Months ago, I read this article on self-care, then I immersed myself in a huge costume project that self care came so far down the list I was down right mean to myself. I focused on finishing, DH(darling husband) made sure I ate and sewed for me when others decided the project was too big and went on with living their lives. The project is finished the applause is over and I am shining the light back on self-care. One of the most consistent symptom of abuse is self neglect and self abuse. Basically survivors carry on where abusers left off. Seriously messed up. Early on, my counselor talked to me about firing my mean boss. Of course that mean boss was me. My sister, Judy wrote about the same 25 self care issues on her blog. I believe it is important to have multiple perspectives on the same subject. This serves two purposes, a reader may not get how I am saying things but with multiple perspectives gives them a better chance at understanding. The other purpose is I ponder over my perspective and consider different possibilities.
3. Forgiving myself….I find it much too easy to forgive others and yet I struggle to show myself the same compassion and understanding. I find myself berating myself over and over for even small things that I would overlook or forgive easily in others. It seems I’ve taken on punishing myself from where my childhood abusers left off.
I believe in forgiveness is an essential element of the atonement of Christ. A strength in the gospel. I also learned from my counselor that how I was raised and taught about forgiveness, especially forgiving myself was severely distorted. While in counseling I started working on a 3 inch binder that I filled with articles, blogs, and my own writing on forgiveness. It is a volatile subject for many abuse survivors since abusers want a get out of jail free card. They want to be let ‘off-the-hook’ of being responsible for their behavior. They want to go on their merry way with no accountability. I was angry. Hurt that they thought so little of me that their expectation was ‘of course I should put up with their abusive behavior without whining and complaint.’ I wanted to lash back. I did. It was disastrous. All my study about forgiveness taught me several things. I am not accountable for my abusers. I do not have to have a relationship with them. The vital thing I learned from my counselor, forgiveness does not mean reconciliation.
I am going to repeat that – Forgiveness IS NOT reconciliation.
This was a major shift in my thinking. I found it in more than one location both online, in scriptures, and other studies. I felt thrown for a loop. Wow. Just WOW. My counselor told me early in my work that he planned to tear out my entire foundation built in childhood and help me replace it with healthier concepts. This was a big one. I found it interesting that we talked about this so often until I realized that for me to accept myself I needed to forgive my child self for not protecting myself. Not being able to combat the adults in my life. Forgive myself for being afraid and doing what the adults in my life told me to do, even when I knew in my heart what I was doing was wrong. It took a well trained counselor to guide me through the distorted thinking imprinted on my mind that bad things happened because I was a bad girl. The concept that I was not a bad girl but a little girl in a weird unreasonable situation took many sessions of talking. But I did remember things I did wrong and I was awesome at beating myself up over each and every mistake. I was brutal on my self condemnation. I was not loving or kind to myself. The whole concept that I did not deserve what happened to me hinged on forgiving my 9 year old self for not standing up to adults twice my size. I needed for myself preservation to lay my mistakes, sins, and inadequacies at the feet of the Savior. These burdens were not mine to carry. Yes, I believe in trying to correct mistakes I make. I believe that if I do something wrong I am accountable for repenting but I did not understand that I could not carry the accusations, blaming, shaming poured on me by my abusers. Those were not mine to carry or correct. I was a child that the adults in my life expected me to solve their problems. I failed because it was not mine to do. I let go of those.
Imagine for a moment that you are a backpacker carrying an unbearable load staggering forward with this pack of stuff. A stranger, my counselor, stops you and tells you to look in the back pack. There are rocks in your back pack. He looks it over asking, “Is it yours?” No. “Get rid of it” And you argue that you always carried that rock and what would you be without it? One rock after another was taken out of my back pack and I discovered I was carrying a lot of heavy rocks that were not my stuff to carry. Forgive myself for carrying those added loads and set them aside. Give the gift of forgiveness to myself. Stop punishing myself for things I did that I couldn’t fix. Forgive myself and set down the rocks. They were not my load to carry. I would like to say I am 100% forgiven and let all those burdens go but it wouldn’t be true. I realize this is a process that will extend a life time. I work hard on this. I deserve to be treated with the same kindness and love that I extend to others. The interesting thing for me that I didn’t expect is the more I forgive myself the easier it is to forgive others. I feel thankful for the teachings I learned about the power of forgiveness and the atonement of Jesus Christ.