I know that I, along with many other people, have been in this position before. It’s important to accept your role but to not weight yourself down with guilt, shame, or remorse, because there’s nothing you can do to change the past. Most importantly, it doesn’t allow you to move on, strengthen yourself, and become a better person.
These kinds of relationships are often very traumatic, even for the one that’s doing the most abuse. I know in my situation, I was passing along the abuse my then-girlfriend was putting onto me, and as I’d never learned how to deal with it or even recognize it, I continued a cycle of abuse onto the only other person who was very close to me at the time. It’s important to realize that as a survivor of abuse, it is often unavoidable to repeat the actions of your abusers until you have gotten adequate help. This DOES NOT make you a terrible person, this DOES NOT make you a vicious monster, this DOES NOT mean you deserve to suffer or be alienated, ostracised, and be barred from entering new relationships and friendships again - it really disappoints me to see the opposite of this sentiment spread around tumblr, because too often does it make people dig themselves into a hole of guilt and end up worsening their problems because they view themselves as an irreparable monster. I have to admit, that’s exactly what I did after I realized how much I hurt that person, but I’ve healed a lot now and we’ve both come to terms.
Of course, people can feel indifferent to what they’ve done. If someone denies their actions, tries to excuse them, or otherwise has done nothing to show genuine remorse, they’re not a good person to be around and they need to come to the realization of their grievous wrongs on their own. It’s important to understand that often, people who repeat actions of their abusers even KNOW what they’re doing, at least on a semi-conscious level, however they’ve never learned how else to act. This never excuses their behaviour, just like yours and my toxic, abusive behaviour is not excused by our experiences or lack thereof. That still doesn’t mean we deserve to suffer or be stuck in the past, bogged down with guilt. One thing I did for the year and a half I was stricken with guilt is that I made a point of confessing to everyone what I did: my dad, my best friends, new girlfriends, new acquaintances, even total strangers. I did this because I was feeling like I had the responsibility to let everyone know what I did or else I’d be like a wolf in sheep’s clothing, a manipulative monster who was just trying to hide my past, and I don’t deserve peace of mind. This kept me stuck in the past and stopped me from being able to recover and rehabilitate.
What it does mean is that we have to respect that person that we abused, hurt, and betrayed, we have to understand we are not owed their forgiveness and they have to heal on their own, even if they’ve wronged you too. We have to understand that we cannot return to that person, unless both of you mutually agree that it’s okay to try again. We have to take on the responsibility to improve upon ourselves, get adequate help, change our behaviours, unlearn toxic patterns, and cut off people who feed into it. We have to separate the trauma we experienced in that relationship from what our responsibility was in being abusive - meaning, we can’t let our hurt interfere with how we go about understanding, realizing, an accepting our abusive behaviours. We also have a responsibility to come to terms with it, move on from it, and forgive ourselves, too. Forgiving yourself is not selfish, but necessary, because often we are the ones who hold ourselves back, and we are, ultimately, the ones with the power to change ourselves for the better.
As human beings, we have to change for the better. That’s just our thing. These kinds of situations are so, so complicated and nuanced and unique that it’s impossible to prescribe one remedy for all of them. It’s just important to be humble and realize what you’ve done, rehabilitate yourself, and be a better person to yourself and everyone else. It’s still good to let people close to you know what you’ve done, but it’s important to distinguish if you’re doing it out of guilt, or if you’re doing it out of trust and necessity.
I wish you a lot of luck in recovering from that and learning healthier behaviours.
[Head of a puma on tessellated background that alternates between dark purple and dark blue. Top text “Can’t concentrate or learn” Bottom text “Because if thoughts wander: Instant Flashbacks”]
It seems really counterintuitive, and that’s why I didn’t really understand it until it hit me suddenly one day: One of the reasons I can’t concentrate on one thing long enough to really learn anything in an organised and profound way is that I almost always need to distract myself or else there will be flashbacks (or flashbacky things). So i need to skip to something else quickly and couldn’t use learning material that is slow paced - but without time to think it through for myself, I won’t learn anything new and interesting… It’s also really hard to use my brain in general when I’m having to fight off flashbacks at the same time. There are times where it’s better, but not enough for studying. Well, one day…
Exposure therapy and similar treatments such as EMDR and “flooding” are 50/50 and depend solely on how the person undergoing the therapy will be capable of handling trauma recall. You definitely don’t do it if you’re not resilient enough! Normally, exposure therapy involves the gradual and controlled exposure to triggers and trauma recall whilst using anxiety coping methods that are taught prior to doing the actual exposure. I know a lot of people in which this has completely severed the panic reaction to trauma and has made it much easier for them to recover, and I know a fair share of people where the therapy either hindered their progress or caused a relapse. It all depends on how emotionally resilient you believe you are at this point in your life, but if done right it can be very helpful.
Of course, you’ll be scared and stressed going through it because it’s a very personal and intrusive means of therapy, but it aaaall depends on how well equipped you are at handling overwhelming emotions and resulting symptoms of flashbacks and triggers.
Sadly, I don’t know much about treating repressed memories, in fact if I’m not misinformed, the field of psychology is trying to throw out the concept of repression. I’m not sure how popular the movement to throw it out is, but I know for certain repression is a big part of trauma responses.
I know people have tried hypnosis done under a trained psychiatrist to try and bring back repressed memories, sometimes it’s immediate and sometimes it comes later at a random time. I know sometimes they never come back at all, and sometimes they come back completely out of the blue all at once. I don’t know of many treatments that guarantee the repression of memories or, on the flip side, guarantee the surfacing of repressed memories.
Depending on your stability and resilience, I wouldn’t suggest trying to purposely surface memories of abuse, as even the most resilient people can be triggered into a relapse. Repressed memories are always awful, the best thing you can do is practice anxiety coping exercises as well as you can so should they surface, you have skills and tools at your disposal to make the ride through less turbulent.
I believe nightmares do not have to strictly be a replay of the trauma because, honestly, I’ve never actually had a PTSD nightmare that relives the trauma exactly as it is! Nightmares that involve elements of trauma, such as abusers, people involved, the event happening in different ways etc. all constitute as PTSD nightmares because your sleep is affected to the point that it is resulting in nightmares that contain many elements of or revolves around a trauma.
It sounds like he doesn’t know very much about the nature of mental illness, specifically PTSD. If you need a supportive person, it may be helpful to look elsewhere, possibly towards good, trustworthy friends, to provide adequate support. It is not your responsibility to educate your husband of course, but it may be helpful to expose him to educative media that would break down the stigmas and invalidating beliefs he may have regarding PTSD.
If he doesn’t understand the symptoms you deal with, you may find yourself getting repeatedly rejected and invalidated and over time that may end up hurting you. If you have a psychologist or therapist that you see regularly, it may help him better understand and support you by having a mental health professional explain him the basics of what you deal with!
This looks like it would be an interesting project, if any of ptsdpuma’s followers are interested the link explaining the article is here!
I wish you luck :)
If you are looking for a diagnosis, I strongly suggest looking for professional help from someone who can give an official diagnosis! I know that not everyone has the privilege to access mental health systems and support, so while I do not necessarily condone the act of self-diagnosing, it is not terrible or irrational to self-diagnose when you identify strongly with many of the symptoms present in PTSD and it affects your life in a significant way, in many cases it can be a very helpful step in being able to receive adequate help.
If you experience flashbacks, panic attacks, and nightmares in relation to her abuse of you, it’s likely you are dealing with an anxiety-related mental illness! Remember that the trauma you went through is not silly, unfounded, “not as bad”, or invalid, because you have been hurt and you are a significant person who deserves support and help through this. I can’t give specific advice for your situation because it depends where you live and what you have access to, but if you go to a school it is likely you can request an appointment with a counsellor or psychiatrist and perhaps ask if you can be hooked up to a therapist within (or outside of) your school system. There may be many clinics available in your community that offer free/sliding-scale therapy services, often services like this are offered at women’s shelters and youth centres!
tw: emotional abuse
It is very important to understand that PTSD can be caused by anything that causes trauma to a person - abuse is a very common cause of it!
Big age gaps, especially amongst developing teenagers and adults, are dangerous in that they open up the risk of manipulation and abuse on part of the adult. This has a profound effect on teenagers, as this is a developmental period, and can easily be a cause of a lot of anxiety! PTSD is often characterized by nightmares of traumatic events, difficulty sleeping, flashbacks to traumatic events, and intrusive, involuntary thoughts about the traumatic event. There’s a chance you could be experiencing PTSD symptoms from what you have experienced, but all in all, your best bet would be to seek professional help.
Asking for help is a very scary, big step, especially for mental illness. It can be very beneficial to have a support group of friends and family who understand your needs and can help you cope with your symptoms emotionally, but it also requires a lot of trust. If you can find a friend, family member, or anyone else, that you can trust enough to be supportive and understanding of your situation, that can give you the confidence to further seek help - depending on where you live, there may be school counsellors who may help you and they may be able to contact professionals outside the school district but who still focus on youth mental health. I wish you luck!