I get asked the question repeatedly – will I ever get better? Will the abuse ever stop running my life? The answer is twofold. Yes, your life can get better. Yes, the abuse can stop running and ruining your life. I’m not sure however, if it will ever completely stop intruding on your life.
I wish I had better news. I wish I could say that once you do your work, the abuse will never have any impact on your life ever again. You will never have another nightmare, never have another panic attack, and never have a moment of low self-esteem ever again. The truth is you might have times when you need to do some more work, in fact that is a good possibility. I don’t tell you this to discourage you, I tell you so that you can have realistic expectations and not feel like you have failed if some old shadows show up occasionally.
So many clients feel like they haven’t worked hard enough, or that they are too damaged and that’s why they can’t seem to get over the abuse 100%. Their self-esteem suffers and their confidence falls. So, hear me loud and clear, there is nothing wrong with you or your recovery if you need extra support once in a while for the rest of your life. You are not doing anything wrong or being lazy!
Abuse, especially abuse from childhood, has so many layers to it. It can affect us physically, emotionally, spiritually and relationally. It shows up in new ways when we go through changes in our lives, like getting married, or having kids, or starting a new career. How is it reasonable to expect that you can sort through all the layers and be done forever? Personally, I don’t think that is a reasonable expectation at all.
The good news is that once you get the big chunk of work done, you never have to do that again. You don’t have to go down that road of intense and possibly long term work again. The next pieces can be done in more of a “tune up” type of way. Maybe you just go in for 2-3 sessions to process through some anxiety that has surfaced. Or maybe you decide to start a meditation practice to deepen your sense of well-being. Another way to do some tune up work might be to make some diet and exercise changes to reduce an underling mild depression.
Personal growth is never over. For some it might mean revisiting wounds that abuse has left, but that does not mean that you have not done your work. It just means you have some healing calling out to you. It’s an invitation to deepen your sense of meaning and purpose in your life. Personally, I think that those of us who have a glaring reason such as abuse or addictions which require us to do personal growth work frequently, have been given a gift in some ways. Yes, we experience deep pain, but we also have the opportunity to experience deep peace and healing that might not happen if we were not pushed to do our work. The path of healing is worth it. There is no finish line. It is an incredible journey with ups and downs and twists and turns, and if you need a partner now and again, call me. I would love to be a witness to your healing.
Gwen Bartran, MA, LPCC