Will I Survive This? Coping Tips for Today
"When you're going through hell...keep walking."
Experiencing sibling sexual trauma, telling others that it happened, finding out it happened in your family, having your family and/or legal authorities find out what you have done are all intensely shocking and stressful.
Here are some things you can try right now to help you get through today.
Don’t Hurt Yourself
If you are having serious thoughts of hurting or killing yourself, call 911 or click here for help.
If you think you might be losing touch with reality, blacking out, hallucinating, call 911 or click here for help.
You will not feel this bad forever. It’s hard to believe, but it’s true.
Videos by Brinn E. Langdale, LMFT, SSA Survivor
You may feel panicked or suffocated. Your heart may be pounding, you may be sobbing or holding your breath in anger. Take a moment and focus on breathing in, and out. Count to three as you breathe in, count to three as you breathe out.
Do this several times. Learn this breathing technique that the military teaches to calm Navy Seals and bomb squads.
Fear, grief, decisions, PTSD, new information--all can make it hard or even impossible to sleep. Then, weeks without sleep just make it all worse. Lack of sleep saps the emotional resilience and mental focus you need so desperately right now. It’s easy to fall into a cycle where you are depressed, which keeps you from sleeping, which means you do things you regret, which causes more depression. Getting a few nights of good sleep can help stop that cycle.
Some ideas to help:
Melatonin is a natural and non-addictive help to sleep.
A calming tea or guided relaxation before bed may help.
Take a nap if you can.
Eat and Drink
Even if you have no appetite, even if all food tastes like cardboard, even if you have to set an alarm to remind yourself, keep eating. Buy some easy to prepare, easy to digest, healthy foods. Some ideas: fruits, nuts, granola bars, yogurt cups, juice, sandwiches. If you can’t keep food down, at least drink water and juice. Go easy on the caffeine, especially if you are anxious or not sleeping well.
Avoid alcohol and other addictions
Find the Bathroom
Extreme stress can cause digestive disturbances--nausea, bloating, indigestion, heartburn, constipation, or diarrhea. Over the counter medications may help.
Get Outside and/or Exercise
One or the other, both if you can. Even a short walk, a few minutes of stretching, getting a few minutes of fresh air or a change of scenery can make a big difference. Something is better than nothing.
Cry--or Don’t Cry
Give yourself permission to cry. It’s not unusual to cry so much you wonder if your eyes will recover, to feel that you may not ever be able to stop crying. Other people go numb, unable to feel anything. Either extreme, or anything in between, is a normal reaction to such an extreme situation. Let your body naturally process this shocking information. Crying a lot doesn’t mean you are weak; having little emotion doesn’t mean you are hard-hearted. Later, when the shock wears off, you can work on facing and handling your emotions.
It is also important to seek some kind of outside help, when you need it or are ready for it. If you were in a car accident, you would naturally go to the hospital, take painkillers, go to physical therapy, take time off to rest and heal. This is a trauma to your brain and your soul. You will need help and time to recover. This is true even if you are the parent and your children are also struggling.
Get Medical Help
Call your doctor or go to an urgent care or ER. You don’t have to tell them the reason--you can just say you’re going through a major stress, and tell them your symptoms. There are medications that can help with anxiety, depression, sleep, digestive problems, psychosis, and more. It is critical to make decisions about medications in consultation with, and under the direct care of, a medical provider.
You Are Not Alone
Few people who have been affected by sibling sexual trauma share openly or advocate publicly. But they are there. Here are places you can connnect with them. You can connect with trained people waiting to help you by clicking on any of the buttons at the top of the page.
Seek Professional Help
Professional support is highly recommended to help work through any type of childhood trauma. Unfortunately, it can take awhile to find the right therapist and even to book an appointment. The sooner you can start looking the better. Confronting sibling sexual trauma and moving toward healing is a complicated, long-term journey. You may not be ready to share it with your friends or family yet. Or you may need more support than they can give. Here are tips to help find a therapist.
Be kind to yourself. The burden of dealing with sibling sexual trauma--whether your own, your child’s, or your guilt--is no small matter. It is a marathon, not a sprint. Give yourself permission to slow down, to cry, to lean on others. You need help as much as someone who has serious physical trauma. Reaching out for help sooner rather than later can reduce your risk of severe PTSD and can help your decisions and reactions.
Healing Toolkit options for long-term healing
Basic Self-Care Youth Video Series with Brinn Langdale, LMFT, SSA Survivor
TherapistAid.com: Grounding Exercises
TherapistAid.com: Técnicas para poner los pies sobre la tierra
Survivors Healing Survivors: Crisis Resources
RAINN.org: Self-Care After Trauma
Siblings Too podcast: The Relationship of Abuse and Addictions with Nancy Currie