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Success after a bad relationship(6 Posts)
Only my second post so I’m not entirely sure that I’ll have posted in the right area.
It might sound silly but I was looking for some success stories. A few months ago, I left an abusive relationship, with my toddler, after it all finally became too much and I realised that it was having an impact on our child and that I was feeling fearful every day. Until this week, I have been largely dealing with it all. I have sudden waves of huge anxiety, panic and fear but I am doing my best to get help and work through that and make practical plans. This week has been a particularly tough one and I guess the reality of the situation has finally hit me.
Sounds a bit silly but I was hoping that some of you might be able to fill me will some hope after leaving a bad relationship. Hope about the future after an abusive relationship whether it’s success in healing, friendships, relationships, careers, achieving goals etc. It’s cliché but having been in such a bad relationship and having been a SAHM for the past few years I’ve lost quite a lot of confidence and am worrying that our future will be bleak and that I’ll always be and feel like this. Thank you xx
Why do you call it a bad relationship rather than an abusive relationship?
That despair and hopelessness you are feeling is because you're (very freshly) traumatised. Despair is a symptom of trauma. As the trauma heals you will be able to feel hopeful again.
It might help to frame your feelings of fear/despair about the future as the temporary result of your trauma rather than some giant immoveable mountain.
A few months is very recent still. I know it feels crap but those waves of emotion that have started are a really good sign - it means your brain is finally starting to process everything you have been through, which will lead to your brain being able to process it and then eventually file it all away in the archives and heal.
When you were living with daily abuse your brain has to shut down the feeling and processing in order to focus on basic survival. It is good that you are safe and stable enough for your brain to switch off survival and switch on feeling/processing.
Try not to push it all away, because that will block your brain from recovering, just be gentle and caring to yourself as you go through it.
What support have you had to help you with making sense of things and rebuilding your boundaries / sense of what is normal? Freedom Programme?
Have you had any information on healing from trauma to help you understand what you're going through and how to take care of yourself?
It will take some time, but this raw processing stage is your foundation for the future. It will get better.
@user187428496 Thank you very much for your reply, I really appreciate it. I frequently use the term bad relationship, I think I probably just feel so embarrassed about everything that’s happened and I hate to think of myself ‘playing the victim’ (something that my ex hammered into me a lot, I guess).
The point you made about the waves of emotion starting being a good sign has given me a huge wave of relief. I think, until this point, I didn’t really know what was going on in my mind. Each of my previous attempts at leaving had resulted in overwhelming and horrendously crushing despair and panic that drove me back because I felt I couldn’t cope. This time, I’ve just felt numb and continued to function as I would. I guess I’ve been waiting for it to really hit home.
I tried to speak to my GP and they sent me to talking therapies who have sent me for CBT, as my anxiety scores were too high for regular counselling. My counsellor has advised that I probably need regular counselling at this time. I’ve heard of the freedom programme, and was offered it whilst I was in the relationship, but I wasn’t sure if this is something you can do retrospectively?
I’ve done some reading and bought a book but a lot seem to focus on identifying as opposed to the healing side of things.
Thank you for message, it definitely has given me hope that this can be a temporary feeling.
I am glad that has brought you some comfort. It can be a scary and overwhelming time. There is a lot of focus on persuading/supporting women to leave, but not enough on supporting them through the aftermath.
I asked about your language because I wondered if you were feeling ashamed or struggling to feel you had the right to call the abuse what it was. Your hesitation is natural after abuse - shame comes with trauma, and there's that element of undoing the way he trained you to behave and removing his voice from your head. You are not "playing the victim" (you are objectively a victim of his abuse, it's a simple fact, and there is no shame in it).
I appreciate it is tough to talk about but if you can use that one word label of "abuse" it can help professionals to help you - it gives them a key to better understanding your needs and responding in the right way. Unfortunately, not everyone will be able to connect the dots in what you're telling them if you don't use that word.
You don't need to feel embarrassed, although I know the feelings won't go away just because I said that - my lasting impression from reading those brief snapshots of your story was of your courage. Leaving abuse is not easy. You are doing something amazing that shows great strength, even if you don't feel strong.
It is good you have been referred for CBT. Counselling is not a recommended treatment for trauma (there is a risk of it preventing the brain from processing properly). My only pause is whether they assessed you for PTSD or if they only assessed for anxiety? It's important to get the right treatment from the right person and for that you need the right assessment. If they don't appreciate you are traumatised they might not approach things in the right way for you.
Freedom Programme is information not therapy, so you can absolutely do it after leaving if you feel ready and want to try it. The aim is to help you make sense of your experiences by learning about the dynamics of abusive vs healthy relationships as well as early warning signs and how abuse affects you. It can give you a model for healthy relationships and covers how children are affected and how they recover.
As you have left the relationship you already know it was abusive, but the course might help you to have more confidence in your own judgement about what happened, to re-establish a sense of what is normal and how you deserve to be treated, and to start developing skills to keep yourself safe and have healthy relationships in future. The knowledge it could give you may also help you feel a little more hopeful about the future.
I imagine covid will prevent the groups from running for a while which is a shame as they can be very supportive, but the online course is there in the interim. www.freedomprogramme.co.uk
I don't want to bombard you with trauma resources, so I have picked 3 that might be useful starting points for you to explore and find things that work for you and make sense to you.
- Judith Herman's book, Trauma and Recovery. It explains how abuse affects people and also what the recovery process looks like. I think it's on Audible now (you could get it with the free trial if you don't have an account).
- David Emerson's Recovering from Trauma through Yoga. It is a shorter, lighter read than the first book, covers some of the same info and has practical things you can try. It's not yoga in the sense of perfect positions, stretches and routines but in the sense of reconnecting with your body and feeling in control again. There is research that suggests that connecting with your body after trauma can start to soothe your nervous system and help with healing. (You could also Google his name and "trauma sensitive yoga" as there is a website with info and some video clips too).
- This is an NHS "psycho-education" booklet on trauma that gives some basic information on what trauma is, how it might be affecting you, and suggests some strategies you can try. My one caveat is that PTSD from prolonged abuse has a bit of a different footprint compared to PTSD from a single incident, so not all of it will necessarily "fit" what you're going through but hopefully some of it might still be helpful and enable you to develop a few strategies. www.selfhelpguides.ntw.nhs.uk/merseycare/leaflets/selfhelp/post20traumatic20stress.pdf
I hope at some point you are able to feel proud of yourself for the incredible thing you have done and your courage in building a better future for you and your child. I really do wish you all the best.
Yikes, that was a bit long. I just wanted to try and offer a few resources that look more at the healing side of what you're going through and what your brain is doing.
@user187428496 I’m sorry for such a slow reply, it has been one of those weeks. I really, truly appreciate the time that you put into replying to me and for all of the information you provided. I’m going to try and work through the recommendations you’ve made this week. Do you mind me asking if this is something you have personal or professional experience of yourself?
I definitely seem to be reading a lot about letting yourself feel the full emotions of the relationship and it’s end in order to fully process it and be able to move forward. I’m definitely finding a lot of comfort in reading various bits of information, at the moment, regarding healthy strategies in order to try to deal with emotions and move forward. I’ve been offered the freedom programme so I shall contact them and ask to enrol this week. Thank you again for all of your help.
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