Surviving traumatic events, such as sexual assault, can leave you feeling helpless, emotionally out of control, numb, disconnected and unable to trust others. Victims may struggle with feeling distressing emotions, anxiety and memories that just won’t go away.

Traumatic events can leave you feeling helpless, emotionally out of control, numb, detached and unable to trust others. Many who have experienced sexual assault do not tell anyone.  They do not report to the police and many never even confide in their close friends.  They suffer in silence. When traumatic events happen, it can take a while to move past the pain and feel safe again but with support and self-help strategies, you can work toward recovery. Whether your traumatic event happened yesterday or years ago, it is possible to move forward and regain your life.
Just as everyone reacts differently to traumatic events, responses will also be different for each person. There is no “right” or “wrong” way to feel, think or respond.  Do not judge your reactions based on those of others. Some emotional responses to trauma are: shock or disbelief, difficulty concentrating, anger, mood swings, fear and anxiety, guilt, shame, and feeling sad, homeless or numb.  Some physical responses to trauma are: Inability to sleep, fatigue, nightmares, racing heartbeat, agitation, aches and pains and muscle tension. You may not experience any of these reactions or you may experience all of them.  These symptoms may last a few days to a few months or longer. Even when you feel you have handled the trauma, you may experience painful memories or emotions, especially if you are triggered by an anniversary of the traumatic event or something that reminds you of that event.
There are some self-help strategies that can help as you move through the healing process. Connecting with others may help you heal so make efforts to maintain your relationships.  Avoid spending too much time alone. You do not have to talk about the trauma.  Just feeling engaged and accepted will bring you comfort. However, you may find having someone to share your feelings with, who will listen and not judge and who can be trusted will be a valuable asset. Find social activities to join or sign up for a class or club. Reconnect with old friends. Join a support group for survivors of trauma. Being with others who have faced similar events can provide inspiration. Volunteer. Helping others can challenge the feeling of helplessness that often overwhelms trauma survivors and can help to reclaim your sense of strength.   
Exercise can also help to clear your thoughts as well as releasing endorphins which triggers a positive feeling in your body. Movements that are rhythmic and engages both arms and legs, such as walking, running, swimming, basketball or dancing works best. Just 30 minutes a day will make a huge difference in how you feel. Other things such as making sure you are getting enough sleep, healthy eating, using relaxation techniques such as yoga and deep breathing will also help.
Recovering from trauma such as sexual assault takes time and everyone heals differently.  Crisis Services can assist as you work through your recovery. We offer crisis counseling, support groups, trauma counseling and can refer to other supports as needed. Contact us at our 24 hour HELPline at 256.716.1000 or our Jackson County Office at 256.574.5826 for more information.

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