Mental Health Blogs

PTSD and Memories of Abuse

Many abuse victims suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), me included. The other day while writing the post about my ex’s abusive anger, I had to take an hour break before I could finish writing. My body reacted the same way it did when my ex ran up on me, panicky, wobbly, … fearful. It helps to know “what is happening” at times like these. If I didn’t know that PTSD influenced me, I may think I was just plain stupid for “allowing” it to happen. As it is, I recognize the PTSD symptom and take necessary steps to soothe myself, bring myself back into the present.

Dealing with PTSD and Memories of Abuse

I reminded myself that I was okay. My husband does not live here, so he cannot terrorize me the way he once did. I filled a glass with cool water and held onto the sink to stabilize my body. Part of me wanted to jump in the car and drive far away because that was my safety net at the end of my marriage. I resisted the urge. I looked around my home and saw only my things. There is no trace of my ex here.

ptsd and domestic abuse

I grabbed a book, The Gift of Fear and flipped it open, reminding myself that my fear instinct, the one I ignored for the majority of my marriage, is not accustomed to me listening to it. I was married for almost 18 years; fearful for almost two decades. I ignored my fear responses because “He loves me. I love him. He won’t hurt me”. Basically, I told my body’s innate fear reactors to shut the hell up and stop bothering me.

So what do I really expect to happen now, only three years out of the marriage? I have been free from his daily abuses for only one-sixth of the time I was captive to them. It seems reasonable that my body continues to over-react after I ignored its warnings for so long. I accept my body’s over-reaction, even to fear imagined, as it did when I typed a memory into a blog post. I believe that in time, if I patiently soothe my body’s fear and let it know “I hear you, and this is what we’re going to do,…” that the over-reaction will disappear.

In another example of PTSD symptoms gone wild, I responded angrily to my boyfriend’s question, “Where’s my toothbrush?” I snarled back, “How should I know? It wasn’t my day to watch it!” Simultaneously, my body readied itself for fight/flight/freeze, and I felt stuck in fear. Fear over a simple question. Why?

The answer is simple: my ex rarely asked an innocent question. If something of his “went missing” from the house, it was my fault. And if I had nothing to do with losing the item, then it was my fault that I didn’t notice its loss and spend my day locating it so his life wouldn’t be disrupted. We argued over lost items a lot, and the arguments usually ended with me in tears, emotionally drained from his unwarranted attack.

But my ex is not here.

Max then asked, “What’s wrong?” and I responded angrily to that question, too! It took three angry responses before I realized what was going on. Almost immediately, I felt so embarrassed. I went to my room, alone, to pull myself out of the past, out of the fear that something bad was about to go down. I felt guilty and weak.

I apologized to Max. He was kind enough to allow me to explain what happened in my head; I felt a lot better, and we let it go. I sometimes wonder how long Max will be able to love me as the time-traveler I have become. It isn’t fair that Max has to deal with my past. It isn’t fair that I have stow-aways from a past relationship embedded in my head.

On the other hand, I must continue to pay attention to my fear no matter what the source. A while back I wrote about an incident between my son and me. My body reacted to his anger and intimidation with fear – just like in the old days. However, unlike the old days, I paid attention. Instead of standing toe-to-toe trying to make my case, I immediately went outside and sat on the porch. I knew my son wouldn’t act the same outside where people could see and hear him as he did inside the house where there were no witnesses. I think that my reaction is a good sign. It doesn’t matter if anyone else would have felt fear in that situation; the point is that I felt afraid so I did something to feel safer.

Likewise, the thing I must remember about the conversation gone bad with Max is that I figured out what was happening to me much sooner than I could have three years ago. My reactions to writing down my memories of abuse are getting further and further apart too. I think it is happening because of time, distance, and the fact that I am building a different store-house of memories. I have more memories of reacting appropriately to fear now than I did when I left my husband. If practice makes perfect, then my symptoms of PTSD will eventually disappear under the weight of healthier choices and actions.

This entry was posted in Abuse in Marriage, Abuse in Relationships, Anger, Confusion, Fear, Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, Symptoms of Abuse and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

20 Responses to PTSD and Memories of Abuse

  1. Wolf says:

    Thank you for writing this. It helps me to understand an incident I experienced a few days ago with a friend, where I accused her of doing something manipulative and controlling–but she was not, it wasn’t anything wrong at all, in fact if it had anything to do with me it was her doing a favor for me. I stepped back and was utterly confused by myself, my actions and reactions. I attributed it to bipolar, paranoia, but I couldn’t understand why that would be a part of bipolar.

    Now it makes sense. In my childhood, I was abused by someone who made constant undermining, manipulative attacks that were subtle enough that no one else could see them for what they were. I knew I had PTSD, but it’s hard to sort out the fine differences between bipolar and anything else–anything anyone “normal” would experience. Now this makes sense–what was a defense-mechanism in the past, recognizing an attack, is in over-drive now that I’m away from the attacker.

    Like you, I don’t know how much my friend will be interested in sticking around. I told her that my thinking was delusional/paranoid, but that doesn’t mean she’s going to want to expose herself to the risk of my treating her like that again. Perhaps this will help me to head off similar incidents in the future. Thanks so much!

  2. Sandra L. Flaada says:

    I am 61 yrs. old and did not realize I had PTSD until I was 56 yrs. old. All my life I knew something was wrong, I thought I was somewhat crazy. I never felt calmness, stillness or connectedness. I didn’t belong anywhere. I never felt wanted. I didn’t think anyone cared if I was in the room or not. I started therapy when my mother was dying and at that time I was diagnosed with depression. I started to remember things from my childhood. I remembered fear, molestation, rape by a teacher when I was 18. I have always had nightmares of men chasing me and now they came every night. Fear chased me where ever I went, I jumped at sounds and started to cry if I saw a man who resembled that teacher. There was also a teacher when I was in the third grade who molested me and there was a “friend” when I was 19. Why so many? Why did they choose me? I must have been an easy victim for them because of what happened when I was very young. It took several years to remember all of this and it still is not the whole of it. So now I also have DID, with three alters:
    3 years old, 17 years old and 32 years old I believe. Now I know I’m crazy. Luckily for me my first therapist and I were a good match–I have come a long way. We worked hard–I worked hard with my husband by my side and many friends too. Not everyone in my family accepts what I say, that is difficult, but they have their own reasons I guess. Reading the different posts on your site allows me to understand I am not alone in how I have coped in the past and it also allows me to feel hope when other people have reached a new goal of insight and understanding. Thank you and Merry Christmas to all who read this. We might feel alone at times, but here we have a connection when that arises. I heard this somewhere: Everything will be OK in the end and if it’s not, then it’s not the end. God’s Blessings.

  3. yavetti says:

    Good luck with that girlie. (what you said in your last paragraph). NO CAN DO. Your PTSD (though I believe Disorder should be replaced with INJURY) will NEVER disappear.
    When a child gets diabetes mellitis type one they are diabetic FOREVER and will have to manage their disease their entire life; or until a cure is found.
    No matter how many healthy choices you make;
    no matter how many healthy actions you take,
    you will NEVER be CURED. Never.
    It is like a sport, the more you practice your skills the better you will get, but you will never defeat it. There will never be a time when you win every single game, never. Win some, lose some is reality. Win all is not. Hoping for a “Cure” through ANY interventions will leave you with a great big let-down down the road that you could have and should avoid. Godd enough! Should become your motto. It is healthier. You can hate it all you want, but your ex changed who you are. Yes, with effort and dedication you CAN rise above it with sacrifices on your part, but get rid of it?- jettison it out of your life?-banish it to never-never land?—–no, never. It is in you, it has changed you, it will be a disease you will manage, never cure. How do you erase memories forever?

  4. Kellie Holly says:

    I would not want to erase my memories. If I did, I couldn’t learn from them and I would repeat the mistakes of the past. I do not need to erase those memories; I only need to loosen their hold over me to live fully in the present when my mind wanders to the past.

    You can believe what you want and you will most likely find exactly what you believe to be true. I believe differently. Scars are evidence of healed injuries, and I will be healed – scars and all.

  5. Sigurd says:

    Thank you for wrting this article :)

    I belived i was alone feeling like all i want to do is run screaming down the street like a mda man.
    So often i just want to run away, and i cant understand why.

    I get problems breathing, nausia and feel like throwing up. in the end i always end up in a feetal position and my tears never seem to stop.

    im trying desperatly to figure out why. because its little things that can set these things off.
    and now im more worried because lately i can be happy and smiling and suddenly realise my body is way off. i dont realise i am crying until my body starts sweating and i get a feeling i have to run away. then i get scared and cant figure out why.

    i have moved from our old house and for a few months everything was wonderful. then my ex learned that i moved from her town and to my birthtown (20 minute drive). She didnt like it and like always for the past 4 years she becomes extremly angry that i dont respect her view that she is to decide where i live and what i do.

    I really do have difficulty understanding why i cant controll my response when i have to be in a meeting with my ex. now i only try to “close” up when i see her. i realised that every time we are in a meeting she is saying somethings or making a gesture to make me be off-balance. even worse is that i alloved my therapist to speak to her so i have a anxiety and depression diagnosis and a unspecified NO disorder as a consequence. maybe it was not a good idea to start therapy when i did. and even worse aks my therapist to as my ex what was wrong with me. at least i should not have been suicidal at the time. :(

    Now things to be even worse because i dont want to give my ex my new street and house number. she doesnt need it because i have told her i dont want to talk about anything else then our children and then unless its medical urgencies onlly on TXT or email.
    As a response i got a letter from her lawer stressing me about the house despite i had allready told my ex that i wanted it to be sold on public marked and not privatly to her friend.

    My new place that i used to feel totaly relaxed in. now feels like a prison and i keep looking outside expecting her to be in front of the house like she used to for the past 4 years.
    im scared i will totaly loose it. i have never hit a woman before and im to old to start now. instead i hit my selfe mentaly.

    I sleep for 1-3 hopures every night. i wake up and im soaking wet after sweat. last sumer i had started to dream again. it was so nice to sleep for a complete night, having dreams :) . my life seemed normal again.
    Now im back where i have been for almost 17 years. i am afraid of dating and meeting some one. because i cant rid my selfe of the thought maybe my ex is right and i messed her life up, if i am crazy aht gives me the right to destroy another human’s life like that? how can i ask some one to live with me when my life is so messed up, i dont sleep properly, i relive my marriage over and over again, i dont eat properly, i cant focuse more then a few minutes of the time. i cant remeber anything more then a few houres.

    some times like now i wish i would not have been brought to the domestic violance centre and hteir councelors. i wish some one could remove what they and other councelours have told me about the marriage. even if my life was …. grey and empty. it was nice to be in a “foggy daze” and not know that life was not supposed to be like that.

    I do admit tha being screamed at by my ex mother in law and sister in law because i moved our bedroom furnitures around, or didnt put the bathroom tiles like they wanted to was distressing, i always wonder why my ex never tried to tell them to shut up. and why she always yelled at me when i told the to shut up or get out.
    Now i wonder if she found pleasure in seing me so angry that i almost hit and punched them. but instead my eyes started to cry of anger and i would hit the wall. she should have told them at least not to grab hold of my arm to prevent me from walking away from them.

    I miss the time then everything was my fault because she told me so. at least i never remeberd why and what i did. but i always counted on her letting me know why it was so because i had “forgotten because i had short term memory problems”.
    now all sorts of memories are surfacing everytime im reminded. and i cant understand how and why i could permit having more then 1 child with her. im tormented by al those times i had to hold her and crab the children away from her while she was shaling and hiting them. i cant understand how i can feel bad for grabbing hold of her arms once so hard that she felt pain once just to snap her out of shaking our 2 year old boy because she was angry at him for crying.
    I wish i never had woken up. or at least have punched her once so i would have been the violant one. even though the domestic violance councelours keep telling me that this fact that even she cant say i laid a finger on her ( even if she tried to claim in court she was affraid of me), saved me and i should be proud that despite a suicide attemt i am still standing.
    well i dont feel im standing. more like crawling and…..

    How does you boyfriend deal with it? how did you overcome the doubth about being able to live and love some one ever again?
    and most important how can i find a woman who is able to cope with my past?
    As for me i cant expect or ask anyone to deal with my past. i have more then enought problems dealing with it my selfe. :(
    There is never more then 3-6 months of peace before i get a message, mail, phonecall or my ex-family knocing on the front door. and then everything starts all over again. but those few months always makes me belive im ready for a new life and a new relationship. but after 4 years with only 3-6 months peace have teached me that peace will never last. :(

    I had a female “friend” a short while. but when she told me that if i didnt make my ex shut up and stay away or she would beat the crap out of her, i ended the relationship.

    I have again withdrew from my old friends who know my ex. it was hard to learn why they stoped comming around. and in some way even harder when we met up again. harder because they have all at some point come to me and asked me to tell my ex to shut up or they would beat her. after awhile i started to tell them i couldnt ask or tell my ex anything and that they better tell her them selfes. i know they are being suportive but …

    I wish i could go to bed without heavy sleeping med, traveling somewhere or going some where without having to wonder if i should bring my anxiety medication.

    They say people who suffored mental abuse or abuse in general should get educated and aqurie knowledge about the abuse.

    Well i regret i did start to learn, because it makes me askmore question, everytime some of my doubth is removed i getmore doubth, confused and angry how i could not have seen, realised and stoped it. fair enought i have realised i could not have done much differently for her, i would not have mattered anyway. But at least i wouldnt go around wondering about my selfe. for every question i get a new qnswer to anotherone comes along :(

    And its painful not not know if im ever going to be able to have a relationship, peace for more then 6 months. smile and be happy without suddenly my body reacting in a weird and totaly irassional way.
    Its not normal not being able to go out without having a feeling deep inside that a woman should suddenly start Screaming and acuisng you of something just because she have the same haircolor, dress og have some resemblanse with my ex.
    I do have to agree with my first therapist that its not normal to stay in such relationship for so long. but how could i know? i didnt even know it was abusive until 3 years after she left. and then only because i was forced to meet the domestic violance shelter for women. and a therapist in a different part of the country i live in. it took them over 3 months to convince me i was the victim and not my ex.
    Now its like i feel i want to be admited to a psycward (i have asked but they refused).

    I live in a country with free healthcare but they wont give some one a diagnose of PTSD unless they have been soldiers or come frome a wartorn country. the only violance victims who gets this treatment is those who have been seriously beaten and hospitalised. i never did bother about what the domestic violance centre, friends and violance therapist told me about PTSD. i trusted the public psycologist that told me he would not test me for this. now i took the test online and i scored 17 of how many positive :( i read about reactions, body-reactions and so on and everything fits there are no symptom i have who does not fit. i dont have everything positive on the test (thank God).

    In January i am to go to a new specialist treatment centre for abuse and domestic violance. this is on top of the public healthcare but they have no say in medication and so on because they are a 1.st line service. and i wish i had not read about PTSD now :( . the new therapist centre is specialised in PTSD maybe thats a good thing….? but reading about it realising it will stay with me for a long time is hard. and if i have understood treatment correctly i have to again go thru my married life with a therapist.
    I DONT WANT THAT! i was forced to do it by my psycologist once, then at the domestic violance centre, then again with abuse therapist at different centres around the country. they all tell me as my psycologist did, i have to.
    I have to go thru everything and suffer all those emotions again.
    i cant understand WHY.

    I only want help to get rid of the body re-actions.
    im “safe” now. noby screams yell or creates situations where…… my mind is for the most parts calm. and when its not i only want to drink until i pass out but im told i cant because of i will feel worse afterwards. So i dont.

    Can you tell me why i have to go thru all in my past? it doesnt make sence. granted i was not happy since i met my ex. but then again i was numb. i didnt feel much that i remember at least until therapists started to “poke holes” making me talk about my married life, when all i wanted to do was to talk about my life before my ex.

    the public psycologist gave me a not specified personality disorder (NOS) because he had to give me a diagnoses to be allowed to treat me. the anxiety and depression diagnoses was not enought he told me for the time he needed to treat me. for over 1 year now almost 2 i have been going there and all they want to do is to talk about my marriage and then complaining that i cant let go of everything that happend. I can talk about my childhood, time before my ex but every time they ask me question about my marriage life and what happend and everytime i end up sad, exhausted and just feel like ….

    why is it so? its a simple wish i have, being able to sleep withpout heavy sleeping pills, going out and meet new people without having to take anxiety medication to feel safe.

    I dont want to remember what ever my body is trying to tell me or make me remeber.

    I want my mind to take controll over my body im so sick and tired of, like you say holding on to the kitchensinck to keep from fallin down or run screaming down the street like a mad man.

    It have taken me a long time to write this and i do know i sound like a crazy person with seriously big mental problem. but im so unbelivable tired these days i only want a single night without waking up every 2 houre. but i guess i have to take the meds to sleep again :( and hope as i always do that they after a while again have corrected my sleep. but my life cant be like this every time i get a message or some one talks about my ex or something deep inside me gets stired up. i have to be able to find a way, better way then anciety meds and sleeping pills to deal with this…

  6. Mimi says:

    I too have PTSD (I like the idea of it being called an injury instead of disorder). My mother passed away 3 years ago. Afterwards, I suffered from a paralyzing depression for about a year. I started going to a therapist and began remembering being raped at different ages by my father. Can’t remember it all, just bits and pieces. I now have to deal with the never ending-injuries of damaged emotions and memories. As if my emotions have been torn into bits and pieces by the trauma. I have a very good therapist, but the responsibility is always mine to keep pushing and growing in health; emotionally. There is no way to take away the pain, but I have developed special qualities to be able to help others as a result of my injuries and pain. And thus I am able to develop special relationships. And, yes, I too suffer from DID. But, I don’t want my injuries to dictate my life. I want to make decisions that are best for me. That means taking care of the different parts of my little girl and adult personality. LIfe will
    always be more complicated for me than for other people. And it is very hard when most people can’t really understand. But, God can help with anything. Best wishes.

  7. Margaret Greason says:

    Sigurd,

    I know how you feel! I was in an abusive marriage for thirty years. I dealt with controlling, verbal, physical,emotional, and financial abuse. My ex would tell everyone I was crazy, and turned a lot of people against me including my own children! He was the crazy person! All I wanted was to love and be loved,to have trust, and to enjoy our lives together. I have been dealing with abuse since age 2 when my uncle molested me. It seems once you are victimized, unless you become stronger about how you see yourself, you will fall time and again for the same abuse. Abusers only target the weak. We must become strong within ourselves and guard our hearts and minds from the evil who are out to destroy us. I have put my life, heart, and mind in the Lord Jesus Christ. He guards my heart and mind like a strong tower! I will pray for you like so many of us on this blog. Pain may last for the night, but our joy comes in the morning! God Bless You!

  8. Deborah Coleman says:

    Thank you for writing this article. I was in a abusive marriage for 8 short months. I tried to ‘fix’ what I thought was my problem. I finally realized it was him that needed fixing, and I couldn’t do it, so I left. For a year we battled in court; it was terribly hard, but I was out, had a job, car and away from him. I felt for a long time that I had it all under control. But, slowly, I exhibited signs of PTSD, not even realizing what was happening to me. I went through hell with fear, emotions, flash-backs, panic attacks, crying ALL the time. I sought counseling, and here, after 3 years and still seeing a doctor, I have made great strides. I was at the verge of committing suicide. I can see how much my life has improved, yet, I still find myself going back to all those bad memories, and the fear, and sadness returns. But, like you, I do things to bring myself out of that slump, and assure myself he is not here, and if he ever did show up, or contact me, I have a court order of protection for 3 years, and he will go to jail. I am comforted by that fact, and I believe I have come a long way from the thoughts of suicide, and never want to go back. I can relate to your article so well. Thank you for posting it.

  9. Jennie says:

    The memories trap me. I will be moving through a normal day and something will trigger a memory and I will suddenly be pushed into fear and anxiety again. Reading the comments on this blog helped me realize I am not alone. I have felt so all alone in what I am going through. I often feel an overwhelming since of uneasiness and never really feel comfortable or settled. I do not necessarily feel depressed, it is just I try to get past things and I get stuck. Even though there is such widespread acceptance of PTSD, I always thought it was really only related to military experiences.

    It has been nine years since I have even seen my ex and five or six years since I spoke to him over the phone, until two weeks ago. I realized it had not been long enough. He came out on the porch when I was dropping my daughter off and stood there glaring at me. I tried to be strong and show him I was not afraid anymore, but I had to turn away after I realized it was actually him my eyes were seeing, because my entire body began to shake. Even writing about it brings anxiety.

    In my mind I struggle with why I react this way, why can’t I just be stronger and brush it off. I was always a very strong minded, driven person before I married him. He changed that about me, he changed my whole perspective about myself. And I think I am angry with myself for allowing him to have control of that. Before, I was an advocate for victims of rape and abuse. I never thought in a million years I would become one again. I want to be that advocate again, I just feel stuck.

    I have been remarried for seven years now, my husband now has been very patient and never raises his voice or talks down to me, that ironically has taken some getting used to. He knew what kind of baggage I was carrying and chose to take some from me over the years and I am grateful. Now I have to find my way back emotionally for myself and my family. Thanks for having this healthy place where I feel I am not alone.

  10. Marie Christine says:

    I just left a verbally abusive marriage after over 40 years. I married in my teens, fresh out of a very dysfunctional home. My ex-husband was a few years older. He had just come out of Vietnam and, before that, an also extremely dysfunctional family.

    We were a train wreck destined to happen, but, of course, crazy “in love” as they say.

    The first year or so was probably normal as far as adjustments go. However, once we moved back to his family’s state (I had not met them yet), he started closing the bars (I had never known him to drink other than a beer or two), insisting I adopt his family’s culture (not that he put it in those terms), and he physically came at me a couple of times.

    I was shell-shocked, as I put it, for the first few years there. Nevertheless, life went on. I did what I could to deal with him. And, of course, there were good moments. I was completely and utterly non-equipped to deal with the physical, emotional, and verbal abuse, let alone to really understand it. And of course, I had yet to really understand the dark backgrounds from which we both came.

    During my second pregnancy (my older child was two) I left him for about three days after a physical incident, but all I had to my own name was forty dollars. I had recently quit my part time job due to the pregnancy. After he promised to go to counseling with me, when we spoke on the phone, I hoped that we could work things out, so I went back.

    Of course, that was a lie.

    Soon after, we moved away from his toxic family and the bars. We both knew if we stayed it would have ended badly. We came back near my toxic family.

    For a number of years, except for his critical nature (which I never knew to regard as verbal abuse back then), things seemed to improve slightly. Of course, he had also quit drinking. Or so I thought.

    About ten years later, a threat of more physical violence resurfaced. I told him this time, unless we actually sought counseling, this would be it for us.

    We went together. He went singly, I went singly. One of our then teen-aged daughters also went. This seemed to help considerably for about 20 years. He became much nicer; sought to and did restore his relationship with his children. We were closer. And of course I was “growing up,” too. We used to say we both grew up together.

    so this “recovery” lasted quite awhile. Then, he started drinking again. It’s amazing how much damage alcohol can do.

    Fast forward to two months ago.

    The last time I spoke to him was on my cell phone in my car as I fled the house after, in an alcohol-fueled screaming rage (with no triggers that I saw…we had just cozied up on a rainy night to watch a favorite video)he insulted me every which way he could think of, insulted my family, my profession, even my gene pool. Not kidding. He also told me i was never the love of his life, because he knew what it was like to have a love of his life. Oooooooo…kay……

    Only this time, having been slowly but surely “growing into my own and into my own sense of worth and value” because I had become a Christian early on, and I had allowed God to inform, then heal, then transform me into the much more “whole” person I truly am, I was able to tell him, when he stopped to catch his breath, “You know, don’t you, that what you are telling me is highly insulting, but I know who I am now…”

    Of course, whatever had gotten hold of him was oblivious pretty much to my responses. At one point, because I had sinus issues at the time, I excused myself to take some medication. While I was in the bathroom reaching for the meds, quietly and clearly, these words came to mind: “You need to go now.”

    I looked up, realized the truth of them, realized I could, now, leave (kids grown and gone, have my own income and insurance, etc., as does he). I walked through the kitchen, grabbied my purse and keys, said a quick prayer that he wouldn’t hear the garage door open and that I could be some distance before he checked. I was about ten miles out of town on the way to my safe house when he called. I opened the cell phone and listened.

    For about twenty minutes, he kept repeating “You must turn that car around and come home. If you don’t, you will tear this marriage apart.”

    Having long since learned to not respond to drunken/lying/critical spirits, I only said “No.”

    Once I got to my destination, I finally said, “I have to go now.”

    Our divorce should be final in a few weeks.

    I have not spoken to him nor seen him since that night. I only text him basic information he needs to know. He is too good at targeting me with even the slightest look, throat-clear, pregnant pause…

    I, too, LOVE Patricia Evans’ book, “The Verbally Abusive Relationship.” Although I have done countless hours of other research on my own, too. And even thought part of what his assessment of my family is true–we are “f–ing nuts,” the difference is that most of us have tenaciously sought help through counsel, prayer, and never giving up the search for truth and we are, now, a rich source of help, comfort, wisdom, correction, guidance, and real-life help for each other.

    But, and here is the main reason I write this, I am in complete and joyful agreement with the woman just above who references what has obviously been a source of help in her life: faith in Jesus Christ and the power He provides those who receive Him and then allow Him to heal and deliver them.

    It starts with finding out who we really are.

    Our “enemies” of mind, emotion, body, and spirit might be really good. They might be very smart and skilled. We might also have been born and bred into the victim/target role. And all of this might be overwhelming, to be sure. But there is a “power source” much greater than all of that. A source that does not just give practical advice about the nature of good/evil; wisdom/foolishness (try Proverbs for starters), but Who also answers prayers, promises deliverance from evil, and sometimes, even, say, “speaks” to us clearly and plainly regarding the specific nature of what we have to do. Right now. Sometimes, it’s “leave.”

    I am fully aware of my current “PTSD”-like responses to all those years, although several people I trust believe he was just “forcing my hand” that night, which is consistent with his desire to never be “the heavy.”

    I am committed to eating well, getting exercise, taking any and all little “safe” steps if I feel the least fearful, again. I have excellent counsel and support. I read Scriptures every day for practical guidance and encouragement.

    I may be a bit worse for the wear, but I am intact. I may still take my blood pressure meds and antacids for awhile, but every day my body is a bit more at peace, a bit more stable.

    I feel as if I have been allowed a great, big, miracle in this. And I can fully say I have also been gifted to be able to forgive him. Although I do not ever know if I will be able to talk to or see him again. Texting is clean, simple, brief.

    Blessings and comfort and encouragement and love and hugs to every one of you. I appreciate you. I hope you have found some comfort, here, in my story.
    MC

  11. Gail says:

    For anyone suffering from trauma after years of living with verbal abuse, emotional abuse or domestic violence, I highly recommend trying EMDR (find out more about it via Google) to heal complex PTSD. It has been working for me. Now my spouse, whom was physically abused by a sibling from the time he was a toddler, is going to go see a therapist trained in EMDR so that he too can heal. I don’t know what the future holds for our 18 year long marriage but I am thrilled that therapy and EMDR have helped me to finally experience what high self-esteem truly feels like. I will never allow anyone to abuse or disrespect me ever again. I still at times feel the need to self-sooth when I am triggered by sometimes just a look from my spouse but the distress is much less than ever before and decreases with every EMDR session. So long as I remain in this marriage it is possible that I may always experience some PTSD/emotional flooding but it is nothing like what it used to be. My therapist has a sliding scale fee, as some do, which has made it affordable. Definitely worth it. Making change, learning about your past in order to understand how it is you ended up in an abusive relationship is very hard work but healing and recovering your self is worth the pain, anger and grief. I also recommend reading about “boundaries” (Anne Katherine has some good books), and read the books Kelly recommends by Patricia Evans and Lundy Bancroft. I have also found that practicing Mindfulness meditation is another good resource for healing from an abusive relationship. You CAN heal from PTSD.

  12. Jennie says:

    It happens in subtle ways at first. When I first met my ex, he was everything I had dreamed. He was handsome, respectful, funny and loved adventure. I was strong minded and new what i wanted out of life. I had just bought a house and graduated college. He even went to church with me. Everything was just as I had hoped it would be. That is until just after we were married.
    It started with little spiteful words about my family and friends. Slowly, my family and friends did not want to be around. Eventually he began removing physical things that meant a lot to me. A 100 year old rosé hip plant in my backyard that I cherished, he bulldozed one day while I was at work. The next day he flattened the herb garden I shared herbs with the neighbors out of. Looking back, I should have stopped right there and made him leave then. But I did not. I thought if I loved him enough, he would stop, at least that is what he kept telling me, that I needed to focus more on him and less on my garden.
    When I became pregnant it got better for a little while and we had decided it would be a good idea to quit my job to stay home with the baby. A few days after that he began drinking alcohol heavily, I had never known him to drink ever, yet he drank as if he had been doing it all along. I was mortified, how coud I have not known. Then he announced that he had been married before and had a son he had not seen for several years. Slowly he started telling me horrific things about his childhood, I felt I could make his life better from here on out. I fell right into his trap. When our son was born, he had a celebration at my house while I was at the hospital, then drove me home, said I had a mess to clean up and left for two days with our only car.
    It was two years later, in the middle of an argument with him, I felt something tugging on my leg, looked down to see my son desperately trying to separate us, I decided I had had enough. I shut my mouth, picked up my son and held on. It was hard but I found resources in our community to help me with the process of divorce. I was scared and he knew it. I made the look on my sons face that day when I looked down my motivation to move on. I never wanted my son to feel like that again. It took another full year to get through the divorce and finally I could start over.
    When people think of abuse they tend only to think of the physical kind that you can see and prove. They do not think of emotional scars that words and behavior leave on the mind. As well as financial abuse that often coincides with verbal abuse because it is a way of controlling us that cannot be seen. These leave scars inside that are forever part of us but they don’t have to define us anymore. I hope to someday be healthy enough to help others out of bad situations, like others have helped me.

  13. yavetti says:

    What a loop we are in. No end, just go around the loop again.
    All PTS-Injury stories just sound the same to me, circular,
    what I really want to know is why we married women stayed married SO LONG to abusive men?
    Why did I not tell him to get lost the 1st 6 months?
    Man oh man I just remember my determination to MAKE IT WORK. Carry on, make it work.
    How painful to realize I had the power and the choice to stay or go and I chose stay.
    How awful a choice was staying.
    The biggest ooops I ever made.

  14. Jeremy says:

    I am just floored by reading my life story over and over, too accurate to even believe. My heart hurts for you all knowing what youve gone through. I just recently suspected PTSD and your experiences have solidified my theory. Thank you all very much, hopefully I can find help now.

  15. Sue says:

    I stayed for so many reasons. The behavior, for me, started out slowly. So I reasoned that all marriages have patches of rough times. And, there were good times. But as the years went on, the emotional, verbal and a few times even physical abuse became much more frequent. What was worse, though, was the anticipation of what was to come. Sometimes I could tell by his footfall from the doorway what kind of evening it would be. I stayed a long time for the kids, thinking I could protect them if I was there. (That is how screwy the thinking got for me.) I honestly think my ex-husband has the capacity to kill me — but he can still appear normal in social situations. That keeping off-balance and not trusting my own thoughts and opinions any longer, including reality of what transpired during horrendous incidents, kept me there. I was so worn out and worn down. I didn’t realize how bad it was until I left. It took me six weeks of planning and I took the kids and left during a business trip he was on. When I used to tell him I wanted to leave, he would nod to the door and tell me to go — just don’t think I was taking the kids. Honestly, the way I left was the best way I could think of for the kids. That is how bad it was.
    Co-parenting is a nightmare because he has access to me. I try not to let him get to me, but some days are better than others. The one thing I know for sure, though, is I definitely did the right thing by leaving!! I am healthier, my kids are definitely happier and more stable. It was the hardest thing I ever did, kind of like walking off a cliff. But I am so glad I did it. I have my self-confidence back, I trust my judgment again, I am a much better mom, I set up a home full of peace and love…and, at least, my kids can see another side of how life can be lived.

  16. Kellie Holly says:

    Sue, you sound so much like me in two ways specifically: I could tell by the way he dropped his shoes onto the floor what kind of night we would have, and I am grateful that my kids can see a different way to live life than what they knew before.

  17. Katherine says:

    I was in an emotionally and verbally abusive marriage for 8 long years. I only realized how bad it had gotten when I took my kids home to visit my family without him and suddenly my panic attacks and night terrors dissapeared. I was in my childhood home, with my family and I felt SAFE for the first time in years. I realized then what I had to do. I forced myself to confront him in a way, by basically going back to our rental house 900 miles from my safe haven and telling him that we were leaving and leaving for good. I told him Sunday evening, by Monday afternoon he had a new apartment lined up for himself and a truck rented. His only stated concern was to claim we didn’t have money for me to be going anywhere and I told him I would beg, borrow and steal to get the hell away from him. I left over two years ago, I have since divorced him, gotten full physical and legal custody (yay!), met a new amazingly sweet man and I’m buying a house! So puppies an rainbows right? My moments are sometimes marred by my inability to let go of the past, it haunts me still. He got his clutches so deep, I’m still healing the wounds. The anxiety has gotten much better but I still find myself apologizing for what I now see as ridiculous things, but they weren’t always so ridiculous. My stomach still lurches when I see his “name” (at least what I call him) pop up on my phone or email, on the occasion he has a question about something stupid (never to reach out to my two amazing kids). I’m hoping he’ll eventually just melt away and never call or contact again, trust me my kids are WAY better off without him! Do they diagnose kids with PTSD?

  18. Claudine says:

    I found this post after googling information on suing an abusive ex husband after the fact. It has been three years since I left, and I am realizing that because I was suffering from PTSD and low self worth, I did not get a lawyer and fight for all that I deserved according to the law. My ex said he’d get a lawyer and fight me all the way and win, and of course I believed him. I have gotten help with EMDR for the PTSD but can really relate to this post and the reactions in new relationships that don’t make sense. I wish there was some kind of a support group for people who have been through abusive marriages…like AA or Alanon. It’s so weird that you mention the book The Gift of Fear. I just stumbled on it a couple of weeks ago and keep wondering why I am reading it and wishing that there was a workbook/workshop related to it so that I could be more certain that I have learned to listen to my instincts and not repeat the horrible 18 year nightmare I went through in my marriage. Any information on support groups or workshops related to that book you can provide would be great. Thank you for your post. It feels like my story exactly.

  19. Kellie Holly says:

    Claudine, the best I’m able to do is find a resource list on Gavin DeBecker & Associate’s website at http://gavindebecker.com/resources/resource_list/. It mentions Al-Anon as being a source of support, and mosaic threat assessment at https://www.mosaicmethod.com/. It’s great that the mosaic site offers “threat level assessments by female perps” too. Taking the threat assessment may help relieve your current fears by validating them (in which case, you can DO something to lower the score) or by reminding you that what you’re currently afraid of is a past issue (PTSD related).

    I hope this resource leads you in a positive direction.

  20. Ellie says:

    Thank you so much for this website and all those who have posted. It is so easy to think that we are alone. It’s been years since I left my emotionally and psychologically abusive partner. It was a short relationship, yet we had a child. I still do not know how I allowed this to happened and for such a long time I blamed myself even though I KNEW that I had been kind, caring, compassionate and empathic in the relationship. But I blamed myself for being so stupid and naive and for allowing my wonderful, ‘together’, contented life to be completely blown apart by this individual. I cannot call him a man or even human because it was like being with someone who was neither or those things. They are like another species and I believe this is what ‘throws’ us. We are playing by a particular set of rules, ie listening to the other person, not wishing to ‘bring them down’. being supportive, taking no pleasure in another’s misery and responding in a reasonable way to reasonable way requests or statements. The message I would pass onto everyone apart from my love and good wishes is that if ANYONE treats you without care, trust and respect and, where appropriate, love, then walk away. No-one needs people like that in their lives and those of us with PTSD certainly do not.

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