Living through an abusive relationship can leave its marks even when mostly you feel fine.
You could be going about your normal day, like today, and suddenly something could trigger a wave of shock and fear, panic symptoms starting to rise.
The thing about abuse is that it is insidious - it creeps in throughout the months and years and gradually desensitises you to your own perceptions. You are the abuser's greatest project. You don't know what is normal anymore. Their behaviour makes you doubt yourself and your ability to make good choices. Their voice that has told you over and over again that you're stupid, incapable, hard to love.
"Little moron" "Big nose" "There's nothing special about you"
Low level violence, pinches and pokes, sometimes grabbing you, all minor threats that demonstrate their superior strength. Making it your tendency to recoil from physical touch which then gets you punished in some way they haven't decided yet.
The abuser gets their power from these feelings of low self-esteem and dependency. It is how they thrive and maintain control.
Finally having the courage to leave can be cathartic. At first you may feel frightened, tired, then giddy, exhilarated. You finally did it! You see them for who they are, no longer will you be fooled by the two faces they change for their own amusement and power games. You're free to live the life you dreamed. Maybe you have somewhere lovely to live, friends and family around you, maybe you meet somebody you begin to love and start to believe that maybe everything could be alright.
You gain stride, gain confidence.
Then it could be something as simple as sorting out your finances at the beginning of the month, sorting out bills, and in an instant reminded of the way money was used as a power play as you were encourage to leave your job and then you lost control.
It could be an innocent joke made by somebody that has echoes of what your abuser used to taunt you with.
It could be a memory that you suddenly realise was a lie, or tainted with the manipulation and deception you only discovered later. Making the whole experience seem even more painful. You suffered, and for what?
It feels like an icy bucket of water being chucked over your head. The feeling of shock that this actually, really happened to you. Swiftly followed by a feeling of dissociation, floating away from your body and observing. This is how we survive in a perpetual state of stress. The ability to disengage, suppress your feelings, drift away.
Sometimes, it's anger. Realising that they got away with it. They suffered no repercussions from their behaviour that damaged you so irrevocably.
Remember how far you have come from that person who flinched at somebody's body language or tone of voice. The sense of dread at unlocking your front door, wondering what lay behind it. The constant battle in your head to find the perfect way to phrase a simple request so you wouldn't get automatically shot down. The constant tiredness from living in a state of fight or flight. You're still tired like somebody recovering from a long illness. You have nightmares sometimes and that's your mind's way of making sense of all that's happened.
You are learning what is normal behaviour and what is not, transitioning from living a life where you had no boundaries because they had been broken down.
Like an earthquake that leaves its tremors on the land and gradually dissipates, you have to believe that so will the aftershocks of your experience until the episodes are few and far between. You are beautiful, wiser, stronger and whole again.
(if you are living in an abusive situation please contact Women's Aid: https://www.womensaid.org.uk/ or ring 0808 2000 247)