Healing from abuse really is a journey. At times it is hard work, it can be frustrating, scary, cathartic, ecstatic, rage inducing, panic triggering. It can be all those things in the span of 5 minutes even. Above all, healing from abuse is worth your while. As with any journey, sometimes the mountains seem to high, the potholes too deep and the road too long. I too have felt overwhelmed and stuck on my road to recovery. What I found is that sometimes your own beliefs about your journey, are precisely the reason you got stuck.
Here are 5 beliefs that stalled my healing and kept me from embracing my healing journey and moving from surviving to thriving.
#1 I Believed The Abuse Was Personal
I know that my mother had her own issues that turned her into an abuser, no healthy person would inflict that kind of pain on their children. But why did she have to pick me as her scapegoat? Was it the shape of my nose, the sound of my voice? Was it something I did, or something I said? For a long time I searched for reasons why I had been at the center of her toxic behavior. Then I realized that was pointless. Nothing about the abuse was about me, absolutely nothing. Sure, if I had less objectionable toe nails (true story) she would have criticized… oh I don’t know, my earlobes. She would have found something to focus her toxicity on, as long as it meant not having to deal with her own demons.
#2 I Believed Thinking About My Past Kept Me Stuck
For a long time I thought that thinking and talking about my past was keeping me stuck there. So I tried never to think about it, and every time I did, I would quickly try to think of something else. That also meant I felt a pang of guilt or disappointment in myself. Why could I not just stop thinking about this?!
I had to learn that it is not the thinking or talking that keeps me in the past. It is the feeling. When I think about my past, or talk about my memories, I am in fact processing. I am dealing with the feeling, making connections between different events, and making sense of things (as far as any of this is sensible I suppose). What changes, and what has to change, is the feelings that are triggered by the memories. Where on first surfacing a memory may trigger grief or anger, later it may even trigger laughter (of the: are you freaking kidding me?! kind usually).
If you hold on to the initial pain, fear and anger of your history, then you will get stuck in the past.
#3 I Believed I Needed Someone to Blame
I am not actually one to hold a grudge. I get angry, then I get over it. I may of course decide not to want to engage with you anymore, but I won’t carry my anger around with me. I managed to apply that strategy to pretty much every situation in my life. When it came to my family though, I felt that I needed to hold on to the blame. If I was not going to hold that responsibility for them, who would? They certainly would not feel the responsibility for what they had put me through.
This is where the forgiveness argument comes in too. Just like we often feel that forgiveness is giving our abusers a free pass, we feel that if we stop blaming them that somehow diminishes the pain they inflicted. But, however much I held on to that blame, it would not influence their understanding or ownership of the abuse they inflicted. I had to accept that they would never take responsibility, would never take ownership and therefore would never tell me how sorry they were for hurting me. That is what I really wanted, an acknowledgement from my abusers. It is not going to happen, NOT EVER! No matter how much I blame them. You know that saying about anger? It goes for blame to:
#4 I Believed I Was Damaged Goods
For a long time I believed I was beyond repair. I felt like I had so many idiosyncrasies, triggers and and fleas that I would never truly recover. If that is your starting point, then you are just setting yourself up for failure. There is no such thing as a total loss when it comes to recovery, so don’t write yourself off!
Years of healing can be hard work, and frustrating work too. You may indeed consider that you will never be “done.” It took me a while to realize that this is just part of the human condition. Nobody in the whole wide world is ever “done”. There is always something we can learn, or heal, or address. You don’t have to address everything all at once. In fact I deliberately did not address some of the issues that I knew would be tough challenges initially. I allowed myself to start with the easier triggers, or less comprehensive issues.
#5 I Believed Knowing My Truth Would Shield Me
When I first started on my journey, I thought that knowing the truth about my past would protect me from future damage. I figured I had now installed the universal translator, and the abusive remarks and behaviors would automatically be analyzed and bounce off my truth shield (yes, I am a geek ;)).
I had to learn the hard way that – even with my new found knowledge – my abusers and their flying monkey could still hurt me to my core. The only way to protect myself, was to cut the toxicity out of my life. Even now, when I feel happy and strong, and in charge of my emotions, I think it would only take an email from my abusers to cut me in half (at least for a little while).
My truth is not a shield, but my family of choice is, or maybe they are more of an airbag or a safely net.
How to Stay the Course
Recovering and healing from abuse if hard work, acknowledge that without losing hope. Hanging out with people who understand helps. Even when there is no crisis, feel free to share your stories on our forums. We are just people hanging out together. We support each other when we need it, cheer each other on when we are on a role, and celebrate our victories together.
Sharing, venting, ranting… it is all allowed
Are you looking for some practical advice on how to get ahead on your journey? Head for the toolkit for more tips and resources to heal.