Those titular questions are the ones that have kept me up at night for the past 3 years. In moving forward, it’s the crux of what I am trying to understand. I’m not pretending to have the answers – in fact in writing this blog it’s a very active process of declaring that I don’t have the answers, whilst trying to discover them through the act of writing. Some will think, well why do you need the answers? You’re only hurting your brain by looking for the answers. My answer to that is that I have a need to make meaning and denying my own needs is unhealthy. Coming into a fuller understanding can only be positive – for me, and perhaps for others. Besides which, when you have PTSD, albeit occasional, and your flashbacks revolve around a time when you were willing to commit suicide rather than take another step forward in this shitty world, then I think a bit of brain work is quite healthy by comparison.
In trying to come to terms with the abuse I have suffered, one step is understanding. That was what the domestic abuse support worker gave me. Unpicking the abusers’ behaviour and naming it – understanding what abuse looks like, how it works, and how similar it is regardless of situation, place or person. Putting realistic measures in place to safeguard myself and my children was a great objective. The issue being that the number 1 thing to do is get out of / away from the situation. Staying away from the abuser is key, but when you have kids together and you have to cooperate, you have a built-in reason to require communication, which complicates and muddles things.
Next step was counselling. Counselling was good in looking back to the causes, a very detailed, calm and careful dissection of what happened. Making sense of the confusion, as slowly as required. Only towards the end of my counselling did I finally get somewhere in realising that in all of this, I rarely stopped to acknowledge my own feelings.
Better soldier on, make everything fine for everyone else. Best be good. Best put myself aside. Best not make anyone uncomfortable by saying how I really feel. Counselling gave me something I’d not had for a long time, if ever – I started to realise that my feelings mattered, and I could sit with them and be honest about them, regardless of how painful they were. Acknowledging my feelings and actually feeling them was a big move.
But then what? Other than stay away permanently, which I’ve explained is only possible up to a point due to having kids together, where do you go from there?
It doesn’t end with counselling. That’s not the end of the story. How can we go further as survivors? This is just an initial offering here – I think we can go much further and I hope to chronicle my journey and learn from others who have trodden the path before me.
Self-love or self-loathing?
Abusers commit acts of abuse because they have unresolved issues of self-hatred that becomes projected onto others. It’s easier for them to deal with their hatred of others than of themselves.
I perceive this about abusers at such a deep intuitive level that I think it’s possible that I have taken on their characteristics of self-loathing and start feeling that way myself, which is how I have participated in being a victim.
It’s my next step to work on self-acceptance, not allowing the issues of the abusers to belong to me, psychically shutting myself off to their abuse and deflecting back their issues onto them, for them to own and to deal with. Each and every time it occurs, to make the time period of PTSD much shorter, to make recovery much quicker.
This is why when I am away from abusers I am absolutely fine. As soon as they return, I start on a downward path, which is what starts to happen each time a new episode of abuse occurs. It’s a sad cycle that causes all sorts of physical and mental occurrences. (I have a massive scrape down the side of my car from being on the receiving end of abuse. I literally lost my skill of spatial awareness).
Initially I can laugh it off and see it for what it is. When that phase ends, I start to feel annoyed that it’s happened again. Why me, why again? I don’t want this. I am experiencing something I don’t want and I don’t like it. So, I talk to someone (anyone!) about it. Generally, they can’t grasp it because your average person just doesn’t get the severity of it, or they will provide their best advice which is well intentioned but can’t help but fall short…
Advice such as “Oh just ignore it!” Ha, that old chestnut!
Be the bigger person. Rise above it. And I’m like Oh just forget it with your platitudes!
Advice that doesn’t cut it compounds feelings of isolation which multiplies the effects of the abuse.
Here are some suggestions of what to say to a person who has had the wounds of abuse opened:
- What that person did is totally unacceptable
- Abuse is never acceptable and always hurtful
- I am here for you
- Do you need me to call a professional who can give you immediate help and advice?
- You are the same person you were before this episode happened
- Take as much time as you need to recover
- Tell me how you feel (be prepared to let them talk – listen and acknowledge their feelings as valid and true)
- Here, try this: offer a cushion to punch / sock to bite / swingball to slog as hard as possible (physical release of energy is not encouraged but it DOES work)
Say, you are more than this. You deserve more than this. This is not coming from you. This is not your fault. You are a victim of someone else’s war against themselves. They are no better than playground bullies pretending to be adults. Here, let’s look back over what that person said / did / wrote and see whether any of that is true about THEM!
Bastards! Call them out. Call them what you like. Encourage the most disgusting swearing imaginable.
Then when you’re ready, let it go.
Now you’re ready for acts of self-love and self-acceptance. This is something I’ll be sharing with you when I get to the point of being able to do it. I’m not there yet. There is still a lot to release.