Healing from abuse, narcissistic or otherwise, is hard. It takes a long time just to get to the place of awareness, let alone acceptance, and ultimately to healing.
It’s also a surprising journey. For me, the hardest part has been to look beyond the abuse I suffered in my relationship to the childhood wounds that led me to end up in a relationship like that in the first place. I must have went through four different therapists that all told me this was the path to recovery, and I left each one after a few sessions because I didn’t feel wounded from childhood. I didn’t think that had anything to do with why I ended up in the relationship that I did. Or why I tolerated it.
But… here I am, having spent a lot of the last six months finally walking down the path that I avoided for so long. And I won’t lie, I’ve not particularly enjoyed the process of looking that far back. I felt a lot of shame in even engaging in the exercise because I know people who suffer what I always call “real” childhood wounds. I minimized mine. You might have read my last post on comparative suffering and how I did the opposite- I minimized my injuries because they “weren’t as bad” as someone else’s.
I am WOKE on the idea of healing well. But how is healing well different than healing? In my mind, healing involves working through the trauma and coming out on the other side. While healing is progress, sometimes healing is like putting a bandaid on a bullet hole. It may slow the bleed, but it doesn’t fix the gunshot wound. Healing WELL, on the other hand, means actually addressing the underlying issues and going from simply surviving to thriving.
So, how do you go about healing well?
First and foremost, if possible, cease all communications with the source of abuse
This is not the time to worry about hurting your abuser’s feelings. You did that. You probably did that for far longer than you should have. You don’t have to go out of your way to be kind. You don’t have to worry about upsetting them when you block them from social media or in your phone. You don’t have to think twice about how it might set them off. You don’t have to worry about hurting their feelings. They don’t care about yours.
If no contact isn’t an option, stick to parallel relationships. Parallel relationships mean that you essentially have two separate relationships with the same person- one in which you have no contact, and one in which you do, for essential reasons.
Even if you have to have contact – set limits to those communications. If you share children, then communications should only be about the children. There are dozens of apps that allow you to communicate important information about the children while still having the other person blocked from calling or emailing or anything else.
Notice that I didn’t say forgive them. That may or may not be part of your healing journey- it depends on you. But before you can even think of that, you have to forgive yourself. You have to cut yourself slack and give yourself grace. For being there in the first place and staying however long you did. Being in an abusive relationship is inherently confusing; sometimes it’s hard to know up from down because of constant gaslighting.
Forgive yourself for being human. Forgive yourself for having empathy. Forgive yourself for wanting to love someone to wellness, but understand now that you can’t.
This is the time to be selfish. And spend your journey to forgiveness on yourself first.
Engage the help of a support system.
Now that you are out of the fog of war, you can connect with others again. If you were anything like me, you pushed people away when in the worst of it. You didn’t want to talk about it because then it was real.
This is the time for accountability. Bring people into your life that love you and support you and will be there as you navigate these new waters. If you can afford it, get into therapy or find a recovery coach. Join a support group such as CODA or similar programs through your community or local church. Join online groups for people recovering from abuse. Listen and learn.
My support system includes my family and a few close friends, who I keep apprised of what is going on in my journey, a mentor, a narcissistic abuse recovery coach, a therapist, and an online support group. Your net doesn’t have to be cast that wide, but the more people I find myself engaging with the safer I ultimately feel from possibly sliding back into those dangerous ways of relating.
On a slight aside, couples counseling will not help you in a relationship with a narcissist, if that happens to you. A support system does not include couples counseling. Abuse is not a couples problem. It is a problem of the abuser, and while you may start with someone together, it is important that you take your own healing journey.
Move to survivor mentality
I believe fully in the law of attraction. You become what you think, what you surround yourself with, and what you put out into the world. In order to be a survivor, you have to look at yourself as one. And believe me, you are a survivor. You were a victim. You were victimized. But you survived. And now you’re a survivor. What happened was a part of your past and has no place in your future. You are a survivor.
As part of the survivor mentality, you are also ready to THRIVE. You are ready to embrace what life has coming for you and knock it out of the park. You are ready to stop wasting your time, your energy, your tears, your resources on people that don’t deserve you. Socially distance from those people. Use your energy into life giving friends, family, and things. You are ready for the best life you can live.
Share your story
One of the most profound things I heard in my recovery process was the importance of sharing my story. When you give your story a voice, it is personalized. It is real, and you can’t hide from the depth of the emotions.
If you’re not comfortable enough to share your story out loud, maybe write it down. Journal it. Just get it out there. There is a profound way that putting it on the outside instead of carrying it on the inside helps you to heal.
The graphic below represents something that I believe wholeheartedly. You can’t move to healing if you don’t do the feeling, and it’s impossible to feel if you can’t talk about it. You need to say it, to cry about it, to be angry about it, to grieve it. Talk. Feel. Heal.