Very often a change in your views or conceptions doesn’t actually hit you until something ‘clicks’ in your head. This is very much like the recovery process of which I wish to discuss.
Like the stages of mourning, there is a process that a person must endure before they can either move on or consider themselves cured from the grief that they had experienced.
5 stages of mourning
Put simply Kubler Ross and David Kessler described the five stages as; denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. They are tools to help us frame and identify what we may be feeling. But most importantly they are not checkpoints on a linear timeline.
Writing the sequal
Last week I had a chat with one of my potential publishers. It was during this conversation that I informed him that I had started work on a sequel to my book (which incidentally will be called Silent Story). Almost at that point I had realised that I had, indeed, moved onto a new stage.
In essence, I had stopped trying to work out why things had happened but had now tried to understand why things are the way they are. I was no longer a victim but a veteran with a story to tell with a benefit of hindsight. I didn’t have to try and understand why things were the way they were but to try and find a science or formula to share or to understand.
When I read and re-read my earlier material, I can see and hear the distress and pain that the events had caused. There were so many questions I was seeking answers for and it became a maelstrom of paths and directions I needed to venture down to try and make sense of it all. Yet my later writings were an attempt to answer those questions and to try and gain some form of perspective.
However, it is impossible to identify at what point this change happened. Like the mourning process I mentioned above it became organic and was a slow process.
But I will now argue that I am sitting comfortably in the recovery zone.
Several weeks ago. I asked if I could return to work but on light duties due to a back injury I sustained. Unfortunately for me there was nothing available, so I just came home and focused my working energy on the publication of my book. Finally, it was decided that I had recovered enough to consider going back to work (on a phased return). However, I had so much leave to take that it was decided to take some prior to my return otherwise I would lose it. So, as I write this I am coming to the end of a period of leave as opposed to a period of sickness. That for me shows a tangible example of recovery.
Ups and downs
A viciously intense roller-coaster of emotions and experiences is how most victims would describe their time spent with an abuser. You’d hope then, that once you break free of their grip, this unpleasant ride would come to an end…but you’d be wrong.
The ups and downs tend to continue long after you’ve left them behind, as if their poison still courses through your veins. Recovery from abuse is just like any other form of mental or physical recovery – it takes time and determination for the wounds to heal.
Healing the wounds
My research identified that abuse in all of its forms, affects so many people that it is too horrifying to comprehend. Yet, I have shown that once you leave the relationship the problems don’t just end there. Time and again in my earlier blogs I have demonstrated and highlighted the consequences of the psychological anguish. Physical assaults don’t just end with a punch or kick, they too become a mental suffering when flashbacks occur. It is similar to a pebble being dropped into a pond. The splash is all too evident, but the ripples are the consequence of that initial violent, penetrative action.
My dreams are no longer focused on nightmares but on future events and potential adventures. I now rest with an element of comfort that there is a strong possibility of a restful night’s sleep. This, only a few months ago was something that I had longed for.
Guilt, shame and blame
When I first decided to write I was instantly told by friends and colleagues that I was taking a brave but right step. Indeed, I was expecting some form of backlash. But (to date) I have not. I have had comments from around the world (thank god for the internet) that a majority of what I have written is what a lot of people wish they could say. For me it was the only path available to try and find answers. I searched bookshops and the internet for what I needed. And as there was nothing I decided to write my own.
For me I had lost everything in a moment and so I had nothing else left to loose. And with great confidence I can argue that it has been the best thing I have ever done. I have been able to address old issues, vent my anger and frustrations and reached out to people I would never have had the chance to previously.
But, like so many others I too blamed myself for allowing the abuse to occur and continue for as long as it did. Survivors feel guilty for not allowing their better judgement to take over. Unfortunately, I have also found that others blame the survivors for allowing themselves to be victims in the first place. These emotions increase the survivor’s negative self-image and distrustful view of the world.
My advice is that these criticisers should celebrate the wonderful life they have had. It is only luck that has protected them so far. Ultimately, luck does run out and it is the victims they will seek out for comfort and protection when their time comes. In my view life is too fragile to be complacent.
I am probably not qualified enough to comment about family members when it comes to my own family back ground.
I was always led to believe that family should stick together regardless of what has happened. Yet, in my case this was not the case.
My children have been fantastic. At no point was their loyalty questionable. Yet, my recovery process found the flaws in my (biological) father.
The knight in rusty armour
To put this simply, if I was not related to him I would not have had him as a friend. It was only the recovery process that allowed me to see things from behind a veil. I would never have a friend who would consider women as a tool for the home or a son as a meal ticket. But I was not being instantly dismissive of him as I gave him chance after chance. It’s just that I was no longer prepared to be taken advantage of, especially when he opted to be the heroic knight to a vengeful and bitter ex abuser.
My recovery allowed for me to put people in order of preference based on how they treated me. I was no longer grateful for a glimmer of recognition, but I felt that my worth was far greater than I was being afforded by him. Since writing my last blog I found out that he had suffered another stroke. Interestingly enough, my brother who had previously warned me about him was unable (or unwilling) to visit him and my father is fully aware that he has shot himself in the foot with regards to his relationship with me. It’s a shame really as I had spent 40 years trying to find him. But it was he who opted to behave in an unfatherly way.
Indeed a narcissistic ex-partner can be so persuasive and calculating that your own family will blame you for the breakdown of a relationship. But my father had equal knowledge of us both due to the time we had known each other. But a flash of tit and a wisp of blonde hair and I had lost him.
He who has the last laugh…..
But my recovery has allowed me to see them both for what they are. My dad is now alone, and my ex has a new prey. Well as the stronger person I wish them all the best when trying to either play the victim (again) or the superhero of nothing. I won’t say I am laughing but there is a slight curl in the corner of my lip.
The freedom of recovery can be both liberating and disheartening in equal measure and it will often shift back and forth from one to the other. For me the liberation came when I did not have to seek justification for the behaviour of others. It was a great weight lifted from my shoulders. Yet, this development came with the cost that fake dreams of happiness were just that – fake.
So many people wish for the 2.5 children, a nice semi-detached house in a respectable area with a nice car (or two) on the drive. The reality is nothing like this. To obtain a dream you often have to endure a nightmare and then there is no guarantee. It appears that behind every closed door a story is developing and it is often not the story the characters wish to play. The progression of recovery indicates that it is important to be happy with what you have and any positive developments just add to the pleasure. This approach just makes life so much easier. It is both simplistic and helps to avoid pain and disappointment.
The art of rebuilding yourself takes a significant amount of time. For me it had required the big step of facing my demons. These demons were the remnants of the abusive ex; the scars she had left and the false beliefs about myself that grew out of this experience.
Rebuilding is not a straightforward task. Some days it felt as if I was making leaps and bounds. But then it was often followed by days of not wanting to venture out of the bed of which mirrored the early days of my recovery. Alas, there is no straight answer to this. I found that elation and celebration often gave way to fatigue or loss of appetite. But sitting here, right now, I can see that these episodes are getting less and less with the realisation that things are falling into place now. Being and remaining positive is an exhausting occupation of which is great to have but tiresome to maintain when you have not fully recovered.
As I have previously said, I have looked back on previous blogs and noticed a shift in my approach to justice. Initially I was so angry and venomous about my ex that it was becoming all consuming. Indeed my focus had changed and I am glad it has.
I have come to realise that a person who does not wish to change never will. For her being abusive is profitable both financially and emotionally. If a person plays the victim they will get sympathy – that is until people get smart to their games. As you know it transpired that she had a history of such actions, and so it has come to pass that my fight could not be with her. My fight had to be with the system that allowed this behaviour to persist unchallenged and unhindered.
As a result I focused my attentions to the police officers that dealt with my case and the social workers that threw their weight around unchallenged.
Just a little shift in focus
This new focus has been more productive and has shed a greater light on the processes that are so wrong.
I know to the reader it may sound evil when I say ‘I am delighted that I got a social worker sacked’. It is a big achievement when the system is stacked against you. But, indeed I got one sacked. My recovery gave me the confidence to know that I was right about the injustice I had experienced. Unfortunately, I cannot name the specific social worker but when he said; ‘how dare I challenge him when he is a social worker’ it was like a red rag to a bull and I went out of my way to prove his unprofessionalism. But what came as a shock after the event was that he knew he was wrong and gave a false name to try and deflect what was coming. My recovery allowed me to challenge him and gave me peace of mind when I knew a corrupt social worker was now out of the system.
In fact my drive for truth, equality and justice has now put me on first name terms with a senior police officer at Worcester Police station. I am realistic in knowing that full justice may never be achieved but we have come to an understanding that a learning development is required by his police officers.
Again, I’m not out for early morning arrests or punishments. Time has allowed me to consider that my recovery is the knowledge that the next victim may have better treatment than I experienced. Indeed, the fight with the authorities and my ex is not over but I am seeing a realisation that what they (the police, social services and CPS) did was wrong. And I am starting to feel comfortable with this because the fight has come with a heavy cost.
Listen and be heard
My recovery and open, frank conversations has allowed me to know that she is being monitored about her future accusations and behaviours. In essence she is being watched. Perhaps, by being able to challenge pre-conceived ideas or measure the authorities by their own standards has made them sit up and listen. I knew I had been wronged and I was not going to let it go. It’s not about being pig-headed it is about demanding to be heard (even if I have solicited an interest from the press). To do this you need to have confidence and to have confidence you need to be on the road to recovery.
It is all too easy to beat yourself up and subject yourself to self-anger for overlooking things which are now plain to see. Of course, everything is clear in hindsight. I suppose this is why I set out to write in the first place. I wanted to be able to reflect on my own hindsight. But I also wanted to let other readers experience my hindsight and experiences.
These works have been my ability to shout and to point. My recovery has been the ability to do so.
Perhaps by now I have moved on. I am getting ready to return to work. I am planning a holiday of lifetime (of which was inconceivable until recently) and my future writing is now acknowledged to be from a different standpoint from that of the beginning.
For me the recovery has been a process of no return. Put simply I have learnt so much of which still needs to be developed. And so the recovery process will forever continue. Which of course is not actually a bad thing.