#MeToo and You - Healing from Our Pain
Has #MeToo affected you or someone in your life? Are you unsure what it is all about?
The #MeToo movement has received a lot of social media attention in recent weeks. It will die down, as all news does, but the impact of bringing the issue of sexual assault and sexual harassment to the foreground will reverberate for a while, particularly among people who are personally affected.
There are so many ways that one can interpret what “qualifies” as #MeToo.
What matters is how you understand it for yourself.
Whether you posted #MeToo or continue to hold your experience with yourself, your experience is valid - whatever the experience. Some of us feel emboldened by sharing the #MeToo message. Others are triggered by the very idea of #MeToo and what it signifies personally and globally. Others still, including men, LGBTQ people, and gender non-conforming individuals who have been sexually victimized, may not have felt comfortable sharing their story even though they see themselves in the experiences of others.
A number of clients told me that their Facebook feed was blowing up with #MeToo posts, and it has been upsetting for them. It has been upsetting for me, too; I was surprised by how many friends and relatives updated their statuses with #MeToo. Many felt compelled to share details of their stories. I know there are still others who chose not to participate in the campaign for a variety of reasons, and that we were only witness to the stories that people could bear to share.
If nothing else, the #MeToo campaign taught us that very few--if any--of us can say that we do not know someone who has had sexual violence inflicted upon them.
For individuals with a history of trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), these social media and news headlines can be triggering and paralyzing. For others, it is the struggle of not knowing how to “label” what they experienced, feeling like their experience wasn’t “bad enough” to privately justify the pain and suffering they have experienced (much less share or post about it), or may not have felt welcomed or comfortable participating. And for even others, knowing that a friend or loved one is suffering can cause personal suffering, too. Whatever you’re feeling it’s certainly legitimate, and if you need support in processing what has come up, there is help.
“Anything that’s human is mentionable, and anything that is mentionable can be more manageable. When we can talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting, and less scary. The people we trust with that important talk can help us know that we are not alone.” - Fred Rogers
Here are a few suggestions for how to take care of yourself if you have been been a victim of assault and harassment, or have been affected by the #MeToo movement or the news headlines:
Talk with a trusted friend, family member or counselor. Reaching out and receiving support can be the beginning of feeling less alone, and less triggered, no matter what you are feeling. You don’t have to disclose a lot of information, either - even just saying, “All this #MeToo stuff is really upsetting” to a friend can invite another person to offer support, and to say “me, too” to that experience!
Write or draw about your feelings. Putting your feelings into words or pictures, either in a journal or in a locked “note” in your phone, can be beneficial. It help to get you clear about what is bothering you the most, and may also help you to eventually speak to someone you trust about what is happening for you.
Get back to basics. Often when we are feeling stress, we lose track of basic routines and activities that can really help. Eating healthy food each day, staying hydrated, getting enough rest, and moving our bodies can do so much to improve our state of mind and help us tolerate short-term distress. Don’t underestimate the power of following routines and doing these basic self-care activities each day.
Talk nicely to yourself. Positive self-talk is undervalued as a tool for coping with stress and improving our well-being. It really matters what we say to ourselves, especially when we are dealing with stressful situations. Try a trick I love that enables us to hear the fear or pain or self-criticism that may be in our heads, while adding a positive statement: say “AND…” For example, “I am so anxious. I don’t understand why, this is ridiculous! AND, I can do one thing to make myself feel a little better. I’ll text a friend.”
If you are still feeling overwhelmed by your thoughts and feelings, get help. You are worth it.
My colleagues and I are able and willing to help you process these thoughts and feelings. You can reach me, Hetty, and my colleagues Kelly and Mali, by calling 301-960-8960, emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by contacting us through our secure website.
There is also a lot of competent and confidential support, locally and nationally. The DC Rape Crisis Center has resources for individuals who have experienced all forms of sexual assault, either recently or in the past. From their website: “DCRCC is here to support you! We believe that healing is possible for every survivor, no matter how recent or long ago the trauma occurred. Please call 202-470-1188 to schedule an intake with our intake coordinator and find out more about our free individual and group therapy.”
The National Sexual Assault Hotline, created and operated by Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) is available 24 hours a day, and is fully confidential. Call 888-656-HOPE (4673) or use their online chat in English or in Spanish.
One more time: Shining a light on assault and harassment in this way has affected all of us. If you or someone you know is wrestling with feelings or memories that have come up due to the #MeToo campaign and the recent news headlines about sexual assault, no one has to deal with this all alone. And, whatever you are feeling is not too small or too big or too different or too anything. You are worthy of help and support. We are all worthy of healing from our pain, whatever it is, and living our best lives.
And, as a little support in the moment, here is a quick meditation from me.