What a survivor experiences while in an abusive relationship does not go away as soon as the relationship has ended. While there may no longer be the threat of actual physical harm, the lasting effects from emotional, psychological, financial, sexual, and any other abuse that occurred can stay with a survivor for a long time. The amount of stress experienced while living with abuse takes time to fully understand and sort out. This may seem like a lot of work, but getting out of an unhealthy relationship is always worth it. There is not anything an abuser can give you that matters more than your health and safety.
The most basic steps to take after leaving an unhealthy relationships is to find a safe place to stay, cutting off contact (as completely as possible for your situation) with the abuser, and making sure you can support yourself and others that may be in your care. You will also want to surround yourself with people who care about helping you. Having a support system can look like many different things- your friends, family, joining a support group, getting a counselor or therapist, etc.- but they each can be incredibly helpful to you while you work through regaining your independence.
Do not blame yourself for any of the things that you experienced. Be kind to yourself and take time to do things that you enjoy, even if they seem unimportant or silly. Use positive language when thinking or talking about yourself, and remember that you are stronger than you may believe. When you’re ready, go out of your way to have new experiences and conversations with others. Healing will look a little different for everyone, so take your time and do not put unrealistic expectations on yourself. It’s normal for people who have experienced abuse to have certain drawbacks and hesitations about things that may seem very casual to others.
At the end of the day, you are in charge of the decisions you make. Being a survivor of domestic abuse does not have to define who you are. Do not be afraid to ask for help, talk about your experiences, or continue living your life. It may take some time before you feel completely safe or “normal”, but healing from any abuse is worth the effort. You can expect to live a happy, healthy life after leaving an abusive relationship.
If you or someone you know needs help, contact Peace at Home’s Crisis Hotline at 479.442.9811. We offer several different services, and can refer you to local resources as well.