Healing takes time and courage.

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It has been over 5 years since I managed to leave an abusive relationship which has left my family traumatised. Me, my now teenage son and even our dog.

The humans have had a lot of therapy, the dog is beyond hope but still super cute. I won’t speak for my son or share his healing story because it is his and his alone. I also can’t speak for the dog, for obvious reasons. But I will share mine.

In the last 5 years I have dragged myself out of a hole that I believed was of my own making. I lost a business in newborn photography to the pandemic, I went back to Uni to study for a Masters in psychotherapy, and I have had 2 years of therapy to help me understand what happened to me and how it has affected everything in my life including my future.

At the bottom of that hole, I didn’t care if I woke up the next morning. I was careless with myself and sometimes even reckless. I have been furious with the world, I have raged at myself and everyone around me and I have withdrawn from the world completely. I regret every moment I allowed our abuser to stay under my roof gaslighting us, manipulating us, physically and emotionally punishing us. And it has taken me a long time to hold that regret in a way that doesn’t still hurt me. It was my wonderful son who quietly said one day “I don’t blame you Mom, he abused both of us.” I wish I could have done better for us all, but at the time I couldn’t.

Fast forward 5 years and I was absolutely convinced that I was pretty much healed. I have learned to start loving myself again, to see the strength inside of me and to look forward to a peaceful future alone and content.

Then, as sometimes happens, I started to make new connections with people. Some didn’t feel safe so I withdrew. But, some felt safe, and those connections have started to change me again. Connections with the handful of friends who stuck around through it all deepened, new connections with new friends forged in the fires of learning to be a therapist, and new connections through social media (these connections count, don’t let anyone tell you that they don’t) and mind-blowing connections with parts of myself that weren’t ready to be healed until now.

The point I am trying to make, in a very roundabout way, is that healing is a process. I had the realisation that I am STILL healing, and I think I always will be. Does that mean that I’m not a good friend? No. Does that mean I am not a great therapist to others who have survived trauma and abuse? Absolutely not, in fact, my experiences are one of my superpowers because I can really see my clients and their pain. What it does mean is that I have found other facets of myself that I wasn’t even aware of.

I have found a woman who doesn’t wake up scared of the future and is happy to just let it be what it is because not having control over it no longer feels as scary, in fact, it feels a bit exciting. I have found a woman who can accept compliments, who can laugh loudly in public and not care, a woman who can wear Care Bear joggers to walk the dog in public and not care what others think (although this may add to the poor dog’s trauma!), a woman who has discovered that she actually does want to travel and see a bit of the world but who also wants to do peaceful things like watching sunsets and reading new books. I am reconnecting with myself, and it finally feels safe.

So, when clients ask me when they will feel healed and my response is “it’s different for everyone”, please know that I am just being honest because it really is different for everyone.

Being in a domestic violence situation has far-reaching consequences, it can impact everything from that moment forward. How I viewed the world has changed, the world hasn’t, but how I step out into it as a person absolutely has and it’s still changing. And I quite like it.

So, there IS hope, you CAN heal from trauma and abuse, you just may not be able to do it alone. I couldn’t and still can’t. I NEED connections with people who feel safe and the only way to find those connections is to be brave and patient with myself.

If you are looking for a safe connection, start with a safe therapeutic relationship. I did, and it is working.

I can’t promise that you will be comfortable wearing Care Bear joggers at the age of 44 though. I think that might be my own particular brand of silliness. Probably for the best. If you got this far through my self-indulgent ramble then I commend you. My wish for you is that it feels hopeful because that is what I am feeling. Hopeful for a future that I have the power to define for myself.

~ Lisa

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