Leaving abuse behind will be one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences of your life. I promise. The years since I left my abusive husband prove to me that I am valuable, lovable, courageous, and capable of handling my affairs. It took time to relearn those things that I once knew, but not as long as you might think. My days of freedom now number 2 years, 7 months, and 28 days and I feel vastly different from the day I left him.
Leaving Abuse Physically
My abuser aided my clean break from abuse. He did not stalk me and showed up unannounced at my new home very infrequently. His phone calls were a beast to deal with, so I put an end to them almost immediately by refusing to answer when he called. I told him to only text or email me (but only because we have children together). When he did call, I didn’t answer the phone. When he showed up at my house, I didn’t let him inside – I met him outside, on the porch, where neighbors could see us.
Some people are not so lucky. When you leave, you may suffer stalking, harassment at home and work, nuisance court appearances, and worse. It is important that you protect yourself physically even if your abuser never laid a hand on you during your relationship.
Breaking up can cause abusers to break apart and commit acts you never thought they would do. Buying and carrying some form of pepper spray is a relatively safe way to protect yourself from surprise attacks. Change your locks, vary your routine, and tell your co-workers, family and friends what’s going on if you haven’t already.
“Do things differently” is your new motto! Your safety plan is still an important ally. Make sure you revise it after you leave your abuser (or create a plan if you didn’t do it before you left!).
Leaving Abuse Mentally & Emotionally
It is probably going to be tough to completely mentally and emotionally separate from your abuser. You may be plagued with uncontrollable, recurring memories or nightmares. Your mind, seeking its comfort zone, may tell you to go back to the relationship for any number of reasons. Your heart may break because the relationship you hoped for will never come to be. If your abuser fights to get you back, they will apologize, admit their mistakes, tell you they can’t live without you, and sing all the wonderful tunes you hoped for during the relationship.
Do not fall for your mind, heart, or abuser’s tricks. Your thoughts will un-knot themselves. The feelings will pass in time. Your abuser will move on to fresh victims. You and everything you’ve come to know will change for the better – except for your abuser. If you do things differently – think, feel, believe, and behave differently – you will succeed in overcoming the remnants of the abuse.
It is important to accept that your abuser will probably never change. If they change after you leave, then that is great! But let them work out their issues without you. The damage from the past is too great to overcome. Even if your abuser turns into a genuinely loving person, you would always wonder when they were going to snap and revert to their old selves. You can’t recover from PTSD until you’ve left the war zone, and you can’t recover from the effects of abuse until after getting away from your abuser.
Leaving Abuse And Taking Care of Yourself
We hear the advice “Take care of you” everywhere. Most abuse victims think they have taken care of themselves, but it’s not until leaving that we realize that we really don’t know how to do it. I once thought taking care of myself meant analyzing my issues and being a better person because relaxing, listening to music, reading books and the like didn’t give my mind a rest. Whenever I “took care of myself” back then, I felt guilty.
Something wonderful happened when I wasn’t under the constant pressure of abuse. When I no longer felt stuck in a waiting period or in defense mode or wondering how long my abuser’s good mood would last, I found a lot of time on my hands that was guilt free! I found myself singing in the car, dancing in front of the mirror, laughing at silly jokes, and enjoying my time with my children. Truly enjoying and living my life with no guilt.
After you leave your abuser, you will enjoy finding out how you like to relax. If you try to chill and find that you cannot, play my sister’s hypnosis mp3, Detaching From Abuse, and it will help you diminish the memories and pain.
Leaving abuse is the very best thing you can do for yourself! The time and energy you gain will propel you toward a new life full of peace, love, and success. The changes will take time – a different amount of time for each of us – but they will happen. Others have left abuse and you can too! Continue to use your support group, therapist, friends, and your mind during the transition.