Everybody tells us to leave, but nobody tells us how to do so safely. And, once we are out, there is very little guidance on how to stay safe or to put the pieces of our shattered lives back together.
It’s My Life Now: Starting Over After an Abusive Relationship or Domestic Violence by Meg Kennedy Dugan & Roger R. Hock is an obscure book I found by accident and ordered immediately. It’s the kind of book that should be in every public library, but my library system has just one copy of the first edition which lacks the important updates in the second edition which was published in 2006.
The book covers an extensive array of issues and information, but it lacks depth. There are just two pages, for example, on PTSD which is experienced by most abuse survivors.
I am highly recommending this book because it had a very calming effect on me. The author’s voices are quite comforting and reassuring. I discovered what I have been experiencing is a totally normal reaction to horrendous experiences. The various checklists and exercises were quite helpful in assessing where I am along the abuse recovery path.
The authors appear to have a solid comprehension of the myriad of emotional issues confronting abuse survivors. At the same time, I found them horrendously naive about the adequacy of resources available to us. They’ve clearly never sought help from a domestic violence shelter or tried to get protection from litigation abuse.
Therapy in a Book
It is equally difficult to find a therapist competent to treat abuse issues. Yet, for less than $15 ~ which is cheaper than one therapy appointment ~ I have ready access to therapy. Quite frankly, I found the book to far exceed the treatment plans of any of my therapists.
My last therapist, for example, didn’t understand abuse survivors’ issues with anger which is at the heart of most emotional issues:
Some women feel an overpowering rage that consumes every thought and feeling. But in your situation if you dared to display your anger, the situation would have become much worse. Instead of being able to vent your anger, you had to repress it; bottle it up inside of yourself.
. . .you may have taken the anger out on yourself. . .blame yourself. . .hate yourself. . .
Anger is a sign our boundaries have been invaded. Anger is a healthy response to abuse. Yet, many of us know the dire consequences we will face if we dare express that anger. To survive, some of us have become masters at repressing anger. We’re terrified what will happen if we ever let the cork out of that bottle.
So, when we’ve finally reached a place of safety, how do we release all that anger and rage without imploding or exploding? The book set out a plan.
Assessing Your Healing
The authors invite us to track our progress. One of the most valuable exercises is on page 123-4. It provides an intial inventory of where we are in the recovery process. Rate where you are from “very good” to “good” to “just OK” to “not so good” to “does not apply to me” the following issues abuse survivors typically experience:
Your Overall Self-Esteem
Your Ability to Reach Your Life Goals
Your Personal Safety
The Safety of Your Children
Your Work or Career Life
Your Level of Happiness
Your Sense of Humor
Your Ability to Care for Others
Your Personal Attractiveness
Your Ability to Make Friends
Your Relationships with Existing Friends
Your Family Relationships
Interactions with Acquaintances
Relationships with Coworkers
Taking Time Just for Yourself
Treating Yourself Well
Putting Your Needs First
Taking Care of Yourself Physically
Not Getting Overly Tired
Taking Care of Yourself When Ill
Your Overuse of Alcohol and Other Drugs
The idea isn’t to bludgeon us again with an abusiver person’s favorite weapon: “you aren’t good enough.” The idea is to help us make an accurate assessment of our progress ~ to know when we do ~ when we don’t ~ perhaps need help.
The consistent message in the book is that we are not to blame for our present circumstances. Our issues are a normal response to the abuse we experienced. Yes, the toxic clean-up isn’t any fun, but we can do it. We’re strong, courageous, and resilient. We had to be to survive.
Note: Thanks, Inga, for the beautiful flowers featured in this post.