The Aftermath of Abuse

*Trigger Warning: this post discusses emotional abuse. If this is something you have a hard time processing please feel free to take time to do self care and/or come back to this post when you feel you can.*

I wrote The Reality Check to discuss my own issues with emotional and verbal abuse within my marriage. I didn’t, however, discuss the aftermath. It’s not pretty. I had to work on it in therapy. I had to relearn self-esteem and self-worth. I’d lost both. Jake had helped me regain my self-respect- I learned a lot about what I was willing and not willing to take from someone.

Those two things aren’t easy to learn, much less a second time. The decision to stay wasn’t an easy one. I stayed up many nights wondering if I’d screw myself, and more importantly, the kids, over, by staying. Did I? In a way, yes. Things have happened that I didn’t forsee and changes are ongoing. If I’d known these things would happen, I’d have left in 2015.

I was guarded. I didn’t trust Matthew to not hurt or leave me. I wouldn’t let him in, talk to him about anything major. Bills and kids? Sure. Anything else? Forget it. I ended up walking around with all kinds of thoughts and feelings.

The Thoughts that Echo

What if he goes back to being who he used to be? This stays with me daily. I think it always will. Matthew has made so much progress, but even my former therapist said this is a legit fear. I believe her.

If we get into an argument, is he going to blow up? Therapy helped me learn tools for this- arguing can be done in a healthy way. Taking breaks is very effective.

It’s okay to talk to him..right? I’ve got to try to trust him. This remains a daily struggle. Even with therapy, I’m not sure I’ll ever fully trust Matthew, much less any man, again. I know it’s okay to trust people, but I don’t want to ever be broken again.

I need to make it all look okay.. I didn’t know it then, but everyone around me knew what was going on. Even his dad knew. I withdrew a lot from everyone. I was severely depressed.

Am I going to mess up again? Is this going to be the day everything goes to hell? This has gotten better, thanks to a lot of self talk, progress and therapy. There are bad days but I am able to get through them a lot easier. This is also known as “walking on eggshells”, when you feel everything you do might upset your partner. This is a terrible frame of mind to live in.

The Drinking Years

I do not blame Matthew at all for my drinking. That was my own decision. The situation we were in, however, crushed me. I could have stopped drinking. I just liked it too much. It was a fun escape, but it got a lot worse after Jake died. My former therapist almost sent me for an inpatient evaluation. As of this post, I’m almost 20 months sober. Many abuse survivors do turn to some sort of substance abuse and that’s a sad fact. It helps dull the pain for sure, but it’s right there the next day.

My liver took a hit, and I’m forever grateful to my primary care physician because she might have saved my life. I’m pretty sure I would have ended up drinking my way into rehab otherwise. It may take years for my liver to return to normal. I damaged my own body because I let someone else destroy me. Let that sink in.

I drank to forget all kinds of pain- the pain of being what I thought was a horrible mom, definitely not a great wife, and the crumbling of my marriage. I kept drinking to forget the pain of losing the future I’d planned. I’m so glad I stopped.

What Happens After?

Abuse, in any shape or form, is wrong. I chose to cover emotional abuse because it’s not discussed nearly enough. What happens after needs to be looked at so much more.

The effects can last for years, even if the survivor is able to move forward and find a loving partner. The scary thoughts remain in the back of their mind. Some, like me, always have a backup plan just in case the nightmare comes true- they end up where they never thought they would be again. Some avoid relationships altogether for a long time out of fear. Some, sadly, end up in a chain of abusive relationships.

No matter how things turn out for you, please remember that the abuse is never your fault.

Pics courtesy of Unsplash and Pinterest

Resources:

Curejoy

Healthy Place

5 Unhealthy Triggers

Many of us have certain things that just don’t work for us.

What can we do to fix the triggers that can worsen our mental health issues?

The Triggers

  1. Toxic people. I am not a fan of toxic people. My Facebook settings and block list reflect this in a very big way. In my last therapy session, Rachel said that she was very proud of how I have been able to kick a ton of people out of my life and leave them there. What do I mean by toxic people? People who are consistently negative (nobody is full of sunshine every day, but I’m talking people that are always unhappy and/or never happy for you, put you down, even if sneakily, etc.), spread rumors about you, aren’t there for you when you need them, and so on. If you look hard enough, there are most likely toxic people lurking somewhere in your life. Everyone has a person or two. When you find them- cut them out. It may not be easy, but it is sometimes necessary for your mental stability.
  2. Lack of support. This is a big one. When you don’t have supportive people in your life, you’re more likely to fall into a bad spot and/or stay there. This can mean a therapist, a friend or family member. It’s a lonely feeling to not have support because it is easy to feel that no one cares about you when that is far from the truth. This issue can be changed by reaching out for support when you are not in a bad situation- looking for a therapist, talking to a friend or someone else you trust about a plan for the next time you realize (or they do) that you may be having a problem.
  3. Lack of self-care. I can’t express enough how important it is to take care of yourself emotionally, physically and spiritually, if that is something you are into. If you don’t take care of yourself physically, it will show emotionally and the same the other way around. Taking care of yourself makes you feel better. When you feel good physically, you feel good on the inside. I like to walk outside when I can and even though it tires me out, I still feel good because my body needs it. When we stop taking care of ourselves, we can see the change in the mirror and feel it inside. Changes in self-care can be small at first, but well worth it.
    4. Drugs and/or alcohol. Either of these can really change how you think- in small or large doses. Alcohol certainly changed the way I thought, but that’s what I was seeking. I wanted to forget what I was thinking about. I wanted to be able to forget my pain. I had forgotten that the pain wouldn’t go away forever and that when the hangover went away, everything I was trying to get out of my mind would come back. It always did. Facing the pain of losing Jake and having to live the rest of my life without him was awful but it is something I was going to have to deal with. As of this post, I am 16 months sober. I have faced that pain, and am dealing much better with it. I will always have days in which I miss him terribly but that is something I have learned to accept and deal with. Excessive use of drugs and/or alcohol can lead to a lot of other things that a lot of people don’t want- jail, hospitalization, rehab, or a combo of all of these. These can also, in some cases, trigger episodes of psychiatric issues, or make them worse. Some substances can be stopped without professional assistance, like marijuana, but if you are heavily abusing substances like alcohol, opiates, or benzodiazepines, please go to a facility. Trying to detox yourself can be dangerous- you can die from the complications.

5. Lack of outlets for creativity or fun. Adulting is rough. Bills, work and kids can take up your time. Being creative or finding something to do with your spare time can be a way to tune the world out when you need a break. For example, Matthew and his brother have begun to flip houses- buying houses, fixing them up and reselling them. They get to do something they know how to do (they get help when needed) and get to hang out in the process. The money isn’t bad either. Weirdly, Matthew says it’s relaxing for him because he really likes doing it. When you don’t have anything to do that you enjoy, life can get really boring fast. That can drag you down. I think this is why adult kickball leagues have become so popular. It’s fun and brings back memories from childhood.

Not everyone has these triggers and others may have different ones. These are just a few that I’ve noticed.

What are the things that trigger your mental health issues? How do you change the path?

Pics are from Unsplash

Run Jump Scrap

**STAY TUNED FOR MY COLLAB WITH BONNIE, COMING IN JUNE**