A Window Into The Mind Of An Abuse Survivor

This is going to be another one of those intense pieces. Last night I realized just how much the average person cannot realize what being in an abusive relationship does to you. It changes so many aspects of your psychology. There are really obvious problems, like trust issues. However, there are many other hidden demons. I’m trying desperately to get them under control. Although last night made it very clear to me that I think I’m doing a good job, but I’m really not. I was an inconsolable mess. No one could calm me down, and they really couldn’t understand why. I know alcohol was part of the reasons those demons were unleashed. I’m so embarrassed by my behavior right now. I want to delete that post I wrote last night, however I decided to keep it (don’t drink and blog folks).  I’m keeping it as a reminder of what my mind can be like when my walls break, and I lose control of what’s raging inside me. Because last night was not about G. Everyone who was around me thinks it is, which makes it more embarrassing. It was really all about P…

I’m going to explain what being in that relationship did to my psyche. This list just describes me personally, not everyone who has experienced abuse or domestic violence. Although I have a feeling many survivors will be able to relate to what I’m saying. But for those of you that have no idea, I’m going to give you a window into my mind. Here goes nothing:

  • Paranoia. I am looking for P everywhere I go. I am terrified of running into him or seeing him again. I scan every face in every crowd of people I walk by. I avoid the two block radius of his fraternity like it is infected with a deadly plague. I’m constantly in a small state of fight or flight, because I’m prepared to run as fast as I can when I see him. And I’m prepared for that all the time.
  • P’s voice is in my head. He taunts me. Whenever something goes wrong I can hear him, “See I knew you were a worthless piece of shit. I was right. You were wrong.” He laughs. Watching me struggle always made him laugh. I could hear him so strongly last night, it was like he was there. That made me even more upset. I fight so hard to get him out of my mind. He doesn’t deserve to be there. But he wormed his way inside, and he’s hiding. I’ve been fighting a constant internal struggle to rid myself of him. I lost a large battle in that war last night.
  • Fear. This is different from the paranoia. It’s a fear that every man you meet is going to be the same. There is a terrifying prospect that this could happen to you again. That the guy you decide to trust will turn into a monster. Just like last time. As soon as you fall in love, you’re doomed…
  • Walling off your emotions. The reason I do this is not because I’m afraid of my emotions. I also don’t hide from them because it hurts. I can handle hurt. I’ve been through insurmountable pain. I wall my emotions off, because I was conditioned to for four years. I had to survive. If I showed any weakness, it would be exploited. If I acted out or got upset, I was going to be punished. Every tiny insecurity was something new that could be used against me, to control me. For four years I learned that the hard way. And now my mind does not want to let that behavior go. Why? Because it kept me safe, to a certain extent. It certainly protected me from an untimely fate. It’s also the behavior that enabled me to get out and stay out. It was extremely important at the time.
  • Lack of trust. Like I said earlier, this one is a given. However, I don’t think everyone realizes the extent of it. Even when I do “trust” someone, I am just waiting for them to turn on me. I am prepared for that all the time. Even with the most unlikely of people I am ready for it.
  • Desire for physical contact/fear of physical contact. Yes, this happens at the same time. I like to be cuddled. I like to have arms wrapped around me tight. It makes me feel safe. That’s the desire. At the same time, some touches scare the shit out of me. It’s the unexpected ones. My brain needs time to see, register and analyze that I’m going to be touched. The rational part of me has to calm down the fearful part. It has to say, “This is going to be okay. It won’t turn into a bad one.” Once that happens then I’m okay with physical contact, and I can enjoy it. However, if that process doesn’t have time to occur it is very bad. Flashbacks start happening and I revert back into survival mode. My entire body tenses as it prepares for pain.
  • Flashbacks. The smallest reminders can trigger them. You also can’t understand a flashback unless you’ve experienced one. It’s like your mind turns into a DVD player you cannot control. First you’re rewinding, extremely fast. Then suddenly you’re stuck back in a place you never want to be again. You relive bits and pieces of it so slowly, it’s excruciating. Every emotion you felt at the time comes rushing back and overwhelms you. It can be crippling, and in the beginning they are completely uncontrollable. I’ve gotten better at snapping out of it. They still happen a lot, but they don’t last as long. I can usually recognize it and come back pretty quickly now.
  • Guilt. The guilt is also overwhelming at times. How could I let this happen to myself? Why wasn’t I strong enough? What made me keep coming back? How come he has so much control over me? Where did I go wrong? And the most important question of all, “Why couldn’t I stop him?”. I’m such a strong person. To admit that I allowed myself to live in that for so long is just embarrassing. At times, I do hate myself for it. At times, I feel like it was all my fault. I could have gotten out. I chose to stay. I have to try really, really hard to remind myself that I didn’t really have a choice. I didn’t even have control of my own mind for Christ’s sake. I know this and yet I question myself all the time. The guilt is ever present, gnawing at the back of my mind like a worm

I could keep going with this for a long time. I think I’m ready to stop though. You all have read enough, and you know me better now. You probably think I’m a mess. Here’s what I need to remind you though. I am still strong. I did survive that trauma. Everything I wrote about up has been getting better with time. It’s been a slow healing process. However, I am healing. If you read that, and you understand those feelings. I’m here for you. I’m here for any of you that need help. I always will be. If you’ve never experienced anything like that, I hope I’ve opened your eyes just a little. I hope you all will be more understanding of the people in your own lives. There’s more to everyone then meets the eye.



7 thoughts on “A Window Into The Mind Of An Abuse Survivor

  1. I’m so sorry you went through that. Good for you for writing about it. I feel the best thing is to not keep our emotions bottled up and to be able to express our feelings to others and know that we aren’t alone in whatever we are going through.

    I’ve never been in an abusive relationship – but I was in one relationship that ended on an upsetting note. Ultimately I lost a lot of trust and since then I’ve been really cautious about getting to know someone and my walls have been up a bit more but they are slowly coming down.

    Some guys are jerks but it’s important to think positively for the future the best you can! Maybe reading a blog post of mine will give you a laugh or two and cheer you up 🙂 It’s a relationship blog about all my hilarious and humiliating stories.

  2. Pingback: “It’s Not Really That Bad,” You Say? « Domestic Violence Antidote

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  4. I am glad you’re writing about it. Sometimes recovery from abuse is so hard– not for
    the reasons everyone else thinks, but because of the post-traumatic stress and the
    flashbacks & things you described so eloquently. I recently discovered EMDR
    can actually help with the verbal/psychological stuff, not only the physical. Just
    throwing out that resource in case it helps. All best wishes to you,


  5. Sounds all too familiar. Especially the last part about guilt and embarassment. I had the same problem: how can a strong, smart woman let herself be treated this way? This shame prevented me from telling anyone, even my best friends.
    I am really happy to read that you have gotten yourself out and that you’re healing. That is wonderful. Blogs like yours can be a great inspiration for people struggling with abusive relationships/trying to get out of one.

    I will definitely continue following your blog!

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