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How To Recover From Emotional Trauma of Domestic Abuse

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.

Do you know how to recover from emotional trauma? Does anyone? Well, yeah, someone knows.Find out how to recover from emotional traumas. Read this.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:

  1. Safety and Stabilization
  2. Remembrance and Mourning
  3. 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.

You can also find Kellie on Google+Facebook and Twitter.

54 thoughts on “How To Recover From Emotional Trauma of Domestic Abuse”

  1. I am in a physically abusive relationship. Right now I have a black eye, bruised ribs, I was kicked in the chest he held me against my will. He mentally traumatized me and I’m still scared. He made threats of killing my mom my son and other family members . I just don’t understand why I can’t leave him alone! He was drink that night, I know that isn’t an excuse. He keeps apologizing over and over. I just don’t understand why I am staying, I know once a hitter always a hitter.

    1. I just left an abuser… Please just leave. Don’t think… Just run. Trust me… You’ll be okay. It is hard… You can do it… Pray for strength.

  2. I was recently abused and the feelings are like never before. I blame myself, I lock myself in my room all day. We have separated and he swore to the police never to get close to me again. I am still scared, I am disconnected to everyone and everything, but I am trying to carry on. This article really helps.

    1. I so identify its helped dont feel so alone with it ,some of my friends are saying oh just move on now,its still to go court have to make a video via police for court yet

  3. I am 17 yo , i keep receiving violence from my dad , threatned of my bones broken , of punches and kicks .. and yeah he did push me once till i bled my lip was purple thankfully i didnt lose my teeth . He gets angry for smallest reasons and insults me and my sister and mom . I hate my life .. i feel so bad . I have just assisted to a new violence scene half an hour now .. i cant sleep 😢 i am emotionally destroyed

    1. Hi Salma,

      Well done for sharing what you’re going through. I’m very troubled to hear of it, however, and would urge you to contact the National Council on Child Abuse and Family Violence. There is a hotline number on the website you can call.

      Please know that you are not alone in what you’re going through. There are people out there who know what to do, and they will help to keep you and your mother and sister safe.

      You will be OK. But you shouldn’t go through this alone.

      Emma-Marie xxx

  4. My boyfriend abuse me and try to kill me ones, we have 2 baby’s 2 and 4 yrs, been together for 6 yrs it’s been about a year since he hit me we argue ALOT …I’m always afraid he’s gona hurt me so I run out many times I sleep in my car wen I can’t get my baby’s I always keep everything I may need in car. Wen he tell me my car is a mess I always have excuses so I dnt take diapers or clothes many times he takes it out so wen I needed to had to go goodwill and get stuff… my point is I’m always AFRAID OF HIM HURTING ME He has said his gona kill me or disfigured my face so many times he only said a lil think and my first instinct is run out it’s not even an argument but I can’t help it I need to run b4 he gets to me. What can I do to stop feeling this way and be happy? Plz help

    1. Hi Erika!
      I hope you doing well right Now regardless of what happened in life for you.
      actually my first advise to you is that you try to remember the best unrelated memory that left you a feeling of ecstasy or near that kind of emotions that stems from who you truly are ( because come on who could we be except the love that creates our possiblities to live!) and connect with that so you’ll have a better time starting the process of freedom to see things with a higher level of clarity.
      second know that all your memory will be lost after the physical aspect of you lies underground and you will never be in touch with this charactar that brought you pain anyways.
      I am in Iran and will pray for you so you may feel yourself better.
      much care and Love, Sadeqh

    2. Hi Ericka,
      I am a victim’s advocate. Threats of violence are a huge safety concern. Please safety plan. If your partner takes the things out of your car find a friend or relative to keep a box of clothes for you and your children. If you are ready to leave I strongly suggest coming into contact with your local women’s shelter and see if they have beds available for you and your children. The feelings you are going through will stay with you long after the abuse. I recommend documenting what he says and get yourself some solid proof so you can get yourself a protection order and protect your children if he ever comes after you for custody. Abusers will do anything to keep control. So please be advised that abuse can get worse when you leave an abuser. He may respond violently. Please be aware of this. If you need to take you can email me. If you aren’t ready to leave I can help you safety plan to assure you and your children are safe.

      1. Your family needs support — him too. But safety is first, and it’s important to find protection for yourself and your children. While a shelter may seem scary, the people there will know how to help you — in ways your family (who loves you) simply can’t. What is happening in your home is not okay. And it is not likely to stop without without some outside help. Please call a shelter. You are young and so are your kids. Don’t wait until too much bad stuff happens making it harder to get out and recover. You can and you will, but the first step is to find safety. Reach out — someone will be there to reach back. Remember how beautiful and important you are. You are special, and what you must do requires special courage. Encouragement will give you that courage — please, please find it. Your life and your kids are so very critical to our world. You are loved.

  5. This is a very helpful post, i have a friend who is currently going through this, i have recommended the post for her to read. i believe it will help her before things get out of hand.

  6. Can someone answer this? Why do people keep getting into relationships friendships that turn abusive? I got out of an abusive marriage (cheating lying financial abuse). I couldnt even talk. Well now i just started sharing a place with my son and dil. She is so emotionally and verbally abusive and manipulative it is making me so anxious and scared and i already have an anxiety disorder.

    1. Fran,
      When people get into abusive relationships they are often manipulated at the beginning the abuser will make them feel so happy that life appears perfect with them. They build a foundation on love and trust and little by little they use that to their advantage. It’s unfortunate and heart breaking.It’s a complete betrayal of your trust too..

    2. How we show up in relationships is all about us, not them. Yucky to think of that, but the good news is you have all the power. Attachment theory is an accepted understanding of what we do in relationships — what you are tolerating is mother’s milk to you, so you may not have a radar for it. Understanding the dynamic better will help you have a better radar and what I’ve heard called a “better people picker.”

  7. I was with my abusive ex boyfriend for 2 years and I still feel so messed up from it all, I feel like i’ll never recover. He would constantly manipulate me and control me, he’d control me, my money, what i’d wear, who I’d talk to, where I would go he actually banned me from going to certain places and I would completely isolate myself and just stay locked in my room I was unbelievably depressed and developed serious anxiety. He would tell me what I could and couldn’t wear, he’d constantly put me down and say mean, nasty spiteful things about me and my appearance things like I never make an effort when I’m with him yet when I wasn’t with him I get glammed up when it was never ever the case or that my skin is horrible or that I look like a slag etc. He would always stop me from going on a night out with my friends he would cause absolutely huge arguments whilst i’d be getting ready and reduce me to tears every time so most of the time I wouldn’t go out or if I rarely did I could never enjoy the night, I’d constantly be anxious and so worried for what I had coming from him. He took thousands of pounds from me ( I was a university student at the time so he literally took everything I had, I failed a year at uni because I wouldn’t go in because I was so anxious and I knew my ‘friends’ had been gossiping and bitching about me) I’d be living off pasta and passata because I couldn’t afford anything. A lot of my friends at the time just didn’t have time for me anymore because I would isolate myself so I had no one to turn to. He would threaten my friends and family and i’d always tell myself as long as I can handle him as long as I take everything then no one else will get hurt or know what he’s like, I was so ashamed that I was being treated like this but there was no escape if I’d be off or negative or try to end it he would never have it he would turn up at my house or just would never let me escape. He would be violent with me too, one time he was dragging me by my head down an alley close to his house, someone must of heard me scream and called the police and they turned up to his house and I had to lie about everything, I knew the police didn’t believe me but what could they do. I wasn’t allowed to talk to any boys or no one he didn’t know, he’d think the girls on my phone he didn’t know were actually boys but I saved them as girls, clearly a guilty conscience. He could do whatever he wanted and I was never allowed to have a go at him, he would go on nights out and not tell me or even if he did tell me i’d never ever moan, little did I know at the time he was out cheating on me, he even slept with one of my friends which she completely denies but I now know for a fact it happened. He made sex feel like a chore, I hated it I used to lie about being on my period and sometimes I’d say I don’t want to but he would manipulate me so much and make me feel so bad and so wrong for not wanting to he always got this way. I look back on it now and can’t understand how I let it happen even typing it now I just dont understand and how much of my life I’ve wasted as a year on and I still can’t get over it, every single day without fail everything runs through my head over and over, anytime a story line on TV relates to something he put me through I can’t control my emotions. I have never ever spoke to anyone about how bad things were with him and I would never tell anyone I know about it all i’m still too ashamed and confused and embarrassed and hurt to tell anyone but I can’t get over it and I just want to forget about everything so so bad but I don’t know how I haven’t even been with anyone since him I haven’t even put any photo’s up on social media since him because I just remember the things he would say when he would criticise me and I just think I look disgusting in all my photos. I just want to go back to my life before I ever met him I used to be so happy and so bubbly I used to have so many friends and had so much confidence but I don’t know how and don’t know if I ever can get back to my old self, I don’t know if I can get over it all.

    1. You will get over it. Maybe not as soon as you’d like. You are a beautiful person or he wouldn’t have chosen you. Believe in yourself. You are stronger than you think. Surround yourself with people who support and uplift you. Stay away from blamers and criticisers. Treat yourself like you’d treat your best friend. With kindness tenderness compassion and encouragement. Find your courage. It’s in there. You will recover.

    2. I strongly recommend the Melanie Tonia Evans site, she has helped me recover from narcissistic abuse in my partner, its amazing and I’m just about recovered now

    3. I went through the same exact thing you described. If you ever need to talk I’m here! Single mother of 2

    4. It’s been a few years since I left my two-year abusive relationship. Even typing that sentence “MY two-year abusive relationship” seems surreal. I find it so hard to believe that i am a victim of abuse – how did this happen to me, am i justified in feeling the way i do? (…. yes).

      I had a similar story as yours. He physically and sexually abused me and took my virginity. But it was the words – the endless insults, put downs, sarcasms, that effaced me the most. I had always been a strong person – independent and confident. I recognised the abuse but i thought i was strong enough to withhold it, but day by day he ground me down and by the end, I was the closest thing to nothing that one person could be. I lost my closest friendships, my family, finances – I felt too guilty and ashamed and too worn down and confused to explain to them. How could I explain a situation, i didn’t understand myself? He left me go days without eating, other days he force feed me – i am vegetarian so often he’d make me eat meat. He told me i deserved no better. I’ve always loved my hair – long, silky and blonde – one night he held me down and shaved my head – he told me it was because he loved me and he didn’t want other men’s eyes on me. I didn’t even cry. Something broke in me with him, and i became an implementable shell – so emotionally numb, and closed off to the world.

      Every. single. day. for two years after, i relived it all. Constant, relentless memories, thoughts, insults heralded through my mind, on repeat. I never thought I could move past this, how could i enjoy a life when so much sadness and confusion weighed me down? When i’d lost so much? How do you go back to trust and kindness and innocent living when so much has been taken?

      But it happens …. as cliche as it sounds, time is a great healer. It’s having the patience. The biggest and most pleasant lesson i’ve learned is that it doesn’t even matter if don’t believe in your ability to heal – somehow it just happens. The friends you’d lost, the real ones at least, they will be there when you’re ready. I personally, never shared my story with them, i just started allowing myself into their friendship again. I felt so guilty at first, as if they were doing me a favour and i wasn’t worthy, but with time, that faded and i started to live within the confines of a friendship again.

      I was extraordinary fortunate and by chance fell into counselling with an amazingly kind and supportive therapist who specialised in abuse, rape and violence. I remember the first session – she was asking me questions and she asked me how i felt about therapy and i remember saying “you cannot help me, words and speaking will never undo this, or help me rebuild my life. This i cannot fix, i’m ruined”. She never probed me or pushed. Each week, i chatted. Two years on (i’ve just finished counselling), and i cannot believe how far i’ve come. I cannot believe how far i’ve moved past. I still have times/moments where i remember, or a trigger – i think that will always be there, but i’ve noticed i laugh and i dream, and i’m a person again. I say no. Counselling helped me to redefine and relearn how to have a voice and needs. I spent so many years having my voice stamped out of me and told i wasn’t worth one, that i had to re-learn what it was to be a person.

      Honestly, i completely understand everything you have said. The helpless, the shame, the obsessive rut, but it will get better. I strongly advise you to get counselling. You will be incredibly low at times, it’s a gruelling process, but someday, you’ll catch yourself laughing and you will notice for that brief second or minute you were happy and it wasn’t tainted. These build, and you will have a life again.

      I wish you all the courage in rebuilding you’re life – I promise it will get better. You will get better.

  8. I am just after leaving an emotionally abusive relationship with a sexually manipulative woman. We were together for almost 9 years, I have lived with her for 8. At first she used to worship the ground i walked on. She was so sexually obliging that it intimidated me and my sexuality. She had a child with a former partner and between her relationship with him and the time i met her she used to tell me how many men she had been with and her coworker friends with benefits. I feel so stupid now that i didn’t see the signs but she treated me so well I enjoyed it and wanted it to continue for a while. I was planning on moving out after one of her outbursts when she declared that seh ws pregnant. So I stayed for as I wanted to raise my child. Over the course of our relationship she would humiliate me infront of her exes family and my family and her family. She would always make me jealous at most opportunities. She got pregnant again. and just 5 months ago she got pregnant again. She was lying to me about when she would finish work, bought sex toys at christmas ahich were not for me, i was devasted on christmas day. she used to stave me of affection, sex, comapssion, loyalty, companionship and self worth. She is and has been pushing all the buttons on my heart, now that i have left her she is using the pregnancy against me as she is leaving sublte hints that she is seeing someone else, while bearing my child in her wombe. She is utterly toxic.
    Now i know what most people will think of this a, why in gods name did you ever get involved, but it was a slow process off entrapment and i had never experienced anything like this before. I was naive, no question, but this has been a gradulal attack on my good nature and now i am suffering from PTSD and panic attacks.
    I am not free from her although i have left her as between visitation transitions and arrangements she is still abusing me.
    Her correspondence is written by a third party, probably her new victim, and it is completely impersonnal and extrememely condecending.I have a good job so child mainteneace is not a problem. i intend on getting a dna test when the unborn child arrives.
    I am using all the advice available for stress amanagement and am making arrangements for new accommodation.
    I will build my life again piece by piece but the thought of her being cruel and manipulative for years to come sets of anxiety in me.
    Thanks for reading.

    1. I am so very sorry you were put through something as horrible as this by someone you loved! I’m a mother of two, i couldnt imagine! You are a very strong person for being able to leave after being treated like that for as many years as you stayed! Head up, it’ll get better!

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