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Dealing with PTSD Symptoms After Leaving Domestic Abuse

Dealing with PTSD symptoms is a fact of life for many domestic abuse survivors. Learn how to deal with PTSD symptoms resulting from domestic abuse. Read this.

Yesterday, Andi commented on Victims Think They May Be The Abuser. Andi said:

. . . I reached the point where I feared that the emotional / verbal abuse was going to move towards physical abuse. It has been a long time since this happened. I’ve moved far away and started over, but I’m still scared, feeling PTSD symptoms, and can’t seem to move on. I want so desperately to be whole again. Any thoughts and help would be greatly appreciated.

First of all, Andi and anyone else who feels this way, you are whole! You may have an extra voice in your head – a remnant of your abuser’s lies, but that adds to you, it didn’t take any part of you away! Granted, it doesn’t add to you in a positive way and that voice needs to take a hike. But without that voice, you are still whole. Your abuser didn’t dismantle you.

Secondly, honor your fear. You developed your fears for good reason, and they won’t become manageable until you take some steps to counteract them. Here are some ideas to deal with PTSD symptoms and fully heal from abuse.

How to Reduce PTSD Symptoms After Leaving Domestic Abuse

As a previous abuse victim, you’re probably now re-learning to trust your intuition. If you think of a way to help yourself, then try it. Perhaps one of the following suggestions will help you, or maybe they’ll spark your intuition in a different direction.

Address Your Fears

Some Fears Are Not PTSD Symptoms

You’ve left an abuser, and honestly, it’s impossible to forecast what he or she will do. Fear serves you well when you use it to prepare safety plans and think through your options to protect yourself. The key is to pick an action that empowers you and do it. Any healthy action that will help you to feel safer is a good choice. When you feel afraid, remind yourself of what you did to protect yourself.

The ideas presented at Safety Planning for Domestic Violence and Abuse Victims can help you thoroughly plan for your safety (click that link then scroll to the bottom of the page to download the safety plan for free). The safety plan will help you think through stranger danger protective strategies although it’s intended to help you develop strategies to protect you from your ex.

Self-defense classes or even simple fitness program can make you feel better about your ability to protect yourself.

Educating yourself further about PTSD, domestic violence and the abusive personality will help you make sense of what fears are real and should be guarded against and what fears are products of the abuse (or unlikely to affect you at all).

Fear Triggers or Startle Responses

Does the phone ringing fill you with dread? If so, make a commitment to yourself to never answer your phone. Let all calls go to voicemail (don’t screen them), then check your voicemail whenever you like. This will remind you that you’re not on your abuser’s leash anymore. You choose who to talk to and when.

If you realize you’re easily startled, you can talk about it with those who live with you. Ask them to make noise moving around corners or when entering a room you’re in. Tell them that sneaking up on you isn’t funny (You may have to clue your kids in on that one — they think it’s funny to scare people. Well, so do a lot of people!)

Nightmares

If you have nightmares that wake you from a sound sleep, try to have something to do when you’re jerked awake from fear. Keep a pen and paper by your bed and write down the dream. You could drink a from a glass of water kept on your night stand. You could get up, make your bed, and then crawl back into it. Interacting with something you can taste, touch, or smell will pull you out of the dream, calm you down, and let you go back to sleep.

Audial or Visual Hallucinations

Hearing and seeing things that aren’t there is another symptom of PTSD. If you’re experiencing audial or visual hallucinations regularly, see a doctor. Until you can get into the doctor, treat the hallucinations like you would a nightmare: write them down, eat a raw veggie or drink some water, smell some menthol . . . remember, taste, touch, or smell brings you back to now instead of where your mind took you.

Home Alone or Nighttime Sounds

Do loud (or soft) noises when you’re home alone scare you into irrational thinking? Although you can’t be sure no one might enter your home, you can take steps to protect yourself if they do. Make sure your doors and windows are locked. Buy some pepper spray or a weapon you’re comfortable using and place it under your pillow at night. Tell your neighbors you’re concerned about prowlers (or if you like, tell them you’re concerned your ex will come around). Knowing they’re keeping a lookout will ease your mind.

Use Self-Help to Deal With PTSD Symptoms

Relax on Purpose

Try deep-breathing, meditation, stretching, yoga, or taking a walk. Do something that brings you down to earth on a daily basis, not only when your symptoms flare. Visualize yourself as safe and calm (even if you aren’t) every chance you get so if you hit a panicky place, you can easily envision yourself in control. (I know everyone says this, but that’s because relaxing works!)

Join a Support Group

There are support groups online and off that relate to abuse or PTSD. Talking about your experience instead of holding it inside relieves fear.

Journal In Any Way

Likewise, a journal or blog gives you an outlet to express your fears, feelings and memories. If you don’t like to write, you could speak your journal entries into a digital voice recorder or voice journal (soundcloud gives some free space for recordings). You could also record videos (youtube has a private option if you prefer it).

Try the Emotional Freedom Technique

Look into the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) too. In theory, EFT works similarly to EMDR therapy (see below), but you can do it yourself. EFT is also called “tapping” and there are plenty of free videos and information articles online.

Therapies That Help PTSD Symptoms

Mental symptoms of PTSD, like intrusive memories and flashbacks, can be difficult, but not impossible, to deal with on your own. Please find a counselor If you feel you can’t afford one, go through your social services department to see if they offer assistance for domestic violence survivors. Interview therapists about what type of therapy they use and how it works for PTSD before deciding who to see (Anxiety Treatments Are Effective).

EMDR

If there’s a therapist that practices Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy near you, then give them a call. EMDR therapy can be a miracle cure for some people with PTSD symptoms and it would be worth it to find out if you’re a person it will help.

Narrative Therapy

I just interviewed Jodi Aman about narrative therapy (changing the stories we tell ourselves). Reworking your memories to empower yourself isn’t denying the memory or stuffing it down – it’s giving you a new and more useful way to look at it.

CBT and Psychoanalysis

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Psychoanalysis are other types of therapy commonly offered. Between the two, the quicker road to recovery would be CBT, which helps you deconstruct your memories and find errors in thinking; then, when you recognize these thinking errors, you enact a new behavioral response to them.

Psychoanalysis analyzes dreams and other symbols of the unconscious mind to get to the root problem. A psychoanalyst would probably ask the question, “Where in your childhood did you first experience abuse?” and work from base level up. As you can imagine, psychoanalysis isn’t the best type of therapy for quickly relieving PTSD symptoms.

You’re Going To Be Okay

I know you wonder if the effects of abuse will ever go away. They can if you use conscious effort to address them. Think about it like this: Was there a time that you were silent about your abuse because you were ashamed of it? But you stopped being silent, and you ended the abuse. The same thing goes for abuse side effects. The more you talk about them, the quicker you’ll find relief.

You did it before. You can do it again.

Author: kholly

Kellie Jo Holly advocates for domestic violence and abuse awareness through her writing. You can find Kellie Jo on her website, Amazon Authors, Google+, Facebook and Twitter.

19 thoughts on “Dealing with PTSD Symptoms After Leaving Domestic Abuse”

  1. I’m suffering from this for the past year almost, went through emotional and verbal abuse, sexual assault, and stalking. I only came clean about it a month ago. My family is worried, but just want me to get back on my feet already. I’m taking a blood pressure medication for the nightmares. I’ve never been so angry or frustrated with myself in my life. I’m used to being tough, thick-skinned, and silly. Right now I feel weak and pathetic, and I want to be who I was before the relationship with him. My current s.o. is amazing, but I feel guilty and useless that I’m always distant and dissociative. My constant switching of medicines leaves me feeling sick and drained, and I need go back to work, but I go into panic attacks with other people around because I feel trapped and unable to express my emotions. I just want to go back to normal. I hate living right now, but it’s torture because I know I shouldn’t want to hurt myself.
    What can I do to get over this faster?

    1. Please be kind to yourself. You’re not weak and pathetic, you are injured and healing. It takes time, support and the ability to allow yourself the understanding that you’ve been injured and need healing. If you have feelings that make you want to harm yourself please seek help right away. You are wonderful and worthy! 18002738255 is the National Suicide Hotline. Please know many of us understand and care.

  2. My ex was very emotionally abusive. Very good at gaslighting, twisted words, demeaning and all of it. Threatened physical violence but never did. However, it’s been years and I still panic at the thought of communicating with him. My current boyfriend has to call him to remove my name from an old credit card, And I went into full panic mode. Shaking, heart racing, flushed face. Didn’t help he tried to demand to speak to me. Now he left me, but I moved, got stronger and found an amazing man. But he kept trying to contact me. Be friends. Talk all the time. I knew to distance myself and he ended yo starting to give my number out to car dealerships so my phone would get calls daily. I had to change it. I had to move. I had people say I needed to “get over it” or that I wasn’t over him because of the panic. After last night I researched. And I honestly think it’s PTSD from 8 years of it. I’m going to look into getting help for myself. And finally getting a firm grip on myself

  3. I have felt this pain on all levels. Verbal, physical and mental. You hide what you can. You lie about what you can’t.

  4. Debbie
    It looks like you are feeling no safe, support system. You have the same job and have same social circles. It sounds like you are experiencing gaslighting by your ex. Have you ever watched Sam Vaknin or Spartanlifecoach on Youtube? Narcissism Survivor has good videos explaining Narcissistic abuse as well.

    When you are feeling sabotaged, it may have some elements of this kind of manipulation.

    I have been in your place of helplessness and I found no one around for support.

    Find a therapist and start talking it out. Talk about any feelings no matter what. I am a Veteran and there should be more services available for Police and I hope there is. A high stress job with responsibility like yours require some support.

    You may feel numb, fearful, vulnerable and that is because you just went through a major change. You are human and deserve to know your feelings ARE important too.

    Plan one step at a time how to survive. You will survive, indeed. You are a survivor and now you must devote time to heal. One secon, one minute, one day at a time. Write small goals down but if you do not feel up to tackling them one day, there is always another.

    Rest, eat healthier, do some gym time, as a must! Exercise releases the chemicals that help your brain n give you a break with some good music. Meditation or just some calming self hypnosis vids with a nice calm voice you choose may help at night.

    Next plan to change those things that make you feel uncomfortable. Possibly change your job at some point where you move away from the daily triggers. Places, people can trigger anxiety.

    You matter and thank you for your service in providing safety for the public.

    Now it is your time to protect your mental health and wellbeing.

    You are not alone! This process will be a permanent routine towards improving the quality of you life.

    Everthing has its own time so do not force yourself on your blue days. Those are the days you must treat yourself to something you like. A nice treat or time sitting in the sun.
    Try and get at least 15 minutes of sun a day or take vitamin D. Also take vitamins as stress depletes you and you need to feel stronger.

    Try not to rely on alcohol because this is about the chemicals in your brain and alcohol is a depressant that may help but you may wake up more depressed the next day.

    Read up on it and watch vids and buy books. Try Psychopath Free, which is a great book n also there is a book by Pete Walker on C-PTSD of which he excellently explains we get with long term abuse.

    You must be aware of that inner critic that makes you feel like you failed. Don’t listen when you get thoughts or at least tell yourself you are aware you are feeling anxious, putting yourself down, triggered. Try and define any triggers n write them down.

    If you feel helpless call the crisis line.

    You can do this and eventually any small change will denote you are headed on your path to healing.

    Big hugs. You sometimes can sit and tell yourself that even if you don’t feel safe you actually are safe at that very moment.

    Love and hugs. You deserve to be happy. You deserve to feel vindicated that your feelings count. You deserve change and a fresh new, freedom that life is taking you in a new direction.

    You may not believe it, you may not feel it yet but in time you will see how you always had that strength.

    Peace and be well.

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