A Beautiful Day

I want to share a song that reflects the new goals I wrote about in my last post. “A Beautiful Day” by India.Arie.  Enjoy!

Life is a journey,
Not a destination,
There are no mistakes,
Just chances we’ve taken
Lay down your regrets cause all we have is now
Wake up in the morning
And get out of bed
Start making a mental list in my head
Of all of the things that I am grateful for
Early in the morning
It’s the dawn of a new day
New hopes new dreams new ways
I open up my eyes and
I open up my mind and
I wonder how life will surprise me today
Early in the morning
It’s the dawn of a new day
New hopes new dreams new ways
I open up my heart and
I’m gonna do my part and
Make this a positively beautiful day
It’s a beautiful day
Life is a challenge not a competition
You can still smell the roses and be on a mission
Just take a moment to get in touch with your heart
Sometimes you feel like you’ve got something to prove
Remind yourself that there’s only one you
Just take a moment to give thanks of who you are
Early in the morning
It’s the dawn of a new day
New hopes, new dreams, new ways
I open up my eyes and
I open up my mind and
I wonder how life will surprise me today
Early in the morning
It’s the dawn of a new day
New hopes, new dreams, new ways
I open up my heart and
I’m gonna do my part and
Make this a positively beautiful day
It’s a Beautiful Day
Let’s make this a wonderful
Let’s make this a powerful
Let’s make this a Beautiful Day
It’s a Beautiful Day
Life is a journey,
Not a destination,
There are no mistakes,
Just chances we’ve taken
Lay down your regrets cause all we have is now
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Erasing the Survivor Penalty

Woman with arms raised in joyful pose

In my last post, I wrote about common advice to abuse survivors as they enter a new relationship. Go slow, be extremely careful, take time to work on yourself first, stick to your boundaries, and don’t let the new relationship become your entire focus. This is so important! But it’s only half the story.

I recently started reading several books by Brené Brown, and I strongly recommend her work to survivors of abuse. (And anyone else!) She writes about shame and how it gets in the way of empathy and connection, and her later books have focused on the power of vulnerability and its connection to courage. Essentially, she writes that it is impossible to have courage or connection without experiencing vulnerability.  There is much more that I could say about this, but for now I recommend viewing her Ted Talk, The Power of Vulnerability.

And the most vulnerable emotion, according to Brené Brown?  Joy.

Continue reading “Erasing the Survivor Penalty”

Going Slow

Turtle resting

One of the most frequent pieces of advice I hear for abuse survivors who are entering a new relationship is to “be very, very careful” and to “go slow.”  But what does that mean in practice?  I have asked a few people, and they each had different answers.  One had a certain number of weeks that they wanted to casually date, no strings attached, before calling anything a “relationship.” Some have limits on how far things should progress physically, so that their attraction and hormonal responses don’t cloud their judgement on the other aspects of the person. Someone I greatly respect who works with domestic violence survivors emphasizes not telling too much about your past to someone new–that you don’t owe them your whole story.  When I spoke with my mother about it, she suggested limiting my “dates” with my new boyfriend to once a week, so that I’d have plenty of time to focus on other things and continue my personal growth.

But as I have written before, during my recovery, the biggest thing I have learned is how to start listening to myself.  While some of this advice has been useful…what is most important to me now is what are my own standards, and how can they can guide me in a new relationship? Continue reading “Going Slow”

Untangling my Triggers

Even almost a year and a half out, I’m still discovering small triggers of mine. At first I’ll notice a spike in anxiety and the physical symptoms of this, my body tensing up at the mention of something. Even if I’m not sure why I feel the reaction, I get an urge to change the subject or avoid whatever caused it. But if I later return to this memory and examine it, I’m sometimes able to discover more about what caused my anxiety, untangle those knots and let the memory free.

This happened most recently on a date. (Yes, I surprised myself by actually beginning to date again and it is going well!) My date and I were talking about music, going through our phones and looking for bands that we might have in common. Then he mentioned a few musicians that my ex-narcissistic abuser had listened to often.  Without even thinking, I quickly and automatically changed the subject.

Since I left my abuser, I had avoided listening to certain music that I used to enjoy because I associated it with him. But I hadn’t really examined why. I just assumed it reminded me of him and that it was normal to avoid things that reminded you of the ex–especially an abusive one.  But on further examination I realized it was connected to something much larger. And I believe that my stress reaction was also stronger since the topic came up during a date. Due to the trauma it’s associated with, part of my brain wondered if having something superficial in common like enjoying the same band was an indication that my date would share deeper traits with my abuser as well.  While I try to  listen to my gut and stay attuned to “red flags,” I had to admit that this was an irrational fear based on my history and my trauma. It did not really have anything to do with my date, or the music itself.

And here is the story from the past that the mention of this music brought back:

Continue reading “Untangling my Triggers”

Trusting Your Gut

I started this blog to write about my reflections surrounding the 10 years I spent married to a narcissistic abuser, in the immediate aftermath of leaving and going No Contact. But “Life After Narcissistic Abuse” is certainly not an unending reflection on the past. This is part of why my posts have slowed down as I got further along in my recovery. After I have had time to process those memories, I don’t need to return to them. Sometimes there is nothing left to learn from them.

However, I want to share more about where I am right now.  A big part of recovery from emotional abuse is learning to “trust your gut.”  All those times your abuser has criticized you, gaslighted you, made you feel crazy, pointed out what he claimed are your faults (but really may have been strengths that he envied), all the times he told you that you were worthless, useless, and more?  And the next day with a fake apology he reminds you that you are the love of his life, and that you should ignore that disturbing feeling at the pit of your stomach, that nagging realization that something is deeply wrong, because you are only oh-so-sensitive?  That cycle, repeated over and over for years teaches us to mistrust ourselves. We silence ourselves, we doubt ourselves, we lose touch with our inner voice and hear the voice of our abuser instead. Recovery is the process of gaining back that voice. Continue reading “Trusting Your Gut”

Letting Go of my Anger

I have problems with anyone telling a victim of abuse that they need to forgive their abuser. Or rather, I at least have a problem with telling them when they should forgive.  Several months ago, I touched on this in Finding my Power: Trauma, healing, and growth:

Perhaps this is not compassionate of me or limits my ability to forgive, but at the time I choose to limit my compassion for the monster that did such damage to me and I feel nothing wrong with that. I reserve the right to never forgive him.

I’m ready to expand on that now.  There is some truth to the necessity of forgiving those who harmed us, when holding on to what happened in our past begins to weigh us down and prevent us from recovering fully. Continue reading “Letting Go of my Anger”

Reflections on The First Argument

A few days ago, I wrote about my memory of one of our earliest arguments. Since then, a supportive person who I told about the incident actually found an email that I had written about it. This was in September 2006, about a month after we started dating.  I want to share some excerpts for some insight on how these first episodes of verbal and emotional abuse are perceived in the mind of the victim who has been groomed for them.

Imaginary relationships are so much better than real ones, at least in an immature adolescent way. Being around FutureExMonster has been stressful a lot since I came back to school.

“Imaginary relationships” — this was my first boyfriend, although he didn’t call himself that and would not use the word “boyfriend” for quite some time. When I went home for the summer, the what-I-thought-was-friendship that we had for 2 years changed. We started talking on the phone and emailing or writing letters and he visited me at my family’s house. In this time period, I don’t remember anything bad about his behavior. He seemed respectful and sensitive and shared his opinions and values with me. This is what is called the idealization and mirroring stage. I believe that he was mirroring back what he knew I wanted to see and hear, trying to reflect himself as someone I could have a deep connection with. Maybe there were hints of insults or other ways of testing my vulnerability in this stage, but I don’t remember any. However, he did learn a lot about me, what I perceived as my weaknesses and insecurities, which he could later use against me to make his words hurt.

When I came back to school, this changed. He began pulling out tools from his arsenal of abusive tactics. Insults. Ordering. Manipulation. Withholding. Rages. Triangulation.

Continue reading “Reflections on The First Argument”