I talk a bit about what's behind the name of the podcast, and then walk you through a simple grounding and centering exercise that you can add to your self-care tool kit.
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Hi there, thank you so much for joining me. I’m Hecate, and this is Finding OK, a podcast for survivors of sexual assault and abuse. Today I’d like to talk a bit about what exactly I mean by the phrase, “Finding OK”, and then I’m going to walk you through a grounding exercise you can add to your self-care arsenal.
*Intro music by Ramshackle Glory* 0:22
*Drums, and then uplifting folk/punk chords on guitar* Dalia never showed me nothing but kindness. She would say: “I know how sad you get". And some days, I still get that way, But it gets better, it gets better, it gets better. Sweetie, it gets better, I promise you. And she'd tell me...[Chorus] Your heart is a muscle the size of your fist. Keep on loving, keep on fighting. And hold on, and hold on. Hold on for your life…*fade out as guitar chords play*
A trauma throws our internal world into chaos. It’s a significant event that throws everything out of balance. It needs to be processed, and it’s a lot to process. Some of the worst pain we experience is often in the weeks or months immediately after the trauma. That’s when we’re coming to grips with how different everything is, how disrupted we feel. It’s the time when we’re coming to grips with what has occurred and trying to understand how it’s affecting us, and how it’s going to continue to affect us. The first year is especially hard for most people but timelines are different for everyone. It isn’t linear either, trauma lays low and pops up again. Trauma anniversaries are a big one for a lot of people, but it can happen without warning. There are waves and you have to be adaptable, which is difficult, because all you want is to feel normal again. Something that would come up continuously for me, and comes up for a lot of people is this: “I just want to be ‘ok’ again.” That’s it. That’s the wish. I just want to be “ok”. I’ve thought a lot about it over the years. To me, it’s a wish for a stable baseline. Survivors express this wish from a place of pain and emotional and mental chaos. They’re so exhausted by the trauma they don’t say, “I want to be happy again” they often say, “I want to be ok again” They’ll settle for “Fine”. When you’re in the thick of it, “fine” or “ok” seems like another dimension. It seems unreachable and you remember it fondly from a daily reality of constantly fucked up and trying to play the part of a halfway functional person. Your former neutral baseline becomes a goal. I’m going to say right off the bat, if that’s where you’re at when you’re listening to this – you will be ok again. You will be happy again. When you’re healing from a trauma you’ve been given this unbearably difficult experience that you need to process, and that takes time. A trauma shifts your world and your sense of self, that’s why it can feel like you’re losing your damn mind, why up can become down and it can feel like you’re standing on the ceiling or underwater and everyone else is telling you to just get over it.
Trauma shifts everything and it takes time and healing to reorient yourself. I don’t think it’s so much that your baseline is gone, I think it just moves on you, and you have to find it. You have to find your new “ok”. And there you go, *trumpet noise* Finding OK. That’s the work.
I think hearing from other survivors is an important part of this personal work. If you’re still raw, and you’re grappling with everything, it helps to hear the voices of people who have been where you are, and to hear them say, “It gets better”. When you’re raw, it can feel like you’re lost at sea. The voices of other survivors are an orienting force, it’s like they draw you a map. You still have to chart your own course, no one can do that for you; but it’s a lot easier to do with a map; with the knowledge that there’s land, and that it’s reachable.
And now I’d like to offer a grounding exercise. This is easily changed and adapted. It’s very basic. If you’re ever starting to feel overwhelmed, if you’re trying to fend off a panic attack, or work your way through one, if you’re starting to disassociate, or you’re in crisis, this can be used to help bring you back to yourself. I’m going to walk you through it and you can do it with me to help it sink in so that it’s more available to you when you’re feeling ungrounded. If you’re joining me for that reason now. I’m here, and you’re gonna be ok. I’ll be recording a separate episode another time that’s just the grounding exercise so it can be used for people in crisis.
I’d like you to sit on the floor if you can. If you’re able to go outside, nature is very healing, but I know that’s not always possible for everyone. If it’s possible to get to the ground floor that’s ideal. The idea is to get as close as you can to the actual earth itself. Whatever you can manage is workable and I’ll talk you through it. Sit or lay down comfortably if possible, do what works for you. Next, place your hands palm down on the ground. They can be in front of you or to your sides, whatever feels right and powerful to you. Take deep breaths. As you breathe I want you to feel the earth’s stability through the palms of your hands. I want you to feel the earth’s presence as an anchor for you in this moment. Feel gravity as a stabilizing force. The earth is here for you always, holding you. If it helps you, imagine the vibration, the energy of the earth radiating up through your palms, up your arms, and flowing into your body. If you aren’t able to get to the ground what I want you to try doing is envisioning the structure that you’re in, the foundations of the building, the support beams, the floors and walls. I want you to know that the earth is holding the building, and you inside it. Imagine the energy of the earth traveling up the structure to reach you. With your palms on the ground or the floor, feel that truth. It’s always there, and you can tap into it at any time. The earth is always there for you. Once you have that I want you to take three deep breaths if you can. If you’re having trouble breathing, that’s ok, just make them as deep as you can without discomfort. I’m going to breathe with you and as we do, focus on the earth beneath you, and the feeling of the air filling your lungs. Imagine the air as white light filling your body if that helps. Ready?
Now I want you to keep that feeling of connection with the earth in your body, but I want you to move your hands and place them over your heart at the center of your chest. It’s ok if your heart is beating a little fast, if feeling your heartbeat causes any anxiety then just hold your hands an inch or two away from your chest. Whatever works for you.
Now what we’re going to do is root ourselves in the present moment in an even more tangible way. Say these things out loud if possible.
Say, “My name is such and such”. State the time and date, your location, both specific and in the world, then say something very basic about what you’re experiencing, (it can be physical or emotional) and then end by saying, “And I’m going to be okay.”
So for example, “My name is Hecate F. Okay. It is 12:35am on Tuesday, July 28th, 2020. I’m sitting in my room in Randomtown, New England State, in the United States of America. I’m feeling some anxiety and some tightness in my chest, and I’m going to be okay.”
And you can sit there breathing for as long as you like. To help you get the hang of it I’m going to ask you questions now and you can speak your answers out loud, and then I’ll say “You’re going to be okay. I’m going to be okay.”, so you can join me. And then we’re going to take three more deep breaths together. Ready?
What’s your name?
What time is it?
What day of the week is it?
What’s the date and the year?
Where are you right now? What are your surroundings?
Where are you in the world?
What are you feeling?
You’re going to be okay. I’m going to be okay.
And breathe in. *Inhale*
Wonderful. Now I’m going to say a few things about this exercise just to add some clarification for future use.
When you say something about your current physical or emotional state the idea is to connect with what you’re feeling, but to state it in a way that feels manageable. That might be difficult sometimes if you’re in crisis. It can take practice. I’m going to give an example and then talk a bit about it. “My name is Alias McPseudonym and everything is on fire and I am covered in bees!” Two things. First: while hyperbole or creative or exaggerated expression can be helpful sometimes, that’s not the purpose of this exercise. I would suggest finding more focused language or physical sensations to help you ground yourself in your body and in the present moment. Second: If you chose that language because that is the literal description of the situation, everything is actually on fire and you are literally covered in bees…please take care of that…This is an exercise to use when you are not in immediate danger – when you are physically safe but maybe feel unsafe.
What you choose to say about how you’re feeling is up to you and this is very flexible, you can add or subtract things from this exercise to suit your needs. It may not be helpful to say something about what you’re feeling. You may not feel comfortable connecting with your body in that way and that’s ok too. There are some conditions or states where that’s not helpful or possible sometimes. And if you’re trying to connect with your body but all you can manage is, “I feel my hands on the floor.” That’s ok too. Whatever works, and whatever helps. Another thing you can do to help yourself is add something from your environment to help you connect to your surroundings. In my earlier personal example I said I was in my room. If I’m struggling or disassociating it could be helpful to say something like, “I am in my room and the walls are blue.” Look around yourself and make an observation. Making that observation and stating it uses different brain functions and that process can help you. Choose something neutral to focus on, something that isn’t stressful or emotionally loaded.
When it comes to stating the time and the date, most people have a cell phone these days and those are easy things to check. If you don’t have a clock near you, that’s fine. Do what you can; do what helps. If you need to walk out of an office building or a store and stand in a parking lot and say “It’s sometime in the mid afternoon and I think it’s a Tuesday in the Summer of 2020.” That’s great. That helps. Do what you can.
If you have a spiritual practice or religious beliefs you can easily adapt this and make it a prayer or meditation, that can be very helpful for some people.
The idea is that this is another tool in your tool belt for self-care emergencies or daily practice.
Thank you so much for listening. We are winding down on Season 1. August 11th will be the 1 year anniversary of Finding OK and I’ll be launching Season 2. I already have some wonderful new guests lined up that I’m very excited to talk to. Season 2 will start with a fresh recording of the Healing Affirmations from the first episode. I’ll be adding new affirmations and you still have time to write in with suggestions for new ones. You can reach out through social media or write in to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can reach me there with episode requests, feedback, or if you’re interested in joining me on the show. I would love to hear from you.
Finding OK is entirely crowd funded and you are the ones helping me make this happen. Thank you so much. The Go Fund Me can be found on the podcast website and I post links on my Facebook. Feel free to friend me, Hecate F. Okay *spells name* Like the Finding OK Facebook page for updates on new and upcoming episodes as well as relevant articles, art, and memes. I’ve started a private Facebook group for survivors only. You are welcome there. You can also follow Finding OK on Instagram.
Thank you so much for your continued support. Please subscribe, friend, like, follow, and donate if you can.
This has been Finding OK. Black Lives Matter. Take Care of yourself.
*Outro music by Ramshackle Glory* 17:44
*fade in to folk/punk chords of guitar* Your heart is a muscle the size of your fist. Keep on loving. Keep on fighting. And hold on, and hold on, hold on for your life *echoes into brief silence*…(Chorus and full band) Your heart is a muscle the size of your fist. Keep on loving. Keep on fighting. And hold on, and hold on, hold on for your life. *triumphant and uplifting music plays till end*
Or *jibberish sound* wow *breathy laugh* ha what?