December 20, 2017
Many of us have experienced abuse or violence at some point in our lives. These experiences can cause lasting trauma reactions. Traumatic experiences are those that overwhelm a person’s regular capacity to cope and process the situation. Trauma reactions can leave you feeling, thinking, or reacting in ways that feel out of your control.
Having the support of family and friends is helpful in the healing process. Trauma is painful to deal with alone, but sometimes it’s even more painful to imagine discussing it with your loved ones.
Trauma recovery is different for everyone, and you are the expert in your own situation. It’s entirely up to you to decide when and how to share your story. If you’re ready to tell someone you love that something’s happened to you, here are 5 tips that may be helpful:
1. Think about what you need from the person you’re telling, and let them know
This might look like, “I’m not really ready to problem-solve right now, I just need someone to listen,” “I’m nervous that you won’t believe me, and I need you to keep an open mind” or “I don’t want to upset you, and I hope we can talk about this calmly even though it’s hard.”
2. Collect your thoughts
Sharing your story is very personal, and emotions can make it challenging to communicate the way you want to. If there’s someone you trust who is aware of your experience, consider asking them if you can practice what you will say with them. You can also try making notes to frame what you want to say.
3. Be intentional in choosing how, when, where, and if you tell someone
You can pick a time and place where you feel safe, mentally and physically, to have the conversation. You can choose to change your mind, if it just doesn’t feel right.
4. Make an exit plan
If the conversation isn’t unfolding in the way you hoped, or is overwhelming, it’s okay to leave or change the subject. Remember that you deserve to be believed and you deserve support, even if the person you’re telling doesn’t offer that right away.
5. Allow yourself some time to do whatever is reassuring for you when the conversation is over
This can be having a friend standing by waiting to meet up and talk with you, or planning to go straight home where you can be alone. The unknown can be overwhelming, and having something safe and comfortable to look forward to can be helpful.
Note: The way someone reacts is beyond your control. The purpose of these tools is not to guarantee the reaction you’re hoping for, but to help you be as prepared and empowered as possible.
Please know that you are not alone. If you need to talk, we’re here to listen.
Safe Horizon’s Hotlines operate 24 hours a day, including on holidays. Your call is confidential. Whether you’re in crisis or you’re unsure if your experience constitutes abuse, violence, or crime, we’re here to help. Call 1-800-621-HOPE (4673) to speak with an advocate today or visit our Hotlines page for more information.