Staying Sane During The Holidays
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****Trigger Warning *****
Holidays can be a hard time for survivors of childhood sexual trauma and abuse. For many, it may mean reminders of past childhood abuse or knowing that the person that perpetrated them will be gathered alongside family members. This may leave you feeling a sense of loss and thoughts of why, why would my family still include the person that hurt me, took my innocence, and caused so much pain.
Many survivors feel forced to attend holiday events simply because the people asking are “family”. Survivors may be asked by family members why they are still holding on to something that happened years ago or guilt-tripped and told “ you need to forgive, let it go” or other statements that only make the survivor feel betrayed, abandoned, unloved, and unsupported.
As survivors, we know that sexual trauma and abuse are not something you just “ get over” but rather something that needs to be processed in a loving and supportive environment. Each survivor is unique so healing can look different depending on the situation. All survivors deserve support and that includes everyone reading this.
How To Stay Sane:
1) Love yourself
Give yourself the grace and love that you truly deserve. Go easy on yourself and know that whatever you are feeling is okay. You matter and so do your feelings and experiences. Take time to rest, buy yourself a present, and invest in yourself.
2) Surround yourself with positive and healthy supporters
Building a strong support system around yourself is very important.
This could include trauma therapists, fellow survivors, peer groups, or those in your life that have supported you on your healing journey. Have a code word for your partner that gives your partner the notice that it may be time to leave a situation or get together that is toxic.
3) Get enough rest, drink water, and watch what you are eating.
Sleep is an important factor in life. Without adequate rest, our systems tend to break down. Getting enough sleep can help you handle the stresses of the holidays easier. Stress wears us thin, so healthy eating habits and drinking water can help us regulate our systems and stay healthy. Good nutrition can lead to less depression and an overall healthier lifestyle.
4) Learn or enforce healthy boundaries
Think of boundaries as your property line. Boundaries help you to stay safe, is a form of self-care, create realistic expectations, and create safety. If someone crosses your boundary let them know what your expectations are, how they broke your boundaries, and help you advocate for yourself.
5) Know you are not obligated to attend functions simply because they're family.
How many times have you been to a gathering that you felt obligated to
attend simply because of “ family”? Give yourself permission to decline invitations where your perpetrator is attending or those that have not been supportive.
6) Learn that saying No is okay
Many people struggle with saying, "No." Many people have a knee-jerk reaction to say “yes” when they're asked to do someone a favor. Keep in mind, you are never required to say "Yes." It's actually okay to say "No" sometimes. Accept this as you prepare to say "No" to someone. This will help you say "No" with ease. When saying “yes” make sure you are not saying no to yourself.
7) Fight the negative messages
Watch your stinkin thinkin! So many times we have negative messages telling ourselves we are being selfish, not worthy, not deserving of love, etc. These are all lies and many times have been put there by our perpetrators or those in our family unit or well-intended friends. Every time you get a negative thought, notice it but kick it out quickly with a positive affirmation. Instead of saying “I am not worthy” replace it with “ I am fearfully and wonderfully made and worthy of much”. Become the person you needed as a child.
8) Create New Traditions
Sometimes the abuse we suffered at the hands of others has found us all alone. Creating new traditions can help bring joy back into your life. Have your own party, celebration, or holiday tradition that is only attended by healthy individuals and those that support your healing journey. Volunteer at a food shelf, local school, or soup kitchen, visit the elderly in a nursing home, aid in others' healing, and get creative. You have the power within you to begin new traditions.
No matter your situation please know you are not alone, there are many of us out here that celebrate you and your healing. If you are in need of more support please feel free to join one of our Facebook groups that support those that were sexually traumatized and abused in childhood. Together we can find healing and once again find joy. If in immediate danger please call 911 or your local crisis center.
Written by: Elizabeth Sullivan, Founder & CEO of the EmpowerSurvivors 501c3 nonprofit.
EmpowerSurvivors wishes you and your families much peace and love during this holiday season.
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There just isn’t a way to get around it. Healing can really hurt like hell. It can feel like there is no way you will ever make it through the dark times or that true healing is not for you. Sometimes healing itself feels like it will kill you. We think to ourselves, “how can we possibly let ourselves feel this pain?” We begin to question whether or not true healing is for us or if it is just for everyone else but us. We question the hole we feel in our chest, the heaviness, and whether life is worth living. We question our own sanity, memories, thoughts…..
Most of us have spent a lifetime suppressing the pain from our past, running from the demons of abuse. Some of us drink ourselves under the table so we don’t have to feel the pain, some of us do drugs to give a sense of relief or busy ourselves so much that we don’t even have time to possibly think or look at the pains of the past. How do we even begin to deal with this pain that no one wants to talk about including ourselves? How do we deal with the pain that everyone says to “ get over”, “quit making it such a big deal”, “it’s in the past”, “forget about it”?
How do we deal with the intrusive thoughts, isolation, memories, nightmares, anxiety, flashbacks, and everything else that seems to plague us?
How do we deal with the silence……….
How do we deal with family or loved ones who do not understand us…………………
So Step by Step
One minute at a time, one hour at a time, one day at a time. That is how we do it. By taking baby steps. By allowing ourselves to feel the pain, sit with it, to mourn a loss of innocence. We do it by allowing ourselves the time we need to process the past. We do it by allowing ourselves to cry the tears we may have never gotten to cry, to seek out positive support, and allow ourselves to grieve, to process.
Separating the Truth from the Lie
We do it by not beating ourselves up for having a bad day, by separating ourselves from people that are not supportive or cause more pain for us in this process. We heal by going back into those memories and separating the truth from the lies. We heal by learning to love ourselves and realize that no one else can do the work for us. We heal by bringing all the darkness of abuse out into the light so it can truly be looked at, dissected. We heal by learning to love ourselves, by giving ourselves the resources and the time we need to re-learn and begin anew. We heal ourselves by staying in the game even when we think there is no hope of healing.
Breaking The Silence & Care
We heal by breaking our silence and shedding the cloak of shame. We heal by forgiving ourselves for things we could not control. We heal by learning how to find healing and then going out and empowering others to do the same. We heal by holding our inner children and telling them that this will never happen again.
Healing IS for You
Stay in the game fellow survivors, stay in the game. Healing hurts like hell but this is one situation where if there isn’t pain there is no gain. The hurt will lessen, and so will the pain. Healing IS for you, so keep showing up and stay in the game.
Your fellow survivor,
By Evey Krammer-Carlson
I make a conscious effort to be careful about what I read and listen to on the news. It’s a tricky line to walk sometimes because I’m inherently curious and interested in what is happening in current events around the world. I don’t want to live in a bubble. I want to know what’s happening, I want to be able to critically think about things so I can form my own opinions and have thoughtful conversations.
When my symptoms were at their worst, and I was going through the throes of processing my memories, my therapist had me follow the “puppy and kitten rule,” meaning I could watch anything as long as it included cute puppies and kittens. That “rule” helped me minimize being triggered at a time when most of my days were spent experiencing flashbacks, anxiety, panic, and fear.
I stayed away from intense news and was mindful of what I watched on tv and what movies I saw. Most of the time, I watched lots of comedy. Admittedly, there were times when I broke the rule. I sometimes sought out programs with violence that in some way mirrored my own abuse. Or I would pay attention to sensationalized cases in the media that were hard to avoid. Inevitably I would get triggered.
As I began to manage my symptoms and felt some sense of safety the puppy/kitten rule was lifted. Because I had been so careful about what I ingested from media outlets for so long, I developed an avoidance for watching or seeking out certain information because I knew it may be triggering.
Recently, there was a news story that I had done my best to avoid. When it first came out, people were outraged, and then the news cycle changed. I understand why that happens. There is so much out there every day, and each event is shocking and sad, and sometimes incomprehensible. But because my trauma is sort-of similar to the aforementioned news story, I was on high alert when I scrolled past it. I had a definite curiosity about the details but hadn’t read anything besides the headlines.
Until the other day!
The other day the headline changed and I knew that the very thing I feared when I first heard the story did, in fact, come true. I knew this person would never be convicted. I felt sick that even with awareness, this kind of trafficking still goes on, and in my mind, will probably continue to exist.
Then I got triggered.
I’m not used to those kinds of triggers any longer. There is plenty for me to navigate in my daily life, and anniversary times of the year, and I thought I was far enough along in my healing journey that I would be okay. But PTSD doesn’t operate that way. It doesn’t care that I was just reading an article, and it doesn’t care that this person had absolutely nothing to do with me. I had never heard of him. PTSD simply understands that my sense of safety and trust is altered because of the trauma I experienced, and my brain and body will go into the memory and protection mode automatically.
After reading the article, I could tell that something was awry in my body/mind/spirit. I could tell things were stirred up in a way that I could spiral down the cycle of panic, fear, and shame. I closed the computer, went to yoga, had lunch with a friend, and remembered that today is a day when I’m fighting the tiger. Any shame over being triggered dissipated as I repeated my metaphorical mantra of support to myself.
Seeing things written, or in movies, tv, or media can bring a sort of validation. A sense of see? I’m not making this up! When you are a trauma survivor you look for validation. My trauma seems so “out of the ordinary” that it’s extremely rare that I felt validation.
But, my job on my healing journey is knowing that my truth is validation enough.
I suspect there will be other times when I get triggered by the news. The intensity of my response will probably vary depending on what the triggers are, the time of year, and the present stressors in my life. I know what to do when the skeleton hands of the past pull at me, and I’m confident that I’ll remember that I will fight the tiger and win.
The Monday Night Conversations Group
Here is a list of short positive phrases or statements that can help improve your well-being
It can be helpful to remember to breathe after saying an affirmation.
I Am Unique
I Am worthy of success
I Am open to receive my abundant life
I Am enough
I Am motivated
I Am dedicated
I Am imaginative
I Am open to receiving self-compassion
I Am worthy of receiving the love I give to others
I Am kind
I Am taking action in my…..(life, healing)
I Am a cycle-breaker
I Am not the negative things my inner-critic tell me
I Am grateful for my journey and its lessons
I Am safe
I can overcome any obstacle and triumph over it
I give myself permission to improve
I do not have to be perfect
I love and approve of myself and trust the process of life
I accept myself as I am
I Am a human being, not a human doing
I Am doing all I can to my very best, to keep moving forward with my dreams
I Am here and everything is okay
I can take off my mask; It’s okay to not be okay
I Am proud of myself
I Am not my story
I Am not what happened to me
I Am not those things those that harmed me said I was
I Am becoming a better version of myself, one day at a time
I Am not comparing my insides to everyone else’s outsides
I Am worthy of self-love
I’m becoming more of who I really am
All I need is within me
I do not blame myself for my childhood experiences and trauma
I release the feeling of guilt, hurt & shame
What I want is already here or on the way
I Am confident
I Am able to choose the direction of my life
I Am grateful for my body
My mind, body & spirit belong to me
I acknowledge and accept that healing is possible
I will not be a victim-revictimized
It’s okay for me to take of myself
I allow myself to have all my feelings and emotions
I am not my thoughts; I am not my emotions
I allow myself to take a break
It’s okay to take a break/to rest
It’s okay to love my inner child/ren
It’s okay to have fun
I choose to know that I am lovable
I release the shame and blame that was never mine, to begin with
I remember that “no” is a complete sentence
I accept myself as I am today
May I inhale the present and future, and exhale the past
We are beautiful and connected to all living things
Monday, August 9, 2021, at 6:00 pm central time via Zoom
Conversations With Evey & Elizabeth!!
This week we have a special guest, Dr. Gregory Williams, who will bring us through his story and add to great conversations!
About Dr. Gregory Williams:
My name is Dr. Gregory Williams and I am on the Senior Leadership Team at Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston, Texas. I authored a book a couple of years ago called, “Shattered by the Darkness: Putting the Pieces Together After Child Abuse” that has drawn worldwide notice. The book tells of my daily childhood sexual abuse in the hands of my father and his friends until my 17th birthday. My decision to not reveal this horror to anyone until a few years ago caused many emotional, physical, and relational issues that I have learned from and still daily deal with. I have two books being released in August 2021 called “Overcoming the Darkness: The Road Map to Hope” and the youth version of the book called, “When the Dark Clouds Come: The Road Map to Hope.” I also host a weekly LIVE radio show called, “Breaking the Silence with Dr. Gregory Williams” and it is heard worldwide by over 1.7 million listeners LIVE each Sunday evening at 8:00 pm Central Time on the BBS Radio Network, iHeart Radio, YouTube LIVE, Spotify, and many other LIVE platforms. I now teach workshops, seminars, and webinars literally around the world each and every week.
Register in advance for this meeting:
After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.
******** This Meeting Will Be Recorded ********
Learn more about EmpowerSurvivors program Conversations with Evey & Elizabeth and all we have to offer!
Do you want to be our next guest? Contact Evey at :
On Healing Trauma, respected therapist and teacher Peter A. Levine brings you face to face with his effective new treatment - not a "talking" cure, but a deep physiological process for releasing your past traumas and instilling a harmonious awareness of your body.
Are you experiencing physical or emotional symptoms that no one is able to explain? If so, you may be suffering a traumatic reaction to a past event, teaches Levine. Medical researchers have known for decades that survivors of accidents, disaster, and childhood trauma often endure life-long symptoms ranging from anxiety and depression to unexplained physical pain and harmful "acting out" behaviors reflecting these painful events.
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If you or someone you know is dealing with a challenging situation and could benefit from additional support, consider talking to one of the 2,000 licensed online counselors at BetterHelp. Emotional abuse is a severe form of psychological trauma. It’s otherwise known as mental or psychological abuse; however these terms refer to the same concept. Unlike physical abuse, emotional abuse doesn’t leave visible scars. That doesn’t mean that it isn’t damaging. When a perpetrator abuses a victim emotionally, they use several forms of manipulation to control the person. Abusers break down their victim’s self-esteem to the point where they feel worthless. When a victim believes that they don’t deserve love, they are at the whim of their abuser. The perpetrator may engage in name calling, shaming, and telling the abused person that they’re unlovable. Threats are a large part of the emotional or mental abuse. The abuser tells their victim that they won’t be able to do better or find love. The victim often hides the mental or emotional abuse from friends and family because they are ashamed. However, there are some signs to indicate emotional abuse is happening. If you think someone you love is a victim of abuse, don’t ignore that intuition. Check in with them and see if they need help. You could save a life. IMPORTANT: The information in this video is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. All content, including text, graphics, images, and information contained in this video is for general information purposes only and does not replace a consultation with your doctor.