If Healing After Abuse Was Easy, Everyone Would Do It

The difficult road to emotional freedom

There is a multitude of reasons why women stay in abusive relationships, including trauma bonding, financial dependency, fear of retaliation by a partner, religious beliefs, or holding onto illusions that an abuser might change.

Yet even when a victim ends up leaving and staying away from an abuser, this in no way means they have left this darkness behind. In fact, it is often the case that victims of abuse either continue to find themselves in other relationships that are abusive, they self-medicate (with alcohol, drugs, food, etc.) to dull the heartbreak, or they remain in a constant loop of low self-worth and the belief they don’t deserve any better.

Or worse: the trifecta of all three.

What is the missing link then between a person escaping an abusive relationship but not coming out on the other side successfully?

There is only one reason:

The healing process after abuse is a fucking beast.

And the journey of recovery can sometimes be harder than living with the abuse itself. Of course, it’s also the most worthwhile, but when a victim-turned-survivor first begins the process of healing, this is hardly a truth they can comprehend.

I should know. It took me until my late forties to come full circle and heal after spending the majority of my adult life in marriages to abusive men, the second of whom was a clinically diagnosed narcissist.

You would think I would have learned my lesson after falling in and out of love with my first husband, a man who replaced my father as the breaker of my heart time and time again. You would think I would have learned after being gaslighted, lied to, ignored, and disrespected for an entire decade in my twenties.

And you would think that the last thing I would do once I escaped abusive husband number one was to dive headfirst into abusive marriage number two before the ink on the divorce papers had even dried.

But logic was no match for my inability and straight-up fear of entering a healing process that demanded I take a step back and reflect on my situation. To see the truth for what it was.

At the time, I was simply too afraid. Thus, it would take nearly another two decades before something inside of me snapped, like a switch that had been turned on when I finally knew I’d had enough of the pain and was ready to face the scary opportunity presenting itself before me.

To heal.

Oh the irony in how the healing process after abuse can be more frightening than the abuse itself.

Yet it is, sometimes painfully so, which explains why so many are unable to follow it through to the other side (I won’t say “end” because we are always to some degree healing after trauma). This is why so many will either return to what hurt them in the first place or fall into similar relationships in the future. It is why we avoid digging into our deeper selves, why we remain asleep to the larger goings-on in our lives, why we avoid putting the pieces of the puzzle together to view the bigger picture.

Because when we’ve already suffered enough at the hands of someone we loved, sometimes (like after my first marriage) the pain is so overwhelming that we believe we can’t handle any more, even if that pain is actually the elixir to our many wounds and the answer to our prayers.

Oh the irony in how the healing process after abuse can be more frightening than the abuse itself.

Here is why the healing process after abuse is so daunting, scary, and just plain fucking hard:

  • We are alone, and for what may be the first time in our lives. We can no longer ask our questions to those around us since the answers exist only in the eyes staring back at us in the mirror.
  • We must surrender to the pain. To fully heal, we must push through our heartache instead of skirt around it or avoid it. And that’s definitely not the most fun you’ll ever have.
  • We need to peel back the layers of the onion in order to figure out how we got here. And we all know what digging into onions does.
  • We have to name the problem so we can fix the problem. But many of those problems begin with us: our lack of self-worth, no boundaries, an inherent belief we are unworthy — basically all those issues we’ve tried to avoid looking at in the past.
  • We must take responsibility. Not for the abuse since no one deserves to be abused, but for our own actions that led us to accept and oftentimes enable someone’s abuse of us. Ouch, that’s uncomfortable territory right there. Take it from someone who took a slow ride through it and would have rather stuck needles in my eyes.
  • Not only must we understand but we must accept what happened to us. Understanding the motives and tactics an abuser uses knowingly to harm us is one thing. Accepting our abuser for who they really are is quite another and one of the hardest and, frankly, most heartbreaking parts of the healing journey.
  • Looking at the past brings shame, judgment. No one wants to be a victim. It’s embarrassing. It’s humiliating. Yet how are we to survive something if we are not first a victim to it? The actual shame and blame belong to our abuser, yet to get to that realization it always seems to pass through us first.
  • We have to face our deepest fears. Are we unlovable? Were we responsible for our own abuse? Will we ever love again? Are we even worthy of real love? The good news is that all of these questions are eventually answered and reveal our value and worth in the world. The bad news is we have to swim the moat full of angry crocs to get them.
  • We will lose people. When we grow and rise above our situation, there are those we discover who actually preferred us when we were miserable and powerless. Thus, we have to make a choice as to who to make the priority: us or them. But you never see butterflies still hanging out with the caterpillars. After all, once you’re able to fly, who wants to return to the ground?
  • We will change. Obviously, for the better, but change is scary as hell and at the beginning of the healing process it’s like entering a haunted house of mirrors where you’re not quite sure how you’ll make it to the other side. Nor are we sure what’s even on the other side. This maze is where many end up turning around since fear has a way of stopping us dead in our tracks. The darkness can be overwhelming. Until, that is, we realize it cannot coexist with the light, which exists in the direction of forward. Going back can no longer be an option.
  • We will wake up. When our eyes are opened, we no longer can hide behind our naivety, our illusions about others, or our innocence. Once we’ve been awakened, we can never go back to sleep. Thus, we are compelled to see the truth as it is, not how we want it to be.
  • We must forgive ourselves. This is the key to the final door and is often the most difficult task to do simply because of how we’ve been conditioned to think about ourselves after abuse, especially at the hands of a narcissist. Often, we take over the role of our abuser and beat ourselves up. Plus, though we have mercy and forgiveness for days to give others, offering it to ourselves is like trying to speak a foreign language that we haven’t learned. Since forgiveness is the ultimate act of self-love, this is what makes it so hard to extend it to ourselves.

Healing after abuse is not for the faint of heart. It is quite possibly the hardest road an abuse victim will ever travel after already suffering more than their share of heartache.

Yet this journey is also by far the most worthwhile with the richest of rewards waiting on the other side where emotional freedom is waiting.

It just takes that first step. And then the second. When it gets hard, you take the third. When it seems impossible and you feel you might cave from the pain, you take the fourth.

And so on until you’re no longer lost. You’re no longer blind.

Until the moment arrives when you’ve found yourself, and you can finally, with eyes wide open, see.

***

To read more of my story of surviving and thriving after abuse, and to get a free copy of my book, “You’re Still That Girl: Get Over Your Abusive Ex for Good!” visit my website at www.suzannaquintana.com today!

Written by

Writer. Abuse Survivor. Narcissist Recovery Coach. Bestselling Author of “You’re Still That Girl: Get over Your Abusive Ex for Good!” www.suzannaquintana.com

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