Indigo's Peer Journal Exercise- #8
Creating and Using Your Own Safe Space
One thing that is incredibly important to a survivor is finding a place where they can be safe when they are feeling threatened. Sometimes you have to create this space for yourself, especially if your environment is not safe in it's own right. Here's one way you can do that.
Here's how it works:
Find somewhere that you like to be in your home. Block it off so it isn't easily accessible to others (you might use a bookcase or a room divider, or simply turn your chair the other way). Make sure your kids and partner know it's off-limits to play or sit there. This will probably be the hardest part at first, but you really have to stick to your guns. This goes along with setting boundaries for yourself and then guarding them.
I found that I needed to be somewhere my kids couldn't see me, and stay there long enough that they forgot I was home. That was the beginning of Mom's Vacation in the Bathroom or Bedroom :). Please, make sure any young ones are safe before you "disappear".
Something that helps give your space a feeling of "you" is decorating it any way you please. Put some of your favorite books, or candles, flowers or pictures in the space. Possibly adding something comforting like a teddy bear or pillows you like to punch on can help. Having tools handy to distract you or help express your feelings (paper and pen, crayons, paints, etc.) can be good too. The idea is to create a haven only you can use, and then fix it so it's comfortable and has meaning for you.
Note: If your space must be portable, you might want to look into a big bag or pillowcase you can fill with what you want to have handy. Then if you feel the need to "escape" into the garage or the bathroom for a few minutes, you can still have your goodie-bag handy to take with you. I have often left mine in the car, to take to work with me, on several occassions- and I was very glad I did. My goodie-bag has since performed many functions other than it's original intention. At different points in my healing process, it became a diaper bag, a labor support bag, a tote bag for school, an overnight bag, etc. I'm glad I was finally able to graduate it to something other than Panic Relief.
Here's what you get from it:
This is an excellent place to do your journal writing, reflect on your exercises, ride out a panic attack, or simply re-shape your self-concept after a really hard day.
Soon you will find that it has a certain "feeling" for you. You can re-create this feeling whenever you feel threatened or in a panic by calling to mind this space and how it makes you feel when you are there. Remembering peacful activities you have done while in your space also helps.
Another reason to establish your own space (and defend it!) is this: if your home environment is one in which everyone is constantly making demands of you, it is imperative that you set boundaries and limits on what others can expect of you at any given time. It helps to have a space you can retreat to and feel safe. Going to your "space" and setting a kitchen timer for kids (and mates!) can help them understand when it's okay to pester you for little things and when it's not. It also gives them the idea that people (specifically YOU) are allowed to have things like privacy, boundaries, and time to themselves- and that others need to respect that privacy, adhere to those boundaries, and allow you to have your time alone. It also helps to set a good example for them- one about what they can allow others to do in their space and with their boundaries.
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