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Purging the thoughts in my head

I just need to purge all of these thoughts in my head. TW sexual assault…

My mind is a jumbled mess, constantly racing but at the same time, numb. It’s like I’m reliving the past in my head 24/7 and can’t focus on the here and now.
I feel like I’m drowning. Between the flashbacks during the day and the nightmares throughout the night, I can’t win.

I heard his name today. I went three days without drowning those memories and anxieties with alcohol. Then I caved and have been drinking to ease my pain ever since. It’s obviously not working. It’s 4am and I’ve been up tossing and turning since 2 after yet another nightmare. I can still see his face and feel the rope burns around my wrists… Get this out of my head!

Some days I’m ok and for about a year I was feeling like I was making progress and getting better. But a few months ago I was cleaning out the attic and found a box full of shit that reminded me of that time in my life. Yearbooks, journals, pictures, clothing. It took me right back to that time and ever since I’ve been a mess.

Every memory is flooding back with such vividness. Its like I’m right back in that room again - I can see the bruises and cuts on my skin, fresh and bleeding - gasping for my next breath, pleading with him to let me breathe - waking up to things inside me and the pain… god, the pain. The walls - the writing - the lock on the door - the sense of helplessness - the sickening smell of his cologne and bourbon on his breath - And I can’t fucking forget!

These thoughts are swirling around in my mind and just I want to scream… But I remain silent. Try to remain composed - bury it all. So here I am with a war going on inside myself and pretending like everything is fine on the outside, faking a smile with lifeless eyes. I’m going up in flames and about to explode.

I have to sleep but I’m afraid to. And what’s worse is that I feel even more alone in this because I can’t get myself to communicate. I just can’t let anyone in. I want so bad to open up but I just can’t get the words to form. I don’t have the courage to say these things to the one person I trust for fear of it altering our relationship. I just want to purge, figuratively and literally… I’m just so fucked.

I’m trying so hard to better myself and better my life but for 11 years I’ve just ran in place. I’m so disappointed in myself for not being able to heal and move on. I want to leave this place and all of the memories behind. I want to move away and start again. I see everyone else so far ahead of me in life and I’m still here, barely getting through each day. And I hate myself for that too. Even if I did move away, I’ll still have this baggage so what’s the point…

I know, I know… until I can get therapy there’s not much more I can do. So until then…I’ll just be here I guess.

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Dear @Hiraeth,

My heart goes out to you. And I am so, so proud of you for sharing about what happened to you, but also how you’ve been dealing with it lately. What happened in the past was heavily traumatic and it makes sense to feel lost while your heart is screaming for some peace. You just want a relief, to feel safe, and not just understand that as a vague concept, but to feel it in your body and your mind.

For what it’s worth, there’s a lot of my own heart in your words right now. Past assaults keep haunting me, even if it’s been more than a decade for some. Memories invade me anytime, but especially at night when the only thing we can do is trying to relax and “let go”. My body often decides that resting is not for tonight, and I end up being still awake at 5 am and wondering if I’ll ever feel better one day, if those parts of my life will belong to the past one day, or if I could just have a break.

This awareness of knowing that we are safe, yet feeling this incredible distress within us is a terrible feeling. And it’s heartbreaking to feel so much energy and chaos inside of us, yet when it’s about sharing what’s going on, nothing comes through. I also remain silent most of the time. I tried to improve that, but still can’t figure out how to openly talk to my partner and therapist. Saying some kind of words out loud is really a huge step. It’s hard to break down the walls we’ve built or so long.

I hear that you’re waiting for seeing a therapist, and I applaud you for this decision. Now, therapy is like a crutch. A space that gives you some energy, insights, also a safety that can be so needed. But there are still things you can do until then. I know it will sound a little weird as you’re going through a rough time right now, but your very first strength while processing your traumas is yourself. Which is why I want to encourage you to give yourself some grace through all of this.

I know it’s hard to not beat ourselves up, to not feel guilty. I too fall in this cycle very often. I blame myself for not being able to feel better now, for still being overwhelmed by memories and pain, for not being able to talk, especially to my partner. And from thing to another I blame myself for what happened to me. There’s this energy inside of me that needs to go somewhere, and I often turn it against myself.

I hear you friend. I hear your disappointment, so much. And, from an outsider perspective right now, I want to take some time to acknowledge the fact that you haven’t been inactive. I don’t know how the past 11 years has been for you, but if something is sure it’s that you survived. I personally ran away for most of my life, and it’s only now that I’m forced to slow down and face all of this. It takes time. It takes a lot of moment when we just want to scream and lash out against everything and everyone. Those breaking points when you just want to say “f*ck this world” are not at your disadvantage, even if it doesn’t feel like this. You are processing your memories, you are naming your emotions, you are feeling things that maybe you never allowed yourself to experience until now. For sure, it’s messy. Because it’s at the image and the intensity of your pain. But you are doing what’s needed to heal, friend. You’re acknowledging what’s going on, and even more, you are putting words on it.

I know this forum is made of written words, but it’s still full of real people with unique stories and a heart to love and care for each other. What you just did by writing this post, by sharing it, is such a huge and powerful action. If you can’t convey with your voice what you’re going through, you still are using another way to express that. It’s still very real, still some important doors that you open to others here. I am so grateful for you for doing this, because it allows me to remind you something important: you are not alone, even if it feels very lonely to fight those battles. And your enemy is not you, friend. It’s about this pain, it’s about someone else’s actions, it’s about this eager to live that’s inside of you. But the fault, the blame, even the responsibility of how fast or slow you progress, is not your fault.

You’ve also been trying to stop using alcohol as a coping mechanisms. 3 days is not nothing. It’s 3 days now, and it will be more and more days progressively. You didn’t fail. You are learning to cope differently and at first it can seem very difficult to find your way. But you will. And I’m aware of how hard it is when it feels like your two only alternatives are: hurting or numbing yourself by any means. When the pain is so intense, it gets hard to see another path, a middle ground that wouldn’t be one of those extremes. It also makes sense to need a relief immediately. Yet despite the difficulty to share, despite the pain and the tiredness, you’ve been walking on a different path tonight, because you decided to share what’s on your heart and to be here.

Yes, you will always have this baggage with you. But it won’t always hurt like it does now. For me personally, when I start to think this, I try to remind myself that it’s actually the beginning of my healing, even if it feels like a lifetime because I’ve been running and feeling unsafe for most of my life. The battle began the day I was hurt, but there are many different steps after. Overcoming denial, for example, is a huge part of it. Learning to name our experiences as well. Just like speaking can feel like an ultimate goal, because it allows other to stand by our side and be part of this journey with us. Those things take a lot of steps, oftentimes a lot of steps that we don’t see as such while we’re experiencing it. Which is why I’m damn proud of you for being here and allowing this community to remind you, with all the love and care that we have for you, that this pain, this helplessness, won’t keep haunting you forever. You are learning and you will keep learning, at your own pace, to make sense of what happened to you and to put it where it belongs: in your past, yet without ignoring it, without denying. You will regain the power that was taken away from you my friend.

I read your other post and the long conversations by the way. And I know I’m just a random stranger at this point, but I believe in you. And you inspire me to keep moving, to keep trying, even if those days it’s just about trying to sleep 30 minutes earlier, it’s still something. For what it’s worth, I’m walking on that path with you. You have friends right here who care and understand, who face the same demons. We will grow stronger. We will rise again. It goes with learning to sit with our emotions, but also receiving the love and care we need during all of this.

Last year, I shared to a dear friend in this community some of the things that were on my heart. I was going through this acute realization of how many abuses I endured in the past, and was wondering if my life ever belonged to me. I was wondering what’s the point of trying to heal now, as most of my life already went to waste. They responded something that helped and keep helping me when I face those thoughts again, and I want to share it with you as well: “You’ve lived so long with people forcing you through doors, you didn’t want to go through, making you travel when you want to just rest. I want you to be proud of yourself for walking through the doors that YOU WANTED TO WALK THROUGH.”

You are alive, friend. And hell life can be incredibly messy, painful, twisted. But I am so proud of you for being here. I feel honored for learning to know you.

What does your support system look like right now? What are your resources?

You are loved, Hiraeth.

PS - An incredible crutch to me this year has been music, especially when I had so much energy and pain inside of me that needed to be expressed. I wanted to share the following one with you. Hearing someone screaming the words I want to vomit but can’t really helps me sometimes:


You deserve justice. And if not by legal means, then the most powerful way still remain through being alive and doing what’s needed to heal. You deserve peace. You deserve rest. You deserve the support that’s needed to go through those waves of pain and grief. You are not alone, friend. We’re holding your hand here. I see you. I hear you. I hurt with you. I’m rooting for you and am standing by your side.
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I’m sorry for the delay in my response here - I know its been a few days but I just kept reading this over and over again and couldn’t find my words to respond. Thank you so much for taking the time to write out such a heartfelt reply. It comforts me to know that there are people here who truly hear me and try to help.

It’s another late night (early morning?) for me today - I couldn’t sleep. I’m so tired of the sleepless nights. I’ve even tried taking melatonin as a sleep aid to try to help get me through the night but it doesn’t seem to be working apparently.

I’m so sorry to hear that you are still being haunted by your past and that it keeps you up at night as well. I truly wish for healing for you. We may have just met but your willingness to lend a hand means the world to me, and the song you sent has become a new favorite of mine. Linkin Park has always been a go-to band for me - a lot of their songs speak to me and convey the anger that I feel inside but can’t express.
I’ve found that I do use music as a crutch to help get me through as well - I’m constantly listening to something and it really does help - at least while there is music playing, because it seems that as soon as I’m in silence alone with my thoughts, it all creeps right back and settles in again. I listen to a lot of different things, mostly rock music but one artist has kept me going through all of this and it’s NF. His words speak to my soul and I’d regret not sharing him with you. I couldn’t choose between my three favorite songs, so here they are. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do. Since covid has happened, I find myself just driving around listening to his albums on repeat and it seems to help.



Its been a weird week for me. It like I’m living a double life or something - On the one hand, I’m breaking down and can’t figure out where my real smile went. I spend the evenings and nights in a tattered mess, fighting off my thoughts when I’m awake and nightmares at night. But on the other hand, throughout the day while I’m work, I’m a completely different person; hiding all of my pain and burying all of my insecurities. And while I’m working, while I’m busy, it seems like I’m okay. And this week apparently putting up that front has paid off because I received a promotion out of the blue - which is great! But I feel like I don’t deserve it because the real me, the me that I hide, is a drowning pathetic shell of a person.

You asked me what my support system was and I thought real hard about it but couldn’t find an answer. Apparently I don’t have one. I’ve kept all of this a huge secret from my family and friends over the years and I’m not about to open up about that to them. And what does it matter if I do? They wouldn’t be here to help me anyway. They are still in contact with him, and he’s a cop now so I feel like he’s untouchable. On top of the fact that I let all of that happen to me for years…

I don’t really talk to my husband anymore because I can’t find the words or the perfect moment to purge all of this to him. I also think that he may not care or he’ll think that I’m not worth staying beside because of my baggage. It has been years and years and I’m still broken but hiding it pretty much the entire time. Also, I am very angry at my husband but I’m not sure if my anger is justified. I don’t think he realizes that I’ve been dealing with this, because I’ve been keeping everything hidden from him. But the fact that he doesn’t notice when I’m fading away or not smiling/laughing hurts… Or what if maybe he notices but doesn’t say anything? That thought hurts more. And one question that I keep asking myself is ‘what is worth sharing?’ Is it necessary to tell him about my triggers? Should I open up about the details that keep creeping up in my mind? There are so many objects or phrases that I’ll see on tv or even in everyday life that will send me into panic mode. I guess what I’m asking is, when I do get the courage to talk to him, should I be vague or do I need to open up about it all? I don’t want to paint him a picture but I also think he deserves to know the truth and the severity of what happened to me so he can fully understand why I am the way that I am.

I really want to talk to him and some days I’ll look at him with the tiniest bit of courage to open up but the words never leave my mouth. Since I’ve built this wall between us, at times I feel like we are just two people living in the same house but with two different schedules and we never really sync up. Since he has shown such stubbornness and won’t change work schedules, I feel resentment towards him for not being here. He’s never available to talk to - even in the hours that we do get to spend time together, he is always distracted (laptop, tv, phone, talking with friends and family etc) And during those few hours we have together, I feel ignored - just like I was ignored by someone else all of those years ago. The pain of being lonely in a marriage is far worse than truly being alone.

You know, something that has been bothering me lately is learning how to deal with this past trauma of mine. Ever since I’ve been trying to not use alcohol as a coping mechanism, I’m honestly not sure how to deal. Everyone says that I shouldn’t be distracting myself when those thoughts and memories rise to the surface - I shouldn’t grab the bottle and drown it away but… What am I supposed to do? What is the purpose of feeling that memory/emotion, or whatever? I’m just so confused as to how I’m supposed to process it. How is experiencing it again in my mind going to help me move forward? I constantly have triggers, like certain words, objects, smells, whenever I see plates from my hometown… When I’m “triggered” what am I supposed to do…? How do I get through those moments without numbing/hurting myself as a distraction? I’ve tried to breathe and use grounding for years but is that all? Because since I’ve been doing these things for years, I feel hopeless and don’t think I’m ever going to get over this.

I have a lot of issues I guess - not only my past that still finds me in the present but now because of that, I’m having marital problems. Its just hard right now to feel so alone but its good to know I can come here and be heard, so thank you. I can’t even begin to find the right words to express my gratitude. This place feels like my safe space where I can finally breathe and finally release all of this. I just need to find the strength to release all of this to the one person that matters most. I just don’t know how.

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  • Edit 15.01 - added the rest of the message. I hope you’re doing okay. <3

Hey @Hiraeth,

Sorry for the length of this post! You mention a lot of important things and I really wanted to take the time to respond.

First off, thank you so much for your reply. I really appreciate your trust and the time you’ve been giving to this response.

Let’s just agree to not be sorry for the time we take to reply. It’s totally fine to take our time. Just know that journal topics close 7 days after the last reply - so it’s not against you, it’s just an automatic setting. If that happens, you are totally free to open a new one or I’d reopen that one if your prefer. So it’s just to let you know, no stress. :heart:

I’m sorry your nights keep being difficult. And I hear what you say about melatonin. I take it too, highest dosage… and it doesn’t seem to be enough. For me personally, it really helps to not wake up during the night, but it’s not helpful to fall asleep. But still, it’s important to keep taking it. It gives a natural boost to your body regarding your sleeping patterns, even if it’s not always significant. It’s also still a way to take care of yourself. <3

I’m so sorry to hear that you are still being haunted by your past and that it keeps you up at night as well. I truly wish for healing for you.

Thank you. <3 I truly wish the same for you. And I believe we’ll reach that point of peace and healing that we need, even if it takes a lot of steps forward and backwards.

I’ve found that I do use music as a crutch to help get me through as well - I’m constantly listening to something and it really does help - at least while there is music playing, because it seems that as soon as I’m in silence alone with my thoughts, it all creeps right back and settles in again.

That totally makes sense. I’m by no mean an expert or professional, so I can only speak from my personal experience. When we face a traumatic event, we’re likely to develop different strategies to survive, especially if we don’t have any space to talk about it. For me personally, I’ve learned to understand that hypervigilance (and at the opposite, extreme apathy/numbness) is a huge part of who I am since I’ve been through violent times. So stillness, silence, quiet times are stressful to me. I feel safer when there’s noise in the background, when I do two things at the same time, also when I push myself beyond my own limits, which I need to be careful with. Sometimes it can be extreme and look more like I try to reach a point of sensory and emotional overload, which is not healthy. I need to feel active and outside of myself, otherwise I start to think, to feel… It’s a way to avoid myself. I did that through eating disorders as well in the past. And somehow it’s what you do with alcohool too. It’s human though. We want a relief when we feel in distress. It’s scary and difficult to navigate those emotions. Silence can feel unsafe. And it’s okay to give ourselves some grace and compassion while we’re learning to change what “being safe” means for us.

I couldn’t choose between my three favorite songs, so here they are. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

Thank you so much for sharing those songs. I really, really enjoy the third one especially. Can feel a lot the grief in it. It’s very powerful.

Apparently I don’t have one. I’ve kept all of this a huge secret from my family and friends over the years and I’m not about to open up about that to them. And what does it matter if I do? They wouldn’t be here to help me anyway. They are still in contact with him, and he’s a cop now so I feel like he’s untouchable. On top of the fact that I let all of that happen to me for years…

I’m really sorry you didn’t have any support for so long. That is, unfortunately, something that I understand too. It makes sense to feel like people around you wouldn’t help if they know about what you’ve been through. It’s something difficult to imagine. It’s totally new. A little bit like trying to visualize a color that we don’t know yet. It’s more conceptual at this point of your life. Which is why it takes a lot of strength to reach out. It might feel unsafe, but regardless of people’s reactions, it is never wrong to do it.

I hear that the context is very specific though, as your family is still in contact with him. I’m sorry, friend. I can’t imagine the pressure this situation add on your shoulders. I want you to know that the shame and guilt is not yours though. What he did was the result of his actions, decisions, responsability. Even if his work and position might be discouraging to receive some justice, there is no uniform that would ever take that responsibility away from him. It doesn’t belong to you.

You are not at fault. You never asked for it. You never did or said anything that would have allowed him to hurt you. You didn’t allow it by any mean. Abuse can be extremely complex. It’s often tied to a lot of very different and opposite emotions. But if one truth remains: you are not guilty for what happened. You didn’t before, you are not responsible today, and you won’t ever be responsible for it.

Talking to your family can be a huge step. You don’t have to talk about it to everyone, and you can take your time to make those decisions. There are places and times for everything. I think, a safe step can definitely to see a therapist, as you mentioned it. If you can, one who is trained and well-informed about traumas. They will be able to give you this non-judgmental listening that you need. They’ll show you an attidue that will help you learn that speaking can be done safely. And you have the absolute right to do so. It takes a lot of small steps. Trust is not given in an instant. And we don’t change patterns we’ve known for a long time just in a day. But having spaces where you feel safe to talk is, probably, a first priority right now.

How do you think your family would react if they know? Do you think they would keep being in contact with him? A huge part of talking depends on feeling safe or not with people around us. There’s no right/wrong answer by the way. Only what your heart feels about all of this.

In any case, you don’t deserve to drown with those thoughts and feelings. You don’t have to stay alone with it. You can empower yourself again, at your own pace. :heart:

I guess what I’m asking is, when I do get the courage to talk to him, should I be vague or do I need to open up about it all? I don’t want to paint him a picture but I also think he deserves to know the truth and the severity of what happened to me so he can fully understand why I am the way that I am.

That is definitely an answer you’ll have to find by yourself. What matters is to do things at your own pace. There is no right or wrong way to talk about those things, no should or shouldn’t, no prewritten rule. Only what you feel safe with the moment you talk.

Something I never really shared since I’m in this community is the fact that my partner also had his share of trauma, which makes our relationship very difficult sometimes. It’s not up to me to go into details here, but my point is that the first time he talked to me about it, he’s let me know that he wanted to talk to me and made me understand that it was both a difficult and serious subject. Somehow, he helped me as well to be prepared for what I’ll hear. My heart broke for him. But it’s not because I could relate or understand. It’s only because I love him.

I think, if you trust your husband enough to talk to him, he’s more than likely to react in a loving way, and not pressure you to give details. With my partner, whether it was him or me sharing things, we also made it clear to each other that those conversations shouldn’t be forced and details are not necessary, unless we’d like to talk about it. The hardest part is to break the silence, so the other person can understand the gravity of what we’re talking about. With time, you will learn to understand what you feel comfortable with or not.

But for the first conversation, you can set your own rules, in a loving and calm way. You can be honest about how you want this conversation to happen, what are your expectations, what could help you to talk eventually (for example: do you prefer him to stay silent, or to ask questions, or to share how he feels about it…). It’s totally okay to take your time and think about how you envision this conversation. And it can be done in different steps, gradually. If you don’t feel comfortable sharing details that day, you can always explain that you’d like to, but you’ll need time and you’ll ask him to respect that. It’s a way to put trust in each other, but also to prevent misunderstandings. And if you never want to share any specific details with him, that’s 100% okay too.

Also, I am very angry at my husband but I’m not sure if my anger is justified. I don’t think he realizes that I’ve been dealing with this, because I’ve been keeping everything hidden from him. But the fact that he doesn’t notice when I’m fading away or not smiling/laughing hurts…

It’s totally natural to wish that he’d notice and react, that he would ask questions and actively shows that he cares. Your anger is understandable. Though the absence of reaction/that he doesn’t seem to notice how you feel now doesn’t necessarily mean that he doesn’t care. I think, when we’ve been used for so long to basically hide and survive, we can also be really good at appearing confident and strong. It’s not our fault though. It was a way to survive when we felt deeply unsafe. For example, I know this might sound crazy but I know I can cry while being in a room with someone without them noticing. It’s scary sometimes to realize how much I’ve been “trained” to hide my emotions because I didn’t have any other choice before.

It’s okay to unlearn those things, to change the way we manage our emotions, also to give keys to people who love us to actually support us and understand what’s going on. It takes time, for sure. And a huge amount of patience with ourselves. We deserve that patience and compassion. I’m sure that if you had a friend in this situation, you would accept to follow their own pace and do your best to give them a space to exist as they want. It doesn’t give all the answer,s but sometimes it helps to ask ourselves: “what would I do/say if someone I love was in that situation?” <3

I don’t really talk to my husband anymore because I can’t find the words or the perfect moment to purge all of this to him.

Could it help you to write a letter to him at first, as a kind of exercise? Or eventually, talking to a therapist first, then seeing how you progress and try to talk to your husband? The very fact that you’ll see a therapist could also be a signal to your husband, even if not detailed.

The pain of being lonely in a marriage is far worse than truly being alone.

I hear you. I really do. Not mentioning that, with covid and lockdowns, the overall situation has been pretty exhausting for everyone last year - and still is. There are less opportunities to connect with each other, to go outside and spend time together, etc. It feels like everything is on hold and we’re stuck in a loop. I’ve been feeling that a lot lately, and honestly since I’ve started to open up to my partner - in a very vague way, I didn’t give any details and he knows I am on therapy -, we’ve found again some tenderness that was lost before. We’re still stuck in a loop of nothingness because of the current context, but there are those small moments again with a loving spark, you know? We’re definitely not seeing the end of the tunnel, but it gets better. That is, truly, all that I wish for you and your husband as well.

You know, something that has been bothering me lately is learning how to deal with this past trauma of mine. Ever since I’ve been trying to not use alcohol as a coping mechanism, I’m honestly not sure how to deal.

That makes sense, 100%. If you remove the only thing that allows you to not feel this pain and distress, then what? The very fact that you are lost is not at your disadvantage. It’s actually an opportunity to learn to do differently.

Honestly, I think distraction is not bad in itself. But there is distraction and distraction. There’s what could be healthy for you because it would help you to shift your focus on something different for a certain time and wouldn’t hurt you. And there’s what’s unhealthy and would only add more obstacles in your life in the long run.

Your first motivation when you look after a distraction is, I think, important. If it’s to run away from yourself, then it keeps you stuck in a cycle of avoidance, indeed, and that’s not going to help you in the long run. It would only be a temporary fix - and with time, this fix will be less and less effective, so you will need it more and more, and for more and more situations. Even if it helps at the moment, it makes your reality less and less bearable. So that’s what people mean when they say that it’s important to sit with your emotions. But, in practice, it’s not that easy, because we are not equipped yet (important word there ;)) to face that. It feels like throwing yourself in the middle of a battlefield with only a spoon to defend yourself. So it is, definitely, a process with many steps forwards and backwards. It’s totally natural to be tempted to run away, to hide, to numb ourselves. I’ve done that and keep doing that so many times. But 3 times become 2, then 1, then 0. Which is why having people around you to encourage you, to guide you eventually, but even more to support you, especially during rough times, is so important. A therapist for example, will be here to validate you when you are crippled with doubts, when the pain is too intense and you just want to crawl in.

On the other hand, a distraction can be healthy and, I think, very powerful if it stems out of a personal decision. It is a way to empower yourself when you are facing traumatic reactions that are, at first, beyond your control. When you go after a drink, it’s not by choice, it’s because you feel stuck with no other option. But if you decide to consciously distract yourself with something that wouldn’t erase your emotions either, you empower yourself. Now, it’s super scary to try. I personally feel a lot of hesitations whenever I have to cope with a triggered reaction. It requires conscious efforts and perseverance. And sometimes the best we can do is take a blanket and let ourselves cry.

But the more you put in place your healthy mechanisms, the more you let your personal “healing toolbox” grow, the more it will be easy for you to turn into those when you need it. It’s like exploring and learning to understand how you react, more and more, and what you need in those moments. With alcohol, you erase the possibility to learn and identify that. But those moments can be tough, which is why it’s so important to be helped - by a therapist, by our loved ones.

A good benefit of therapy is being allowed to explore and reflect on those things in a safe place, with someone who understands this process, where you wouldn’t be judged or having to be effective or to prove anything. It’s very messy at first, but you also experience a lot of “a-ha” moments, not even during the therapy sessions specifically, but also on your own. It’s 100% a space to explore and learn to know yourself better. Also to learn to trust others again with yourself. Traumas like sexual assaults stem from relationships. It breaks the trust that we have in people and this world. It brings an insane amount of grief. But it’s also through safe relationships that we can find some peace and healing.

It’s a little bit like being a tightrope walker, but with a very solid and protective net underneath you while you walk. You’ve walked for a long time without that safety net. Your next move could be to knit that one with the right people and in the right places. It doesn’t erase the fear of falling, but you know at least that you can try safely, and you are allowed to fail because it will help you to learn yourself more and more. To learn what are your strengths, but also your vulnerability.

Triggers and living in this kind of constant fear in the background make us feel like we’re living surrounded by landmines. But one by one, we learn to deactivate them. They’ll still be there, they’ll still represent something, but our perception of it becomes different, because we re-establish the balance between fear and strength. Your voice, your words, your emotions, are your very first strength. Which is why I’m so glad you are here in this community, sharing your heart.

Everyone says that I shouldn’t be distracting myself when those thoughts and memories rise to the surface - I shouldn’t grab the bottle and drown it away but… What am I supposed to do?

I guess it’s very different for everyone, so what I share is just a very few elements of my own perspective. For me personally, besides trying to identify triggers and take care of myself in a healthy way when in “crisis”, it’s more a kind of “background” and slow work.

For example, and you mentioned breathing, a lot of people suggest meditation and grounding techniques. And I get it. Some grounding ones helped me sometimes, but I have to be in a good mood and feel quite safe where I am already. If mindfulness can be beneficial, it’s not easy to access when you’ve been through traumas. If I am in a state of hypervigilance, I just can’t. Sitting on a chair, being surrounded by silence and focusing on my breathing feels like torture. So my first reaction is avoidance. My mind focuses on a quick fix, sometimes seemingly unhealthy, sometimes very unhealthy.

I don’t know if you like creating things/art in general, but for me personally it’s been an incredible outlet. It’s allowed me to learn to take my time more and more. To be patient with myself. To make mistakes. To express things I can’t express with words. To shift my focus if needed. To feel a sense of achievement. But even more to feel like I do and create something. Like… it’s mine. And there is something special in knowing that. It’s like learning and accepting to exist in a certain way.

This, and developping self-care routines (ooh, I’m a bad student for that, but we can only progress, right?). Progressively, I notice some changes here and there. Sometimes I crave for a moment of calm, which would have been absolutely impossible to conceive two years ago. Listening to ambient music? Hell, no! Having a walk outside in nature? Oh well, I would be so restless that I would like forcing myself to be outside and artificially enjoy it. Taking care of myself and taking my time felt distressing. And it still does, a lot of time. I’m really good at avoidance. But I’ve let people enter in my life, including a therapist, who has learned to know me and remind me when I’m spiraling. I’ve been also more and more aware of how I function, so I can take more preventive self-care actions, and not only curative ones.

I know this might sound a little bit vague and your questions are focused on practical actions. It’s mostly because what works for someone can be very different for someone else. In my position, I can only try to bring a little bit of hope because I’ve witnessed progress in my own journey. It’s far from being perfect and I’m not gonna lie, lately I’ve been a huge mess. But I don’t refuse help as I did before. I don’t try to shoulder everything by myself. I don’t always beat myself up when I’m not okay or triggered. I allow myself to cry when I need to, even if it feels endless or like dying sometimes.

Someone took a choice away from you a while ago. And somehow it keeps happening every time you are robbed of your well-being, your sense of safety, your emotions in the present moment. The difference is that now you are safe. Now you have a say on it. The triggers will still be there, but you can learn, progressively, to welcome, acknowledge and react in ways that would be more and more safe and not harmful for you. You clear the mines around you. And I believe, 100%, in your capacity to take the steps that are needed for that, also to receive the support you deserve during this journey.

Take care. :hrtlegolove:

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