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Beginning the healing process: Nine thoughts for victims of abuse

Deciding to break free from the psychological chains of an abusive situation can be both liberating and frightening at the same time. Amelia offers a list of nine important things to know as one prepares to begin the healing process.
1. It will take time. The scars that abuse leaves behind are deep. Your wounds, whether physical or emotional, may not even be closed yet. Try not to focus on how long recovery might take; just take the first step, whatever that may be.

2. Know that it's okay if you don't feel better right away. That doesn't mean healing isn't taking place. Sometimes it takes time before your emotions catch up with reality.

3. Know that some issues will be easier to confront than others. Don't rush to confront things before you feel ready. God will give you the strength to face the more difficult things, one piece at a time.

4. Know that it's okay if you feel afraid. But this fear is the by-product of something good happening, of your taking the first steps toward healing. It's not the same as the fear you feel when you are being abused. This new kind of fear leads to something that will help you, not hurt you.

5. Know that it might get harder before it gets easier, but it won't be like that forever. You have already survived something horrible; you can survive this, too. This kind of pain is productive and will not destroy you.

6. Know that it's okay to take baby steps. When you take a baby step, it's okay if you don't know what the next step will be. Take one moment at a time, and don't focus on what comes next. Pray for courage and wisdom. God will give you both.

7. Know that you don't need to feel ashamed, but don't punish yourself if you do. The shame is your abuser's, not yours, and its hold on you will go away in time. You have been through enough, and it's okay if some of the things you think and feel are irrational. When you distance yourself from your abuser and begin to gain objectivity, the unnecessary emotions will begin to fade.

8. Know that it's okay to be honest with people about what you have been through. They may not know what to say or how to behave around you, but this isn't because they are making judgments about you, or because you have done something to make them uncomfortable. Abuse is a sensitive topic, and when people who care about you begin to learn about what you have experienced, they will be affected in different ways. Let them know how they can best help you; they may not know unless you tell them.

9. Know that it's also okay not to talk about things that you aren't ready to talk about. You will know when the time is right. No matter how well-meaning someone else is, never feel forced into disclosing things that you are uncomfortable bringing out into the open. With God's help, you are in control of your own course of healing. There is no need to feel obligated to share everything before you're ready—or ever.