I wish that leaving an abusive relationship would instantly make everything okay. The truth is that the survivor has usually been traumatized, whether the abuse was verbal or physical. Abuse decimates the heart, and now the heart must heal.
Please don’t be afraid. Hearts do heal. You will grow, and you will overcome, and you will feel the warmth of the sun again. In this blog I’m going to give you some important tips for self care, which will give your mind a safe place to heal and begin again.
The greatest damage done to your psyche is the loss of who you are. As a survivor to abuse, sometimes years and even a lifetime of it – you have forgotten who you are at the core of your being. It’s easy to understand how your personality became blurred, once you begin processing the extent of the abuse: the lies, gas lighting, projections, triangulations and confusion, to name a few.
Working with a therapist will help you to see and give voice to what happened to you in the abusive relationship. But to recover fully, you need to follow these important self care steps. It may be helpful to journal as you move through the process of recovery, because writing things down makes them more concrete, and more likely to be remembered and built on.
Step 1 – Identify your emotions
This is the first step to becoming whole again. What you need to understand and believe on a deep level is that your emotions are a tangible sign of who you are on the inside. What you feel about a song, the countryside, your next-door neighbor, your career – is what defines you from someone else. We could use a different word and say that what you think about these things defines you – but in this case, it is the same as what you feel about them. Think and feel are interchangeable, because we think from our hearts. (In this case we are not using the word think to define the process of say, doing a mathematical problem or trouble-shooting what is wrong with your dryer.)
Your feelings are the message of your heart. Feelings = heart. So to regain your identity and to forge your future life, you must begin again to listen to your heart. But how do you ever get back in touch with your inner self?
For someone who has been trained in an abusive relationship to ignore their feelings – that their feelings are not valid – this is not an easy task. You will need to practice, until it becomes a part of who you are.
Take time every day to stop and ask yourself, “What am I feeling right this minute?” It’s great if you can take five or 10 minutes to do this. And for those times when you are feeling something – stress, pain, hopelessness, fatigue – that indefinable something that follows after years of abuse; stop and try to evaluate your emotions and why you are feeling the way you are.
Don’t be afraid of your emotions. It’s only your heart speaking. Listen. Feel. Be. Return to yourself – the person you were always meant to be before the abusive years began. Take notes to discuss any insights later with your therapist. Jot down if the emotions seem familiar – as if you have felt them a long time ago and they bring back a time and place. You are on the way to a richer life. Be strong.
In my next blog, I will detail Step 2 of the self care for recovery from abuse.