“I knew that when he got into certain frames of mind there was nothing that could hold him back.”
The Abuse Story
It was initially physically abusive, with pushing or restricting me from leaving when I wanted to. It then escalated to emotional and financial abuse. The physical abuse, although it wasn’t frequent (twice a year or so there would be upticks), also escalated and became more intense.
I left and went back multiple times. Usually, it would be an easing out kind of thing where there would be a serious abusive event and he would be remorseful. I would use that as grounds to separate but leave hope to reunite. I would start to build distance by him moving out to his family’s home. Hopefully he would get distracted and not stalk me. He was usually ok with this separation, so long as he knew I wasn’t dating anyone. But if he had suspicions of that he would stalk me and become violent again.
Our final breakup required me to cut all ties. Which was hard since we had a son together. I didn’t have an official restraining order but I had a case filed and a detective spoke to him to let him know he would be arrested. Since I had cut all ties (which he tried to break through various times by guilting me) he took the law enforcement warning a little more seriously.
What Were Some of the Biggest Challenges After Getting Away?
Not knowing how to handle my relationship with my son. He was a teenager at the time and was angry with his father and me. He felt me cutting his father off completely wasn’t right. He didn’t understand why after all I’ve been through in the past why now the drastic change was warranted.
Safety was also my primary concern. Although the threats from police worked for the most part. I knew that when he got into certain frames of mind there was nothing that could hold him back. So setting up security measures so I felt somewhat safe was vital for my recovery.
When Did You Start to Feel In Control
It’s still a work in progress because I don’t feel as powerful as I have at other points in my life. But I am making strides, step by step by cleaning up the financial mess he left for me. Taking stock of other toxic influences in my life and setting boundaries. I am also investing in myself by going back to school and working on my spiritual strength.
Tips for Dealing with Flashbacks
Meditation, therapy, and meditation if needed.
I still sweat profusely whenever I have to read an email from him. But this is a huge improvement from loosing my breath and my heart racing rapidly. I have gone to therapy for a few years, used EMDR therapy to control those physical responses. Meditation has also been helpful in creating new neural pathways to respond to unwanted thoughts. I wasn’t able to see violence on TV because it would send me into a physical state of panic. But over time I have been able to become more desensitized because I’ve had extended times of feeling safe and rebuilding my self image as a warrior. I still struggle with rumination, but when I catch myself I redirect the thoughts to things that I can control and remind myself about where I am now.
What are some boundaries you've put up to protect yourself?
I am more fortunate than most in the aspect that I had a good job and great support systems (even though many fell off because they had helped in the past and I went back).
– I started with getting myself a place to live with security so I could sleep well at night.
– I limited all communication with my abuser to emails only.
– I cut off all ties to his family, including on social media (this was hard and took sometime).
– I stood up for myself by taking action to represent my interests by starting litigation and also filed police reports for any infraction. No matter how minor. (i.e. because I blocked him everywhere he started posting on others social media pages about me. This is cyber stalking)
– I created independence for myself financially.
What are some techniques you use to bring positivity into your life?
Avoidance of triggers was necessary in the beginning. I may have spent too long in this state. But it’s where I was and what I needed to do at that time.
Nourishing my mind, body and spirit has been paramount.
I’ve done this by exploring new places and activities, investing time in my education, and building a community of positive and likeminded people.
Eating right, working out, and taking the time to attend to my mental health also keeps me on track.
Advice For People in Abusive Situations
Although there are many similarities in abusive situations, there are tons of differences.
Identifying that you are in an abusive relationship and knowing there is no event that is so minor that it should be tolerated. Is the first step.
Speak up even if you think you might stay. Staying silent doesn’t help anyone. You have to stand up for yourself and don’t worry about you or your abuser being judged. Shining a light will help make sure you stay alive.
It is not your fault. No matter the cause, no one deserves to be emotionally, physically or financially abused.
If you choose to stay, continue to invest in yourself by going to school or working (preferably both). Isolation is the most dangerous part of this cycle and will only limit your ability to make decisions for yourself in the future.
You are not protecting your children by staying in this relationship. No matter how much you try to hide the abuse they know something is up and they learn about relationships by what they see not what is told to them.
Litigation is scary. The courts and legal system may fail you. But that doesn’t mean you give up. Document everything. Find ally’s and use all your resources. Fighting for yourself and your family may be hard but it is better than the alternative.
Don’t pay attention to people who minimize your experiences or the abuse. They are ignorant and just don’t get it.
Your abuser will switch things around and try to make you look like a bad guy. Speak up but don’t waste too much time defending yourself. The truth of who he is will be revealed on its own with time. And those that believe the abuser are not worth keeping in your circle.
Focus on what is in your circle of control and work from there. Things that are not in your control aren’t worth your energy. You need all your energy for healing
What Are Some Things That Would Have Made it Easier to Leave?
This is a really hard question. Well they all are. But this one is the hardest because I’m not sure anything would have truly made it easier.
I was isolated. So when I would leave, I had no self identity and felt alone. I wondered why I didn’t deserve love. This made me vulnerable. And I would eventually go back. Once I overcame this stage and still went back because of hope that things were different.
Perhaps, it would have been easier if this was a more common conversation where I could receive building blocks for finding who I was again. Get validation that I did deserve love, and clarification that what we had was not love.
I knew in the pit of my soul that something was wrong. But when I mentioned the issues that sparked events of abuse to his mother she would remind me that a wife takes on the burdens of the husband. That I needed to be submissive when he was in those states (that doesn’t work when he’s seeing red) and that suffering in silence was my duty.
How Can Society Help You More?
Just talk about it. Pass legislation to protect victims. Stop blaming victims.
What Are Some Things You Enjoy Doing Now?
It took a long time to truly experience JOY. I still slip into these numb moments where I almost have to fake joy because I just can’t feel the emotion.
But I do enjoy helping others see their worth, advocating for them and reassuring them that there is hope on the other side. I haven’t been able to help as many people as I’d like to but I try my best to engage with others on the topic to understand their perspectives and be an ally to those that need one.
I am also in a healthy and supportive relationship now. It’s refreshing! I feel safe, loved and respected. Reciprocity is something I didn’t think was possible until now.
I enjoy connecting with my son and rebuilding that relationship. Although he has many traits similar to his father. I acknowledge that the dynamic is different.
I also spend time loving myself. This has been a work in progress for years. But it’s a true labor of love. Everyday that passes gets better and better.
What Helps You See the Beauty in the World?
Being present. Enjoying simple things. Being grateful for life.
What Makes You Feel Confident, Beautiful and Empowered?
Continuing to invest in my education, body, and spirit. I do this by standing up for myself. Speaking up for others. Loving those around me. Taking care of myself. Remembering that all the challenges I face are lessons that will only make me stronger. Most of all being compassionate to myself. Which is often hard.
***If you survived abuse and would like to use the story to help encourage others, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
*If you or someone you know might be experiencing abuse, please see my resource page for support.