How To Recover From Emotional Trauma of Domestic Abuse
Sunday, May 31 2015 Kellie Jo Holly
People wondering how to recover from emotional trauma really want to know how long recovery will take. Unfortunately, there is no solid time frame for recovering from emotional trauma. But, if we can slow down a minute and understand how to recover from emotional trauma, then the how long will it take part will handle itself.
How To Recover From Emotional Trauma When It Is Ongoing
If you are currently in an abusive relationship, I don't want to say you're screwed in your recovery from domestic abuse. But you kind of are. Just a little. Although there are things you can do to recoup from the day's abuses, while living with your abuser, you are continually recouping. You can't get ahead of the emotional and psychological trauma and into recovery when you live with abuse. Yes, you can have great days living with an abuser (see Holiday Madness). But they don't last forever. And for the entirety of the great day you're waiting for the abuse to happen, so it may as well happen. And it eventually does.
As you've probably noticed, when you feel good, your abuser hates it. Abusers do not like you to feel good because happy people are strong people. And strong people have enough self-esteem to leave the abuser's sorry butt. So, as long as you're living in abuse, complete recovery from emotional trauma is practically impossible and at the least, improbable.
Even so, you can recoup some of the mental health you lose each day from psychological trauma by doing things that are good for you. Try:
- Making a visit to your doctor to check for depression or anxiety
- Meditating (or using alternatives to meditation)
- Educating yourself on all aspects of abuse
- Detaching from your abuser
- Calling a domestic violence hotline to vent
- Filling out a domestic violence safety plan
- Building a network of supportive friends (online too), family members, and local domestic violence programs that include support groups
How To Recover From Emotional Trauma When You've Left Your Abuser
There are phases of recovery emotional and psychological trauma victims travel through after getting rid of their abuser. Knowing the phases will help shorten your recovery time because when you know what to expect, you feel less anxiety. And if you're dealing with less anxiety, your recovery from domestic abuse will naturally take less time.
According to the Manitoba Trauma Information & Education Centre, the three stages of emotional trauma recovery are:
- Safety and Stabilization
- Remembrance and Mourning
- Reconnection and Integration
Safety And Stabilization
First, emotional trauma victims should work to regain their feelings of safety and mental stability. Easier said than done, but still doable. What will help you feel safer and mentally stronger? You know yourself best, but here are some suggestions:
- Learn to accept and self-soothe during an emotional crisis as your emotions may bug-out on you at first.
- Pay attention to what triggered your emotional instability so you can avoid or disarm the trigger in the future.
- You might find it very hard to talk about the trauma, so work it out in different ways like meditation, yoga, drawing, writing, running. . . anything that lets your emotions come and go without words.
- That said, get into talk therapy with a professional if at all possible. There's a lot of ground you can cover without speaking of the trauma directly.
- Work to regain worthy connections with friends and family. Don't bother with relationships that diminish or discourage you in any way.
Remembrance and Mourning
Secondly, you've got to work through those memories and mourn the relationship (the relationship you thought it could become, not the relationship as it was in reality). In this phase, you will get to the point where you can discuss your feelings with a wide variety of people in your life. The point is to feel the emotion without allowing the emotion to trick you into feeling the past as if it were the present. Feeling past trauma as if it is happening now is a symptom of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
In this phase, you'll still cry or feel angry or miss the good times or any other emotion as you talk about the trauma. That's okay. No one worth spending time with expects you to be flippant about being traumatized.
If you feel your confidence in your safety or mental stability fading, regroup and slow down. Don't push yourself backward when you're trying to move forward. Ways to work through this period include:
- Maintaining the feelings of safety and stability.
- Talk talk talking.
- Journaling, drawing, painting, arts and crafts, writing or any creative activity.
- Including self-care like eating better, exercising more and paying attention to the thoughts going on in your head. Don't let your negative thoughts control you as much as possible (it's an on-going job).
Reconnection and Integration
This phase is all about releasing the trauma to the past and feeling good about the life you are creating for yourself. Your psychological trauma story no longer defines who you are; it is integrated into the story of you. Here are things you can do to aid the process of reconnection and integration after emotional trauma:
- Everyone says to volunteer and I used to hate it. I was recovering from depression too, so volunteering wasn't really an answer. So if volunteering somewhere isn't a good fit for you, find a way to teach what you've learned from the whole mess. That is the way to grow.
- Make yourself more available to meeting new people. Not lovers, but friends. You may find a lover, but if you find yourself feeling emotionally destabilized or wanting to connect with that person very quickly, then perhaps it is too soon to date.
- Decide what you want in your new life, make a plan, and go for it.
Recovering From Emotional Trauma's Time Frame
There is no time frame for moving through the phases except that it is rational to expect it someone who lived with long-term abuse for years to recover more slowly than it would for someone who experienced emotional abuse for a shorter time.
These phases make sense to me. I would say I'm between two and three because I still remember more often than I'd like, but I am working on reconnecting and integrating into this new life. How much time has passed for me? 5 years. I lived with my abuser for just under 18 years.
One more thing about my healing process. I think this last phase will be the longest. It might last the rest of my life, as long as the abusive relationship did or exactly one more minute. I don't know. But I'm okay with that. One step forward, two steps back; I'm okay with that, too.
I can give you only the time frame I know, which is my own. I would tell you how long it will take to recover if I could. Whatever you do, don't hurry the process. Be like Shrek and think of yourself as an onion - peel away layer after layer until you reconnect with the core of who you are.