How to Practice Self-Care After Sexual Trauma
Self-care as a topic has been in vogue for quite some time. Influencers on our social media are constantly asking us to prioritise, love and care for our own selves. Now, while it is indeed a beautiful feeling to love ourselves, not all of us can do that. For a lot of folks, their past becomes a roadblock for them to embrace and love themselves. For somebody who has experienced sexual assault, they might find it extremely difficult to love themselves as it takes away the very agency from that person. Practising self-care after sexual trauma can be an extremely difficult move. Sexual assault has deep-reaching consequences that go far beyond physical damage, regardless of age or gender. Being raped or sexually attacked may be life-changing, leaving you feeling terrified, embarrassed, and alone, or haunted by nightmares, flashbacks, and other unpleasant memories. The globe no longer appears to be a secure environment. You no longer have faith in people. You don't even believe in yourself. You may begin to doubt your judgement, self-worth, and even your sanity. You may blame yourself or assume that you are "filthy" or "damaged goods." Partnerships are risky, and closeness appears unachievable. Furthermore, you, like many rape survivors, may suffer from PTSD, anxiety, and depression.
Now in order to cope with these, many turn to solutions that provide instant gratification. This includes alcohol, drugs etc …anything that helps to numb the pain for some time. Now while these solutions can provide temporary relief they aren’t healthy and in the long run, can aggravate your trauma. Hence it is important to choose a sustainable path to self-recovery which can actually help in healing your trauma. Here are some ways to practise self-care after sexual trauma.
Consider opening up about your experience
Admitting that you were sexually assaulted or violated can be extremely tough. There is a stigma associated with it. It has the potential to make you feel unclean and weak. You may also be concerned about how others may react. Will they pass judgement on you? Look at yourself in a different light. It appears to be easier to minimise or conceal what occurred. Nevertheless, by remaining silent, you deny yourself assistance and cement your victimisation.
Contact someone you believe in. It's typical to believe that if you don't discuss your rape, it didn't happen. But, you cannot heal if you avoid reality. And concealment exacerbates emotions of shame. As frightening as it is to open yourself, doing so will set you free. But, it is critical to be cautious about who you tell, especially initially. Someone who is supportive, compassionate, and calm is your best bet. If you don't have someone you can confide in, see a therapist or call a rape crisis hotline.
Face your feelings of powerlessness and solitude. Trauma makes you feel helpless and vulnerable. It is critical to remember that you have strengths and coping abilities that may help you get through difficult circumstances. Volunteering your time, giving blood, reaching out to a friend in need, or donating to your favourite charity are all excellent methods to restore your sense of power.
Consider joining a rape or sexual assault survivors' support group. You might feel less alone and alone by joining a support group. They also offer essential advice on how to deal with symptoms and move towards recovery. If you can't find a local support group, seek for one online.
Cope with your feeling of guilt
Even if you intellectually understand that you're not to blame for the sexual violation or sexual attack, you may still struggle with a sense of guilt or shame. These feelings can surface immediately following the assault or arise years after the attack. But as you acknowledge the truth of what happened, it will be easier to fully accept that you are not responsible. You did not bring the assault on yourself and you have nothing to be ashamed about.
Feelings of guilt and shame often stem from misconceptions such as:
You did nothing to prevent the assault. It's easy to second-guess what you did or didn't do after the fact. But, while you are under attack, your brain and body are in shock. You are unable to think clearly. Several folks report feeling "frozen." Don't condemn yourself for having a natural reaction to adversity. You did your best under difficult circumstances. You would have stopped the onslaught if you could.
You put your faith in someone you "shouldn't" have. The betrayal of trust is one of the most difficult things to deal with after an assault by someone you know. It's easy to start doubting yourself and wondering if you overlooked warning flags. Remember that your assailant is the only one who harmed you. Your attacker is the one who should feel guilty and ashamed, not you.
You were drunk or not cautious enough. Regardless of the circumstances, the only one who is responsible for the assault is the perpetrator. You did not ask for it or deserve what happened to you. Assign responsibility where it belongs: to the rapist.
Have a backup mechanism ready for flashbacks and upsetting memories
When you experience stress, your body momentarily enters "fight-or-flight" mode. Your body relaxes once the threat is past. Yet, traumatic situations, such as rape, might lead your nervous system to remain on high alert. You are hypersensitive to even little stimuli. This is true for a large number of rape survivors.
Flashbacks, nightmares, and intrusive recollections are highly frequent, particularly in the first several months after the attack. These can continue even longer if your nervous system becomes "stuck" over time and you develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
To alleviate the tension caused by flashbacks and disturbing memories:
Anticipate and prepare for potential triggers. Anniversary dates, individuals or locations linked with the rape, and specific sights, sounds, or odours are all common triggers. Knowing what triggers may produce an emotional reaction may put you in a better position to comprehend what's going on and take actions to calm down.
Pay close attention to your body's warning signs. When you begin to feel anxious and dangerous, your body and emotions will alert you. Tension, holding your breath, racing thoughts, shortness of breath, heat flushes, dizziness, and nausea are some of the warning signs.
Take quick actions to comfort yourself. When you detect any of the aforementioned signs, it's critical to act promptly to calm yourself down before things get out of hand. Slowing down breathing is one of the best ways to calm your nerves during that time.
Take care of yourself…Physically
Your body is both your temple and your residence in this world. Taking care of your body might help you feel less anxious or depressed. Start by asking yourself questions such as, "How are you sleeping?" What kinds of foods do you eat? What type of workout do you prefer? Do you have habits that help you get started in the morning or wind down at the end of the day?
Once you have answers to these questions, you will know what works for your body and what it needs to cope with such episodes.
Overcoming your sexual trauma can be one of the hardest things you might have to do. Figuring out what works best for you is a huge step in your healing process. Remember that you aren’t alone and we all need help sometimes, especially when rape culture becomes a national conversation on every news channel.