At the end of 2019, I decided, determined, resolved, that the year 2020 would be a year of healing, rebirth, and rediscovery. I am determined to have no toleration of toxic behaviors. I am resolved to pursue a life of peace and joy, making my life a work of art.
“How’s it going?” you ask? Ok, maybe you didn’t ask. But I will tell you. It is going mostly well, although I have to fight for the life I want. I have good days with a few bad days mixed in.
I’ve often read that a person can’t recover from abuse while still experiencing ongoing abuse. I know it is true. However, the journey is difficult even after a person has left an abusive situation because the abuser has wreaked all sorts of damage in her (or his) psyche and their “voice” is still in her head, belittling, insulting, undermining, devaluing. I think abuse is like a disaster–tornado, hurricane, earthquake, fire. While the disaster is happening, a person is just trying to survive the brutal chaos. Afterward, there’s a sense of relief that, hey, we made it! But the disaster has caused terrible destruction, and now comes the difficult task of rebuilding–of sorting through what can be saved, grieving losses that can’t be salvaged, replacing the ruined with the new, building stronger than before. There’s a myriad of emotions: relief, despair, grief, weariness, anger, determination, courage, hope, acceptance, growth.
Last week I had a few emotionally rough days. I have bad dreams pretty much every night, usually involving our relatives, and I often wake up rather sad. After a few minutes and a cup or two of coffee, I can usually readjust my outlook and I am ok for the rest of the day. Occasionally, however, depression/anxiety takes over, and it can take several days of fierce battles to regain my well-being. Often it’s a little thing that triggers the rough day: a bad dream, a memory, a guilting meme, an unexpected expense, a heartbreaking story in the news, an encounter with cruelty… I have days when I think, “I’ve got this!” and days when I think that I will never make it through. I have days when I think, “I really like who I am becoming!” and days when I looked at myself with loathing.
It’s rather odd because I struggle with depression and anxiety, but at the same time, I get lost in the beauty and wonder of the world around me. I deeply love simple things: wildlife eating from the birdfeeder, the stars at night, sunrises and sunsets, wildflowers, the contented clucking of the chickens, the purring of cats, Hannah Joy’s quirks and foibles that make me giggle, spending time with EJ. I love learning new things: I am having a wonderful time experimenting with different recipes with my Instant Pot, which a friend gave us for Christmas. I love learning about the world around me–plants and animals, history, the cultures of different countries. I am awed by the amazing talents and creativity of people. I am overwhelmed by their love and humbled when they trust me enough to share their heartaches with me. Sometimes when a friend shares something silly or “stupid” that she has done, I laugh–not in ridicule, but in absolute delight–because I love people’s quirks, which I think makes them wonderfully unique from anyone else.
For example, once a friend told me that she woke in the night feeling not-so-great, so she went into the bathroom to take an Airborne tablet. Airborne is supposed to help enhance the immune system and reduce colds and such. Only she didn’t realize that you had to wait for the tablet to dissolve in water. She thought it was chewable so she ate it…and her mouth started foaming. She grabbed a glass of water, but the more she drank, the more her mouth foamed. So she’s standing there with foam bubbling from her mouth. She laughed so hard that she could barely tell the story, and I laughed so hard listening to it that tears ran down my face. Quirks like this make me think, “This is why I love you. You are so uniquely and wonderfully yourself!”
If each person’s life could be compared to a small candle, then one of the things I hate most about abusers is that they try to extinguish others’ lights–they destroy the very qualities that makes their victims so unique and wonderful. They extinguish laughter, hope, talent, love. It’s as if they believe that in extinguishing others’ lights their own will shine brighter. How appalling! I have less and less tolerance for people who try to destroy the beautiful light of others. They are truly destroyers of light.
Survivors of abuse have been taught that their little light has no value, that it’s inadequate and pathetic. It’s not true! I want to increasingly help others to rekindle their flickering flame, to see the beautiful light in themselves: I try to tell them that “I see your love and sacrifice. Don’t apologize for your sense of humor. You are delightfully funny and witty. Don’t think your gifts are pathetic, you are wonderfully creative. Don’t hate your quirks and foibles, they are what makes you so unique! You don’t have to be the same as everyone else: Let your little light shine.”
EJ and I have always cared about other people. We have always tried to be careful to respect others’ rights and boundaries and to never cause them pain. But it has taken us a long time to recognize that our own little lights have value and also deserve to be protected, nurtured, and to shine. We also deserve to have our rights and boundaries respected, to voice our opinions, to make our own choices, and we don’t have to tolerate those who cause pain and try to extinguish our beauty.
To me, recovery is threefold. It involves nurturing my own little light, it involves helping others shine their lights, and it involves defending our lights against those who would try to blow them out. I think that the more lights that shine, the more the darkness is diminished.