PTSD is a common thing that the majority of survivors of abuse live through or with. Some smptoms may be as predictable as panic attacks after having been “triggered”, while others are incredibly random and severe, like self-harm, violent outbursts, etc.
Many therapists, especially ones that deal solely with survivors, have very effective coping techniques for PTSD. Up until the last 3 or 4 months, I was dealing with some severe self-harm problems and depression as a result of PTSD. There was a wonderful therapist/healer, Teri Roth, whom I saw during my short time in Denver, that had some tremendously helpful techniques to help with my then-copious amount of PTSD symptoms. With the help of other therapists that I’ve seen after Teri, I managed to “whittle down”, as I call it, the range of things I was dealing with.
Here are some things I think may help if you are suffering from PTSD as a result of sexual violence and/or childhood sexual abuse:
1. Have a reliable, trustworthy person you can talk to about what’s going on. This is tantamount. Sometimes you need to vent, sometimes you need distraction, sometimes you need something in between, but it helps so very much to have someone that can give you a safe-space, be it a literal space or an emotional space, for you to regain control. If for whatever reason you do not have someone to talk to, you are very, very welcome to email me. I am not a therapist and I cannot “fix” you, but I am a great listener and hopefully can at least give you some good advice for resources where you can seek permanent help.
2. BELIEVE that this is not the way it is going to be forever. It may feel that way, but trust me, it gets better. The more help you seek and the more honest you are with yourself and the people who are here to help you heal and succeed, the more in control you will be.
3. Breathe In times of nervousness, shock, panic, pain, etc, a tendency the human body has is to hold the breath, or to take it in far too fast. Take a moment, wherever you are, and find a place where you can be safe and alone for a few minutes, and take slow, DEEP breaths. Even if (especially if) your heart feels like it’s going 200 mph. As you’re breathing, focus on your body. Tense and release your feet, calves, knees, thighs, butt, stomach, chest, arms, shoulders, neck, face, everything. Be present in your body, remind yourself now is now, and you are safe, with yourself and wherever it is that you are. If you are NOT in a physically safe place get to one ASAP.
4. The White Sheet This is something I suggest to many people when it comes to clearing your head. Sometimes a PTSD attack consists of racing thoughts, thoughts about anything. I’ve had racing-thoughts episodes due even simply to stress, especially at night before bed. The white sheet is a visualization, in which you think of a white sheet, hanging on a clothes line, and you’re standing in front of it. It is in a peaceful place, maybe between two trees in a forest, or behind a beautiful and safe house, or wherever you may choose. The longer you stare at this sheet the bigger and whiter it gets. Don’t listen to any thoughts going through your mind during this time. Just watch the sheet flow in the breeze. Breathe deeply, steadily, and remind yourself of this: “I have the time and the capacity to solve each challenge that lies before me. “
5. The Cork The Cork is another visualization technique. This is one is best for meditation, not necessarily during the time of a PTSD episode but it may help. Sit or lie somewhere comfortable and safe, breathe steadily, and imagine a cork floating and wriggling on the surface of a VAAAAAAAAAAAST body of water. That’s it. Focus on this for 10-15 minutes at a time. Your thoughts may wander, but keep coming back to the cork. After some time you’ll find that this will help keep your emotions and thought patterns a little more aligned. I’ve had some INCREDIBLE things happen during this exercise, as have some of the people I’ve referred it to.
6. Create or Destroy Something Depending on what you’re feeling, you may want to do one of these two things, and both are healthy. BUT!!!: be careful with what you destroy. Use common sense — don’t do anything that will harm other people or animals, or frighten or trouble others. Why: as you release the negative energy that’s in you when you destroy something, you want to get it out and out for good, not out and passed on to something or someone else. No one is an inherently “bad” person, and at the core, we do not want to hurt others people or animals. Your thoughts may differ on this, but as a general rule, stay safe and keep others safe when you release negativity.
If you decide to create something, be just as careful, and be liberal with whatever you create. You’re creating to release, inform, empower, develop, exist, be and do. Write something, paint something, make signs, clothing, jewelry — what it is YOU create — and use all this energy that’s inside you to make something that will benefit you or/and others.