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Out of abusive relationship but struggling to look back at the time and remember anything.

(138 Posts)
Fightingback16 Sun 29-Mar-20 10:08:05

I’m not sure where to post those, it’s about mental health but created from abusive relationship.

I was in the relationship for 11 years. I left a year ago but the realisation has only happened a few months ago. I now know I had a couple of breakdowns over the years, followed by a big one which pushed me to leave him. I never went back or had any feelings my of going back. Then a few weeks ago because of the realisation of what happened to me I was heading for another breakdown. It’s passed, I know longer am in crisis.

What I feel though is strange. I can’t seem to be able to look back over the 11 years and remember anything, it feels like it was someone else. Yesterday really stupidly I looked back on my Facebook wall at the posts and pics I did over those years and I don’t really recognise them, it makes me feel anxious because I can’t get to it in my brain. Is this normal, is it just my brains way of saying we don’t know how to process what’s happened so we hide it from you. I don’t want to go poking around in my brain if it will cause me to hurt myself. I’m through the other end but I feel odd. It’s like it happened but didn’t happen. Do I just draw a line, accept that I’ve lost a big chunk of memory. I was in survival mode and it feels like by brain was switched off. My brain hasn’t really recorded any memories but it knows that it wasn’t nice.
I hope this makes sense.

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pog100 Sun 29-Mar-20 11:51:08

I'm sorry you haven't got any replies OP, maybe because few, like me, don't feel qualified to advise on mental health problems.
My take on it would be that you have very recently come out from a horrendous 11 years and your brain needs a rest. I can imagine the symptoms you mentioned are upsetting but I think you just need to give yourself lots of time and TLC. Just concentrate on living a good life for yourself now, and I think the memories will come back gradually.
I've no idea if I'm right but I do get the feeling that getting anxious about them as you are isn't going to help.
Good luck, it sounds like you have had a hard time.

4amWitchingHour Sun 29-Mar-20 11:59:17

I've found I've lost loads of memories from the time of my five year abusive relationship (ended six years ago now) - they used to be so vivid. I think I'm probably repressing stuff, but like you don't want to go poking around in my brain to bring it back to the surface as I'm generally fine. I do get triggered by some situations though, so I think counselling is inevitable for me at some point to properly deal with it, just not sure when I'll be brave enough to do it - I'm scared I'll fall apart.

Hope you're doing ok - well done for getting out thanks

Fightingback16 Sun 29-Mar-20 12:08:31

It’s very uncomfortable knowing that there is a really large space of time unaccounted for. It’s like I’ve just popped out of something and I’ve got greyer and older and with a child. I know it was me who went through it. I guess it feels very disassociated but I know instinctively it was bad. I’m thinking my brain can’t deal with it at the moment so I should just leave it for a while. It’s hard in these times as getting help and advice is different.

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Fightingback16 Sun 29-Mar-20 12:09:11

Difficult not different!

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WriteHon Sun 29-Mar-20 12:43:58

I've just read your message, and am responding to it not because I have any particular expertise, but because I don't want you to feel unnoticed or disregarded.

I have experienced depression, and I've realised that when I've recovered from an episode, there are blanks in my memory, as though my brain wasn't able to face up to everything that happened.

You seem to have a good handle on what might have occurred - you talk about being in survival mode, and your brain being switched off.

We know our brains are hugely complex organisms - do you think yours might be running in 'protective mode' at the moment, and the memories will return when you're ready to deal with them?

You have obviously managed to survive a dreadful time. Although you say you are no longer in crisis, I really think you would benefit from receiving some sort of therapy, where you can unwrap your experiences in a safe way. (Other people might be able to suggest how you can go about that at the moment.)

All the very best. I am only a stranger on the Internet, but I will be thinking of you.

Madickenxx Sun 29-Mar-20 13:10:18

Hi, I'm no expert but I think it is fairly normal with PTSD that your brain blocks out painful memories. I came out of a 23 year abusive marriage last year and I have whole years that I can't remember much from. Things like holidays that I know we went on because of the photographs but I can't remember or only remember snippets. A flat we lived in when he was particularly abusive, we lived there a year but I can only remember very few moments many of which are triggering. Another flat where I can remember things that happened but not look back on them if that makes sense, eg I know I overdosed on painkillers at one stage and was taken to A&E. I know this happened but can't associate it with something that happened to me. Having been out of it for 18 months now some memories are returning but some I suspect are forever lost and I'm not sure it's a bad thing.

Writing helped me and talking about it. Mainly building a happy life for me and the kids have been the most helpful to help me process things and move on. I still have physical reactions to certain triggers and I don't always know why but I try to listen to them and cut myself some slack when it happens. thanks

Summerhillsquare Sun 29-Mar-20 13:22:01

I have experienced similar. Long periods of time with no real memories of doing and being. I mean, I know where I was but not a real experience.

kitk Sun 29-Mar-20 13:30:16

You're not alone OP. I can't remember loads of my abusive relationship. My mum tells me stuff and I'm sure she's right but I can't remember at all! You'll also notice at some point that what you do remember you try to see from his POV which is actually worse. Just bear in mind the brain does what it needs to do to recover from trauma and that it won't always be this hard

Fightingback16 Sun 29-Mar-20 13:30:24

It’s sending me into a panic. A few weeks ago I was trying to sort out lawyers stuff and a non-mol and it sent me into an absolute crises. I was writing down the history for the non-mol and it felt like a story, I felt nothing, it was a horrible feeling, I couldn’t associate that it was me. Then it got me thinking I don’t even know who me is. I kind of spiralled unto I stopped it by grounding myself. Last night I was just casually going through my Facebook which I knew I shouldn’t have, was reading my posts and pictures and I don’t recognise any of it really. Also all the baby photos where I’m holding my daughter it feels so distant. It’s a really uncomfortable feeling.

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Fightingback16 Sun 29-Mar-20 13:32:14

I’m glad I’m not alone, but not glad that you’ve all felt the same.

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ToBreatheAgain Sun 29-Mar-20 18:04:12

There is a dissociative subtype of PTSD in the DSM5. I'm not qualified, just read about it in searching out information on complex PTSD and reading your OP made me think of it. This is abstract from a medical journal on dissociative PTSD: pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29063485/

Whether its PTSD or depression or something else, If what you went through is causing you to struggle mentally then it may be worth getting counselling at some stage.

Fightingback16 Sun 29-Mar-20 19:16:44

I’m unsure having no experience of anything apart from what he told me over the years of what is normal. I understand the brain protects you from what it can’t process and some things are just too awful to ever understand. I just wonder if I need to just accept that I won’t get to those places. Do I just start from now and let that time disappear? I don’t have different personalities or anything. I was a person for 11 years who was surviving and now I don’t need to so do I just let it go? I know when thoughts come into my head that I didn’t like it because I feel the anxiety and pain but I don’t necessarily remember why.

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12345kbm Sun 29-Mar-20 20:39:25

OP your mind can't cope right now with the enormity of what happened to you so you've been numbed. Do you feel empty of emotion, numb? Your body is full of natural tranquillisers in order to help you survive as you are deeply traumatised. You simply wouldn't be able to cope with it.

Just stop. Don't struggle and go with it. When you feel these uncomfortable feelings, just calmly acknowledge them without trying to push them away or shove them back down. You are going to need therapy in order to help process this and you'll know when, as you will seek it out.

Focus on your breathing. You'll notice that you're shallow breathing or holding your breath. A few deep breaths, just concentrate on breathing .
You may start to experience flashbacks where you are suddenly flooded with a memory as though you are actually experiencing it and that is part of post traumatic stress disorder. You can find information online on how to ground yourself when this happens.

You may start to experience panic attacks as well where it feels as though you can't breathe and are having a heart attack.

Sometimes, when we are experiencing something traumatic we disassociate. It's where we are inside our bodies, looking out but aren't there. It's difficult to describe but it's a defence mechanism.

Fightingback16 Sun 29-Mar-20 23:06:55

Thanks that makes a lot of sense. All of that is happening to me. Talking about it at the freedom programme and writing about it has made it all very real, before that I had kind of forgotten/was still under Husbands control even though I left a year ago. Once I stopped contact and he stopped feeding me after a couple of months its all hit home. And you are right, all at once it’s too much to handle. Its not even that he hurt me physically, a long time ago he pushed me into the wall but it was all threats of violence mostly. He put lots of traps on me leaving and worked very hard on my mental state. He sucked my life out of me. It’s very hard to find a balance as I’ve stopped child contact for good reasons but he is obviously not happy. I’m waiting all the time for him to come to where I’m staying and kick off. He’s not been for a few weeks, the last time he tried bashing the door, shouting outside. Then emailing me and apology, what I’ve been told was a load of coercive crap (I couldn’t read it). I don’t feel guilty or want to go back it’s just it’s a lot to deal with.

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Fightingback16 Sun 29-Mar-20 23:10:39

...and yes I feel numb, I hate this feeling. I can’t get a rise out of myself. I used to be a designer and full of life and colour. I was innocent and loving and compassionate and he has taken this from me, it makes me cry to think about it. He was so dark and scary and he took my light. I just hope I can get passed this and find some light again.

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12345kbm Sun 29-Mar-20 23:20:28

The Freedom Programme is triggering you but, you're coming back OP. You're coming back into yourself and suddenly actually feeling it and it's hitting you like a hammer. When you were living it, it was just getting through each day; surviving. You were living under constant terror and your mind shut down in order to protect you.

If you're finding the Freedom Programme too much right now, then perhaps stop temporarily. However and most importantly, the abuse hasn't stopped. You're still living under constant threat and you need to take that last hurdle, gather all your strength and put something in place in order to keep him away from you OP.

I would advise you to get to a refuge where he doesn't know where you are. I know it's a big step but at the moment, there's nothing keeping you where you are and being around supportive people, knowing you're safe may be the best thing for you.

You can then sort out the injunctions for when you come out but you'll be able to wake up each day knowing he can't get to you. That's what you need right now.

Fightingback16 Sun 29-Mar-20 23:29:57

Would be amazing to wake up and know he wouldn’t come because he doesn’t know where I am. But he would still come and harass the person who I’m living with to find out and unfortunately they can’t be on there own at the moment due to this virus.

I’m actually starting to get sick of always having to put others before myself. Duty and care and none of these people ever ask me if I’m ok. I’m having to bite my tongue at the moment and my the end of this pandemic I’ll have no face left. I’m sick of being nice, I don’t even want to be nice right now.

Not sure if this is part of the process but nice little me wants to rip everyone’s heads off (not that I would)!

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12345kbm Sun 29-Mar-20 23:37:46

If you can't leave then sort out the injunctions and have him arrested if he comes near you. You are at your most vulnerable right now. I know it's really hard and I know you're suffering but you really have to get those injunctions in place now.

Have you had any support from a Domestic Abuse organisation? Have you worked out a safety plan?

MsPepperPotts Sun 29-Mar-20 23:39:30

I can understand your situation OP.
To cut a long story short. I had symptoms of PTSD from exh's extreme emotional and physical abuse which carried on after for a further 2years after I left him mainly due to me being taken in by his flip flopping behaviour and me not knowing what games he was playing as I was in such poor health by that time.
I eventually suffered a Transient Global Amnesia attack where I lost all my short term memory and had no recollection of who I was for about 7hours.
It was brought on by extreme stress. As a result I have a very poor memory and can only remember vague details of what happened in the time I was with him(6years)... It has also affected my short term memory and I no longer spend days worrying and being anxious as previously I was hypervigilent and in an extreme state of anxiety. A man's voice on the phone was enough to send me into a blind panic and I would put the phone down.
I also moved 3 times after I left him and the final time was into a secure apartment complex in another town 20 miles away which has made such a positive change to my peace of mind.
It's taken more than 10years to reach the point where I have actually got peace of mind and feel safe living alone.

12345kbm Sun 29-Mar-20 23:42:33

And yes. Absolutely 100% normal to be irritable and bad tempered. It's part of being traumatised. You're experiencing a whole range of emotions and will feel like you're going mad.

Look up ways to ground yourself. Keep telling yourself that it's temporary and you'll get through it, that it's perfectly natural to have those feelings after what you've been through.

Catch negative self talk. Don't repress it but notice it and perhaps talk back. Start repeating positive affirmations in order to counter all that negativity. This isn't hippy crap OP, it's really important stuff in order to start raising your self esteem and healing.

Fightingback16 Sun 29-Mar-20 23:49:12

Yes I have had support but it’s kind of dried up because of what’s going on. I’ve got everything in place should he come again. Hopefully the courts still accept this kind of thing by then. It’s just this constant feeling everyday. We go out for a walk , me and my daughter and I look for his car or people who look similar. He lives very close. I then wonder what I’d do if he approached me and I know I’ll freeze. It’s never feeling 100% safe, I’m still on look out. I’m still the women who like you say is abused and still need that mentally. I’ll never be free of him because we have a child. I’ll try my best to keep him away because he is a bad man and a bad father, he is not capable of love. When and if it comes to it the courts will have there say and he will come across as a perfectly ok man and me a mentally challenged women probably, but I’ll still fight him. How I will be able to without freezing I don’t know yet. Still so much to think about. I’m hoping that lock down will keep him away but I’m waiting for him to get bored.

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Fightingback16 Sun 29-Mar-20 23:52:11

My memory is terrible, it’s actually triggered a few panic attacks which I’ve managed to stop. I struggle to remember what I did yesterday and I didn’t understand why.

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Fightingback16 Sun 29-Mar-20 23:55:40

I can deal with the long wait to heal as long as I can convince myself that I will get there.
The way I feel sometimes is so god damn uncomfortable, there is no other way to describe it. I’ve actually stopped 3 massive waves of panic, mostly when I’m trying to sleep, by telling myself it’s ok it’s just panic and it will pass and it did much quicker. I know I panic at night because I used to when I led next to this man at night.

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12345kbm Mon 30-Mar-20 00:01:46

It's very common to wake up having panic attacks. You're doing the rights things by calming yourself down, telling yourself you'll get through it. Focus on the breath to ground yourself.

Get that Non Molestation Order put in place if you haven't already.

Domestic Abuse Organisations are open with workers working from home and keeping in contact for support. It may be an idea to contact the organisation so you know you have that support in place.

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