Trauma never really goes away. It is a part of us that we have to live with every day. How that trauma affects us, depends on the person and the level of healing you we are currently at.
Domestic abuse trauma is severe and can impact our lives negatively for a very long time. The attack on our self-esteem by our abuser was deliberate and insidious. Our abuser attempted to control our thoughts and behaviors by making us feel inadequate and ashamed.
The feelings of guilt, shame and worthlessness are carried with us, until we are able to acknowledge that we were truly traumatized and accept the fact that we sustained psychological injury from the abuse.
Once we can accept that we were not at fault, and did nothing to deserve to be abused, then we can begin to grow and learn how to cope with the mental injuries.
The scars of abuse will always be with us, but we can work towards reducing the open wounds in our emotions and our minds. When we have gaping, painful wounds, our everyday lives tend to revolve around them.
We try to avoid being “bumped into” in an emotional or mental way. Our brains cannot tolerate even the slightest thing that might retraumatize us.
Anything that reminds us of the abuser, the circumstances surrounding the abuse, or how we felt during the abuse, may be intolerable. This may cause us to organize our lives around avoiding anything that might trigger a state of post traumatic stress. We will develop behavior patterns of avoidance and may be in a state of hyperarousal almost all of the time.
The hyperarousal state is when all of our guards are up. We are constantly scanning our environment for possible threats. These may be physical threat or mental / emotional threats. Because of the damage our brains have already sustained, we cannot risk any more damage.
This is something we instinctively know. We know that we cannot tolerate any more trauma or any more retraumatization.
When we are newly out of the traumatic situation, our ability to feel relaxed and feel safe has been compromised. There seem to be threats all around us. This is true for some victims, but every individual is unique.
Some people may go several months or more, without any noticeable symptoms, and then suddenly begin to show signs of post traumatic stress.
We lose our ability to trust our own judgement and may avoid any situation we are not sure of. We ended up in abuse one time and we are afraid to experience that again. We are also afraid to be triggered into having traumatic memories flooding back into our brains.
The memories of the abuse can be overwhelming and painful to us. We want to get away from them. There are people that remind us of our abuser in some way.
There are situations that remind us of situations we were in. There are also other things like locations, songs, sounds, sensations and objects that can remind us of the original trauma.
The individual triggers are different for different people. It is good to pay attention to what triggers you and be mindful of your reactions and feelings.
The more you understand about your own responses, be them behavioral or internal, the further along the path to healing you will be.