By Anthony Carrone
In my last article, I mentioned the tools I try to use every day to continue coping with my memories of sexual abuse. For me, coping is a never-ending process. Unfortunately, my tools don’t make the memories go away, but I can’t think of a healthy alternative that does. Like many tool boxes, the tools in my box were acquired over time. I don’t use all of my tools every day, and sometimes I need WD-40 to get them working correctly, but knowing I have a set to use is helpful in its own way.
- Staying active
- To-do list
- Mindfulness meditations
Finding ways to stay active has played a major role in coping with my troubling memories. In addition to all of the known benefits of staying active, for me, it brings back favorable memories and feelings from my childhood. Some of my favorite memories were made playing baseball and camping with my friends. Staying physically active has allowed me to reminisce about those times while creating new memories with my new friends. Completing a game or a difficult hike also provides me with a sense of accomplishment that feels really good!
Some mornings, I wake up feeling anxious or depressed and feel like there is nothing that will get me out of bed. It would be so easy to turn over and go back to sleep. What I have found is that making a to-do list helps me get past that initial morning depression and jumpstart my day in a much more positive way. I actually use a cheat code for this – Let me explain. On those difficult mornings, after I realize I am dangerously close to falling into a non-productive day, I get up and make my bed (I know this is not always easy – but it got easier with repetition) After I make my bed, I create a checklist of things I need to get done. My trick is adding “MAKE YOUR BED” as the first task on my list and immediately checking it off. Oh, it is so satisfying! It may seem silly, but sometimes that small sense of accomplishment is what I need to change the trajectory of my day.
Practicing random acts of kindness and charity every day is, I think, one of the most effective ways to cope and also make a real difference in someone else’s day. Charity does not have to be monetary or even publicized to make a difference or be an effective tool in your kit. Unselfishly giving your time, love and attention creates a positive energy that you and people around you will benefit from.
Meditation has been the most useful tool in my toolbox. Actually, it may be the material many of my tools are crafted from. Or maybe it’s what my toolbox is made of? Anyway, before I lose you… Practicing mindfulness meditation has changed my life. Most of us are mindful at some point during the day, but it’s really difficult to stay in that zone. Sometimes we are distracted by a thought from our past that brings up uncomfortable memories. For me, if I let it, those thoughts have the potential to bring me to a dark place, usually filled with anger and a case of the f*ck its. A place where my mind is racing all over the place, but my body is paralyzed – a feeling of defeat. Practicing mindfulness through meditation has helped me recognizing when these intrusive thoughts arise, accept them, and get my mind back to the current moment – Like when I am having trouble getting up in the morning, recognize my negative emotions and decide to make a to-do list to help get me started. There are many different styles of meditation, so if mindfulness is not the way for you, check out some other forms of meditation that seem like a better fit!
Journaling and storytelling
Getting my thoughts out, one way or another, has always helped me cope with what I am feeling inside. What I like about journaling is the ability to go back and actually read my own words about what I was thinking or feeling during that moment – it’s right there in front of me. It also helps me see my own potential behavioral patterns. If I notice I am feeling a certain way, I’ll often go back to my journal to see when I’ve felt that way before. If I have, I’ll recall how I reacted and review how that worked out for me. Finding a group of friends or an outlet like Gravity Network to share your thoughts with can be super helpful.
As I said earlier, these tools have not deleted my memories of sexual abuse, but they have taught me skills to live a happy life without blaming myself for other’s actions. I plan to stay physically active and remain healthy to help find the joy in things I used to love. I will do my best to make to-do lists to help me stay on top of my daily tasks when my emotions want to distract me. I will give my time and attention to other who need it, because others have been there for me when I needed to be lifted up. I will practice mindfulness to remain aware of my true self and chart the path to my brightest future. And I will continue to tell my story through personal journaling and this blog, not only for myself, but for others who read and are going through their own struggles.