PROSAF – POSITIVE REACTIONS OVER SECRETS AND FEARS SURVIVING SEXUAL ABUSE IN THE CARIBBEAN
In last week’s article we discussed acknowledging/accepting when you have reached your limit. Learning to listen to your body and knowing that it is not only okay but healthy to say that you have reached your limit, that you need a break, that right now you need to take a step back to think and implement self-care. We are often taught to put ourselves last, to continue to do more, and to be more for everyone else. We are taught to feel guilty for needing to take a break to recharge or for admitting that we need a break.
Contrary to popular opinion, it is okay to acknowledge when you have reached your limit. It is okay to accept that you can’t physically or mentally do more than you are doing or have done. It doesn’t make you weak or selfish should you need to pull back and focus on yourself for a bit. You can’t help others when you are too depleted to help yourself. So, as we continue to exist in what may feel like an alternate reality for many, be okay with setting your limits and honouring them. Be okay with saying I am sorry I want to help but right now I am unable to. Be okay with saying I can’t do anymore, I am tired, I need some time to care for myself. Be okay with saying I need a mental health day; I need some time to refill my cup. Work on being okay with what you are capable of. Work on not feeling guilty when you can’t do more. Work on listening to your body and your mind and what they are saying they need to continue to be your support.
In this week’s article I wanted to discuss not being afraid to use your voice. I am not speaking specifically of sexual violence but of any area in general where you feel the need to state how you feel, how you are being affected, or what you need to feel safe and appreciated. As we continue on in this week’s article, should you feel triggered or anxious please stop reading the article. Take a moment to check in and then decide whether you need to read it now or should wait until you feel more prepared. Should you have flashbacks or experience an increase in your heart rate, or a change in your hormonal reaction or actions, take a step back from the article. Remember you are deciding what you can and cannot handle, you are deciding what you want to deal with now versus what you want to wait to address.
For many of us in many aspects of our lives we are told not to share, or not to talk about what upsets us. We are subtly pushed to deal with things ourselves, to keep things to ourselves, to be grateful for what we have and therefore feel guilty about pointing out what could be better or different. We are made to feel guilty for wanting more, and for wanting or needing change. In many ways, we are told to be grateful for what we have and therefore not complain about the areas in which we are marginalized or taken advantage of.
In this new reality in which we are existing, so much has been taken away, so much has changed, and you have an inherent right to be able to share how you are feeling without the fear of guilt or shame being attached to it. For survivors of trauma, so many of you have been coached, intimidated and coerced into silence. Many of you have been made to feel like you have no right to share your story, or to share how you have been hurt and affected by the actions of others. As a survivor of trauma, in many instances your freedom of speech has been stifled in a failed attempt to “protect” you they say. You were sexually violated in most cases by someone you knew and trusted. You were taken against your will and left alone to suffer. You tried to share, you hoped someone would see your pain and understand but instead you were told to forgive and forget. You were asked not to ruin his life, you were asked to protect your family, you were asked not to shame your family. You were asked to be silent. The underlying message is that you don’t matter and what was done to you was in some way your fault. Your feelings of shame, isolation and fear were intensified when you were left to stand alone because where sexual violence is concerned, everyone has an opinion until they have to truly stand up and voice that opinion in defense of survivors. I am not suggesting that the only way to be vocal is to do so publicly – work on being vocal with yourself. Work on saying that you have been hurt, and that you have been disappointed by others. Work on not being afraid of being vocal where your thoughts and feelings are concerned with yourself first and others after. Make sure you are honest with you. Make sure you stand up for you.
To our readers, we are aware that our new reality can be more triggering, that you may feel more (feel more good and bad), but that’s okay. Work on trying to accept your feelings and not run from them. Work on you. There may be times when you reflect and feel like you have taken steps back on your healing journey – be assured that you have not. You have side stepped. You have taken steps forward. You had to reverse, but you have kept moving aware that you are doing what you can right now to survive. There is no one correct path when healing; it is what path works best for you. Be patient and gentle with yourself. Take time to do what makes you happy. Take time to put you first. There is nothing selfish about that. Trauma has changed you; you are now trying to figure out the new path ahead. So, give yourself some credit and be patient.
Souyenne Dathorne, Velika Lawrence, Miguelle James & Jayde Jean