The path to healing is one that is difficult and time consuming. I don’t believe that anyone just gets over something. They may be good at covering it up, pretending it doesn’t matter, or telling themselves to ignore it and move forward, but it never truly goes away.
I have found myself having conversations with those who state that they were in abusive relationships or marriages, but claim they are fine. They brush it off as if it has had no effect on them. They state that they do not need support, therapy, or help and are often unwilling to say much more about the subject. This really saddens me for two reasons.
First, it used to make me feel that there was something wrong with me because I was unable to deal with the aftermath of my abusive marriage. Why were they so strong and I was so weak? Maybe I should toughen up and be like them. But then, I would have a second, and almost simultaneous, reaction to their claims. Perhaps they were not really abused at all and they just think they were. Maybe their husband was angry or snippy, or they were not getting what they wanted in life, but surely they did not experience domestic violence as I had. If they had, they would not be ok. Victims are not just ok. And, that thought, whether accurate or not, made me angry.
These things are not for me to know. I’ve since seen that many of these individuals who claim they are ok, really are not. They just have not allowed themselves to heal. Instead, they have chosen to cover it up and pretend. This, of course, is their choice, but I often see the pain they are causing themselves and their loved ones by taking this path. Neither myself, nor anyone else, can make you choose to heal. No one can make you want to come out of the darkness and into the light. It is up to you to take those steps.
Through this mini-series, I’ve shared with you two main things that helped me to get moving in the right direction. First was putting one foot in front of the other. Taking each moment as they came and focusing on survival, then time, and then moving forward. Second, I got out and got active. I had to physically remove myself from the safety of my home and get outside and doing something I loved. Lastly, I believe it is important to find peace in yourself.
This last step may be even harder than the first two, but it is in my opinion the most important piece to long-term happiness. This is where you clear from your mind all the terrible things your abuser said to you, and all the things you believe about yourself because of your experiences. The feelings of disappointment, hatred, and regret have to go. The self-loathing and putting yourself down must become a thing of the past. This is where you learn to see yourself as a new and beautiful being that is worth happiness.
This process took me the better part of a year, and that was just to get to where I could actually visualize myself as a happier person. It is the retraining of your negative thoughts and emotions. Let me give you some examples of what I experienced.
Example 1: It’s the middle of the night and I wake up anxious. I can’t sleep, my stomach is in knots, and my heart is pounding. I don’t know what I’m anxious about so my mind starts to fill with every single thing I’m scared of in life. My mind starts racing with all of these fears and my anxiety builds.
What do I do: I tell myself that it is all in my mind, and then start working to control my breath. Long breath in, “Breathe in love.” Long breath out, “Breathe out fear.” Long breath in, “Breathe in peace.” Long breath out, “Breathe out sadness.” You get the drift. Soon, I feel my body starting to calm down. I focus my mind on the words and my body on the breathing and everything starts to relax. I do this until my mind is calm enough to refocus or until I fall back asleep.
Example 2: A friend or family member does not agree with my plans for my life. I feel the need to explain to them and get their support, and find myself frustrated and crying. They hold fast in their belief about how my life should be, and I’m feeling corned again, by someone else who is not living my life. This, of course, is coming from a trigger.
What do I do: (Disclaimer — I’m still working on this one.) I remind myself silently that they do not understand where I am coming from with my reactions (the crying and the anger), so these reactions serve no purpose. I remind myself that they are not my husband and do not mean harm to me. I remind myself that my choices are my own, for good or bad, and unless they affect the other person, then that person really has no opinion on the matter. I allow myself to walk away from the situation and ask the person to respect my choices. I do not apologize for who I am. Because of this, I’m learning to be stronger in who I am and make the choices that are best for me, not make choices based on the opinion of others.
These are just two examples of issues that I have personally dealt with. As I become stronger in myself, I find that the depression and anxiety lift. I have no doubt that I will struggle with them from time to time, but they are much more prevalent when I put myself in situations with which I am not happy and content.
You shouldn’t stay in a job you hate because others think you are crazy to leave. If you are not happy there, find a place where you are happy. You shouldn’t attend activities you do not enjoy because you have always done so. Find other ways to spend time with your friends and make friends who enjoy the same things you do. You should not give in to your ex because he manipulates your children. Find the strength to seek out the help you need, from a professional that is a good fit for you, and learn how to deal with your ex in a way that is less stressful to you and is not teaching your children that manipulation is a viable option for getting what you want in life.
The final step to crawling out of darkness, for me, was to find my purpose in life and believe in myself…as an individual. It is important that you find ways that work for you, as we are all different in our personalities and our healing. But whatever you do, find those things that work and start implementing them. Be patient with yourself, keep trying when you fail, and know that you are on the right path. As always, I’m here cheering you on.
Read the Forget Me Not Series here and visit the Forget Me Not Advocacy Group’s website.