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PTSD, Reliving Abuse and Healing from It

February 19, 2013 Kellie Jo Holly

Reliving abuse in PTSD isn't always a dramatic re-enactment of fear. Sometimes, reliving abuse is re-hearing the abuser's voice but not knowing it's not yours.

A symptom of PTSD is reliving the abuse, the trauma, repeatedly in the form of flashbacks, nightmares and intrusive memories. I believe there's another piece of the PTSD puzzle in reliving abuse by hearing the abuser's voice in your head--repeatedly, intrusively, . . . so ingrained a memory that it speaks in the abuser's voice without us realizing it is only the abuser's voice. It's only a memory. Reliving verbal abuse in the context of PTSD makes me forget that the abusive voice is not my own.

Reliving Abuse Is a Secondary Trauma That Strengthens PTSD

I don't think people are built to think about negativity for long periods of time. During my 17-year marriage, I thought about abuse every day even though I didn't recognize it as being abuse. The negativity pressed upon my mind and heart and I developed major depressive disorder and posttraumatic stress disorder. Because of my experiences, I came to believe that thinking in an environment of negativity permeates every fold of our brain with fear, making it near impossible to create great things he world. I think Who or Whatever designed our minds intended for us to think inspirational thoughts so we can create greatness within ourselves and our world.

But the Abuse Demon stifles our ability to create goodness. It tricks us into thinking we're improving ourselves (creating greatness) when really we're attempting to fix something that we cannot fix. Over time, the habits of

  • reliving dreadful conversations,
  • predicting others' actions,
  • worrying that we're not good enough, and
  • expending our creative energy on the wrong problems

form harmful paths in our beautiful minds. These paths become well-worn, so comfortable, that it is easy to travel them . . . and very difficult to jump off the beaten paths into lesser known territory. The fear conjured by abuse makes taking a new path scary instead of exciting. Or worse, the fear left over from abuse makes us forget that there are other paths to explore altogether.

Hiding From Abuse Doesn't Make Reliving It Go Away

Over the past six weeks or so, I forgot to explore other paths. I think the thing that threw me back onto this old path was finding out my ex wants to "do disgusting things" to me and kill me when our youngest turns 18. Part of me dismisses this as hearsay (just like when people warned me of his temper years ago).

But the fearful part of me remembers his fantasies of

  • tying our neighbor to a tree,
  • cutting her so she would bleed,
  • then watching the bears devour her alive.

He told me to make me feel protected, believe it or not -- but really, they were the fantasies of a cold, ruthless man.

During our neighbor problem, my ex left to attend a military training school. He took his motorcycle and gun with him. Later, he told me he'd planned to ride the bike home one afternoon, shoot our neighbor from across the field at dusk, then return to school with no one the wiser. "It would look like a hunting accident," he said. His plan chilled me to the bone. He could have done it. He planned it well, every detail accounted for it seemed. And he relayed the story with a smile.

So, even if his plan to "do disgusting things to me" is nothing more than a threat aimed at controlling his new partner, the cold, calculating alternative plan to kill me could be in place. He's had three years to work out the details and has another 15 months to account for any changes I make. He frightens me.

My fear triggered my silence for the past month. I dove back onto the well-worn path of denial instead of acting on my fears - taking precautions. When I deny my fear, it takes a lot of my energy. I withdraw other people. I withdraw from thinking about the reality of the Abuse Demon. Isolating myself from people and reality causes me to stop writing about abuse.

I Hid from Abuse, But I Can Heal from It Instead

I give myself a reason for not writing: "I spend too much time thinking about abuse and it is hurting me emotionally". In reality, I found an excuse to hide from it. Just like in the old days of thinking I wasn't good enough, predicting his behaviors, and running his threat on a loop through my mind, I set myself up to stop living, too.

Boy, that ol' Abuse Demon sure can sneak into our heads without us seeing it! But I see it clearly now. Writing this post empowers me. It feels good. Thank you, Amanda (our HealthyPlace.com blog manager), for sending me an email asking if I was okay. Turns out I wasn't, but didn't know why. Now I do. Now I can get back to healing from abuse instead of hiding from it.

How does the Abuse Demon try to reclaim your thoughts and feelings? How do you recognize it? How do you fight it when you see it?

APA Reference
Jo, K. (2013, February 19). PTSD, Reliving Abuse and Healing from It, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2020, August 8 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/verbalabuseinrelationships/2013/02/revisiting-abuse-and-healing-from-it



Author: Kellie Jo Holly

kitty
May, 17 2013 at 5:38 pm

Today what I feared happened. He called my boss and said they will be receiving information about me that they need to know. I have been physically ill all day. It makes me angry that I let him take away my power!!!! I called the DA. My boss said she will put in writing what he said, so that I can give it to the DA. My boss has been totally supportive and said they will do whatever they need to to protect me. But he has violated me AGAIN!!! I have been told that because he called a third party and didn't intimidate, threaten me directly I can not file a complaint. I am not sure why he chose today, I know I got a letter with the trial date and that I will be getting subpeonaed to testify this week. I know intellectually that the abuser escalates when they are realizing they have lost control. I know I will get through this. I'm not sure how to describe how I feel right now, that here is a man I was going to marry, and he is trying to do everything he can to destroy me. I can't wrap my head around it right now. It just doesn't make sense to me.

kitty
May, 12 2013 at 3:13 pm

thank you for sharing. I have a court date coming up and my ex has two charges of dv, it's been almost a year since the incident. And it has been a long haul. Sometimes, other the last 10 months I go back to him, thinking we can make it work, and I also get caught up in the fear, of what is going to happen in court. It has never worked and it gets worse each time. He has been cheating on me with a couple of women, lying through his teeth, saying I'm psycho and delusional. His power is his threats of ruining my job. the DA knows about his threats, when I get caught up in my fear, I feel powerless and he wins he is in control, and he is not (currently) even in my life. I found your blog today, by chance, though I don't believe in coincidences. I have spent my mother's day reading everything I can on your blog. Thank you for being here

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Kellie Holly
May, 12 2013 at 5:46 pm

I don't believe in coincidences either, Kitty. You are powerful - you get to direct your life. It doesn't matter what happens in court, not really. You know the truth. I want him to pay through the system as much as you do, and the penalties any abuser receives is too little. You know how to best protect yourself and how to stay away from him. You've gone this far...you can take it to the end. I have faith in you.

filipinaaz
March, 25 2013 at 11:01 pm

Kelli thanks for sharing your story. Just like you I was in abusive relationship. To make it short, I was able to escape with the help of local police. Just like you it took me 10 years to speak up! I had no idea that speaking up and just spit it out what you feel inside just makes you feel so empower and it does provides some kinda relief to your scarred life. It is all behind me now and I am very happy with my current life. This link is how my story started. http://filipinaaz.com/2011/09/immigrant-philippines-to-usa.html
thank you so much!

Danielle
March, 21 2013 at 8:31 pm

i appreciate what you've written about silence. i am grappling w the fact that my abuse from years ago has taken on that seemingly permanent form. over a decade later i've still told hardly anyone about what haunts me everytime i'm somewhere i think he'll be, and even then it's been piecemeal at best. i've been wondering if i'm going to seem totally crazy - or god forbid, not be believed- when i start to reveal what this person has done to me, but seeing your post, something from another person whose ghost of abuse manifests in her silence, i feel a little better. - xx

Sarah
March, 3 2013 at 1:28 am

Kellie - It's great that you beat the abuse demon and resumed writing but please don't feel bad if you need to take a break , because abuse can be exhausting even years after you have left . The after effects of abuse can evolve and mutate only to sneak up on us suddenly . I can always tell my abuse demon is around when for no apparent reason I have got knots in my stomach and EVERYTHING I see , feel and think is reminding me of him..and the abuse . What do I do ? I breath deeply and repeat ' I am free ' until I truly feel it and understand that I AM FREE . Keep up the good work Kellie you have done so much to inspire a lot of people , you are amazing !

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Kellie Holly
March, 21 2013 at 8:36 pm

Thank you, Sarah <3 I do something similar to you. I walk around the house, looking behind doors and in closets. Whenever I don't see him there (which, of course, I never do), I say to myself, "Nope. He's not here!" After a round of this game, I'm smiling and feeling quite "free" again! Isn't it wonderful how we each develop our own coping patterns but end up with the same results! Thank you for reminding me its okay to take a break!

Wendy
February, 28 2013 at 9:02 am

Kellie, your posts are fabulous. I have left two abusive marriages and I was quite happy but then I realised that two of my adult children are in the same abusive relationships and they have small children. Since realising it, I have become estranged from them, which has been devastating. I am a journalist, and I have spent the last three years researching different types of family abuse and I have talked to many victims. I have concluded that the worst kind of abuse is perpetrated by people that are psychopathic, a disorder that little is known about yet they make up about 4% of our population.
I have written an ebook which is available on Amazon titled 'Are you in a relationship with a psychopath, How to recognise a psychopath and leave the relationship safely.' to help other victims. A website that has more great information and other books about psychopathy is: www.aftermath-surviving-psychopathy.org
I wrote the ebook hoping that knowledge about pathological abuse would help ease the pain.

Fred
February, 19 2013 at 10:07 am

Kellie - as you probably know, many of my clients of survivors of abuse, be it domestic violence, sexual assault or other forms of emotional or physical trauma and abuse. I can only admire how brave you are for confronting your abuser and for taking the necessary steps to make your life, and the lives of your children safe.
Please try to remember that you are not alone. I know you realize this intellectually, but it's important to realize this emotionally as well. You have created a loving circle around you. People care. Please continue to speak out, confront abuse head-on as you have and know that the people around you will be there for you. Don't be afraid to ask for their help too, if you feel you need it.
With deep admiration and respect,
Fred

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Kellie Holly
March, 21 2013 at 8:41 pm

Thank you, Fred. You are right about there being a difference from emotional and intellectual realization. Sitting here telling myself to stop [whatever I'm thinking] doesn't work UNLESS I also do as you say and feel the ones who are with me in this. I feel so lucky and blessed that I hear your voices every day. I wish every survivor had the kind of support that you all give to me. I can keep writing and continue doing this thing I do and hope that my voice morphs into "our voices" and sings a song of comfort for the ones hurting today.

Pauline
February, 19 2013 at 9:25 am

You did the right thing to share, and speak about it. Doing so not only empowers you, but it also spreads awareness and protects you by revealing it publicly. Abusers are cowards. They count on the public to see them in a certain way by their deception. The truth uncovers their veil of deception. Keep speaking it, even though it may take a lot of courage and strength to do so.
My blog has helped me by being an open book. I haven't been harassed since I made my abusers last attempt public. I intend to keep that way. Stick to the truth. With lies their walls will crumble, with the truth you can only rise.

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