Five Feelings in Domestic Abuse Recovery That Could Derail Your Healing

During Recovery from Abuse, Your Feelings Will Lie to You

Your abusive relationship warped the way you feel and think. Don’t worry, it will straighten out soon. But in the meantime, don’t trust every feeling you experience. Rely on your support network. Therapists, domestic violence groups, and people who have worked through trauma can help you decide if what you feel is telling you the truth. In time, with distance, you will recover your clarity. There’s nothing wrong with reaching out for help–ever.

It will feel strange to take care of yourself, but you must resolve to self-care, every day, due to scattered emotions and learning to process them. To self-care, you could:

  • Reinforce your support network. Include supportive family members, friends (online too), family members, local domestic violence program support groups, and the National Domestic Violence Hotline (the helpful volunteers there can help during and after leaving abuse).
  • Continue learning about all sorts of abuse — verbal, emotional, financial, spiritual, sexual, physical — all of them.
  • Learn ways to emotionally detach from your abuser.
  • Review your domestic violence safety plan and update your information, escape routes, etc.
  • Visit your doctor to check for depression or anxiety disorders like PTSD.
  • Learn to pray, meditate, and think without self-blame.
  • And, of course, find things you enjoy and do them. Write, draw, climb mountains, paint your bedroom, set up the bathroom for easy bubble baths, put on some makeup or stop wearing any at all. Anything that makes you feel good about yourself.

The self-care is important because you’re going to have many feelings buzzing around in your heart for a while. Here are five feelings in domestic abuse recovery that may come as a surprise.

5 Common Feelings in Recovery from Domestic Abuse


Your feelings in domestic abuse recovery may be very confusing. Discover five feelings that you may not expect in recovery and how to deal with them.

Fear is a proper and natural response after leaving your abuser (After Leaving Abuse: Dealing with Fear for Your Safety). It’s proper to fear what the abuser may do. Leaving, separating from the abuser, is a very dangerous, unpredictable time (Leaving Domestic Abuse Tips). Although your abuser never lifted a hand to you, it is impossible know what that person will do when losing a plaything (aka, a real, thinking human–you).

Fear Can Make You Go Back

Don’t let fear trick you into returning to your abuser (Leaving Abuse: Before You Go). Those anxious fears cause us to return to our abusers. In fact, the valid fears, left to run wild without a plan to counter them, often cause us to return, too. Remember the times you thought your abuser would change, so you stayed? Well, the abuser didn’t change. The abuse didn’t stop. In fact, the abuse got worse. The same will happen if you go back.

Joy, Elation and a Surge of Self-Esteem.

At some point in the first days or weeks of recovery, many domestic abuse survivors feel relieved and exhilarated. These beautiful feelings are well-deserved! Take some time to feel good about taking your freedom back.

Most of the anxious fears dissipate. It becomes easier to discuss your valid fears and to tweak your safety plans. You’ll feel sure that the future will be bright. Your self=esteem increases, and generally good things happen inside and out. The only downfall to these feelings is that they embolden you. Remember that being strong and happy cannot last if you return to the abusive relationship.

Grieving the Abusive Relationship.

You will grieve the abusive relationship, as strange as it may sound. It’s important to distinguish between grieving the future your relationship dangled in front of you. You will be grieving because the hopes and dreams you held close, frantically clung to, will never come to pass. This is normal. But you must distinguish grief that comes from broken dreams and grief over ‘losing’ the abuser.

When you think back, there are many lies and betrayals that took the place of promises and vows. You were never, ever going to have that dream relationship with your abuser. You were never to find peace, nor friendship nor true love with that partner. The future you grieve can become your reality only if you are not with that liar.

So, grieve because your family is breaking up, that your abuser was never the sweet person he or she presented to you. Go ahead and feel horrible that your partner lied to you and treated you so horribly.

But don’t mistake your grief for a want (or need) to take the abuser back. You must let that person go.


Just as the anxious fear dissipates, the soaring joy dissipates, too. Basically, life becomes normal. It’s something you always wanted, for sure. However, without the high or the low, you’re left with your new reality. You’re no longer controlled by your abuser, and grateful for that. But there remains a nagging self-doubt–you don’t know if all the freedom is good for you. You seem to make too many mistakes, some plans may crash and burn. Maybe the custody hearings aren’t going in your favor. Maybe your ex-partner harasses you.

On the other hand, you got a job. Found a home. Make enough money to keep the kitten you found. You received financial aid for college or the SNAP food stamp program granted aid. Maybe you are finally putting your dreams into action and seeing some success. Point is that the good and bad co-exist together, just as they always do. There is no emotional drama to distract you from the normalcy of living (Life with An Abuser vs Life with Freedom and Choice).

We aren’t drama junkies (typically, the abusers are the drama junkies), but without all the drama and stress of living in abuse, we just don’t know what to do with ourselves. It’s okay. It’s okay to flat-line as you recover from domestic abuse. Soon enough you’ll see which direction you need to turn to restart your recovery.

Depression and Anxiety. Maybe Complex PTSD.

Domestic abuse can cause mental illness. Ironically, the symptoms of depression can mimic he symptoms of domestic abuse. And remember the fear we discussed earlier? Well, it’s difficult to know if those anxious fears are really the result of an anxiety disorder such as PTSD or generalized anxiety.

Although the symptoms of depression, anxiety disorders, and PTSD can seem like a normal reaction to an abnormal situation, keep your eye on them. If your actions and reactions bother you or disrupt your life at all, it is time to see a doctor.

Recovery from Domestic Abuse Is Full of Emotion

Certainly there are more emotions that you feel after leaving your abuser. You can feel every emotion known to man in one day, from fear to love and back again. Sometimes you’ll feel so sad that you think you’ll surely die. But soon, very soon, you will remove yourself from the drama of abuse, and in so doing, free yourself to live, and love, as you see fit.

Top photo by Etienne Boulanger on Unsplash


  1. I am not surviving. every time pathetic thing I do dies promptly when he kills it. I can not think clearly enough to make choices to improve the broken incompetent person I am — panic attacks trying to feed myself, so I don’t eat. Panic attacks trying to find and pay bills that are months overdue, so I don’t pay them.

    The attacls I endure, when he “found out” for how long I have not paid bills. I used to take responsibility for all our finances.

    I discovered he was deeply in debt the week we came home from our honeymoon. (He had told me he had a substancial savings and no debt.) At the beginning of our marriage, he made all of the money in our joint account go somewhere I never discovered, and he let all the utilities get turned off. My landlord didnt’ believe me when I said I didn’t know the rent hadn’t been paid in two months. EVEN THOUGH I HAD PAID EVERY MONTH EARLY FOR YEARS! That is how I started my joyous life with the thing who is killing me.

    And I didn’t know to run! I knew I could manage our finances, and I did. Alone. For years. While I was degraded and gaslighted. Until I became the thing I am now. Crippled and dependent on a monster who told me yesterday that he was going to punish me by not feeding me. And today stated that he never said that. That he never would say such a thing.

    After years of doing all the cooking, cleaning, shopping, bill paying, taking care of our property, and cleaning up with less and less success after a monster who “accidentally” broke, damaged, or disappeared my / our things, I –what do you know — got crippled. And went from room to room sliding on my butt, because the pig bastard of death said a wheelchair was not an option. We could not “afford” to enlarge door, or get ramps. And every day it was my fault (because I was too fussy) that he would not make me a meal. I went down to 92 pounds, and saw a skeleton in the mirror, and knew I was going to die, and no one cared. Certainly NOT the pig bastard of death love of my life. Fifteen years ago.

    I lived. Well, my heart didn’t stop beating, just became erratic. I can’t take care of myself. I didn’t know to leave when I was young and healthy, and I don’t know how to stay alive alone now. I hate his guts… but I hate my pathetic, incompetent self more than anything else.

    Years ago, I had a locksmith change all the locks in my house and put all of his possessions out in the garage while he was at work. He went to the police and brought them to our house. They told me I was breaking the law and would be arrested if I didn’t let him in. They didn’t ask why I had done it, or offer any options. I let him in and death came along. I have pain, fear, rage, and terror. Hope does not live for long… he stomps it to death anytime it shows a glimmer.

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