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 at Betrayal Trauma Recovery, was no different. She gives an update on how her daily self-care is going and talks about an intriguing article her mother found.
Trying To Survive In The Wilderness Of Abuse: If People Say You’re Crazy
Anne’s mother loves to read and recently found an article, “Standing Against Psychiatry’s Crazes” in the Wall Street Journal, from May 3, 2019, that she passed on to Anne.
The article, based on an interview that Abigail Shrier had with psychiatrist Dr. Paul McHugh, talks about how the mental health community is too often too quick to diagnose a patient.
“I’m thinking about betrayal trauma and how, sometimes, when women go in, 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.’” -Anne, Founder at Betrayal Trauma Recovery
Dr. McHugh believes a psychiatrists’ first responsibility is to determine if a patient’s mental disorder is because of something the patient is, is doing, or has encountered. Instead, he says, they are too quick to compare symptoms to the DSM checklist to find a mental disorder.
One thing Dr. McHugh learned from personal childhood experience is that psychiatry’s cure can be worse than the disease itself.
Anne compares this to sex addiction and understands Dr. McHugh’s frustration.
“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.” -Anne, Founder at Betrayal Trauma Recovery
With so many in the mental health profession avoiding a label of any kind, the one word that Betrayal Trauma Recovery uses to describe the behavior, as simple as it is, seems to have created a commotion. There are still so many in the field that can barely use the word sex or porn addiction that getting them to see the behaviors as abuse, is nearly impossible.
Unfortunately, a lot of women who go to a therapist or other mental health professional for help, end up with a wildly inappropriate label and become further traumatized.
Anne says she sees it all too often and is one of the reasons she started Betrayal Trauma Recovery. She says these professionals need a new dialogue to help women in trauma.
“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 at Betrayal Trauma Recovery
For most women, skills that save them are boundaries and self-care.
Surviving In The Wilderness Of Abuse: Learn Thriving Skills
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.
When a person ends up in a survival situation, they can usually adapt.
They may have never started a fire before but, somehow, they figure out how to start a fire. They may have never navigated without a GPS before but, somehow, they figure out how to navigate by the sun, moon, stars or trees. They may have never had to know what’s actually edible in the wilderness but, somehow, they figure it out and find something to eat.
Most movies and TV shows about survival, the person or people figure things out. Somewhere, in the back of their brain, the knowledge and skills are there. When survival mode kicks in, the skills come out.
The adaptive survival skills a woman learns when she gets into a relationship with an abusive man aren’t necessarily going to help her thrive.
At some point, she realizes she needs to learn, or re-learn, different skills to thrive.
These different skills are self-care.
Anne says that she was great at self-care before she got married.
“I got married when I was 30. We were married in August and I had my oldest son in July. As soon as I got married, my self-care just sort of fell apart.” -Anne, Founder at Betrayal Trauma Recovery
Anne says that once she was married, her whole life centered around her husband and what he wanted.
Anne’s Self-Care Pre-Marriage
- Daily Workout
- Eat Healthy
- Go to doctor when sick or injured
- Mountain biking
- Rock climbing
- Go to chiropractor
Anne’s Self-Care During Marriage
- Keep husband happy
Since trying to keep your husband happy isn’t self-care, once she got married, Anne’s self-care, like many women’s, was pretty much non-existent.
Surviving In The Wilderness Of Abuse: Do Self-Care Your Way
She had left her job that she loved with the friends she’d loved, where she’d developed her own program.
She’d happily left her job behind to go on an adventure and make a life with her new husband.
She did what she could for him and put herself on hold.
“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.” -Anne, Founder at Betrayal Trauma Recovery
Anne wishes she had some words of wisdom for every woman in the same situation, but she realizes that were it not for God, she could possibly still be in that situation.
“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, and 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.” -Anne, Founder at Betrayal Trauma Recovery
She didn’t know how to get out of the situation she was in, mostly because, like many women, she didn’t understand the situation she was in.
After her ex was arrested and she tried to start daily self-care, she realized it was extremely difficult for her.
Over the past few years until recently, Anne has learned a lot, but still struggled to maintain good daily self-care habits.
Recently, she read the book Atomic Habits by James Clear. She says this book has been an eye-opener for her. It has helped her to structure daily habits in a way that works for her.
What used to be so difficult for her, merely completing one goal a day while neglecting the rest, has become routine.
For women who are still in an abusive relationship, it may be very difficult to develop good self-care habits that will help you thrive, but it’s vital that you are taking care of yourself, especially if there are others that are counting on you, like children.
“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, Founder at Betrayal Trauma Recovery
When your husband sees you taking care of yourself, because you are worth taking care of, he may or may not choose to stop being abusive. If he does, that’s great! If he doesn’t, at least you’re being taken care of and are on your way to a happy, peaceful life, with or without him.
As Anne worked on developing her self-care habits, she created a checklist for herself. The Self-Care Daily Wellness Log contains basic daily self-care tasks that may be helpful for any woman.
Set a boundary for yourself that you will take care of yourself today. Not tomorrow or the next day, or next month or next year, TODAY.
Anne says the skills you develop and learn as you practice daily self-care are going to benefit you for years to come.
“You’re not crazy. You are not sick. There is nothing wrong with you. You are just in a survival situation and 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.” -Anne, Founder at Betrayal Trauma Recovery
If one thing you need for self-care is a support group, try Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group.
Betrayal Trauma Recovery wants all women who have been betrayed and abused to find safety.
One way we can help is by providing a safe place to share. With more than 15 sessions a week, it’s easier than ever to find a Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group session that fits your schedule without having to leave your home. Each session is led by a Certified Betrayal Trauma Specialist.
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: BTRG
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 the free BTR secret forum on Facebook that’s just peer-to-peer. 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.
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 where, 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 trees, 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. You were victimized 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 In The Wilderness Of 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.
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, and 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.
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 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. One of them will be a meditation session with Coach Peggy.
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 In The Wilderness Of 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 and 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.
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. Every single episode of this podcast has an entry on our website. So, if you go to the website it will say podcast with transcriptions. There is an article about this episode and then there will also be the full transcription.
Call For Stories: How Do You Survive In The Wilderness Of Abuse?
You can find that and then comment there. 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. If you haven’t already, will you go to btr.org, scroll down to the bottom, click on Make A Donation, and set your monthly recurring donation today, so that I can continue to take this message of hope and peace, but also of abuse, to women throughout the world, to help them gain those survival skills that they need.
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. This is such an important message and it’s one that is not being shared or taught in churches, therapy offices, or basically anywhere. 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.