by Bianca Moore
Trigger Warning: assault, trauma
In my weirdly specific memory, I've been plagued with an obsession with dates. I got my first kiss on November 29th of 2008 from a family friend at a football party. It was pressed upon me at the side of my aunt's house. When I briefly regaled the tale, my cousin angrily played Slipknot. I started dating my first serious boyfriend on March 30th of 2011. I was at the library when I received the request via text message from a friend I had been casually sleeping with in my 18-year sexual awakening. He’s also the guy my mother is still convinced I only dated so I could prove my perceived heterosexuality in time for prom. This deep knowledge of affecting dates has been less fun and more traumatizing.
At the present moment, I just went through the 3rd anniversary of my assault. I thought in approaching year 3, I would be more formidable. I felt like it was supposed to be less affecting. Why isn't it? December 29th still shouldn't be as haunting as it was, right? Turns out, PTSD doesn't have an expiration date and can feel fresh at all times. Nobody, not even yourself, has to issue a deadline to feel better.
If you are encroaching upon a day that is not so fun for you, here are the tips I adhere to on what I (and my therapist) call my Trauma Day.
NOTE: I'm not a professional, only a girl who picked up a few things on her road to recovery.
Request Off Work
I am lucky enough to currently have a team of co-workers who understand the importance of mental health. I simply told them that the 29th was a very traumatic day for me, and I would prefer to rearrange my schedule to not work and they were completely understanding. I know that not everyone has this luxury. I would definitely recommend taking at least 15 minutes to yourself at some point in the work day.
Watch A Feel-Good Show/Movie
We all have that go-to film that gives us those good tinglies. Steven Universe has gotten me through some rough patches. It's marketed as a children's show, but when I tell you it has caused me to openly sob in 15 minutes or less, I mean substantial ugly crying. I highly recommend it for all ages. But maybe bright, cartoon badassery isn't your thing. If so, I don't understand you and I probably never will, but I respect your choices. I know some people take refuge in various sitcoms and movies. Maybe you want to ball your eyes out to Titanic for 4 hours. Do you. Take a seat and lose yourself in something that gives you those warm fuzzies.
Set Out To See A Human Person
This is my least favorite, to be quite honest. The go-to reaction is to sequester yourself when you're dealing with bad memories. However, I strongly suggest seeking the company of a good friend, if only for a moment. Maybe you'll share a coffee for a few minutes while you both have time in the middle of the day. Maybe you accidentally end up talking for hours, even divulge your feelings a little which is completely okay and healthy. I believe that unloading for even a moment is incredibly freeing. I also realize that this is the hardest one so don't feel bad if you can't accomplish it. Try making a phone call, it's sometimes nice to hear a friendly voice.
Take A Nude
This is my forever mantra. You don't have to send them, hell you can delete it right after you take it. Don't undermine the strength a good nude in the right lighting; it's crack for your confidence. This is a really big one for me, clearly. After being attacked, a big thing is reclaiming your body back as your own. An after-shower selfie in the buff gets me together. And like a mentioned, don't feel pressed to send it. If you have a significant other, someone you are interested in, or maybe just a group of friends you send nudes to, go ahead. I personally have hella nudes that I just have to look back at and remind myself I'm that bitch.
Make A New Memory
Give yourself something new to look forward to when you think of your Trauma Day. Make a trip to somewhere new. Go out a restaurant you've been meaning to try forever. Or do like I do, get a tattoo. As I was getting tattooed, I was asked why I chose to walk in and get inked. I told the artist very frankly that today is the anniversary of me getting assaulted, and I wanted that day to mean something else to me. The next cycle around, I can look back and see that this is the day I did something for myself.
This is by no means a definitive list on how to deal with a traumatic experience. Some of this may work for you or it could all be garbage. This isn't even the final version for me because this is an evolving process. I have picked up these methods from experience, my therapist, and the amazing friends I have around me. I live with my trauma but I have to make sure everyday I don't live inside of it. These are little things I did to protect myself from an emotionally exhaustive day. I believe, especially in the times we're living, we can't suffer in silence. If it even helps one person, it was worth it.
First photo courtesy of Eric Paul Owens
Second Photo courtesy of Bianca Moore