I (R), am going to share a bit about my personal journey to finding self love after my incident a couple years ago.
Getting ready the night I was attacked, I remember feeling the prettiest I ever had in my entire life. I had never been more confident or loved myself more, at the time. Little did I know, that in 24 hours, I was going to be in another country staring at myself in the mirror with deep, monstrous hatred.
Once I made it home after the attack, I went straight to the hospital. Upon leaving the hospital, I had to catch a flight for a work trip. I was still coming off the drugs that my drink had been laced with. I trembled and dry-heaved the entire way, I’m assuming from all the pills the hospital gave me to prevent pregnancy and disease.
I travelled for almost 10 hours. Unshowered, teeth and hair not brushed. Without an hour of sleep post attack. I looked and felt ill, constantly running to the bathroom. I was bleeding. I was bruised. People on the plane looked at me with concern. When I got to where I was staying in Europe, I showered for over an hour, trying to scrub him off of every inch of me. I stood with my face in the stream for what felt like eternity, eyes closed, pretending not to exist. These things became frequent practice. When I was done, I laid down in bed and trembled for hours until I fell asleep. I felt ruined.
I woke up the next morning and sat in my bed until I stirred up the courage to look in the mirror. I looked. I splashed water on my face. I slapped myself in an attempt to snap myself out of the new fog I felt in my mind and in my vision. I slapped myself harder. The fog didn’t leave. (It wouldn’t for 9 months) I splashed more water on my face. I stared at myself for half an hour. With disgust. With hatred. With anguish. With grief. Being attacked switched my self love from the highest it had ever been, to the worst it had ever been. Just like that.
I am going to share with you now what re-introducing self care and love looked like for me, to show you a more personal and realistic idea of what those tools can look like in action.
I withdrew. Sometimes withdrawing is unhealthy, but it can also be a way to honour and respect yourself. My spirit needed PEACE and QUIET for a while, while I processed and came to terms with the new turmoil I was experiencing. I was living in a whole new reality – disoriented and disassociated. I kept my inner circle, the most safe and trusted people, close, but the rest of my friends at a distance. I let those ones know I was healing from something and that I’d talk to them about it when I was ready. I didn’t attend social events. I know it’s easy to feel guilty for this;..for being incapable of being a good friend for a while. For me, though, I knew I couldn’t get back to being that until I took care of myself first.
You are healing from an attack. You are allowed to need space.
A huge part of caring for myself in my healing journey was keeping my body moving. Getting fresh air and those endorphins from the exercise really helped me. I went to spin classes at a local place that I felt SAFE at. I did yoga in my home. I went for runs with my dad and walks with my mom.
DISTRACTIONS / BREAKS
I found healthy ways to escape in doses. I picked up a new hobby. I had recently become plant based and so I started a food blog. I learned how to cook vegan food. This was an amazing distraction for me. I also picked up reading and read every night to take my mind off of myself.
MADE ROOM FOR THINGS THAT BRING ME JOY
I tried very hard to keep notes of what things triggered me or made me feel awful, and also what things brought a sliver of light into my day. I tried to fill my schedule with the things that brought me light, and avoided the things that reinforced the darkness. My joy things were:
- Showering with a glass of wine and my favourite music on during the golden hour.
- Going to the Library or bookstore and finding new books to read
- Laying in the sun
- Being with my best friend
- I got a cat. I love cats
SPOILING MYSELF EXTRA ON THE BAD DAYS
I kept face masks and hair masks and candles around me. When I had an extra awful day, I’d come home, run myself a bubble bath without even thinking about it. I tried to combat the bad with good, whenever I could summon the energy and motivation. I know this can be hard sometimes, but you can make it easier for yourself by preparing in advance and having these things on hand.
Part of what we hope to do as an organization is deliver self-care kits to survivors, once we have the resources.
A family friend who is a massage therapist offered me sessions for free. I don’t even know how this happened, but it was one of the STRONGEST key elements in my self love journey. I had all these ghost pains from my incident and bringing love and tenderness to those pains and to my body in general was so healing.
This isn’t available to everyone right now through victim services or otherwise, BUT it is one of the things that The NO Society is DEDICATED to be able to offer one day, because of how immensely healing it was for me. Our bodies need to be re-introduced to love and care and honour. It is so so so important. When we have the budget, we are going to pay for massage therapy for survivors without access to it.
STAYING PRESENT – HONOURING MY NEEDS
The more I lived in the future, the worse my mental health and PTSD symptoms got. I tried to, each morning, write a short list of only the things that I HAD to get done. I kept it as short as possible. Then, in between all of those little mountains (and they – simple tasks – REALLY felt like mountains), one moment at a time, I’d think to myself, ‘what do I need right now? What is my body telling me? What is my spirit telling me’. And then I’d give myself what I needed to make it through that moment. If I really dreaded a mountain in my day, before I’d attempt to tackle it, I’d think to myself, ‘What can I do in this moment to make this mountain less difficult?’ Sometimes that was just grabbing a coffee on my way. Sometimes that was asking someone safe and trusted to drive me.
So that is a bit on how I implemented self care in the midst of healing and what led me back to a feeling of self love.
You CAN practice self love before you actually FEEL like you love yourself again. It’s the best way to get back there, actually. You teach your brain how to think! If you show yourself love, the feelings eventually start to follow. And having other people cheer you on is a massive help as well.
Always reach out if you need some more people on your team in this journey you are on. We are here for you, ready to support you every step of the way. We are all stronger together.
One step, one moment at a time. Remember that. Just one foot in front of the other.
If YOU have other tools and resources that YOU used to regain love for yourself after your incident, please feel free to share with other survivors to give them ideas and encouragement by filling out this form and submitting your OWN blog post about your self care journey.