We must embrace pain and burn it as fuel for our journey. Kenji Miyazawa
My healing journey started a year ago after my relationship ended on 3rd March 2017. It has been a long and difficult year with many stumbling blocks in the way, but now I am on the right path to complete recovery.
Healing from psychological abuse is not an easy undertaking as the wounds are invisible, therefore hard to diagnose and subsequently treat. However they are just as painful and incapacitating as physical wounds.
Also, unlike physical or sexual abuse, psychological abuse cannot be defined by a single incident. It is the sum of many incidents that took place over a period of time and it is that cumulative effect that causes long-lasting trauma.
I recently purchased a book by Shannon Thomas entitled Healing From Hidden Abuse, where she describes the 6 stages of recovery and looking back at the past year, I realised that my healing journey has taken me through most of these stages.
Stage 1: Despair
Despair is how it all starts. Very often, we don’t even realise at that stage that we have been abused and the extent of that abuse. All we know is that something is deeply wrong. There is no light at the end of the tunnel. Life is pitch black and we don’t know how to proceed. We are confused, anxious and depressed. We don’t fully understand what has happened and why it happened. It is a terribly lonely time as well because during the abuse we became isolated from our sources of support and if we cannot understand what took place, how can other people do?
Also at this stage, we are still confused about the abuser because they behave in such an erratic way, constantly switching between nice and nasty, that we are doubting our own perception of events. That is why the next stage is important.
Stage 2: Education
During this stage we educate ourselves about the personality of the abuser and the techniques that they used to abuse us. We find out about gas lighting, triangulation, intermittent reinforcement, flying monkeys, love bombing, devaluation… We start to realise that what we have been through was not a figment of our imagination. It really did happen. Our experience is starting to get validated and some of the confusion begins to disappear.
I remember watching hours and hours of YouTube videos. Angela Atkinson, Richard Grannon, ASSC Direct, Kim Saeed, Inner Integration and Permission to Exist became my only companions. I also started reading books, blogs and articles. I needed to understand what I had been going through before I could move onto the following stage.
Stage 3: Awakening
That is when the fog finally lifts and we cannot avoid facing the truth about the abuser and the abuse. It’s a very painful stage and very often we end up back at stage 1.
It is important to get the right support at this stage of the recovery process. Unfortunately, it is not always easy to find people who understand, so we might end up isolating ourselves further before we are ready to regain some sort of power over our lives.
Stage 4: Boundaries
That is when we choose to go No Contact or Detached Contact. This stage might mean the end of the relationship and that is why we sometimes get stuck because we are too afraid to take this final step. That’s when denial might strike. We are still feeling bounded to our abuser in some ways and it is extremely hard to move on.
When No Contact seems impossible to us (as it was for me) Shannon Thomas recommends looking at how remaining in contact affects the following areas of our lives:
- Physical health
- Spiritual growth
- Romantic relations
When we recognise and acknowledge the negative effects of remaining in touch, then we become truly ready to go fully No Contact.
Stage 5: Restoration
We have finally understood what we have been through, we have set boundaries and now we can rebuild ourselves. We see the light at the end of the tunnel. Hope returns. We start making plans. We start enjoying our holidays again, we regain financial stability, our mental and physical health are starting to get better and we become more emotionally stable and are ready to reach the final stage of recovery.
Stage 6: Maintenance
“Maintenance is keeping safe from future abuse, enjoying healthy relationship.” Shannon Thomas
Now we fully understand ourselves and toxic people are we are no longer willing to let them manipulate us and hurt us. We have become a new person a new better version of ourselves.
Recovery is not a linear process and very often we go back and forth between stages, before we definitely move forward. I still go back to stage 2 now and then, when needed and I am still working on stage 4. Despite having reached the subsequent stages.
A year ago I thought that I would never be able to be happy again. A year has passed though and despair has been replaced by hope.
If you are stuck at a stage, don’t be despondent, you will eventually get there. There is not one way to heal. You have to fine your own way.