Sadly we hear of hostages every day.For those who survive, leaving is just the first step. Dealing with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder takes time, and requires support. But what of the silent victims, the silent social hostages? Yes, I’m talking about the victims of emotional and or verbal abuse, since these two usually go hand in hand and leave no external marks. It can happen right there in the place you think is the safest in the whole world, your home. And the perpetrator holding you hostage can be the one you are living with. You must recognize the signs of abuse because they can easily be missed. But the topic of this post is the PTSD that is often the legacy of emotional abuse.
If you’re suffering from low self esteem, living life trying to please someone who you cannot please outside of complete and total surrender to their will and their ways, then you’re probably living in an abusive relationship. There are as many signs of abusive relationships as there are of PTSD, and the latter unfortunately often follows the former.
Consider this – Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is experienced by war veterans, victims of rape and child abuse, people surviving traumatic events like plane crashes and shipwrecks, police, firefighters, etc.But did you know that people who experience emotional abuse suffer from PTSD?
In fact battered women/abused spouses (emotional or otherwise) go through more PTSD than crime and fire fighters. More than raped adults. That should show you how serious the problem is. Did you know that living with a narcissist or borderline type of person can actually put you in the same psychological and emotional pain as someone who has been through the type of events I’ve mentioned? Scary, but true.
Emotional abuse comes in many forms and in many venues, but typically they always leave you feeling deflated and vulnerable because the abuse is aimed at eroding your self esteem to the point that you no longer resist but simply seek to comply with and please your abuser; your mind and soul goes into self defense mode, essentially, and you quite literally curl up into a ball within yourself and go to sleep. You may say you’re fighting back, you may say you’re standing up and fighting back, but the point is you should not have to fight. Every time you do, you lose a little of yourself to the battle and you lose the war on your own self esteem.
Critical and sarcastic spouses, demeaning put-downs and humiliating situations followed by “I was just joking” form the typical pattern of emotional abuse. As a victim of abuse, the thing that builds within you most isn’t even anger or frustration, it’s GUILT. You feel guilty every time you do something for yourself because your internal language has changed and you start to believe you’re just not worth it. You start to believe that the whims of others are more important that your rights. This could not be farther from the truth.
The sense of guilt is irrational; you know you ought to fight it, but you’ve been worm thin by the brainwashing and battering of emotional abuse; that guilt is a scar that will not heal until you simply refuse to continue in that situation of abuse, and doing that is easier said than done. When you are able to do it, though, you finally feel that you have woken up, that you have been asleep. But you still have to deal with the remnants of the PTSD inside you, process what happened, forgive yourself for allowing yourself such pain, and then learn to love yourself enough to not endure abuse and not inflict it on anyone else because processing PTSD is something difficult to do but something that has tremendous rewards.
You’re responsible for respecting them, sure, and that should be reciprocated. You’re responsible for following the rules of that particular relationship which includes kindness, but you are not responsible for their every mood, and you certainly don’t have to “fix” them.You don’t have to feel used anymore, and you will instinctively know not to use your partner in the new relationship.Don’t believe the notion that abusers are ugly looking, scary people; no, indeed they are the sweetest people on the outside, often quite diminutive looking; the type that you think would never hurt a fly. That is their greatest weapon; their image. That, and your silence.
Uprooting abuse & dealing with PTSD:
Before you can address the PTSD symptoms, you need to uproot the cause. Before you can heal, there are a few things you need to do:
- Recognize that you’re in pain
- Recognize that abuse is real and you are not responsible for it
- Recognize that you are not responsible for someone else’s past that made them an abuser
- Recognize that yes, you may be a powerful business person/negotiator/whatever, but in this one instance, you’ve given control (absolute control) to someone else for too long.
- Recognize that abusers don’t change. YOU have to.
- Recognize that you can either shrivel up into someone and something you’re not to please them, or you walk out, hurt, torn, but ready to heal.
- LEAVE – Put actions in place to leave SAFELY. This may mean different things to you and can be discussed in sessions.
Leaving an abusive relationship is like leaving a hostage situation. You need to plan it, you need to know you will survive, you need to know there are people waiting, praying for you. You need to know that you have somewhere to go, you need warmth, food (for the body and mind), a safe roof over your head and someone to listen. You need to heal from the wounds and the fear. This will take time, but the sooner you start, the sooner you will heal.
IT. IS. NOT. YOUR. FAULT.
YOU. ARE. NOT. ALONE.