Friday, August 27, 2010


Recovery is, by definition:

the act or process of recovering
restoration to a normal condition
the regaining of something lost

No time-scale can be given for the recovery period following years of maltreatment in a dysfunctional relationship, just as no time-scale can be given for the five stages you go through whilst actually in the relationship.

It varies so widely from case to case, and is also greatly dependant upon outside factors such as financial circumstances, if there are children to consider, or whether or not you have a reliable support network to support and facilitate your release and recovery.

It also depends very much on where your head is during the ‘release’ phase, and how well you are able to deal with the enormous amounts of stress you will undoubtedly be placed under. This is especially the case where children are involved.

One thing is certain, you will not come out of it completely unscathed, and a ‘restoration to a normal condition’ can be a long shot at best, impossible at worst.
So don’t expect ‘normality’ to return. Nothing will be as it was before. This is just another inevitability which you need to accept.

Another thing which is certain; you cannot enter the recovery phase until you’ve been all the way through the release phase. Recovery can be greatly delayed if you still have to deal with your pathological ex on a regular basis. It can still be achieved, but it will inevitably take longer, as you feel yourself pulled and pushed between the past, the present, and your hopes for the future.
Even if your ex is still in your life, it doesn’t mean release cannot be achieved. But it can only be achieved, when you are no longer an available supply to your pathological ex. Cut off the supply, and release will come quickly.

My advice is not to put too much pressure on yourself. Take it a day at a time, and don’t scare yourself by trying to predict what might happen. I made the mistake of expecting far too much of myself, far too soon. This inevitably led to me fuelling my own frustrations, and hence hampered my recovery.
Take small (yet steadfast) steps. Stay determined, and resolved. Don't let him/her sidetrack you. Once you're on the road....stay on it!
Over time, you’ll find your steps become strides, then leaps, then bounds.

First, though, there will be a dark, dark period to endure. It will be a period where you don’t recognise yourself or your behaviour. You may become severely depressed and anxious, you may become hypersensitive and restless, and you may well begin to drink, or turn to prescription drugs to find release. You may even begin doing things you had never previously contemplated (such as binging, raging, self-harming, or even shop lifting). These are all symptoms of the severe stress you are under. If you are exhibiting any of these symptoms, you must get help, before you head into full-blown breakdown mode. You are not going crazy, nor are you developing a PD of your own. You are cracking under the strain. But it is not irreversible! Escaping with your sanity in tact is not easy…but it can be done.

The duration of the ‘dark’ period is entirely down to you, and nobody else (not even your pathological ex). You must take responsibility for your own well being at this point. Don’t project onto him/her or you’ll end up co-dependent, and most probably back in the despair stage. As I’ve said before, you’ll need help during this time, but ultimately, it is YOU alone who must lift yourself out of the abyss.

You have to be kind to yourself, and you have to learn to accept what has happened. Without acceptance, there can be no understanding, and without understanding, there can be no recovery. Of that, I’m sure.

Don’t deny what has happened. Face it full on. In order to overcome it, you have to stare it in the face. I honestly don’t believe there is any other way.

Recovery is the regaining of something which you lost, or was taken from you. After years with a pathological partner, you may feel you’ve had your soul ripped out. You may feel as though you’ve lost your sanity, and you’ll most definitely feel that you’ve been robbed of precious years, perhaps even of your best years.

This will make you feel anger, and quite rightly so! Just be careful not to turn the anger inwards. It’s too easy to turn it in on yourself. You have to channel the anger, because this will give you the energy you need to get completely through the ‘release’ phase and into recovery.

Once in recovery, you need to keep a check on the anger. You don’t want to turn into a bitter and twisted person.

It’s OK to have moments of rage. It’s inevitable, so there’s no point fighting it. I think the best way to deal with it is to let it out. Vent. Scream. Punch your pillow. Don’t bottle it up. You are allowed to feel this way. You are allowed to indulge in the odd bout of self pity. You won’t be able to prevent it, so don’t reproach yourself for it. Just don’t let it become a permanent state of affairs. Remind yourself how far you’ve come, and how much stronger you are now than a few months ago. Accept that this is all part of the recovery process, and keep focussed on moving forwards with your life.

Recovery isn’t a phase. Recovery is the rest of your life. It can’t be rushed. You just need to keep telling yourself it will get easier, and it will. Slowly.

You need to learn to let go of the pain, and move on.

"Many of us spend our whole lives running from feeling with the mistaken belief that you cannot bear the pain. But you have already borne the pain. What you have not done is feel all you are beyond that pain."
Kahlil Gibran


  1. Sarah, you have a wonderful way of synthesising these complicated and painful experiences and presenting them in ways that victims of this kind of psychological abuse can relate to and understand.

  2. Thanks very much for this article. It gives me hopes, it's telling me I'll be able to overcome this and although it might take time, I'll eventually do it.

  3. I have lived most of my life being unaware of how much the trauma I endured as a child affected every aspect of my self. I have finally found the courage to deal with it. Thank you for the hope I felt after reading your article