The "Cleaning House Phenomenon"
I want to comment on something I've observed in the last few years here, that I think is important for women to consider. I've name it the "Cleaning House Phenomenon".
This happens when a woman first starts healing from her abortion. For the first time ever. possibly, she starts talking about it via the message boards here, in chats, in emails with other women. She starts discussing what happens, and how she feels. Then she starts moving forward a little from just 'talking' about her experience, to working on healing, either through the recovery steps or groups here, or through a private group, or with a therapist.
As she begins to work through her feelings of sadness, grief, anger and hurt, she starts to realize that she is a worthwhile, wonderful woman, and not the horrible person that she thought she was, when she was so down on herself about the abortion. Then she starts taking a look around at the rest of her life, and sees a lot of other things she is dissatisfied with- maybe her husband treats her like crap, and she says to herself: "Why should I be putting up with his stuff? I am worth more than this! (which is true!) Or maybe she looks at herself in the mirror, and thinks she wants to lose weight, or exercise more, or maybe stop smoking, or stop drinking, or her kids are disrespectful, or she needs to be back in school, or in a different job, or needs to get away from overbearing and ignorant friends or relatives that poison her life - suddenly with this newfound rush of self -worth and self-esteem, plus with the lifting of the huge weight that used to be on her shoulders, when she was 'buried' with post-abortion pain, she sees so many things that are 'not right' in her life, and she wants to change them all! All at once! It's time to "Clean House" in her life, with everything that is not right..
And so she will start thinking about changing all these other things too, and what happens is that this sudden desire to "Clean House" can have a negative boomerang effect in the following ways:
1) It can 'derail' her work towards healing from her abortion - she can get so worked up about all this other stuff she wants to change, that she stops working on her post abortion healing, and gets involved in all these other areas, and spreads her energy and awareness out too thinly, and is unable to be successful in her post-ab work.
2) Trying to "clean house' on all these things at once is too much, and so she fails in getting it done right away, she doesn't lose 10 pounds in a week, or her husband tells her she's an idiot when she asks him to go to counseling with her to make their marriage better, or whatever it is she is trying to clean up doesn't clean up as quickly as she'd like, so then she falls back into a double depression - not only did she fail in her new goals, now she is too depressed to get back into the post-abortion healing thing. Suddenly it seems like 'dealing with the abortion' is what has made all these bad feelings surface, and all these negative things happen, and she doesn't even want to go back into working through all that post-abortion pain anymore. However dealing with the post-abortion pain is important for her, if she wants to resolve it and move forward with a peaceful life.
So here are some guidelines about what to do if you feel the "Cleaning House" Phenomenon creeping up on you!
Remember to focus on your post-abortion healing first. Once you start working on it, stick with it, and don't let other issues derail you.
As things pop up during your healing that you also want to change, make a list of them! If you want to lose weight, stop smoking, find a better job, work on your relationship with your partner, divorce your husband, have another baby, get your tubes tied, stop going to holidays with your obnoxious relatives, ect. Don't do these things right away, but make a list, and then later you can work on them in more detail - but for now recognize these desires, write them down, and then continue to work on your post-abortion healing.
Once you have completed your healing, or at least once you feel you have dealt with all your issues in regards to your abortion, then you can start working on the other issues. As you work on these new issues, try to think of the new changes you want to make as a 'slow upward spiral'. Don't try to change too many things, too quickly. Think of things in little tiny steps, and recognize each little step as a small victory, because it is!
Say for example you want to "lose weight". Instead of going on a drastic diet, and getting your body and your routine all out of whack, and then usually dropping off the diet anyway, try doing one little thing at a time. For example if you drink 4 or 5 sodas a day, replace one soda with a glass of water. If you drink just one glass of water a day, that's a small positive step, that's one more step up the slow spiral staircase to change, and feeling better! Then maybe in a few days you could drink two glasses a day, instead of two of the sodas. Even if you eat ice cream for dessert, that's not bad, you still had your two glasses of water that you weren't having before, and it's a small but positive step!
If you smoke, just once a day stretch out the amount of time between one cigarette. For example if you smoke two cigarettes every hour, just one hour out of the day smoke one - and then congratulate yourself on that change! It's much easier to start small, and to make yourself feel good for the little victories, rather than insisting your are quitting, going cold turkey for 8 hours, then feeling shaky and upset and starting to smoke again. Then you feel depressed, like you have 'failed'. Much better to just very slowly start to phase it out.
If you have a bad relationship with your partner, even something small like saying to them "I am not happy about how things are between us, and I'd like us to talk more about it" is a victory! So he hasn't agreed to counseling yet, or he still says mean things - at least you have started to change, you have stated your feelings, and you are taking those small steps up the staircase! (Now in cases where you have an abusive partner that puts your health in danger, that's a different issue. For any case where there is danger, it's always better to take drastic action, like going to a shelter or the police.)
So this is something for women to consider, as they are working on recovering from their abortion - remember to stay focused, take it slow, make your list of 'other' changes you want to work on. It normally takes a full year, from the date a woman first officially starts 'working' on her feelings about her abortion, before you are stable and feeling better. I also advise that during that 'recovery year' that you not make any major decisions, or get involved in any new relationships - this is a time for you to think about yourself, examine your life, and decide what you really want out of the rest of your life. Again, it 'derails' your healing to suddenly decide to have a new baby, or get your tubes tied, or get married, or divorced, or start a new relationship, ect. The 'excitement' and'newness' of something like that can really be great, but it also takes your focus away from 'you', and puts it on the new thing instead. And then if the new thing doesn't work out, for example the new relationship breaks up, or you have a miscarriage, that can be incredibly upsetting and derailing, especially when you put everything else on hold for the wonder of this terrific 'new' thing that was going to be in your life. Sometimes these things are unavoidable, and I understand that. However when you have a say in the matter, avoid making any major decisions or changes in your life during your year of healing, to have the best healing experience, and the greatest chance of finding peace and moving forward successfully.