I am part of an amazing support group online for women who have experienced domestic violence. Over the past couple of weeks, we have been discussing how difficult it is to create a new life. For me, it’s been 22 years since I left that marriage, 11 years since he stopped abusing our daughter (thanks to a much-too-late court ruling). And it is only now, in 2012, that I am even starting to put my life together.
I wanted to share a posting I made in the online forum I mentioned, in response to someone who said she felt, despite being away from him and with a court ruling in her favor, he was still controlling her life, to some degree:
I totally relate to the feeling that he’s still controlling your life. I felt like that, too, until last year. My therapist had a different explanation: that I was experiencing the long-term effects of trauma.
Here’s why I think it’s important to make the distinction. People outside DV often said to me after I left, “Stop letting him control you.” That just made me feel worse, like I was weak-minded, letting some freak have control over my thoughts, etc.
But those well-meaning people were simply wrong. It isn’t about control at all, at this point. It’s that I am experiencing the after-effects of what happened to me.
That clarification REALLY helped me, because it took him out of the equation entirely. It also showed me that I was not weak or “allowing” anything to occur to me. Instead, I realized that I have a condition/state of mind that I need to try to understand.
All of us in this forum have figured out ways to cope post-abusive relationship. My task now is to figure out how to live with this condition — really LIVE, not just exist.