familial abuse

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:

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  -  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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A Message for Survivors on Fathers' Day

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     So, it's Fathers' Day.  And our hearts are so heavy knowing just how many of you are hurting today -- who are conflicted, unsure, angry, scared, grieving, lost, or yearning.  For many of you, it's a combination of all the above.  Fathers' Day doesn't quite seem to hold the same regality to it that Mothers' Day does - and, even societally, you're more likely to see posts of people acknowledging that they had absent or hurtful fathers.  But, just because people are slightly more aware that not everyone has a wonderful dad, it doesn't make it any less difficult. In fact, we almost feel as though Fathers' Day being knocked down a peg from the pedestal family members can be placed on, actually allows for more of us to truly feel our feelings. It's almost as if there is a greater permission to acknowledge the pain given the expectation of warmth and gushing affections is lessened. Of course, that means we're more likely to be in the pain today. So, all of us here at Beauty After Bruises want you to be able to take a time-out from your Sunday, to sit with us, and to know you're in the company of people who really really get it.

     Before we get too terribly far, we want to make sure we acknowledge that dads in general can get a bad rap. They are quickly villainized and made out to be the bad guy in all kinds of situations, often unfairly. For many of you, your dad may have even been your rock, your everything -- the only reason you're still with us today.  We are so glad that fathers like them exist and always want to lift them up in the highest regard. With that, just as we mentioned with mothers, we also know that some of you have lost this special parent - your person. So today marks a day for heart-wrenching grief - a new trauma for your already broken heart. We want to help hold that for you however possible and sympathize in your brokenness. Grief and loss are emotions that so many of you may be feeling - possibly even all of you, really - and for reasons that may not include death.  For a lot of survivors, your fathers have left, or were never there from the start. Some of you have lost your dads to addiction, mental or medical health issues, or other challenging behavior that - though he's still alive - he's no longer truly here, as himself, anymore. He's not the father you knew, nor the father you want or need right now. There's an inevitable, sometimes inescapable feeling of loss that comes with that. And, it's okay and completely normal to grieve a dad who's right there with you, but just isn't present with you. For those of you who never got to feel like you had a father - just someone to share a house with - of course you're also bound to feel as if a big part of you is missing, or as if you just don't know how you're supposed to feel. We all want to acknowledge that hurt. Many are right there with you.
     

     For every shade and color of loss and grief, whether there are tears to be had or you're all cried out: you're not alone.


"Fathers' Day....  Man.  My heart hurts most for little me - the one who had to celebrate, hand-make cards for, and love the violent, red-faced, short-tempered man who tore our family apart. It confused and hurt Little Morgan to no end."

-- Morgan, 27


     This week has seen no shortage of the anticipated emotional commercials, quirky "dad bod" advertisements, full series on popular YouTube channels centering around fatherhood, annnd of course the lengthy social media posts from friends and loved ones, reminiscing and telling tales of their amazing, hard-working, selfless fathers. Yet, here today, many of you are alone, quietly hurting. The reality for Complex PTSD and DID survivors is that it's really common for 'a dad' of someone's to have been involved in your trauma (either in big ways or small). Whether that was your own fathers; a grandfather or uncle; a teacher, coach or pastor; even a cousin or neighbor who's all grown up and now has their own kids -- knowing there's a day for them to be celebrated (specifically for caring for children) can bring with it so many unique, difficult struggles.

     It's hard to see fathers universally being revered, when a father you knew wasn't the least bit good to their own or someone else's children. For those of you who only discovered in adulthood what happened to you as a child, there can be such a visceral reaction, with emotions ten layers deep, if you ever find yourself staring at photos of them holding or hugging their own children.  ....what do you do??  Many feel fear, others just relive trauma, and so many more want to "do something", "save them" or "protect them" but are stunned frozen. Others sit with heavy, heavy guilt that they didn't say something back then, even if they didn't know at the time, retroactive guilt still sneaks in like a virus. For any of you in these positions, we want you to know we deeply empathize with all the anguish and inner-conflict wrapped up in that bundle of exasperation. You are not alone in this.  You did what you could with the information you had at the time, as well as what you believed to be safe. You are STILL doing what is right for you, safest for you, healthiest for you, and what will ensure your wellbeing. The rest can and will sort itself out in time; for now you just need to do what is best for you in this very moment.


"Every Fathers' Day I'm confronted with the reminder that he left us.  He left me and my siblings with that horrible, abusive woman. He saved himself, but didn't think twice about us."

--J.D., 36


     There are so many stories, so many walks of life and paths you could be on.  Many of you have become fathers yourselves. This may be your triumphant accomplishment, one to be so proud of yourself for! Despite all the self-doubt or questioning, through it all, you found yourself in a family, or at least raising a child of your own. This is such a hard and scary thing to do, especially if most of your examples were poor or even non-existent. For those of you worrying or wondering today if you're a good enough father to even be celebrated - or scared you won't be once you do become a dad - we want to be that vote of confidence that says, "The very fact you're concerned about this, means you're leaps and bounds ahead of the pack. We are all just trying to do the best we can with the tools we have, learn more every day, try to leave the least amount of harm behind us, and work to leave things a little better than we found them. And, if that's what you're doing, you're doing it just right!"  Yet, if you are truly concerned or know you need a little help to be able to do the best job you can, there are always resources and a helping hand available to you; never hesitate to ask.  It's one of the bravest things you can do and one that requires such personal strength - not weakness. We are one of those places you can turn, who would love to help you however possible.


"Only when I became a father did I finally see how evil mine own was. I never saw it -- never. It's hard to raise kids when you only just learned how blind you were to being treated like an dog. I'm so scared now I wouldn't recognize it if I ever did the same - but hellbent on never coming close."

-- R.W., 39


     The subject of becoming a father can actually be one filled with trauma for many other reasons in a certain group of survivors. And, we want to be sure we touch on this because we feel it's something that's missing in a lot of trauma outreach. A lot of survivors are men, and a lot of those men were made to be fathers against their will as well - just like those who became mothers unwillingly. Far too many have been trafficked, abused, manipulated, or even used for the sole purpose of bearing children. Some of you may be aware of your children, while others sit there with the tormenting question of IF you're a father, knowing all the abuse you endured and the level of probability. This is something most cannot even imagine feeling, wondering or agonizing over. In each and every one of these instances, we ache for you. Just as we do for those who have also may have children they cannot see, those whose were taken from them in messy, unfair, and even abusive divorces, and those who've even lost their beloved children. All of your pain is so real, so heavy. It is seen. It is felt. It is honored and met with such true compassion.


"Fathers' Day has so much trauma shoved into one cake I'm afraid to light the candles.  It'll either explode, or melt into a puddle with my sadness....And, I don't even know which would make the bigger mess anymore."

Caroline, 42


    No doubt, we couldn't possibly cover all the ways Fathers' Day highlight so many aches, pain and scars left by the years of childhood trauma for many survivors. There are just far too many brave and hurting souls, each with a story of their own. Like, those who've lost "a dad" in their own husband, the one who was a father to their children... Anyone who is left trying to comfort broken-hearted children today because their fathers left or hurt them deeply... All whose fathers just do not accept them for who they are, how they live, or what they know to be true about their trauma.... Every adult child who was severely let down by their dad as a kid, but are now fighting to remind themselves they do have one, and he isn't a terrible guy, but it still just doesn't feel right....  And, everyone else left so confused and torn by the role that stepdads, biological dads, adoptive dads, and countless other family dynamics play -- roles that just manage to complicate things even further. No matter what - no matter why your heart is aching or why it's just conflicted and lost today - please know that we're thinking of you and so excruciatingly aware of just how many of you are out there. We even encourage YOU to give voice to all the things we couldn't get to here. Please share with us below, in our casual little circle of healing hearts, what's on your chest today and let your experience be heard. Every story is important. And, we're all listening.

    Please know, even on these "smaller" holidays, we care very much about what you are going through and all the ways it may be affecting you. Just like we mentioned in our post on Mothers' Day - oftentimes it's the smallest holidays that can do the most damage and leave survivors feeling the most alone. So, if you are a supporter, friend or loved one - we really encourage you to at least send your loved one a thoughtful text or call them up to let them know you're thinking of 'em. Family relationships are nearly always a challenge for complex trauma survivors in one form or another - so, it can never hurt to let them know they're on your mind, even if you know very little about their history.

     And, for all of our survivors: We believe these types of holidays really need to just become days to focus on YOU. Days put in place to take extra care of yourself. To do things that you love; celebrate all the ways in which you are an honorable and loyal person; get together with friends or other great people that you call your family and are proud to know. You can even enjoy some cynical or light-hearted comedy! Liiiike, tell us your favorite "dad joke" - it's okay if it's got some dark humor to it, that's how so many of us heal! Just, above all else, please just take extra care of, and celebrate, YOU.

    We will be.

MORE POSTS YOU MAY FIND HELPFUL:

  
  -  Coping with Toxic/Abusive Families During the Holidays
 
-  Grounding 101: 101 Grounding Techniques
  -  Nighttime 101 and Nighttime 201Sleep Strategies for Complex PTSD
  -  Imagery 101Healing Pool and Healing Light
 -  A Message of Care This Mothers' Day

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A Message of Care this Mothers' Day

 

 

   This will be a shorter and more informal article as compared to our other more informational and instructional posts - but that doesn’t make it any less significant.  This weekend is Mothers’ Day.  And we know that this can be a very difficult day for survivors of complex, often childhood, trauma.  The larger holidays often gain more recognition as being difficult for people of all walks of life, but these smaller ones tend to go unnoticed and leave too many silently struggling in their homes.  We want to take the time to acknowledge this.  To let you know that we see you.  ..that you’re thought of.  ..that we’re sitting with each heavy reason behind your hurting heart.  And?  That you are absolutely not alone.

   Mother’s Day is typically thought of with all kinds of warm, flowery, loving imagery - complete with elaborate social media posts, beaming family photos, and tributes to the all the selfless mothers out there.  But, for many people, it’s not really all that warm.  And for others, it’s downright excruciating.  In the world of childhood trauma, survivors' mothers may have been the primary source of their suffering.  Erroneously, familial abuse is often assumed to be the fault of the men in a family.  But women - yes mothers, grandmothers, aunts, sisters and cousins - can all be equally as awful and abusive.  Other moms may not have perpetrated the violence, but allowed the abuse to go on, fostered an environment that made it possible in the first place; were neglectful, lost in addiction or revolving parters; turned a blind eye to their child’s obvious suffering, possibly even denying them necessary treatment; or were just so hot and cold with their affections that the child was left absolutely confused and conflicted about what kind of mom they even have.   Now in adulthood, many of you are trying to navigate a world without her, or set appropriate boundaries, and have been relentlessly guilted and shamed by family/strangers for not loving or being close to your mom.  Most just cannot fathom that she might actually be an awful or unsafe person unworthy of that connection.  But you know.  Your feelings are not only valid, but should be honored and respected.  You don’t have to minimize them, talk yourself out of them, or try to ‘get over them’ and ‘just try to be nice to her already’.  As crazy as it sounds coming from a charity rooted in and birthed from empathy and kindness, we want you to know that you are never obligated to be nice to anyone who hurt you.  Not even if they’re your mother.  It’s okay, and even admirable, to keep that boundary.  No doubt that trying to maintain even a small amount of distance comes with so much grief attached - having to say goodbye to and mourn what you never had.  We are so saddened by this for each of you and are sending our utmost compassion.  Whatever kind of relationship you keep with your mother today, we want you to know that the hurt parts of your heart that were damaged by her - in big ways or small - they're on OUR hearts and minds this week.


Mothers' Day just brings such an awful feeling. I never know which version of my mother I’m going to get on that day.

- Jenn, Survivor


   Another painful reality for many trauma survivors is that some of YOU are mothers. ...and not always as the result of a healthy situation, but instead tragedy and torment.  Perhaps you were made a mother against your will, or still are one but have had to hide that fact from everyone you know and love.  Then there are so many of you who've had the devastating misfortune of losing a child, and that is traumatic all on its own, even in the most loving and safe of circumstances.  And then there are the moms of healthy kids, in wonderfully knit families, who are still left wrestling the seemingly impossible task of raising children when you yourself were NEVER given a good example or taught how.  Laden throughout so many of these experiences is just an abundance of sadness, heaviness, trauma, loss, shame, and fear.  Yet, too often, what rings the loudest is the silence you feel you must keep - and the aloneness with which you sit in that suffering - especially in times like this.  If there’s anything we can offer you, we'd like to see you not feel so alone anymore.  To know that someone’s taken your hand, acknowledged your aching, and is letting you know you're anything but on your own in this.  We are here.  And so many survivors just like you are meeting you here in their feelings, too.  And together, we each carry a piece and make the load so much lighter to bear.


I’m a mom, but my own family doesn’t even know. Mothers' Day is “my day” but I have to spend it hiding; hurting.

- Rachael, 29


   These are hardly the only reasons survivors may be aching this holiday.  Many of you have lost your mothers.  That kind of sadness cannot be described in words.  If she wasn’t a safe person to you, this grief becomes wildly complicated.  But for tons of you, your mom was your bright spot in all the hurting.  She was your everything.  ...the only one who saw you and heard you, did everything to keep you safe, and always fought for you.  To lose something so special and so rare as that in your world, is absolutely soul-shattering.  Your pain reverberates through just about anyone who’s lost “their safe person” - or has even paused to imagine what life without them might be like.  We’re extending extra warmth and love your way.  Just as we are to all those with their own deeply layered and extremely personal stories to struggle against.  We can count so many, many more and want each of you to feel this extension of validation and warmth.  You are important, and so is every last drop of your sadness, anger or grief.


Mothers' Day has always flooded me with a sense of being left out or not human.  My mother was an awful woman, but she's gone now.  I also cannot have children of my own - because of trauma.  It's just a loaded day.

- LC, survivor


  Whatever is on your heart, we know there will be no shortage of difficult posts, commercials, and media content to just drive that knife a little deeper.  The open gushing of amazing relationships; the gut-wrenching in-memoriam posts; newborn-babies-to-grandmas montages on TV, condescending guilt-tripping posts to “Love your mom now!” “There is NOTHING that can’t be forgiven!” and "Family is everything!", throwback photos of heartwarming pregnancies and newborn babies, all surrounded by tons of graphics your ad-blocker doesn't seem to mind missing juuuuust to make sure it doesn't leave your mind for even a moment.  We know it can be a LOT.  …especially when so much of the general public still manages to have it nowhere on their radar that this time can be really brutal.  So, even if we can’t make everyone else understand or be more thoughtful, we want to at least be that place for you. And,

     To supporters, friends, and general citizens out there:  Perhaps this little post helped to remind even you that these “smaller, insignificant-to-many” holidays can actually be the some of hardest.  Definitely don’t contain your own expressions of love to the moms in your life; it just never hurts to be conscientious and thoughtful of all those in your life who may be hurting this day.  So sending a little extra support and friendship their way could make the all the difference, truly.  Just knowing that someone thought about them and wanted to take care of them, even in gesture, can be a very “mom thing to do" that they'd been needing and missing.  It can’t fill the void entirely, but it can help a little - and a little’s enough.


Mothers’ Day to me means... trying SO hard.  Little me just longs to make her happy.  Adult me tries to pretend we’re something we aren't.  I still give her gifts with the hope she'll love me - or even just believe me.

-- EM, 38


     Finally….  If you are hurting, if you are dreading this day, fearing this day, hating this day, or just trying to just avoid it at all costs:  We want to encourage you to do something different.  Your family of origin is not what makes a family, so if you can spend it with the family you’ve created for yourself, absolutely wonderful.  We can't encourage that enough.  But, we also see great value in making this a “you” holiday.  “My Day”, not "Mothers’ Day".  Take care of yourself.  Do all sorts of things that you love, and practice more self-care than you have in a long time.  Honor yourself.  Take time to consider all the ways in which you are special, respectable, selfless, caring and important.  Treat, love and appreciate yourself.  Sure, it may be a different holiday entirely, and not intended for 'you', but we can pretty much guarantee that you didn’t get NEARLY enough of these kinds of days, nor very many positive, safe holidays growing up.  They proooobably went awry or at least left your feelings hurt somewhere along the line.  You have more than enough special holidays to make up for, so why not make this day one of them?  Take it.  Make it one for YOU.  You deserve it.  And, hey, it sure beats a weekend of pain and dread.  Every time you see an ad or post, you can pause to check in with yourself, remembering "Aw, that's right, this is My Day!" and do something nice for you.  This is YOUR day.  It’s a day for honoring YOU.  It's a day to appreciate all you are, all you've overcome, and all the love in your heart.

    We truly hope that you all make it through this weekend safely and with wellness. Please know that we are thinking of you this day and on each of the many other holidays like it.  You are important to us.  We hope that you consider your needs and feelings equally as important as we do. And, to everyone else, we hope you share the same thoughtfulness and support to a survivor this week.  It may be just the bright, uplifting light they needed to carry them through.

 

Surviving the Holidays with C-PTSD / DID

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    The holiday season is stressful for everyone.  But for many with Complex PTSD and dissociative disorders, it can be the absolute worst time of year.  While there are often bright spots, there are unique struggles that trauma survivors undeniably face as the year comes to a close.  Whether out and about, or gathering with family, the holidays can be so loud and busy and overstimulating - in other words, a nightmare for anyone with a posttraumatic condition. But there are countless hidden things survivors can often struggle with that many may not even realize - including survivors with a different history.  Many of you will have to face family or extended family that were the source of your trauma.  Others will have to gather around unsupportive or toxic family/friends who don't value your mental health or personal wellbeing.  For many survivors, the holidays are actual anniversaries of past trauma or violence. The holidays are also an unforgiving battleground to the many who struggle with food, disordered eating, and/or addictions.  To add insult to injury, an upsetting number of trauma survivors are grappling with chronic physical health issues, too - most of which came as a result of their trauma whether they realize it or not.  They're going to be in pain -- wanting to engage but unable. The list goes on and on - and, we know just how hard many of you will be fighting just to stay above the water.  We want to help however we can.

   Because so many of you will have very different holiday plans, different trauma histories that will involve very different triggers, and varying levels of safety or stages in recovery -- when it comes to managing your symptoms, there can be no one-size-fits all guide to getting through. But, there are, however, some universal things that remain true for most everyone.  We care very deeply about your health and wellbeing and don't want you to feel like you're going at it alone.  So, here are some of our suggestions to help get you through the holiday season safely, with your sanity intact, and knowing someone has your back.  Take what applies to you and leave the rest, and please feel free to comment some of YOUR suggestions as well to keep extending support to our community of survivors.

 

Our list to get through the holidays:

Stay grounded.  Remaining grounded is your first and strongest line of defense to any of the things you'll face during the holidays.  If you aren't grounded, none of your coping skills will be as effective.  Keep textured items in your pockets, bags, and/or car.  Carry a notecard on you or in your phone that can remind you of the date, that you're safe and an adult now, as well as any other orienting details that are important to you.  Keep your feet on the floor whenever you can.  Try to refrain from staring off or zoning out when things get too dull (or too heated).  Keep your phone on you to play music or engage in interactive apps whenever you feel yourself drifting.  Look around the room - take note of all the pretty things that catch your eye as you look about.  Talk or engage with someone if you can; vocalize in some way if you're alone.  Step out and wash your hands or face in cool water.  Go outside for a bit to reinvigorate yourself with fresh air or cold temperatures.  Anything you can to stay present in the here and now!  (We have 101 Grounding Techniques right here for ya if you need them!)

Remember: You have a voice. This is your life, your safety, your sanity.  You matter.  You are allowed to set boundaries for yourself, say no, change your mind, make choices that honor you.  If you don't want to visit with someone, or know seeing them will trigger or stress you too greatly - you DO NOT HAVE TO GO.  We understand that for some of you, particularly those who still live with unsafe people, saying no would actually put you in danger.  We understand that necessity and do not want to encourage you to put yourself in harm's way.  But for those of you whom it just feels scary or would make you feel guilty, ask yourself if those temporary feelings are more important than the endless, unpredictable amounts of distress spending time with those people would cause you.  Use your voice.  Set boundaries.  You are an adult and are allowed to say no now and have it be respected.

Plan ahead.  One of the best strategies to prevent an utter disaster is to plan ahead in the most detailed way possible.  List what kinds of things you're going to do before to make sure you go in to any stressful event confidently and steadily.  Describe the things you're going to do for yourself during to make sure you're grounded, level and calm.  Then, be incredibly specific about what you're going to do after to decompress and unwind, and then [most importantly!] what you'll do for self-care.  This is called a "Before/During/After Plan" or BDA.

Don't forget the basics.  It sounds painfully simple, but it's so easy to forget. Take your medications. Eat well. Stay hydrated. Force yourself to rest your body and mind even if you cannot sleep. Don’t neglect your physical health. These things are as much your foundation as being grounded is. Forgetting any of these basic needs can make you more vulnerable to symptoms, which can lead to a full unravelling later.  

Internal communication.  Those of you who have internal parts (DID/OSDD) will need to make sure you're doing a lot of internal communication.  Acknowledge with one another the difficult, painful, scary, or triggering things that you're going to be facing.  Validate those feelings and fears with each other.  Then, together, plan ahead for how you'll work together and arrange yourselves for each event on your calendar.  Also discuss what you might do to honor one another, perhaps even share gifts if that feels right.  (..even if those gifts to one another are as simple as letting a part watch a movie at home later, or color a picture.  It doesn't have to be a material present :)  )  Acknowledging and validating what's so painful about these holidays will make you less likely to be blindsided by traumatic material mid-holiday celebration if someone inside encounters a trigger you never saw coming.

Incentivize.  It's no secret that many survivors struggle with self-harming or other self-destructive behaviors or addictions.  Others are warring with their absolutely devastating depression, OCD, or similarly incapacitating conditions.  Get yourself a gift or other incentive that you aren’t allowed to have until January 2nd (or after each individual holiday).  If you got through the whole holiday season self-harm free or were able to accomplish things you were too depressed or too afraid to do, it's waiting for you to open when you've met your goal!

Let yourself grieve.  It seems counterintuitive to lead yourself into painful emotions, but it makes them far less likely to bubble up just as you're getting comfortable or having a good time.  Let yourself be sad.  Let yourself be angry.  Let yourself grieve lost holidays or entire childhoods of happy memories.  Allow yourself be upset about what your traumatic experiences have robbed you of or made more difficult.  Take a moment to be angry about neglectful and/or dismissive family and friends who won't support you the way you deserve to be supported.  Once you've given yourself a moment to feel these things, your mind will feel freer to enjoy the holidays and less determined to remind you that it was really, really hurt by all that's associated with them.

Take time for you.  You don't have to be "on" from Thanksgiving to January.  You don't have to be "on" morning to night on any holiday either.  Take breaks.  Leave the room.  Take a walk outside.  Sit in peace in a bedroom or unoccupied room for a moment. Those 15 minute breathers will do you and your nervous system wonders before returning to the festivities.

Support system.  If you have friends or family that support you heathily, connect with them.  Make it a point to fill them in on what's going on and what's worrying you.  Plan to connect with them even if for just 5 or 10 minutes before/after holiday gatherings.  We know that many therapists aren't available during holiday weeks, so touching base with friends and family that have your back can help you feel less stranded or as if you've been abandoned in your weakest moments.

Breathe.  Again, it sounds so simple, but you'll be amazed how many times you're completely overwhelmed and are actually holding your breath.  Take several deep cleansing breaths every time you feel your tension meter rising.

Limit alcohol/substances.  The holidays don't make this super easy for those who like to partake, but any level of intoxication can make traumatic material just a trigger away from flooding you.  ...and leaving you quite defenseless against it.  Try to be extra responsible during tough times - even if your whole body is zinging or feels so pressurized you're going to burst.  Going for another drink makes you far more vulnerable for everything to actually come cascading out of you - especially if you were already tense enough to 'need' that drink.

Remember: You do not have to stay.  Just like before, your needs matter.  You are not obligated to do anything you don't want to or for longer than you desire. You do not have to feel guilty.  You don't owe anyone an explanation for why you're leaving, where you're going, or why you want to go so soon. You are allowed to leave early.  You are being a proactive bamf by taking care of you. If you don't think you can count on your voice to be strong enough in the moment, make plans to see someone immediately after a gathering and make it known ahead of time that you can’t stay long.  Don't have anyone free to do that with or are traveling?  There are even apps that can help you get out of a situation you don't want to be in. :)  Even if you have to get clever about it, you are still allowed to go when you've had enough.  Period.

Physical safety. If you MUST visit (or already live) with unsafe people, and things escalate but you don’t feel you can leave the room, step outside, or leave entirely…. If at any moment you feel things are going to erupt into violence, apps like SafeTrek exist that will bring the police to your location without you ever making or answering a call. (This app is valuable for many other scenarios, for trauma survivors especially, and is highly recommended.  It is available for iOS and Android.)  You can also dial 911 yourself if you feel you can and just leave it open for an operator to listen to the chaos.  Many are familiar with this, and they may be willing to send a wellness check.  If you don’t feel either of those are safe options, or that a visit from police would make things less safe for you later, take some time now to brainstorm what WOULD feel safe to you.  Can you make a plan with a friend that would have them call you if you text a certain word?  To interrupt the chaos?  To force them to hush because someone on the phone might hear them, or because you had to get up and go to another room?  Do you have an ally in the family/friend group who could help you?  What feels right to you?  If your answer is “Just take it” (the abuse), I urge you to reconsider.  You are important.  You are valuable.  You are worthy of basic needs: safety.  You do not need to accept this or endure this any longer.  You have a voice and you have a brilliant mind that can find something else.  Anything else.

Conquering loneliness.  Many of these tips revolve around gatherings with others.  But, for some of you, much of the holiday season is actually spent alone (either by choice or circumstance).  Since loneliness can breed all sorts of darkness in the mind, plan your own holiday time for you.  Make the day a day that you treat yourself like you never do.  Watch movies, take a bath, paint your nails, turn your music up, watch new shows on Netflix, read a book, make yourself an elaborate meal, celebrate yourself and how far you’ve come.  Go ahead and make all of those slummin it with the fam jealous that you were at home having the time of your life in your PJs, coloring an adult coloring book, with Christmas cookies and tea. ;) But, more seriously, if you really feel like it's just going to be too hard even if you make it a fun day for you - just like those spending time with others - make a plan for the day.  Outline it.  What will you do before to make sure you're at your strongest? What are you going to do during to keep yourself steady?  And what will you do after to decompress and take care of yourself?  Let's hope your plan has TONS of self-care and self-treating in it.  You deserve it!

Be kind to yourself.  The holidays are hard.  For everyone.  Yes, even those who have it all together.  It's never going to be perfect.  You're likely going to make mistakes, have bad days, be a little short with someone you love, or have a day that you aren't the most patient.  You may stumble, or even completely fall apart.  While we hope that doesn't happen, it's okay if it does.  Life is a process, and every year is different.  None of us get it right every time, or even most of the time.  The best and only thing to do after something goes wrong is to practice some self-kindness.  Cut yourself some slack and remind yourself that now, if any a time, is the time you need comfort the most...especially from yourself.  Be gentle.  If you wouldn't tell one of your friends they were stupid or bad for making the exact same mistake, then you aren't either.  Breathe. It's okay. You're gonna be okay.

💙💫💚

  And we're here.  So, you're going to be more than okay :)  

  We are sending you the best wishes and warmth from all of us at Beauty After Bruises.  You are always in our hearts and we'll be thinking of you tons this holiday season.

 


Don't miss our follow-up article on
Coping with Toxic/Abusive Families During the Holidays!
You can find that here!

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