I was bemused when I saw the title of a recent article on Psych Central:
The Power of a Simple Hug as a Natural Anti-Depressant
Not that the content of the article surprised me, I’ve long known, and written about, the power of touch, and the ability of a hug to calm the boy and mind. There is plenty of research out there that shows this. No, what bemused me in thinking about it was this concept of a “simple” hug. Survivors of sexual abuse, especially those who are very early on their path to healing from abuse, don’t have simple hugs. The act of being hugged by someone is anything but simple! It’s fraught with all sorts of things that are going on in our heads.
In fact, it reminded me of a saying that a group of us used to share about romantic relationships and survivors. “To a sexual abuse survivor, there is no such thing as non-sexual touching.” We grew up without boundaries when it came to touching, and equating being touched with sexual violence. To suddenly say that the best thing for our depression would be to be hugged, is completely ridiculous. And yet, if we could reach a point where we can experience a simple hug as a simple hug, it would be so beneficial to us in our struggles with depression, sadness, and all of the other day to day mental health struggles that we have as a result of being abused.
In other words:
- I struggle with depression because of my childhood experiences.
- One of the best ways to cope with that struggle is being able to accept support, and even hugs, from those close to me.
- My childhood experiences taught me not to trust anyone who acted kindly toward me, especially those who want to touch me.
We can’t win for losing.
On the other hand, I am at a point in my life where I do understand, and even appreciate, simple touching. A hug from a friend is a fabulous thing to me, not the beginning of a panic attack and worry about what they really want from me. It took some time and work to get there, but it was well worth it. I hope all of you can start to experience that same connection with other people that touch, and hugs, can bring.
Do you have issues with touch, or have you found that overcoming those issues has opened a door to healing from depression? Share your story in the comments!