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ideas for self care while establishing safety
Self-Care: Surviving Abuse

Self-care tips for victims of betrayal and abuse.

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ideas for self care while establishing safety

Many women who’ve been betrayed and abused have spent so much time focused on finding safety that they forget how to truly practice daily self-care.

Anne, founder of Betrayal Trauma Recovery shares her powerful witness that self-care is essential for victims of abuse and betrayal. Listen to the free BTR podcast and read the full transcript below for more.

When They Call You Crazy: Self-Care Tip

She’s not codependent. She is not crazy. She didn’t get into this situation because she had a messed-up childhood or whatever. She’s just fine and she is going to grieve because she’s a victim of abuse, obviously, and she needs to learn a new set of skills that she hadn’t learned before.

Anne, founder of Betrayal Trauma Recovery

Tragically, many victims of betrayal and relational abuse are implicitly or outright called “crazy” by their abusive partner, their families, friends, and others.

The implications of being labeled as crazy, codependent, and overly sensitive are intensely damaging to already-fragile victims. Victims of relational abuse and betrayal are conditioned to believe what others tell them, especially negative things about themselves (the victims).

If you have been told that you are crazy, or any other distressing label, know that you are not crazy and you are not alone.

One helpful self-care tip for women who have been treated so insidiously by others, is to find a safe person, or safe community, to validate you, support you, and answer your questions.

When Everything Feels Confusing: Self-Care Tip

Anne compares living in an abusive relationship to ending up stranded in the mountainous wilderness. You’ve survived, but you have no idea where you are, or how you are going to make it back to civilization alive.

As victims try to understand what is happening to them, they may feel overwhelmed, depressed, and even terrified. Most women do not consider themselves victims of abuse until they have learned about abuse and trauma. Covert abuse is notoriously difficult to detect, and when victims spend their time trying to appease their abusive and unfaithful partner, they simply don’t have the time or energy to discern the abuse.

If you are feeling confused, lonely, and afraid to make decisions, a self-care action that you might take is setting safety boundaries. Simply deciding what makes you feel safe emotionally, sexually, physically, and spiritually – versus what makes you feel unsafe. Jotting these points down in a journal or on your computer may help you better understand what your current safety level is and what decisions you can make to increase your safety.

When Life Is Falling Apart: Self-Care Tip

Most victims of betrayal and abuse eventually reach a place where life feels completely unraveled.

If you’re having trouble with the day-to-day tasks or if the grief seems to be overwhelming to you or if your husband’s “addiction” and all of his recovery efforts have completely swallowed your self-care or your identity, I invite you to take a step back, detach a little bit, and think, ‘What do I need to take care of myself? What habits do I need?

Anne Blythe, founder of Betrayal Trauma Recovery

The chaos that abusive men create in relationships, families, and communities is so immense and overpowering that victims may feel that getting out of bed each day is an enormous feat, only possible with incredible grit and willpower.

If you are feeling this level of trauma and exhaustion, consider your health with these questions:

  • Did I eat enough today?
  • Am I hydrated?
  • If I’m not sleeping well at night, can I take a nap today?

When women experience betrayal trauma, their bodies react by shutting down or going into hyperdrive. As victims decide to protect and nourish their own bodies through nutrition, hydration, and rest, they are better equipped to continue their journey to healing.

Betrayal Trauma Recovery Supports Victims of Betrayal and Abuse

At BTR, we understand the paralyzing devastation of abuse and betrayal. Every single woman who has gone through this debilitating trauma deserves a safe place to process reality, ask important questions, express difficult feelings, and make connections with other victims.

The Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group meets daily in every time zone and offers women a community of validation, support, and compassion. Join today and begin practicing the self-care that will help you find true safety.

Full Transcript:

Welcome to Betrayal Trauma Recovery, this is Anne.

Before I get to today’s topic, which is from a Wall Street Journal article, entitled Standing Against Psychiatry’s Crazes, I’ll also give you a self-care update about where I am in my self-care situation, I want to talk about Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group. It is our daily support group and we have 19 sessions per week.

Surviving In The Wilderness Of Abuse: Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group

In a 4-week month, that’s 76 sessions per month, which equals 114 LIVE hours with a professional coach. That is the least expensive, professional, live, face-to-face support in the world. That comes down to $1.97 per hour, and we built it that way on purpose. Why did we do it like that? Because we’ve been through it.

When I was going through it, I didn’t know how I was going to pay the bills. I literally didn’t know how I was going to buy groceries because my ex cut off my bank account and didn’t give me money for groceries. I know that money is on your mind and we wanted to make sure that you could get high-quality support for a very low cost.

A lot of women come that first month and they feel supported and they feel stabilized and they feel like, “You know what, I’m feeling pretty good.” Some women decide that they don’t love the group setting, so they decide to just do individual sessions.

Then we have some women who love the group setting and they have been in Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group for over a year. It just depends on the woman. The cool thing about BTR is that we have lots of different options.

We have a professionally facilitated group and we have professional individual sessions. Whatever works for you, works for us. In terms of Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group, the daily support group, once you have joined you can cancel and join as much as you want. The other thing is that if you continue the next month, and every month after that, it’s only a $1.09 per hour.

I also want to talk about why Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group is completely online. It is because I was a bit agoraphobic when the trauma first hit. I didn’t want to go anywhere, I didn’t want to put my bra on, I couldn’t really get out of bed. I mean I was really having a hard time.

We wanted to remove all barriers to you getting help. Some of the days have 4 sessions a day. You could go to every single one of them if you want. You never have to get childcare. You never have to put your bra on. You don’t have to put makeup on. You don’t have to pay for gas. You don’t have to have a car. You can come online and talk to actual real people.

Even though it’s online, you can really form amazing close relationships. So many of the other services out there you’re texting a faceless coach, for example, and they might not get back to you right away. You might be watching modules or videos, but you’re not actually able to share your story and feel the love coming back to you and feel the actual validation.

If you have not yet checked out the Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group schedule, please go to btr.org, click on Services, and click on Daily Support Group. That’s where you can get all the information about it.

We built this with you in mind. For you, to meet your specific needs, based on what we went through and based on what our needs were. We don’t want any other woman in the world to suffer in isolation or to try and get help and get the wrong kind of help. So, please check out the Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group schedule, it’s under Daily Support Groups on our website, btr.org.

Okay, onto today’s topic.

Surviving In The Wilderness Of Abuse: There’s Nothing Wrong With You, It’s Abuse

My amazing mother, who’s been on the podcast before, who you have heard, she is a reader. One of the things she reads is the Wall Street Journal and on the weekend edition May 4th and 5th of 2019, it was a weekend interview with Dr. Paul McHugh by Abigail Shrier, and it is entitled “Standing Against Psychiatry’s Crazes.

In a nutshell, what this article is saying is that sometimes the psychiatric or the therapeutic community doesn’t know what they’re talking about. I’m thinking about betrayal trauma and sometimes when women go in and they’re given this awful diagnosis or they’re diagnosed as codependent or they’re told, “Well, you have all these problems that you need to resolve.”

When really victims of abuse should be told, “This is an abuse situation. This is going to be painful. It’s going to be a form of grief and you’ll always feel a twinge of grief about the sadness that took place, but you will get better. What you are going through is completely normal and how you’re feeling is completely normal and you are completely normal. As you work toward healing, you’re going to be fine.” It’s hard to feel that when we’re going through it, but that’s the truth, especially if we walk toward healing.

This specific psychiatrist really goes against the grain. This is what Abigail Shrier says:

His contrarian roots run deep. He was a diminutive boy in the 1940s, when psychoanalysts had popularized the notion that physical deficiencies—including short stature—produced inferiority complexes, especially in boys and men. He became a prime candidate for the experimental growth-hormone therapies rising to meet the demand from anxious parents.

“But Paul’s father, a schoolteacher, decided against the treatments recommended for his son. Shortness wouldn’t be the worst problem he’d have to face, the elder McHugh reasoned. As it turned out, the animal-derived pituitary treatments were ineffective; the human-derived form sometimes carried the infectious agent that causes Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, an incurable degenerative brain disorder.

“‘I know my life would have been easier if I had had 4 or 5 more inches,’ says Dr. McHugh, who now stands 5-foot-6. But his childhood experience taught him a lesson that helped make him a giant in his field: Sometimes psychiatry’s cure is far worse than the disease.

“Dr. McHugh believes psychiatrists’ first order of business ought to be to determine whether a mental disorder is generated by something the patient has (a disease of the brain), something the patient is (“overly extroverted” or “cognitively subnormal”), something a patient is doing (behavior such as self-starvation), or something a patient has encountered (a traumatic or otherwise disorienting experience).

“Practitioners too often practice what he calls ‘DSM checklist psychiatry’—matching up symptoms from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders with the goal of achieving diagnosis—rather than inquiring deeply into the sources and nature of an affliction.

“‘I came into psychiatry with the perception that it had not matured as a clinical science in which rational practices are directed by information on the causes and mechanisms of the disorders,’ Dr. McHugh says. ‘Every other medical discipline has that.’ He still regards psychiatry as badly in need of ‘organizing principles.’”

“That’s putting it mildly,” says the author of the article, Abigail Shrier.

“It’s Called Abuse”

Let’s talk about this concept in the context of sex addiction. What we see right now is a slew of words: sex addiction, porn addiction, intimacy disorder, intimacy anorexia, compulsive sexual disorder. People are trying to figure out what to label these behaviors they’re seeing.

At Betrayal Trauma Recovery, we’ve made it really simple. It’s called abuse. All these behaviors can be under the umbrella of abuse and these behaviors need to stop. If they don’t stop, then the victim of these behaviors needs to learn a new skill, which is setting boundaries, but there is nothing inherently wrong with her.

She’s not codependent. She is not crazy. She didn’t get into this situation because she had a messed-up childhood or whatever. She’s just fine and she is going to grieve because she’s a victim of abuse, obviously, and she needs to learn a new set of skills that she hadn’t learned before.

Surviving In The Wilderness Of Abuse: Learning New Skills

It’s like if you were in a plane crash in the middle of the mountains and you survived, but you didn’t know where you were, and you had to learn new skills in that moment. You might have to learn how to hike if you’ve never hiked before. You might have to learn how to start a fire. You might have to learn a bunch of different things.

We’ve all seen survival movies, the most famous might be Castaway. When he lands on the island, he doesn’t know how to spear a fish and he doesn’t know how to make a rope with coconut tree. He doesn’t even know how to open a coconut. In the five years that he spends on that island, he learns a ton of amazing survival skills.

That’s how it is to be in an abusive relationship. There is nothing wrong with you. Your husband abused you and now you need to learn new skills. The skills that you’re going to learn from this experience are going to benefit you for the rest of your life, just like the skills that someone learns in a survival scenario would benefit them the rest of their lives.

Surviving Abuse: Re-Learning Self-Care

One of the skills that I am learning is self-care. I did really, really well when I was single—before I got married. I got married when I was 30 and had my older son 10 months later. I was married in August and I had my son in July. Immediately after I got married my self-care just sort of fell apart.

Before, when I was single, I could work out every day. I ate pretty well. I made sure that if I had an injury that I got into the doctor. I’ve always loved individual sports like mountain biking, rock climbing, rowing, those types of sports, so I’ve had several neck injuries from all of my adventures, and I’d had a few neck surgeries, and so going to the chiropractor was really important. I did yoga every day back then.

I was good at that, but immediately after getting married it was like my whole world kind of got off-kilter. I gave up my entire life for him. I left my job that I had loved. I’d worked at the same school for six years. I loved my friends there and I’d developed my own program. My job was exactly what I wanted it to be as a schoolteacher.

I chose to leave all that and go on an adventure for my husband. Everything got thrown off and I just, basically, gave up everything to be a couple or to be with him and to make our life together. Then everything centered around him and his moods and what I could do for him.

When he got arrested and he was suddenly gone and I needed to focus on myself, which I should have done before. I should’ve had that skill, I was just in this vortex of abuse and I was so confused, and I couldn’t figure out how to get out.

I feel like those of you listening to me are sometimes wondering, “Oh, how can I set boundaries or what can I do?” I don’t really have advice for you, well I always have advice for you, but one of the things that have really struck me lately is that God literally pulled me out of a terrible situation.

Self-Care And Surviving Self-Care

I had been praying, I had been wondering what to do, and then my ex got arrested and I got the protective order, which I had never even considered, and so I then held it. I didn’t know how to do any of those things before that had happened to me.

I’m not this amazing wise person who was able to get herself out of an abusive situation quickly and well. No, it was a disaster and it was a complete mess. The only reason why I ended up out of it and seeing it for what it was, was because of that arrest. I am so grateful that Heavenly Father did that. It just happened suddenly and was super traumatic, but it was the right thing.

Let’s talk about self-care. This has been hard for me for the past 10 years of my life. I recently read a book called Atomic Habits by James Clear, which I would highly recommend to everyone. It was an eye-opener for me about how to structure daily habits in a way that worked for me. In reading that book, I realized that part of the reason why it’s been so difficult for me to do daily self-care things is that I had to think about every little thing because I didn’t have any established habits.

Making the bed was super difficult. If I got it done it was a miracle. Putting eye drops in was a miracle. My eyes are problematic in many ways, and one of them is I’m an impartial blinker and there is nothing you can do to control it. It’s involuntary. When the doctor told me that I was like, “That’s good to know at least some part of me is impartial to something because I have an opinion about everything.” When I found that out, I knew I needed to do eye drops every day but doing that was difficult.

“I Could Only Do One Thing A Day”

Just basically getting anything done was hard. I could only do one thing a day. I remember talking to my coach. She said, “Okay, what are the things you need to do?” I was like, “I want to read my scriptures every day. I want to pray every day. I’m pretty good at that. I usually get that done but it’s not always at the same time. I want to exercise. I want to eat right. I want to spend more time with my kids. I want to make my bed.”

We’d make these goals and it just seemed so overwhelming. I couldn’t do all the things. I could only do one thing. At the beginning of this self-care process, I would be like, “I made my bed today,” and then everything else would fall apart. Or, “I put eye drops in,” and then everything else would fall apart.

This book has helped me to structure my habits so that I don’t have to think about it. Now I have turned the corner. I am making my bed every day without much thought, which is awesome. I’m putting eye drops in. I am exercising every day now and going to Yoga. The dishes are getting done in an easier fashion.

If you’re having trouble with the day-to-day tasks or if the grief seems to be overwhelming to you or if your husband’s “addiction” and all of his recovery efforts have completely swallowed your self-care or your identity, I invite you to take a step back, detach a little bit, and think, “What do I need to take care of myself? What habits do I need?”

“The Whole Goal Is To Detach & Boundary Yourself”

The whole goal here is to detach and boundary yourself, so that you’re not exposed to the abuse all the time, or ever—it should be ever—and that you start taking care of yourself. That’s the goal here. If he chooses to stop being abusive great, and if he doesn’t, great. Either way, you are on the path to a happy and peaceful life.

One of the things I’ve decided to do is what I call a weekly self-care power hour. I’m going to cycle through six things every six weeks.

In the six-week cycle of the weekly self-care power hour, that’s going to be a little bit different than my daily self-care. I don’t know what self-care is going to look like for you. It might look like making your bed every day. It might look like meditating every day. It might look like praying and reading your scriptures every day. Those are all the things that I do in my self-care.

Surviving Abuse: Self-Care Daily Wellness Log And Atomic Habits

Part of your self-care might be joining Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group and attending one session a week for your self-care power hour. It might be an individual session with one of our coaches. Just designing a life that works for you. Where you can take care of yourself in whatever way that works.

You can find the book Atomic Habits on our site btr.org/books. I also created a Self-Care Daily Wellness Log for myself. It’s the type of log that works for me and you can see that on our books page as well, again btr.org/books. It’s, basically, just a checklist of daily self-care tasks that may or may not be helpful to you in your self-care journey.

The theme of today’s episode is you’re not crazy. You are not sick. There is nothing wrong with you. You are just in a survival situation. You need to learn new skills. The exciting thing is the skills that you learn right now are going to benefit you the rest of your life. It’s an opportunity for all of us to become stronger, better people.

Surviving Abuse Means A Strong Support Network

If I were you, and I was listening and it was me back four years ago, I would have wanted to say, “I don’t like this lady. She just doesn’t get it. She doesn’t understand how painful it is.” That’s what I would have said to myself four years ago. If you’re saying that right now, it’s okay. I have been there. But I’m also feeling so good because I’ve come out the other side.

What helped me do that was an amazing network of coaches, an amazing network of women who understood. The education that came to me, as a result of my no-contact boundary and studying abuse. All of those things, I feel like, have led me to where I am now and I’m so grateful.

There is my self-care update. I’d like to know what you guys are doing for your self-care. Please leave a comment below and let me know.

Call For Stories: How Do You Survive In The Wilderness Of Abuse?

Let me know what your self-care questions are. What are your self-care concerns? What are your concerns about the general sex addiction community not seeing this as abuse? It would just be great to be able to interact with you there.

I want to thank every single woman who is listening and who has had made a recurring monthly donation. That makes this podcast possible and I’m so grateful.

Similarly, every time you rate this podcast on iTunes or any other podcasting app, it increases our visibility, which helps women find us. Those of you who share things on social media or tell your friends about the podcast, that helps women throughout the world find safety.

So, thank you for sharing. Thank you for helping get the word out. I’m so grateful for you, for being a healthy army of women who are making this world a better place.

Until next week, stay safe out there.

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