Abuse recovery is the process by which survivors try to find their “normal.” Growing up with alcoholic and abusive parents, I don’t want to “recover” my past; rather, I want to find out who I am aside from the trauma that I have experienced.
I spent twenty years hiding from the process of recovery. There are five stages of grief, and I determined to move through those stages as quickly as possible. Wanting to “be done with my past” and the resulting post traumatic stress disorder, depression, and anxiety, I told myself that I was finished with grieving that part of my life.
This was a lie. Once I stopped hiding and running from the trauma and all of the associated consequences, I started to discover my own “normal.” I may never be finished in this process, and that is now perfectly okay with me. The lessons that I am continually learning provide what I believe true recovery is: peace, healing, and hope. Here are my five revealing paradoxes discovered during my journey through abuse recovery.
Rest to Move Forward
People with post traumatic stress disorder do not “rest.” The hypervigilance that is part of this brain disorder leaves me gritting my teeth and constantly overwhelmed by sights, sounds, and other stimuli. I even grind my teeth in my sleep.
However, there is no moving forward in this healing process without learning how to rest. When we sleep, our brains and bodies process valuable information; the abuse recovery process is similar. The body and soul need time to regroup. Emotions need to run their course and the psyche needs time to heal up. Skin has to thicken and lessons need to be learned. The best way to keep moving down recovery road is to take a break, just like using the bathroom or stretching your legs on a real-life road trip.
Stay Still to Make Progress
Staying still is different than resting for me. I recently took a mindfulness meditation class, which kind of freaked me out. Mindfulness meditation is all about disconnecting with the world and reconnecting with your body, mind, emotions, and soul. What was freaky was that post traumatic stress disorder also has an dissociative element, which separates the brain from trauma to aid in survival.
It took me a few weeks of meditation to start feeling comfortable with the idea of disconnecting to reconnect, of being still in order to make progress in my own healing. I had to really work through the idea that my choosing to disconnect was not harmful, but actually really beneficial for my recovery.
Scars Can Be Reopened
I’m proud of my scars. I have several. A couple of them testify to c-sections and a hysterectomy, One reminds me that I stood up to a mean kid and got hit by a rock, leading to stitches in my forehead. Others remind me of accidents and adventures that I lived through.
The difference between physical and emotional scars is that the emotional scars can be reopened. Physical scars are pretty much sealed up; I don’t feel pain from my c-sections in that scar. However, just because I am well on my way to abuse recovery doesn’t mean I will no longer feel emotional pain about my experiences.
Listen to Your Anger
Anger tends to be a very uncomfortable emotion for survivors of abuse, especially when post traumatic stress disorder is involved. Another person’s rage probably resulted in our trauma. We weren’t allowed to have feelings at all, much less emotions like anger. It has taken me years to identify and name feelings as they happen, much less learn how to process and talk about them.
In a recent PTSD support group meeting, our facilitator said, “Listen to your anger. It has valuable things to tell you.” This idea blew my mind. Don’t shove the anger down, or ignore it, or vent it. Don’t run away from it, or be afraid of it, or hide from it. Listen to your anger. This is way out of my comfort zone, but I’m starting to try it, and the process is amazing.
Let Go to Stay Sane
This form of letting go is far from the forgetting I tried to do in my past about my trauma. The processing and work that goes along with abuse recovery is hard work. We do not have time or space in our heads or hearts for unnecessary burdens.
I was saddened recently about the loss of somebody I had thought was a friend. I blamed myself and decided that she hated me. A wise mentor in my life stopped me cold, telling me, “She doesn’t hate you. And sometimes you just need to lay a burden down. It didn’t work out. Lay it down.”
The process hurt, but not for long – certainly not as long as I would have beaten myself up over the situation in the past. I listened and thought about it, I accepted the truth and felt the pain. I felt a feeling that I had a hard time identifying at first.