Don’t Speak — Living With the Trauma of Emotional Abuse

Don’t Speak — Living With the Trauma of Emotional Abuse


I thought I was free. I thought I could cope with limited contact, dealing with my ex occasionally. Trying to be amicable, even helpful. I was wrong. The same issues that caused me anxiety and fear before I left still happened. The blame, the criticism, the gaslighting. Trying to make me feel responsible for the situation she found herself in.

The worst part: it kind of worked. She knows my buttons all too well and how to push them. I found myself involuntarily responding in the same old defensive ways. Becoming anxious, afraid.

And then, several weeks after I moved into my new home, I started to experience the unsettling sensation of being back in the previous place. Back in that little room. I’d be sitting here at my table in my living room, but I’d be seeing that other room all around me.

I would feel I was literally back there. And I’d become anxious, and scared that she would walk in on me. I know in my rational mind that she doesn’t have my new address and can’t get through the two locked doors to gain access. But in my mind I wasn’t here, I was there. And it frightened me. A lot.

This kept happening, getting worse as she kept contacting me online or by phone. Some of the communication was attempting to pressurise me into doing things: that would trigger these flashback episodes. In fact, even just writing about it here is making me anxious.

Because it involved flashbacks I wondered about post-traumatic stress, but I wasn’t aware of whether that could be caused by emotional or psychological abuse rather than physical trauma: it can. I looked into it and took the recommended course of action: I arranged to see my doctor.

I spoke to trusted friends, people who had experience of similar situations. They advised me to cut all contact for my own good. I took the advice, blocked her online and barred her number on my phone. It helped. Except I couldn’t block voice mails.

There were more than 20 voice messages when I contacted my cell phone provider to find out if there was a way to block her from leaving them (short answer: not reliably), and how to delete the existing ones without having to listen to them (resolved successfully).

That reduced my stress and I’ve not been experiencing the flashbacks at the same level of intensity. It’s helped a lot. The trouble is that it’s all based on avoidance and there remain unresolved matters between me and her. I know I need to get them sorted out, but I’m not sure I can manage that.

I’m seeing my doctor in a couple of days. I’m hoping we can make some progress. because right now I’m in a kind of limbo: things hanging over my head and I’m aware they’re there even if I’m not actively looking up at them.

15 thoughts on “Don’t Speak — Living With the Trauma of Emotional Abuse

    1. It’s far from that simple. It’s not a question of forgiveness. Experiencing emotional abuse over a long period affects the mind in significant ways, and one of those ways is often that you keep on re-experiencing the traumatic events.

      In my case it’s a kind of visual hallucination, a waking nightmare in which I’m actually going through the experiences again. Not remembering them from the safety of my current location, but being back in that traumatic situation, seeing and hearing everything I saw and heard, feeling every ounce of the fear. And being unaware than I’m not really there because every sense is telling me that I am.

      I am seeking therapy because forgiving my abuser isn’t going to make the results of my trauma go away.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. My daughter was murdered. In order for me to move on I had to forgive the person that took her away. I was also injured during the attack. I was diagnosed with PTSD. I got tired and had to release all of it. I didn’t want to write that but to help you understand that I understand.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. I’m sorry to hear about your daughter. I can’t imagine losing mine: I have no idea how I’d cope with it.

          It may sound surprising but I don’t have ill feelings towards my ex. I don’t hate her or blame her. Forgiveness doesn’t enter into the equation.

          But I am afraid of her. Fear can be overcome, yes, but this is a combination of my innate, lifelong anxiety disorder and more than a decade’s experience of emotional manipulation and abuse.

          I can’t overcome that on my own. I tried, I thought I had, but I was wrong. It goes deeper than I can deal with by myself.

          Liked by 1 person

      2. Agreed, it is far from simple. You did the best thing you could in the situation. You researched your symptoms, recognized the signs and got help before you risked falling so far into the flashbacks you lost the will to get help. I hope we eventually get to a place where everyone can be comfortable and safe seeking treatment. I love the factual, straightforward and non-stigmatizing way you wrote about seeking help. Bravo! And yes, absolutely, emotional abuse can cause PTSD and/or C-PTSD.

        Liked by 3 people

        1. Thank you. It’s a horrible experience, being in a flashback, and the disorientation on coming out of it is so confusing. I really hope I can get past this because it’s having a very negative effect on my life.

          Liked by 1 person

  1. I have PTSD from emotional and psychological abuse. I can completely relate to the fear you describe. It’s fantastic that you’re getting help. I can tell you, at least for me, the frequency and intensity of the flashbacks diminished over time.
    Best wishes!🌷

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Sorry that you’ve been through your own trauma of abuse, but I’m very happy to hear that your flashbacks have diminished over time, and that gives me hope that with the appropriate help I can also see an improvement. Thank you ❤

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Time too has greatly diminished the number of days that I experience flashbacks. However even one day is difficult.
    I’ve begun to look at them as part of my recovery. Each time I go through them I like to think I grow a little stronger.
    They are horrendous though and I mostly go through them alone.
    Funny enough the past week has been the worst in ages but I feel them leaving me again thankfully and slept great last night.
    I think you know yourself what help you need and I hope you get it.
    Don’t push yourself to deal with her personally until your ready and I know one day you will be.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. As you come into your “own-ness” as a separate person and physically removed from your ex, it will get easier. It takes time, but you’ve made a lot of positive steps already. Dependent people can’t do that, and clearly, you are now independent and making a new life for yourself. Go, Alex!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hey!!! Don’t go to her for solving the issues! Remember that these people never improve … See your doctor.. you have done well and kudos to your fighting spirit! Going through this trauma is not easy but congratulations for overcoming the flashbacks! All the best and get well soon😊


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