Taking Back My Life After Abuse

Taking Back My Life After Abuse

New Year’s Day is traditionally a time for a fresh start. There are the usual resolutions and goals that everyone seems optimistic about—the eagerness to leave behind the old and to embrace the new and improved.

Until the recent few years, imagining or planning what I wanted to accomplish for the coming year seemed impossible. When I tried to envision a future for myself, it was dark and hidden. It felt presumptuous to say I could or would work toward a particular outcome.

The control I had over my life was limited to how I would adapt to the disaster I knew was coming. I’d be ready when the rug was pulled out from under me. I became an expert at “making the best of a bad situation” and “going with the flow.”

By the time I married Don almost ten years ago, I’d started to end some of my abusive relationships but I was still feeling and deciding and acting out of the beliefs that I had as an abuse victim. In the first few months of our marriage, we had a horrible fight that ended with me slamming the bedroom door and shouting, “I WON’T LET YOU BULLY ME!”

The conflict started when I asked Don to tell me what I should do and he refused. He insisted that I make my own decisions. His flat refusal to participate in controlling me triggered some very strong fears. I believed that he was leaving me to guess how to please him and when I failed, he’d punish me. When I told him that I wouldn’t be bullied, I wasn’t looking at how he was trying to empower me; I only saw the inevitable outcome of ridicule and abandonment.

My life in abuse was determined and defined by others—first by my parents and then by my ex-husband and other abusers. I was their property to be used for their benefit and enjoyment. I learned that if I knew what was good for me, I’d better comply. In fact, I continued to submit out of a belief that it was the best thing for me. They knew better. I actually believed that their control was love.

They were gods. I owed them my servitude and obedience and I couldn’t escape their wrath if I failed to please them. Their pleasure or displeasure determined if I was successful or not. They set the standard and judged whether or not I met it. As part of my abusers’ need for control, they always found fault in what I did. That gave them an excuse to bring on more abuse. I was a perpetual failure.

As long as I kept my life in someone else’s hands, my success didn’t have anything to do with how smart, determined, hardworking, or talented I was. It wasn’t my inability that kept me from success—it was that I put my standards for success in someone else’s hands.

It was a lie that anyone else has a right to my life. My future is mine to determine; my goals are mine to set. My path is mine to walk. My life is mine to live.

I can see a future for me now. Two nights ago, I shared with my husband the goals that I set for myself this year. Then we made some financial and relationship goals to work on together. I’m thrilled about the plans I have and that I can see what lies ahead for me.

Taking back my life has been a long process and I’ve had many lies to confront along the way. Now I know what it means to “be my own person” and my future is in my hands.

My fresh start didn’t come by a change in the calendar; it came as I dealt with the beliefs that held me in the past. My life wasn’t truly mine until I knew that it was mine. I don’t feel imposed upon by other’s decisions; I adapt to circumstances when necessary, but I’m not driven by them anymore. I’m working out my own path, and defining my own purpose. My life actually feels like my life now.

This is your life. What are you going to do with it? What are you going to do with your life this year? I’d love to hear how you’re taking back your life after abuse if you’d like to share in the comments below. Remember to subscribe to the comments so you can participate in the discussion. You don’t have to use your real name and emails are never made public.

I’m Christina Enevoldsen and I’m the cofounder of Overcoming Sexual Abuse and the author of The Rescued Soul: The Writing Journey for the Healing of Incest and Family Betrayal. I’m a Strategic Interventionist and Certified Professional Life Coach with a specialty Life Story Certification.  As a survivor of incest, sex trafficking and a 21-year long abusive marriage (now remarried to an emotionally healthy, loving and supportive man), I bring personal experience, empathy, and insight as well as professional training to help childhood sexual abuse survivors thrive.

 

Related Posts:
Exposing the Incest Family Secrets
Reclaiming My Self After Sexual Abuse
Perpetuating the Abusive Cycle

Taking Back My Life After Abuse

8 thoughts on “Taking Back My Life After Abuse

  • January 6, 2015 at 2:58 pm
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    “The control I had over my life was limited to how I would adapt to the disaster I knew was coming. I’d be ready when the rug was pulled out from under me. I became an expert at “making the best of a bad situation” and “going with the flow.” Exactly! I saw life’s disappointments and unfortunate events as my destiny. I felt like a victim and knew I was “doomed”. “Bad” things were going to happen and keep happening to me. I had no control over anything so I better just get used to it. Now I realize that’s just life and everyone deals with these things it’s not something exclusive to me. I may not have control over certain events in my life but I have control over how I deal with these things. I do have control over my future because I make my own choices from a healthy place. I trust myself to know what’s best for me even if others don’t agree. I must say this didn’t happen as fast as I would have liked it to. lol
    I don’t find making goals for the New Year that helpful. I’m the ultimate procrastinator. In the past I’ve used the “New Year” as an excuse not to do anything now.
    I had no idea you were writing a book. I’m looking forward to reading it when I get a chance. I must say that I feel you’re a gifted writer so I suppose a book is a natural progression for you. I love reading your blog here. You have a way of getting to your point across with vivid clarity. When I read something you’ve written I often have these clear mental images come to mind. It’s hard to explain. Congrats! I’m very happy for you.

    Reply
    • January 7, 2015 at 1:49 pm
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      Jennie,

      Your comment:

      Now I realize that’s just life and everyone deals with these things it’s not something exclusive to me.

      That’s something that I had to see too. I used to think that the bad things that happened to me were the proof of my badness so it added shame to whatever misfortune I experienced. The shame kept me thinking like a victim, which blinded me from the power I had to change the circumstances. Oh, I’m so glad to see the truth now! I’m glad you do too!

      Thanks for your encouraging words about my writing! I’ve been planning to write a book about healing from abuse for years, but I needed to be in a really solid place in my self-care, which I finally reached. Plus, I didn’t want to write just another book about the same stuff I’ve read over and over. I wanted it to be unique and powerfully useful for healing, which I believe it is. I really believe in my book! I’m glad you plan to read it. I’d love your feedback! Thanks for your comment.

      Christina

  • January 9, 2015 at 2:06 pm
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    Great point Christine! For me, just being able to say no thanks to those who insist on me eating more food around the holidays, is a step I’m the right direction. I can make decisions for myself, and even a simple, “oh you will be alright,” from a family member can trigger terrible memories. All of a sudden, I am that 13 year old in my father’s car. I am that girl who willingly kisses my father and obeys when he wants me to “help him out.” If I politely say, “no thank you,” to those who pressure me into the simplist of things, I can shut down those demons.

    Reply
    • January 10, 2015 at 3:59 am
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      Jill,

      Yes! That’s wonderful that you’re affirming what you want and don’t want. People who have been raised to know healthy boundaries and self-validating decisions have no idea how huge that is to say no to more food or other so-called small things. That’s definitely a step in the right direction and it’s a powerful one. Yay! Yay! Yay! I’m celebrating with you!

      Christina

  • January 11, 2015 at 8:09 am
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    Hi there, Oh how I can relate to this post! Thank you so much for putting words to what so many survivors face. Thank you for the work you are doing to raise awareness and bring hope!

    Reply
  • January 28, 2015 at 1:27 pm
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    I recently entered in to a relationship with a beautiful woman who had been a victim of child abuse as a child. I suspected as much as the relationship started to grow but was unsure and did not know how to ask. I did not fully know until she disclosed this at was to be the final time I have spoken to her upon her request .

    Intimacy was limited but when there was it would be followed with text messages to me with feelings of extreme guilt the next day.

    I now have extreme emotions of guilt wondering what did I do wrong, and want to understand the emotions if possible of her as a victim.

    What complicates matters is our children attend the same school in which we both enjoy picking up our children. I have not tried to speak to her but it is difficult not wanting to reach out.

    I hope I have not offended anyone on this site but am looking for direction on how I can better understand,
    a victims journey.

    Neil
    .

    Reply
  • January 29, 2015 at 9:12 pm
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    Neil…I think you should read Christina’s book if you really want to understand. Everyone has a different story but the feelings associated with sexual abuse are the same….shame and guilt. Perhaps it would help you to speak with a counselo to sort out your feelings. I don’t think you did anything wrong. Her reactions are normal for someone who has experienced sexual abuse. Completely normal. Hope you get what you need.

    Reply
  • July 12, 2015 at 2:46 pm
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    I hope you are well and will start posting again. Your posts are profoundly insightful and validating, and to be validated is the best feeling of all for survivors! Like most survivors, I’ve been shut down by various methods whenever I’ve tried to speak my truths. Even well-meaning ‘friends’ and loved ones can silence us with trite platitudes and hollow cliches. I think a big part of taking back our lives involves interconnecting with other survivors for a mutual embrace of understanding, support and validation. The Internet is a welcome resource for finding our community of kindred spirits. Writing, in any form, is also cathartic. It helps me take back my life by breaking the silence imposed upon me. Love, healing and hugs….MW

    Reply

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