Who Am I Now?
There’s an unquestionable reality that survivors of abuse and domestic violence share: although they came out alive, they did not come out the same. Abuse changes a person.

We hear stories about this change from people all the time who share their stories with our advocates. After surviving abuse from domestic violence, they usually tell us that they feel broken and scarred. After some time with the right resources, they start to feel hopeful and healing. They will never feel the same as before, but they can pick up the pieces and start to rebuild a beautiful life even after experiencing the pain and trauma from domestic violence abuse. The changes in yourself may not be apparent until you interact with the world and something triggers a memory. You start to feel that something just isn’t right within yourself. You are still the same person but then yet, you really are not. And that’s okay.
One way survivors say they have changed is that they now are easily overwhelmed and anxious about everyday things. They cry without explanation. People and places they used to enjoy now bring anxiety and irritation. After surviving abuse, many people isolate themselves, becoming reclusive because their trust in humanity has been broken. That is only a temporary fix as we all are social creatures, and we need interaction with others. One way to deal with the anxiety and irritation is to keep social interactions short at first and retreat to a quiet place when you start to feel overwhelmed. Reminding yourself that you are safe and the abuse is in the past can help you find peace within yourself and with those around you.
Many times a survivor finds themselves distrusting everyone and especially uncomfortable being alone with the opposite sex. They find it difficult to build connections with others after their trust was so broken. Survivors of abuse or sexual assault may find themselves very uncomfortable in situations surrounded by the opposite sex, such as in elevators, a waiting room or even a work meeting. These feelings are completely normal after surviving abuse. Give yourself some space and realize that as your heart heals from the trauma, your ability to trust others can be rebuilt over time. Be kind to yourself.
Have you ever heard the word rumination? If you live in a rural area, you probably have heard the word associated with cows when people say they “chew the cud”. Cows have a multi-compartment stomach that allows them to regurgitate their food and chew it again. Sometimes survivors of abuse do the same type thing with their thoughts. They play the events, or even the abusive talk, over and over in their head, replaying images and words in a continuous loop, believing all the terrible lies that were heaped upon them. When a survivor does this, they can become hopeless and depressed. I hope you have had a chance to go by one of the county libraries and view the displays for the month of October that talk about changing the record playing in your head. It’s important to stop allowing the abuser to continue to dominate your thoughts. When you feel you are ruminating on those words and thoughts, it’s important to take action and stop yourself. Some ways that help are getting outside and going for a walk to clear your mind, call a friend you can share your feelings with, or find an activity you enjoy and can concentrate on. It may not happen quickly and may take practice, but you can change the record in your mind to which you are listening and replace it with positive affirmations. Again, be gentle and kind to yourself as you work on this.
These are just some of the ways abuse and domestic violence can change a person. Most of the changes a survivor experiences are rooted in fear, and that is totally normal and to be expected. Experiencing and surviving abuse can have such a profound impact on a person’s mind, body and soul. But there is also something quite unique about surviving being broken: you discover that you are so much stronger than you ever thought, you are highly resilient and you are one of a kind.
If you feel like talking more about the changes you may have endured or if you need help changing the record you hear playing in your mind, please call our advocates at Crisis Services of North Alabama Jackson County Office at 256.574.5826. We also have a 24/7 HELPline available at 256.716.1000. You are not alone.

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