There are undoubtedly many stages and layers of healing but I find most interesting about these six stages is the last one, Maintenance. It involves returning to the earlier stages to continue healings. As I look at these six stages, I see myself in each one, and part of me wonders why I’m not entirely healed. I realize now that I’ve returned to the earlier stages, several times, and my healing is ongoing. It is deeper now than ever before.
The damage from abuse is like a slow acting poison requiring a painful antidote. Sometimes I find it hard to remember what it felt like to be trapped in an abusive relationship and then a trigger brings a flashback encompassing every sensory detail. Numbing the pain and emotions allowed me to stumble through life for a few years, but eventually, my deteriorating condition forced me to confront the trauma. Chronic, debilitating migraines were the primary physical manifestation of my unprocessed trauma. These migraines significantly interfered with my ability to work and care for my children, but if it was not for this physical ailment, I might have delayed my search for help even longer. In working towards reducing the migraines, I met several wonderful and caring doctors, physical therapists, counselors and everyday people who helped me get back on my feet. There are so many things I would do to keep from ever having another migraine, but I acknowledge they are the proverbial straw that broke the camels back and started my healing journey. The process has been excruciatingly slow at times, but I am much stronger now and have a great deal more patience. The poison is still leaving me, and the antidote is unpleasant, but in the end I will be free.
There is no co-parenting with a narcissist – only hurt and despair. The health and welfare of our children were never his priorities, and during the divorce, my children were manipulated to obtain information about me. They were all under age ten and missed their daddy even though he was abusive towards them. Just wanting to spend time with their dad they instead were met with demands to secretly remove items from their childhood home for him and met with rage and fury if they did not comply. They were grilled relentlessly about my activities and screamed at when he heard something he did not like. He screamed at our young children because he was mad at me. I’m an adult, and his screaming and tantrums mean something different to me. This behavior towards the children was incredibly destructive and painful for them Eventually, the children told me they no longer wished to visit their dad, and he finally moved hundreds of miles away, slowly cutting off contact until this past Christmas there was no contact at all. There is no co-parenting with a narcissist-only damage control.
I have repeated many things I was too ignorant to repair. At one point I merely thought I just had bad luck with relationships. Many times I was told relationship failures were solely my responsibility. In truth, healthy boundaries were nonexistent in my life, and it took lots of pain and loss for me to see that. Now I understand that because I did not respect myself, I allowed others to disrespect me. So, there is some validity to the statement that my failed relationships were my fault. I failed to repair my broken pieces and that invited manipulative, abusive people into my life. The process of repairing is well underway but still incomplete making me fear any new relationship. I am hopeful that someday I will be well enough to have a healthy relationship. Until then being single and focusing on raising my children is more than enough to fill my days while the repairs continue.
I am a divorced single mom who struggles to provide for her children, and that is obvious to anyone who knows me. My divorce was painful, but it was the only way to break free from an abusive family environment. Providing for my children was something I was always able to do, and during most of my marriage, I supported the entire family. Ultimately, the chronic abuse left me emotionally and physically ill, and I lost my job. Now I spend most of my time helping myself and my children heal so that someday we can lead healthy and happy lives. It may not look like we are doing well, but compared to where we came from we are thriving. Criticism and judgment from those who have no idea how hard we have fought to survive is nothing more than an uneducated opinion and has no place in our lives.
The road to healing is full of bumps, potholes, and detours. Some days it feels as if I will never make it to my destination and the effort is futile. I find myself exhausted by devastating setbacks and crushed by the weight of the baggage I carry. As I continue to move forward despite the obstacles in my path, I find that no matter how small of a step I take it adds to the overall distance covered. Every inch is progress and it all adds up in the end. Not every mile marker will come easily and I’m sure I will lose hope again, but only momentarily. I understand now, that the road to healing is not linear and the ups and downs are to be expected along the way.
My upbringing encouraged me to hold in my emotions and deny my secrets. While this muting was not malicious, it resulted in devastating consequences for my life. A strong person, I was taught, was one who did not react to emotional situations. Only strong people restrain themselves and their feelings. Love was one of the emotions kept under wraps encompassing the physical and verbal expressions. In the end, hiding the abuse my children and I suffered at the hands of their father/my ex-husband resulted in physical and emotional illness, job loss and financial ruin. I can’t help but wonder how different things would be if I was encouraged to share my thoughts and feelings. It is difficult and many times uncomfortable to share my story or “sing my song” but I know the process is healing and I am determined to prevail.