Disclaimer: This is probably hardest blog that I’ve written due to how ashamed I am of what I’m about to disclose to you. So please be kind and try not to judge when you read this blog. I realize it is longer than most of them, but I want to explain why it is important and why I chose now.
It started with all the #MeToo Movement and actors/actresses being accused of sexual assault or harassment, we all have discovered that sexual assaults happens more than we like to admit in society today. It doesn’t mean that it hasn’t occurred in the past eras, but we hear more cases about it in the current century due to Social Media, New Stations and Newspapers and of course, the biggest celebrity news outlet – TMZ.
Recently we’ve had several Politicians in Ohio, Danny Masterson from That 70’s Show, Ed Westwick from Gossip Girl, Dustin Hoffman, Ben Affleck and so many more men and women that currently have victims coming forward about the inappropriate touching and abuse. We of course have to give a huge thanks to the victims of Harvey Weinstein for starting this whole issue. It took a lot of courage and strength for any of these victims to come out, it’s worse when the perpetrator is a celebrity or the President of the United States. Those victims/survivors tend to receive more backlash than when me or my sister told the Police and Campus High School Administration. It’s one thing to get the courage and strength up to even tell anyone, but it’s another thing to go to court, face the rapist/perpetrator again, and having a high chance of losing the case before you even walk into the court room. On top of the whole court process and putting yourself out there, the victims/survivors also have to deal with triggers, flashbacks and other issues that may rise during this process. There may be a lot of victims/survivors that get their rapist/perpetrator behind the bars or sued, but many of these victims/survivors do not get the proper therapy after the occurrence as well as after the court process.
Due to these stories in the news, Twitter being taken over by the #MeToo Movement and being interviewed by two news sources in the Wichita area, I’ve been struggling with a lot of Anxiety and Depression that goes in waves. Some days I’ll be content and happy, and others I’ll be drained, feel ugly enough that I’ll struggle to get out of bed and even my house. This semester has been the worst out of all the semesters at WSU, and I haven’t doing anything different other than different classes (which honestly weren’t as bad as my past classes). In the past, I’ve been to Therapy twice for the initial assault and triggers than for the part where I wanted to stop feeling like the victim or as WASAC and my Therapist called it, the Healing Process. The last therapy session I went to was in October 2016 and I thought I was doing great and moving forward slowly, day by day.
Now anyone that has suffered from some traumatic experience that causes triggers, flashbacks, depression and anxiety most likely know that there is a Psychological treatment for easing those issues. This method has also been used on Veterans and fellow Soldiers when they come back from war to help them deal with the PTSD and flashbacks, and they have seen a huge improvement between the first session to the last one. This method is known as EMDR, which means Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing and was developed by Francine Shapiro in 1987 and she first tested this theory in 1989 with a group of individuals that suffered from PTSD, and saw a huge difference after the experiment was completed with the individuals. Sadly, in the Wichita area there aren’t many Therapists that are trained in this treatment, which I was so lucky to find my current Therapist that did get trained in it, and to have a great connection with her in the first place (which was a huge requirement when I started going to therapy – I have a connection right away with the individual or else I’d try somewhere else).
This EMDR treatment that my therapist and I have used has changed my life in a huge way. I’ve used it the first time I went to therapy to release some tensions and issues with the actual assault and the triggers that I was issues with such as; a certain song, anyone hugging me behind my back, and a pocket knife. After only 3 weeks of using the treatment every session, my family and I had already seen a dramatic difference in how I handled triggers and that I could walk in my basement without feeling like getting in a fetal position and crying. When I was done with therapy after a year, I felt like a new person and could see a light at the end of tunnel, that I hadn’t previously seen.
When most victims/survivors complete their therapy sessions whether that be after a year or 6 months or 3 years, they feel a sense of release and the tension ease for several months or years. However, most of us realize that those feelings never last long when we go several years without the therapy, or are triggered by something else that we didn’t even know was a trigger in the first place. Once this happens, we feel like we are back to square one again…..feeling hopeless and defeated yet again. When we are exposed to a new or old trigger or something else entirely that causes us to be anxious or depressed again – we feel like we are drowning again, and it can cause some individuals as we know to cause harm to themselves in various ways. Some individuals take medication for anxiety and/or depression, while others do not want to take the medication due to religious issues or find that it is morally not right for them.
Some of these self-harming methods could be:
- Cutting their arms, legs or any part of the body they can hide from others in public
- Picking their wounds/scabs or any part of the skin
- Pulling out their hair
- Burning themselves
- Breaking bones
Thankfully, I have decided to go back to therapy because of my self-harming has become a bigger issue than I can handle on my own. I’ve tried what Google had suggested, and what my family mentioned to prevent me from picking at my arms, chest, back and shoulders. These solutions were wearing a rubber band and snapping myself when I caught myself doing it, keeping my hands busy with knitting, using a fidget spinner, and even sitting on my hands. None of these solutions seemed to be a solution to the current problem I have, considering I had no idea what the cause of it was in the first place. It wasn’t until I had seen on The Gabbie Show that Gabbie Hanna was discussing a Self-Harming problem she also has, that I really started researching the possibly that my skin-picking could have an actual name.
This self-harming disorder is known as Dermatillomania or Excoriation disorder, which is a mental illness that is related to obsessive-compulsive disorder and it means that I constantly pick at my scabs and wounds on a daily or in my case, almost an hourly basis. For me when the anxiety and depression gets the best of me – I start to pick at scabs/wounds that are trying to heal, or pimples, ingrown hairs and anything else that seems to be a “bump” on my skin. As I said earlier, this causes me to be ashamed of my body due to how many scars I have. Thus, I typically wear jackets or long shirts and hardly wear anything revealing my shoulders anymore, which has caused my self-confidence to go down the hole because of this issue I’m having.
Last Friday was my first therapy session that I’ve had since 2016, I was nervous when I was heading there even though I knew the therapist already from previous sessions, and knew I had nothing to fear. However, I was still nervous due to the fact that I was ashamed to admit that I felt like I actually suffer from Dermatillomania. However, my wonderful therapist understood and was very supportive with what I was telling her, which allowed me to relax more. As I mentioned before EMDR had changed my life in the past, and I thought it would be the best method to nip this issue in the butt, considering I had no idea what has truly caused me to start this self-harming issue and it might help me identify the cause. We both thought this would be the safest and the quickest way to the source of the issue, on top of it helping me the last time.
The reason I bring up this topic and I’m telling you about this is because many victims/survivors do not go to therapy because of them being ashamed of everyone in their lives knowing what happened in the first place. It’s hard enough admitting it to yourself, let alone your family and friends – it can cause a lot more pain than just keeping it to yourself. The other reason for not going to therapy is due to be ashamed to admit that we can’t physically, emotionally or mentally being able to handle or fix this ourselves. Plus on top of that, admitting the problem to ourselves is easier than someone we probably don’t know or well enough to divulge our problems to someone in the first place.
There could a million of reasons why an individual doesn’t seek to go to a therapist, and I am not trying to seem like I know every reason to why they do or don’t go to one. I do know though, how other individuals that have not been sexually assaulted themselves tend to be more judgmental to the victim/survivor when they hear that they haven’t gone to therapy after the assault. This goes back to what pretty much every Sexual Assault Awareness organization, website and individual that has been assaulted has been telling you for years. That every victim has a different experience, a different situation that they are in or have been in, and we all have different triggers and flashbacks. Some individuals are fearful of going to therapy due to their abuser finding out, or the idea that everyone will know they go to therapy. We, as a society need to be more aware and understanding when it comes to why or why not someone doesn’t go to therapy. It’s hard enough telling you, the readers today about my self-harming problem when many of my readers – I see you around campus a lot or other events around Wichita. We as survivors don’t want you to treat us any different, but we do hope this causes you to think about why a victim/survivor may or may not seek out a therapist or counselor after their assault, and how to better handle it, thus making the stigma of going to a Therapist and telling you that we have an problem disappear entirely. It starts with you, the readers and all the people you share this with to change this stigma.
In The Ashes,
The Rising Phoenix
If you are interested in learning more about EMDR, Self-Harming, or see who all has been accused so far in Hollywood – check out this links.