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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.

Author: Kellie Jo Holly

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.

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

  1. “I don’t want to say you’re screwed but you kind of are” – this article is meant for domestic abuse victims/survivors?! What an extremely irresponsible and insensitive way to address people that are already questioning their self- worth and whether they will ever get better. You should not be writing for healthyplace.com.

  2. I have been out of the 20+year abusive relationship for 4 years now. He still injects himself in my life through our kids. I carefully allow some of this to an extent because I fear what will happen if I don’t “feed the beast.” I still have not been able to feel emotion for the trauma. I cut it effortlessly. I do not understand what healthy lines drawn look like in terms of abusive behavior. So I question everything and take it all personal. I’m hypervigilant 24/7, even when I should be sleeping. I’m constantly engaged in battle to keep my power when no one is really trying to take it. I instantly turn on my offensive stance and immediately cut emotion, and I’m completely aware of it when I’m doing all of the above. I find myself lost in formulating a sentence to respond to important questions or conversation with my boyfriend because any response I come up with is a defense and cannot find anything else beyond defense to respond. So I don’t respond at all. Well no response that is also not too vulnerable. So I literally can’t speak. It makes me feel ill. I avoid approaching conflict at all cost, including people I know. I’m utterly lost in this new world of mine. It’s at times unbearable and feels hopeless. I do not trust anyone and the monster still lurks. I never feel safe and do not believe anyone cam or will protect me. I don’t know how much longer I can last in this. I do not and never will want him back. I have no love for him, he repulses me. I know exactly what he’s thinking when he looks at me and I know what his words truly mean. He refers to me as ex-wife. Not my name. He compares all current women to me, out loud and directly to them. Makes it blatantly obvious he’s still very much obsessed with me. It makes my skin crawl. He makes my skin crawl. So I hold no loving feelings for him. I don’t want him anywhere near me, let alone back intimately. I just don’t know anything else other than what I had to be to survive in the relationship. I’m still living every day as if I’m still there. And searching for a new way of life when you didn’t know another one even existed is like walking in pitch darkness. What am I supposed to even be looking for?

    1. I have found great peace in not communicating with my offender aka ex-husband, not communicating period. Find another way to communicate about the children. Take your power back by forming a boundary that does not allow any contact with you in anyway. If you think it is not a possibility make it one. The manipulation of my ex worked only when he knew I had to communicate because of the children. I stopped that and he lost all control. Once he realizes he can’t manipulate you in anyway the power is in your hands. Your new way of life is freedom. Freedom from walking on egg shells and isolation. I have date night with myself where I go to dinner and movies and I tell myself I am free. I can eat where I want and watch a movie I want. It’s all about me. Your free and you may be unhappy at times alone but you aren’t. There are people like me that lived in abuse everyday for 23 years and I am free. I can do as I please now and my children are free also. The darkness is temporary. Everyday is a new day and it brings you further to a lightness where you are the light. You have the power within you. Remember how you made it through every abuse he inflicted, you got up everyday and did it all over again. Why, because you possess an inner strength probably more powerful than the normal person. Remember that strength, it is not a weakness, it is power you don’t even realize you possess. Your resiliant. Don’t forget that. Tell yourself “I am strong and I am free because I was strong!” I set myself free.

  3. In my case I was severly physically and emotionally abused for the last 2 years pretty much monthly physically and almost daily on and off .. I am a male which is unusual but I grew up in a normal middle class family nad have never laid my hands on a woman in my life or been in any fights .. for 13 years this person abused me it was confusing to be a man.. in this situation there are little or no resources for support as its usually male on female in DV situations.. often the person would call the police on me.. I did have a drinking problem that added to the toxicity of the the situation, but I would go through long periods with no or very moderate drinking.. Its so confusing now im morning as I have left and we separated again, the constant barrading and emotional abuse was more damaging than anything as I look back we had a seemingly normal and happy loving home.. some bi-polar manic depression played a part in my abusers actions although she takes depression medicine nothing for the psychotic episodes.. that would occur we would be happy loving and on cloud nine one day and then the next morning would be dark and filled with anxiety and anger usually directed toward me.. blamming me blaming my drinking (even when sober) it began to just become too much.. All I can say is I had no idea.. that I was being emotionally abused as well as physically abused is obvious.. hit with car, baseball bat,frying pans bit in the face.. police called on me almost evicted constantly shamed in public in front of neighbors verbally abused at every effort .. to try to mend the situation. my buisness suffered and came to ahalt my quality of life was dimished in to that of the stay at home dad babysitter .. maid.. as this person did not maintain much around the house we both contributed financially. This happens to men more than people think and most men are ashamed to admint that there being dominated by and aggressive Abusive personality type… it wasnt until I started educating my self on Abuse in all forms and factors that I realized the physical abuse is painful but just the tip of the iceberg… I stayed only because we have children which I had to watch all the time taking a segway to her personal endevours.. Im a good person.. a strong person but no one is strong enough to endure this type of treatment.. I have left im on my way to recovery I get to see my kids thankfully that is going well.. but starting from the ground up again is the biggest challenge being alone and hurt.. with nothing.. is so difficult – I meditate do yoga swim .. bike paint draw read and work allot.. but I have lost my .. inspiration and im looking to go to some group.. but as I said the resources for men are almost nill … if any other men have expierenced this get counseling unfortunetely I was trying but she would not go or make any effort.. no I will be in therapy for sometime im sure trying to rehash what just happend if I will ever be able to figure that out.. I think moving on and giving some time to make new friends and love again .. hopefully.. its benn a terrible journey of suffering I wish I would have gotten out sooner.. that is all I can say dont stay for anything.. your only hurting yourself more if you do Domestic Violence abuse needs more awareness is all I can say.. one love

  4. I have been separated from my abuser for a few months now. I have been in and ouy of his house due to childcare. The thing is theyre so sweet but it came to a point where i flicked back into past memories and thought i need to find oyher people to fill my time as his times are wishy washy. Anyway i ended up flicking back into the past as i have not yey recovered from yhe trauma. I was thinking maybe he could give me closure but iy backfired and the abuse started again. He humiliated me in front of the neighbours. Im so greatful im not living there, the landlord is his promiscuous besy griend with a family. So the humiliation is his because i am not going back there, i swore to myself. I dont need him to heal, i recognize i need to stay away and heal myself. I was abused just today, and i am not even living with him. I am safe now and recovering.

  5. I’m still scared and paranoid about him turning up at my new house I’ve blocked all his numbers changed mine but he never stops his been in jail for over a year the police put a 2 yr restraining order n him after20 people rang up after witnessing him bashing me now I’m just scared he’ll urn up 1day he distroyed my life I don’t want anyone o go through he physical and emotional abuse i did its maded me a different person hopefully such stronger

  6. Thank you Kellie for this encouraging and comforting article. I’m just beginning my integration/reconnecting phase and It was nice to recognize the phases I went through too to get here. Congratulations on the progress you’ve made and how much better you’ve made your life too 🙂 I feel super proud of all of us, whatever stage we’re at. Especially people in the still-figuring-out that it’s abuse stage, that is an epically confusing one. Go us!! -Kelly with a Y 🙂

  7. I’m not an expert but I’ve been self analyzing myself for quit some time. I believe that when females stay with their abuser and consistently chose men of that low caliber are only choosing them because they have never learned to truly love them selves and realize their worth. The key to recover is to never give up no matter what! It’s taken me to the ripe old age of 50 to to finally start realizing my self worth. To love yourself to the degree of love we give to our abusers seems to be easier than giving it to ourselves. Please realize that you deserve that level of love and that love is within yourself. It’s there and all you have to do is realize that. Every single day in my mind I still feel in a sense that I don’t deserve to be happy and I continuously ridicule myself in my mind. But through all those negative thoughts I equally will tell myself what an awesome person I am. You can hear and hear from everyone but until we can start to realize it our selves I continue and I will do so for as long as it takes to realize my self worth. I pictured in my mind being being confident and some days aren’t so good but other days are! Just never give up on you! Every one is different coping. I try to do things just for myself to give me energy and clear my head. I ride my bike .. walk.. any kind of physical activity I believe is the best medicine. Start focusing on you and every single day tell your self how awesome you are and picture your happiness in your mind and what you truly want in your life and that positive thought will pay off I promise you. Don’t depend on a pill.. pills only distract the pain they don’t cure it. Only you have the power to do that!
    Love and peace
    The Thrifty Hippie ✌️

    1. Wow. Something about your comment really struck me. Not to mention that it was posted on my birthday. Thank you for sharing your words. When I read “don’t give up on you.” I begin to cry. Because truth is, I want to fight for me, but I’m so tired. I’ve realized I’ve dated certain men because I didn’t know my self worth and I accepted emotional abuse from them. Until I got tired. But the last most traumatic one was a few years ago. And it was physical assault. My body is still tense from the surprise attack. And I find myself still trying to recover emotionally. I’m gonna try my best though, even though I don’t feel strong at all right now.

  8. Still with my husband after 45 years due to financial reasons (I am physically disabled), but am on the road to recovery by finding several great therapists. The first to help me understand the abusive narcissist and the second via EMDR therapy to heal. What helped me most? Realizing that the abuser found me because I am sweet, kind, considerate, caring, and giving. He is the taker. He chose me for that reason. Once I understood that, instead of me being verbally abused and my feelings or thoughts dismissed, I put a strong barrier around me and became emotionally unattached from him. As a co-dependent, I also got rid of one-way-street people in my life. He changed in how he treats me. If I weren’t married to him for so long, I would have left him. So remember, the abuser found you because you are such a wonderful person. There are many books to help you understand the abuser, find a good therapist (I went through 4 before I found the right ones), watch or listen to YouTube videos on how to free yourself from the abuser and heal. Big hugs to all.

  9. Report or not report….why do people become judgemental to the victim. In my case? Second time was August 20th. I was pulled out of his truck by my hair and fell on my shoulder….the abuse continued for off and on 30 minutes and I had a black eye and swollen black and blue chin. A bruised head from pulling my hair so hard, actually, my extensions…and I finally got free….left. Drove 2 hours home in pain. Next day w no medical insurance and in so much pain….I went to an urgent care facility private practice, only to find out my right shoulder blade is broken. Single Mom. Loss of wages and the world crashing down on me….why do I feel as if its my fault or shane in reporting it. I just rang it to go away altogether….
    Confused. Sad. Depressed. Alone. Lying to everyone how it happened.

    1. Omg, it’s so hard not to feel like it’s you fault. But we will get past that & im trying to figure out how, myself. I am looking for people to talk to as we speak. Stay strong.

    2. Please go seek professional help. Confide in a clergy member. Talk to someone. You don’t have to do this by yourself and it is not your fault. No one, absolutely no one is entitled to treat another person the way you’ve been treated. There is no excuse. Keeping the lie in darkness (telling others a fake story how it happened to hide your shame) will give this thing more power. Get it into the light and you’ll see how it’s power over you diminishes. Be careful and only go to professionals who’ve handled this type of situation. They’ll lead you and protect you. God bless.

    3. It’s not your fault. At all. Sadly, police need better training. The victim abused does it the blame. This is wrong. Very. Take pictures of the abuse. Make a video shine a light on your story. Sending you my love. If I could send you more I would. Lies will end up killing u inside fester like a wound. Get it out. Shine that light.
      After 17yrs of hiding, blaming myself, seeking help thinking it was me discovered it wasn’t. Few understand there’s nothing “simple” about assault, domestic abuse at all. Abusers often still hunt others down. Living with them you at least know where they are. [Which I’m not suggesting to take that route] moving to another country all I could think of in mine to escape. Get well. Not realistic for many.

      Don’t blame yourself at all. Ever. Not ok what happened to you.

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