Friday, November 7, 2014

Healing from abuse--listed in 10 steps (but it sometimes feels like 2 steps forward 1 step back)

  1. Joy:  Once I left my abuser, there was that moment (and many moments thereafter), that I celebrated—not in any tangible way, but emotionally, almost giddy about how somehow I DID it.  I got out.  I saved myself.  I immersed myself in hugging my babes and working and figuring out the new system, the new grind, the grind that I daily embrace, sometimes rejoicing, because the alternative was so awful.
  2. Doubt and Fear:  Then the doubts creep in.  DD1 or DD2 starts throwing a fit or a tantrum, that later I understand is perfectly natural given the context:  they are hungry, or tired from a long day at school, or transitioning back from dad’s house, or just in general moody (that goes for DD1, she’s elementary going on high school some days, I swear), or all of the above.  And I think, crap, how is this “new life” better for them?  Me being tired all the time, short on patience?  Or, nasty e-mauls pour in, which sometimes trigger panic mode (this got better with time, but sometimes they can be almost as bad as right after the separation), and I have to first calm the F*** down.  Then, in the aftermath, gather all my wits about me, and figure out how to respond.  Consult my trusted advisors.  Who I think are getting burned out by this, and I don’t blame them, so I’m trying to scale back a bit.  I have to learn to trust myself, too.  It’s been more than 3 years, and I’ve improved, but I’m not perfect.
  3. Building that “new life” step one:  I noticed within that first year that our house was so much calmer.  Up until he moved out, I had worried, fretted, frightened to take over all the parenting duties, but you know what?  The before-sunrise-wake-up, while we are all tired, is so much MORE peaceful than the explosions of DD1 spilling milk and him swearing and yelling and DD1 or DD2 crying until someone threw up.  Yes, it’s a speedboat race challenge to get us all out the door, lunchboxes and backpacks and mommy work crap all packed up in the car, but within the chaos, there is peace.  I need to remember that.  So much more peaceful.
  4. Building that “new life” step two:  Much of our life is built around our “routine”—sometimes I complain about slogging through said mornings, and after school activities, and evening craziness, but my girls are doing well—in school, developmentally, socially bonding with their pals and their family and new stepfather—so the routine, I think helps.  In some ways, I think when the girls do “act up” when they come home, it’s not so much that they are upset, it’s that they know that it’s okay in my house to relax and push the boundaries.  Because we will always be firm.  Supportive, but firm.  (And no, I’m not perfect, I sometimes yell, but every day and every week I’m learning to get better at it.  Sleep helps).  They know at my house there are rules, so they lean into them.
  5. Taking the time for therapy:  My therapist helped me get out of my abusive relationship.  She even showed up at court to support my case.  She still helps me heal.  To understand the triggers.  To recognize things in my previous birthday blues post.  To love and accept my loving husband as human and to accept his love and also be realistic about what I can expect from him and what I can give.  To not project my fear and doubts onto him, but to own them and work on them myself.  To yes, take concerns seriously and ask him to work on certain things (his transition moving in was very difficult, and he still is working on the ‘fight’ and acceptance of my strategies in dealing with the ex), and at the same time, live in the moment.  To know it will take time to fully gel as a couple and as a family.  Let it take that time and it’s okay to be hopeful for the future and realistic about how we can handle it.
  6. Taking time for self:  I’ve started exercising more.  I know that sounds trite and ridiculous, but now that I’m getting older, I’m worried about staying healthy and living a long life.  To be there for my daughters’ milestones for as long as I can.  I think it’s helping my mood and emotional regulation a bit (although hard to tell from the last few posts!)
  7. Letting go:  Sometimes, no matter how hard I plan, or how prepared I am in the face of an e-maul, there’s just nothing I can do.  So I have to let go.  Firm and civil, but let it go.  It doesn’t matter if the Ex screws stuff up with the school or digs nasty comments at me (well the school part is a PITA, because I do try and clean that crap up—and the nasty comments are a drain), but the Ex will be what the Ex will be.  Like someone told me—it’s like a dog who always steals food from the table.  You know he will steal the food.  And unlike a dog, he can’t be trained, so expect it.  Don’t let it get to you.  Detach.  (So much easier SAID, then done, but I’m making progress).
  8. Love yourself and your family:  The best way to overcome, heal, and even, in a way, to “win”?  Live a happy life, free of anger.  Try somehow to forgive (but not forget, so you’re always prepared), so that you do not poison your life.  The Ex is no longer in your house.  Leave him (or her) at the door and concentrate on your sanctuary that is now your new home and new life without him.
  9. Grief:  Even in my “new life,” I find times when healing just hurts—that healing is pain and pain is healing.  I get upset at myself for letting my Ex upset me (I know the dog will steal the food, so why am I getting myself in a tizzy?!), or around certain milestones—birthdays and holidays, I get emotional and question the journey I’ve made.  I grieve for the ‘lost’ family, even though I know it’s for the best, and would never take back my actions.  It’s letting go of “the dream.”  Grief doesn’t magically disappear…my father died and I still grieve for him 24 years later, you know?  So it’s okay to have moments.  Be gentle with yourself.  Breathe.  Know that these feelings will not last forever, like the tide, they ebb and flow, and with each ebb and each flow, you are getting stronger.
  10.  It’s okay to be happy, to have hope:  I keep grappling with this one.  I’ve been in survivor mode for a long time, maybe since childhood, and have lived so long in that saying—we accept the love we ‘think’ we deserve, i.e. in my case, love that comes with pain.  It’s time to change that thinking for people out of abusive relationships.  It’s only okay to accept the love that we DO deserve.  Love that comes without a cost.  When I have a giggling, sweet moment with the girls, like last night before bed time, reading Little Red Riding Minnie for the thousandth time, it’s okay to breathe in all that happiness and contentment.  When I come home to loving notes from my husband, it’s okay to believe his words.  Being happy is not a preface for something bad coming later.  Being happy is accepting your life as it is and knowing that more good and kind things will come.  Even in the face of predictable nastiness from an ex, or a toddler meltdown in the chaos of general parenting and/or work stress, or in the context of seemingly insurmountable problems of our world, focusing on what you CAN do, with yourself and your family, in your own community, giving what you can and embracing what you can.  Give hope and love to yourself and your family.  Because that’s a chance to grow and heal some more, and maybe that’s enough to change the world, in the smallest of ways—because you are adding not fear or loathing or hate, but kindness and hope and love.


  1. I've been having a lot of trouble with number 9 lately. Not sure why.

    1. <3 <3 <3 To be truthful, sometimes I have troubles with all 10! Hang in there, Liv! It's nice to know we are on similar journeys, (not that I'd wish this on anyone)--there is comfort in that we are not alone. And...I'm so happy you got out. *big hug*

    2. Thanks. And me for you too. Hugs!

    3. This is so beautiful, Jane. You're so inspiring. Yes, the pain continues but one day you'll wake up and realize much of it has faded and been replaced with that glimmer of joy. You're so strong!