By: Laura Sanscartier
(Trigger warning for sexual assault)
There’s a song by Sarah MacLachlan called “Hold On”. The first line is “Hold on, hold on to yourself, for this is gonna hurt like hell.” I often think of it when it comes to hard things in my life. Not because it’s “gonna hurt like hell”, but because I need to “hold on”.
When I was 20, I was sexually assaulted by a stranger. This was confusing for me, since I did every single thing that you’re NOT supposed to do. I blamed myself for what I was wearing, for the fact that I’d had a few drinks, for the fact that I didn’t fight back harder. The details are not fit for this forum, but I knew that what had happened was assault and I did nothing about it. And still I thought of that song, and I held on.
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. I have done what I can in my limited capacity for the cause. I use social media to educate and create awareness. I wear teal when I can. But what’s so insanely difficult is the fact that I now have PTSD to juggle with my Bipolar, OCD, and GAD. The Bipolar and PTSD are like friends who enjoy hanging out together and raising hell. And of course that hell is in my brain. Thoughts jumble and collide, and make me want to self-harm. The flashbacks and intrusive thoughts mix with the mania or depression for a stew of absolute agony. But then at times they’re quiet, and give me a bit of my own mind and memory back, so I can get things done.
I know there are many more people out there who deal with Bipolar Disorder and a trauma history. I wish I could hug each and everyone of you, for you are brave and wonderful people. I hope you have found ways to cope with this mix of assaults on the brain. For me there are some helpful ways to bring things down. I’d like to share them with you.
1. Coloring– this is a great way to focus the mind elsewhere, especially when your brain won’t shut up.
2. Journaling– getting your thoughts, however disjointed or hard they may be, out on paper is one way of sweeping things out of the head.
3. Hot/cold beverage– holding onto a cup of something hot or cold and drinking it can help bring down the level of fire in our heads.
4. Walk– even if it’s down the street (which is all I can usually manage) can open up new thought patterns in the brain.
5. Talk– call a friend, a family member, a help line. Talking through the agony can make it less so.
Through all this mess of assault and Bipolar, there is one thing I hope we can all do: Hold On.