Tag: ASCA

Self-Soothing Strategies

Every person needs to know how to self-soothe.  From new-born babies needing to know how to return to sleep to newly pubescent teens coping with surging hormones, to every adult whether they be survivors of any sort of abuse or not, we all need ways cope with uncomfortable feelings.

“Soothing is what good parents do when their children are upset. It often involves soothing touch that is warm and comforting. It can involve words that are reassuring, empathic and hopeful. It may involve activities that are physically, intellectually or sensorially nourishing, such as taking a walk, reading a favorite book or sharing a special meal. It can also involve daily practices that are spiritually uplifting and inspiring, such as meditation. When you can perform this type of caring for yourself whatever your chosen activities may be then you have learned to self-soothe.” (from ASCA’s “Survivor to Thriver” Manual — On-line Version)

Ways I self-soothe:

  1. Take a nap.  I can sleep almost anytime anywhere if it’s silent and dark, but an afternoon nap is especially luxurious.
  2. Pray; praying is always comforting for me.  No matter what else I’m feeling, no matter what my concern, I feel anchored when in conversation with my Abba-Creator, in communion with Jesus, abiding in the Spirit.
  3. Listen to music (usually classical or comtempo-Christian, sometimes blues).  I like to start with music that is the same mood I’m feeling and then transition to music expressing my desired feeling.
  4. Play my piano.  I enjoy playing repertoire I know, reading new scores, practicing challenging pieces I’m working on, my own compositions, and sometimes improvising.  I won’t improvise for anyone else; that’s an extremely personal activity for me, but it’s sometimes a way I pray.
  5. Journal.
  6. Light a candle.
  7. Read an engrossing book.
  8. Put on a perfume or lotion with a relaxing scent like lavender or rose; I also really like the original Jergens because it reminds me of my mother when I was a very little girl.  She often carried a small bottle of it in her purse, and when at church, sitting in the pew, she would let me put some on my hands.  I felt like such a lady!
  9. Take a steamy hot shower, or if it’s a steamy hot day a cool one.
  10. Repeat a short prayer or mantra, like:
    1. Jesu juva; soli Deo gloria; or
    2. The Glory Be (Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit; As it was in the beginning, is now and every shall be; world without end.  Amen.  (It’s amazing how, no matter my circumstances, praising God for Being God is uplifting to my whole being.)
  11. Sometimes when I have felt over-whelmed, experiencing no particularly bad feeling, just a little disoriented, or possibly on the verge of panic, I simply take note of What Is.  I observe my surroundings and list mentally what I see in concrete terms of What Is.  It’s remarkably effective for me.  No-one taught me to do this.  I remember the first time it occurred to me to do this.  It was when I was walking to my first class on my first day at graduate school.   I was so aware of so many new things, all at once; it was helpful to list them to myself, one at a time.
  12. Simply breathing very deeply and very slowly is extremely helpful.

My goodness!  It is quite lovely to think about how effective are these techniques/ strategies, and most of them are entirely without cost.  Thanks be to God!

Advertisements

The Power of Peer Support

Farm Friends Rob MacInnis

Support Network

It is important not to try to recover in a vacuum. You do need help from like-minded and empathetic survivors and trained professionals.. . Learning to trust others and to turn to them for support is a crucial step in recovery. Doing so challenges one of the basic notions that arises from a history of abuse: namely, that people are dangerous.  [from ASCA “Survivor to Thriver” on-line workbook]

The ASCA workbook suggests listing “everyone you can think of whom you can call for support during times of need.”   I won’t list people by name here, but on my list I’ve included a few people from my family, friends, and ASCA group.

I am grateful I have people in my life I can trust.  Just knowing I can trust them makes a significant difference in my experience of being in the world.  Gaining some experience with ASCA, I was inspired to begin a similar support group/session with a friend.  Finding this kind of peer-support to be so helpful, I decided to begin this blog.  For me, blogging about my experience is a part of shattering the vacuum that can shackle victims to faux-shame.

If you, dear reader, have experienced any kind of violation or abuse, I encourage you to get not only whatever professional help you might need, but equally importantly: find peer support.  While professional therapy has its own merits, I have found peer support to be more effective in terms of freeing me from the “vacuum.”

Safety Action Strategies

Awareness-Assessment-Action

Action Worksheet (from Online Survivor to Thriver Workbook by ASCA)

Actions I can take to help me restabilize myself after feeling unsafe:

  1. Leave the space or situation entirely.
  2. Excuse myself to the bathroom if I think I might want/need to return temporarily.
  3. Avoid people/ places I know will feel dangerous to me.
  4. If it’s a trust-worthy person who innocently does something that makes me feel threatened, tell them asap what behavior I request they avoid; I don’t need to say why.
  5. After I’m away from whatever made me feel threatened, pray and write about what I felt and/or how I am now okay.  I.e. concretely affirm my safety and that I deserve to be safe.
  6. Remember to breathe.
  7. When in a safe place, do something physical to burn off the adrenaline that was probably triggered.

This exercise is also difficult.  It’s painful to think about these things.  It’s also frustrating and discouraging that I have to in a sense make my world smaller.  I think I need to re-frame how I think about how I address making myself safe.  Rather than seeing my world as smaller, I could simply recognize that everyone has places or conditions they have to avoid.

For example, most humans would avoid certain situations at least without proper gear and preparation, such as:

  • swimming out into the deep of the ocean or a turbulent part of a river
  • moving quickly near the edge of a cliff
  • driving the wrong way on a one-way road
  • walking through poison ivy or a fire-anthill or any identified toxin

In other words, we can still swim if we know and accept what conditions we need for safety.  We can look over a cliff if we are careful.  We can drive the direction we need to if we take the appropriate road.  We can walk through the woods, desert, or where-ever there are small dangers if we remain alert and avoid those limited threats.

Another note: I’d like to have more strategies for dealing with triggers/ “toxic” situations.  This is something I can work on.

Triggers

Awareness-Assessment-Action

Assessment Worksheet (from Online Survivor to Thriver Workbook by ASCA)

Triggers that make me feel threatened or endangered:

  1. Small spaces
  2. Spaces with only one exit
  3. People standing too close to me
  4. Anyone standing directly behind me
  5. Anyone touching my head
  6. Certain smells
  7. Certain postures by men
  8. Certain people (the man who abused me, any man who looks or acts like him in any way, anyone who I know associates regularly with him)
  9. Certain phrases — even if they sound positive — if they refer to me being subordinate, I cringe inside and find it difficult to go on without correcting/ censoring the person
  10. Lots of common scenarios in Public Schools; I don’t ever like being in a public high-school building

This exercise is difficult.  I find myself resisting thinking about triggers.  My mind wants to glance off any uncomfortable remembrance.  I find my mind wandering to other things.  I can feel my body getting tense.

 

 

Signs of Danger

Awareness-Assessment-Action

Awareness Worksheet (from Online Survivor to Thriver Workbook by ASCA)

Physical/ emotional/ intuitive signs that tell me I might be in danger:

  1. I feel trapped, like a caged wild animal; I want to leave but I don’t know how.
  2. My physical movement looks inhibited (someone is blocking a path of exit).
  3. I feel nervous (my body feels like it needs to move suddenly/ randomly).
  4. I feel anxious, like all my veins are electrified; I think it’s adrenaline flooding me.
  5. My heart begins to race.
  6. I find it suddenly harder to focus.
  7. I feel agitated.  This starts more as an intellectual thing, but quickly overwhelms me emotionally.
  8. My stomach hurts.
  9. I suddenly have diarrhea.
  10. I feel awkward, like I don’t really belong in the group/ situation.
  11. Certain smells make me want to flee.
  12. The presence of a few specific people would make me want to immediately leave.
  13. I suddenly feel some kind of faux-shame, but there’s no reason for it.  (My body/emotions feel that before my mind can discern what in my environment has made me feel helpless.
  14. I feel impotent or helpless or having no capacity to contribute; I don’t like being just a spectator.
  15. I feel like an object, like someone is staring at me, like I’m just there for their entertainment.  I don’t like to be the only contributor.
  16. I sense someone is near, but I can’t see them.
  17. I hear something, but I can’t identify it’s cause.

(Next posts will address “Assessment” and “Action”.)

Safety is Always Essential

Where-ever you are in your healing process, “you need a framework of physical and emotional safety in order to progress in your recovery, because child abuse — at its core — is about being and feeling unsafe. People can change only from a position of safety. If you don’t feel safe, then you won’t progress in your recovery. You want a strong foundation upon which to build your new self, and safety is the core of that foundation.” (From ASCA* “Survivor To Thriver Workbook Introduction) [*Adult Survivors of Child Abuse]

You can find a link to this free workbook and other resources on the ASCA Meeting Resources page.  Click here.

I can’t be silent any longer.

There is so much in the news these days about sexual abuse against children and youth.  Every time I see or hear one of these stories my body goes into excruciating tension and my stomach hurts violently.  I want to vomit.  I want to turn my body inside out and reject the whole world.

I was sexually abused by a teacher for seven years. I was 10 years old (soon to turn 11) when it started, and 18 before I was able to say a clear “No!”  The abuse started as unnecessary and inappropriate touching during clarinet lessons.  The abuser gradually advanced to more explicitly sexual acts.

My parents, my community (school, church, town) didn’t know much if anything about what was going on until I became suicidal.  And then, whether they knew that part or not, they thought of it as “an affair.”  To this day there are people who think a teacher can have an “affair” with a student.  That makes me so sick to my stomach.  I need to vomit out (reject vehemently) the lie that anyone who has power or some form of authority over you can have “an affair” with you.

When a teacher or boss or anyone with power/authority over you makes sexual advances on you, that is NOT any kind of mutual relationship.  Even if the child wants some form of attention (in my case, I wanted a music teacher who would help me develop my talent), it does NOT mean the child/youth wants or agrees to everything the abuser of their vulnerability does.  That’s the initial abuse: the pervert takes advantage of your innocence, naiveté, vulnerability.

Before adults voice idiotic opinions about adult behavior perpetrated on children or youth, they should learn about predatory behavior, they should read about sexual abuse, they should learn about how those of us have been abused during formative years suffer for the rest of our lives.  Even if we survive, even if we figure out how to “thrive,” the abuse from those years has damaging effects for the rest of our lives.  The psychological damage is often hidden, but extremely painful.  But too many adults don’t want to know about these matters; it’s just too ugly or too awful to think about.  Or for some adults, those who have experienced some form and some extent of abuse, they don’t want to think about these things because they aren’t ready or able to face their own pain and issues.  For some adults, they don’t want to learn about abusive behavior because they realize they do some of the same crap, but they think it isn’t “that bad.”  For too many mostly-healthy and for-the-most-part intelligent adults, they don’t want to face the facts about abuse because they don’t know what they can do about it, and it’s just easier to ignore or deny the reality that children and youth in their community are being abused by trusted adults, some of those adults being people they know!

For the longest time I have been silent.  There are all kinds of reasons I have been silent.  But I can’t be silent any longer.  I have to begin.  I have to speak.  That was my first problem.  I couldn’t speak out.  For the longest time I was completely alone.  My voice was paralyzed, shut down.  By the time I got any help from caring adults, my story was narrated as a “sinful” “affair.”  I was made to confess my “sin.”  I went along with that because it was a way to get away from the abuse and a way to survive, a way to literally live.

Can you imagine knowing a 10-year-old girl who is being touched and conditioned to receiving more touching by a 23-year-old teacher, and thinking that’s okay?  Can you imagine knowing a 13-year-old girl who has never been kissed on the lips before being forcibly kissed by a 26-year-old teacher, and calling that some kind of mutual relationship?  Can you imagine a 14-year-old girl being sexually violated by a 27-year-old teacher and calling that an affair?  Can you imagine discovering your daughter has been secretly cutting herself and has attempted suicide several times, and when you investigate how to prosecute, a judge tells you “it takes two to tango”?  Can you imagine that the only thing you can do is to keep your daughter at home and to have a restraining order issued against the abuser?  And the abuser continues to teach???  Can you imagine?  Maybe not today.  But that’s how it was for me and my parents.

It doesn’t matter how mature the child seemed intellectually.  It doesn’t matter how gifted she was musically.  It doesn’t matter how much she wanted a father-figure’s attention to help her advance in her potential as a human-being.  It doesn’t even matter if she learned to experience some physical pleasure in the unwanted sex.  That experience of combining pleasure with abuse is one of the most debilitating forms of abuse there is.  When you are abused in your formative years, the abuse is not just a series of acts you experience; the abuse is that you are formed by perverted behavior, and that no adults in your life managed to protect you from it.

The fact that ALL of the adults in my life failed to protect me from sexual abuse is part of the profound pain that I have to overcome.  The fact that some of the adults were completely inept and even did further harm to me has made the abuse that much more complex and difficult to address.  The fact that the abuser continued to attempt to contact me every where I lived, and was able to do so BECAUSE they had been embraced into my former religious community and had access to my information, should tell us all so many things: and I will be telling them.  I’m done being silent.

There is so much more I have to say, that is my story to tell and that I must say.  There is so much more I will say.  There is so much more that must be said.  I will be silent no longer.  I am no longer a victim.  I am a survivor, and I will tell my story.

I will try to provide some links for those who want to learn more about these issues, for those who need help for themselves or loved-ones, and for those in crisis.  I will provide those links in a future post and will make that post an easily accessible page.  For now, I recommend ASCA: Adult Survivors of Child Abuse.  http://www.ascasupport.org