Five little letters and a hashtag, #metoo, opened a floodgate for women whose emotions and fears otherwise resided in the hidden reservoir of their psyches. The power of technology? Smartphones? Most certainly. Moreover, it reconfirms the contention of an increasing number of mental health professionals: A mere handheld device and screen can serve to transform the way we can heal emotional wounds that affect our mental health.
In the case of #metoo, the healing started simply by sharing the fact that you as a woman incurred the same sexual assaults as several hundred thousands of other women who conveyed their stories via Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. A consensus of psychotherapists maintains that mental scars from such events as sexual harassment or violence can begin to heal, though slowly, by simply knowing that other people share your emotional plight from such victimization.
“There can be a sense of empowerment, a sense of community because you realize you’re not alone and how pervasive it is,” states a Los Angeles psychologist in a recent Lifehacker article about sexual abuse survivors. This digital-world sharing can manifest itself by initiating further steps to heal such abuse and victimization. Such online therapy providers as Talkspace serve as examples. Via your handheld you can access psychotherapists and professional counselors, regardless of circumstances—faster than ever before—that help you deal with feelings triggered by those otherwise sequestered emotions or scars.
As a New York psychologist explains in the Australian news site’s article, triggering occurs when the body detects threats around us (i.e., harassment or violence) and then starts reacting or moving into a “fight, flight, or freeze” reaction. It can serve as a shield or a reflexive rant in response to the unjust harassment from your past.
Talkspace, particularly, provides a 24/7 means for women to contact their psychotherapist about an emerging issue, such as fights, flights, or freezes. Just like an email, your doctor simply returns your message as soon as he or she can, usually twice per day. There is also the option for video messages or live video so that a psychotherapist can see you on the screen, note your physical expressions, partially gauge your level of distress from such observation.
As a result of such accessible mental-health counseling and treatment, the patient is afforded a much less expensive means of receiving mental health treatment, not to mention the money spent on gas, parking, and other transportation fees.
Especially in the case of sexual abuse, contact via your smartphone allows you to talk or message when you know no one else is around. Should your trauma be wrought by an abusive spouse, you can more discreetly communicate with your Talkspace therapist without leaving a trail for your abuser to detect and possibly react with more violence. Such giveaways include sudden departures from the home for your doctor’s spontaneous appointment, a few hours spent outside the home or office, and even phone calls. Talkspace circumvents these giveaways.
Everything can be conveyed via texting and includes the option for scheduling a Skype-like session via Talkspace with your therapist or counselor when you are certain that your abusive spouse will be away or preoccupied. Call it a mental health panic room of sorts.
Your plight might be centered on something outside of the home, such as your place of work, your college classroom, or even the gym or other workout arena. Catcalls, whistles, repeated entreaties laden with sexual overtones from a male co-worker, the lecherous stares from a man at work or in the gym, or simply the news of others being harassed can trigger those harbored emotions from past sexual abuse or harassment.
The point is that you never know when these triggers will occur. An instant portal to confronting them with a professional who can steward you through such triggered emotions, anxieties, and potentially damaging reactions—whether at work or at home—can prove invaluable and sometimes life-saving. Such triggers can merely consist of a news report on the latest famous person to be exposed as a sexual predator. It can simply consist of a conversation at work or even at home among your guests.
The threat of being shamed, blamed, or otherwise scrutinized in the “did she deserve it?” fashion—so common in what can arguably still be called a man’s world—deters many victims of sexual harassment from doing a thing about the psychological damage accrued from such incidents.
According to psychologists, many women try to tell themselves they are over it, that time healed most of the pain. These experts suggest that such women are being hard on themselves, which adds another complexity to their psychological health. According to experts in the Lifehacker article, self-compassion is essential to healing, even if you received therapy long ago for a previous reckoning with sexual harassment.
Mental health experts advocate seeking help any time you realize that sexual abuse is influencing your daily routines. Does it put up your guard? Do you start your mornings calculating your lines of defense from unwanted gestures, advances, or suggestions? Psychologists maintain that these mechanisms alone, repeated day in and day out, can wreak psychological pain and injury to a woman bombarded with such commonplace assaults on their being.
These experts also contend that seeking therapy does not constitute weakness. They compare the damage imparted by sexual harassment or abuse with physical injury. You must stop the bleeding and seek treatment as soon as you realize such assaults on your gender are changing the way you go about living, working, and playing.
Sounding boards such as #metoo and around-the-clock therapy, as offered through providers like Talkspace, can’t heal the wounds overnight, according to mental health experts. It’s unrealistic to expect a timeline for healing to occur overnight because the layers are many when you consider the daily, societal exposure to such abuse. But you can expect to feel better about yourself, however, and more easily navigate your life routines without letting daily triggers dictate those routines.