April 14, 2017
Written by Dawn Helmrich, Data and Outcomes Manager at United Way & Founder of Denim Day Milwaukee
I am a survivor of rape.
It’s not an easy thing to say out loud or even on paper, but it is a reality in my life.
Over the years, I have become more and more involved in doing advocacy work in the area of sexual assault. Telling my story and talking about victim blaming, statistics, and myths about sexual harm, abuse, assault, and rape can be very, very hard work. And, while I have become accustomed to speaking to the media and to large crowds of people about these topics, the toll it takes on me never goes away. Even in writing this short piece I feel my face getting flushed and my heart speeding up.
That, among many other reasons, is why self-care is so important and why I try to make it a priority in my life. On April 1 of this year, the Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault hosted their annual Survivors and Allies Day of Healing. This is a time for survivors and their support people to come together and take time to focus on the healing process.
During this event, I attended a session on poetry where I cried healthy tears of love for myself and celebrated the strength within me. I did Reiki, a new experience for me and one that I truly loved. I had a massage and ate with my people, the people who have faced trauma; all of our stories are very different, but we all have one thing in common: the ability to heal in our truth.
We underestimate the power of self-care. Taking time for ourselves makes us better parents, better partners, and better people. It is easy to assume that self-care is selfish when, in fact, it is one of the most selfless things you can do for the people around you.
Reducing stress and relaxing the mind and body are important to your health and well-being. Self-care doesn’t have to be extravagant; go out and take a walk, breathe deeply at your desk, listen to music and sing loudly in your car. Just do something for you.
I couldn’t do the work that I do without putting myself first once in a while, focusing on the healing of my insides so when people see me on the outside it is a true reflection of who I am as a person and not just an act that I portray. I don’t have to pretend to be strong-- I am strong because I take care of me.