After I became a victim of domestic violence, everything in my world shifted. A majority of this shift was due to the dramatically different person I became. I was no longer a strong, outgoing, trusting, and independent woman. Rather the whole experience turned me to a physically and emotionally weak introvert that feared every day activity.
The hardest part about dealing with domestic violence is the long road to recovery. There is no guaranteed way to put your life together after it has been shattered by someone you were once intimate with. In fact, most people will never be the same. It takes more than time to heal the emotional and psychological trauma. You need to remain hopeful that your future will be better, and you need to put effort into healing yourself. For me there were seven things I did that empowered me and allowed me to make myself even stronger:
1. Knowledge is Power
There are things you learn first hand after domestic violence, and there are things you should go out of your way to learn. Read up on laws and restraining orders in your area. I threw myself into domestic violence research and this helped me the most. I read up on what psychological and emotional issues that drive domestic partners to abuse. The statistics on domestic violence made me feel normal. I thought most domestic violence obscured within a relationship. The fact is, most incidents occur after the break up (just like it did for me). Of those who experience domestic violence after a breakup, 75% result in death. To know I was part of the 25%, empowered me and made me realize I was strong enough to survive.
Talking about what happened is the best way to begin the healing process. Remember that not all therapists are equal and not all therapists will fit your needs. You may want to consider seeing a psychiatrist if you are not against the use of pharmaceuticals. Some individuals require anti-anxiety or sleeping pills in order to take the edge off of the side effects of recovery.
3. Surround Yourself With Friends
Don’t be afraid to be honest with your friends and let them know how they can help. Surrounding yourself with a diverse set of friends will be helpful. Your mood will fluctuate through the healing process and you may find that certain friends are better company depending upon your mood.
4. Talk With Other Survivors of Domestic Violence
There is a benefit to knowing other victims of domestic violence. There is an unspoken sense of understanding and camaraderie. No matter how much you talk to your friends, they will not fully understand what you have been through unless they have been through it. Remember, you are a survivor.
5. Get Back to a Routine
For a while after the abuse, you will want to take preventative measures to avoid your ex. You will alter your schedule and daily routine. Adding randomness to your schedule is draining and you are just giving into your fear. Unless there are indications that warrant the need to do this, you need to establish a normal routine again. Start with small things that are beneficial to your mind and body, such as exercise and meditation.
6. Cut Ties
You need to realize that not everyone in your life is good for you. This goes beyond just cutting your abuser out of your life. There will be people who take your abuser’s side and will blame you. Rather than trying to win over their support – walk away. You should only surround yourself with people who are compassionate and supporting of you. Negativity and judgmental individuals will only make the healing process take longer.
7. Redirect your hyper-vigilance
You will become hyper-vigilant about everything and anything. Learn to recognize that you are reacting to a situation differently than you would have prior to your abuse. Try to determine what triggered this response and why it angered you. Redirect this built up anger into energy towards a good cause or a project that brings you happiness.
Remember healing will happen, but only if you put effort into it. Stand up to Domestic Violence and take back your life today.
Rebbekah Ritzmann grew up in the suburbs of San Francisco before attending a small liberal arts college in New York. After earning her master's degree, she moved back to California with her partner to teach. When she is not teaching, she enjoys cooking, kayaking, and, pottery.