101 Distraction Techniques


     When it comes to complex trauma, survivors may face any number of debilitating symptoms — from flashbacks, nightmares and intrusive/overwhelming emotions, to unsafe impulses, unmanaged dissociation, and all the challenges of daily living that become magnified as you wrestle your mental health. Many skills and therapeutic tools can be vital to getting through, but sometimes they just don't feel like enough. You may've been successful at putting memories away, but are still left in a funky headspace you can't seem to shake off. Or, maybe you've gotten grounded, but are too flooded with emotions to even begin looking at what got you so off-kilter. Sometimes you just need a middle step before you can get to your other skills. Distraction can be a surprisingly helpful tool, and is often under-appreciated.

     One thing to keep in mind when using distraction is that it's not a long-term solution. Relying on it too heavily - or in place of other therapeutic tools - can actually lead to "stuffing", avoidance, and increasing the dissociation of what's causing you distress. This only makes it more likely to revisit you intrusively or when you're least prepared. But, when you're really struggling in the short-term, switching gears and doing something completely unrelated can give you the footing you need. Even neurologically speaking, it's very common for those with PTSD to recycle through thoughts, memories and feelings circularly. Getting off that feedback loop can sometimes offer a greater reprieve than if you'd stayed on it, repeatedly trying to put things away. Activating different parts of the brain that aren't overtired can bolster your resources and give you access to the circuitry vital to thinking with clarity and reason again. Then, when you return, you're much more equipped to tackle things head-on instead of just going along for the ride.

     We've divided our list of 101 Distraction Techniques into three categories based on how much mental and physical effort they require. We know that sometimes all you can manage is what's doable from where you're sitting and/or involving very little mental energy. Other times you need to get moving a bit or start an activity. Then are the occasions where a really complex, elaborate and intricate task is needed to bring you out of the place you've been trapped for so long.

      As with all of our lists, there will be tools listed that are not helpful for everyone. There may even be some that are triggering, upsetting, or would antagonize some of your specific symptoms. You know yourself and your symptoms best, so use your best judgment, trust yourself, and just pass on the tools that aren't for you. There are a hundred others to choose from — literally!

 

Low-Effort

  1. Watch a TV show. If you don't have cable or a subscription service, many television networks offer free access, without a log-in, until you get closer to the most recent episodes.

  2. Watch a movie. Light-hearted comedy, drama to suck you in, or an old favorite - there are countless films to whisk you away for a bit.

  3. Sing. It doesn't matter if you're a professional vocalist or can't to carry a tune, singing engages a completely different part of your brain. Plus, the vibrations in your chest give great sensory feedback and the vocalization reminds you of your voice.

  4. Watch cute videos on YouTube. About as low-effort as it gets: puppy/kitty videos, laugh challenges, or Vine compilations - take your pick.

  5. Mindless doodles/finger painting/playing with clay. This may be especially helpful to those with child parts (DID/OSDD) who need an activity of their own.

  6. Grab a snack.

  7. Drum on a surface. Like singing, the vibrations and bilateral stimulation of your hands thumping will engage different parts of your mind and bring your attention away from what's intruding on you.

  8. Play a game or use a fun app on your phone. Even if you aren't a gamer, search the app store. You might find one that speaks to you. It can be a great escape to get lost in for a bit.

  9. Video games. Any console, any game!

  10. Tear out words/photos/etc for a collage. Ask a local doctor's office or hairdresser for their spare magazines. Mindlessly rip out photos and words that speak to you. (Bonus: you may get to put tabloids to good use for once! They often have the scathing, overdramatic words that happen to be great for a therapeutic collages. Shocking! Betrayal! You Won't Believe It!).

  11. Discover new music. YouTube, Spotify, Pandora, so many ways to find new gems!

  12. Wash your face/hands or brush your teeth. A quick refresher can help you restart your day on a brand new page.

  13. Re-watch highlights from your favorite sport. It's easy to forget just how many epic, captivating moments there were once some time has passed. Relive your excitement. Plus, you already know how it ends, so you don't have to pay super close attention!

  14. Gratitude list. When your mind only wants to remind you of distressing things, focusing on 10+ things you're grateful for can really take you to a whole new atmosphere in your mind and heart.

  15. Imagery exercises. Containment exercises, healing pool/healing light, guided meditation, so many options!

  16. Play a board game with a friend. Something simple like Sorry!, challenging like chess, or silly like Cards Against Humanity, there are lots of options to distract you in the company of friends.

  17. Card games. Solo works, too, if there's no one around.

  18. Play with a pet. Pets (when they aren't being rotten) are the best distraction!

  19. Listen to a podcast/audiobook.

  20. Try to laugh without smiling. Trust me, this is something you need in your life.

  21. Color-breathing / breathing techniques. An example of color-breathing here.

  22. Untangle cords/necklaces/strings in a drawer. If this is something that won't aggravate potential OCD behaviors or anxieties, this can be a perfect chore when you need a distraction.

  23. Clean out social media friends lists. Aaaah, just imagine the relief!

  24. Read a children’s book to parts inside (OCD/OSDD). If you're struggling to stay focused, maybe young parts are who need the attention and care most. Even if you don’t have DID parts, we all have a younger us inside that needs some comfort, joy and attention, too.

  25. Play with a tangle, fidget cube, pin art, sand tray, etc. You can do this right where you're sitting, without needing to think -- a perfect option when you're still heavily in symptoms but trying to come out.

  26. Count by 7’s, list all the prime numbers, divide. Okay, this may be more medium-effort if math isn't your jam, but at least you don't have to go anywhere! ;)

  27. Browse art sites for images you love. Whether it's DeviantArt, flickr, Pinterest or somewhere else, sometimes soothing, fun or beautiful images can bring your mind to a brand new place.

  28. Sit outside and pay attention to all the things in nature. A change of scenery and a chance to connect with the earth can sometimes be all we need.

  29. Apply lotion. If this isn't a personal or sensory trigger, this can be grounding, an act of self-care and a distraction all in one!

  30. Allow yourself a nap. Sometimes that's just the only functional distraction we can muster.



Medium Effort

   31. Puzzle books. Sudoku, crosswords, word finds, variety puzzles, logic problems, take your pick!
   32. Read a book. Any book!
   33. Play music. On your phone, computer, radio, iPod, anywhere! You just might start singing along ;)
   34. Dance party. Let's be honest, this could solve most things in life ;) And, if you think you're too cool for that, turn this on and tell me you don't wanna move. If those don't get you groovin' and you're more modern, give. these. a. go. And, if all else fails: BAM.
   35. Watch videos on a topic you’re unfamiliar with. It's much easier to have your attention captured when you're learning something brand new.
   36. Draw/use an adult coloring book.
   37. Make an Amazon wishlist or Pinterest board of things you want. If you can't escape your current circumstances, envisioning a future time can be a nice way out.
   38. Send texts/messages to friends to check in with them. Concentrating on someone else can be a great way to step out of our own mind and its symptoms. Caring for others also helps us reconnect to the world at large.
   39. Organize all the files on your computer. Most of our workspaces could use a good cleaning up anyway!
   40. Wash your makeup brushes, paint brushes or other work tools. Yeah, this one probably needed done awhile ago, too! 
   41. Bullet journaling. You can start any time of year, and the structure-combined-with-creativity format can provide a great detailed distraction. There are wonderful YouTube videos on how to get started or sharing ideas to help you get creative with it!
   42. Create a new playlist. One for sleep/relaxation, one to pump you up, a good one for when you're driving or doing chores, or just one for ambient background noise -- put together something you'll love and thank yourself for later.
   43. Take a shower/bath. Concentrate on all the scents and textures for extra grounding, too.
   44. Clean all your electronics. Your phone, your keyboard, laptop screen, earbuds -- they could all use your attention too (if cleaning won't engage OCD loops).
   45. Schedule appointments you’ve been putting off. Call the dentist, women/men's health doctors, insurance company, landlord, whoever you need to see. Make those appointments!
   46. Stretch/do yoga. It's not the answer to all of a body's ails like many often suggest, but it is a phenomenal resource for trauma survivors to get into their bodies, recalibrate their autonomic nervous system through steady breathing, and get out tensions or trapped anxieties that have been buzzing inside.
   47. Write an email or letter to someone. Send some heartfelt kindness to someone who made a huge impact on you, someone you've been thinking about, or those you've been worried about.
   48. Call up a safe friend/family member. Just to talk about anything and nothing at all.
   49. Write reviews for things you’ve purchased online. Do others a great service while offering yourself a distraction by letting them know what you thought of an item.
   50. Take photos and edit them in really unique ways. Use filters you never use, effects you'd normally never choose, and heck, even take photos of things you'd never bother to capture! Have fun with it! Discover something new and creative. 
   51. Try new ways to style your hair. You never know what new aesthetic you'll fall in love with.
   52. Test out a totally new makeup look or facial hair style. You just might love it!
   53. Follow a DIY tutorial (even if just to laugh at yourself). Hey, we aren't all cut out to be on HGTV!
   54. Research new homes/cars/phones/assistance programs/accessibility devices you may need. These important, highly detail-oriented tasks can really grab your focus and reign you in because it matters.
   55. Paint your nails. Any gender, any age, with any color!
   56. Fold laundry. A slightly mindless task, but one that still requires your attention and coordination.
   57. List your recent accomplishments.  You'll be amazed at just how many things you've done recently that you so easily forget without writing them down. It can be easy to recall the challenges, but the impressive and/or proud memories sometimes fall to the wayside. These can also be incredible to review at the end of a year!
   58. Write a poem/alpha-poem/etc. It doesn't have to be a good poem. ..but, it just might turn out to be anyway!
   59. Watch a documentary. There are some phenomenal free ones on YouTube for free if you don't have Netflix/cable -- and they span the range of just about any subject matter!
   60. Creative/expressive writing. There are excellent creative writing prompts online if you're stuck.
   61. Do something childlike. Sidewalk chalk, hopscotch, color with crayons, skip rope. Or, just enjoy this video if you're nervous about letting little you step up.
   62. Buy yourself a small gift. You deserve it.
   63. Do a jigsaw puzzle. There are so many unique kinds out there, too, not just a traditional 500-piece.
   64. Make a handmade gift for someone.
   65. Take a walk. Down the driveway, out in your neighborhood, through a park, on a nature trail - just go anywhere.
   66. Make your own containment box/journal.
   67. Go to the grocery store and buy new foods. Look for things you always wanted to try!
   68. Send positive comments to friends/strangers. Fill up friend's and stranger's social media with kind, helpful, supportive, encouraging and/or complimentary things. We could all use it, but it also makes you feel good, too. You don't have to be fake or forced about it, just say the things you often think but maybe don't always say.
   69. Organize a drawer/closet. This can even leave you feeling as though you've decluttered your mind a bit, too.
   70. Self-care. Look up ASMR videos (if that's okay for you), oddly-satisfying compilations, or other visually/sensorily appealing content that will calm your senses.



HIGHER EFFORT

   71. Go to a movie. Watching at home is great, too, but sometimes getting out of the house, being in the company of others and experiencing a film larger than life can capture your attention in a way that watching at home can't manage.
   72. Make an elaborate meal. Choose something that requires prep, organization, many steps, and the confidence you’ve followed the recipe correctly -- a good kind of complicated.
   73. Begin learning a new language. We're definitely into the higher-effort category now, but sometimes high levels of concentration and detail are needed to get someone out of the places they've been trapped in for days. A new language is a great way to shift gears entirely.
   74. Begin learning sign language, Braille or another communication skill. Help make life more accessible for others and earn a skill of your own to feel proud of accomplishing.
   75. Learn an instrument. Piano, guitar, ukulele, violin, flute, drums -- what speaks to you?
   76. Build/do construction. Whether you're a beginner or this is your forté, working with your hands and with a variety of pieces/elements can be an excellent distraction.
   77. Go for a drive. Definitely make sure you're grounded enough for a task like this, but if that's in-check and you just need to carve out some fresh space in your mind, hit the road!
   78. Volunteer. Pick a charity, shelter, trash pick-up, soup kitchen, or even just a friend in need. Lend a hand, your heart and your time. Focusing on others is a great way to escape your own trials for a moment.
   79. Play a sport. Soccer, basketball, tennis, volleyball, bowling, so many options!
   80. Work out. Whether you hit the gym, or get moving in your home, a workout (especially with great tunes) can be a great distraction.
   81. Build a house of cards, stack dominoes, etc. Pick your favorite tedious, high-concentration task that demands your full attention!
   82. Garage/shed tasks. Work on your car, clean up a tool or tackle box, stain a shelf, complete other tasks that are waiting for you outside the house.
   83. Repair things around the house. Fix a sink, a broken chair, squeaky door, bent light post.
   84. Organize an event/party/vacation. Fewer things more detailed and task oriented than that!
   85. Go through your clothes/closets and donate what you don't need. Focusing on keep, trash, and donate piles can keep your mind focused in many places and present/future tenses at once, leaving room for little else.
   86. Rearrange/redecorate a bedroom or other room in the house. Change of scenery can keep you from falling back into the same spaces of your mind.
   87. Do gardening/landscaping/outdoor work. If you don't have a yard of your own, pot plants for inside your home or offer to help someone else with theirs.
   88. Update your internal world. Many with DID or OSDD have an internal world, and some can add new elements with enough concentration and effort. New rooms, parks, pets, gardens, landscapes, and so much more. Give it an update! If you don’t have this, developing highly-detailed imagery locations for your “safe place” or mental escape is perfect!
   89. Go out to eat. Peruse the menu and pick something you don't normally get.
   90. Go out for a treat. Grab some fro-yo, dessert, or something enjoyable -- bonus if you do so with others!
   91. Try a Rubix cube or other impossible puzzles. Learn how to solve 'em!
   92. Information deep dives. Learn about a social, political, historical topic you always wished you’d known more about.
   93. Head out to a coffee shoppe/bookstore. Do the same work, projects, reading, self-care, etc., you’d be doing at home, but in the company of other people.
   94. Go to or look for new public places. Check out local libraries, parks, bookstores, or other small shops you never even knew existed around you.
   95. Clean out your car/gym bag/purse/wheelchair/wallet/etc.
   96. Finish work you've been putting off. Whether it's schoolwork, take-home tasks for your job, or volunteer projects, get 'em done and cross 'em off your list!
   97. Meet up with a safe group of friends or family.
   98. Visit a barn or farm. Ride horses, learn more about agriculture or animals, experience a different way of living.
   99. Go to an art, space, or historical museum. Learn all there is to know; transport yourself into another time and place.
   100. Money stuffs. Start filing your taxes, collect receipts, balance your accounts, apply for assistance, pay bills, do all those yucky things no one wants to do but has to. It'll demand all of your focus, but then feel like a huge relief to be done and off your mind. 
   101. Learn a new physical skill. Kickboxing, martial arts, jujitsu, self-defense -- get all the anxiety, fear and anger out of your whole system and begin to feel strong and empowered in your body and what it can do!


~    ~    ~
 

     We sincerely hope this is helpful to you! Feel free to bookmark it for the future, particularly for those times when it feels too hard to even think or remember what you may need. Also, share your go-to distraction techniques below and help us keep this list going! You may have the perfect solution for someone else's distress!

 

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MORE POSTS YOU MAY FIND HELPFUL:

  ✧  Grounding 101: 101 Grounding Techniques
  ✧  Flashbacks 101: 4 Tools to Cope with Flashbacks
  ✧  Nighttime 101 and Nighttime 201Sleep Strategies for Complex PTSD
  ✧  Imagery 101Healing Pool and Healing Light
  ✧  DID MythsDispelling Common Misconceptions about Dissociative Identity Disorder
  ✧  Did You Know?: 8 Things We Should All Know about C-PTSD and DID
  ✧  Trauma and Attachment: 3-Part Series on Attachment Theory with Jade Miller
 
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When #MeToo Hurts

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When #MeToo Helps.....then Hurts

    It was mid-October when the words “Me Too” took us all by storm and shook the ground; impassioned, strong voices broke through the earth to let their stories of sexual assault be heard and felt.  Survivors worldwide began disclosing their experiences, discussions about sexual assault began to spark, and together we all faced the brush fires stirring in our own communities. What started in Hollywood spread to our personal feeds and many were completely overwhelmed by the sheer volume of loved ones who’d been affected by sexual misconduct in some way.  Brave, courageous stories were being told, honesty and openness were being more respected, and incredibly moving work was taking off at an unprecedented rate. While difficult, it offered the first glimmer of hope to all the survivors who’d been sitting in their silence since they were small children, ignored and mistreated for so long. This could be the turning page! “This could be the moment we’re seen. This could my chance to be believed! The battles I face every single day just to make it through could lift! …someone will finally understand us!”  Unfortunately, over time many started to see that the movement that held, and still holds, so much promise was letting them down and, at times, even actively causing them pain. Survivors who were most broken by sexual violence were being left out, others were being narrowly characterized as the problem, and then there were those being lifted into the spotlight with whom most couldn't identify. What aimed to amplify the voices of those hidden and silenced the harshest, instead began doing the silencing and hiding.

 

    It’s been three months. Three months since we’ve begun having daily, public conversations about sexual assault, consent, harassment, power dynamics, manipulation, silencing, fear, coercion, and so much more. These topics are fiercely important. Yet, somehow we’ve moved on to where the conversation delved into the smallest of details, to where we even openly analyze the very minutia of one person’s assault, but managed to jump right over entire groups of men, women and children who are most affected by sexual assault. They were left out of the broader conversation entirely. Men have been almost completely shut out. We even had two famous men come forward with their experiences, but as more came forward against Spacey, those men devolved into just part of a number count - not people with names and stories, like each individual woman against Weinstein was given. You also had to work exceptionally hard to find anything about them. On another plane, and it has already been well-observed but bears repeating, people of color have been largely overlooked in favor of powerful, white, attractive women. The most neglected, however, have been those abused as children and teens. So, if you are/were a little boy, or a child of color, forget it. Three months and no one with influence has taken the time to speak on your behalf or any of the populations most exposed to sexual/complex trauma.  Survivors themselves have been speaking, though. They’ve been sharing their stories, as well as their frustrations, their pain, their sense of invisibility, their disappointment, and their desire to just be seen and be given care. But, these strong souls are forced to talk mostly amongst themselves — with those who already get it. Any attempt at more public dialogue or even education has been so explicitly redirected or avoided. That's unacceptable.

 

    Several weeks into the movement, we saw branches like #ChurchToo take off. This brought with it renewed hope for many, particularly the groups feeling most ignored. It felt like there was still a chance we could get to them soon; just give it time, soon the spark will catch. But, then the compassion fatigue seemed to set in, sympathies were waning, and many had their embers snuffed out as they saw it barely trend, never given a hashtag icon, and articles about it remaining very few and far between (and, most were about churches defending themselves). Over time, it seemed concerns about the direction of MeToo - including its re-traumatizing and triggering effects - were either disregarded or met with hostility.  ..as if by expressing concern, one was arguing against its necessity or importance as a movement. Which, is typically untrue and worrying at best.

    In the last month, MeToo has been increasingly described as a women’s movement. “Thanks to #MeToo, it’s the year of the woman,”  “#MeToo gave a chance for women to tell their stories,” “Stars are dressing in black to support the women affected by sexual assault.”. To add insult to injury, men were universally being characterized as the perpetrators. They were emphatically told it’s their turn to LISTEN. They were told they aren’t to be doing any talking, just listening and taking notes on what they plan to do to help women. Male victims are an afterthought or a parenthetical to an article about women. They aren’t allowed to speak, just learn and don’t abuse. This is dangerous, toxic, and painful. It takes away their voices to come out as victims themselves, and re-impresses to ALL victims that, unless their abuse was at the hands of a male, they just shouldn’t come forward. Abuse perpetrated by women has been responded to in a wildly different way. Some have even said it’s “not the time for those stories because we’re trying to help women right now”. No. No, we aren’t. We’re trying to help victims of sexual assault. Humans. That includes men. That includes those who were hurt by women. It means little boys, teens, children and little girls. It means we fight for those hurt by family members, those with multiple perpetrators, whose abuse lasted for years, and those who’ve been trafficked, who are poor, who have nothing to their name, and those with no power elsewhere.

 

    THIS IS NOT A WOMEN’S MOVEMENT. IT’S NOT A POWERFUL-WOMEN EXCLUSIVE movement. IT IS NOT A MOVEMENT AGAINST MEN.

    This is a movement for survivors of sexual assault. And, to exclude any group is to abuse them again. To say their voices aren’t important, their stories insignificant, motives impure, or not as glamorous a story for a magazine cover, is inexcusable. Being selective with the voices we lift up, and when, says to everyone else, “You don’t fit our agenda, your story is too messy or hard to hear, you can wait your turn”. Only, their turn won’t ever come if no one takes a stand for them. They cannot just be expected to talk amongst themselves indefinitely and expect anything to change. They need the world to see them, understand them, to HELP them.

 

More Evidence of Inequity

    We currently have the largest criminal case of sex abuse against children, teens and adults that the U.S. has seen in decades. The number of girls who've survived the abuse of Larry Nassar - former team doctor within USA Gymnastics, Michigan State University and club gym Twistars - surpasses the number of Sandusky, Weinstein and Bill Cosby victims combined. Yet, somehow, even in the era of #MeToo, it’s gotten a fraction of the coverage as each of those cases independently. Over one-hundred and forty girls [update: currently over 200 girls and the addition of a male as of January 23, 2018] and women were hurt by one man (as well as the organizations that employed him, and specific individuals who enabled his abuse), over the span of 3 decades, with many reports against him that went ignored or were hidden -- but somehow, the story and all of its lessons has struggled to have any lasting power in the media or public discourse. Is it because many were children and teens when they were hurt? Because it wasn’t sexual harassment, or abuse against independent women, and seen as off-topic? Was it just too difficult to hear? Too unbelievable? Was it because these precious survivors weren't wealthy, didn't have a current platform or large following, or were mostly just strangers from Michigan? In truth, it is because of all those reasons and more. Some of the more ludicrous-sounding posits even have evidence behind them. There only was a sudden uptake in interest, after an entire year of coverage and legal proceedings, once McKayla Maroney, Aly Raisman, Gabby Douglas, Simone Biles and, most recently, Jordyn Weiber, each stepped forward in the case against Larry.  Only then was attention given to this beyond the walls of the gymnastics community. You can even witness the trend yourself. The week Simone Biles came forward is when coverage took off, but then it took celebrities offering monetary support to McKayla Maroney; 156 of the 200+ victims sharing their impact statements in court, to Larry and anyone who would listen; and Aly Raisman's testimony and forceful words being specifically picked up and featured in the New York Times, just to keep it there. To further update: it actually took sassy, fiery, gif-worthy Judge Aquilina to thrust the story into the real spotlight -- I mean, look at those numbers since the case broke. Many deemed her their new hero, but it seems they forgot who the real heroes in this case are.

    This deeply disheartening trend in media coverage and public interest sent a very, very loud and clear message to the 135+ non-famous little girls, teens and women who originally csme forward in the last 2 years: that they alone weren't important enough for the public to care. Their abuse, suffering and stories of survival weren’t something people wanted to hear about or learn from unless they were already emotionally invested in them as a fan. Several of these remarkable girls were even vocal about how much that hurt. They weren't 'marketable' or click-worthy enough by their own accord -- not even in the era of #TimesUp, or as they fought back against the most heinous criminal, and the very powerful organizations, that created the worst case of institutional child endangerment that the U.S. has seen in decades. Once clout, power and celebrity were introduced, publications couldn't be written fast enough. These are the kinds of actions that hurt everyday survivors deeply, and everyday survivors are who this world is made up of. However, even once the brilliant voices of our Olympic gold medalists were added, breathing new life into its visibility, it was clear their fame and power were still inadequate to that of a Hollywood celebrity. They provided a bump in exposure, but only a bump.  They, too, were given the message that their fierce, powerful and also heartbreaking voices, after years and years of abuse, weren’t as meaningful as those retelling one night as a Hollywood elite. And, that not only stings and cuts deep to those experiencing the neglect, but to many witnessing it. Because, if that’s true for even them, it begs the question to survivors everywhere, sitting in their nondescript homes, with names no one knows, and traumas deemed “too bad”, “too gross” or “too complex”: “What chance do I have for anyone to care about me? Who will help me? Who will fight for me to make my life safer? Who helps make sure that what I'VE been through never happens to anyone else? Who will help me get the treatment I need to stay alive? When will anyone believe us? WHEN WILL ANYONE JUST HEAR US?!”

 

    If that isn't a repeat dynamic of the questions they asked themselves as children victimized in their own homes, schools, daycares, and sports teams, I’m not sure what it is.  #MeToo, #TimesUp, and those championing them the hardest promised to fight for those who couldn't fight for themselves. Who can’t come forward. Who are scared, unseen, and voiceless. But so far, we’ve only witnessed stories of abuse to children, teens and men being pushed out of the discussion in favor of celebrities and those who have power elsewhere in their lives. It hurts. This version of #MeToo hurts. And, I can promise you that was never part of Tarana Burke’s mission statement ten years ago.

 

 Looking Ahead

    One thing that we MUST also keep in mind as we continue to spotlight sexual assault and have extremely important conversations about the behavior of those who abuse — is how it invariably pushes those who are actively abusing individuals, especially children, further underground. …which typically involves worsened abuse. Fear of being caught leads to firmer punishments, deeper threats, drilling victims much harder about not telling anyone, convincing them no one will believe them, and instilling the fear of God (or death) into children who might think for even second of telling a loved one or teacher. Teens may be the most vulnerable because their abusers know they have access to the internet and may see these conversations about abuse in the media. They have a unique opportunity like never before to realize “them too” and want to seek help. Unfortunately, those who abuse only care about themselves and will not be scared into inaction; they will only abuse more violently and creatively to further insulate themselves. We need to remember that, while we cannot and should not be quieted just because these individuals exist, we need to do that much more for those presently trapped in abusive environments. If we’re going to have these global conversations — and we MUST — we must also take thoughtful, intentional care of those who are still under threat. Those who are being further endangered by our mission to deconstruct the institutions that make abuse so prevalent deserve better. And, despite beliefs to the contrary, there are absolutely things that we can do on this front. There are actions we can take. We just need to remember to explore them and that this is not just about us sharing our stories and letting people know it’s an issue, but going out of our way to protect others from future victimization as well as rescuing those still in its vice grip.

 

   Above all, we must remember the most vulnerable. A movement FOR the broken, should not leave anyone more broken. Children and most teens are the truly voiceless. They cannot say #MeToo. They cannot put a post on social media and be enveloped in support and care. They may not even know what’s happening to them is even wrong yet. They’re terrified and afraid, just as so many who are now adults but hurt as children remain.  Yet, they’re the ones left out of the global effort to create a better world for survivors right now. We must remember them always. And, we must remember men. The men who’ve been violated but still told to hush up and just listen. The men who were hurt as adults, as little boys, who were trafficked, and men who were hurt by women. We must think about anyone who’s EVER been hurt at the hands of a female — who is struggling with that independently, let alone in the public sphere. We must think of those who are not wealthy, who are disabled, who don’t have jobs, who cannot go to court, who are not safe, who cannot even share their story. We must keep in mind every survivor who is too scared to speak against someone more powerful than them because having their motives questioned, being told they’re lying for attention, or are only seeking justice because they want money/fame is too great an assault on their character and integrity to bear. They've been assaulted enough. They don't need one more against the core of who they are.  We must keep in mind every survivor whose trauma was severe, unpretty, chronic and whose abuse left them with severe mental health issues. They are not crazy, they are not weak, they are not ‘bad’ or ‘gross’, they are not lesser than. They are just as important as anyone else with a trauma history they never asked to own.

 

    We need to get up close and personal with the fact that #MeToo is meant for everyone. Sexual assault is a human issue. And, if your movement doesn’t include those who are affected by it most, then it’s causing more harm to those already hurting than good. But it does not have to remain that way.

 

Our Commitment

    We want to re-confirm our stance to fight for women, men, children and teens today until forever — regardless of race, income level, ability, mental illness or severity of one's story. We will never stop fighting for you or trying to create a better world for us all. That includes helping those already victimized to be seen as whole and complete individuals, and to get them the treatment and care they deserve. It also includes taking every step within our power to educate the public and clinicians on trauma, particularly complex trauma, and to prevent this from continuing. We have faith that this movement CAN shift in the right direction once more. These conversations are desperately important. They are invaluable, and the strength of each and every person who dared utter the words MeToo, as well as those who bear witness, can not be understated. But, we need to see this opportunity be extended to everyone. We believe that’s respectful, responsible and entirely realistic. We also believe the hope we were initially ignited with can be rekindled.

We are honored to be a part of this fight with you, and we will hold each and every hand - big and small - through the journey.


 

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MORE POSTS YOU MAY FIND HELPFUL:

  -  Did You Know?: 8 Things We Should All Know about C-PTSD and DID
  -  DID MythsDispelling Common Misconceptions about Dissociative identity Disorder
  -  Grounding 101: 101 Grounding Techniques
  -  Nighttime 101 and Nighttime 201Sleep Strategies for Complex PTSD
  -  Imagery 101Healing Pool and Healing Light

 

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Coping with Toxic/Abusive Families this Holiday

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    It’s that time again! And, no, not just the time to be overwhelmed by a busy holiday season - all the gift-getting, party-planning, and social-gathering.  It's that time where the whole world pauses to focus on family.  For many across the world, the holidays are when all the scattered relatives of each splintered tree-branch come together in one town, or even under one roof.  People will be cheerfully hugging and catching up with siblings and cousins, moms and grandpas.  There will endless Instagram photos of reunions with big smiles, quotes in curly lettering, and captions pushed to their text limit on how much family is everything.  It’s the lifeblood.  We will see, “Don’t wait to make amends; none of us are promised tomorrow!”.  Yes, we’re only days away from those insistent posts and overbearing nudges from others to revel in the company of family.  Never forget:“Forgive. Love. Cherish!”

    But, for an inordinate amount of the population?  Family is anything but merry, warm or inviting.  It’s the source of pain, and loss, abandonment, and grief.  It’s abuse and yelling, belligerence and guilt-tripping.  In countless tiny corners, there will be an adult survivor of child abuse wrestling with themselves, tearing out their insides, trying to decide if they should answer their mother’s text.  Another will have agreed to come to the Christmas dinner only to immediately regret it, and now there's no way out.  Another is dessssperately waiting for their family to invite them — anything to show that maybe they care.  Maybe they weren’t forgotten.  Maybe their family actually wonders if they’re alive or not.  The fact of the matter is that all over this globe are trauma survivors with families that are incredibly toxic.  They are not to be welcomed with open arms.  They will require courage of steel just to share the same room.  And, some shouldn’t even be spoken to, let alone ‘kissed and made up’ with.  Right now, there are survivors everywhere wishing they could have the family others have, and are messily scrambling to figure out how they're even going to be okay.  ...and WHAT on earth they are going to do.

“Should I go?”  “Should I invite them?”  “They sounded so sweet this time...”  “Maybe she’ll forgive me.”  “Maybe he won’t get so drunk this time.  He's doing better I heard.”  “I should show her I’m healthy now; she’ll be proud of me, right?”  “He’s always so inappropriate, he can’t be around my kids.”  “...but he’s sick? This could be his last Christmas.”  “I just want my mom.  ...  ...…but she’s evil.”  “I’m so stupid.  Why would I ever think they’d wanna see me again?” “ I can't breathe.”  “What if I’m just being dramatic?”  “Am I being selfish?”  “I should respond quick before they get upset.”  “What if she turns the rest of the family against me for not inviting her? They’d all hate me. They already hate me.”  “I could do it if I’m drunk. Yeah, okay.  It's just once.”  “My kids haven’t even met that side of the family. Am I keeping them apart?”  “I’ll try. I can face them! I’m an adult now. They can’t hurt me! …..right?  No… n-n-no.  Not right.

    These words, and farrrr more, are part of the endless monologues we know are running through so, so many of you this holiday season.  We know how painful it can be to watch everyone else revel in high spirits and the warm embraces of family.  They’re sharing memories and playing games, digging up inside jokes and sharing presents.  But, for you, the holidays remind you of fights.  Soooo many fights.  So much yelling and pain, mind games, abuse — constant brokenness.  And on the other side, there are those of you who recall perfect, plastic Norman Rockwell holidays that were a complete masquerade of the abusive family that lived behind them — forever confusing you of what’s real. You can’t stomach faking your way through even ONE more of those.  But how do you make it your holiday?  How do you honor yourself when that may include shutting others out?  How do you make this season safe, and calm, and what you always wanted and deserved - without the suffocating guilt or aching loneliness?  If you’ve never been taught how, what do you do about FAMILY?  There are no easy answers, but perhaps some of our thoughts can help...


1.)  Remind yourself immediately you are allowed to set boundaries. 

    You are an adult now.  You are allowed to say NO.  You are allowed to say that this year you have different plans that do not include abusive, manipulative or negligent individuals. …even if it’s a parent who lives alone or a relative who is terminally ill.  You know what you can expect of their behavior better than anyone. And, if you know it’s anything that wouldn’t honor you as an adult — or your children if you have them — then you are allowed to turn them down.  You do not owe them your heart or your home no matter how tangled up things feel.  No matter how many Facebook posts tell you that you must, and no matter how many photos of others' make you pine for what could be -- if you know that your family is toxic, or scary, or can make you feel smaller than a speck on the wall, YOU ARE ALLOWED TO SAY NO.  You have complete and total permission here.  You can set boundaries.  And setting those boundaries is what healthy, strong and respectable adults do.  It’s not being selfish.  It’s not being “dramatic”.  It’s not being mean.  It’s being mature, and level-headed, and strong as f—- frick.  ;)
 

2.)  Beware of the wolves in sheep’s clothing. 

    Holidays are a prime time for reflection and fuzzy feelings — they get the best of all of us sometimes.  They can make even the baddest of people soften their edges and become just sooo very warm and inviting.  As a survivor of abuse or toxic family dynamics, it can be incredibly hard to resist.  That hurt, little you desperately wants them to mean what they say and to feel their affections.  It’s all you’ve ever wanted.  And they seem so sincere!  “This could be the year!”  And, it really could be.  Bad people can change, and amends can be made.  But if those amends couldn’t wait or you know they wouldn’t be made outside of the holiday season, beware that their intentions may not be so pure.  If they don’t wanna work anything out and speak to you about things before the holiday - or they're deeply offended by you asking to wait until after the busy season to strike things back up - they may not miss you as badly as they say they do.  They may be toying with your heart.  …again.  And it’s going to be so hard to resist.  That’s to be expected.  It’s even entirely understandable because it comes from that beautifully innocent place in you that exists in all of us.  It’s out of the purest kind of hope — and it’s one that we don’t want to see get crushed by their hurtfulness.
    If you know that your toxic family member has a tendency to turn on the charm during holidays or special events, and they're trying to lure you into holiday celebrations, convince you they should come stay for awhile, or just reeeeeally want to see you all of a sudden?  You may need to label this fluffy little sheep as the wolf they’ve always been.  Run it by a friend, see if they get the same warm feels you do.  If they don’t, trust their intuition if they respond saying they don’t wanna see you get hurt.  If it’s meant to be, your family member will be there when the holidays pass. If not, returning their messages now may just be returning yourself to being abused again.  You don’t deserve that.  You never did.
 

3.)  Take time to grieve.

    For some of you, your abusers may have passed on.  And for others, it's the idea of a happy, healthy family that is long gone and passed.  There is also the mourning of a childhood that was robbed of some of the simplest holiday joys, which can rub your heart raw as you celebrate as an adult.  Holidays can bring up so, so much grief whenever it feels like something extraordinary is missing.  For those with toxic or abusive families, there was always something vital missing.  And, as we get older and lose people in our lives, the grief of loved ones no longer here can compound all these losses into one, soul-crushing ball of pure pain.  If the person no longer alive was an abusive family member, you may even find yourself additionally vulnerable to a flood of traumatic memories, too - not just the grief.  Memories may feel “safer” to reveal themselves to you now that the person is no longer alive or a threat to you.  The same can be true even if you only set firmer boundaries and closed doors on relationships.  They may not have passed away, but a book has been tightly closed and your mind can feel a little sturdier to go back and flip through some of its pages. If you know this is a possibility, labeling it for yourself ahead of time will spare your poor heart and mind a great deal of added anguish. 
    Surround yourself with as much support as you can.  Whether that is through a therapist, friends, a partner, or other siblings/family members who may be experiencing something similar - try not to leave yourself too isolated or without support.  Once you have that, allow yourself some time to grieve. Set aside 20 minutes to let your mind go to all of “those places”.  Feel the feelings.  Acknowledge the hole in your chest.  Let yourself stomp and clench your fists at how unfair it is.  Let yourself cry.  You deserved so much better.  You always did.  It’s okay to be sad and to feel it all.  By setting aside time to feel this in small doses, it will likely save you from alllllllll that pain just washing over right as you go to put gifts under the tree, or as you're carrying dishes back to the kitchen.  Honor your feelings.  Pace them out.  You'll be freer and lighter and less likely to be taken down by a Grief Tidal Wave™.  And just trust us, those are vicious. ;)
 

4.)  Create new memories.

    The holidays are as much about reflecting on old memories as they are about creating new ones.  But, for trauma survivors, we think the emphasis should be sooo much heavier on creating new ones.  Now is the time to do all the things you wanted to as a child but weren’t allowed.  Play with kids' toys.  Make a lot of noise.  Run through the house.  Indulge in an extra dessert if you never let yourself do so.  Watch the movies you wanna watch, invite ONLY the people you want to invite, go to the parties you wanna go to, and stay home in PJs and slippers on the nights you wanna stay in!  This holiday can be 100% yours - finally!  Your life is invaluable and you should spend it how, and with whom, you are most happy.  You might not have an Ugly Christmas Sweater family portrait with all the cousins and in-laws to post on Facebook, but you also were spared a bunch of awkward conversations, backhanded compliments, and most likely being made to feel like a lot less than you're really worth.  You deserve to do things on your terms.  And for once that doesn't have to include anyone yelling at you; telling you all the things you messed up; shaming your job, or your weight, or your partner, or your house.  No fighting, no guilt-tripping, no violence.  You get to redefine what this Christmas/Hanukkah/etc means to you.  You get to rewrite what your New Years Eve will look like.  You also get to start a fresh new year!  And, guess what.  Good news is you don’t have to wait for a new year to start living for, and honoring, you.  START RIGHT NOW!  Make new memories.  Meaningful ones.  So many new ones you can't even keep track!
 

5.)  Celebrate every small victory. 

    This shizz is hard.  It's tough, tough stuff.  It is so hard to know what the right decision is at any given moment.  And you’re not gonna get ‘em all right.  …you just aren’t.  But for each and every thing you accomplish, celebrate it! Acknowledging the toxic people in your life is a big step for many of you.  Letting yourself even temporarily *consider* that not seeing them this year is even an option may also be the biggest step you’ve ever made.  Asking yourself the hard questions, acknowledging your needs along with anticipating others' intentions, signing off of social media, and tuning out any of the guilting messages around you — these are HUGE steps.  And for many of you, this year will be the very first in taking any of them.  For each and every single boundary you set, and every last one you stand strong in keeping— CELEBRATE IT!  You are doing things most can’t even imagine conquering amidst all the other hustle and bustle of the season.  Your heartstrings are so tangled up and confused and they just don’t know what’s good or bad or sideways sometimes.  And none of that is your fault.  It’s not as simple as knowing your family can be toxic and just staying away.  It’s not even CLOSE to that simplistic!  Setting boundaries is one of the most critical, most difficult, and most powerful steps in a trauma survivor’s life.  Doing so with toxic and/or abusive family members is Next Level, Achievement Unlocked kind of strength.  And, we’re right behind you 110%. For each baby step and large victory you make along the way,  know that we’re also cheering with you as you take each moment to celebrate these successes yourself.  Because it’s just that important. :)

 

    So, this holiday season, please know that you are not truly alone in this - even when it feels like it. We are here.  And there are tons of others just like you, sitting with these exact same heavy feelings, and possibly a hefty dose of envy that they don’t get to have the same easy joy the rest of the world gets to have.  They’re making these same kinds of hard decisions, going back and forth staring endlessly into their phones, lamenting over what the right call is to make, too.  And, some of you might have to face unsafe or toxic people against your will, just because the circumstances have made it so.  We know this, are pained for you over this.  We extend our deepest amounts of compassion to you.  Please know that you are in our hearts and that we are sending you all the safety nets and love that exist for you.  For others, you will have decided that this is the year you are choosing to say yes to family members again.  And if you feel you’ve come to that decision earnestly and not out of the expectations a traumatized, young version of you feels obligated to meet - then you have our full support.  We applaud the strength you’ve gathered in yourself to get to this place in your healing.  For the rest of you who are saying NO to toxic/abusive family members?  You deserve all the praise and love and support there is to go around!  You should be so so proud of yourselves.  All of you.  Getting through this season at all?  Fighting the good fight?  It's worth its weight in gold, no matter what the fight actually looks like. :)

    In closing, we know this is an incredibly tough time of year for so many more reasons than just these. We’ve even made a guide to surviving the holidays with C-PTSD that tackles the other ways this season can be far too much to take.  We encourage you to read that (or read it again!) just to recharge yourself.  That way you can feel as if you're able to head into these upcoming weeks with a clear head, a bundle of deep breaths, and a game plan to guide you through.  We are thinking of you and sending our utmost compassion out to all survivors everywhere.  And we're asking others to do the same!  May you never feel forgotten or unseen.  And, may your holidays be safe, and wonderful, and special to you.

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