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The Plague of Self-Doubt That Follows an Abusive Relationship

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Editor's Note

If you have experienced domestic violence or emotional abuse, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741. You can contact The National Domestic Violence Hotline online by selecting “chat now” or calling 1-800-799-7233.

If you’ve experienced sexual abuse or assault, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact The National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 1-800-656-4673.

When I think of domestic violence, my brain automatically considers the physical aspect of abuse to be prominent. For example, I imagine a relationship full of fighting — bruises, broken bones, etc. I’m not sure where this perspective comes from, but I am recently realizing it has allowed me to hide behind the truth of what I have gone through.

• What is PTSD?

On one hand, I believe this limited view enabled me to protect myself from further pain during a traumatic experience which was horrendous in so many ways. It allowed me to convince myself I wasn’t going through the experience I was; I don’t think my heart and mind could have handled that realization as well as everything else at that time.

However, on the other hand, this is a common response mechanism I have been realizing was present in all aspects of my abusive relationship. A lack of acceptance of what was actually happening, continuously making excuses, tolerating behavior I know is not acceptable as well as constant guilt and a deep lack of self-esteem — all common for survivors in emotionally and psychologically abusive relationships.

The good news is I have found a great therapist who is really helping me understand my complex post-traumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD). I feel for the first time that with my medication and current proactive attitude to trying different relaxation and grounding techniques, I might be able to crawl out of this black hole someday. I’m amongst days darker than I’ve imagined possible, but I also occasionally have days where I am able to manage my symptoms enough to have a somewhat “normal day.”

Therapy is allowing me to reflect on what I am readily able to recall about my trauma. Increasingly, I am remembering more suppressed memories and events. Sometimes the trigger for these flashbacks is clear, such as hearing something on the news or witnessing aggressive behavior. Other times, there is no trigger; these are the hardest ones to manage.

One place I can’t hide from the truth is when I’m asleep. My subconscious refuses to allow me this. For a long time, I have refused to accept these dreams.

Being able to write that I have been treated horrendously at the hands of a person who was supposed to love me…

Being able to write that I have been subjected to cruel emotional and psychological treatment for a huge part of my life…

Being able to write that not saying “no” because I am scared of the consequences is not my fault…

Being able to write that waking up to someone violating me is not acceptable…

…is all huge progress in terms of my acceptance and recovery.

Now I just need to be able to say it.

Photo by Patrycja Chociej on Unsplash

Originally published: August 5, 2019
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