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.