CJ 520 Violence and Trauma Blog
I grew up as an only daughter with both of my parents. My older brothers came from Dominican Republic when I was a teen. I am very attached to my mother, we do everything together, we cannot be apart from one another. I also hold a close relationship with my brothers kids. I have a seven year old niece, a five year old nephew and a seven month old nephew. “ Children become attached to whoever functions as their primary caregiver.” When my niece Angelis was born my family and I spent a lot of time with her. I would pick her up every weekend and take her over my house for sleepovers. When her brother Angel was born the treatment wasn't equal. I preferred spending time with my niece over him. Girls are more fun to shop for, hair bows, and dress up. I would always leave my nephew home with my sister in law and my brother. I remember he will stay behind crying ( although he was a just months).
Reading A Boy Thats Was Raised As A Dog changed the lives of my family. I know that if by any means me not spending enough time with my nephew traumatized him , one of the only ways to fix our relationship was by building a better one. I started doing extra activities with just him. I got him to draw and I got him to come out his shell. Now, I see that he is more social around the family , and he is sharing ideas of what he likes to do for fun and he is also demonstrating love towards me. I don't know if he was traumatized, but what I do know is that it is very easy to neglect a child without malice. I do have a favorite, but I learned to treat them all the same way. I make sure to spend a lot of time with my newborn nephew and we share a lot of skin to skin contact. Chapter 7, taught me that secure attachment as I related the definition to how my niece feels towards me. She confides in me and tells me everything that goes on at home and in school. I am the first person she goes to for adult like decisions. I feel that although I do not live with them, I give them the feeling of being met and understood. I feel that we crave for each others connection. During this course I learned to become a better caregiver. I want my niece, nephew and future kids to be physically and emotionally healthy all throughout. I want them to know what feels good, what feels bad, and how strong a situation can make them without hitting rock bottom. I want to help them never feel neglected and limit any abuse they can undergone as they grow up.
Self care is important for everyone- including myself. This a basic, and almost obvious statement but for me it took me far too long to realize. When I get stressed the way I cope is by doing more. This may seem counterintuitive, and often it is. Whenever I feel overwhelmed by school, family, friends or just life in general my natural reaction is to just do something else rather than deal with the problem at hand. A few months ago I couldn’t even fathom the idea of just doing nothing or doing something purely for myself. Years of doing this made me normalize my behavior. I would explain to my mom, my boyfriend, friends, doctor, everyone that cared about me that always being busy calmed me down. I was lying to them and more importantly I was lying to myself.
I told myself that because I was doing something productive that it was healthy. My anxiousness and feeling like I lacked any real control in life typically manifested itself by me becoming obsessed with menial things that I felt like I could control. For example I would rewrite my class notes 4 times, not because I needed to and not even necessarily because it helped me learn better. I did it because it was something I could control. I thought this process was cathartic, I thought it helped me calm down. Looking back I realized that it was just another stressor in my life. My life was being controlled by what I thought I was controlling. I became obsessed with counting everything I did, from the notes I took to the number of grapes I ate, I really felt like I was doing well. Because I was getting good grades and maintaining important relationships in my life I refused to see that this was unhealthy. To me this was self-care.
I always recognized the importance of self-care, but not always for myself. If anyone suggested I try something other than my rituals that gave me a sense of control, I would very defensive and explain why my self care was the best. I was so in need of structure and control that the thought of doing something healthy, and relaxing like taking time to breathe or sit down and have a nice meal or even something as watching TV felt like a waste of time for me.
My journey to discovering self care has not been an easy one, and I am still trying to figure out what works best for me. However, this class in addition to working at SARP has helped me see that yes even I need self care. Everyone needs it including myself. Taking time for yourself is healthy, not lazy. I would be lying if I said there aren’t days when my stress gets the best of me and I rewrite my notes or count my chewing, but the more I practice my new healthier self care the less frequent these days become.
While I am hesitant to say that my coping strategies before were ‘wrong’ (I think it was right for me at the time), I have adopted new techniques that make me feel better. Self care looks different for everyone, and unfortunately there isn’t a one size fits all self-care trick that will work for everyone. However I have been fortunate to find some techniques that work for me. Some of them may sound silly and that’s okay!
Self-care for me is being open and not holding everything. Before I wanted everyone to think that I was some super human that never needed help and could deal with anything, I realize how detrimental that was to my health. I was always stressed, my body hurt and I never slept enough. I couldn’t even enjoy time with loved ones without finding something I could control and do. However with love and support I was able to find new ways to care for myself. I am now more open about how I am feeling, instead of always saying I’m fine, I am honest about how I really am feeling with a few close loved ones.
Additionally, I accept that my school work isn’t perfect. I enjoy school and learning so much more now that I can focus on just absorbing the material rather than my need to have the same notes four times. I go to the gym and take walks sounds simple, because it it but it helps me. If I want to dedicate my life to helping others I need to first learn to help myself.
For my final project I am writing a proposal to research the effect of CrossFit programming as treatment for PTSD among military veterans. It makes me think about the need to find something to do to reduce or cope with stress in your life. Everyone has different hobbies or interests that work for them to relax and decompress. Personally, I love playing golf and doing CrossFit. During the summer golf takes up more time, then in the winter CrossFit takes center stage. Some people like to read or run or do yoga. The hobby doesn't matter, what matters is that you keep with it and don't let life get in the way. Even if you take 15 or 20 minutes a day to just practice breathing exercises it is important that you stay with it. Life can be overwhelming for everyone, especially those working with incidents involving trauma, and you need to find something that works for you to help relieve some of the stress. Self care is unbelievably important and needs to take precedence.
Family Justice Center (FJC)
Location and Hours
989 Commonwealth Ave. Boston, MA
9am-5pm Monday-Friday (FJC, hours for partner organizations may vary).
Appointments are available for after-hours appointment.
About the Center
The Family Justice Center (FJC) is part of the Boston Public Health Commission. It provides services to victims of abuse and assault, and their families, through nonprofit and government agencies. The FJC is also an initiative of the Mayor’s Office and the Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel F. Conley, and the Family Justice Division of the Boston Police Department. The center provides services to all survivors regardless of their immigration status, race, sex or orientation.
The center provides a wide range of services free of charge, childcare during visits, and no is appointment necessary for services. The FJC also provides 24-hour domestic violence, sexual assault, and child abuse resources.
To provide survivors the tools needed to start over, The FJC provides health and professional development services. In addition to providing a safe space for to talk about your experiences, the center also helps victims learn about their options. The FJC can help victims navigate the legal system and inform them of their rights. Partners at the FJC can conduct interviews, medical exams and provide counseling to survivors. Partners will also offer legal aid, advocacy and help with obtaining financial assistance in order to ensure that survivors are able to remain in a safe, stable environment. The FJC also works to to implement violence prevention services in the community to ensure that services are accessible to all.
Advocacy and Counseling
Civil Legal Assistance
GLBT Domestic Violence Attorney Program
Children’s and Youth Services
Children’s Advocacy Center of Suffolk County
Boston Police Department/ Family Justice Group
Crimes Against Children Unit (CACU)
Domestic Violence Unit (DVU)
Human Trafficking Unit (HTU)
Sexual Assault Unit (SAU)
Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office
Other Supportive Services
Dress for Success Boston
No matter what you do, one could always take "better" care of themselves. Whether it is being a first responder, veteran, or everyday person, people can experience trauma in so many different ways. Taking care of yourself not only physically, but mentally, can be the difference in your life. It is such an important thing that so many people just simply look over.
Self care was never something I thought too much about, but this class has really opened my eyes to trauma and how it can affect me. Especially with my profession, it is definitely something I need to look into more. As the semester has gone on, I realized that my way of caring for myself was to workout, which a lot of people do. The only issue for me though is actually getting to the gym as it takes some time. If I had any built up anger from something I would usually run it out or lift it out. When I put those headphones on and listen to my playlist, I am really in my own world. I focus on nothing else but bettering myself and at the end of my workout I feel better than I did before I went to the gym. I try to go to the gym as much as possible, but sometimes I am not able to make it there. I try to go everyday I can but when I found myself unable to, my day just felt different. I felt almost mentally tired as the day went on. Working out was kind of my way of getting ready for the day and being prepared to take it on. Luckily, the semester has given me more avenues and taught me that working out isn't the only thing I can do.
Yoga has been a huge topic this semester. Personally, it is not something that really interests me that much, but it is really good to know about all the benefits yoga has. The thing with yoga is that you can do it virtually anywhere. Whether if thats in a studio at your gym or even your bedroom, it does not really matter. I always see people doing it at the beach during the summer and in parks. Even doing certain aspects of yoga, like breathing techniques and meditation have great results when talking about self care. Self care isnt just physical, it has a lot to do with being in the right mental state as well. If you are constantly stressed or annoyed when working, you cannot preform you duties to the best of your ability and your production decreases. Keeping yourself in the best mental shape should go hand in hand with keeping yourself in the best physical shape as well. When it comes to yoga, I do eventually see myself trying it but for now, I am going to stick with my normal routine of working out.
People in every aspect deal with their own problems. You never know what someone has gone through and it is important to know this, especially if you are going to join the profession of law enforcement.
I think it is so important to find just one thing that can benefit you mentally. Even if you dont feel as if you need to do something to better your mental health, I say just try it. Whether its cleaning, listening to music, working out, going out for a walk, run, bike ride, etc, I think it is so important to find something that can more or less be your escape.
Throughout the past couple of months, I have been really interested in learning more about the physical and psychological effects that antidepressants can have on patients that are prescribed and use them, in addition to the ways in which people utilize both acts of self-care and the use of antidepressants to manage symptoms of trauma, anxiety, depression, and the like. In today’s society, it is easy to see how spiraling into a depression or anxious state could be easy. When going through our day-to-day activities, its not hard to forget to stop and take a moment to check in with ourselves, both emotionally and physically. Personally, on a busy day when I’m running around without stopping I find myself completely deflated at the end of the night, with my brain feeling like one huge vat of information, worries and anxieties. I think that when someone is on an antidepressant, it becomes much easier to say, “well I’m taking my pill, so that means that I should feel okay,” when in reality taking antidepressants without allowing time for self-care can prove to be detrimental.
Living with depression can make self-care seem extremely hard, or even impossible. Frontal Lobe dysfunction affects several different skills, such as attention, decision-making, emotional control, reasoning, self-monitoring, will power, and the like. When we find ourselves struggling to complete the most basic of life activities such as showering, eating, etc., it becomes so easy to lose willpower and fall back into depression. It has been encouraged time and time again for those struggling with these types of issues to create individualized self-care regiments to carry out in order to stay mentally and physically healthy. Things such as spending time in nature or keeping a routine have been proven to be largely beneficial in helping those that suffer from depression create a more livable day-to-day experience.
When I first started experiencing initial signs of depression, I was not interested in taking medication. To me, it felt like cheating, and it felt like I wasn’t even strong enough to be a living, breathing, person on my own. As the depression continued to get worse, it seemed like there was no other option besides medication, so I jumped in. In the midst of my treatment, I began to feel so much better and was amazed that a pill could have such a strong effect on the way my brain was functioning. But, that meant that I was terrified to come off of the drug. Now, 2 years later, I still feel scared to stop treatment, but I’m confident that by taking this medication over the past two years I have been caring for myself in a way that my body and brain could not. By taking my antidepressants, I was giving myself a chance to get up every morning and not be burdened by the responsibility of making myself feel happy, because the pills were apparently doing that for me. However, this doesn’t go without saying that antidepressants have come with their own share of side effects, or that I should have stopped caring for myself in other ways.
Because I was so enamored by the effects of my medication, I stopped eating and sleeping in a healthy manner. I stopped going for runs, going to the gym, and reading or writing for fun. I stopped doing all of the things I enjoyed, and started taking part in more toxic activities. What I failed to realize was that the antidepressant doesn’t do all of the work for you, it just gives you a springboard for you to do that work yourself. This is why I believe that if antidepressants seem to be the correct mode of treatment, it is also important for health-care professionals to stress the importance of continuing self-care routines.
Vicarious trauma is a secondary form of trauma that is caused by the constant exposure to traumatic events and materials. You don't need to be a survivor to experience vicarious trauma. For example: BARCC is a non-profit organization that works with rape survivors, so BARCC's staff is constantly working with traumatized victims; that itself can trigger reactions in workers similar to those experienced by the survivor because they hear stories of sexual abuse everyday and the staff is exposed to traumatic material all the time. BARCC has a vicarious trauma program director who deals with the staff. Vicarious trauma caught my attention during class because criminal justice is my major and I plan to work with anti-violence organizations in the future, so I suggest all students who are planning on becoming police officers, fire-fighters, emergency care dispatchers, nurses, doctors etc to be aware of the signs and symptoms of vicarious trauma such as isolation, anxiety, mood change, ulcers, decrease in quality work, no motivation, loss of interest, impatience etc. Vicarious trauma can impact a person's mental health, so self-care must be considered essential for those who are frequently exposed and dealing with traumatic events and materials. Without self-care, professionals who are in constant contact with violence and trauma won't be able to help someone else. Suggestion for those who have a stressful job: take real breaks during a work day and go do something that has nothing to do with your job, like for example, listen to music or read a book, go exercise or even arrange lunch dates with your family or a friend. Any other suggestions? Please feel free to share your insight regarding vicarious trauma. Below website is very information regarding vicarious trauma.
This class has opened my eyes and made me realize that some of the activites I incorporate into my daily routine, are part of my strategy for self-care. I never truly realized that when I worked out I was doing/enjoying it because it was relieving stress. Most of the time, in my situation when one of my sisters and I ran into family problems at home we immediately took our emotions and problems to the BU gym. We knew that the gym environment alone automatically made us feel better, not even going in with the intentions of trying to lose weight. Not only did it quickly make us feel better but it made us ten times happier. Even though endorphins do have a play in the fact that we felt better, it was the idea of the gym being our sanctuary. Before our violence and trauma class, I never noticed that our gym sessions were not only making me physically healthier, but mentally as well. I started realizing how important it was to take care of yourself when we learned about the various strategies others use for self care. Especially in this field of work, the importance of incorporating your own self care strategies in order to stay healthy and take care of yourself is extremely necessary, so you can safely continue on with your job.
Another form of self care I tend to use is swinging! My sister and I started to take our stress to the swings a lot this year. We started going to this one park late at night which overlooks Boston. We called this our form of therapy before I even understood that people actually do small activities like this when needed. Even though it sounds silly to do at this age, I feel like I never appreciated swinging when I was younger. I was just doing it as a form of play. I was always trying to compete with my friends or siblings, seeing who can get higher, who can twist and turn and so on. But doing it now, all I feel is complete relaxation. The reason we go at night is because the silence surrounding us and the breeze flowing through us is almost like it is allowing us to let go of what ever is bothering us at the time and reach a clear my mind. I started to focus on my breath more allowing me to calm down and reach a zen like envrionment.
Lastly, my puppy Nico has really been one of the best self care strategies out there. I could tell my family was starting to take a turn filling up with a lot of pent up anger, even the first dog we got was looking a bit bored with life. But my sisters and I decided to disobey our parents wishes and bring home another a dog. Nico has brought the life and happiness back into our lives and has given my other a dog a play mate. It is not hard to realize that when you heard 'petting a dog makes you live longer' as a kid, it only makes more and more sense as you grow up. Dogs are always there to return the love with a wagging tail and a warm greeting. I noticed that Nico has allowed my parents a chance to step away from reality and enjoy the constant positive vibes he sends off. He is there to watch T.V with my parents after a long day at work, and is there to keep us all company when we get lonely. Thinking about the trained therapy dogs which is not something I hear much about, I believe getting a puppy or even visiting some is really a great self-care strategy people should utilize.
Furthermore, learning about all the many types of self care strategies people use such as yoga, meditation, painting, and even focusing on your breathing, has made me realize everyone has a different approach to finding their therapeutic activity, there is not just one way to do it. There are so many different ways people can do to find what helps them feel at ease with their struggles and gain happiness, it does not just have to be what you hear about that works best for others. I understand much clearer now that self-care is a necessity in your life. While taking care of others we have to remember to take care of ourselves because at the end of the day, no one can truly understand how we are feeling except ourselves.
Self-care is so important, but some people think that it has to take a lot of effort to do. Sometimes it does; sometimes it doesn't; it depends what you're doing. Self-care is taking care of the body and mind. You can do many things to do this.
The most common thing recommended is to exercise, to just get yourself moving. This doesn't mean you have to go bike or run long distances though. You could lift weights, but you have to go to the gym to workout. You can go on a leisurely bike ride or skateboard an a path, or even just go for a relaxing walk. If you were to do things outside, which is self-care in itself, it would be best to do so as outside of a city or urban environment as you can. In Boston or DC, for example, it may take a little while to get outside of the city or urban environments, but there are so many paths along the rivers with beautiful sites, and trees and grass and flowers. Getting yourself moving outside in nature is a great way to self-care.
Something else that's highly recommended is yoga. You can do it in your room, with friends, or in a studio. You can do it with calming music or without. Along with yoga comes meditation, breathing, and mindfulness. These seem daunting, but by no means do they have to involve a lot. Meditation can be right when you wake up in the morning for just 5, 10, or 15 minutes. It's advised to do this in a place where you feel safe and comfortable, and where you can just let go of yourself. Breathing can be done wherever and whenever you need it. Typically it's associated with meditating, but there are so many different kinds of breathing that can help you it's its own category. Mindfulness also doesn't have to be a lot. It can be just paying attention to your body, how it feels in certain situations, and how things make you feel in situations as well. It can be just recognizing what you're feeling, and accepting it. Mindfulness can be paying more attention to your friends, roommates, or people around you and simply recognizing what they do for you and being grateful, and letting them know that you're grateful. Doing things for other people and letting them know you care and you appreciate them can go a long way not only for you, but for them as well.
Something else that you can do for self-care is cleaning your room. I've found that if my room is messy, so is my mind. By cleaning your room you can give yourself space to breath. A leg off of that is putting away the pile of clothes that always sits on your bed or chair, and only leaving out what you wear every day like a sweatshirt or sweatpants. Another thing that helps, which doesn't really make sense until you actually do it, is making your bed. Having your bed neat and clean ties in with the cleaning your room part, but having a made and tucked in bed that you can crawl into after a long day just makes going to bed that much better.
Trauma is not exclusive to any particular person. It happens to everyone in any shape or form. Trauma can be mental, physical, emotional, and even environmental and it can range in severity as well. People handle trauma in many different ways but one thing that people should all have and I encourage them to practice is self-care when dealing with trauma. What is self-care one might ask? Well depending on whom you are it can mean a lot of different things however; ultimately it is the practice of having a positive and healthy mind, body, and soul.
The greatest thing about self-care is that it’s not a one size fits all kind of deal. There are many different ways a person can partake in self-care which include but are not limited to meditation, yoga, support groups, breathing exercises, physical exercise/hobbies, talk therapy, and engaging in artistic hobbies like cooking for example to name a few. Being involved in such activities as I described allows for one to get in tune with themselves which thus allows for greater connection with others among so many other great things.
Feminist and online personality Shelah Marie uses her online platform to promote meditation among other things. She uses her own traumatic stories to educate others about self-care and self-love. One thing meditation has taught her is that you need to take care of yourself first. She states in one her blog posts about mediation is that “no one is coming to save you. You will not get anything you need/want that you first don’t give yourself.” I think that this is very powerful statement because it could mean that you’re finally putting yourself first despite all the problems you might face. It’s similar to being on a plane. They always say put on your own oxygen mask before anyone else’s. I interpret that as meaning how effective can you be in a traumatic situation if you can’t take care of yourself to help the next person.
I myself participate in cross fit as a form of self-care although lately with the demands of school and an even more demanding full time job it has been extremely difficult to participate in it the way I would like to. However, it is definitely something I anticipate getting back to. When I did go to classes, I felt great mentally, emotionally, and physically. I was motivated to do more things in my day to day life and I got great sleep. I was able to think more clearly and if I was going through a stressful time I found that I was more motivated and determined to seek a positive outcome of any situation. I didn’t hold onto to negative energy and cross fit did all of that for me. I also wrote poems which, helped just as much as cross fit did. When I wrote down what I was thinking it became something real that I couldn’t suppress which, allowed for me to deal with things and not let them linger and turn into something bigger.
In the end, everyone in one way or another has experienced trauma in some form or fashion. In order to not lose oneself and have have a healthy mind, body, and soul I encourage self-care and self-love.