Trauma sucks. I don’t have any other way to put it. It’s something that I never consented to experiencing. I promise that if anyone had said, “This is going to happen, would you like to back out?” I absolutely would have done everything to avoid it. When each event occurred, I felt like I had no choice or say in the matter. I just did what I had to do in order to survive. And I’m not alone in that.
Through my healing journey, I have learned one essential element. Self-care is essential! I know that there is a strong societal message about self-care. But when healing from trauma, that care is essential on so many levels.
It Gives Me Power
First, and maybe most importantly, self-care gives me power because it is an activity that I choose to participate in. Trauma took away my power. Trauma hurt me. Now I do things to take care of me. I do things that I choose; things that give me power.
My favorite one to do is art. My most creative times come from my darkest emotions when I am processing my deepest hurts. This is because I get to take something scary and turn it into something beautiful. I get a sense of power with what I create. What gives you power?
It Allows Me To Stay Grounded
Another self-care tool is hot chocolate. I absolutely love warm beverages with hot chocolate being my favorite. It’s like a hug in a mug. It allows me to stay grounded and is a whole sensory experience.
Sensory experiences are important because trauma changes how we sense and experience things. And if I am in a flashback, I struggle to feel the sensory world around me. Instead, I see, smell, and taste the sensations of the flashback scene. Having my favorite beverage gives me a moment to take a deep breath, calm down, and enjoy a moment. What helps you stay grounded?
It Gives Me Something to Look Forward To
In the thick of trauma work, I often get overwhelmed and struggle to find reasons to stay on this planet. It seems like my entire life is going to consist of deep, challenging work to find any semblance of healing. So, I have to find something to look forward to in order to continue forward in my healing journey.
For me, it is truly the little things. Every Tuesday I go to my favorite coffee shop. They have the best coffee, and the undertones just really dance in my mouth with the earthy taste of coffee. They also have different artists with pieces of art available. This one thing is something that I look forward to because of the sensory experience and artwork I get to look at. It gives me a one-hour break from the intensity of recovery.
When I don’t know when or where the next flashback will pop up, when I will see a face that reminds me of an abuser, or when I will feel intense emotions from simply existing, having one consistent thing to look forward to each week helps.
What are things you look forward to?
It Helps Navigate Intensity of Emotions
One thing that is certain about trauma work is that there are strong feelings involved, very strong feelings. Sometimes those feelings can be scary. In a recent therapy session, I shouted about how frustrated I am with healing and how I have had to put years into healing all from one person. I think that might be the first time I have shouted in her office too. Yet I really needed to express how I felt, and I felt better after.
My self-care that I had practiced before and after allowed me to release those feelings in the safety of my therapist’s office instead of on something or someone else. Life doesn’t always allow for intense emotions to be felt in that moment. Self-care can help reduce intensity until it is safe to feel them. It also allows for recovery from those strong emotions.
Feeling and expressing strong emotions in a safe manner can be exhausting. I am always tired after therapy. Self-care, even if it’s as simple as listening to my favorite music, allows me to recover from the intensity and transition into the next chapter of my day.
It Is My Reward
I joke that I am invincible. I’ve had so many moments where I should have died. Some of those were traumatic moments. I still navigate thoughts and cravings of addictions and unsafe actions. So, me being alive is kind of a big thing to me. Every day that I’m alive is a reason to reward myself.
Self-care can look like a warm bath, favorite music, painting, a walk when it’s nice, coffee with a friend, or whatever I want it to look like. It’s ok to reward yourself for simply existing. For some of us, that can be really difficult some days.
Healing from trauma can be really intense. It can be scary, and it is difficult. In the end, it is worth it. You are worth it. How are you going to fill your cup this week and take care of you?