PTSD and Domestic Violence: A Mixed Bag

This post is contributed by Stephanie March.

After living through domestic violence many survivors, myself included, suffer from the crippling grip of PTSD symptoms.  The intrusive flashbacks that can ruin even the sunniest of days.  The hyper-awareness that makes it almost impossible to relax.  The startle response to loud noises.  Bouts of anxiety and depression that make day to day functioning a challenge for many and impossible for some.  It’s a not so fun mixed bag of things I was left to carry and overcome.

believe in yourselfThis mixed bag is different for everyone.  As University of New England Professor Dr. David Prichard explains “It is important that social workers remember that no two trauma survivors will handle their abuse in the same way and that different resources will be required for each situation”.  It was absolutely crucial in my recovery process that I found the right social workers and therapists.  That I surrounded myself with people that understood my particular symptoms and the trauma that caused them.  This took quite a bit of time and it was often frustrating.

But I kept searching, knowing that I deserved to have a life with reduced symptoms.  I didn’t survive my relationship to become a victim to mental health issues.

Initially I collapsed under the weight of PTSD.  I couldn’t get up, I couldn’t fight back.  A majority of this was due to the long grieving process that I experienced.  Forget the five stages, it felt more like twenty.  Ed Shaw of Wake Forest University echoes these sentiments beautifully by stating that “Grief is more of a journey, and everyone’s journey is individual”.  It took time to come to a place of peace and healing.  It took time to let go.

Once I did, the mixed bag got a little less heavy. I was able to crawl out and get back up.  I learned to create my own arsenal of ways to rescue myself when the symptoms inevitably return.  Writing, talking to friends, listening to music, being outdoors, practicing yoga are all things that helped me tremendously.  I also can’t overlook the healing powers of having a loving pet around.  He’s my home base, my security blanket.

I would be lying if I said living with PTSD is easy.  I still struggle at times with nightmares and my moods can swing quite a bit.  I get nervous in social situations and the inability to control that completely makes me frustrated.  But, over time, these things have improved greatly.  I am able to put myself out there in situations that before I wouldn’t dare attempt.  I challenge my anxiety, and I’m so proud every time I conquer a new challenge.

I also learned how to fight back against the landslide of depression.  This has always been quite a problem for me but now I am armed with my arsenal.  My own mixed bag of ways to stop the landslide.  Self care is crucial for me and that’s the first thing I focus on when I feel the sadness creeping in.  When that doesn’t work, although it often does, I grab something else that tends to pull me out.

This is by no means a perfect picture of healing but it’s a pretty amazing one.  I still have bad days but I look at how far I’ve come and how much lighter the mixed bag of symptoms I was handed has become.  And I’m grateful.  So very grateful that I’m not still crushed under its weight. Grateful for every leap that looks to others like a baby step.

Recovery and reduction of symptoms is completely possible.  I believe it starts with a tiny word called hope and a giant mixed bag to combat the one you’ve been unfairly handed.  It’s an arsenal that only you can create.

I hope you never stop building yours.

 

Stephanie March is a writer, survivor, and advocate.   You can find her on Twitter and at her blog

 

 
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