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The Healing Journey: Step 1

The path to healing is a long and winding road. I wish that I'd understood that when I left my first marriage. Unfortunately, I didn't really understand the scope of what I had experienced. I had no concept of what narcissistic abuse, coercive control, or post separation abuse was. I was focused on the daily acts of survival--providing a home for myself and my kids, and a new job that was giving me the resources to be able to do so.

Those years are some of the hardest for me to think about because they were filled with such conflicting emotions. I felt so free and so happy to not be in the marriage anymore, but at the same time, my kids were experiencing the most traumatic event of their young lives. The guilt was and still is strong at times, even though I know without question that it was the right decision. There's a whole sub-category here of supporting our children and getting them through this in as healthy way as possible (something I admittedly didn't do a great job of), but I digress.

The first step in helping our children is making sure that we are in as healthy a place as possible and allowing them to see, through our example, what self-care looks like. My first advice to anyone newly separated or just leaving an abusive relationship: Don't overload on information. There is something so validating about making the connections of understanding and realizing the scope of what you've experienced. There is more information out there now than ever and the awareness of narcissistic abuse, post separation abuse, etc, is higher and than it's ever been. But there is such thing as too much. When you're operating in a trauma response, it can become overwhelming and easy to get stuck in the endless loop of YouTube videos and internet articles.

So, be educated, but be careful, and don't let that quest for more information consume you.

My second (and actual Step 1), keep a journal. It is the one thing, above all else, that I wish I had done. Don't hold yourself to any kind of standards with what you put in it--just keep doing it. If you're having a difficult day, just write a few things that you can find to be grateful for. Or write down some words that express your fears. What you write isn't really important, though it can and likely will provide you at some point with a way to reexamine those thoughts from a different perspective (this is where healing happens), or more importantly, brings validation to your experiences when you're in a better space to receive it. Even if you never look at it again, there is huge value in writing things out. It gets those thoughts and feelings out of our heads--gives them a voice and some space to see them for what they really are.

That's it for now--just Step 1: Journaling. And keeping in mind my advice in the third paragraph, I'm going to link you to a book from an author that I have found immensely helpful. Her name is Debra Mirza and while she isn't a licensed psychologist, therapist, etc., she is an incredibly insightful and loving human being who has been down the path and done her own healing work. Her voice (literal and in print) is so loving and soothing. The first book is called The Safest Place Possible. It is a quick read, where each chapter is devoted to a different form of self-care and love. It's the idea that the safest place possible is something that we create for ourselves and within ourselves. There's a companion workbook that can be used to jump-start your journaling journey (also highly recommended).

There it is, Step 1. It doesn't seem like a very big step but remember that the road you're on is a long one. It doesn't magically end when the judge signs divorce papers. So take the first step and give yourself some room to breathe. Step 2 will be there when you're ready and before you know it, you'll be 10 years down the road, wondering how the heck you got there so quickly.

Light and Love to All.

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