Tips for Thriving: From A Survivor to a Survivor

Asia Kyle, Karana Rising

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I was a teenager when my life became not my own. I have learned a lot about surviving the almost impossible to survive. I’m not just surviving, either. I am thriving with a sense of peace now. Along the way, I’ve learned a lot about what it means to struggle without fear.

I am also a single mom and I hold two jobs. First, I am a professional advocate for, Karana Rising, a nonprofit that helps trafficking victims like I was once. Next, I found my true passion and I am a licensed cosmetologist. So, yes, there is a lot going with me!

I am writing this for anyone who feels overwhelmed or scared about what the future holds right now but most of all I am writing it to other survivors like me because we are not our past. The time is always now to find ways to create that inner love we all deserve.

Here are some tips that many of us might need while we survive feeling isolated during the coronavirus pandemic.

Ways I calm my body: In my life I have survived many things, from being a motherless child, to growing up in a segregated city as a teen; having to fend for myself, which led to being a sex trafficked victim. For a long time it seemed as if I was just breathing from my chest and not my stomach. One day I made a decision that I wanted to actually live; like smell, taste, touch things…not just get up and go through the motions. Now, I realize it can be really simple things like taking a warm bath with the scent of lavender (which really is calming!) after my daughter goes to bed or just slowing down to feel my own body moving. It’s about finding what works for me. I really try to feel my body breathing and see what calms me and what does not.

Ways I stay healthy: took the lessons I learned from my past and at work to help me survive the real world. At any moment, anything can happen. It how we deal with it that determines our future. I try to do those things they call “self care” like going to annual exams, making sure I listen to my doctor and really making sure I get some fresh air when I can. I realize some of this might be hard right now, but even stuff like online free yoga or stretching can really work.

Ways I enjoy time at home: I am working to keep doing the things I have found I love to do. I discovered this stuff about me during hard times in my life. I would sit and think…what would make me feel better right now? If it were a perfect world…what would I choose to do? Figuring out what I liked, helped me decide what I didn’t like. When I discovered that, I had to power to choose life or death. I had the power to make a home inside my own body so that nothing can take that from me. That is really important because I have experienced so many times someone else telling me where to live, who to be and controlling my body and my world. For me, that means that I am able to listen to music, making ways to make my small apartment more beautiful and clean. It’s little stuff like hanging up some art or stuff I found.

Ways I stay connected: Having a support network is basically the biggest thing for me. I’m kind of introverted but I have figured out that your support network is not always who you think they will be. I worked in retail in a busy store after I left my trafficking situation. That made me realize that people come from all backgrounds and we can’t know their story just like they do not know ours. We just have to be kind. That’s it. Just kind.

When I lost my voice during my sex trafficking, I found it really hard to trust people. I found support with local nonprofits and they people who worked there. They encouraged me to work on myself in new ways like going to school, finding jobs I liked and finding out what “self care” meant to me. The real truth is I had to want this help and accept that I deserved it. We all deserve a support network and we need to be there for others in need, too. It’s called community. I hold myself to higher standards in what I do every day to serve survivors and my neighbors as well as how I treat myself. My support network helps me stay strong.

Ways I keep my budget going: After I escaped my trafficker, I found myself in an expensive city and even with some help from nonprofits, I had to decide what was important to me. For me, making sure I eat healthy matters. This is because in my trafficking situation, my trafficker controlled what and if I ate. I lost a lot of weight and had a lot of trouble rebuilding my health. Now, I can chose to be vegetarian, to cook what I know is best for my body, and to really focus on daily health. I also don’t beat myself up if I have a treat. It’s all about balance!

What makes me strong: Right now what gives me strength is my daughter. I have to be very strong for her. She looks up to me. If I don’t take care of myself, I can’t be there for her. I have to raise her, encourage her, and teach her to thrive, too. When my eyes lock with hers I am given a boost of motivation and energy to survive this thing called life. Anybody who has survived anything, first had to decide they were not going to be defeated. How we think affects our actions, which in turn affects our lives. We can survive anything if we decide to love ourselves through it.

Find what it means to love yourself through these tough times. It might be the best thing that we can do for ourselves and others around us right now.

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Karana Rising is by survivors, for survivors. Our team leads innovative labs in wellness, design, advocacy & education to support survivors of human trafficking

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