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Sickandtired

The flashbacks & repressed memories

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Sickandtired

I divorced my ex-husband after 16 years of marriage, 18 years together, last September. It's been a hellish time since then. We have three young daughters and he went through a phase of weaponizing them that was just awful. He has calmed down, but mostly because the oldest told him that it makes her upset when "he yells and is mean to mommy". (He berated me at a pre-k parent teacher open house in front of all of our daughters and the teacher, on my oldest daughter's birthday. It was traumatic and happened 5 months AFTER we were divorced.) And I think he has figured out I could use that against him in any potential custody reassessment. He has already moved his former mistress into the house he shares with my girls (we have 50/50 custody). I have moved on myself, with a wonderful man who actually was the catalyst for my leaving my ex in the first place. My new partner has been amazing and is truly a life saver, and has helped me so much in healing and to see that there are decent, wonderful men out there still. He is my rock.

I've been in lots of therapy, and in general think I'm moving forward, and know I did the right thing and hope that eventually the girls will be okay. (they actually seem fine except for a few very weird dysfunctions he is throwing at them like sharing way too much adult information with the seven year old and trying to get her to make him feel better about things.)

But I"m having a lot of serious problems with flashbacks - and memories I think I repressed for years... They come back randomly, hijack my mind, and I actually feel the feelings I either felt or should have felt at the time. He was never physically abusive, but remembering things he said feels like it is re-traumatizing me and setting me back periodically.

 

Has anyone dealt with this part? I've tried meditation, deep breathing, calling a support person, all of that. but the memories keep coming. If you've dealt with it, how long does it last? Is there anything that can help calm it down?

I'm about to have to quit my job because I simply cannot focus or remember important things. Fortunately I have parents who can financially support me for a period while I try to get through this, and I am so grateful for that, but it's so hard to feel like I'm falling apart, just as I should be growing stronger. I got out - and it was the hardest thing Ive ever done, and I know it was the right thing to do. I didn't expect this aftermath.

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Quaddie

Yes, and in fact I'm still experiencing this, as I just recently got out of two additional consecutive highly abusive situations (not relationships). Before that, there was another, and another, and another.... lol

I've experienced a ton of abuse from a ton of different directions and people throughout life. 

What I'm finding now is that, even when you think you've got an understanding of it and you're okay.... it turns out there are layers, and more layers of the way you feel and experience what happened. And that these new "layers" can appear years (or decades) later.

You're just out a few months. It's normal to still be having a tough time... So try to be gentle with yourself and kind and caring with yourself. Treat yourself like you are a child you are comforting. Tell yourself that it's okay to feel upset. I like to curl up with a thick blanket around me and watch certain types of tv shows and just let them make me cry...  nice, soothing beverages like tea or coffee or hot chocolate (Offer yourself a warm beverage! :D) Eat caramel scones. 

I think there is no way out except through. 

Instead of quitting, maybe you can take a leave of absence? Mental health is just as important as any other kind. Trying to do too much while you're experiencing this stress can make you physically ill - it changes the chemicals in the body.

I have gone through the "falling apart" several times - each time different - for different situations. 

You MUST be easy on yourself. Don't think "I should be growing stronger." Nope, you "shouldn't." There's no "should" here. It's entirely normal to be experiencing the memories and flashbacks and a whole slew of emotions after you get out. It's sort of like a detox.

In fact, it's probably helpful to think of it that way. Being in abusive situations is like being on toxic drugs that harm you. You were in that situation a long time. A LOT of stuff happened. It has an impact, not just on your conscious thoughts, but on your entire being. It conditioned you to think, act, feel certain ways. (And there may have been underlying reasons you got into this relationship in the first place...layers, layers, layers...)

So anyway, you quit the drug. But your body and your mind is still detoxing. Trying to alter your physiology and pathways to operate differently than they did while you were on that drug. Getting allllllllllll that toxicity out is a long, complicated process. It takes time. It takes as long as it takes. Everything has changed, and therefore everything has to change.

THEN - and you will know when - you can start getting healthier again. But if you just try to push it aside and hurry the process, you'll only be suppressing your psyche's way of trying to get healthier by dealing with all these things the way it needs to.

In the meantime, be as kind and healthful to yourself as possible. Nurture yourself like you're a little child that you need to comfort and take good care of. Check in frequently with yourself and ask yourself, "What do I need right now?" Eat as healthy as you can, but give into cravings (in moderation!) You have been sick. Being abused makes a person physically, mentally and emotionally unwell. Give it time. It takes time and it takes being kind and understanding to yourself.

So, back to the falling-apart thing. Sometimes one must fall apart in order to rebuild in a different way. If everything you knew and experienced was built on abuse and craziness, then there's no real solid ground to rebuild your psyche on. It's processing things and processing things and takes a lot of energy and it's upsetting, but it's just a normal part of the process.

Now that you're "safe," your self-ness knows it's okay to go through this.   I truly believe in thinking of yourself as the little child who needs comforting, and then nurturing yourself the way you'd treat a hurt child. Tell yourself (out loud if it helps), "It's okay. It's okay to feel this way." Hug yourself, if it helps. Pat and stroke yourself like you would the child who needs comforting. Tell yourself things like, "You took a shower today - that's great! I know it's hard, but you're doing okay." <-- yes, talk to yourself that way, inwardly or out loud. I swear it helps. Give yourself the validation and comfort you lacked all those years. Give yourself the care and nurturing and attention you deserve. 

All those other things - meditation, breathing, etc. - they're support techniques, but they can't magically fix or hurry what you have to go through. 

For some people, medications can help with all this, too. However, I'm not a believer in medicating if it will suppress the important parts of the process. You might feel better, but there still would be a lot of "stuff" to sort through that doesn't get properly attended-to. Also, in my opinion, there's something very self-negating in medicating in order to suppress the natural process and response to harm. Like "soldiering through" despite the gunshot. You might keep walking, but later down the line, you'll find the wound didn't heal properly and you bled more and got infected because you ignored it in the meantime.

I've got a lot of experience in "soldiering through." It can't last forever. The falling-apart is important. It's part of the process, and normal. It takes as long as it takes. You mustn't put pressure on yourself to speed it up, or feel like you are somehow failing or "bad" - because you "should be" getting stronger. Again, there's no "should be." You are however you are.

You may even find that once this is done, you're not exactly the same person you were going in. That's okay, too. You probably never had the chance to actually become yourself. You were so busy dealing with, strategizing, focused on the abusive dynamic (even when it didn't necessarily "feel like" you were - you still were!)...   You may find, after some of the layers come off, that you may not even really know who you are in some respects. You may think you do - you may be operating "as if" you are the person you feel you're "supposed to" be - but it may not match who you truly are inside.  That's a deep, deep layer. There's a lot of dimension to it. It's deceptive, it tries to fool you into thinking you know - because it's easier to navigate life that way. It gives you certain "rules" to live by. But it's not necessarily the deep, authentic truth.

Anyway. It's normal, it takes as long as it takes, and you are fine and good and be kind to yourself. ;)

Some books I like re: this:

"Healing Your Emotional Self" by Beverly Engel

"There Is Nothing Wrong With You" by Cherie Huber (There's a bit of spiritual stuff in there, but it still 'works' even if you ignore all that.)

P.S. Being kind to yourself also includes eating healthy foods and trying to get exercise. Just a brief walk, if you can bring yourself to do it. You may want to look up foods that naturally increase endorphins, such as dark chocolate and brussel sprouts. Take long showers and pretend you're in a spa, caring for yourself gently like you're a treasured customer. Get sunshine - even stand out in the sun doing nothing for at least 10 minutes a day. It gives you Vitamin D and you need that. Too much sugar can make you feel worse. ALSO eat a good breakfast that includes protein every morning. I found a huge difference in just doing that. I used to just have toast with butter and jelly, there was a direct and clear connection with mood when I had a better breakfast. 

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tendrils

Sick and Tired 

ive not posted on here for a long time now ,but still look in ,and felt compelled to reply to you about this .

You did such a brave and good ,and enormous thing for yourself,and your children .

I can relate to what your describing about .

It happens to me a lot ,on the face of it I’m ok  as far as people see ,but I get railroaded often with random memories and flashbacks . Usually in bed before I’m properly awake and my mind is drifting . 

You’re doing great ,give yourself credit for the monumental changes you have made ,oh and listen to Quaddie ,she always ‘just gets it ‘

Quaddie 

Your elequence and insightfullness continues to astound me .

The effort you put into explaining painful and troubling feelings is unique .

Thankyou ,it’s helped me today to read what you have said to Sick and Tired .

I wish you had not had a life of horrid abusive situations .

In the end it’s only kindness that matters .

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Sickandtired

Thank you Tendrils - I have a very hard time when I first wake up on days I don't have the girls for that very reason, it's a troubling way to start the days.

Thank you Quaddie - for that incredibly thoughtful and insightful reply. I struggle with shutting out echos of his voice in my head, which tell me things that are exactly opposite of the gentleness you describe. I have read it and re-read it several times. I have always been an "Olympic-level emotion shut out" type after so many years in this relationship, and it is so foreign to me to be feeling so many extreme emotions in such quick succession. I feel unbalanced and fragile, and it is so different than I've always felt.

Because I used to feel nothing. I wouldn't let myself feel things because that would mean really seeing things how they were, and that terrified me.

I'm relieved to know it's "normal" and I think it's time for me to just finally give myself permission to actually fall apart, instead of trying to manage that process too.

It scares me when I have flashes of extreme anger at him - not related to anything currently other than the complete unfairness of having to share custody of the girls, and the position that puts them in for half of their lives. I have never been an angry person - I couldn't even muster up true anger when I found out about his affairs - I squashed that too. So now to feel this intense anger bubble up in me at random times, I have no idea how to deal with it and it just makes me that much angrier that I feel this way.

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lizzibethak

I am over 2 years out............and still have flashbacks at times, but the physical nausea, anxiety, racing pulse is mostly gone now. 

When I feel the flashback coming, I usually let my mind take me there but the anger is diminishing now and I usually feel relief/release once I've processed the memory..........like "Oh thank you Lord...........I'm not there anymore...........I am safe now and my life is peaceful and good........and my family loves me and respects me because I am genuine and care about them." 

My extended family has watched me over the last 2 years to see if I am the witch/b&&&&/uncaring/selfish/unfeeling person I was portrayed as...........and they are seeing that HE is still the one who is broken but I am the one who has thrived and has tried to mend relationships and be a step-mom/grandmother

You'll get through this...........it takes time.  You've come so far.........the peace is coming.

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Quaddie

Thank you for the kind words you guys...it's nice to be validated, especially when hearing so much of the opposite... :-\

Being that person who shuts things out and powers through does make it more difficult to even learn to hear one's own voice and one's own needs. That's why I liked "Healing Your Emotional Self" - it talks about learning to tune into the self.

Dealing with abuse for a long time conditions a person to shut down their own self and needs, even while you feel like you're being "strong." It's actually self-denial.

I also like books about boundaries - it's super-relevant, too. One I like is "Boundaries: Where You End and I Begin" - but there are others, too.

 

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percolate

You'll get through this. A counselor might be able to give you some ideas about how to cope with your flashbacks. 

It's not unusual once you're safe and beginning to move forward, to begin to feel feelings you've repressed and to have memories surface.  My therapist had me write a letter to him and read it to her (and not send it to him) about my feelings and the problems he caused me. It was very cathartic to write-once I started writing, that's all I wanted to do (and I avoided some of the professional writing I needed to do while I was writing that letter).  I was amazed at all the memories and feelings that came tumbling out. I think I wrote 10 single-spaced pages and I was only married about two years.  Once it was done, I spent several sessions reading and discussing it with my therapist.  It really made a huge difference and allowed me to concentrate again.

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Wileykit

Tendrils and sickandtired, it's interesting you both mentioned it's the worst when you awake. I am a month out of my 5 year relationship and mornings have been brutal for me. I often have dreams, they are sometime good, sometime bad, reliving the horrific abrupt way he discarded me. I wake up with it on my mind and it's awful. I'll often wake up in a sweat. Even when I think I'm ok my mood can change without anything happening. One minute I'm sad, then angry. I'm new to this but it sounds like an unavoidable part of healing. I'm trying everything I can think of to keep busy and keep my mind off of it. Wish there were a magic wand we could wave or a way to remove the memories.

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Quaddie

I was thinking about that, too. How for me, when I'm waking but still in bed, is when a lot of things come to me. (It's not just memories, sometimes they are ideas, things I need to do, etc.) But it's like this in-between world where I'm awake, but the memories and feelings about what people have done to me and hopelessness is just unbearable. It fills me up. 

It gets better as the day wears on, for me, distractions help, but my situations are different from relationship ones so they have great impact on all aspects of my life and can't really escape it.

But that waking time, it seems like a different brain-state. It's hard to pull out of. It's interesting to know that others experience that, too.

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whitebutterfly11

This thread is full of incredible counsel and insight! 

One thing to add about anger: Anger is a good indicator that you are healing. We have to be in somewhat of a safe place to even feel anger at all, let alone express it--especially if we were never allowed/too oppressed to show it before out of fear of retribution. Then when it comes up, it can feel foreign, a bit alarming even. Anger is that part of our healing that reminds us that we have a right to feel righteous indignation toward the people who have unjustly mistreated us. It is an important, even critical part of our healing process that helps us step beyond our oppressive state into a more empowered one where we are allowed to have our own voice.

I hesitate to even call it anger because there is a stark difference between the anger abusers use frequently, which is impulsive and intended to cause pain, and the anger that survivors of abuse feel once they realize what they've lived through. What we describe as anger is often the emergence of our own voice, which, up to that point, had been stifled and dismissed. It's the emergence of our own unique sense of self, of our ability to feel and own our feelings, and the distinction of our independence. When we've lived in abuse with a person who believes we are an extension of himself, it takes distance and time to realize that we are allowed to have ourselves, including all the feelings and perceptions that come with our independence. 

Things that help to express our voice:

- Writing out feelings when they come up

- Talking it out with a counselor or a trusted person

- Exercise, creative endeavors, any kind of unique expression

- Speaking out against injustice 

The main point is that you are allowed to have all of your feelings because they are relevant, they are part of your healing and processing, and it's okay to feel them. Being angry at an abuser is UNDERSTANDABLE and HEALTHY. It's okay to acknowledge that what he did was not okay, and you have every right to be outraged at the way you were treated. This is such an important step in healing from abuse, and it's normal to go through periods of anger toward the abuser. 

Sit with the feelings. Acknowledge them when they come up, from a mindful place. See what information they have to teach you. 

 

 

 

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Fluffyflea

It's normal what you are going through.

Im mourning the loss of my son now and also having trouble with the end of an abusive relationship which ended before my son passed. 

I still have feelings of intense anger towards the Abusive,Cruel, Malignant Narcissist and sometimes I feel really badly about myself because of the abuse I suffered. The abuse was really subtle at times and really blatant at times. Karma is b$&ch and he'll get his.

The best I can say is go through the anger rather than fight it.

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