There are so many websites about domestic violence with warning signs, explanations of why we don’t leave, how to survive, how to thrive, and how to leave. There are legal sites, “safe” sites, anecdotal sites, and mental health sites.
I’m not going to go into all that now, it’s all quite important, but this post is about what still happens almost seventeen years later. I can’t find the reference, but I’ve been told that sometimes it may take three years for every one year of abuse. That would be about 40 years for me.
In the beginning, my reactions to simple things were way out of proportion, and fear drove every moment of my life. We moved to another state, but the threats didn’t stop. Even though I logically knew I was safe, it didn’t matter. I reacted to other people or situations the same way I would have reacted if I were still there. Even if the incident had absolutely nothing to do with abuse, and there was no chance of being abused, the fight or flight adrenaline would start pumping and I would be certain I would be harmed.
A situation came up the other night that triggered the worst reaction I’ve had in about 15 years. I’ve been free from self-harm for a very long time, and I can’t remember the last time I went into self-preservation mode, but this time, oh this time was as bad as if I’d only left yesterday.
Another thing I remember learning about, but can’t give you a reference for, is that in the absence of the abuser, the abused will often harm themselves. I never thought it would happen this far down the road, living with someone who would never even think of harming me. I’m in a very safe environment now, nobody will hurt me. But all of a sudden, I was feeling that I was a very bad person, and if my ex wasn’t there to punish me, I had to do it myself.
When my husband finally found me, I wasn’t cognizant of where I was. I was off somewhere in Domestic Violence Land, and it took a very long time of him holding me in his arms, until I physically unfolded my body and realized where I was. I fought him off at first, thinking those arms were there to hurt me, not help me. I didn’t know who he was, I didn’t know where I was. I can barely remember what I was doing, and if I weren’t so hard-headed, I’d probably be in a hell of a lot of pain.
I don’t know how I folded up my body so tight with all that hardware in my back, but when he finally got to me, I was rocking back and forth, bashing my head against the wall (that was the giveaway to where I was-just follow the sound), and digging my nails into my arms. I was in my jewelry design room, and I remember thinking I couldn’t move because I knew exactly where the X-acto blade was and I didn’t want it in my hand, my nails would have to suffice. I don’t know how long I was there, nor do I know how long I was crying before it all even started.
I do know I’m very lucky to have such a kind, patient, and loving husband; and I do now know that PTSD (is that what this was?) can still sneak up and drag me down so many years later. Will I be like this the rest of my life? So many things have been going on that have reminded me of that time so long ago. I suppose it was festering in the back of my mind.
I also know, I’m very scared. I don’t ever want that to happen again, but if what I’ve heard is true, I’m only half-way to recovery, and that makes me very angry.