As we reach the end of 2016, which has been a year of immense highs (and lows), extreme change, and so much growth for me I have been reflecting back and thinking ahead about what I want to achieve for myself in 2017.
I keep landing on a consistent theme of loving how empowered I currently feel, and wanting to challenge myself to do more things that make me feel powerful in the upcoming year. While the idea seems pretty simple and straightforward, I really believe that this has been one of the single most important aspects of my healing journey.
In any abusive relationship, the one thing that remains consistent is the power and control game that abusers play. Through very subtle and very apparent means, abusers slowly take away all of your power… until you literally rely on them for everything. Finding ways to get that power back for yourself is a HUGE part of the healing process, and a HUGE way to say F-you to your former abuser.
So here are some of the things that helped me feel powerful after I left my abusive relationship:
- Living on my own – I was actually pretty scared to do this in the beginning but I am so glad that I did. It would have been easier on many levels to move in with my parents or another family member and lean on them for support in a variety of ways. What I didn’t realize at the time was that the act of living alone, making all my own decisions, planning my time, my meals, my decorations, my life would have such an impact on my healing process. In the state that I was in when I left, it would have been all to easy for me to rely on a parent, family member or friend to provide me the ‘leadership’ I was used to from The Narcissist. Not having that as an option actually forced me to get used to making my own decisions. It is shocking how difficult it was in the beginning to make even the simplest decisions… what food to buy, where to put the couch, etc. all on my own without The Narcissist taking over. There were also a few big things that came up… the movers trying to scam me out of $400, figuring out how to hook up the cable, internet, TV, and all the add-on’s…. and those situations stressed me out – but I got through them without The Narcissist. The more I was able to do on my own without him, the more empowered I felt.
- Doing all the things I wasn’t “allowed” to do – The Narcissist controlled absolutely every aspect of my life in one way or another so there was nothing more empowering in the beginning than doing all of those things. For me that included not working out for a while, spending time with my family, drinking a few glasses of wine, eating things with gluten in it, wearing sweatpants around the house, going shopping for clothes without him, having a drink with my girlfriends, cuddling up with someone else’s dog, not checking my phone for hours on end, posting things I wanted on Facebook/Instagram, etc. etc. While these things probably seem pretty minor to most people, they were HUGE in my world. It had been 8 years since I was allowed to do these things and not be made to feel guilty or not good enough for them. It took me a while to get over the sensation that I was doing something wrong, that I should be ashamed, that The Narcissist was going to ‘catch me’. Eventually this process helped me to get The Narcissist out of my head and actually be able to figure out what I wanted to do, what I thought was appropriate and what made me feel good as a person. So at some point, the activity shifted from “Oh yeah, watch me eat this pizza Narcissist!!” to “Do I want to eat pizza tonight?” The process of making my own decisions became natural again.
- Telling my story – Being with The Narcissist literally and figuratively took away my voice. I wasn’t allowed to have an opinion on things, I had to be in a constant state of agreement with whatever The Narcissist thought and said, I wasn’t allowed to communicate openly and truthfully with family, I didn’t have any friends, and I wasn’t even allowed to say what I really thought or felt about anything out loud. The process of telling my story of what I have been through over the past 8 years was extremely empowering. It started with my therapist and being able to actually tell her what I experienced, and then it evolved to this blog and participating in some really great hashtag conversations on Twitter. It has still been a struggle for me to be able to actually say a lot of these things to my friends and family members, and I have leaned on this blog and my writing as a way to be able to tell them what happened without having to say it. But through the blog, my loved ones have been able to start the conversation with me. They ask questions, they tell me when a post really impacted them… it has been huge. There are many different ways to achieve this sense of empowerment, whether it is writing things in a journal, talking to a therapist, talking to a support group, blogging, etc. Telling your story is an important step in re-gaining your voice and also receiving encouragement and validation from those that you do share it with.
- Fostering Dogs – I’ve had the lovely experience of fostering 3 different rescue dogs and helping them find their forever families. The experience of having someone/something rely on me was also surprisingly healing. The Narcissist had convinced me that I was worthless, that he didn’t need me, that no one needed me. It was really healing to have a sweet little dog rely on me for love, affection, care-taking, guidance, obedience, etc. and it helped me remember that I am reliable, I am important, and the things that I do and provide do matter. It was also a great stress relief to be able to snuggle a puppy and experience that unconditional love that only a dog can give you!
- Martial Arts – I mentioned this one before, but gosh it has been really powerful for me. I started an intro type of program a few months ago and have now moved into formal training classes. Not only is the exercise and the stress relief beneficial… but the actual act of learning how to defend myself and kick someone’s but feels so empowering. There were so many times that The Narcissist was physical abusing me and using his military training on me and I just felt completely helpless. I was strong in a workout sense at the time but I had no idea how to defend myself, how to get out of a wrist grab or a head lock… and most of the time I just went limp and let him do whatever he was doing till it passed. I am only in the beginning stages of training and I feel so strong and so powerful!!! It is also such a good reminder for me that I am a different person now and I will never allow anyone to hurt me the way that The Narcissist did… and now I will have the skill-set to prevent that if anyone is ever dumb enough to try.
- Getting outside of my comfort zone – This one has also been big for me this year and it has played out in many different ways. The Narcissist became the center of my life so early on I felt extremely uncomfortable without The Narcissist to ‘lean on’ in social situations, decision making, whatever. Initially, almost everything was outside of my comfort zone… and that slowly changed over time. Some of the little things included going and doing things (like sitting at Starbucks reading) alone. Some of the bigger things included speaking up about something very wrong that was happening in my work place. Some of the things in between included joining a fitness program someplace I had never been before, or going out to a birthday dinner with a group of people I mostly did not know. What I have realized is that through all of these situations I have grown and I have realized things about myself and my confidence has improved.
So, for 2017 I want to continue with all of these awesome and empowering things. I also have a few new challenges already laid out for myself including:
- Bee Keeping – I have been wanting to keep honey bees for several years now and I have registered for Honey Bee School this winter! This will include weekly classes with a group of people I do not know, and a subject I know very little about. At the end I will get my first bees!!
- Pole Dancing Lessons – I LOVE to dance and I am always impressed with the amount of skill and strength it takes to actually look good swinging around a pole. I have decided I am going to sign up in the New Year as a way to get out of my comfort zone and a way to feel sexy and powerful.
- Falconry School – I also love birds of prey and am fascinated by them. I want to at least for a weekend go to one of the schools and get to fly a hawk or falcon.
- Vacation Alone – I have a few trip locations that I would love to visit and my challenge for myself is to do it completely alone!! I miss the experience of being out of my comfort zone in a foreign country and I want to just be able to immerse myself in an experience like that.
- Public Speaking – I am a pretty good public speaker and do it for work from time to time, but I would like to find the right setting to share my story of abuse and getting out of an abusive relationship in a public speaking setting. I am becoming more and more passionate about teaching people about the different types of abuse, and how to recognize the warning signs before it is too late… and I feel like this would be a HUGE experience for me.
I am sure that other things will present themselves as the year goes on… or maybe I will look back at the end of next year and realize things that helped to make me feel powerful that I didn’t even anticipate at the time. Either way, my challenge for all of you is to add ways to empower yourself into your New Year’s resolution!! ❤