In earlier blogs, I mentioned that certain steps should be taken (in my opinion/experience) to further the healing process. So far, I have discussed defining the situation as abuse, getting distance from the perpetrator, and building a support group by telling certain family and friends.
But all of these baby steps reflect a larger and more general goal – To take back control of your life. If you’ve been abused, the general scenario is that someone else controlled your life; your emotions, your actions, etc., for some length of time.
Now that you’ve taken the above-mentioned baby steps (and perhaps even before some of them) it is time to reclaim your life for yourself. To focus on what makes you tick, where you find enjoyment.
This can be a scary thought. My immediate reaction when considering this option was goodness, Lauren, stop being so selfish. Me, me, me. But what about others?
My response now: Taking care of yourself does NOT mean that you are being selfish. In fact, it is my belief that it is necessary to take care of yourself before you are capable of properly caring for others. It’s like the oxygen masks on an airplane. You have to put yours on first before you can help someone else with theirs. If you are not in a state of calm, how can you convince someone else not to panic?
I spent most of my life believing that I had to please everyone: to keep the peace, not ruffle any feathers, to make others lives less difficult. Don’t be a troublemaker, I told myself (though I couldn’t help it), don’t be so talkative, don’t do this, don’t do that. I was binding myself by restrictions that looking back I realize were mostly silly. I forced those restrictions on myself in the hopes that I could be “good enough” for my abuser. That he would care if I fit the checklist of perfection.
The smallest step can mean the biggest growth in taking back our lives for ourselves. Start with enjoying activities that you like. Not that others like, or that others will think are cool. But with activities/things that you like.
Next, take control of your communication channels. Change your phone number if you need to to get away from negative situations. I had to do this, and so far I think it was one of my better decisions. Free yourself from contact with those who would do nothing but drag down your self-esteem, be unkind, or not be understanding/sympathetic. I also had to block my ex on Facebook to get away. And that’s okay.
Be in control of your situation and free yourself from the fear of your abuser contacting you, communicating with you. If further steps need to be taken to achieve this, then don’t be afraid to take them.
I think ultimately, taking back control of your life means learning to love yourself for exactly who you are in this moment. All your flaws, all your hardships, everything that’s happened in the past. The mistakes you’ve made, yes. But even more than that, start paying attention to your good qualities, and focus time and effort into those.
What am I good at? What do I like to do? I like to volunteer, write, and read. So I find time to do those things. Don’t worry about whether or not you see yourself as good at something. If you like to write, then write. It doesn’t matter that you’re not Shakespeare. Try this brief writing exercise out. If you like to dance, then dance. Youtube has some great teaching videos.
The point is, find the parts of you YOU love and invest in them. Find what you are good at and remind yourself of that daily. This is the hardest part for me to accept, as I am a perfectionist. But learning to love yourself is the first step towards letting others love you.
So take back control of your life. Take control of your communication, your friendships, your daily activity choices. Take control of loving yourself. I am trying to learn how to do this. Because if you love yourself, you don’t need the not-so-lovey, “love” that your abuser “gave” you.
To read about one woman’s journey to reclaiming her life for herself, check out Eat. Pray. Love, a novel by Elizabeth Gilbert. There is a movie about it yes, but it is the book that helped me, the movie takes a lot of the spiritual journey out of the story. Although this novel is about a woman overcoming divorce, the general search for healing can be very enlightening and informative and I definitely recommend it to those searching for personal peace of any kind.