Living with intimate partner violence — sometimes called domestic violence — can take a toll on your mental, emotional, and physical health, even after it comes to an end. For many victims of abuse, living with the aftermath can sometimes be just as painful as the abuse itself, because the individual often has to learn to cope with symptoms of PTSD or how to trust again.
One of the most important things for victims of abuse to remember is that they are not alone. Some individuals don’t have family nearby, or their relationships have suffered as a result of the abuser interfering. For those people, there are counselors, therapists, and group sessions that can help immensely when it comes to talking about what they’ve been through and finding hope.
It’s also important to learn how to cope in healthy ways. After abuse has taken place, it is extremely difficult for many victims to leave the situation. Once you have left your abusive spouse and are safe, the healing must begin. Here are a few of the best ways to learn to put your life back together after living with abuse.
Counseling or therapy can help you learn to let go of the guilt or shame you may be feeling regarding the abuse. Many victims feel the violence was their fault and suffer from extremely low self-esteem; they don’t believe they can really be OK in the world because they don’t feel strong. Remember that you were strong enough to survive and that your life is important.
If you’re not ready to talk yet, that’s OK. Consider finding an alternative outlet, like writing in a journal or expressing yourself creatively. You don’t have to show it to anyone before you’re ready, though you might feel empowered by showing others your work, and if you do decide to seek counseling at any point, your art or journal can help you explain how you’ve been feeling.
Practicing self-care is most important when trying to put your life back together. Not only does it help you feel better physically, it keeps you in the mindset that you are worth kindness and deserve to be treated well. Self-care can even include buying yourself some new clothes to make yourself feel good. It can also include daily exercise (and it should, as exercise releases chemicals in the brain that help you feel happy), a good meal, or a night out with friends. Anything that makes you happy that can be done in a healthy way should be pursued, so pamper yourself! Learning to love yourself makes a difference in recovering from domestic violence.
It might help to start small, especially if you’re not used to having “you” time. Start by doing little nice things throughout the day, whether it’s treating yourself to an iced coffee at lunch or allowing yourself a 10-minute break on the couch after finishing a major home project. Instead of guilting yourself over anything you didn’t get done at the end of the day, remind yourself of all that you did accomplish, including taking some much-deserved time for yourself.
If you have a problem with substance abuse as a result of domestic violence, remember that help is available. Getting healthy is the first step in recovering from abuse. Reach out to a loved one you trust and explore your options for treatment. Never feel ashamed or embarrassed to ask for help, because it is actually a sign of strength to know when to reach out.
Take Safety Seriously
For most victims of domestic abuse, safety is imperative, even after they have left the situation. Don’t be afraid to make safety a priority. Sign up for a martial arts class or carry an alarm or pepper spray on your keychain, and keep your cell phone handy at all times. If these things make you feel safe, don’t hesitate to put them into action. Knowing that you can take care of yourself will help you face a world in which you are strong and capable.
You might even take comfort in installing an updated security system in your home, adding new locks, installing motion-detecting lights around the perimeter of your home, changing your locks, or relocating somewhere else. Keep in touch with loved ones about how you’re doing, and let someone know if you think your safety is at risk. Don’t hesitate to reach out to law enforcement if you discover your home has been broken into or you’ve been approached by your former partner. Get yourself to safety and report the incident, and consider legal action if necessary.
It’s important to reach out to friends and family or to be social and meet new people once you feel comfortable doing so. It won’t be easy to build trust within a relationship, but having a support system around you will be hugely helpful when it comes to making a new life for yourself, and knowing that you have friends will help keep you from feeling alone.
Finally, don’t hesitate to call a doctor and schedule a full physical and mental health evaluation. Be honest about what you’re feeling and any concerns you may have; depression can swoop down swiftly and can lead to suicidal thoughts, but making a preemptive strike can help. Therapy and medication may be necessary to help you build up your life again.
The journey to healing may seem impossibly long, but it’s important that you give yourself the time you need. Take it one day at a time, one positive step forward at a time. Reach out when you decide the time is right — your loved ones will be ready when you are.
About The Author
Harry Cline is creator of NewCaregiver.org As a retired nursing home administrator, father of three, and caregiver to his ninety-year-old uncle, Harry knows how challenging and rewarding caregiving can be.
He also understands that caregiving is often overwhelming for those just starting out. He created his website and is writing his new book to offer new caregivers everywhere help and support.
Harry Cline | firstname.lastname@example.org
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We think this is an excellent video dealing with a very emotive topic!!