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Title: Survivor Recovery - What to Expect
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Posts: 486

(Date Posted:03/13/2012 5:25 AM)

Survivor Recovery - What to Expect

"Peace of mind comes from not wanting to change others."
Gerald Jampolsky

"As we learn about mental illnesses and disorders
we learn a lot about ourselves along the way."
from an older archived Canadian Mental Health document

Reader Comments...

"It's articles like this and sharing our experiences
that help us to grow and move forward."

"This is a great article. I think it covers about everything,
and does it well."

"This is a beautifully written article which is concise
and loaded with the nuts and bolts.

We realize we’ve been deceived and betrayed. We are reeling trying to understand. We were targeted by their false mask of sanity. We don’t deserve this. We seem to be living with Jekyll and Hyde. Well, we are. Learning about abusive behavior will be your strong suit. If you've been trying to help, cure, 'love it out of him,' reverse, change, plead, bargain or negotiate with this person we quickly realize it’s futile and backfires on us as they soak up all the attention this generates. Finally we get it. They have a problem we can't fix. Accept the reality. He is what he is.
They have perfected the technique and have lots of experience targetting our caring nature. They know exactly which buttons to push to get every last drop of attention they can from us.

Be Realistic
Their personality traits are so deeply ingrained the cycles of abuse, bad judgment and inability to cope in a close relationship will continue throughout their lives. We mourn the loss of memories of laughs and shared experiences. Our slow-healing emotions cause us to doubt and question the truth of this disorder. You ask yourself "How can we be just disposable objects to them?" We undergo a paradigm shift in how we see our personality-disordered abusers. This new knowledge will be a life-altering experience for us. Just getting our heads around this nasty reality nugget is a major hurdle overcome.

Ground Rules
The abuser will certainly react to our use of boundaries. Violence is possible.  They will try a variety of ways to push our buttons to get a reaction. Detach, ignore and never give him the satisfaction of taking his bait. Setting ground rules as we transform from being their target to taking control of our lives is important. Being tactful, fair and unyielding in our decisions and expectations will go a long way to boosting our self esteem and ending the abuse. Refuse to be a victim. Don't be a willing particpant in your own abuse. It is often best to learn and use face-saving tactics with an abusive N.  

Take the Pain
The process of 'leaving and grieving' is emotionally devastating and lengthy. Professional therapy can be a tremendous help. Join our support group of people who have been through this. You are not alone. You are not a victim in this situation, you were targeted. Only those who have encounterd this kind of evil will understand. Are you on an emotional rollercoaster? We will have times when we doubt ouselves or question the reality. We can expect good and bad days, obsessive thinking, nasty thoughts of revenge and justice. So go ahead, punch a pillow. Keep a journal, it's wonderful therapy. Surround ourselves with normal people. We need to be firm with ourselves too. We need to ditch that 'if only' or need-for-closure thinking that keeps us hooked. We need to detach and resist the urge to reconnect with them. Time is our best friend. If we do reconnect with this abuser, treat it as a learning opportunity. Go easy with yourself. Protecting yourself financially and emotionally is your lifeline. Continued contact with any abuser is dysfunctional behaviour and professional therapy is often needed.

Perhaps we're attracted to the wrong types, or we create 'excuses' to avoid leaving, are terrified of loneliness, have abandonment fears or if we think our abuser is all we have, we need therapy. If we're stuck or unable to progress through the stages of recovery, we need therapy also. Many people face these problems. You are not alone and you are not weak.

“No Contact"
One of our strongest tools to recover is the power that comes from our self discipline and silence. We need to separate and distance ourselves physically, emotionally and verbally. Time and distance have a wonderful way of bringing clarity to the situation. It’s the fastest way to heal. These abusers will leave us in the most emotionally crushing way. They choose the timing and they inflict great emotional and financial devastation, and they enjoy doing it. They take what is near and dear to us and crush it as they casually walk away. In time we realize the relationship was doomed to failure, but we don't realize that until later. We will undergo a paradigm shift in changing our ways of thinking about our situations and a painful change of our expectations.

Our involvement with them causes a temporary suspension of our otherwise good judgment. We need this time to learn, gain perspective, and heal. This is our perfect opportunity to learn why we may have remained in abusive situations. We all need to accept ownership of any mistakes we may have made along the way. If we must make contact because of legal/custody arrangements, discuss absolutely nothing else. Watch for bait from him or his proxies.

The Nature of the Beast
An abuser is not going to make the end of a relationship easy. If you're one of the lucky ones, he'll cut you off cold and you'll never hear from him again. He’ll flaunt his new 'soulmate' under your nose. He’ll have her convinced you’re a demon who has gone over the edge, but you know she’s being deceived. He’ll say nasty things about you to anyone he can find. He’ll fight you tooth and nail for every nickel. He’ll try and turn the kids and everybody else against you. He’ll stalk and harass and could become violent. You’ll be having a hard time just coping with the loss of the relationship, let alone the other darts he’ll throw.

He will try to drawn you into the relationship over and over and will only give up when it's easier to target somebody new. Don't allow yourself to think that "he's reaching out because he cares" - that's what he wants you to think and he will be counting on your gullibility.

Self Analysis
Now we’re faced with another beast. Ourselves. When the relationship ends, our self esteem is crushed, we feel humiliated, and we’re setting our feet on a path we never expected. Out of the chaos is the realization that we may have traits that make us vulnerable to these predators. We may be psychologically dependent on the need to have someone, even an abuser in our lives. We may be ashamed to admit our partners turned abusive. We may find we’re nurturers who have given ‘til it hurts. Often we find we’re naïve, vulnerable and easily deceived or drawn to these types. We may have addictive behaviours or too high a tolerance for bad behaviour. Or, we may be addicted to the drama. We may learn we were raised in homes we once thought as normal to find we’re preconditioned to accepting bizarre behaviour, or we look the other way because we grew up looking the other way. We may find we have our own personality disorders, or mental health issues. As we learn about mental illnesses we will learn a lot about ourselves too.  Seek professional therapy - a very strong tactic - for ourselves.

We are now the rare individuals with first-hand knowledge of these flesh and blood human impersonators. Well, there’s no such thing as bad knowledge. Down the road, we emerge from this experience a lot smarter and more self aware. Most of us find we function best where we can put our nurturing helping talent to good use. Be good to yourself and carefully pick those who deserve your special talents and abilities. There is a wonderful world waiting out there -- far away from those who would target you.

Next Time?
We will no longer be naive and trusting. We'll take our knowledge of these abusers and learn a few red flags and where their favourite hunting grounds are. We'll pay more attenton to our gut instincts and put any relationships on hold while we watch for more signs, determine the reality of the situation, and we'll protect ourselves more. Being aware of our vulnerabilities will make us a whole lot smarter next time we run into one of them. Yes, we will. Beyond a doubt, we’ll see more of them in the future. The hell you’ve survived will pay off now. You’ll be able to spot one of these fast-talking, smooth-walking con artists and we'll be armed to the teeth with an ability to avoid them and protect ourselves. But, can we always spot them? Of course not. We’re already vulnerable and they can fake and charm their way into anyone’s heart. When we begin to detect the cracks in their behaviour, we'll know to move quickly to escape. The precious gift we give ourselves will be our own self sufficiency. Taking charge of our lives will bring the reward of Peace of Mind.

Stop hoping he will return to the "way he was.' This "magical" thinking is normal for us. Abuse gets worse, not better. Take off the rose-coloured glasses.


Substance Abuse: We need to be clear headed. Slow down and stop any use of alcohol/drugs we may be taking to help cope.

Plan in advance
to protect your financial base and obtain emotional support. Never stay where there is potential for physical violence - get out fast. Learn the best ways to leave. Divorcing an abuser can be hell unleashed. Learn to work with lawyers, and child therapists/evaluators who will be helping you. A calm demeanour, proof and documentation are important. Having that documentation to refer to keeps us focused. Make a list of what nastiness you have had to endure. Refer to it for reinforcement. Inform other people you know will support you. Avoid those who will not. We conduct ourseves with dignity, integrity and grace, calm, factual, and in control.

If you are in joint therapy, tell the therapist your intention to leave. The therapist will be able to work with your abuser to prepare them. Ethical therapists will not disclose your intentions. A good therapist can help prepare your abuser for the separation.

Don't sweat the wedding vows...
As Dr. Phil reminds us "You can't sustain a relationship that is based on deception, lies, infidelity, or other deal-breaking behaviors. This is deal-breaking behavior." When our marriage has turned into lies, treachery, betrayal and abuse that person has destroyed every interpretation of any marriage vows.

How long does recovery take?
There's no calculation formula. We all heal at our own pace. We  progress through stages of recovery and grief. Recovery means being aware of how we are changed forever by this experience. We can speed up the process by focusing on 'one step at a time', and all-out ˜self care" agenda. It takes time to rediscover the person we were before and shape ourselves into the one we want to be. Grieve your lost relationship. Allow yourself plenty of time to wind down from the stress and abuse, and begin the process of rebuilding your new life. Be good to yourself first and foremost! Expect doubts, second-guessing yourself, nightmares, loneliness, post traumatic stress disorder, exhaustion. Journal and/or participate on a discussion site with others facing the same situation. 

Please go easy on yourself, OK? Some day we'll all look back and be able to see a funny side to all this.

We deal with the sadness and regret of our own hurtful words and actions. The nostalgic rememberance of shared intimacies, places, laughs and jokes and the emptiness left by the other person's absence, the lack of closure, and any  smear campaign hurled at us. We may face betrayal from our own families and friends. Coping with the end of our hopes and dreams of the relationships continuing, the loss of an anticipated future.

The reality of their lack of conscience is incomprehensible as we grapple with the realization that someone we loved is incapable of loving us in return. The shock of this new knowledge and reality that we're in love with someone with a mental disorder who can instantly and completely delete us from their memory and attach to a new 'supply source' and appear happier without us is very emotionally painful.

Our "how could I have been so stupid"? feeling, and unwarranted embarrassment and shock as it hits us that everything was a set up in their agenda. The awareness that we were targeted and our awareness of our naivete. The discovery of serious mental disorders as we learn the false mask of sanity hides their real nature. Learning the incomprehensible lack of empathy in them. Discovering the deception and lies, our exhaustion, and impaired health. Be aware that we may temporarily seem to be developing the very characteristics of the abuser in ourselves.

We face not being believed by anyone about what was done, being isolated, cut off from our support networks. The inability to warn or even get others to understand. As we learn about NPs, we often feel they are lurking behind every bush.

It is unlikely we'll ever be able to trust again with the innocence we once had. We've seen what evil this world has first hand.  Our gain - the wonderful discovery of our self reliance and an ability to cope with any abuser who may cross our path and finding grace, dignity and maturity of self discipline, knowledge and integrity.

Finally. Remember, your abuser has a mental disorder. He is what he is. Our recovery must our refusal to be an enabler, victim or target any more.

© Author: femfree 2010

"A true soul mate is probably the most important person you'll ever meet, because they tear down your walls and smack you awake. But to live with a soul mate forever? Nah. Too painful. Soul mates, they come into your life just to reveal another layer of yourself to you, and then they leave. And thank God for it. Their purpose is to shake you up, drive you out of a situation that you needed to leave, tear apart your ego a little bit, show you your obstacles and addictions, break your heart open so new light can get in, and make you so desperate and out of control that you have to transform your life."
Eat Pray Love, Elizabeth Gilbert


(Message edited by Indgo62On08/12/2012 7:44 AM)

"Why does he treat me so bad? Then it hit me - why was I allowing it?"

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