Christa Marie

@heychristamarie | contributor
Super Contributor
This writer is a fighter.
Christa Marie

Why the Heard/Depp Verdict Puts Domestic Violence Survivors at Risk

Let’s start off with a recap. Amber Heard wrote and published an op-ed in which she did not name Johnny Depp. Depp not only sued her for defamation, but the jury was specifically told to look at the title of the op-ed, which was not written by Heard. This is a relatively standard practice; in fact, this very article likely has a different title now than what I submitted it with. (Ed. note: Yes, it does!) Amidst all of this, not only was Heard found liable, but she was found liable for more than her net worth, which was $8 million prior to this trial. Now, honestly, the specifics of the Depp v. Heard trial aren’t the point here. I’m not here to argue who was right and who was wrong. I’ve never been particularly interested in pop culture and this trial is no exception. The point I intend to make is about the impact of the trial on our society at large. This verdict sets a precedent, and a dangerous one at that. The precedent being set is that survivors of abuse who decide to speak out without naming their abuser can not only be sued for defamation, but that it can take everything they have. Here’s why that’s concerning: abuse thrives off of power and control. Abusers will take any and every opportunity to keep their victims feeling powerless, dependent, and vulnerable. This prevents the victim from leaving and allows the cycle of abuse to continue. This trial was recorded and broadcast nationally. Countless abusers were suddenly clued into the fact that if their victim ever speaks out, they may have the power to financially devastate them. What makes it even worse is that liability related to defamation suits remains even when individuals declare bankruptcy, meaning they would have no way to get out of this. Liens can be placed on their homes; their wages can be garnished. It would force a victim into being legally indebted to their abuser, which is an incredibly dangerous situation. I’ve been quite vocal about my survivorship of abuse for years now. I’ve written dozens of articles, countless tweets, in addition to other forms of media. I previously assumed I was safe from something like this because I write under a pen name and I don’t identify my abusers, but this trial has left me feeling far less certain. So, what do I do now? Do I reach out to the publications that have shared my work, pleading for them to take it down? Do I wipe my social media accounts? Do I disregard hundreds of comments and messages about how my story has helped others out of fear of what speaking out could become? Do I go silent and pray that keeping my head down will make them forget about it all? One of my abusers in particular has a career that is held in high regard within our society. For years, they played off of that in order to perpetuate the abuse — they were the esteemed professional, and I was the irrational child/teenager who was unhealthy and unstable. This is not at all dissimilar to how Depp’s status and power benefited him in this case. How am I to know they will not follow in his footsteps? It’s a lingering threat that abuse survivors across the country felt in the pit of their stomachs when they learned of the verdict. If I ever speak out, they can take everything I have. Even years later, when a victim is finally back on their feet, they still have to watch what they say out of fear of their abuser. And that’s not OK. As is so often the case within our country, we are seeing once again that the system is designed to protect and benefit those with the most power and privilege, while oppressing the less fortunate. Make no mistake, this is not a flaw in the system. It is operating precisely how it was designed. But now: now that this reality has been broadcast to abusers across the country, now that survivors have confirmation of what so many of us knew in our guts to be true, now what do we do?

Christa Marie

Everything Disabled People Predicted About COVID Has Come to Pass

When people first became aware of long COVID and its effects, disabled people were already awaiting the inevitable. We knew what this meant; we knew what was coming. We knew that despite our warnings, people would dismiss the long-term impacts COVID could have. We knew that all of the attention and funding would go to those who have become newly disabled due to COVID while the rest of us just stood in their shadow, continuing to shout into the darkness. So now, two full years since the start of the pandemic, none of us are surprised. Everything we predicted has come to pass. People are blowing off COVID as “just a cold,” the dangers it brings for high-risk individuals are being ignored, and the long-term impact of post-viral illness is being dismissed. The difference now is that there is an influx of newly disabled people who have long COVID and are trying to navigate the same systems that have been oppressing other disabled people for years. The medical ableism, the requirements to qualify for services… this is all new for them. While all of us who developed our disabilities after previously being relatively healthy remember and empathize with the struggles that come with this transition, it is deeply frustrating to see people complaining about the very things we warned them about as no one was listening to us. Additionally, these systems are a part of life for us — we’re used to the challenges that come with navigating social services, healthcare, medical leave, etc. Because of this, a lot of what this influx of newly disabled people has to say may not resonate with us. Perhaps it’s easy for you to find a doctor who can help you now, but wait until you’re three years in with five new comorbidities and haven’t had a day off from your health in years. Perhaps your newly-developed tachycardia is life-altering now, but eventually, many of us learn to drink a bunch of Gatorade, eat a lot of salt, avoid triggers, and live with it. The disability community is strong, welcoming, and accepting. We all know that we are the only marginalized group that people can become a part of at any point in their lives, without warning. We were prepared for this. We saw it coming. And we are here to welcome those with long-COVID into our community with open arms, without judgment or condemnation. Still, to hear those new voices making statements that are either exactly what we have been saying all along or are invalidating of what we actually experience once we have been at this for a while is difficult. This community prides itself on being a welcoming space. None of us are here to say, “I told you so,” but when it comes down to it, we did. We told you this would happen. We’ve been telling you for years. We’re still telling you now. But no one has ever listened to us — not until it’s far too late.

Christa Marie

How Other People Have Invalidated My Trauma

As I was turning 18, I’d spent the past two years bouncing between psychiatric hospitalizations and ultimately spending six months in residential treatment, getting discharged about two months before my 18th birthday. What I quickly discovered, though, was that the ground I had regained in residential was immediately lost when I was thrown back into the same abusive environment that led me to develop those maladaptive coping mechanisms in the first place. About a month later, I just couldn’t take it anymore. I was trying so hard not to fall back into where I was before being in residential, but I knew I couldn’t fight it much longer. I managed to get to an emergency room and pleaded with a crisis counselor to do whatever it took to get me out of that house. She gave me two options, a safety plan or another psychiatric hospitalization. Disheartened, I chose the latter, thinking maybe once I got there, someone would finally be able to help me. I got lucky and was able to stay there for three months as I got things in order to get on my own two feet. I was discharged and spent two weeks each with two extended relatives before spending another three months in a motel and yet another week-long hospitalization before I finally made it into my own apartment. It wasn’t the best solution, but it was the best I could do. In the end, though, I chose homelessness over living in that abusive environment any longer, because I knew it was the safest option available to me. Still, some hear this story and object to my use of the word “homelessness,” stating that I wasn’t really homeless because I always had a roof over my head, because I never landed on the streets or in a homeless shelter. Besides the technicality that homelessness is not a lack of a roof over one’s head but a lack of stable, secure housing, it’s concerning that people find it appropriate to gatekeep hardship like that. Of course I recognize the privilege that exists in the fact that I did have somewhere to stay, but being 18 and living on college savings in a motel without a job wasn’t particularly the epitome of stability either. Really, though, I shouldn’t have to explain myself like that. I shouldn’t have to validate my trauma to win over other people’s approval of how I choose to tell my story. The reality is that no one knows the full details of what I experienced other than me. No one else was there as I tried to figure out how to get groceries with nothing more than a mini-fridge and a microwave, as I refused to get off the bus without being on the phone with someone because I didn’t feel safe walking back to that motel alone. No one else knows how scared I was when I realized I was running out of money and I still didn’t have a job. No one else was there as I tried to figure out how to get clothes to wear to interviews without spending too much money for a job I didn’t know if I would get. To tell me that it wasn’t really bad enough to count and that I can’t call it homelessness completely invalidates and dismisses the hardship and trauma that I did experience without even knowing the details of my experience in the first place. So instead, let’s try something different: let’s listen as people tell their own story in a way that feels authentic to them without judgment. Let’s offer support instead of invalidation. Let’s walk beside people through their struggles instead of kicking them when they’re already down. And above all, let’s stop gatekeeping hardship.

Christa Marie

Accepting My Excessive Talking With ADHD Is a Part of Me

I’ve always been the talkative type. Growing up, I was jokingly referred to as a “chatty Kathy” and for years, I was convinced I was an extreme extrovert when really, I’m not. What was happening, though, was really a trait of my (at the time, undiagnosed) attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), commonly referred to as “excessive talking.” While some may indeed find my talkativeness, well, excessive, I hesitate to agree. We all have our different ways in which we communicate and this is just how my brain happens to work. Yes, it’s a symptom of my diagnosis, but that diagnosis is a description of the way my brain works. Over the years, I’ve learned to mask this excessive talking more and more, but it still comes out when I’m excited about something or when I’m explaining something that I’m passionate about. I’ll start speaking faster, louder, I’ll move my hands a lot more, my thinking will become more scattered (which is then reflected in my speech), and I become more prone to interrupting others. Often, when this happens, the person I’m talking to will say something to tell me to slow down, take a breath, put my hands down or lower my volume. Because of this, I frequently apologize preemptively when I notice those same patterns popping back up. Recently, however, I’ve had a different response to my “excessive talking” and overall excitement. Instead of being told that I need to stop, my boyfriend often responds with something along the lines of, “it’s cute when you get excited.” It’s a simple remark, but one that leaves a significant impact, making me feel so seen and accepted in a way I didn’t even realize was possible. This has led to the realization that while, yes, this is a part of my ADHD, my ADHD is also a part of me — and I can’t accept myself without accepting that, too. Likewise, when I want acceptance from those around me, that includes acceptance of the way my brain works, which includes my excessive talking. Continuing to apologize for what is ultimately a part of who I am doesn’t help anyone in the long run. It makes me feel rejected and misunderstood, while the other person fails to recognize that this is part of how my brain operates, likely leading to frustration when it inevitably happens again. So while I’m done apologizing for my talkative nature, I’m also going to make an effort to explain it when someone makes a remark about it — not to apologize, but to let them know that this is part of who I am, and that needs to be OK.

Christa Marie

Britney Spears' Relatable Fear of Freedom After Abuse and Control

Britney Spears recently made an Instagram post about her newfound freedom from her 13-year conservatorship, expressing her fear that she would do something wrong now that she finally has a taste of freedom. As I read her words, they resonated with my own story of gaining freedom from an abusive home.   View this post on Instagram  A post shared by Britney Spears (@britneyspears) To explain, as I was turning 18, I was in the hospital and adamant that I would not be returning to my abusive home, but instead that I would be leaving the hospital as an independent adult, free from the abuse for the first time in my life. I was hesitant to share stories of the abuse , however, so I had many who were convinced that I didn’t know what I was getting myself into. I was told I needed to go back home where I belonged, that I’d never make it out there in the “real world.” After all, I didn’t have anything — no high school diploma, no driver’s license, no source of income — none of the things one needs to be able to function independently in our society. I did leave the hospital as an independent adult, however, staying with a few other family members for about a month before moving into my own place, having nothing but my college savings to survive on. Once I moved into my own place, things felt directionless. I was so used to having my every move controlled by someone else; I didn’t know how to do this all on my own. I eventually figured it out, though, getting a job just as I was running out of money, getting my GED so I could apply to college, and figuring out how to use public transportation. Now, it’s four years later and I’m a senior in college with a dual major and a 3.6 GPA, starting applications to Master of Social Work programs . Still, though, when I make a mistake and forget to pay a bill on time or forget a doctor’s appointment, it all comes back. I start to ask myself if maybe everyone else was right — if maybe I can’t do this on my own after all. Those thoughts have become less and less frequent over the years, but every now and then that sense of doubt comes creeping back in. The thing is, though, that I already did it. I already figured it out. I already got what I needed to get on my feet and I’ve managed to not only keep it up, but to do what I needed to go after my goals too. I might have started with nothing, but now I have everything I ever needed — most significantly, freedom, and peace. So yes, of course Britney is feeling some doubt and anxiety — she’s spent the past 13 years having her every move controlled, and to go from that to full freedom is quite the shock. She isn’t starting with nothing, though. She’s been on her own before and she can do it again; it’s just going to take her some time to figure things out.

Christa Marie

Doctors Need to Be Honest About Endometriosis Medication Side Effects

I was recently put on Lupron, an injection given once every three months for endometriosis. I was told I might have some hot flashes, as the medication puts me directly into menopause, but that as long as I took my hormone replacement therapy pill, they wouldn’t be too bad and that pill would also protect me against bone density loss. I was excited to finally have a medication that should be able to actually help; I was hopeful, even. About a week after I got the injection, I suddenly started having severe hot flashes that were so bad they were making me throw up. I immediately got the hormone replacement therapy pill I had yet to pick up and was taking Zofran as often as I could to help with the nausea and vomiting. After the nausea and vomiting, however, came the night sweats. Next came the vivid dreams, many of which were trauma-related nightmares. I felt awful, even when I did take the hormone replacement pill. I had to either call out or leave in the middle of work multiple times, some of which were 12-hour shifts, losing me hundreds of dollars of income. I was miserable. I reached out to my prescriber, trying to give the benefit of the doubt that maybe she didn’t know it could get this bad, as she had mentioned not prescribing Lupron very often. When I got there, though, I said the side effects are awful and she immediately asked if I was having the specific side effects that I was experiencing, without having been told previously. This is when I realized that she knew it was possible this would happen, but she had decided not to tell me. While this experience was frustrating, especially given that it stays in my system for months and it’s not a pill that I can just discontinue the next day, this is also an example of a greater problem. Medical professionals regularly fail to give patients full information that may change what they are willing to consent to in their medical care. Had I known this would happen, I would have never agreed to taking the Lupron. It wasn’t the best option available to me, but because I assumed I was getting full information from my provider, at the time I agreed to take it, it seemed like it was the best choice. I’ve often heard the argument that telling patients about unlikely effects is harmful, as they might decide not to take a life-changing treatment option out of fear of a side effect that may only happen to one percent of the people who take it. What this argument fails to consider, however, is what happens to that one percent when it happens to them. It took weeks before I realized everything I was experiencing was a result of the Lupron. When I mentioned the vivid dreams to my provider, she immediately responded, “yeah, it doesn’t happen to many people, but…” Meanwhile, I had been concerned that my post-traumatic stress disorder seemed to be worsening for no apparent reason — only to find out it wasn’t my PTSD at all. Additionally, this argument assumes that patients are incapable of understanding that something occurs infrequently and factoring that into their decision-making process. If the patient decides the benefit isn’t worth the risk, that doesn’t mean they don’t understand that the effect is infrequent. It means that they personally don’t feel that the benefit outweighs the risk. And they have every right to make that decision. In case that isn’t bad enough, this also damages the relationship between a patient and their provider when something does go wrong. Do you think I’m going to take that provider’s word for it the next time they suggest a new medication? Absolutely not. I’m going to tell them I need time to think on it and go home to research it myself, likely having to wade my way through less reliable sources in an effort to find out the information my provider likely already knows. The bottom line is that not giving patients full information prior to their making a decision about their medical care makes the assumption that the provider’s opinion matters more than how the patient feels about it. While it’s true that healthcare professionals have training that makes them better able to understand the risks and benefits of specific medical decisions, that doesn’t mean their opinion matters more than the patient’s — especially when they aren’t the one who has to live with it.

Christa Marie

The Debilitating Pain That Comes When Menstruating With Endometriosis

Menstruating with endometriosis makes the already dreaded “time of the month” genuinely unbearable. Every cycle is different and I’ve personally even had a continuous period that lasted for three months, made me anemic and caused me to pass out, though that’s an extreme example. Most of the time, they’re about a week long and the start of it is when the pain is the most severe. To explain this better, here’s a day by day guide to one of my typical menstruating weeks — without being on anything to manage my cycles — as an individual with endometriosis. Day One: This day is generally the worst. I’m bent over in the fetal position on the couch, crying from the pain. It feels as though a knife is being jabbed into my abdomen and twisted slowly. The pain is excruciating. I can’t sleep and likely have to pull an all-nighter the night before or after because the pain is so severe that sleeping is impossible. The bleeding is heavier than it should be for the beginning of a cycle and I’m going through pads faster than I can keep up with. Day Two: This day is maybe a little bit better, but not by much. I’m not bent over on the couch in the fetal position anymore, but the pain is still severe enough that it’s hard for me to focus. It worsens a bit more intermittently now and is more responsive to medication or heat, so there’s a chance I can get some things done, but it’s still likely not a good idea for me to try to go to work or study for extended periods of time. I’m still going through pads quickly and my bleeding is likely even heavier than the day before. Day Three: This is where it seems to finally begin to turn a corner. I’m able to function now. It still hurts a lot, but the pain is more manageable and the bouts of severe pain are lessening in frequency. I may still have heavy flow, but sometimes it goes towards medium on this day. I can perform activities of daily living with minimal to moderate difficulty and am able to go to work or do homework, but I might still be needing to keep a hot pack around and am likely still taking medication for the pain. Day Four: Things are really noticeably improving now. I can see a light at the end of the tunnel. I’m still having bouts of moderate pain, but the severe pain is finally over. I’m likely transitioning from medication to intermittent heat now, or using medication just while I am at work and don’t have access to a hot pack. I’m having medium flow. Day Five: It’s almost over. My flow is finally light, the pain is crossing into mild. I can do just about anything I need to do without heat or medication, but I may still be utilizing them if I know I have a lot that I need to get done. Day Six: The pain is gone. I’m still having a little spotting, but the hard part is over. I know I only have a week of reprieve before the pain starts back up again, but I’m grateful to finally have a bit of a break. After my cycle is over, I generally have about a week without pain before some cramping starts up again. It starts relatively mild and continues to worsen as I get closer to my cycle, before beginning to ease off about halfway through and then being gone for a week. This is, however, assuming that my cycle is lasting a full 28 days, which is rare. It’s not uncommon for the first day of one cycle to be two or three weeks from the start of the next, meaning I have very little, if any, reprieve from the pain. And that is what makes endometriosis such a debilitating chronic pain disorder.

Christa Marie

How to Navigate Rejection-Sensitive Dysphoria in Your Relationship

As an individual with ADHD who is dating someone who also has ADHD, rejection-sensitive dysphoria (RSD) plays a consistent role in our interactions. We’re both hypersensitive to rejection, but the benefit is the fact that we understand it — meaning we understand each other’s thought processes; behavioral responses; and what to do about it, both as the individual experiencing rejection-sensitive dysphoria or as the other person when your partner is experiencing RSD. The thing is, navigating rejection-sensitive dysphoria in a relationship is a two-person effort. It takes clear communication from both partners, the ability to ask for and to offer reassurance, and the patience and willingness to work through misunderstandings. Let’s start with clear communication, because that doesn’t mean the same thing for someone with rejection-sensitive dysphoria as it does for a relationship where RSD is not involved. Rejection-sensitive dysphoria is a hypersensitivity and reactivity to perceived or real rejection, which means that even if it isn’t an indicator of rejection, it can feel like it is to the individual with RSD, which then results in reactivity to the perceived rejection, even if your partner never meant to express any form of rejection to begin with. Thus, clear communication in a relationship that involves RSD means recognizing that this can pop up with very minimal indication and actively taking steps in communication to avoid creating that misunderstanding. For example, instead of, “I can’t spend time with you tonight,” it’s going to be better received if you say, “I’d love to see you, but I’m swamped with work tonight and just don’t have the time. Would you be able to do something on Friday instead?” This tells your partner upfront, “Hey, I’m not rejecting you right now. I want to spend time with you; I’m just overwhelmed.” That said, the need for clear communication also falls on the individual who experiences RSD, because if their partner is never told, “When all you say is ‘I can’t spend time with you tonight,’ that feels like rejection to me.” it’s not fair to expect them to be able to prepare for that in communication. Clear communication quickly funnels into reassurance. When rejection-sensitive dysphoria is activated, it’s important that the individual experiencing it is able to vocalize how they’re feeling and ask for clarification from their partner, even as daunting as it may feel. Getting that clarification from their partner can provide the reassurance they need to know that what’s going on isn’t rejection. That said, their partner also needs to be willing to understand that this is an area that is difficult for them and be willing to provide that reassurance when their partner is asking for it. Still, even when these things are utilized, misunderstandings are going to happen. A time comes to mind where my boyfriend thought he was providing me with reassurance but the wording he used just made me more anxious. In that situation, I had to vocalize how I was feeling and we both had to be patient with one another as we willingly worked to clarify what each of us meant and figure out where the communication breakdown happened in order to avoid it in the future. Without the patience and willingness to work through misunderstandings on both sides, the partner with rejection-sensitive dysphoria will likely feel very hurt and become distant, which would likely lead to frustration and confusion from their partner, which could ultimately cause significant damage to the relationship. All of this said, once you learn how to work around rejection-sensitive dysphoria in your relationship, it really isn’t that difficult. When you love someone and want to give them what they need, these things are easy to implement because they help achieve the goal of being a supportive person for your partner and loving them well.

Christa Marie

We Need to Take Endometriosis More Seriously

My period started when I was 12 years old. I’m 22 now. For a decade, my cycles have caused debilitating pain, to the point that it interferes with my ability to sleep, go to work, do schoolwork, and sometimes even stand up. I remember first knowing something was wrong when I was about 14 or 15 and had a period that lasted for three months straight. It made me anemic, and then I had another one two weeks after that one ended that made me pass out. The anemia was what finally got me sent to a gynecologist, who put me on a medication that stopped my periods, and everything was great — until it wasn’t. I had to be temporarily taken off of the medication while I was in the hospital for something unrelated, and when I went back on it, it didn’t work anymore. Instead, I was bleeding for four days every week. Bleeding for four days, not bleeding for three. It was like clockwork — but it was awful. I went back to the gynecologist, who took me off of the medication, which then made the pain even worse. We then went through multiple different potential treatment options, every single one of which failed. At some point in the midst of this, she told me she thought that I might have endometriosis. I then had to switch gynecologists, and my new gynecologist I saw believed I had endometriosis too, and wanted to refer me for an ablation (she can’t do surgery because she’s a nurse practitioner) before putting me on Lupron. The doctor she referred me to, while also agreeing that it seems like I have endometriosis, didn’t want to do the ablation, and suggested we try Lupron first instead. I’m on Lupron now, and it’s caused such horrendous side effects that I’m not sure I can stay on it. So, why am I telling you all of this detailed information about my period? Because endometriosis is a problem that the healthcare system does little to nothing about. Currently, my treatment options are as follows: 1) Stay on the Lupron for a bit longer, despite the side effects, and then see if any of the options I had previously failed will work after having had Lupron.2) Find a doctor willing to do an ablation.3) Get a hysterectomy with removal of my ovaries. As I said above, I am 22 years old. I’m getting ready to apply to master’s degree programs. In no way am I in a position to have children right now. But I also don’t want to lose that option — assuming the endometriosis itself hasn’t taken that too. There’s also no guarantee that a hysterectomy would fully solve the problem. Still, ablation is a temporary fix, and having surgery after surgery can become incredibly expensive, especially for someone like me who doesn’t even make a living wage. I was hopeful the Lupron would be a good option, but after discovering that if I miss a single dose of the add-back hormone replacement pill I’m on, I have projectile vomiting, and even with that pill, I’m so nauseated that I can barely eat — that’s clearly not a great option either. Endometriosis impacts approximately 10 percent of women, meaning about 190 million people experience this debilitating pain condition, many of whom are in the exact same position I’m in. Not ready to be permanently forced into menopause, not in a position to pay for repeated surgeries, but nothing else is working. The harsh reality is that medicine is sexist and we don’t put nearly as much funding into what is considered a “women’s issue.” This runs back to the stereotypes that have somehow persisted since hysteria was considered a clinical diagnosis. It’s more than likely that there could be better options to treat endometriosis, but we aren’t truly trying to find out. As if this isn’t bad enough, many are shamed into being silenced when they attempt to reach out for support, cut off by looks of discomfort or even disgust. This makes endometriosis not just a debilitatingly painful condition, but a painstakingly isolating one as well. It doesn’t have to be this way. We could treat people with compassion. We could fund research. We could fight for better treatment options. We could believe women when they say they’re in pain without minimizing it or dismissing them. Until those things happen, though, I refuse to suffer in silence.

Christa Marie

A Letter to Anyone Who Experienced Trauma During the Pandemic

First of all, I want you to know that I see you. I see you, and I see your pain, and I see your struggle. I am so sorry that you went through a traumatic experience. You did not deserve to go through that, and the pain of trauma is more than anyone should have to bear. Going through it during a pandemic, when we’re all encompassed by isolation, only makes it more difficult. Experiencing trauma, then immediately being robbed of your entire support system on top of it, is exceptionally painful in a way that I can only imagine. What I don’t have to imagine, though, is the aftermath of the experience of trauma. How it is inherently isolating, how it feels like no one can understand, how it feels like it’s the end, how it feels like there’s no way you’ll be anything but shattered. I get it because I’ve lived it too. I’m going to be honest with you — trauma does change things. It changes your perception of the world, how you experience life and everything in it. But it doesn’t mean that you will feel like this forever; it doesn’t mean you won’t ever feel happy, free or safe again. I remember the days when it all felt fresh and raw, and I didn’t even know how to function because it was all just too much. I was surrounded by triggers, and I didn’t have any idea how to handle any of this. But I learned, I got therapy, and I got medications that helped me begin to feel more human again. I could finally remember how to breathe. And over time it has gotten easier. The pain has not gone away fully, but it also doesn’t prevent me from living my life and doing what I want to do on a regular basis anymore. I know you aren’t there right now, and that’s OK. The journey toward healing is a long, bumpy road, filled with twists and turns and ups and downs. Sometimes the best thing that you can do is accept where you are, even if it feels hard. The pure fact that you’re here reading this, even when it feels like all of the odds are against you, tells me you have strength in you. You can get through this journey —  but right now, it’s OK to stop and feel whatever you need to feel, for as long as you need to. In the meantime, I would like to offer a grounding strategy that has consistently helped me reestablish my awareness of the space around me, after an intense set of flashbacks. Identify five things that you can see, four things that you can touch, three things that you can hear, two things you can smell and one thing that you can taste. An important aspect of this is actually taking the time to experience each thing — reach out and touch that cabinet, smell that candle, take a sip of that coffee. Not only does this keep me grounded in the present moment, but it also encourages me to begin engaging with my own environment again, which can feel daunting after being so harshly ripped away from reality. Lastly, I want to share my own personal mantra that I have repeated to myself and shared with others over and over throughout the years: Keep fighting the good fight. This fight that you’re in, although not by choice, is a good fight. As hard as it may be, persisting despite it all is a good thing. Continuing to fight will bring you back to a sense of freedom, safety and comfort again. It will bring you to a place where the world feels a little safer, where that sense of a threat seems a bit more distant. I know this isn’t a journey you chose, but there is a redemption at the end of this tunnel. Keep fighting the good fight, warrior. You’ve got this. Love, A Trauma Survivor