PTSD Triggers of a Domestic Violence Survivor

So, October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. I want to add an experience and a message to those wonderful people who enter our lives after the abuser is gone.Survivor

Let me set the stage:

  • On Saturday, October 18th, 1986 I was preparing to celebrate my 2 year wedding anniversary with my husband.
  • I was 26 days post-partum.
  • I had spent 5 days in the hospital after a difficult birth to a precious baby boy with holes in both lungs. Thankfully, he was fine after a few days in the NICU.
  • We were a broke Air Force family. So, I had to go back to work on day 23 leaving my new baby boy with a baby sitter.
  • I was pretty wore out and when Saturday rolled around that week, I was looking forward to an outing to my favorite BBQ restaurant in Austin, TX.

I was all dressed up and actually able to fit into my favorite size 5 skirt. We were to leave in about 30 minutes and I was getting the new baby boy ready to go when suddenly the walls fell in.

My husband (now ex) had been in a good mood all day and that was unusual. So, when he began ranting and raving I knew the happy day had ended. I put my baby in his crib because I knew what was coming. He yelled, threw things, cursed, slapped and shoved me. Finally, the tirade ended with him pushing me as hard as he could. I flew across the room and fell on to the wooden arm of a large chair. My tail bone was now cracked and I would spend the next 6 weeks silently enduring a lot of pain. (AND I still had to go to dinner because by saying I wanted to stay home that night I was holding a grudge.)

But, would I complain? NO! I knew better. So, why do I tell this story? Because yesterday was the 30th anniversary of my broken tail bone. I still cannot always sit comfortably and long stretches of sitting are painful. I will never ever forget that day – mainly because I physically can’t. I don’t want to hold on to bad memories and “hold a grudge”. The thing is, I don’t have a choice. The physical pain is a constant reminder of the abusive 12 years I endured with that mean and selfish individual. I have been out of the marriage for 20 years exactly. But, I still experience triggers and nightmares. I still react to innocent words and actions in a way no one around me can understand. PTSD is real. Sounds, smells, noises and many other happenings remind me of the 12 year hellish marriage I endured. My 3 children were also dragged through this hell and relive their experiences every time a trigger is hit.

Please try and understand the Survivor in your life. It’s not your fault that you unknowingly push their buttons. But, if and when you are let in on the secret, please don’t take it personally. If it is personal – then correct the behavior. But, please just bare with us. Be our friend. Be our supporter. Be our champion. We appreciate you and all of our crazy you put up with at times. We don’t mean to compare you to the violent demon who caused all of this.

Even though we were the victims of these horrible people, PLEASE understand that YES we do take responsibility for being with that person and not leaving sooner. YES, we do live every single day with reminders of the poor choices we made and wonder how we ever could have been so stupid as to let this happen to us and our kids for so long. Please realize that we lived in a FOG – Fear Obligation and Guilt. Many of us were actually brainwashed hostages for a long period of time. That FOG looms and may never completely lift. But, we are trying very hard to overcome the mental hold that monster had and still has over us.

If it’s too much – we get that too. But, (if you can) love us, bare with us and encourage us. We likely have bones and feelings that have been permanently damaged and hurt us on more days than not. Remind us that we are safe, loved and protected. When you do these things for us we will love you and we will appreciate you – more than you will ever know or we will ever be able to openly express.

Until Next Time, Be Safe and Be Aware!

Lisa Smith

Lisa Smith is Executive Director of Andere Foundation. She survived 12 years of abuse of every sort at the hand of her first husband. Lisa has three children who also  survived and  continue to survive every single day. Her hope is that all victims can become survivors. She founded Andere Foundation to assist victims and survivors of abuse in becoming economically self sufficient. Andere provides FREE of charge online learning designed to build the  skills necessary to compete for a better paying job – or maybe even a first job. Taking positive steps to increase skill sets helped Lisa and allowed her to finally feel confident enough to free her family from the controlling abuser in their lives.

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