“Too good to leave, too bad to stay”. Was this phrase playing repeatedly like a sick merry-go-round during your last relationship? With this phrase, you were managing your mental wellness in a negative while in the relationship.
Have you been stuck in an abusive relationship’s deep, dark trenches within your mind, body, and spirit? Having experienced domestic violence, I am confident that you may have felt that you would never be free. Hopefully, if you’re reading this blog right here, right now, you did it! You are free!! Now, it’s time to begin managing your mental wellness after leaving an abusive relationship.
Nevertheless, leaving an abusive relationship is the first step in a long journey ahead, but don’t get discouraged. Managing your mental wellness after leaving an abusive relationship is possible. It may not be easy, but it can be done–one moment, one step, one day at a time.
If you’ve escaped the clutches of a toxic, abusive relationship stick around. We’ll talk about what your healing journey might look like, and a few ways to nurture your mental wellness as you begin to find and love yourself again.
What Should I Expect After Leaving An Abusive Relationship?
Abuse is abuse! It can be verbal, emotional, mental, financial, spiritual, sexual, or physical abuse. When leaving an abusive relationship, you experienced a myriad of unexpected and possibly unknown feelings. One of those may have been the desire to go back to the abuser.
Breakups are difficult no matter what. It’s likely you’ll go through many of the same emotions that even individuals in healthy relationships go through and MORE! You still love the abuser and can’t understand why the feeling doesn’t dissipate immediately. Think about it–you were in a relationship with this person and feelings can be strong. Love developed. Memories were made. Life-long plans were discussed and in some instances, actions were taken for these life-long plans. It’s normal to miss the abuser. You were bonded with this person for an extended period of time, so the beginning emotions may feel raw and irritating as you adjust.
You might feel guilty for feeling this way. Others in your life may shame you for missing your abusive partner. It’s important to remember these people often lack an understanding of the difficulty of leaving an abusive relationship.
At times you might feel happy. You may experience joy and peace as you settle into your newfound freedom. At other times, anger may erupt. It is normal to fluctuate between emotions. I do not want you to feel judgment and shame. If these two emotions/thoughts erupt, release them.
Let’s look at a few negative feelings you may experience:
- Low self-esteem
Let’s look at the positive feelings I want you to focus on:
3 Ways to Take Care of Your Mental Wellness after Leaving an Abusive Relationship
There isn’t a specific timeframe for how long it may take you to heal from an abusive partner. Unlike healthy breakups, you’re not only stuck grieving the end of your relationship but you’re also left with many broken parts of yourself that require love and commitment. Let’s explore 3 ways that can help you nurture your mental health after escaping an abusive relationship.
Do NOT have contact with the abuser! No CONTACT! Nada! None!
Remember, one of the goals is to improve your mental wellness. When you have contact with the abuser, there is a possibility that he/she will attempt to “swoon” or “sweet-talk” you to return to the relationship.
Going ‘no contact’ is exactly what it means–absolutely no contact with your ex. This may feel devastating at first, but it is absolutely necessary for your safety. It might feel excruciatingly painful, but it is the best decision you can make for your wellness.
Many abusive partners don’t let the abuse end when you walk away. They’ll often try to manipulate, control, or threaten their victim in order to prevent them from leaving. Abusers hate losing their grip on the power they hold and will often go to extreme lengths to keep a victim locked in tight.
For many victims of abuse, the constant calls and texts from their perpetrator can not only hold them back from fully leaving, but perpetuate a cycle of anxiety, stress, and depression. They may be physically free from their ex but are still mentally and emotionally confined.
The dramatic shift to no contact may feel like ripping off a Bandaid. It’s going to hurt, but anything that stays covered has difficulty with the healing process. As time carries on, and each day separates you further and further away from your abusive ex, your heart will slowly begin to heal. Every day you spend engaging in no contact is another day you win. Every time you let the sun go down without reaching out, you are strengthed to regain POWER! Your mental wellness matters.
Mindfulness practices can be incredibly useful for victims of abuse that struggle with being in the ‘here and now’. Mindfulness means simply allowing yourself to sit in the present moment while becoming consciously aware of your thoughts, feelings, and emotions. For many victims of abuse, their minds can feel like they’re constantly repeating the past. They may suffer flashbacks, nightmares, or intrusive thoughts. When they suffer abuse, the areas of the brain responsible for major functioning, learning, memory, emotional regulation, and focus can become unbalanced. However, meditation and common mindfulness practices have been shown to heal many of the same areas of trauma damage!
Other Examples Of Mindfulness Practices Include:
- Inner child work
While your physical wounds may fade, there is continued pain from mental and emotional wounds. These inner scars don’t heal by ignoring or repressing them. The most effective way to work through trauma is to handle it head-on. Mindfulness is a gentle way to approach the internal damage caused by an abusive partner.
As the stigma of mental health slowly fades away, individuals are more open to seeking therapy. Therapy is a necessary tool for individuals leaving an abusive relationship. The aftermath of a breakup can leave you feeling fragile, alone, scared, and confused. You might feel overwhelmed by the amount of healing work you have to do. A therapist can assist you in deep, internal healing caused by the wounds of an abusive partner. In addition, they can help you work through negative thoughts. A therapist can guide you into healthier coping strategies, and emotional regulation tools, and encourage you as you walk into your newfound freedom.
A therapist can work with you to develop a plan for your life, instead of attempting to heal and move on from abuse on your own. Abuse is tricky and can lead to many internal problems you may not realize until years later. However, therapists have the knowledge and skills to help get to the root of the issue.
You Deserve to Experience Healthy Love and a Healthy Mind
If you’ve released yourself from an abusive relationship, you may still miss your ex. You may question the decision to leave and/or might find it difficult, or even painful to make independent decisions. On the other hand, you might feel as though a heavy weight has been lifted off your shoulders. You may smile and relish in the freedom that had only been a dream.
No matter what you’re feeling, keep in mind that the healing process after an abusive relationship looks different for everyone. Just as your relationship was unique to you, so is your mental wellness journey.
Taking care of your mental wellness after leaving an abusive relationship is vital for long-term healing. While your body may have suffered at the hands of your abuser, your mental wellness and emotions did as well. As you take it moment by moment and day by day, managing your mental wellness after leaving an abusive relationship is necessary and can be accomplished.
If you are currently in an abusive relationship, reach out for help and establish a safety escape plan. See the resource listed on the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence website at https://ncadv.org/personalized-safety-plan