Escaping Abuse: 5 Things Your Therapist Won't Tell You
No formula for escaping abuse exists; every abuse victim's escape story differs slightly. However, the domestic violence escape plan for almost all abuse victims takes shape when he or she can no longer excuse or cope with the abusive behavior. Sometimes, the abuse victim attends therapy when hit with the realization that escaping abuse is the best option. When that realization comes, the victim/survivor tends to focus on the escape and gives very little thought to what he or she may feel after escaping abuse. And guess what? Your therapist isn't going to tell you the future. But I will.
Escaping Abuse Is Step One, Not The Only Step
The goal of therapists or services that aid domestic violence victims revolves around first keeping the victim safe, and secondly, getting the victim away from the abuse. Usually, escaping abuse means leaving the abusive relationship. Although therapists and other helpers should honor your desire to stay in the relationship for as long as you feel that way, they also want you mentally healthy. You cannot be mentally healthy when living with a contagion like abusive behavior; it is impossible to grow mentally or emotionally when your focus is on regaining your mental footing every day.
So, don't begrudge your therapist or domestic violence workers for not telling you about what can happen emotionally and mentally after you escape abuse. They know that once you leave, your mental health will improve - over time - and that is the big picture goal. But there are some feelings and obstacles that come up after escaping abuse that I wish someone had warned me about before I left.
What to Expect After Escaping Abuse
No one is like me, and no one is like you. You may or may not go through all of the processes I mention, but you will go through some surprising changes. If I can protect you from the shock of just one of these emotional changes, then you'll be in a better place than I was after escaping abuse.
The First Two Things Your Therapist Won't Tell You About Escaping Abuse
1.) You could feel frightened to the point of paranoia and distrust.
When you escape your abuser, you expect retribution. Your relationship's history tells you there will be a punishment for leaving. Domestic violence literature warns that even if your abuser never physically assaulted you during the relationship, the likelihood of physical abuse increases when your leaving becomes real. Whether you leave the home or you legally force your partner out, the fear that he or she will find a way to hurt you is so real you can taste it. It tastes so horrible you consider reconciling just to get the punishment out of the way.
Don't reconcile out of fear.* Stick it out. Get yourself some pepper spray, change your locks and don't talk to anyone you cannot trust 100%. If you hang tough, you will overcome the fear in favor of freedom, and you will learn empowering actions that can help you differentiate between useful fear and paranoia.
2.) You could obsess over what your abusive partner is doing now that you're gone.
The unhealthy obsession with your abuser after you leave may surprise you. You fought to be free, and now all you can do is wonder what he is doing or who she is seeing. But really, the obsession is not surprising when you consider how much of your thinking time revolved around your abuser before you left. If you considered his or her reactions to what you bought, wore, said, did or thought every day, then you can bet almost every single thought you had before escaping abuse somehow related to your partner. You spend a lot of time obsessing over your partner during the relationship, and it is going to take your brain some time and training to stop obsessing.
The difference is after escaping abuse, you will realize just how often you think about the abuser. You may feel obsessed with them and be tempted to stalk their Facebook page (or them)! The biggest possible mistake is allowing yourself to believe that your obsession equals true love. Obsession is never love. Relax - you are not crazy for obsessing over someone who hurt you. Your brain simply likes familiarity; you will learn to think of other things once your abuser no longer haunts your decisions.
So far, we’ve covered two of the things your therapist won’t tell you about escaping abuse. I think you can see why they stay quiet . . . the mental challenges you could face after escaping abuse can seem as challenging as coping with active abuse. But don’t worry: the rest of the list holds some good surprises.
*If your abuser stands in front of you and threatens to kill you - do what they say to do! Pretend to reconcile. Save your life before your pride.
Holly, K. (2015, April 6). Escaping Abuse: 5 Things Your Therapist Won't Tell You, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, September 22 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/verbalabuseinrelationships/2015/04/escaping-abuse-5-things-your-therapist-wont-tell-you
Author: Kellie Jo Holly
I've spent months trying to get help from legal aid to no avail. The mediators I call say that the case is not fit to be mediated due to the stalking. Now, I'm trying to go to court by myself to enforce the orders but I fear what a judge will do. Will I lose the children? Will I be forced to pay my ex alimony? Will my ex get even scarier?
When men want control, they find ways to get it. I wish there were more options for people stuck in these situations.
However, to say that "no therapist will" paints us all with a very bad brush! I spend a great deal of time preparing my clients for what they may feel after they leave, particularly those who have had very little exposure to non-abusive relationships.
Adjusting to a "new normal" is always extremely difficult--even when that new normal is a better, healthier place to be. It helps to have a therapist who has had specialized training in domestic violence, but it is more important to have a therapist who listens and validates all your emotions and provides encouragement and support as you make the significant adjustments to being free from abuse.
Fact of the matter is that man ran through your brain like a tornado. He ripped up all your old thought patterns and laid his own tracks. Of course you're going to think of him. He trained you to think of him. They say awareness is the greatest agent of change. I think that maybe, knowing about <a href="http://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/verbalabuseinrelationships/2012/06/brainwashing-abusive-relationships/" rel="nofollow">brainwashing</a> and all the crap your abuser did to you will help.
I know it's been 6 years of freedom and you're still obsessing. I have faith that you can retrain your brain. I have faith that you can further limit your contact with him. I'm willing to bet that he subtly (or not so subtly) abuses you every time you meet; he's able to re-lay HIS tracks in your mind that way.
Here are a couple links for you. I hope they help.
<a href="http://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/verbalabuseinrelationships/2012/04/after-leaving-your-abusive-relationship/" rel="nofollow">After Leaving Your Abusive Relationship: Emotions to Expect</a>
<a href="http://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/verbalabuseinrelationships/2013/02/revisiting-abuse-and-healing-from-it/" rel="nofollow">Revisiting Abuse And Healing From It</a>
I will read this thoroughly again and again to inspire me more.