PTSD is a sneaky creature. Even after being out of my former abused self after twenty years, I still suffer from my past abuse.
I was in a violent intimate relationship for fifteen years and two children. Not only was I physically abused, I was emotionally, sexually, and financially abused as well. I tried 11 times to leave that relationship. Eleven! The only way I could finally get out of the abuse was to hit rock bottom and make a secret plan to run away from the relationship.
One of the first articles I wrote was about my life as an abused wife. I am the poster child for a domestic violence victim who made it out of my relationship alive, and after several years of self-work, have a charmed life and a loving husband.
But, PTSD is a bitch.
PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) happens when a person is exposed to trauma, either a one-time or long-term abuse or emotional injury of any sort. It’s considered a mental illness that is not necessarily curable but may be manageable.
Some of the most common symptoms of PTSD include the following:
Intense feelings of distress when reminded of a tragic event
Extreme physical reactions to reminders of trauma such as nausea, sweating or a pounding heart
Invasive, upsetting memories of a tragedy
Flashbacks (feeling like the trauma is happening again)
Nightmares of either frightening things or the event
Loss of interest in life and daily activities
Feeling emotionally numb and detached from other people
Sense of a not leading a normal life (not having a positive outlook of your future)
Avoiding certain activities, feelings, thoughts or places that remind you of the tragedy
Difficulty remembering important aspects of a tragic event
My PTSD presents itself when I interact with anyone who talks about my past abuser. My anxiety increases; I feel uncomfortable with myself. I also get furious about the unjustness. I need to blow off steam about it, usually in the form of talking it out. My body starts to ache, I want to cry, and I feel a range of emotions from rage to hopelessness. I start having nightmares, which are always the same: I’m back with my ex, and my husband is gone. I never know why, only that I’m fated to stay with a man who abused me for years.
Situations such as when my adult children talk about their dad or when I write about my former abused life will bring up my PTSD.
A couple of months ago, I was contacted by a writer who liked one of my blogs, Woundology. He had a sordid past, being in and out of jail most of his adult life. In his mid-fifties, he turned around his life and started a 12-step program for criminal compulsion. We talked over a couple of video calls, and he encouraged me to write more about domestic violence since I could be a voice for DV victims.
I loved the idea. I looked at starting a program for domestic violence. I started writing more blogs about DV. As I got more and more into this groove, something terrible happened.
My headaches came back. I was upset all the time. And my nightmares intensified. Every night I was battling my ex in my dreams.
I’d sit down to write about a DV experience, and I’d feel my anxiety bubbling to the surface.
I had to let it go.
More recently, my son and I were talking, and he mentioned his dad. In the conversation, he talked about something a bit underhanded he wanted to do that mirrored his father. I inquired further, and sure enough, it was an idea he got from talking to his dad. I talked to him about how it was immoral and how it took advantage of someone that he loved for his own benefit.
Self-love is one of the best ways to help you recover.
After that interaction, I spent the next two nights fighting my nightmares again of being plopped back down into a life with him, confused and hopeless.
To this day, I’m still faced with rare situations like this: trying to counter-parent the negative affects my ex has over our adult children. His narcissistic personality drives him to create his children in his image, and he uses his charm and his gaslighting to convince them that his ideas are fantastic.
After that talk with my son, I wanted to write the long-term after-effects of being in domestic violence situations with children and how the abuser will always use your children against you, even when they are grown.
But I couldn’t do it. My body didn’t want to sit down in the chair and write about it. My thoughts overwhelmed me. Instead, I am letting you know that a history of domestic violence will stay with you. You don’t have to feed it.
Alternatively, please do whatever you can to take care of yourself when it rears its ugly head. Even if it follows you for the rest of your life, it’s a chronic condition to manage.
Self-love is one of the best ways to help you recover. Take care of yourself.