Let’s just call this whole abuse recovery experience exactly what it is: massive suckage. Seems like you no sooner get past one thing and life is looking up, then something else happens to knock you back down.
People are so quick with the trite responses like, “Oh, it’ll get better” or “You were married to him, it can’t be that horrible.” What people who have never experienced abuse recovery don’t understand is that it isn’t just about having a bad day or bad luck. It’s the ongoing experience of a person who once claimed to love you, whether partner or parent, intentionally doing whatever they can to keep you in crisis.
We hear so many things about an “attitude of gratitude” and staying positive.
So let me start by saying that the positive we will consider here is not some perky-pants denial accompanied by a chirpy, “Oh, I’m fine!” Why? You aren’t fine.
You are still being targeted and fending off random attacks, whether actively or in the form of mental tapes replaying in your head. What we are talking about is a matter of focus, not denial, and is not to be used as a comparison to others. Comparing your situation to someone else is the poorest way to try to “stay positive” because your reality is your reality. Yes, your neighbor may have cancer and you’re healthy, but it doesn’t lessen your experience. A few techniques I’ve found for staying positively focused are:
#1 Acknowledge Yourself For Everything You Have Survived So Far
It’s much easier to say, “Yeah, but…(I’m broke, I have PTSD, I’m homeless, I’m unemployed) and continue doing the abuser’s job for him/her. But the power of focus can help you put the “Yeah, but…” at the other end of the sentence. As in, “I’m unemployed. Yeah, but, I have some great experience and skills in this so there’s a job for me. I just have to find it.”
#2 Refuse To Be Reduced, When You Could Choose To Grow
Why not turn the tables and decide to prove to your abuser that he/she is dead wrong? Whatever they taught you to believe about yourself, I guarantee, is false. Have fun showing them just how false it is by giving laser-focus to your dreams and goals. Now is the time to aim higher because each small achievement will empower you toward the bigger achievements. Pick a few things that you can definitely be successful at, then when you are, celebrate your success.
One of the things I did recently was commit myself to regular exercise. I made it so easy that I can’t skip it (a great walk in the woods with my favorite music on some Bluetooth headphones) and I celebrate myself every single time I do it. That way, it has gotten easier and easier to incorporate into my routine.
#3 Date Yourself
I find so many abuse survivors are so deeply craving a relationship that they forget to have a relationship with themselves first. I swear, one of the things I did when I was feeling particularly down recently was drive myself to the mall, go into the Godiva store, and buy myself one treat. I walked around the mall a bit for some exercise, then went home and enjoyed my treat.
Don’t wait for someone else. Don’t wait for someone to invite you to the lake or the movies or on a hike. Invite yourself. Enjoy your company. Blow 10 bucks on a manicure if you can. And don’t tell me how broke you are because I’ve been there. A bubble bath costs next to nothing. A walk with your dog? Free. There are little joys to be had everywhere and if you are dating yourself, you don’t even have to consult with anyone else’s schedule.
It’s been my experience that doing these 3 things repetitively made a huge difference in my ability to stay positive. They say the cure for grief is motion and recovery from abuse is absolutely a grieving process. These three steps taken consistently made all the difference in my life, along with speaking to myself with the respect I never got. I give myself credit when I do something good or positive or fruitful and I don’t beat myself up over things that don’t go my way. You are worth every amount of positivity you can muster.
If nothing else works, stick with this:
So far my survival rate is 100%.
I’m strong and resourceful and a good person.
Tomorrow is another chance.
What can I do to give myself a good shot at success?
Then do it.