Depressed person sitting with head down on wooden bridge near the beach at sunset. Considering disclosing sexual abuse and trauma history with a loved one? Read more about PTSD and trauma treatment in Angel and Farringdon, London.

How to Disclose a History of Sexual Abuse to Your Partner

Image of a word bubble with "The Silence Surrounding Abuse Must Be Broken" and #itsnotok written for Sexual Abuse and Sexual Violence Awareness Week in London. Therapy for sexual trauma in first responders is available at YTherapy.As I’m writing this, we’re wrapping up Sexual Abuse and Sexual Violence Awareness Week. As a mental health professional, I know many of my colleagues are actively addressing and attending events to communicate #ItsNotOk throughout London and worldwide. What an incredible way for us to come together as helping professionals by standing with survivors! The shadow side of this type of week, and the impending Valentine’s Day festivities, is the potential for triggers for even the most self-aware of first responders and other helpers. Our clients are disclosing sexual abuse and we’re helping them process these complex issues for themselves. Statistically, a significant number of adults have experienced sexual abuse and sexual violence, whether recently or in childhood.

Unfortunately, just because you’re a first responder or other helping professional, it does not make you immune to the lifelong struggles you might be very skilled at helping others through.

You’ve Healed From the Trauma, but There’s Still Work to Do

You have a good job. Work that makes a difference to the people you serve. Lots of great friends. Maybe even “everything going for you”. Yet, you’re not entirely happy and fulfilled because of past trauma. When it comes to relationships, you may feel like you’re behind everyone else. Like you haven’t got it quite figured out yet. You don’t even know how to go about disclosing sexual abuse to a new partner or friend.

This makes you feel ashamed and even angry. You’ve found it difficult to trust, open up and fully connect when you are interested in someone. Perhaps you actually find yourself wearing your heart on your sleeve, attaching too quickly, and getting hurt again.

PTSD is Nothing to Be Ashamed About

There are many different ways you may have experienced sexual trauma. Perhaps, it was a single incident of having your personal boundaries violated (e.g. sexual harassment from a boss or colleague at work, from a stranger in a public place). Maybe the violence was sudden and shocking (e.g. rape or sexual assault by an acquaintance, date, stranger or friend). Finally, you may have endured a prolonged period of sexual abuse (e.g. from a family member or neighbour – long ago or even recently, from a trusted long-term partner). No matter how sexual violence happens, it can leave emotional scars that run deep. 

Now, You’re Curious About Disclosing the Sexual Abuse

You quietly wonder how to truly put it out of your mind and leave it in the past. But, the way you feel and how you behave in new relationships alerts you that it’s going to be more challenging. It’s not easy to separate who you are now from the PTSD symptoms you are still feeling. Would it be easier if your partner knew what happened? Could that help build trust and understanding as you become more intimate? Maybe your partner could be more sympathetic when you feel jumpy when they don’t call you back immediately. Perhaps sex will be more pleasurable for you both if they could fully understand.

Sexual violence is part of your story, but it’s not your whole story. 

Maybe you’ve just entered into a new relationship and you’re head over heels with someone you’re beginning to trust. Or, you’ve been in a steady relationship and you’re ready for a more serious commitment. Something inside may be calling you to disclose sexual abuse from your past. But, a part of you is worried about being rejected and not believed. Or, that they will feel disgusted towards you. Maybe you are worried your partner will hold contempt towards the person who hurt you, and who may still be a part of your life today.

“I am not ashamed, I am brave.” ~Charlotte, Survivor Stories

To be clear, you don’t have to tell anyone. You can make the choice to disclose how you want when you want. As a first responder or professional helper, you might feel like you have to protect others from the pain of your story. Doesn’t that feel strange? I know. But, it’s in our nature as helpers. We want to protect, even when we’re hurting.

You deserve love, happiness, and support too.

Woman looking distressed experiencing PTSD, sitting and leaning her head against the wall in a room. Survivors of sexual abuse may disclose to partners in relationship therapy with a London therapist at YTherapy.Of course, you want someone in your life with whom you can share your vulnerabilities without getting hurt. A person with whom you can be your true self, be unafraid and free to show all parts of yourself. You don’t want to feel like you’re hiding any secrets from the love of your life. Trauma can unfairly make you feel mistrustful, suspicious, jealous, needy, fearful and all sorts of other emotions that may cause you to react negatively. These normal, human reactions can cause us to put blocks in new and healthy relationships that have the potential to flourish.

You want to feel fully supported by your partner, to know that they won’t judge you for your past, to know that they won’t hurt you like you’ve been hurt by others before. This is a completely reasonable desire!

How will you know you’re ready to disclose sexual abuse?

There are many things to consider, and important to remember that you cannot predict the outcome or reaction of your partner. Before disclosing, it’s important to give some time and careful thinking about:

  • why you want to share
  • how you’d like to share
  • what words to use
  • how much to share
  • what would make you feel safe during your sharing and afterward

Of course, it may not always go the way you intend. No matter how the conversation happens, please don’t feel you have to over-share or give lots of details. If you’re not comfortable, it is okay to stop the conversation, ask for space, and revisit again when you feel more fully ready.

When you’re sharing, take notice of what’s happening and check-in with how you’re feeling. Do you feel that your partner is listening and giving you space? Are you believed in and supported unconditionally? Do you feel your trust for each other growing? Whist not guaranteed, these are the types of responses and reactions one would hope from a loving partner.

Loving, hugging and smiling couple with a city in the background, looking at each other with peace, trust and joy. Relationship therapy, trauma therapy for survivors and dramatherapy can help after disclosing sexual abuse to a partner in London.

Your Choice to Disclose Sexual Abuse to a Partner is a Gift

Remember, how and when you choose to tell someone else is yours. What you can’t control is their reaction. Their response is about them, not you. While I hope that anyone you choose to gift with your story would respond with the utmost care, I know that may not always happen. So, it’s important to have a support plan in place. For partners who just need help understanding, or for a safe place to process the disclosure shared with them, we could explore this further in individual relationship therapy. If you need to process more with someone who understands the unique pressures of being a first responder, we can work together in trauma therapy.

After sharing your story with a partner, you may want to have a phone date with a friend. A walk in the park. Or, a quiet time to rest and reflect in a journal. Of course, you can always call the Samaritans at 116 123. For help specifically related to sexual violence and sexual abuse, The Survivors Trust has an excellent list of resources to use. Finally, I would love to help you process the trauma in a new way, perhaps working creatively through dramatherapy. If you’re interested in talking with me more about this, let’s connect

Begin Therapy for First Responders and Helping Professionals in London

First responders and helping professionals need someone who understands. Someone who is able to both help and support from a place of empathy. That’s where I come in. One of my specialties is dramatherapy for first responders. You may be doubting your role. Or, wondering how you fit into the bigger picture when bad things keep happening in our world. Perhaps, you recognise the way your job is affecting your family. Maybe you just don’t think therapy can work for you. Whatever your reasons for reading this are, if you’re a first responder, I can help you.

You do not have to manage vicarious trauma and triggers all on your own.

When you are ready to take control of your life, I am ready to help you. We can meet for therapy in Angel or Farringdon, at your convenience. If you are ready to let go of your stress and feel more connected with your loved ones, I can help.

Let’s get started with a free 20-minute therapy consultation over the phone. I look forward to speaking with you very soon!

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If you have any requests for a blog post, please feel free to send your questions, comments or ideas to: jamie@ytherapy.com

Please note that this blog is meant to be educational and should not be a substitute for therapy.

If you would like to enquire about therapy, please contact me or book an appointment: https://ytherapy.com/book-an-appointment/

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Medical Professionals doing their job in a hospital - workplace burnout

Top 3 Signs of Burnout in Medical Professionals

Burnout affects us all at some point. It affects many people in many different professions, but generally it results in ongoing stress that takes a toll on you physically, mentally and emotionally. This problem is more likely to manifest itself in Medical Professionals, as you are aware.

Hospitals are a hotbed for trauma. It’s an everyday occurrence that comes with the territory. From A&E and Psychiatric Wards to Intensive and Palliative Care Units, you see a lot of trauma. Across all medical professions, from Doctors, Nurses and Surgeons to Health Support Workers and Hospice Staff, you are likely to experience stress and burnout sooner or later.

Do you find yourself constantly stressed and worried about burning out? If the answer is yes, read on.

Let’s take a closer look at the signs and symptoms of workplace burnout, so you can understand if your stress is telling you, “You’re about to burn out.”

 

Man suffering from workplace stress and burnout.

What is Burnout?

At its most basic definition, burnout can be defined as work-related stress. Stress that is ongoing, overwhelming and all-consuming in the workplace.

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines burnout as: “a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.”

This includes:

  • Feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion;
  • Increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job;
  • Reduced professional efficacy.

 

Man is sitting outside taking a break from work due to stress and burnout.

Top 3 Burnout Symptoms 

Workplace burnout can show up differently to different people.

Let’s take a look at how burnout symptoms can show up physically, mentally and emotionally.

1. Physical Burnout

“I’m so tired. I can’t go on like this.”

Your life is centered around your work. All those long hours and extra shifts. It becomes second nature to you. You feel that it’s a natural part of the job you’ve signed up to. It is easy to feel passionate about your work and committed to what you do, that it makes it hard for you to leave work at work. You find it hard to shut off when you take off your uniform and walk out the door. How do you keep the motor running when there’s no fuel left in the tank?

Here is how burnout can manifest itself in physical symptoms.

  • You are tired, drained and running on reserves.
  • There’s not enough time for you to eat or sleep, and you always feel weak and low in energy.
  • You’ve taken many sick days – even your colleagues are beginning to worry.
  • You are not the vibrant, healthy and strong person everyone knows you to be.

The truth is that there is always going to be more need than you can possibly meet. If your own physical needs are being compromised then it’s just a matter of time before your body shuts down completely.

Ask yourself…

  • Are you able to take breaks within the day?
  • Do you have enough time to unwind and take care of yourself at home?
  • What do you already do, or you can you start doing, to help you feel physically restored on a daily and weekly basis?

 

2. Psychological Burnout

“Nothing I do is ever good enough. I’ve failed.”

You are good at your job and have always juggled a lot of responsibilities, yet you punish yourself for not doing things faster or better. In your line of work, you know it’s not possible to meet all the demands and expectations – but this continues to crush your sense of accomplishment and makes you feel like a failure. It can feel as if you’re in some kind of mind trap and you can’t escape. Burnout affects your brain and your self-perception.

Here is how burnout can manifest itself in psychological symptoms.

  • You are feeling demotivated, doubtful and defeated.
  • Perhaps you have an overly negative mindset or pessimistic way of thinking.
  • You lose concentration and your memory starts to fail you.
  • From time to time, you disengage and detach – sometimes this happens when you’re in the middle of seeing your patients because you don’t have any more space to take things in.

It is important to recognise that you are more than enough and your patients value your gift. If you aren’t able to see your own worth in all that you do, you’ll continue spiralling in these unhelpful thoughts – and eventually you won’t be of help to anyone.

  • Can you accept just being good enough?
  • Do you give yourself permission to make mistakes?
  • Are you able to take things at a slower or different pace without feeling guilt or shame?

 

3. Emotional Burnout

“It’s all too much. I’m in pieces.”

You’re good with people. You can read emotions well and people find it easy to open up to you. Yet when you need the support, you won’t let people in to support you with your emotions. You find it hard to show your vulnerability because you feel you need to be strong for your patients and for your team.

Here is how burnout can manifest itself in emotional symptoms.

  • You are anxious, depressed and stressed.
  • You feel overwhelming waves of different emotions – it feels hard to contain your feelings both at work and at home.
  • When you see trauma, you feel traumatised. It’s like you can’t separate what’s what and who’s who.
  • You feel hopeless and helpless in your role. These feelings seep deep inside you and it takes over you.

Remember: you’re smart, you’re skilled and you have a lot of empathy – that’s what makes you great at what you do. It is perfectly natural that from time to time, the trauma you witness gets under your skin. You can’t contain it all (all the time) and it’s necessary to share and get support.

Ask yourself…

  • Why do you feel you need to keep it all inside?
  • Does a part of you feel like you’ll be a burden to others if you share your stress and worries?
  • What’s really stopping you from sharing and reaching out for support?

 

Get Help for Stress and Burnout in Central London

Workplace burnout can affect us all, but if you take the steps to recognise burnout symptoms and take action, then you can overcome this. Don’t let your experience of stress and trauma at work take away your love for what you do. You don’t have to carry this burden alone.

If you are ready to take control of your stress and are looking for mental health support, I can help.

Get started with a free 20 minute phone consultation. Let’s chat.

________________________________________

If you have any requests for a blog post, please feel free to send your questions, comments or ideas to: jamie@ytherapy.com

Please note that this blog is meant to be educational and should not be a substitute for therapy.

If you would like to enquire about therapy, please contact me or book an appointment: https://ytherapy.com/book-an-appointment/

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Creative Therapy

5 Ways Creative Therapy Can Help You Recover From Trauma

Have you ever been mistreated, judged or hurt in your relationships? If so, it is likely that you will be very careful not to put yourself in situations where you could feel mistreated, judged or hurt.

This idea applies to how you perceive and engage with mental health support. For example, if you think speaking to a professional could make you feel vulnerable, exposed or ashamed, then keeping silent over opening up may feel safer.

This fear is very real, and for some people, it can stop them from reaching out and taking that necessary step to get help.

What you’re thinking and how you’re feeling may not have words attached to them, so when something feels unprocessed, it may help to have a supportive space where you can express yourself freely and safely. Creative therapy can help you with this.

There are many widely recognised forms of creative therapy including Dramatherapy, Art Therapy, Music Therapy, Dance Movement Therapy, Play Therapy and Sandplay Therapy.

 

Here are 5 ways creative therapy can help you recover from trauma. Creative therapy can help you:

 

1. Express your thoughts and feelings

You know when things are boiling over for you. The rational part of your mind stops, and your emotions take over.

Trauma disturbs and distorts the way you think and feel. Sometimes the chaos of it all makes it too difficult for you to understand what actually happened, and the order of events become shuffled and fragmented.

If you have a lot going on inside and you have been bottling it all up for a long time, then it’s likely you will need some sort of outlet before you explode (or implode). Creative therapy can give you this outlet to express yourself freely – whether verbally or non-verbally. Trauma gets trapped in the mind and body so having an outlet that actively encourages you to fully express yourself in different and multiple ways can keep the pot from boiling over.

The point is that you have an outlet to express yourself freely as you are and as you feel. It’s not about ‘being artistic’ or making something with aesthetic merit. There is no expectation that you need to be coherent, organised or rational in any way. The making-sense-of-it-all bit can come later. Oftentimes, the very act of creating something means you can experience it, step away from it, and then reflect on it. In this creative process, you give yourself the necessary distance to make talking feel a little easier.

People tend to take in information and process things more thoroughly when they have something visual to look at and something physical to take part in. By working creatively – for example, through writing, drawing and using movement, you engage with and stimulate the parts of your brain and body that have direct access to your memories and emotions.

 

2. Reflect on difficult and painful feelings at a distance and pace that feels safe for you

Do you purposely avoid people, places and situations that bring about painful memories and unbearable feelings? Part of you may be working hard to avoid stirring up anything too uncomfortable, but part of you may be wanting the opportunity to heal your pain and be free from this hold.

Therapy is meant to help you work through difficult and painful emotions but it’s important to know you don’t have to share anything that you’re not comfortable with nor will you be made to share everything all in one go. This idea of spilling it all out to your therapist can be terrifying for some and perhaps cathartic for others. However, it is important to work with an experienced therapist who can be sensitive to your personal experiences and limitations because spilling out too much and too soon can be re-traumatising. This is where working creatively can be instrumental in helping you share safely.

If you have experienced mistrust and hurt in relationships, it can take time to trust your therapist to begin sharing about yourself and the details of your experiences. By working creatively, you can find new ways of relating to your therapist and addressing your situation so that the focus doesn’t solely have to be on you and what you say. For those who have had their personal boundaries broken, felt intruded upon or experienced intrusive thoughts, the last thing you want is to feel pressured to fill the session time by talking about the things you aren’t ready to share.

Working creatively means you can work indirectly and at a distance without needing to go into detail about your situation if you are not comfortable sharing sensitive information at this point. For example, there are many ways to work with your emotions by working symbolically with the themes of trust, fear, betrayal, courage, etc. This is when working with imagery, movement, story and art can be helpful. Putting your thoughts and feelings outside of yourself to be represented in something else on paper, in an object, or as another character can help you work through your experiences at a safe and healthy distance.

 

3. Discover a new perspective

For those who have endured ongoing experiences of trauma over a long period of time, it may feel difficult to believe that things can be different and that things can change. You may feel stuck in your thoughts and perceptions about yourself and the people around you. For example, if you have been hurt in your early relationships, you may feel cautious and fearful of people. Sometimes without realising, you may replay familiar scenarios in your mind and then expect that you will always be treated by others in a similar way.

Let’s face it – it’s difficult to stop old patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving unless you begin to experience something new and positive. It’s like creating a new habit in your diet and lifestyle – you need to experience it, repeat it and integrate this into your life for change to be possible. Being told new information just won’t cut it – it may go in one ear and out the other because the rational part of the brain is finding it too difficult to process.

When engaging in something creative, you open yourself to experience something new. For example, in a Dramatherapy session, you may create a story and work with different characters where you actively engage and experience different roles and relationships. By doing so, you literally step into other people’s shoes and learn to see things from a different perspective.

 

4. Find your own answers

You may have experienced unhealthy relationships that have left you feeling at fault, that you’re to blame, and that you have failed in some way.

By working creatively in therapy, you open yourself to challenge these unhelpful thoughts and feelings.

Working creatively engages you in a process where there is no right or wrong way of doing something, there is no one solution, and there is no way to fail. You open yourself to the possibility for change and you can feel empowered when you find your own answers.

The therapist is not the all-knowing, solution-making person in the relationship. When you engage in a creative process, you are encouraged to find your own answers. These answers can come from working ‘outside of the box’. In this process, people often find new ways of viewing their problems, and then from this, find new answers that feel right for them. With so many possibilities, there comes new hope for change and recovery.

 

5. Develop your confidence and self-esteem

Therapy is a space that welcomes all feelings.

There will be times when you may need to express more painful feelings, however, it is important to remember to make space for the positive, strong and healthy parts of you too. Not all sessions will or should be full of pain, sadness and anger. Several times I have been told by my clients that they found their sessions to be “fun” and “enjoyable”.

Creative therapy can help you balance the dark with the light. For example, as a Dramatherapist, I have helped clients create their own games where they can try out new rules and explore their limitations; play a different role to how they see themselves in their everyday life; write a story to explore the relational dynamics and conflicts, and to imagine different resolutions. These creative outlets can be fun, relaxing, invigorating, inspiring and strengthening.

Working creatively actively encourages you to make different choices, find your own voice and experience your own sense of agency. All in all, this process can help you to get to know yourself better. When you feel more self-assured and grounded in who you are, you can experience greater confidence and self-esteem.

 

Get started with a free 20 minute phone consultation. Let’s chat.


If you have any requests for a blog post, please feel free to send your questions, comments or ideas to: jamie@ytherapy.com

Please note that this blog is meant to be educational and should not be a substitute for therapy.

If you would like to enquire about therapy, please contact me or book an appointment: https://ytherapy.com/book-an-appointment/

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