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Abuse And Depression (Potential Triggers)


neurotic_lady89

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Nothing too graphic in this post, but I decided to put up a trigger warning because I know how upsetting even reading about abuse can be, whether or not it is physical. I also am not sure if this should be here or in the Bullying forum.

I did a lot of thinking today (let me hold back the laughter - I'm ALWAYS thinking and too much). I know that I had depression and anxiety before any abusive relationship, there is no question about it. However, I got into an abusive relationship a few years ago and after I left fell into one of my depressions. Eventually I recovered, but it was really down and lonely time. Unfortunately, my next boyfriend was also an abuser, though his personality traits (when not abusing) were much different from the first boyfriend. Most of the abuse was verbal and emotional, on a near daily basis, but sometimes it would be physical too. At first, when I felt hurt, I cried and cried. Then I eventually stopped feeling entirely. If something cruel was said, I'd feel a black hole where my heart should be, but a wall would quickly go up and I wouldn't fall to pieces anymore. Obviously, the entire relationship was extremely unhealthy and I did end up leaving. But I haven't been the same since I got together with him.

I feel like my self-esteem is at an all-time low and my negativity towards myself is just as bad, if not worse, than his negativity towards me. It's hard to tell sometimes whether it is my illness 100% and I'd feel this way regardless of what happened in my life at this very moment, or if my experience with him triggered this particular episode that won't seem to end. I think of the relationship sometimes, and stop myself, because it is a trigger. But I don't obsess about the relationship all day or even think of him every day. I guess I was wondering if anyone here was ever in a similar position and feels comfortable sharing that it happened.

In general, my depression and anxiety aren't very receptive to talk-therapy or I just haven't found the right therapist. But a part of me feels like, IF this episode was triggered by abuse, medications probably aren't going to be enough even if they help me immensely the long run. I wish I could just know whether it IS the effects of abuse or completely separate. Again, it's tough, because I had these illnesses beforehand. I don't expect anyone to be able to answer for me, I'm just frustrated. If I had to take a wild guess, I'd say his actions triggered an episode of my existing illness and while I'd almost definitely fall into a depression again, I don't think it would necessarily be right now and play out the same way.

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In my experience my experiences flavour whatever I am dealing with. That usually means whatever sets that episode off comes out in it but what also happens is that one thing sets off old experiences a bit like dominoes. It never was like this is the past but these days almost all my depression comes from trauma (in the past a lot was added because of not taking care of myself lack of assertiveness and boundaries, social phobia etc which I have now treated). I can now differentiate between how it feels when it is more these things that are setting things off or triggers for trauma.

Unfortunately what abuse often does is brainwash us to continue the abuse on ourselves. I think the abuser leaves their rage on us. Thats what they want to do - get rid of it. But we then are stuck with it until we find a way to rid ourselves of it. Hopefully in a way that does not pass it on.

One way I evaluate if something is a problem that needs to be dealt with or not is avoidance. That feeling of not being able to come near it is a sign that it did damage. And really what is needed is to speak it through in detail with a therapist who knows about this stuff (personally I think specialisation is essential).I know thats probably the last thing you want to hear but sadly that is what is recommended. You need to make sure you are stable enough first and have enough coping skills to cope though.

Personally I think its almost inevitable that something like this would set off depression if you have long term history of it but regardless I would look at the avouidance as that is a separate concern all of its own. What would happen if you discussed an incident of the abuse?

Edited by Fizzle
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I don't have anything to add to what Fizzle said so well and I don't have any experience with extreme abuse, just run of the mill people saying a curt word or being critical but nothing out right mean. But I have to imagine that treatment like that in any sort would trigger my depression and deepen my low self esteem. I really can't see how it couldn't. So I agree with Fizzle. Take some time to sort this out for yourself first before you think about entering a new relationship. Until you break the pattern you could attract more and you deserve much better than that. Stay strong, my heart goes out to you as you heal from this.

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SIGH, I wrote a novel of a response back...and then my browser crashed! To keep things short, thank you both for responding. I really appreciate it.

I don't always block out thoughts of the abuse, but do if they don't seem healthy. When I first left, telling my mother about what really happened and reflecting back helped a lot. For example, because he never hit or punched me, I brushed things he did off as "anger but not abuse" until I thought about them later: threatening me with a kitchen knife, driving reckless/fast for the sole purpose of scaring me, holding me down, pushing me off the bed, etc. It sounds CRAZY because it seems so obvious (and IS) but I minimized so much, that it took past reflection to see the reality. I usually block thoughts out if I'm already feeling down/depressed/anxious, the thoughts only make me feel worse, and I'm not sure what to do with those memories.

Fizzle you are so right about the abuser brainwashing, I definitely notice this, and other lingering effects: I used to be very comfortable speaking up, even public speaking, and am known for being a pretty opinionated person. Only after this experience did I start feeling anxiety about it, and starting sentences with things like "I could be wrong, but..." or "I don't know if this is right, but..." Maybe walking on eggshells daily, and being either screamed at or calmly criticized and made to feel like crap, prompted this change. I miss the old me, because even old depressed me was somehow more confident than that. Last semester, it was so apparent that I had a professor tell me that I should stop being so self-deprecating, because I was usually right and had insight to share.

I am not so much scared of what this type of therapy means about me, and more scared of the emotional impact of digging through all of these painful memories. I know it is probably worth it. I tried to avoid it and manage on my own, but since it's not working... Other lesser fears: Therapist being cold or not understanding, therapist not recognizing that I have depression/anxiety anyway so even though healing from the abuse would do wonderful things, it wouldn't 100% cure me of all my ills.

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Will we ever be healed? Who knows, I kind of think that is rare for what we all have been through and have to deal with. More important than looking at it being all or nothing, total healing or total illness just think about grieving the hurt. Grieving the hurt that others and you yourself inflicted upon you, grieving the loss of who you were, grieving anything you feel needs to be released. I think it is really important to take the time to do this and take as long as necessary to do this part of it because then once you are done you will likely be more driven to make changes in your life. Your sense of self has been robbed from you and that just hurts like nothing else. It's ok and even good to grieve about it. Sending you love.

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Thanks again Michelle. Sometimes I am too rough on myself, and feel like I should have been able to get over this on my own... but, if someone else came to me and said they went through something horrible, I would never tell them to just get over it themselves. Still practicing the not-being-harsh-to-self bit. All the best to you!

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  • 10 months later...

The interesting thing you said in an earlier post is that you were good at ignoring the signs and even your thoughts.  I think that is pretty typical when we have painful feelings inside.  I was terrified of emotions and ran like mad from the dark spot that was somewhere inside me.  I had no clue why it was there and what it was about I just knew I had to run and to do that I had to convince myself that there was nothing wrong.  That a constant state of fear and anxiety was just something to push through.  That a need to be hypervigilant about my behavior was just how a good person behaved.  That the random out of the blue urges to suicide even while doing something I enjoyed was just a blip of the brain, everyone had them.  The need to escape something everyone felt as well.  And the sudden outbursts of rage though very rare and provoked something to be ignored.  All the signs were there yet I was totally able to put blinders on and paint myself as fine.  That was until I could no longer hide it or contain it and it all came spilling out after a life crisis and I became quite intensely afraid of myself and realized why I was running so hard.  I did not want to look because I had quite out of control bad feelings about myself that sincerely wanted to do me in and I still tried to run like mad desperate to get out but I am starting to see that looking at the pain square in the eye is what is liberating me from it.  Not easy to do but it sounds like you have some of the same issues with self blame that I do.  Being hard on yourself is not necessary and is actually not helpful.  I think a part of me thought that if I didn't succeed and succeed big then I was a failure at life but the truth is we can fail and fail pretty badly but still be worthwhile valuable people.  You don't need to be perfect and all the choices and decisions you made, even the ones to ignore red flags were all in an attempt to try and protect yourself.  In any event, it is important when the self criticism kicks in that you simply tell it to stop.  At some point you may want to swap the talk out for more life affirming words but in the beginning it is important just to stop bashing ourselves and eventually we will break the habit of being our own worst enemies ideally learning to become our own best friends.  Then no one in this world will ever be able to hurt you verbally or physically.  Hugs.

Edited by Michelle38
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