Last week I left work at noon; barely able to get to the car without the waterfall of tears starting. The tears overtook me quickly. Looking back, I probably had less than two minutes from being into anxiety mode to full melt down mode.
The tears flowed and my body quivered as I drove myself home. I had been three years since my body gave into my PTSD so strongly. Curling up in the fetal position in my chair, it didn’t take me long to figure out what was happening. My coping skills weren’t working and my PTSD was once again controlling my reactions to my world.
My journey from domestic violence victim to survivor is in its twelfth year. I’ve made huge strides in my recovery over the past five years (aka nervous breakdown year), yet the anxiety within my head has never completely calmed down. But this past weekend, for one of the few times in my life, I felt totally connected to my world for a beautiful five minutes.
One of the goals in my recovery has always been to obtain the calmness and peace God offers to his children. Psalm 29:11: “The LORD gives strength to his people; the LORD blesses his people with peace.”
So many non-victims that I share my abusive background with can’t believe the horrific things my abuser did to me. But what I don’t believe I do a good job at describing is that my life continued on as I was being victimized.
During the five years we were challenged with our daughter’s cancer, and subsequent bone marrow transplant, the abuse increased 100%. Literally, I remained bruised from her diagnosis at two years old until I separated from my abuser five years later. My abuser couldn’t handle the pain, suffering, and possible loss of our daughter so he took it all out on me. Deep down, not unlike the increased abuse I suffered with the birth of our first child, my abuser definitely didn’t like my being distracted and not completely focused on his wants and needs. I specifically remember one extremely painful beating I received due to my being more focused on our daughter and ignoring his needs. Those of us who suffer abuse know exactly what I am talking about.
As I mentioned in my first blog post on tackling depression after abuse, in order for me to overcome the deep dark depression that overcame me as I ventured out into the world without my abuser telling me what to do, I found reaching out to professionals extremely helpful. I’ll be the first to admit, for the first few years of my recovery, I thought time alone was going to heal the horrors of my past. But, time along proved to be an insufficient way for me to destroy the emotional turmoil my abuser had caused in my thoughts.
Flowers are blooming. Baby birds are chirping. Weeds are making yards look like full blown flower gardens. Pollen is making people who have allergies miserable. All indications in my world that spring is here.
I am fortunate to be able to feel the breeze as I walk outside. For so many years I never realized the wind blowing around was even a thing. But, being able to stop, face the sun and feel the wind blowing against my face, awakens a sense within me that laid sleeping for so many years.
Even after years of counseling and diligently working on my recovery from my domestic abuser, I fell into a dark hole of darkness recently on Thanksgiving Day. There is something deeply hiding within my subconscious during this holiday. Although I prepared myself in advance for the looming anxiety of this day, I was once again caught off guard by the holiday triggers which overshadowed this day for me.
Domestic Violence Triggers
Believing the abuse was my fault.
My first attempt at reconnecting with my faith started three years before the night my abuser held me in a choke hold. At the time, I had nowhere else to turn; my three-year-old daughter had cancer.
Here I was, living in the secret world of domestic violence and I find that my baby girl has cancer. I thought, really? How much more can I humanly be expected to take? Daily, I am verbally or physically abused by my husband, and now one of our children has cancer? I thought the abuse was awful before the cancer news. But, seeing how my abuser couldn’t deal with the harsh reality of his daughter having cancer, the abuse increased three-fold.
For years I believed a painful lie: If I try harder in my marriage, the good guy I used to know will return. Even after my divorce, this crazy thought lingered in my mind. The emotional abuse I endured brainwashed me to believe the horrible things my abuser said about me were true. For example, I truly believed:
The first few years after separating from my abusive husband were almost as horrible as the abusive days. I knew being away from him was the right thing to do, but in the absence of having him tell me what to do, when to do it, and how to do things, I was a complete fumbling mess. I felt physically, emotionally, and spiritually numb.
Darkness Overcame Me
Accepting the realization that my life wasn’t going to improve while living with my abusive husband was tough. Realizing I was going to have to let go of my marriage; my sacred vow of unity with the guy that I used to love, felt overwhelmingly degrading. My emotional turmoil sifted between my abuser’s ugly reminders in my head “it’s all your fault” combined with my self-fulling feelings of personal failure. Slowly though, as I ventured out on my own with the children, a sense of darkness started surrounding me. I soon realized that depression after abuse was an obstacle I needed to face.
Hi, I'm Sue
Welcome to my blog! I served twenty-one honorable years on active duty, living a double life of capability and accomplishment in the service while enduring brutality and abusiveness in my twenty-one year oppressive marriage. Today I'm happily married and have three children who are my inspiration and motivation.
My goal is to help combat the lies of abusers with the truth of God. I hope you find my words to be healing and helpful through your own life experiences.
Being separated from my abusive husband didn't make me a domestic violence survivor. It surely didn't release me from the grip of his brainwashing control and the innate power he had on me.
Read the full raw story in my new book, Rock Bottom and Faithless.