It has been in my head for a while to blog about domestic violence and mental health. I know I have touched on P.T.S.D. in a previous blog (P.T.S.D. and its triggers) , but what about depression, suicidal ideations and substance abuse? Those of us who have experienced the aftermath of the psychological effects of domestic violence know all too well about how the trauma affects us on a daily basis. Depending on the severity and duration of the abuse, some may “bounce back” faster than others. Which leads to the reason why I always say to take your time with your healing process and do not rush it. We all heal and deal differently. It is a fragile process that takes a lot of time and effort. If you are in need of resources please click on this link.
Mental health illnesses are not something to be taken lightly. They are also something that has really been recognized when it comes to domestic violence survivors. Before recent years, P.T.S.D. was most commonly known to be linked to war veterans. Over the years the diagnoses of P.T.S.D. has been revised. The most recent revision I have come across was in 2013. (National Center for PTSD)
When looking at depression, at least one researcher refers to domestic violence as the “hidden epidemic” of mental health conditions. (Domestic Violence and Depression – Breaking the Cycle). From my own perspective, depression is inevitable. It is fair to say that as a survivor of domestic violence I wholeheartedly agree that when a victim, it’s your self-worth, your integrity, your self-esteem, and more importantly your identity that is constantly under attack.
After a constant beaten on one’s mental and emotional being, it should not be shocking that a victim of abuse becomes depressed. With all the negativity that has been drowning the victim, the only thoughts they can conjure up are negative thoughts. In extreme cases of depression one can also experience suicidal ideations or suicidal thoughts. Domestic violence is not just about physical abuse, it is not just about the black eyes, bruises and scars that one can see with the naked eye. It goes so much deeper than those wounds.
Emotional abuse is any act including confinement, isolation, verbal assault, humiliation, intimidation, infantilization, or any other treatment which may diminish the sense of identity, dignity, and self-worth.”1 Emotional abuse is also known as psychological abuse or as “chronic verbal aggression” by researchers. People who suffer from emotional abuse tend to have very low self-esteem, show personality changes (such as becoming withdrawn) and may even become depressed, anxious or suicidal.” (See my blog on Verbal/Emotional Abuse)
The flashbacks, the nightmares, uncontrollable thoughts and anxiety is what we as survivors are left with when we first escape the abuse. We are trying to recover ourselves, recover our identity; recover who we once were. It is a process, and an exhausting one at that. Coping with the effects of domestic violence can be extremely overwhelming; many times since the survivors control over the situation has been ripped away from them by the abuser, the survivor can turn to self-medicating. No longer wanting to deal with the pain head on, no longer wanting to remember those events that have taken place and no longer wanting to deal with those flashbacks and nightmares. They may also engage in self-harming behaviors which is another way to feel like a sense of control and also as a way to release their pain.
Domestic violence can also take away one’s sense of safety and security. Making it difficult for the survivor to trust others. Remember, the survivor had trusted this person with his or her whole being, their trust was taken for granted. Survivors may feel like giving up, they may feel unmotivated and empty. They may not want to reach out for help because they feel like there is no point in doing so.
One thing we as survivors must remind ourselves and other survivors is that we are broken but not damaged. We can and we will overcome the effects that the abuse has left us. With each other we can make it. With the right resources we will overcome it. Keep pushing, you deserve to have A Life Worth Living For.