About the author of this page
Sue Cox is co-founder of Survivors Voice Europe, she is also a seasoned health care professional, a counsellor, and practitioner of Traditional Chinese Medicine. She is the head of an International teaching organisation teaching specific interventions for substance misuse, and mental health. More recently she has been teaching similar interventions in Military Health care and post traumatic stress. She is a published author and in 2010 received a “lifetimes achievement” award for her contribution to the treatment of addiction. She has a general practice in England, and also provides a drug and alcohol treatment programme. Based on years of professional experience, as well as her own recoveries from alcoholism, addiction, serious self harm and eating disorder, and ultimately the recovery from childhood sexual abuse by a Catholic priest, she has put together in this page some tips you might find useful as you go through your own journey of recovery…
Recovery and survival is my passion, it is what drives me and excites me, I rejoice in every human being who comes out of this unbearable trauma and into survival! My own recovery has taken several turns, I had quite a few disorders to overcome, and many people helped along the way. I found different tools to be useful at different times in my journey. I am an avid believer in ethical, evidence based professional practise, and so this page is by no means a substitute for seeing a professional therapist. But often I was alone, and at those times when confronted with my demons again, I found simple tools that had been shown to me were my saviour! Even the “bumper car sticker” one liners were very helpful, especially when I was too hurt or confused or afraid to talk in depth with anyone, or even talk at all ! So I have gathered a few together to share with you. These are only suggestions, and you will gradually build up more of your own but these are offered with love to start you off.
Click here if you are seeking professional help
I am going to start by suggesting that you cultivate the reality that you are recovering from a life threatening condition, which absolutely is the truth. If this were an illness, then you would need to take great care of yourself, the correct medicine, the right exercises, the best food, you would try everything that would help you regain your strength. Now is the time to see that your recovery from childhood sexual abuse is no less serious or important.
There is no other condition that requires more “TLC” than this, because it affects every part of us, our body, our mind, our emotions, our sexuality, our potential. So an holistic approach is important, and we need to take care of each aspect of our being.
Please remember that you are unique, and irreplaceable and that You are worth it!
Using the senses you have will be easy and readily available, smell, sound, vision, hearing touch etc. especially when you are alone and in need of rescue.
On the bottom of this page there are a some links to other pages you may like to have a look at.
When confronted with the urge to “run away” and if you are starting to panic, or get distressed, first try these quick “first aid” tips:
* Firstly take three deep slow breaths.
Breathe from your lower abdomen, but slowly is important. Breathing properly can make an instant change, “overbreathing” will make the panic worse. Also in times of panic, we stop breathing, holding our breath is the other common response to stress. Develop a way of “watching” your breathing throughout your day. It takes only a moment, wherever you are, to STOP! take three slow deep breaths and then continue.
* Think of the panic like the waves in the ocean, they go up and rise up to a crest and then they go down again. When you are feeling at your worst, in that moment it is like the crest of the wave, and in a few moments it can go down again.
So breath through that worst moment and then you will find it dispersing.
* Go outside, fresh air sometimes changes things. Or go into another room, changing the surroundings in the short term just gives you some breathing space.
* Once the immediate panic is subsiding, make yourself aware of your surroundings.
Notice the room touch the floor, be aware of the smells, the colours around you, keep breathing slowly and steadily.
* Break the mood by doing something.
It doesn’t matter what, clean your shoes, have a shower, count the petals on a flower, anything. It won’t solve all of your difficulties, but it will give you chance to break the mood, long enough for you to renew your resolve.
* Talk to someone!
Pick up the phone, shout across to a neighbour, speak to the dog, or even a teddy bear! Sometimes just speaking, even if it is about the weather will stop a real spiral downwards. If you have shared your story with someone, or have a support group, maybe they are the best people to talk to. If they are going through the same recovery as you, they may well need your call as much as you need to call them. It may be good to create a list of phone numbers who you could call if you need to. Remember the people that matter don’t mind–and the people that do mind don’t matter!
* Look at the sky, or the sea, some flowers, the trees, remember you are very much an intrinsic part of nature, and as important as the stars or the moon. The Universe is made up of many components, all interrelated, and you are a very important part of that whole.
* Read something comforting or inspirational.
Most of us have our favourites, maybe a “thought of the day” book, or a simple poem. Or maybe you have some “affirmations” you could call on now like “May I be well and Happy” breathe slowly and repeat them until you find them easy words to draw on when you need to. If you do have a sense of spirituality, then use whatever prayer or mantra that comforts you.
* I have certain music that will lift my spirits, try and have some of your uplifting tunes ready at hand. Music will change brain patterns and enhance moods. Animals even respond to music in a profound way, use your natural resources to restore that balance.
* Smells are also very important to me, unlike any of the other senses, our sense of smell has a very profound affect on the emotional part of our brain, reaching it very quickly. I use specific essential oils, or soap, or anything that will give me a lift. (I will help with that if anyone needs me to)
* I have a “stress tool” like a piece of putty, but beads would work, or a piece of crystal or stone or something like a “comfort blanket”.
* Try and stay “in the moment”.
Things are always so much worse when you are anticipating them, or analysing them afterwards, so much more possible to cope with if you stay in the present. Some people live “a day at a time” but in those moments of panic, try going for an hour at a time, even a minute at a time. Gradually those minutes build up into hours and days, and you find that you are coping a lot better than you would have thought.
This takes some practice, but each time you feel your mind panicking about something = bring it back to the “here” and “now”, we can cope with anything for a few moments, that we might find difficult if we think about it going on for hours.
* Know that whatever you are feeling right now WILL pass.
* Are you “overwhelmed”?
If you try and fix all of your life issues all at once, you will feel overwhelmed, and then unable to do any of them. Just take “chunk size” pieces, and do a little at a time.
These quick fixes are not going to entirely change your world, but they will give you enough time to break the pattern, and a moment to breathe again. Then when the panic or the immediate crisis has passed, you might want to talk to someone about it, or get some specific help.
In the mean time there are few things that you could be doing to improve your well-being and help you get further into your recovery.
It is at the times when you are not panicking that you need to build up the strength for those times when it may happen.
* Have a plan for your day, you may not be able to stick to it, but have one anyway, it will give you a sense of structure and focus.
* Throw out the words “should and ought”. “I SHOULD feel like this”, “I OUGHT to feel like that”– feelings are neither right or wrong, they have no morality. How you feel is how you feel.
* You might think that there is an impending disaster when it may be a short term “blip” that can be altered with a bit of thought.
So try this great checklist which will remind you, if you are feeling anxious:
Want to print it off BIG? Click the image…
Hungry – Angry – Lonely – Tired
So when you aren’t feeling too good, and before running to the nearest psychiatrist, check those things out:
HUNGRY: Are you in need of food? You may not be having a psychological crisis, it may be you just didn’t eat! Your mind is very much altered by food or lack of regular meals.
ANGRY: Are you angry about something specific? Is it something you can resolve? Apart from the big things that do make us angry, quite small frustrations and irritants can make us wobble. If you can identify where it came from, you may find it can be fixed. If you deal with the little irritants, the bigger ones have more of a chance to be resolved in the long term.
LONELY: Have you spoken to someone today? Are you isolated? Feeling too “alone” is not always a good thing, maybe you need to speak to someone, even just to say “Hi”
TIRED: Are you getting enough sleep? Sleep deprivation, and disturbed sleep will play havoc with our thinking, maybe you didn’t sleep too well, or go to bed early enough. Sleep is an important part of healing, ( I can suggest a few safe tips towards better sleep.)
Write the word HALT out and put it where it can remind you!
(I have it in big wooden letters on my wall!)
* Is my day balanced? In an ideal world, the 24 hours of our day should be as near to this as possible:
8 hours sleep – 8 hours work – 8 hours relaxation and leisure
Of course our lives get busy and out of sync, but this is something to aim for – for optimum health balance in all things is what we need to try for.
Try and eat well, and carefully, concentrate on the kind of foods that will nourish you best, if you can, plenty of fresh food, with particular emphasis on food your brain! Your brain is the most complex and complicated structure in the known Universe, and it has been traumatised!
There is definite evidence to support the fact that physical and permanent damage to our brains has occurred because of the trauma of Childhood clergy abuse. Similar to being bombed, or shot at, It seems it doesn’t matter if the damage came from “bombs or bastards”, the effects are as severe!
Your brain is in charge!
It is what keeps everything else about you working, so it needs very special attention.Remember that things that nourish your body will also help your brain.
* Eat foods rich in B vitamins, they are especially important for brain and nervous system function.
The kind of things which are rich in B vitamins are:
Liver, beef, tuna, oats, turkey, brazil nuts, bananas, potatoes, avocados, legumes
* Eat foods which are rich in Zinc.- Zinc is a crucial mineral for your immune system and also brain health. It is an easy deficiency to get, and is often depleted if we have been overly stressed or have drunk too much or used drugs.
Food rich in Zinc:
peas , pumpkin seeds, oysters, dark chocolate, watermelon seeds, peanuts, lamb, sesame seeds and thahini.
Eat plenty of Fish, it is rich in Omega 3 and is the brains preferred form of protein (So granny was right! Fish is brain food!).
Try and eat little and often when you are first recovering. Sometimes large meals are too much for us to cope with. ( If your abuse has left you with a difficulty around food, then an experienced practitioner needs to help with this.)
* Drink water! It is cheap and easy and very important for keeping your brain hydrated. It also contains minerals that are helpful One and a half litres a day would be great, but even a few extra glasses than you normally drink will already make a difference.
* Eat three Brazil nuts a day- they are rich in nutrients that are important, and they are a potent antioxidant and a good mood enhancer.
* Nibble sunflower seeds: They are rich in B vitamins, especially thiamin and folic acid, and help if you are experiencing cravings.
* Try eating porridge oats: they have been proven to have soothing calming properties, help reduce cholesterol and are good for your heart.
* Try and have regular food, when we are hungry, we start to get agitated and think that we are getting depressed. Sometimes it is just a matter of eating something.
There’s a temptation to take vast amounts of vitamins and minerals, not the best way of getting the nutrition we need, because the ideal way is a healthy balanced diet. But if you are deficient in nutrient, it it important to get the right ones. Make sure they are in a “food state” – don’t buy cheap budget supplements, they are not worth your hard earned money. They don’t absorb properly and you only get about 20% of the nutrients you need. (I will help with this if you need it)
* Exercise; is very good for your body and your brain too!
Walking is a great start! In fact simply walking has been shown to greatly benefit brain function. In earlier years we used to walk everywhere, to school, to work, at work- everywhere. But these days we don’t do very much at all, if we want to walk we usually have to factor it in as an “extra” exercise, rather than the way our bodies are designed! So try having a short walk every day, it will help enormously.
Find an exercise you love!! Don’t be too hard on yourself though! Try and find some physical exercise that you enjoy, if it is a chore, you may not persevere, so look around and do something that you like too.
* Meditation. This is vey helpful, even if you take any religious connotations out of the practise of mediation, it has been proven to benefit the brain, by calming down the agitated emotional part, and strengthening the calming rational bit (I can also advise you on this) This is scientifically verified, and so is very safe practice.
Links to additional information:
Barbs and bullshit!
Coping with flashbacks and memories
Coping with loneliness
Are you having suicidal thoughts
Tips for family and friends