I remember one day I was sat in the lounge at home watching TV and the next thing I know I’m not able to move. I was paralysed with fear and shaking from head to toe. I had remembered a moment from the abuse I suffered. It wasn’t the first time I was haunted by these memories and it wouldn’t be the last. After each flashback to the past I would be exhausted and afraid to go out. I never knew what would trigger a memory until I started writing down when and how each event happened. I didn’t know that I was suffering PTSD until I did some research and recognised the symptoms.
This is the result for many women who have suffered domestic abuse. They get on with life and they work hard to get through each day. You wouldn’t know until you asked what was really going on for them. Once the abuse is over and the perpetrator is no longer in there lives most people assume they’ll be ok now. But this is not the end for them, they are still effected by the abuse and need help to deal with the memories and trauma of the abuse. Often they seem to be the women who are tough and hard but check with them and underneath you find that they are hurting and are haunted by the memories of abuse, words, physical actions and intrusive thoughts that are lies about who they are.
When survivors of domestic abuse experience the effects of it in there every day lives they need a space to be able to recognise it and process it. To talk about what has happened to them and what they feel now. They need compassion and respect and they need to know they’re not alone or weak. Each day calls for a mammoth amount of effort to get through it when you live with fear of memories of abuse assaulting you again and again. Facing these memories head on takes guts and an equally mammoth amount of courage.
In one of my fave TV shows West Wing the storyline starting with Josh being shot weaves in PTSD. It is real in the sense that this is often how PTSD sufferers feel.
JOSH You said you diagnosed me in five minutes. What was the diagnosis?
STANLEY You have Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
JOSH Well, that doesn’t really sound like something they let you have if you work for the President. Can we have it be something else? Seriously, I-I think you might be wrong about that. I-I’m not tryin’ to be difficult.
STANLEY I don’t think you are.
JOSH I know that I-I’m givin’ you cocky answers, I that should be…
JOSH I know that you want me to talk about my feelings.
STANLEY No I don’t, Josh. The last thing I want you to do is talk about your feelings. I think if you heard a tape recording of this day, you wouldn’t hear the word ‘feelings.’ What we need to be able to get you to do is to remember the shooting without reliving it. And you have been reliving it.
For survivors of abuse the end goal would be able to remember what happened to them without reliving it and being fearful.
So what can you do if this is happening to you. First of all you need to know that you are not crazy or mad but very normal and a survivor. You have survived a traumatic relationship.
Secondly you need to get help from other people. You need support. You won’t always feel this way. But you do need help.
Thirdly be kind to yourself, look after yourself and look for ways to nurture yourself.
Find helpful ways to ground yourself. If it helps to carry a certain safe scent that enables you to stay in the now or reminds you that you are safe when you’ve had a flashback then do that. What helped me was lavender oil. Or it may be that holding a certain object reminds you that you are safe now. A hot water bottle or a blanket or a book. Music can help in this way too. Mindfulness can help. Find what helps you to feel safe and use that to ground yourself.
If you want to understand more about PTSD the links below will help.