How are you coping during this lockdown period?
There have been a number of news reports over the past few weeks about an increase in violence and abuse experienced by women and children during this period of lockdown and social isolation. These stories focus on domestic abuse and childhood sexual abuse but no matter what experiences of abuse, violence or sexual exploitation you may survived, these reports may stir painful memories and emotions.
For anyone who is a survivor of any form of sexual violence, abuse or exploitation, harassment or stalking, these news stories may catch you off guard and even though you think you may have been coping well, that sudden intrusion into your thoughts can take your mind right back to your trauma.
There may be other stresses going on in your life right now that can trigger your body’s trauma responses: you may be at home with children and unable to get out with them, you may have financial worries or even have lost your job, or you may be trapped at home with your abuser and be unable to leave. These triggers can make you more vulnerable to trauma responses such as flashbacks, panic attacks, sleep disruption or vivid nightmares, increased anxiety and intrusive thoughts. If you are at home with your abuser, a heightened state of anxiety and hypervigilance may be having an impact on your physical as well as your mental health.
If you find that you are exposed to these additional triggers, or even if you are just finding it difficult to cope day to day with feelings of being closed in, you might find the following useful.
Remind yourself that you are a survivor. That can be hard: women often tell us that they don’t feel like survivors, but you’re here and you’ve found a place where support is available at the end of a phone, email, text or by Instant Message on your computer. You are a survivor and you don’t have to do this alone.
Give yourself permission to switch off the news, to scroll past those difficult articles that people are sharing on Facebook or Twitter. Sometimes it can seem as though abuse is everywhere you look, but you can make the decision to scroll past, switch off or switch over, or if you don’t want to tune out altogether, decide how much is enough and read, listen to or watch something else that you can enjoy and that uplifts you.
Remember that there are some things that you may be able to control and focus on them. That may be some physical exercise (may be online sessions or daily exercise outside – but remember self care and distancing), eating healthy food if you can, listening to your body if it tells you that you need more sleep, to move around, get some air, ways that you can reduce your anxiety. There are lots of free resources online, on YouTube for example, that can help with relaxation, meditation, yoga. Do you make things, create, write, journal and do you have the time and space to do that now
Right now the internet is on fire with advice on how to take advantage of the lockdown to learn languages, bake cakes, learn to dance the tango or do a hundred and one courses to improve your mind. Don’t feel guilty scrolling past these sites!
If you get through the lockdown and out the other end, that’s a result. For some of us, a wash and clean pants is a victory so let’s congratulate ourselves on the small stuff because that’s what’s keeping us going. Of course, for those of us who want to focus on the courses, languages or tango lessons, it’s a brilliant chance to do that.
Connecting with others is difficult just now with restrictions on visiting friends and family and with many support services closed or running reduced services. But many women’s organisations are trying to provide support to survivors in new and creative ways so that you don’t need to be alone with your thoughts and feelings.
If you connect with Glasgow and Clyde Rape Crisis we won’t ask you to tell us the details of what happened to you, unless you want to talk about it. We can talk to you about how you are managing right now, what you’re doing to cope and how it’s working for you, and if you’re not managing, we might be able to suggest some other coping strategies that we know have worked for other survivors.
We know that for some survivors, talking through their experience can help, while for others it is just too difficult. Every survivor is different, and everyone responds to trauma differently. Some survivors may have tried to share their stories in the past and have had really unsupportive or negative responses, perhaps hadn’t been believed or were even blamed for what happened to them. For many survivors, not sharing their experiences can be preferable to the chance of an unsupportive or damaging reaction.
If you need to talk, our Connect Live helpline services are here for you during lock down and social distancing measures. If you would like support or information, we have staff trauma informed support staff available to talk with you over the telephone helpline on 08088 00 00 14 between 11am and 4pm on weekdays until further notice. You can also email us on firstname.lastname@example.org. Please be aware that it may take longer than usual to respond to your email enquiry. You can also contact us on instant messaging from the home page of our website. If you would like a video call using Skype you can find us at Glasgow Clyde Rape Crisis or you can use Facetime, finding us at email@example.com.
For non-support enquiries please call our office between 11am and 4pm on 0141 552 3201.
Illustration credits: Frizzkidart (used with permission)