Self-Care after Trauma: Toxic gender and sexuality mindsets (week 1 of my study).

1/20/2020, Week 1, “My Reality

In this post and all the ones following that mention “Week 1-5” will be revealing the raw data from my study, “Self-Care after Trauma: A heuristic inquiry using Art Therapy, Journaling, and Dream reflection.” The raw data consists of all my art, journal entries, and documented dreams that was expressed for the duration of the 5 week study. 

If you have not read the other posts where the title begins with the words “Self-Care after Trauma” I suggest you go do that first before continuing! They briefly explain my journey of choosing this topic, what this topic means, and the plan behind my study. You can read how I discovered what self-care after trauma truly meant, here. Then you can read the plan behind my study, here

Now, let’s dive into Week 1 of my study!

Within this first week I got straight to the root of my trauma. I reflected back on how it all started. How my views of gender and sexuality were immediately skewed by my environment. The first drawing that you see, “My reality,” were the messages I received as a child, which were then enforced by society, in regards to gender and sexuality when growing up. I further explored the messages I wrote on my art piece in my journal entry by writing:

  • If boys won’t leave you alone or are mean [to you] means they like you
  • Rude and disrespectful behavior from boys towards girls is just boys being boys
  • Boys can do or say almost anything but not girls
  • Don’t let boys touch you
  • My appearance matters, I need to look pretty, girls are weak
  • If boys talk about your body in a sexual way that’s a good thing, it means they like you
  • My worth is in my body/looks
  • I am an object for pleasure
  • My body will always be sexualized
  • Don’t have sex until marriage, sex is bad, it is a sin, “want to get pregnant?”

This is what I genuinely believed was normal as a child and teenager. I believed this was just the way it was. I was constantly fed these messages (or mindsets) from the media, my parents, peers, and other adult figures in my life. No one told me that any of what I had just listed was toxic. Which I believe was one main contributing factor to my silence when I experienced sexual trauma all throughout the 5th grade and again when I was 13. 

When I had finished my art piece, my mind was blown. I did not realize all these beliefs, these programs, that I had adopted.  I then journaled to reflect on how I was feeling when I was processing my trauma through art:

“I was instantly triggered, felt this stiff tangled ball in my chest shaking. Radiating outward to go throughout my body. My sexuality has been completely skewed throughout my entire life. I don’t have a healthy mindset around it because I have had my power taken away before I could even bloom. 

Sexuality is intertwined with the mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical, so when that is wounded it can affect the entire being. I feel like I haven’t been able to truly be myself with this wounded sexuality. 

This sense of [being] unsafe is still within me. So many boys and men have toxic mindsets about sexuality and it is damaging girls and women. I don’t feel safe… I don’t feel seen.” 

Week 1, dream reflection

For me, this is when I realized how unsafe I felt around men. In my personal experience it had been cis straight men that inflicted abuse and toxic thoughts around sexuality. I had been a victim on their behalf in different times of my life, but I didn’t realize that I still felt like a victim. 

This awareness was brought through my dreams. The first week of the study most of my dreams I was being attacked. Within the dreams I was experiencing sexual assault, someone trying to hurt me, or things, like cranes, (hence the painting) trying to attack me. I was experiencing a persistent sense of unsafety. In the dreams I had felt helpless, that I didn’t have a voice or my voice didn’t matter, and that my body was viewed as an object. 

Just within this first week of my study by practicing these self-care tools, I realized that my mind, body, and spirit often felt as if I was still currently experiencing sexual trauma. I was stuck in trauma time. 

In the fall of 2018, I had owned my suffering, but as a result of this study, for the first time, I was thoroughly confronting my psyche and current feelings after surviving sexual trauma. 

That is all of the raw data from Week 1! You can listen to me give further explanations on the artworks, journal entries, and dreams on my podcast, in episode 36. Any title through the blog or podcast that begins with “Self-Care after Trauma” will be me discussing the specifics of my research study. Stay tuned as I continue to go through the personal discoveries achieved each week of the study!

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When we see the light in ourselves, we create light in others.

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Much love,

Kelsey

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