Tag Archives: healing

Journaling for healing

How journaling benefits our health, via Huffington Post:

In today’s busy world, we hear a lot about remembering to slow down, to unplug from technology, and to find ways to de-stress. I, myself, have written about the many benefits of meditation and yoga — not just for adults, but for children as well. There is another method I recommend, and that is the daily practice of journaling.

The very act of writing has been scientifically shown to be a beneficial creative process. By putting pen to paper, you are using the left side of your brain, which is critical and rational. This gives the right side of your brain a chance to access your feelings and intuition without any mental blocks.

Other health benefits of journaling include:

  • Improved immune system
  • Reduced blood pressure
  • Improved lung and liver function

In my experience researching the neuroscience behind stress and relationships, women –especially mothers — tend to repress their feelings of pain and depression in order to focus on the needs of others, such as their children, spouses, relatives. By taking a few minutes each day to write down those feelings, without hesitation or editing, unblocks the reservoir of energy spent in repression and allows women to use that energy for self-discovery and healing.


1. Write consistently. Think of journaling as a daily practice that you would incorporate into your routine as you would yoga or running. Aim to write in your journal each day for 20 minutes. The day-to-day expectation of creativity effectively confronts the thoughts and feelings that are keeping us up at night.

2. Consider starting out each day journaling. A 2012 University of Toronto studypublished in the journal Emotion has shown that people are more optimistic in the morning. Writing first thing in the morning helps give you a fresh perspective and the chance to start the day off with a clear mind.

3. Never self-edit. Write freely, without worrying about spelling or grammar, and without the burden of worrying about what others might think about the words you choose. This journal is for you, and you alone. It might take practice, as we are programmed throughout our lives to write for others, but once you get into the habit of writing freely, you will start to get a clearer picture of what your true feelings are and then be able to work through them.

4. Record it all: the good, the bad, the ugly. It is important to list the happiest moments of your life as well as the lowest moments of your life. This helps give you perspective of the complete picture. In reviewing your journal, you will be able to step back and see the whole story of who you are and how you got to where you are: what defines you, and where you want to go. Further, self-analysis builds self-worth by validating the entirety of your world-view, including your goals and values.

As you continue with your new journaling practice, you will begin to see your life through new eyes: you can now look at and clarify events that have shaped you. This in turn gives you a sense of control and reduces stress. A regular practice of journaling offers you the chance to explore your innermost thoughts and emotions, to know yourself better, and to engage in the most intimate and most important relationship you can ever have: with your true self. As my mother was fond of saying: “To know all, is to forgive all.”

Talking is healing

One of the first steps towards healing and recovery is talking.

When you’re ready, we’ll be here. You are not alone: 1-800-871-7741.

(Please note, the number listed above is for the state of Maine only. If you need to talk to an advocate, and you live outside of Maine, you can reach the national sexual assault helpline number at: 1-800-656-HOPE[4673])


You’re not alone

Waking Up Scared (Healing, PTSD & Sexual Abuse)
via Bangor Daily News:

4am is her witching hour. She wakes each morning with adrenaline coursing through her veins. Her heartbeat hammers rapidly and every muscle in her body is impossibly tense. She’s in fight or flight mode but there’s no one to fight and nowhere to run.

The first 30 seconds feels like half an hour. It’s the time in between sleep and waking. What’s real? What isn’t?

It’s much worse than a bad dream. It. Feels. Like. It. Just. Happened. Again.

The tears come but she fights them. She checks the sheets but they’re clean. She sits on the side of the bed – rocking back and forth but it’s a little too fast to bring comfort. “Breath!” Can’t get enough oxygen. Hyperventilating is terrifying. Head pounding. Need light. Need air. Must get out of this room.

She walks outside. Lights a cigarette. Nicotine helps. Start the coffee – no chance of going back to sleep now. Go to the bathroom but turn away from the medicine cabinet mirror. Cold water on her face stings but feels real. Still avoiding the mirror, can’t stand the image there. She needs a shower but it doesn’t feel okay to do that yet.

Settle in with some reading – daily affirmations. Get centered. Prayers are sent but feel futile. She never got the hang of meditation. It just gets her stuck in her head.
Song on Pandora grabs her attention:

“I’m still alive but I’m barely breathing .Just praying to a God that I don’t believe in”
The Script “Breakeven”

Make plans for the day. Staying busy helps. Make lists. Combine them with yesterday’s lists. Sun’s coming up. Therapy today. Have to go shower. Fear. Self loathing. Shame.

She doesn’t know that others struggle with this too. I try to be gentle but direct, “You’re naked and wet in an enclosed area with nowhere to run or hide. You close your eyes to keep the shampoo out. You can’t hear what’s going on in the rest of the house. It’s a form of physical vulnerability. It makes sense that you’re scared.

I just want to help her stop feeling like she’s crazy – like she’s the only one who struggles with these things.

Scalding hot water. Pain. Scrubbing way too hard. Still can’t remove the feeling of being dirty. “You know that it’s not on your skin. It’s burned on your memory. It’s a feeling of shame based on what was done to you. It’s not your fault. Please cool off the water. It’s hurting you.”

We talk about how she copes, how she sees herself, how she struggles to have self control. She confesses what she sees as sin, “I feel like a little girl a lot of the time.” She finds it hard to believe that I have known a lot of adults who feel like children.

I ask her to recall how she described feeling broken when we first met – she nods. We’ve talked about defining moments in her life – the first at age 8. She was never free to be innocent and her emotional growth was arrested by ongoing sexual trauma and abuse.

She’s 35. Physically she feels like she’s 80. In the outside world her composure and behavior is that of a very successful professional. Emotionally/internally she’s somewhere between 8-16 depending on her feelings, stress, and levels of anxiety.

She lives with PTSD, an anxiety disorder. She experiences vivid nightmares, flashbacks, and intrusive thoughts. She has co-occurring panic attacks and depression. Her prognosis is good and getting better, but the work ahead of her is hard. In truth, it’s one of the most difficult things a human being can do – but it’s not as bad as what she’s already been through and it’s not as bad as living this way indefinitely.

We’re working on strategies to promote a sense of safety. She’s implemented simple ways she can use her five senses (taste, touch, sound, smell, and sound) to connect to her here and now. She is mindful that when she’s overwhelmed, she is not dealing with her current reality – she is somewhere in her past.
She’s making changes to her physical environment. She realized that even some of her prized possessions are associated with her past memories. They were in her bedroom when she was eight. They’re packed away now – not discarded – it’s just not time for those now.

We’re working on a very difficult piece. She’s begun journaling the content of her nightmares and we’re exploring the themes and the memories. She’s accepted that the only way out of it is through it because there is no forgetting.

She’s accepted that it’s ok for a grown woman to leave her lights on at night, hug stuffed animals, and do anything that doesn’t hurt her to make the “shadows” to go away. She’s getting better and through group therapy and self help she’s connecting to others with similar experiences. She knows now that she’s not alone.

Telling our stories connects us. The best we can be alone is lonely.
“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” – Maya Angelou

Healing from a sexual assault

Healing from a sexual assault takes time, and the journey is different for everyone. Please do not rush yourself, and know that it’s okay to ask for help when you need it.

The Stages of Healing:

  • The decision to heal happens when a person chooses and is willing to change.
  • The emergency stage begins when memories and suppressed feelings start to emerge.
  • Remembering is the process of getting back both memory and feeling.
  • Breaking silence is a powerful healing force that can dispel the shame of being a survivor.
  • Understanding that it wasn’t the survivor’s fault places the responsibility directly on the offender(s).
  • Making contact with the child within (for adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse) helps a person feel self compassion, anger at the offender, and greater intimacy with others.
  • Trusting oneself is the best guide towards healing.
  • Grieving and mourning is a way to honor individual pain, let go, and then move into the present.
  • Disclosures and confrontations are not necessary for healing, but can be important for some survivors.
  • Forgiveness of the offender is not an essential part of the healing process. The only essential forgiveness is self-forgiveness. It is important for a survivor to accept that it is okay not to forgive the offender, even when the offender is a family member. The choice to forgive or not is always personal.
  • Spirituality is a uniquely personal experience that can be an asset in the healing process.
  • Resolution and moving on allows a survivor to come to terms with the offender and while it does not erase history, it will make deep and lasting changes in a survivor’s life.


(Source: Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault – Help in Healing: A Training Guide for Advocates)

Cleveland survivors return home

Earlier this week, three women who were missing for over a decade (and had no previous connection to one another), were found, and are now returning home.   This story is both heartbreaking and amazing.  Heartbreaking for the 10+ years of horror that they experienced; amazing for their survival and rescue.  Hopefully, they can now begin their healing and recovery processes, and the media will give them the respect and privacy to do so.

From The Washington Times:

Amanda Berry, fellow Cleveland captives turn to recovery after being kidnapped

Details began emerging Tuesday about the horrors endured by three Cleveland women who were kidnapped and held for a decade in a run-down house with plastic bags over the windows, but researchers on abductions and sexual assault say there will be a lot of help for them and their families.

As the sensational story developed, police encounters with the house in a poor neighborhood also began coming to light. They included separate calls from neighbors about seeing a nude woman crawling in the backyard and hearing pounding from inside the home’s doors.

The women, who reached freedom Monday night, “are now embarking on their next journey, and that’s the journey to heal,” said John Ryan, chief executive of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which supported the hunt for two of the missing women, Amanda Berry and Georgina DeJesus, who vanished as teens. The third woman, Michelle Knight, was reported as missing as an adult.

Mr. Ryan, whose group offers resources for family counseling for such traumas, called the escape “a day of celebration.”

“Prayers have finally been answered. The nightmare is over,” said Stephen Anthony, head of the FBI office in Cleveland. “These three young ladies have provided us with the ultimate definition of survival and perseverance. The healing can now begin.”

Cleveland police have arrested three brothers — Ariel Castro, 52, Pedro Castro, 54, and Onil Castro, 50 — in the case. Criminal charges were expected to be filed by Wednesday.

According to NewsChannel 5 in Ohio, the three women endured multiple pregnancies during their years of captivity. At least five babies were born inside the home, and one victim had at least two miscarriages because she was so malnourished, reporters said. The house was boarded up in parts, some doors did not have knobs, and chains and tape were found inside.

Melissa Bermudez, a licensed clinical social worker at the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, the nation’s largest organization against sexual violence, said she couldn’t speak to the specifics of the Cleveland case but that victims of trauma and sexual violence generally need to “feel physically safe” as an important first step.

Next steps are commonly getting back into basic self-care — brushing one’s teeth, for instance — eating a good meal, reconnecting with loved ones, and re-establishing a sense of safety and stability, Ms. Bermudez said.

“Then they can really start working towards [addressing] the more complex parts of the trauma,” she said, noting that it’s not uncommon for certain sounds, smells and lighting in a room to trigger unpleasant memories.

The women were rescued Monday evening after Ms. Berry, 27, cried out for help to a neighbor, Charles Ramsey, from behind a nearly closed front door. When Mr. Ramsey saw her fighting to get through the door, he and another man came to her aid by kicking in the door. Ms. Berry and a little girl — believed to be her 6-year-old daughter — scrambled out.

They ran to a safe place, and Ms. Berry frantically called a 911 dispatcher and said, “Help me. I’m Amanda Berry. I’ve been kidnapped and I’ve been missing for 10 years and I’m, I’m here, I’m free now.”

Police swiftly converged on 2207 Seymour Ave., a house near downtown Cleveland, and found two other women — Ms. DeJesus, 23, and Ms. Knight, 30 — who also vanished about a decade ago.

Authorities arrested homeowner Ariel Castro and his two brothers.

The three women and the girl were taken to a hospital and released Tuesday morning. Cleveland police Commander Keith Sulzer said they were with law enforcement specialists and family members.

“Those women are so strong. All have a positive attitude,” Sandra Ruiz, aunt of Ms. DeJesus, told reporters Tuesday. “What we’ve done in 10 years is nothing compared to what those women have done in 10 years to survive.”

However, two neighbors in the mostly Puerto Rican neighborhood where the women were held said they had alerted police to suspicions regarding the Castro home.

Elsie Citron, whose daughter saw the naked woman some years ago, told reporters that she called law enforcement, “but they didn’t take it seriously.”

Israel Lugo said that when he called about hearing noises from inside the home 18 months ago, police merely knocked on the door, and when they didn’t get an answer they “walked to side of the house and then left.”

According to The Associated Press, police went to the home at least one other time since the women were kidnapped, but on an unrelated matter that led to no arrests or official action.

Cleveland police have been accused of incompetence and not noticing crimes in poor and minority neighborhoods. In 2009, Anthony Sowell was arrested after 11 women’s bodies were found buried in his home and yard in another run-down neighborhood. Many of Sowell’s victims — he is now on Ohio’s death row — were addicts whose disappearances were barely investigated.

In the latest case, Ms. Knight vanished in August 2002 when she was 19 and was reported missing by her family. Her mother, Barbara Knight, moved to Florida but often returned to West Cleveland to search for her daughter.

Ms. Berry was last seen April 2003 leaving her job at Burger King in a car with an unidentified driver. She was 16.

Ms. DeJesus vanished while walking home from school when she was 14.

Ms. Berry’s mother, Louwana Miller, died in March 2006 after being hospitalized for months with pancreatitis and other ailments. Her relentless search for her daughter took a toll on her health, family and friends said.

• This article is based in part on wire service reports.