Emerging from the Shadowlands
By: Susan Deborah Schiller
This is a story for those who feel like they have fallen through the cracks – misunderstood by peers, shunned, or even exiled. It's for those who the doctors have not been able to help. It's for the quiet ones who stay at home, preferring not to engage with the world just yet. It's for the ones who describe feeling as though they are miles and miles below the surface of the earth, in deep, dark places – catacombs, pits, and coffins. These are words we use to describe the aftermath of living with a sociopath.
And it's for the brave friends and family who support these fragile survivors. I'm going to get naked once again, and share with you part of my own adventure into freedom and fullness – a journey I am on with God, my friends and my family.
I want to show you how powerful YOU are and how much your story can lift someone who has fallen through the cracks.
We understand when a diabetic has eye problems or a soldier with missing legs can no longer run. We don't often understand why the victim of a sociopathic husband is can no longer function. Her wounds are invisible and her scars cannot be seen.
Pathological abuse causes brain damage as well as damage to your soul. To me, the damage looks something like these hills my husband and I explored last Spring. Whole hillsides have eroded, forming cracks and fissures dozens of feet deep, in places.
On the surface, all appears "normal" because we are survivors, after all – we know how to behave for the public eye. But it takes a lot of energy, and those crevices will grow wider and deeper if they are not tended.
I recently read that a survivor of narcissistic abuse frequently experiences 50-90% loss of brain functionality. From the hundreds of stories I've heard from survivors this is sadly accurate.
Many good people advised me to "move on," to "get a job," or to relocate to a new town. I've done all of those things, but it didn't make me "normal". Can life ever be normal again, many of us wonder!
Outwardly, I worked like a champion. I moved. I made a new life for myself. I bloomed like these flowers, but the crevices in my soul would soon pull them down into dark canyons of depression and despair.
Dr. Rhonda Freeman describes the neuroscience of pathological abuse in scientific terms simple enough for laymen to understand. She does a fantastic job and I'm not going to repeat her words here, but you can listen in at "The Neuroscience Behind Pathological Love Relationships.
For me, it begins as a vague sense of living in two worlds at the same time. It's difficult to describe but it's like a dark hole is opening up, subconsiously. There are flashbacks. I cry, and it's sort of like a boiling pot bubbling over because there's no room inside to contain the tears.
I'm so busy trying to live "normally" and be productive in the conscious world that I tend to push self-care to the bottom of my to-do list… so the pressure builds up.
I hope these pictures help – they have captured, to me, what has happened to my innermost being.
The crack merges with other cracks and a landslide of emotions erupt. There are decades of layers all intermingling. It's chaotic and confusing.
I have chosen natural and relational remedies instead of medical treatment because what God and my friends have done for me really works. Empathetic presence and listening to each others stories is elemental and effective. It's ancient wisdom: Love God, love people.
My husband is a scientist and his speciality is forestry – timber, in particular. He's a veteran of the Vietnam war and has been a mountain man most of his life. He is a good man, solid, secure, and safe. He has his work cut out for him, in me, though.
At least once a month the pressure builds up and what I described above happens. It's like I'm living in past and the present at the same time. Rationally, I understand what is happening and I can talk myself through it.
But rationality is not the cure. Love is. Love disarms the landmines and dilutes the toxins.
The challenge is perception. When I'm caught in a crevice, my scientific husband has tried rationalizing to jumpstart me into thinking logically. For awhile he tried separating himself from me, during those episodes, thinking that it would knock sense into me. He was afraid that empathy or compassion would chain me to the pain instead of liberating me.
Through a year of trial and error, what we have found to work is both childlike and simple… it's empathetic presence combined with healing touch. My body is a living library of memories. Our cells store emotions. Abuse buries its toxic poison into our bodies. We need a remedy that touches all three parts of us: body, soul, and spirit.
Empathetic presence connects us spiritually, emotionally, and physically. Healing touch doesn't cost a penny.
There are so many outstanding methods and techniques for healing these days. Most of the healers that I've found charge money, which isn't necessarily wrong.
I'm not against those healing modalities. But the majority of suffering people in the world don't have enough funds to buy their healing.
Often in our pursuit of healing we forget our about bodies and the connection between all three parts of us: spirit, body, and soul.
Healing touch defuses the bombs lying hidden beneath my skin, inside the tendons, ligaments, nerves, muscles, and cells of my body.
Last year, my husband massaged me from head to toe, backwards and forward, and all around, for two and a half hours. As he touched various parts of my body I experienced flashbacks. Now I know which memories are buried in which places. At least, some of them. I lift these memories out of my body by re-framing them. For a long while I began to get healthier, stronger, and to feel "myself" again.
My friend Therese Grant recently published a book called "The Sixth Miracle of St. Magliore" and it illustrates how these simple gestures can restart a person's life. One of the main characters, Aurelia, had slipped into the abyss of despair. Set in the early 20th century in rural Quebec, she had no access to health care. Her family fell into the hole with her and it went from bad to worse.
One day three of her friends persuaded Aurelia's husband to convince his wife to come to one of their houses for lunch. Over the course of several hours, Aurelia's story tumbled out amidst gallons of tears and piles of handkerchiefs. The empathetic presence of her true friends broke the spell and Aurelia found herself smiling again. That was the first miracle, which led to a chain reaction of life-starting… and it created an abuse-free zone throughout the community.
You may be stuck inside the abuse right now, with no safe place in sight. It's a season of fire. I was, too, for quite some time. You're not alone – ever. Even when I had no one to help me, God was there. In dreams and visions of the night, even, he showed me what was really happening and how to be free.
"In the stillness, in the silence and the solitude we will walk and talk together, right through the muck and mire of these shadowlands. You are beginning to remember who you are. You are running to the Light. If only you could see youself as I see you. Your wreckless faith, even though it seems like you're hanging on by a ragged thread, makes you STUNNING in My eyes!" — Papa God to me, Fall of 2013, recorded in my journal. Full prayer published in "I See You".
Like most people, my husband has never had experience with abuse survivors. The past two years his job took him away for several months of the year and there was no more "healing touches" for a year or more. Then he became involved with an abuser, himself, through the course of his work. Although it's not quite the same as living in an intimate relationship with an abuser, he began to discover the deep psychological pain that accompanies any level of engagement with pure evil. Perhaps this is one way God is helping him to have empathy, I don't know. Right now it's just painful for our whole family and there have been major setbacks in my own healing.
The family is the backbone of society and that is where the healing begins… but what if you don't have family support? So many of us don't. I don't have the answers for that yet. All I know is that God has just been asking me to share my story, and as I do, women write to me with their own stories. And we discover together that we each have traveled the same path. It helps immensely to be connected and to be understood. If you don't have family support, I hope in some small measure, this website can be a source of support for you!
With all my love,
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