The experiences of an English teacher travelling four continents in challenging classrooms & situations, sharing thoughts, tastes, feelings & sights as I go. Also an advocate for survivors of domestic abuse, read My Story on this blog. With a love of words & storytelling, I write about people & places for my blog & also magazines, websites, others blogs & I love to tweet short stories & comments here @ed2inspire
Thursday, 5 January 2017
Recovery from Abuse
What does recovery from abuse look like?
What does it feel like?
Sound like? Smell like? Taste like?
How does recovery happen and when?
Can it happen; can it ever happen? Does it ever happen?
Should it happen?
Does anyone have the right to expect it to happen? Is it possible?
I don’t know if full recovery can ever happen. Triggers are there for life, aren’t they? Smells, sounds, people and places, words and music all contribute to remembering. The memories never go away, do they? The memories we make are supposed to be good ones, ones that we can rediscover at times with great pleasure. But memories of abuse and the individuals involved, together with the places and events, haunt us and never go away. They are never far from the surface. They cause trauma, stress, sleeplessness, anxiety and sadly, some rely on drugs, alcohol and prescription medication. Self-harming, homelessness, eating disorders and poor mental health can all affect a victim of abuse.
Recovery is a big and powerful word as far as I am concerned.
The dictionary definition states:
“It is a return to a normal state of health, mind or strength”
And goes on to use the following words to define “recovery”
·Return to health
·Process of getting better
·Show signs of recovery
All the above words are difficult to swallow as a victim of abuse because each one of them only helps us for small windows of space and time in our healing, as we dip in and out of recuperation, healing, improvement, revival and signs of recovery.
What is a “normal state of health, mind and strength”? Who defines this in abuse victims and survivors? Who do we know that is able to define this? I know I resent friends and family asking if I have recovered or “got over it” or saying “you need to just move on”. It is not that simple. Our brains are patterned to remember our abuse, to remember the memories. The shame, guilt and embarrassment are embedded in our psyche. It runs through our veins. Most of us, at some time, have been programmed and groomed to keep the secret and remain silence until we cannot live that way any further.
By the time we have the “return to a normal state of strength” and talk about what happened to us, we are about to burst, explode, combust and cannot live like that anymore. The living a double life, living a lie, keeping the secret and just getting on with life as best we can put a huge strain on the victim and in many cases the family too. But even after we have shared our biggest encumbrance with that trusted someone the memories never leave us. Keeping the secret is what the abuser relies on; secrets and lies are what abuse is founded on. Speaking out is what we must do, but it's finding the health, mind and strength to do this, that is the never ending challenge for each victim and survivor.
I ask myself regularly should my memories be just that, memories. Are my triggers healthy and do they keep me safe. Do my memories really remind me to be careful about the future? Do others have a right to decide what memories we hang onto and what ones we disregard? Do others have the right to determine when and how we recover? Do others have the right to judge us when a smell or piece of music on the radio resort us to tears or anger? Time and place, photos and restaurants, music and movies still trigger me and regurgitate a memory that will make me sad, scared and anxious, stressed or even have palpitations. I am sure they do that to you too. We will all have different spaces, items and situations that act as reminders and triggers and that’s ok.
So the big question is, can we, as survivors of abuse, ever really and truthfully be fully recovered and returned to a normal state of health, mind or strength or all three.
My answer to this is that some days we can and some days we can’t, that “recovery” is a constant treadwheel of trying and making the best of each moment, hour and day. We can only do our best and of course that is ok. We can only live in the moment. I can’t think of the future and I try not to dwell too much on the past. I have learnt not to beat myself up about the past or the future. No one knows what is round the corner for any of us and worrying about my future makes me sad. Dwelling on my past makes me unhappy too, so I have learnt to live in the moment and try to enjoy each moment of today. Today is the only day I might have, so I enjoy it to its fullest.
I enjoy my home, the air I breathe, the wind on my face, the peace of my farm nestled away in the Pennines, my family and my animals. It is the first time in many years I have actually found Elaine again and can be truly me with no judgements. No one has the right to say “just get over it” or “you need to move on” because “recovery” is in your time, space and pace, if at all. For some recovery will only come with justice and that can take a lifetime in some cases. Recovery can take a lifetime for us all and, of course, that is absolutely ok too.
This blog post gives a small insight into my recovery, healing and my incy-wincy (as I call it) golden nugget that remains at the very base of my brain in order to keep me safe from ever having to suffer any form of abuse ever again. My tiny golden nugget is my safety net and pops into action whenever I feel unsafe or vulnerable and reminds me to be wary, cautious, vigilant and trust my gut.