Recovering from trauma ain’t easy, but you can do it

August 25, 2013 _ When I started writing this blog a few years ago, I did it as a way to get out my thoughts and feelings revolving around my abusive ex-husband and the pain I felt about co-parenting with him.

It was also a very visual way for me to face what had happened to me in my violent marriage and sort through it, understand it and my role in my abuse.

Abuse, and especially violent abuse, by a loved one is incredibly traumatic. My husband hurt me in every way possible, including being 100 percent willing to deceive often, on big issues and small and with no regard for how that might effect me.

This blog and all the research I’ve done through the years, has helped me tremendously understand just what was and is happening to me and what responsibility I have had through it all.

But, no amount of writing and research has been more helpful in my journey to heal, than simply letting go of the gravity on my emotions and letting myself weep.

Trauma isn’t about personal responsibility or making sense of anything. Trauma just happens and it sucks and that is worth a good cry. And each time that I have allowed myself to sob over the unfairness, loss, broken fantasy, and randomness of being a victim of abuse, or for that matter, anything else, I begin to feel better and to heal.

The world tell us that domestic abuse is a couple’s dynamic issue, one that can be fixed with the right combination of therapy and personal resolve. Not true. Domestic abuse is and always will be the victimization of one partner at the hands and mind of another and in most cases, it is a crime.

It is no more about a dynamic between two people as is a robber and his target or a rapist and the quivering victim.

And the feelings surrounding domestic abuse suck. Who would want to feel it. No one I know. That is why so many victims bury the crime and continue with their abuser. To realize that you married, procreated, sleep with someone who is a criminal without morals, ethics or a desire to honor you is awful.

It is much easier to believe that your abuser is just mentally or emotionally challenged and means well.

When I finally realized that my abuser is dangerous to me no matter what I do or how I treat him, I started to truly get healthy and I began the journey to build my life again, this time with weathered eyes and a scarred, but wiser heart.

I credit my therapist with my true recovery because she walked me through the healing process, which is the grieving process.

The education and this blog helped me understand what was happening and that helped me believe it was worth it to face the pain. I stopped blaming myself and started to see just how random it was to marry an abuser.

Oh sure, I am a “type” that hooks up nicely with an abuser, but for all the best reasons. I’m empathic, tolerant, loyal, understanding. So because I have those traits, I should land with a criminal? No, even I see that. I certainly have responsibility in my marriage. I wasn’t perfect. But, I’m not responsible for abuse. No victim is.

Leaving a door unlocked doesn’t mean you invite everyone into your home to steal your things.

Real recovery for me came with the tears I shed when I realized that I wasn’t responsible, which means, I couldn’t find a way to change it, him, to make it stop. I realized that I was a victim, not responsible for the pain and trauma that was coming my way. Any more responsible than a victim of disease or an accident.

Then, my sobs were about the unfairness of it all. I wanted just what everyone else wants, a peaceful, happy life with family and friends. My version included a long, happy marriage with the father of my children. But, I didn’t draw that card, any more than my nephew didn’t draw the card that included a life without Type 1 diabetes.

Grieving that was and still is my ticket to emotional health and happiness.

All the cliches are true: Life isn’t fair; getting knocked down isn’t the trick, its how you get back up; make lemonade out of lemons … and on and on.

But, I couldn’t get there until I allowed myself to face the pain of the true trauma: That I trusted a man who used that trust against me and hurt me again and again. That it really hurts to be hit by my husband. That it sucks to be lied to by my partner. That someone has the right to use my precious children as pawns to hurt me and mess with my heart. That the court, i.e. strangers who didn’t know my children, had a say in how I was going to raise my babies. That I wasn’t going to grow old with the father of my children. That I was going to get divorced. That I felt really bad about all of that.

I’ve cried and cried on my therapist sofa about all the voices in my head that tell me its all my fault or only what I deserve, too. In fact, that is where she started with me. After I grieved that feelings of worthlessness, then I could move to the above paragraph and cry about that.

Now, I try to remind myself to feel, laughable and trite as that sounds. After I give myself time to cry, I feel better every time.

Trauma needs recovery and recovery comes on the other side of grieving. Not even understanding and analytical thinking does it. My blog has been very helpful for me, but not nearly as much as sitting with a kind and caring therapist who says things to me like, “A feeling is just a feeling,” and “You will feel better walking through the pain.” And who asked me the tough questions with kindness and love, “What would you tell that little girl inside you?” and of course, “What do you want to say to your abuser?”

Those questions began a river of tears and a path to real recovery from trauma. The dictionary says that trauma is a deeply disturbing experience, a victim is someone who is injured or killed as a result of a crime or accident and recovery is the return to a normal state of health or the recovery of that which was lost. How didn’t that make me cry before?

Trauma happens to us all. We are all vulnerable of becoming victims and recovery is possible for every single one of us. I wish you all the opportunity to grieve your own losses and traumatic experiences and I know that you will come out on the other side recovered. Blessings to you all.

The rise and fall of an abuser

August 24, 2013 _ As followers of this blog know, I have been in a relationship with an abuser for more than 20 years and have been victimized and survived many forms of abuse found on the power and control wheel.

My abuser, someone I believe to be a narcissist, has used me over and over as a way to build himself up in ways that are both “normal” (such as marrying me and become a part of a family) and abnormal (such as beating me in order to feel dominance).

He has also played me in order to gain attention of any kind, including negative attention, just like a small child might act out. It doesn’t matter to him if he reaps a harvest of admiration, respect, sympathy, or anger, distain, fear or pity. To him, all attention is good.

Healthy people tend to want positive attention, not negative, respect not pity. But, a narcissist will take their “supply” in any form because it all puts them at the center and that is the goal.

For my abuser, he has spent his life trying to find a place of belonging with people, but that place must be a position of power, control, and as the center of the relationship.

Narcissism is the ultimate form of self survival because no matter the environmental circumstance, narcissist can twist it to serve them and provide their supply.

I have been through a lot of drama and trauma with my abuser, my ex-husband and co-parent to my children. When I first met him, he was pumping the well of pity and sympathy. He told his story of a child of horrible abuse and neglect. He was poor, disorganized and tormented, but somehow was rising above his station. He played on half-truths to pull pity out of others, for example he told how his father “committed suicide” on my abuser’s first day of his senior year of high school. The truth later revealed to me by his mother, was a bit different and suicide was not the cause of death. But, my ex learned that when he told the story, people, generally women, dropped their walls and immediately empathized if not pitied him. I was one of those women.

Later, sometimes in the same day, my ex would spin another narrative of a man, who was “raised by wolves” (he used to say with a sly grin), and pulled himself up by his bootstraps to ultimate fame and success (He became a nationally recognized NFL sportswriter for a major media outlet.)

No matter the version of the story, he never gave anyone credit for his success, not editors who gave him a break, not friends or family, or wives and children. And he always blamed others for his hardships. His mother was to blame for his childhood. Editors were to blame for not recognizing his superiority. And of course, me for causing him to abuse me.

When I left my abuser eight years ago, I left a man who began to play the sympathy card with anyone who would listen. I left him because I got skinny and was shallow enough to take his children away from him. To me, he played the “I’m so sorry and you had to leave me” card, which I actually believed for years that he meant.

After his sources of supply changed, his story changed. Now I was the abuser and he left me. He was superior and deserved to be treated that way by everyone, including me. He was the better parent, more reasonable and educated. He did everything he could to get above me in every respect. It was during this time that he sued me for custody of our teenagers (and of course didn’t get much in our settlement more than what he already had.)

But the act of the suit was the high for him, not how it worked out. Because the circumstances don’t matter for my abuser. The details are just the cards he has been dealt and he will decide how to sort it all out to come out on top. In his world, he will always win so the goal is always a moving target.

Today, my abuser is on the downward spiral of life, lost his job three months ago, limited income and just got hit with a $30,000 college bill for our 18-year-old. (and that is just for one semester)

He is on thin ice with his children because they are getting older and have questions about his actions. They love him for sure, but he is falling off the towering pedestal.

God only knows what is going on with his current wife, but my guess is that if he stays unemployed much longer, his wife is going to loose her patiences and begin to question his lies. I know first hand how that can turn out for her.

As my ex faces the rise and fall of his life, I have a good idea of what he is emotionally juggling. But, of course, it is only my guess. I am doing my best to keep my distance as much as possible. As he seeks pity instead of respect, I won’t become a source of that for him. I know better.

And even through he has hurt me in more ways than I can count, I am still vulnerable by my own feelings of empathy for this broken man. I feel sorry for him for sure. And I am still stocked that anyone could go through life so detached from other human beings and only concern themselves with themselves.

However, I have accepted that it is true and my ex is broken beyond repair and his relationship with his fellowman is one I would never want. No matter how much damage he has done to me, he hasn’t broken my heart to love, feel and grow. What a blessing, thank God.

In the end, abusers’ ups and downs through life will never bring them what they really seek, to fill the holes in their hearts, a deficit that they can’t even understand, but know they want.

I used to say to my ex-husband, and it used to drive him crazy when I did, “Please just be real with me.” It made him mad because it is the one thing he will never get.

If you think you might be in an abusive relationship …

If you are reading this and your thoughts keep pulling you in one direction _ that something is truly wrong with your relationship beyond your understanding, then please keep reading.

Click here to read the signs of an abusive relationship.

No one wants to believe they are in an abusive relationship. No one wants to face this horrible pain. You might be in denial about the quality and state of your relationship.

I’m writing to you women (and of course male victims) this morning to tell you that you must work to face the truth, your life is at stake.

Here are somethings you might be telling yourself in order to stay in denial and hold out hope that your partner is not an abuser:

  • You love him
  • He is fine most of the time
  • He only gets mad when I get upset with him
  • He only gets physical when I yell at him
  • We have a difficult relationship and it is both of our faults
  • I need him
  • I don’t want to loose our life together
  • He can’t be an abuser … ┬áhe doesn’t drink or look the part or is too smart or … fill in the blank
  • If I were ….. fill in the blank … he wouldn’t abuse
  • We need more therapy
  • I need to follow the advice of my friends, pastor, family, my partner, self-help book, or … fill in the the blank
  • He is my children’s father
  • My children need him
  • This is as good as it gets

I ask you to read through my blog and if you can relate to any of it, then you most likely are with an abuser. The hard truth is that you will need to get out of it. There is no way, or magic therapy that will change him or the abuse.

You can’t change yourself, your behavior, your choices or anything that will make him stop abusing you. He is not abusing you because of your choices no matter what he is telling you. He is abusing you because of his choices.

And a person, man or woman, who will abuse another is not a person who understands or wants to give love. And you deserve a shot at finding someone who will really love you and knows how.

Unfortunately, there are many, many people in this world who do not have the capability to love. Capability is different that ability. Ability means that one may acquire the skill with training. Capability means that they have the capacity to learn it. Abusers do not. For a variety of reasons within their own souls, abusers have shut down or never had the capability to love you or anyone.

You have found a person who will hurt you without blinking, even if he is telling you he is sorry. The next time he has a choice to abuse or not to, he will be more likely to abuse. He is addicted to the quick fix of abuse and there is no 12-step treatment for this addition.

You have to ask yourself if you can continue living with this, because the abuse won’t stop, ever.

You have to ask yourself if this is want you signed up for and if not, can you accept this union knowing that you are  very vulnerable within this relationship.

If you are ready to face the truth that leaving is the only way out, then breath. It is going to be OK. Hard, but OK. And you can do this.

You need to focus your energies in getting out safely and setting up your future in the best way available to you.

First, if you are married, call an attorney, a good one who understands domestic abuse. Then call your domestic abuse crisis center, if your community has one. Tell your story to each and listen to their advice.

If you share the same home, secretly begin to collect things that can help you get out. Money, clothes, paperwork, documents, etc. Start to quietly create independence. Enroll in school. Buy a car. Get a job if you can.

Get documentation of the abuse if you can. Keep a diary, hidden of course. Tell a friend about the abuse. This is hard, but it will help you in the future. Tell your family.

Get into therapy and talk about the abuse.

Read a lot about abuse. It will help you understand what is happening and calm your fears that you are alone. You are not. And you are not crazy. Abuse is real, common, and devastating. You are a victim of something as if you were in a car accident or got ill.

Realize that your journey out will take effort, be bumpy and will take time. It is a process to emotional health after living in an abusive relationship, but you can do it and on the other side, it is so much better. And without a doubt, you need help. There are people who can help you. Once you start to tell what is happening, look for people who respond with love, understanding, a compassion. Stay away from those who ask you “why did you stay for so long?” or “maybe you should give it another try.”

If you have children with your abuser, then you must be very careful in what you say and do. And your first step of this process is to seek TRAINED domestic abuse counselors. Your crisis center is the most likely place to find proper help.

Most state courts do not understand domestic abuse and treat it as if it is the result of high conflict in the relationship and therefore, won’t want to take sides. Of course, that is wrong, but it is the way it is in court.

So you must find your inner peace and quiet your mothering instinct to protect your children at all costs. We have all said at one time or another “I would never let my children get hurt by….” Unfortunately, you will not have control over a lot of normal parenting responsibilities if your abuser decides to use the kids as a way to abuse you further.

Simply by filing a custody suit, your abuser has abused you again. The court will inadvertently begin to abuse you by taking matters into their own hands and require that all parenting decisions you make be weighed against laws and rules it imposes. This is unnatural to most mothers and hurtful and traumatic to all victims. But, you will need to accept this so you can find the path and strength to get you and your children through it.

The good news about the court is that it is predictable, unlike your abuser. So the quicker you learn about how family court works, the quicker you will see the pitfalls and avoid them. This is how you can really protect your children.

It is very unfair that you are now parenting with the court, lawyers, judges, parent coordinators, and so on, simply because your partner is an abuser. But, until the family laws change, this is the playing field.

Hang in there and keep moving forward. You are going to be OK and so are you children. I’m sorry for your tears and fears, but you deserve a real shot at a peaceful life. You deserve to live and to used a coined phrase, it gets better.

It really does.

You can recover from abuse, not without scars, but you can find peace and joy again. Please try to get there. You are worth it and you are special just the way you are. My prayers are with you.