By Emilie Trepanier
The word “survivor” is often associated with women. When we think of victims of abuse, we tend to forget that victims are not limited to gender. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), 1 in 9 men experiences severe physical violence from their intimate partners. Furthermore, nearly half of all women and men have experienced psychological aggression by an intimate partner in their lifetime, according to The National Domestic Violence Hotline.
Men are often forgotten in times of tribulation, possibly because men are silent sufferers, feeling they need to be the protectors from violence. However, they too experience abuse. Here are some self-care tips for men, because while I have a female perspective, I have the human perspective – and some activities work for humans in general.
Whether it’s journaling, artwork, poetry, or audio journaling, take time to personally reflect on your day and your feelings. This will help you to organize your thoughts and make some sense of them. If you were to read my journal, most of the entries start out pretty angry. As they continue, I find clarity and typically my entries end on a happy note. When I look back on my journals, I see patterns, or I can see how I really felt at a given time. It still brings clarity to new situations.
The Harvard Health Letter reported that scientists have found depressed persons have a smaller hippocampus than other non-depressed brains. Exercise supports cell growth in the hippocampus. Exercise isn’t a cure-all, but getting into the habit of it can encourage a sense of purpose and confidence. Building strength can help you recognize your strength. This activity also coincides with reflection, if you choose to incorporate yoga or meditation into your exercise routine.
Join a Club
Join an intramural sport, or golf team, or Dungeons and Dragons campaign – whatever your thing is, find a group of like-minded people and be a member! This can help you find a community and develop new friendships in an environment you are already familiar with and comfortable in. Isolation is the leading factor in spiraling depression. These activities can help you continue to be social and not close yourself off from the world.
Learn a New Subject
There are plenty of online resources providing free classes on any given subject. Filling your brain with new knowledge will help you feel like you are moving forward in life. Learning also helps us exercise our brains and build new neuropathways. When we connect the neurons from our right brain to our left brain it supports greater effectiveness in all areas of life; particularly in social arenas. Learning a new subject may inspire you to learn a new skill as well, which could potentially bring you more joy into your life.
This is the self-care activity that gets me through my darkest hours. It’s not just about knowing I’m helping someone else, it’s about being inspired by the people I’m helping. I worked with a theatre group for special needs adults for a few months, and every Saturday I volunteered brought me the most joy. Being around people who are full of so much light brought so much light to my life. Find a nonprofit in your realm of interests – animal shelter or beach cleanup, for example – and put it in your schedule.
Goal setting gets you excited about the future. It brings a new sense of hope into your life and encourages people to try to be a little better. While checking off completed goals feels really good and fulfilling, make sure this isn’t your main goal. I know it sounds cheesy to remind you to find the joy in the journey, but it’s true. Ultimately, the real goal should be positive self-growth of any kind.
Revisit Your Healing
Therapy is a powerful healing tool that I encourage all people to utilize if they have the opportunity. Healing from trauma isn’t like wrapping a broken box up until it’s brand new, fixed with a bow, sometimes trauma seeps in through the cracks. Revisiting therapy every now and then doesn’t mean you are broken, have given up or are moving backward. It can help push you even further forward when you feel yourself getting lost again, and that’s okay.
Survivors are not one-size-fits-all. Neither are our experiences. We must not forget about our silent survivors; the men in our lives who are not often recognized as victims of domestic violence. We see you, we hear you, and we support you.
If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, there is help. You can visit the Break the Silence website at www.breakthesilencedv.org or chat with one of our helpline advocates at 855-287-1777.