Fear of pain

gras2Fear of the unknown

Most people are afraid of things they don’t know. There are people who are afraid of flying, so they will never get on a plane. People who are afraid to learn new skills. People who are afraid of speaking in public.
Different anxieties, all because we don’t know what will happen.

Too many fears

Even though everyone knows fear to some extend, sexual abuse survivors face fears that are hard to understand by people who’ve never been abused. What is it like to be constantly on the alert. If you don’t know how to trust the people around you. Or how to love someone without having a panic attack. Never really being able to enjoy loving interaction. It’s very normal to have fears, but when it takes over your life it may be time to face up to them.

Fear grows

When you suffer from panic attacks, you’ve probably already found a way to deal with them. To silence them at least temporarily. By taking medicine for instance. Or by compulsive behavior. Eating too little or too much, or even hurting yourself. Those things work, but they only work for a little while. It doesn’t make the fear go away. In fact, when your fear comes back, it’s worse than before.

Phobia

From there things spin out of control. You’ll need more and more of what seems to work for you, while your fear continuous to grow. You start being afraid of your fear. You’re well on your way to developing a phobia. In the end you will avoid anything that may make you feel afraid.

Fear is like a bruise

Your fear is like a bruise. It just sits there and you can live with it. But every time you touch it, it hurts.
In the same way, your trauma is like you hurt on the inside. Whenever something reminds you of the sexual abuse, you feel the hurt again. And again and again…

Triggers

Something happens and you’re immediately thrown in a dark place. It’s called a trigger. You will react like you’ve always done before. You suppress the pain by taking pills, hurting yourself, eating that one too many chocolate bar. The fear increases and in the end you are constantly busy trying to shy away from your pain.
Sound familiar?

Dealing with pain

There is another way of dealing with the pain. Although the pain is still the same, you can consciously visit your pain. (Preferably with the help of a good therapist who knows a thing or two about childhood sexual abuse)

It’s a tough job to undertake and it takes courage.
Was I scared the first time I went to my old pain?
Heck no, I was absolutely terrified!
The closer I got to the source of my pain the more cramped up I became.
My therapist noticed and told me:” You’re doing an excellent job of holding on to your tensions. But it’s OK to let it go now.”
I relaxed my muscles a bit and my whole body shook.
Then I cried. I cried. I cried. I cried. Like I could never stop.
Very, very slowly I noticed it felt like waves. Everytime the wave crashed into the shore and returned to the sea it took a little bit of my pain away with it.

Healing one little wave at a time

Piece by piece my bruises healed. It’s so much easier to deal with triggers now that I’m not scared anymore.
I slowly began to enjoy touch. Physically and emotionally. It feels so good to have contact- real contact- with other people.
Healing my pain came after I let go of my fear.
I welcome life with all its challenges.
I lovingly invite you to try it. All you have to lose is fear. All you have to gain is life.

Triggers from sexual abuse

Triggers: What are they?

braam (18)It still happens to me, every so often, that I get triggered by something around me. All of a sudden I feel very small and uncomfortable inside.
Nowadays I recognize the feeling. Something touches me subconsciously and it usually is related to the sexual abuse in my past.

Normal circumstances

Last time it happened I was in a department store, looking for a belt. I have Iost some weight, which is in itself good news for me, but I can’t afford to buy a new wardrobe every month. So I looked for a belt to help keep my pants up. At the lady’s department I couldn’t find any belts, so we headed to the men’s. They always have plenty.

Anxiety

About halfway down the aisle I felt very anxious. My girlfriend was already looking through the many belts displayed, trying to find the perfect one. “How about this one,” she asked me joyfully while holding up a small black belt with a simple buckle.
Suddenly I feel disconnected. I try to find any and every excuse to not buy this belt, none of which make any sense. Inside I feel like I want to run away and never come back. Luckily my girlfriend noticed my discomfort and knew we had to take my mind elsewhere.

Dealing with triggers

Step out of the moment. My friend suggested:
“Let’s go get a cup of coffee first.” 
After we drank our cappucchinos I calmed down and I could look at what happened.

The trigger

The man who abused me used to wear grey or black pants with a simple black belt.
Which I always had to unbuckle. Quite a chore for those little fingers. It’s not at all surprising that the belts in the store brought back those feelings.
Feelings came first. The images later, while drinking coffee.
It’s obvious that this type of belt reminds me of the sexual abuse. Now I have a choice. By seeing the belt for what it was, just another black belt, nothing out of the ordinary or threatening about it, I can choose buy it. Or leave it.

Make your decision in the here and now

“I actually think this is a very ugly belt. I want something more flattering to support my femininity.”
We set out to find a salesclerk, who directed us to the lady’s belts. I bought a beautiful small blue belt with a simple clasp. I was so happy! (and its 6th hole fits by now…. I’m still shrinking!)

Take triggers seriously…

It’s that simple to get triggered.
It’s also that simple to deal with triggers, at least, once you’ve been through the healing process. Thing is: In the past I would’ve probably bought the black belt. I was not in the habig of taking myself seriously. If I would’ve even connected my discomfort to my sexual abuse trauma, I would’ve suppressed this knowledge and forced myself to wear the belt regardless.

…Then let go

Fortunately I don’t force myself like that anymore and I spent the rest of the afternoon enjoying myself tremendously. Shopping happily and freely.

Top tips from partners to stay true to your self

Top tips from partners

3 jan (24)

Not only do I talk to sexual abuse survivors, I often hear from their partners as well.
That’s why I decided to get together with some partners and discuss their struggles and tips, a while ago. The sessions turned out to be very successful. By sharing their thoughts and feelings they came up with a list of very useful tips, that I would like to share with you.

Top tips to stay true to your self

The following list is in random order, not in order of importance.
Note: This list was made by and for partners of sexual abuse survivors. So when we talk about partners in this blog, this means we are speaking about the person with sexual abuse trauma.

  • Share your thoughts, feelings, expectations with your partner. Don’t avoid doing so just to keep the peace.
  • Your needs count. Tell your partner what you need.
  • Keep the trauma outside of yourself. It’s good to feel compassion but don’t let your partner’s trauma become yours by letting it traumatize you.
  • Don’t try to solve the trauma. This is something only your partner can do.
  • Let go.
  • You have all the time in the world. Let things move at their own pace, just as long as they are moving.
  • When you both focus completely on your partner’s growth you’re selling yourself short. Make your own growth (more) important.
  • Put yourself on number 1. No matter how important your partner is to you, you are the most important person in your life.
  • Set boundaries. Communicate about what’s acceptable and what isn’t.
  • Make decisions. Even if your partner doesn’t want you to. Don’t be afraid to rock the boat if need be.
  • It’s okay to feel annoyed with your partner. He/she is a human being and at times irritating. Don’t always suck it up “because of her/his past.”
  • Treat your partner like an adult. He/she may often behave in a childlike manner sometimes when triggered. Don’t make allowances for this behavior on the shaky grounds that he/she had such a hard time as a child.
  • Don’t allow him/her to become too dependent. You can’t keep up, plus your partner needs to find her/his own independence.
  • Tell your partner everything. When you’re upset. Sad. Angry. This way it’s out in the open (good for you) and your partner learns to open up by your example.
  • Don’t honor every single requests. You don’t have to solve all her/his problems.
  • Discuss how best to handle conflicts before they arise. Consider time-outs. Or leave a note with the question/topic you want to discuss on the fridge, for your partner to come back to later. When your partner has a hard time talking to you about certain things, ask her/him to write you an email. This is sometimes easier than discussing hard topics face-to-face.

This is just a small selection of tips our partners came up with.
Please feel free to share any thoughts or tips you might have!
This is true for all my blogs. We love to hear your thoughts, anything you feel like sharing.

Tips for family around sexual abuse

0022Family support is needed

Unfortunately family’s don’t always support a child when it starts to talk about sexual abuse, even if the abuser isn’t part of your family. It’s uncomfortable to discuss, suppose the neighbours find out… Besides, as long as you keep everything hush-hush they, as parents, sisters,brothers etc., you don’t have to own your own part in this. It’s hard to believe parents or siblings never noticed anything, when abuse happened right in your own home, isn’t it?

But as a familymember how can you tell?

Until recently we didn’t even know sexual abuse existed. Yes, it was some vague bad thing that happened somewhere very far away. The man with the candy on the playground that you warn your kids about. Nowadays we know this is not the case. It’s fairly accurate to say that every family knows someone who is or has been sexually abused. So time to wake up!

Family: Here’s a few tips:

  • Sudden behavioral changes in your child (regression, agression, becoming quiet)
  • Opportunity: Who spends time with your child, including familymembers since about half of all the abusers are familymembers of the victim
  • Who has a special bond with your child.
  • Who has a more than passing interest in your child
  • How does someone react to stories about sexual abuse in the media
  • How does someone react to the law?

Not every one is suspect

Of course this doesn’t mean that everybody spending a little time with your child is automatically an abuser. It’s good to be aware, though, who is actually spending time with your child. Monitor and check people out.

Abused by a familymember

The man who abused me regularly scorned the law in presence of my family. He also appeared to have a special interrest in me. He wasn’t a familymember in the true sense of the word, but he became part of inner circle. He was a trusted adult who had easy access. He repeatedly abused me in my own home, his mother’s house and later on in the house he shared with his wife. He got and created plenty of opportunity.

Did my family know or suspect?

I think, but I’m not absolutely sure since I was in the middle of this, that my family must have suspected something was going on. Nobody ever acted on those suspicions though. Nobody ever asked me. I went from being an obedient child to a completely unmanageable teenager overnight. Nobody took action. Nobody even questioned the fact a 35 year old man showed that much interest in a 12 year old girl. Everyone allowed this to go on for years.

I dare you to be aware

I don’t know if things improved much, since the media got involved somewhat regularly. I fear we still close our eyes, pretend this will never happen to our children, instead of taking appropriate measures to protect them. The truth is too uncomfortable. The truth hurts too much.

That doesn’t make the truth any less true.

I double dare you

The child you save may be your own.