by Patty Hite
When I started on my healing journey, I wanted someone to just give me the answers, show me the way and tell me what to do. I wanted to be taken care of because I didn’t have the confidence to take care of myself.
There wasn’t anyone to talk to or to show me how so I turned to books. There were only a few library books on abuse, and even fewer books about healing. Most of what I found were stories from survivors. In their stories, they wrote about what they did to heal.
Most of them went to therapists and I felt defeated because I couldn’t go to one. I came from a very small town and there were no therapists or counselors. Even if there had been, I wouldn’t have been able to afford it and I honestly don’t think I would have told anyone else about my abuse. I was afraid of a professional telling me I was crazy.
Some of the survivors from the books I read were facing their abusers. I wasn’t ready for that at such an early stage in my healing and I felt so weak.
I tried their ways and only found myself feeling more and more helpless and hopeless. My only recourse was to lay the thought of healing down—forget about it and try to continue living my life the way I always had. That didn’t help either because when those flashbacks came, I had no way of releasing the pain they left.
I had to find out what worked for me, but finding my own answers was one of the hardest things for me. I was always afraid I would mess up or do the wrong thing and then I expected punishment when I failed.
My childhood was ruled with a strict hand and we were treated like property. I learned by watching my brothers being punished, to obey without questioning. They were lined up and, depending on the crime, were beaten with a stick off the tree, a paddleboard or a leather belt. They weren’t allowed to cry or get angry. No emotions were allowed. To me, that was terrifying.
My adult life was controlled by more abuse so I was trained to just follow other people’s rules to try to survive. When I married my first husband, I learned the lessons even more. He used many tools to get his way. I learned about emotional abuse, sexual abuse, and physical abuse. He manipulated me with blame, shame and guilt and he forced me with his hand and other weapons. I was punished when I made a mistake, when I didn’t do things right, when I spoke out of turn, or when I showed emotions.
No matter what I did, I could never do it right. Abusers had to have control over me and in order to remain in control they had to belittle me and come against anything I said or anything I did.
By the time I wanted to heal from my abuse, I was used to complying. If someone told me to do it their way, right or wrong didn’t matter. What mattered was that I had to obey their rules.
I also knew that failure brought punishment and pain. Even though no one was going to beat me anymore, I was afraid of letting others down. If it was their way, they could determine if I was doing it right and punish me for not doing it right. I was going to pay a price for failing, no matter what I did.
Since I couldn’t tell at that time whether someone was helping me or abusing me, I felt it was important for my healing to not be around people who wanted to give me the answers. I could listen to other survivors, but I needed to find my own way. I needed the freedom to discover what was right for me and what worked for me. I needed to be able to make mistakes without retribution and fear of punishment.
I was set up to fail as long as I tried to heal someone else’s way but I found out that I have no problem with making mistakes or wrong choices when they are mine. I can usually pick myself right back up and look for Plan B or Plan C.
One day I had a flashback of me as a child sitting under a tree in our back yard. Anytime I felt sad that is where I would go to talk things out. I felt free to cry and get angry.
If that worked for me then, maybe it would work for me now? And that is what I did. My first step for healing was finding a secluded place and talking about how I felt. I love looking at the beauty of nature, so it was easy for me to sit under a tree and tell God how much I hurt, and face those areas of fear. I love to write so it became natural for me to write about my abuse. I love to take long baths with soft music and candles, so it was easy for me to do that when I was in a critical part of my healing. I realized that by doing things that brought me comfort and that I enjoyed, I was also nurturing myself, which made it easier to face the traumatic times in my life.
Before I started to combine my nurturing needs with my healing needs, I waited until I couldn’t take another breath before I would face that pain. Sometimes I would have anxiety attacks all day long. I couldn’t sleep. I’d crawl in a corner on the floor, feeling like every nerve in my body was coming through my finger tips. I’d dissociate and have so much rage before I would break down and face that pain.
Finding what works for me has been a lifesaver. I make the rules, I face it when I am ready and I do it my way. For me, nothing is better and more empowering than that.
Now that you’ve heard my experience and thoughts about this, I’d love to hear yours. Please comment below and don’t forget to subscribe to the comments so you can continue to partake in the discussion. If you would like to protect your privacy, you don’t have to use your real name. Email addresses are never made public.
As a survivor of emotional, physical and sexual abuse, Patty Hite has been tenaciously pursuing her healing for over thirty years. She’s a passionate advocate for all survivors and dedicates her life to inspiring emotional wholeness in others. As a former victim of spousal abuse, she’s delighted to have found the meaning of true love, a respectful relationship, and support with her late husband, Lonnie. She’s blessed with four children and six grandchildren.