58 chapter 3: Mental health
Helping overcome reactions to trauma
If you have suffered a trauma, you may need help to:
• learn to trust others again.
• talk about your life before the trauma as well as your current
experiences. This way you can realize that although life has changed a lot,
in many ways you are the same person as before.
• express painful things that are too difficult to talk about or that are
‘buried’ where they cannot be remembered. Drawing or painting,
or a healing activity like massage, can help you express or relieve these
• understand your reactions. Once you
understand your reactions, the feelings
usually have less control over you.
• make a plan for those reminders that
you cannot avoid. If reminders of the
trauma make you react in fearful ways,
it will help to make a plan for those
reminders that cannot be avoided. For
example, you might tell yourself: “His face
is like the face of the man who attacked
me, but he is a different person and does
not wish to hurt me.”
• remember that you are not responsible for what you said or did if you
were raped or hurt in any way. All responsibility lies with those who hurt
you. People who hurt you can make you feel as if you can never feel whole
again. While bad experiences can change you, with support from those who
care about you, even the most terrible experiences can be overcome.
Try to keep an object from your new life nearby as you sleep. This way if you
dream of the trauma, when you wake the object will help you remember that you
are safe now.
If someone you know has experienced trauma
At first it may be best for friends, families, or caregivers of a woman who has
experienced a trauma to do everyday activities together with her or to do some
of them for her if that is what she wants. You can let her know you are willing to
listen and wait till she feels ready to talk. Later, encourage her to take up some of
the same activities she enjoyed before or that were part of her daily routine.
A Health Handbook for Women with Disabilities 2007