Survivor Love Letter
with Dr. Lydiana Garcia
Loving Reminder #6
Your body did whatever it needed to survive.
This is a big one, and I'm gonna repeat it, Your body did whatever it needed to survive. What am I talking about? You might have experienced pleasure or sensations that have you confused, and some of those instances could be:
- feeling conflicted or wanting to fight but then not being able to do so,
- feeling like wanting to say something but you’re not able to try to open your mouth and not being able to do so,
- wanting to walk away when you feel any initial sensation or feelings about it but not doing it.
I would often see a lot of shame and guilt because of what could have, should have, and some get upset about their body for reacting in a certain way. And I'm here to tell you, your body has this innate wisdom that is all about survival and protection. Part of that is going into this freeze mode, which it could include fainting or feeling completely frozen. It is like having a car on parking and you hitting on the gas, you feel that agitation inside but there's nothing that you can do to move. And that's what we do ultimately when we feel threat that is imminent as a way to survive.
I'm here to remind you that if that happened to you, and then you kind of are grilling yourself because you think you could or should have done X, Y, Z, that that is not worth it and it’s just gonna keep holding you back. How I normalize it is it was your body response. Just because your body did those things doesn't mean that it will always do that. It doesn’t mean that there's not a way for you to kind of process that. Here's where therapy and somatic work can come handy for you to be able to find ways to release and move that out of your body. This is especially helpful if you went into a freeze response where there was that kind of locked energy. Before we go into a freeze response, even if it's like momentously, we tend to go to a mobilized response that’s why we feel like that rush of energy to kind of like punch, fight or run towards our extremities. And if you got that impulse, the adrenalin and all that was fired, and then you’ll go into a freeze mode that got like locked in. That’s why a lot of times, you might find yourself doing certain things like bumping into things, exploding at times, or going back into those freeze responses. And here I am to tell you, those parts of it could be resolved or at least processed in many ways via somatic work. This includes somatic therapy, dancing, shaking, movement, yoga, breathing, tapping, and there's a lot of other different somatic approaches out there.
Allowing and accepting what your body did is part of that healing. Attend to your body and know that it had that innate wisdom, and that it did all of those things to survive. And the fact that you're here, still reading this, that means that you survived it. And then recognizing what your body's still doing right now because sometimes you may feel like you're still back in there, or that you continue to have to do that. And as soon as you catch it, instead of going down the rabbit hole of shame because you are back there, kind of accepting and allowing yourself to recognize what is and then keep trying to change something.
Loving Reminder #7
Having mixed feelings about the perpetrator is very common, especially if it was a family member.
I just want to normalize this idea because a lot of people don't talk about it. A lot of people go straight into, If you allow that person in your life then there's something wrong about you. It’s that either/or mentality. But it's not that way. I know this is a very unpopular opinion right now and again, you should practice discernment as I'm sharing information about this. Because when I speak specifically this topic, I am talking from over 10 years of experience working with clients that have been abused especially in their childhood. I'm also talking about all the knowledge that I have in my mind and body about more than five different trauma approaches in therapy, and the books and other information that I have received. And at the same time, I don't know you, I don't know your story, I don't know what happened to you, so practicing discernment in whatever I share is super important.
Having mixed feelings about the perpetrator can feel like questioning whether that person should stay or not in your life, and sometimes feeling like, yes, you want to create a boundary, sometimes you don't. If you have mixed feelings about this person, and somebody tries to judge you about it or make you feel like you should not have this person in your life, I just want to say that it's very common, and I would recommend you to seek out professional help, therapy, any groups for sexual assault survivors. So that way, you're able to speak with someone that has experience in this but also get some sounded recommendations on what to do. Each case is very different especially if it happened with a very close family member or if it was to minors, all of that, there's so many different variants.
What I would say, though, is a lot of people might stay in the relationship or keep the relationship partly because of what the perpetrator said or did that made you feel like you have to, versus you want to. And I know that can get very confusing especially if it happened really early on. Because wanting can be a result of feeling like you have to because if people were forcing you early on to do things, now as an adult, you might feel like you want to, But if you really deep dive into it, you might be like, Wait, do I really want this or not? Is this is a have or something that was imposed or put on me?
This is a journey for you to discern whether it is something that you really want, or you feel like you have to and then putting in a balance the risk and benefits. Also considering what kind of relationship would it be. If it's someone in the family that you might see only at family events and there's no communication, just like Hi and that's it, and then protecting your kids if you have any.
I hope you can practice that discernment because I'm not saying here what to do at all. I'm just saying that it’s very common to have conflicted feelings about it. And not everybody cuts their perpetrator out of their lives a 100%, and that might not be the solution for you or it might. At times, as a psychologist, I have recommended people to cut all ties, even if it's for a while. Because when there's a relationship issue, a lot of times that separation can help put things in perspective and then make a decision about what to do. And/or if the person, for example, was an older family member that did it to you as a child, then that person can continue harming other children. Those are other instances that I'm very like, Yeah, I would not recommend continuing a relationship or allowing that person around with minors. This is something, again, not an either/or situation. And also, it depends on the severity of what happened and if there was any responsibility taken by the person and many other factors. But I just want to bring that because I think this is something important that a lot of people are not talking about it.
Loving Reminder #8
What others think of you is a reflection of their own stuff.
This is so important. A lot of times sexual abuse, especially in childhood, is something that runs in family. If you do a family tree, you might be surprised that perhaps one of your caregivers or any of their siblings experienced it, and perhaps any grandparents experienced it. Unfortunately, it's something very, very common. And the person that has more access, it's someone within the family or a family friend that the family “trust”, and a lot of this incidents happened during family gatherings. You might be surprised but most of the cases that I've heard did not necessarily happen when they’re completely alone in the home.
A lot of times what happens is, if a caregiver dismissed you, or made you feel like it was your fault, or that you did something, then that can reflect on their own traumas. And I've seen that a lot, especially when we go into that freeze response that we go into that numbing and like disassociating the memories. A lot of times, these people might have pieces that they haven't put back in the puzzle. And they might even be seeing the pieces but they don't want to put it back because avoidance is one of the main things that happens when we don't want to remember something traumatic, we avoid talking and thinking about it. And sometimes we avoid it so bad that I referred to like creating a Pandora box, and throwing away the key. But that Pandora box is starting to kind of explode and it becomes bigger.
So if somebody makes you feel bad about it, a lot of times it could reflect that it's a trigger for them. And it's something that they're also avoiding. So what they're saying to you could be a reflection of what they're actually saying to themselves.
Loving Reminder #9
I believe you. And I hope you allow yourself to believe in you.
I believe what you're saying. I believe what happened. I don't care if the whole world says it's a no. I believe you. And I hope you believe yourself, too. I hope when you feel things, that when something comes up, that you believe yourself. You allow yourself to experience believing in yourself.
Loving Reminder #10
Your past doesn't have to dictate your present, or your future.
It does not. It might still be dictated right now in your present as you're listening to this. Or you might still be dictating pieces of your future, that you may think, I will never ever have children or I will never do X, Y and Z, or things that you have avoided in your life that you thought were taken out of your reach. Because you may feel not whole, or damaged, or that you cannot dream or do X, Y and Z, that’s why it might be actually dictating also your future. But I'm here to tell you that it does not have to.
You deserve to be happy. You deserve to have joy. What happened to you is not a reflection of who you are, it's a reflection of the other person, the perpetrator that did that. It's not you. Go back to yourself. Go back to your wholeness and processing that, however that looks for you in that spiral journey. You don't have to keep those ties in the present, or even the ties of ideas that you have for your future. This is so important for you to be able to liberate yourself.
Remember that it is a journey. It can take a long time for you to go from awareness of, Hmm, I'm back into that freeze response or I felt that rush of energy and then I shut down, to then actually be like, Okay, I got this now, let me try to do X, Y, and Z, because I felt this way, and then to finally be able to feel the change and the shift. It can take a while. It's just like learning a new skill. It's just like learning to walk. You're going to certainly fall certain a lot of times but if you give up, you will not be able to see what could have been.
And as you're reading all these, there’s no pressure. If you're not there, you're not there. Don’t compare yourself to any other journey, any other person, or even to your previous experiences. That's what I'm here to tell you. Keep trusting. Keep in that journey. Allow the process to unfold, and just one step forward at a time. You don't need to have the whole staircase or you don't need to see it, just take that one step and then the second. That’s all it takes.
I hope all these message went straight to your heart. And as we're reminding ourselves of the Sexual Assault Awareness, I think it's important for you to also remember and remind yourself of your wholeness. May you return to your soul, truth, purpose, love, and person.