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I feel as if I might be losing my mind… Am I going crazy?
The simple response to that question is: probably not. However, if you have experienced intense emotional pain and fear at the hands of someone who promised to love and cherish you, you may very well feel that way, and it is normal. If someone has been hurting you, (emotionally or physically) it’s likely you’ve experienced some level of trauma. Major types of trauma include: natural disasters (Hurricane Katrina), mass interpersonal violence (Boston marathon), car accidents, war, rape, partner battery, and child abuse.
All major traumatic events can shatter our basic assumptions about the world being a safe and somewhat predictable place. Domestic violence is unique because it involves a chronic experience of multiple traumas often layered on top of each other. Think of it as living in a constant war zone, and the war zone is primarily contained behind the four walls you refer to as “home.” The zone can spread to your place of employment, your children’s school, and family members’ houses, even if they live halfway across the country. Now everything you believed to be true about the world, your life and your partner no longer makes sense.
Repeated traumatic experiences, like those that occur with partner abuse, have the ability to overwhelm even the strongest of strong person(s) mentally, emotionally and physically. Survivors experience a broad range of trauma reactions, which can be difficult to manage.
Have you ever felt so tired it was hard to get out of bed? Or you couldn’t rest because your mind is racing? Losing your sense of humor, feeling nauseous, having a weakened immune system, and rapid heartbeat are just some of the ways your body may process trauma. Trauma can make everyday tasks overwhelming both psychologically and cognitively. Having a hard time concentrating? Does it feel as if your brain is in slow motion? Is it more difficult to make decisions? Are you more suspicious and less trusting than you used to be? Emotionally, you may find yourself experiencing shock, fear, guilt, shame, panic, sadness, hopelessness, anxiousness, and confusion. . When all of these trauma reactions happen together, think back to the question “Am I going crazy?”
Many survivors of domestic violence are confused when trying to make sense of how the person who pledged to love them, can abuse them physically, sexually and/or psychologically. Given the variety of reactions a trauma survivor experiences, it’s understandable how someone may feel that way. It is important to remember that trauma reactions are normal responses to the abnormal behavior or situation that you may be experiencing.
People respond to trauma in different ways. There are three general responses to trauma: 1) Re-experiencing events 2) Avoidance and 3) Increased arousal. Survivors report thinking about their experience when they don’t want to; standing in the grocery store line and suddenly thoughts of a recent fight can have their body re-living the event. Nightmares and flashbacks are also common forms of re-experiencing. Avoidance is another way to cope with the aftermath of a trauma: not answering the phone, not going out, detaching from friends and activities, or feeling disorientated like living in a dream or a movie that won’t end. Hyper-arousal responses take the form of panic attacks, difficulty concentrating and feeling constantly “on guard” or jumpy; on constant alert for danger. Early after a trauma, you may find yourself in a state of chaos and confusion. Trauma often changes people.
However, healing is possible. Survivors of trauma are strong and resilient. There are many things that assist in the healing process. First, re-establishing a sense of safety is critical. Develop a safety-plan for your emotional and physical safety. Second, seek out safe people to talk to about your experience. Sometimes talking with a licensed professional experienced working with domestic violence and trauma can be extremely helpful. If you are not sure what a safety-plan for emotional and physical safety looks like they or a domestic violence advocate can help you develop one tailored to your specific needs.
Third, is allowing yourself time to heal. Healing doesn’t happen overnight. Give yourself the time you need to process what happened to you and to develop new ways of coping. It’s important to pay attention to body cues and to practice self-care. Be gracious, patient, and compassionate with yourself. Trauma may change you, but it doesn’t have to define you. You can heal, and it is possible to come through the process healthier, happier, more self-aware and self-assured than before.
If you’ve experienced trauma and need a safe place to explore the aftereffects contact the Safe Nest 24 hr. hotline at 702.646.4981 or our counseling office at 702.877.0133. It’s a good place to start.
If you would like to assist a survivor healing from traumatic events resulting from intimate partner violence, consider donating your time, goods or money to Safe Nest to continue our work with victims. Please help make healing journeys continue to be possible for the countless victims affected by domestic violence.
I find myself so confused and torn day to day. I always feel tired and weak. I was once very motivated and independent woman and now I can't even find the want to get a job. If I am not sleeping next to someone, I am a tortured throughout the night by my "ghost". I am currently engeged to my abuser, and I can't find it in me to leave. He has done so much for himself trying to get better, and I have faith, yet lately my faith is dwindling. I'm better than the person I am being, and everyone around me knows it. Yet, I have lost friends and family in order to work things out with this man. I'm just so lost. This article was very helpful, and made me realize I have all the signs. I want to read more. Ugh. Thanks
(May 18, 2015 ~ 8:25 PM)
Mia, please contact our hotline at 702-646-4981.
(May 11, 2015 ~ 8:48 AM)
By Safe Nest
feeling like I'm going crazy too
At this moment and for a while now, I have experienced the repeated controlling techniques by my abuser. He drinks, acts controlling, selfish and expects me to do things for him even if I am not feeling well. I do what he asks because I don't want him to crash the car for example and blame it all on me. He has done this to a car I owned and laughed at me when the car was totalled. He does things carelessly so I will have to deal with the outcome. He even calls me "Momma" to which I told him hundreds of times, 'I am not your Momma". He just laughs. I have caught him staring at me blankly but eerily. I must leave him and most of everything I own soon because my money is running low. I do not know what else to do because my situation is worsening with each week as his actions and control is.