On a typical day, there are more than 20,000 phone calls made to domestic violence hotlines across the United States.
When someone leaves a domestic violence situation the problems do not end there. In fact, a whole new heap of problems comes their way, as they are now faced with the challenge of healing from their experience which is challenging to say the least.
The abuse may have been mental, physical, emotional or a combination of all three and the effect on their lives is profound.
Even the first step of moving past the leaving stage and working towards healing and recovery isn’t going to be an easy process, and it certainly isn’t going to happen overnight.
The long process can cause further emotional damage as they are facing head on the trauma they went through and, in some cases, this is prolonged where courts become involved due to the separating of assets and custody of children, and the abuser uses this process to abuse the survivor further.
Recovery does change the survivor just as much as the abuse did, but just know in your recovery you will remember that you are incredible, amazing and you will find your self-worth again.
1 First and foremost, be kind to yourself.
Whilst in the toxic situation you have had a gut full of negativity. You took the blame for everything that was said to be wrong. You had your confidence destroyed and you were made to feel as if you were nothing. No More! Be kind to yourself, watch what you think, keep things positive in your life even if it is one positive thought a day that is still one more than you were receiving. Forgive yourself for the life you had, you are not and never will be the cause of the situation, remind yourself you are away from that life now and life can only get better.
2 Take this opportunity to really get to know yourself.
You lost the person you once were and that will affect you, your sense of identity appears to have gone MIA. Your self-confidence is at zero in your mind, but ask yourself is it really at zero as you escaped that life, that took incredible courage and confidence to do. Instead of focussing on what has gone on, put that on the back burner for a little while and think what makes you happy, what makes you feel those butterflies of passion for life. Re-connect with yourself and the world, you are stronger now, you are independent and you are free.
3 Don’t try to distract yourself from the pain.
You will have to face the pain of what has happened eventually, but you will be told by so many that have never been in your situation to ‘let it go’. Seriously that phrase is the worst of the worst and not helpful at all. Face your pain in your own time and your own way, you know what is best for you. Bottling up your pain may feel right for a while but the danger of that is as with anything that is bottled up it comes out in the end as an explosion and the explosion will be something you are not ready for. Seek professional help if you feel you need to or speak with survivors who know exactly what you are thinking and feeling as only, they can.
4 Consider what you can learn from this experience.
Life is one long lesson a cliché I know but it is true. The situation was a painful one and one hell of a lessoned learned. You will find when thinking this through that you found a new you, a person who would never have existed if this hadn’t happened. Take your time to get to know the new you but above all know in yourself that you are not to blame for what has happened. You now have only one way to go and that is forward.
5 Cut the toxic individual from your life entirely.
This depends on your situation, you may have children and will have to co-parent, with this situation find someone who can act as the go-between so that the person has no way of trying the ‘we can be friends’ scenario. They have no right to be part of your life anymore, those privileges have been revoked! If no children are involved cut them out of your life completely. Change your number, block them on social media, you are not being weak as some suggest, you are being strong for yourself and in cutting the individual out of your life you are sending a strong message, ‘you are now nothing to me’ and that is no more than they deserve.
6 Try to be patient with yourself, there is no time limit.
Leaving a toxic relationship is similar to a death of that person, you will experience grief and there is no time limit to the grief of any kind, regardless of what some may say! The grief you are experiencing is not the toxic relationship, but the relationship you were led to believe it would be before it turned toxic. You are going through a period of rediscovery and as each new part of your life unfolds you may grieve a little more or you may not, grief is a personal thing at any time. Don’t rush yourself take it one step at a time, one day at a time.
7 Don’t be afraid to seek professional help.
Frustratingly there is still far too much stigma around seeking professional help and in particular those with mental health issues. Leaving a toxic relationship can trigger powerful emotions and some survivors are diagnosed with PTSD due to the trauma. You can’t pretend it’s not happening to you, it won’t make the trauma go away. Even if you only have a few sessions to help kick start your recovery and have the option to return at a later time if need be, it will give you the confidence you need to take the steps you need on your terms to recover. If you find that it is helping, then keep it up! If not, there’s nothing wrong with walking away.