So you made it. You left him or her. You won’t ever have to go through the fear and terror ever again. You stayed at the shelter for a couple of weeks and then they got you into a transitional living apartment where you are safe. He/she doesn’t have any idea where you are. All your abuser knows is that you are laying low. You and your children, if you have any, are safe and secure.
You are starting not to jump at every noise. You may even go on a date at some time again. But you still can close your eyes and see him hovering over you as he rapes and strangles you. He strangles you a little, not enough to kill you. The memories close in on you often when there is a certain smell, sound, when you think someone is following you. Your heart begins to race and you have to talk yourself down.
No matter what the abuse or other traumas in your life, they do effect you a lot. You will never again be the same person you were before. Neurologists say that the mind rewires itself after a trauma and we are never exactly the same person we were before. But you survived and this is a good thing.
Life doesn’t stop with surviving. You have to heal yourself. Some do it themselves, some block the trauma but it is still effecting them. Do you ever notice that someone will say something and you are immediately angry or you feel insecure? Or someone walks up to you and they are a little too close and you feel like you should run? This is all normal for someone who has been traumatized. Other people may not think so but I assure you that it is.
So, the first huge step is surviving your trauma. What about all of the memories of the trauma or abuse? What about the nightmares? A doctor can help you by deciding if you have PTSD or not. PTSD is pretty tough. I have PTSD. It developed after I found my husband dead. It was natural causes, a massive heart attack. I walked into a dark house and found him sitting at his desk in the study and he was gone. I will save you the remainder of the story. I had had other traumas earlier in life and this was the event which broke the camel’s back. I am not telling my story to gain sympathy. I just know how many victims have survived many traumas and it is hard work getting through them. Sometimes people help, sometimes they just stab you in the heart without knowing there is anything wrong.
So first survive, then begin to heal. There are many ways to do so and some will work for you and some will not. I read a quote many years ago, “Once you survive life, then you have to find a reason to live.” I have always lived with that in my heart. There are many reasons. Someone in your life needs you. Your job gives you much passion and joy. Your best friend can always sense your moods and doesn’t leave you alone to flounder. Children’s lives would be damaged if you committed suicide. Your job is to find your reason and declare it to the heavens.
Sometimes a spiritual path can help. Or a combination of several paths can be entwined together and you create your own path which you have woven for yourself. The key to healing really is to find your meaning for life. A reason to live and keep living and heal and then you can thrive. Thriving would be the ultimate goal.
It also helps to remember that you are not the only one to suffer some type of trauma. Millions of people do whether they are abused, a tornado takes their house, a volcano erupts and covers their village with lava. Some are sold into slavery, some are convicted of a crime and go to prison knowing that they are really innocent. Some are cheated on by their spouse and some are not really loved by their family. Again, healing and therapy will help you to not shut down when the old tapes or the memories hit you. We are supposed to thrive in this life, so climb out of that hole and begin the job. Your experience will help many others cope with what is happening in their lives.
Forget anger, rage, and vengeance and look for your smile so you can share it with someone else. Read positive books. Allow yourself to feel joy and happiness because you do deserve it. No matter what anyone has told you or beat into you, you deserve all the good that life has to offer. You never walk alone and you need to remember that. Build and use your support system. They love you for the beautiful, shining star you are today. Never believe anyone who tells you negative things. Don’t tell yourself negative things. You are everything that is strong, wise, compassionate and kind. You can touch the lives of many people who need a kind word or a smile or an understanding pat on the shoulder.
Smokey Mountains. Photograph and copyright by Barbara Mattio 2015