Abuse Hides in the Dark. Turn on Your Light.

What Does Living with Domestic Abuse Feel Like?

Living with domestic abuse feels like you’re carrying around a 500-pound weight–except you don’t realize you’re carrying the weight. You don’t remember how much grander life felt before you picked up the weight, because adding it to your burdens happened so gradually. Imperceptibly, Abuse built its home on your shoulders.

Effects of Living With Domestic Abuse

Abused people often do not know they’re being abused. Likewise, they don’t remember life without Abuse, the silent predator. Abuse saps your energy and makes you feel like life is gray and without sunshine on the horizon.

Do you:

  • go to sleep wondering what you did with your day?
  • feel like you’re squandering your gifts and talents but just can’t find the motivation you need to move forward?
  • wonder what is wrong with you? Why you can’t stick to a goal, or follow a dream?
  • remember a time when your goals compelled you ahead, a time when you took calculated risks to enhance your life?
  • blame yourself entirely for your lackluster performance?

If you feel that way and you’re in an unsupportive relationship, then you could be living with an abusive partner (take the Am I Abused? quiz). If you are living with domestic abuse, the weight you feel is not your own deficiency! It is a side effect of abuse.

Living With Domestic Abuse and the Illnesses It Causes

If you know you’re living with domestic abuse but just can’t seem to bring yourself to leave the abusive relationship, you likely suffer from depression, chronic stress, anxiety and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Any one of those illnesses can convince you that you need the relationship–or, at least make it unbearable to think of leaving it.

Chronic Stress

Chronic stress affects victims of abuse to extreme degrees. One bad thing about chronic stress is that you forget what life is like without it. Chronic stress becomes just another part of life, and your mind and body stop considering it to be invasive. You consider chronic stress as normal after a while.

Anxiety and PTSD

Anxiety disorders cause you to

  • overthink things
  • feel jumpy
  • experience sleep problems, and
  • be unable to calm your anxious thoughts (among other anxiety symptoms).

Posttraumatic stress disorder is a type of anxiety disorder that includes intrusive memories, reliving traumatizing times with your abuser, and much more. PTSD caused by domestic abuse is more common than you think and could be affecting you right now.


Depression is a common effect of domestic abuse. In fact, depression symptoms show the effects of domestic abuse. Depression causes you to think negative things about yourself. Your depression and the abuse work together to convince you that you’re worthless, hopeless and helpless. Without self-worth, hope or help, you won’t feel it necessary to leave the abusive relationship. You’ll think you just can’t. Period.

If You Stop Living with Domestic Abuse, Life Becomes Manageable Again

One thing I wish I could get across to those now living with abuse is that when you’re not living with domestic abuse anymore, life is so much easier! The old you will come back with a vengeance. All that energy and love for life you once felt surges to the forefront. Leaving domestic abuse helps you cope with depression, chronic stress, and even PTSD.

Here are some other resources:

Living with Domestic Abuse Makes Me Feel Like I Don’t Deserve to Exist

From my days of living in domestic abuse, a journal entry

Living with domestic abuse fucks with my thinking and tells me I’m the crazy one. Sometimes I wish I could go back to the days before I knew I was abused. Back to when I thought I was a bad person. At least when I believed bad things about myself I had the power to fix my marriage by fixing myself. But now that I know my husband abuses me, I feel angry about how he treats me. I feel betrayed. I trusted him, but I’ll never trust him again. He will never admit to the damage he’s caused.

It won’t do me any good to talk to my abuser about how I feel. I cannot feel anything he isn’t feeling without suffering. When I am sad and he is content, he gets mad because I am not content. If he feels frustrated, he expects me to show frustration; when he is happy, he expects me to be happy.

He expects me to mirror his emotions. My feelings must be the same as his so he can justify and validate whatever he feels and decides to doThe punishment for exhibiting any feelings or behaviors that aren’t his current ones outweighs the benefit of feeling them at all.

What My Abuser Wants Me to Believe About Myself

Whenever I am different from him, he says that I am:

  • wrong
  • living in a dream world
  • illogical, crazy, or unbelievable
  • too emotional
  • too naive to see the truth
  • lying, plotting, or sneaking around
  • stupid
  • forgetful
  • making things up
  • being a drama queen
  • picking a fight
  • and other things an abuser says

In short, if I show my individuality, my separateness from him, he verbally beats me into the emotion I should be feeling. When I go along, he is happy; when I rebel, he is miserable. If he feels happy, I anxiously wait for the rage. And when he rages, I wish for divine intervention. A bright flashy lightning bolt would do nicely, and I don’t really care which one of us it hits. I just want relief.

Featured image by Tanja Heffner