Abuse Answers

How do I stop past trauma from affecting my present life choices and relationships?

Hi, B. My name is Beth Tabbert and I am a licensed counselor here at BetterHelp. Thank you for reaching out. I am so sorry you are struggling to overcome a past hurt. Asking hard questions, and opening up about your struggles is the first step in making getting past your trauma and making your life and your relationships happier, healthier, and more successful. We all have traumas in our pasts that interfere with our ability to fully enjoy our lives.  When a memory, emotion, interaction, and sensory information, like sights, sounds, or smells, pop up when you least expect it, it is called a trigger. A trigger is associated with a past trauma, which you have realized. Now that you have acknowledged these triggers, you can move toward processing them and moving past them or coping more effectively with them. Insecurities, feeling controlled and unmotivated, having difficulty feeling close with people or trusting them, and all the difficult emotions are all "symptoms" of trauma. There are many others, that you may be experiencing, that you might not be aware of are also symptoms. Symptoms that can be eliminated or lessened through counseling. Traumatic events can actually change the way the brain functions and the way we interact with our environments. Then, what happens is that you filter every experience through the past event. It sounds like one or more people from you past have hurt you deeply. I'm sorry you had to endure this and that it continues to hurt you today.  I'll give you a few tips to help you to start moving forward. First, acknowledge your emotions. They are valid! Every single one of them. You are not making them up, exaggerating them, or over reacting (or any other possible negative thing people in your life have possibly said to you to minimize or dismiss your pain or experience). Second, know that whatever happened is not your fault. The person, or people, who hurt you hold the responsibility. Your responsibility is to grow from the experience and learn to not let their bad behavior and choices continue to hurt you. Third, when you find yourself feeling triggered by someone else, who has done or said something that reminds you of the past, communicate that with them. Utilize an I statement, such as 'I feel anxious, sad, scared, etc, when X happens and I am going to ask you to help me with this by [state what you need in the moment].' Avoid saying 'you' during this sentence, to avoid an argument and don't respond to their defenses. Try to stay focused on your emotions, not their behaviors. Finally, set good boundaries with people. The people who love you and respect you will respect your boundaries. They may not like it, but when you are consistent with your boundaries, they will catch up and respect them. Setting good boundaries is the way we teach others how to treat us and make us feel emotionally safe in relationships. Also, always practice good self care and positive coping strategies, such as meditation, mindfulness, exercise, favorite pastimes and hobbies, and positive self talk. Writing about your thoughts and feeling can help too. It's a great way to process emotions and help yourself understand them better. I hope this helps to answer your questions. Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to provide some perspective.   
Answered on 02/07/2023

How do you know you are mentally healthy after trauma and hurts?

Hello Sid, Mentally heathy is mentally healed and what relationship has harmed, there are relationships that will heal. How do we know we have that clean bill of mental health again following an emotional injury?   It's tough to know really. Emotional injuries seem different than our physical wounds because we can't see them and we don't always know if they're healed "enough" until we experience something or someone again that evokes our emotions. Relational trauma can leave us emotionally raw for quite some time UNLESS WE TAKE STEPS TO HEAL. Your trust has been broken by others you gave time to, resources to, and sacrificed time you could have spent in other ways.  There is no way of getting that back. Have you allowed yourself to grieve that loss?  What would Healthy Me today say to Healthy Me a few years ago? What about your needs?  I don't know you, but I gather that you may be a protector. Someone that will place themselves at the back of the line so that others may benefit. For how long have you continued this pattern of giving?  And when you gave of yourself was there a part of you that hoped for someone to reciprocate? When I mention the word "boundaries," what comes up for you?  Is it possible that your boundaries need to be reevaluated? A little more you and a lot less them. I'm sure this has occurred to you, but how to go about it? The reaction of other people after we double down on new boundaries is typically a poor one. "But you've always been..." may be words you've heard or you're about to hear. Another area to think about are your relationships and your personal fear of being abandoned. At what cost TO YOU were you willing to endure to hold onto relationships because you were ultimately afraid of rejection?  I don't doubt others have been horrible to you. But I also want you to think about your role and your responsibility in allowing others to take advantage of your generosity. Be honest with yourself by asking if there was a part of you that suspected that these people had no intention of reciprocating, that these people never had your well being in mind and yet is it possible that you went ahead anyway and continued to give?  If so, it's okay. You were trying to fulfill a need. The same need we all have. It's a need to feel loved, a need to be needed, and a need to matter. We are all in search of fulfilling a purpose and finding our meaning and that's what you were doing.  Healthy Me, you won't know you're healed until you love again. You won't know unless you take the risk to engage in relationships and allow yourself to be vulnerable again. Is this scary?  Yes. Is it worth it. I think you know the answer.  Stay Steady Healthy Me. Stand in your truth. Saying yes to your health means saying no to other things.
Answered on 01/01/2023

How can I stop holding everything in, stop feeling lonely and stop ruining all my relationships?

Hi SB! Thank you for asking this question. It is really courageous of you to reach out for support on BetterHelp at this time. The fact that you are seeking out advice and guidance on this topic reflects some of your many positive traits. What are some of your other strengths? Take some time to make a list of your qualities, talents and strengths as a warm up activity for the day. I understand that you mentioned that you have been holding everything in. It sounds like you have been holding on to your thoughts, feelings and emotions for quite some time. Would you be willing to learn more strategies on how to effectively express your feelings? I would like to advise you to start this process by shifting the wording of your goal from "to stop feeling lonely" to something along the lines of: "to feel better about myself by releasing emotions, including relinquishing lonely feelings." By doing this, you are giving yourself a chance to release feelings that you harbor as well as recognize that the feeling of loneliness is something that you would like to change. That being said, I can certainly relate to you, your experience and your intentions. It may be imperative for you to not feel lonely anymore. I am wondering if you can continue to rephrase your goals into something that seems more realistic and in your own words. Loneliness is a very valid feeling and it would be highly unlikely that any individual would completely stop feeling that way forever. Loneliness can certainly be an uncomfortable feeling. I can see why you would want to change this experience, for sure. That seems like a natural, innate reaction. I would like to encourage you to refocus your energy on decreasing the frequency and intensity of the feeling of loneliness rather than trying to stop this experience all together. What are some things that you can do to feel less lonely? The first thought comes to mind, for me, is to try to establish a sense of connection with other people in your life. It may be helpful to explore the concept of loneliness because all feelings serve a purpose. Perhaps this experience of feeling lonely can even be a motivator for change! How would you say that loneliness plays a role in your life? Also, what has been going on in your life recently that has been causing you to believe that you have been ruining your relationships? I realize that you are trying to focus on improving your relationships. That sounds like another great goal. Who would you say is in your inner support circle? I encourage you to print this circle of support worksheet and fill in the names of people, places and institutions in which you derive support from. Create a "block list" in one of the corners of the handout to signify the people and things that do not serve you in a supportive and healing manner. This activity will remind you of who you trust to support you as well as who you are willing to commit to staying away from for the time being. Here is the circle of support worksheet by Connect in the North: https://www.citn.org.uk/resources/circle-of-support/ In addition to filling out the circle of support worksheet, I would like to encourage you to take some time for therapeutic art making. Coloring or drawing within a circular format can bring feelings of relaxation and healing. Take some time to color in a mandala with colored pencils, pastels and crayons. Write your feelings in the mandala and trace the circular shape. Color over the feelings that you wrote with a neutral color or your favorite colors. This may be a very beneficial activity for you to try. I also recommend attending individual counseling sessions. You may want to consider attending a group therapy session or a groupinar, as well. I realize that it may be difficult to reach out for support initially and you may notice yourself feeling hesitant about opening up about your experiences in a therapeutic setting. Nonetheless, I would like to encourage you to try your best to build upon your support system. Thank you again for asking this essential question on the topic of making life improvements and bettering your life. I hope that my response to your question has been helpful for you in some way. I want to wish you all the best on your therapeutic journey. Have a nice day!
Answered on 11/10/2022

I am resentful and I don't know how or where to start???

Hi Chelly, that's a great question and probably one with which many of the readers can probably identify. Over the recent years there has been an emphasis on trauma-informed care because it has become apparent that so many of us have experienced traumatic events which influence the way we see and approach the world. To address your specific question, I'd first like to challenge the idea that you're a "resentful person." The way that's worded makes it sound like "resentful" is a part of you, like a description of your person, like an enduring personality trait. You probably have some unresolved resentment but that doesn't identify you as a person. Resentment following trauma is not an abnormal response. It is the expected response when a person or the universe hurts you, especially as a child. However, even though it is normal and natural, that doesn't mean it is ideal and adaptive for us going forward trying to live our best lives. Like you said, it can seriously impair our ability to form trusting and healthy relationships. So, where do you begin in the process of dealing with this resentment? Well, actually, I think you have already begun. Like some of my childhood friends used to say, "knowing is half the battle." Give yourself some credit for the first half of the battle. You've begun this process by knowing a few things about it. You've already acknowledged the problems with your resentment and relationship difficulties. You recognize and understand the connection between the trauma and the personal and interpersonal problems now. You've searched out and sought help from a reputable source. So, hopefully you can shift your thinking to believe that you're already half-way into this process and it is the natural thing for you to just continue moving forward. Allow me to share a metaphor comparing physical and psychological trauma that I and many of my past clients have found helpful and motivating. Trauma to the psyche is like harm or injury to the body in a lot of ways. Think of a child who falls and scrapes his knee on the playground. He might naturally get up and rub some dirt in it and keep playing. He might get some sweat and grime and bacteria in the wound, which might cause infection to develop over time if left untreated. It might turn into an infected scab which could create a bigger problem the more time that passes, and at least will cause a lot of pain and suffering. So, how do you deal with it? Well, if at the time of the injury you have the insight and understanding of first aid and wound care, you'd address it right away by disinfecting it and putting antibiotic ointment over it with a sterile bandage. Most kids on the playground might not have that insight and understanding, so they deal with it as described above. After that innocent, unintentional, and ignorant, but negligent, development of the infected wound has unfolded, treating the trauma is still possible but might require more work and effort. We would need to clean the wound with soap and water, then maybe wipe with a disinfectant. We might need to apply some antibiotic ointment and dress it with a clean bandage. We'll need to uncover it regularly to look at it and do the same cleansing and redressing process to make sure that the infection is subsiding and the wound is healing. So it is with psychological trauma. If you have the insight and understanding of psychological first aid, it is best to address it at the time of the injury. Most children do not have that ability. If there is a responsible adult the child trusts who can help with that first aid at the time of the injury, that is ideal, but many children either don't have that or won't seek the help of an adult for a number of reasons. So, they bury it under layers of dirt and sweat and grime in their psyche. But, as it happens with physical trauma, the wound in the psyche festers and becomes infected. That infection can manifest itself in a lot of different ways; depression and anxiety, nightmares, flashbacks, social problems, interpersonal and relationship issues, and so on. We have to treat it like we would an infected flesh wound, only this one is deeper and more covered up. We need to recognize it is there and make the connection between the trauma and the dysfunction in our life, which you have already done. We must bring the trauma and its consequences into our awareness. We have to inspect and assess the nature of the injury and the degree of infection. Then we need to start the process of cleaning and disinfecting it, which can be done personally or with loved ones, but works best in the competent care of a wound specialist. In the case of injury to the psyche, that would be a psychologist or mental health provider. They have studied these types of wounds and have knowledge and training in how to clean and disinfect them through cognitive and behavioral processes. It will also be helpful to put on some antibiotic ointment which might be compared to the healing that comes with mental and emotional processing of the trauma and forgiveness of ourself and others, not for them but for us to move forward. It will be important to not let this be a one-time cleaning treatment, but to have some regular check ups to uncover the wound and look at it to see how it is healing and if the infection is subsiding, and then to get clean bandages because the wound is going to be draining the infection and it will get dirty. We will need to engage in regular care with a psyche wound care specialist to make sure it heals properly and forms a good health scar. Does this metaphor resonate with you and motivate you to keep digging at the resentment? Does it give you any ideas on how to keep going after the "knowing is half of the battle" which you've already done? Sorry to finish my response to your question with more questions, but I think you're the only one who can determine how to go forward. I believe in you and your ability to get the help you need to clean up and heal the injury to your psyche, and I think you'll notice a lot of benefits to resolving that trauma. As mentioned above, healing the psychological infection will probably result in less depression and anxiety, fewer nightmares and flashbacks, less social problems, and fewer interpersonal and relationship issues, and so on.
Answered on 11/02/2022

How do you forgive a parent for not giving you the love and nurturing you needed without an apology?

That's a great question, Alice. And I want to preface my response by saying that even though I'm a therapist, I can't give you a perspective that would be agreed upon by all, or possibly even most, therapists. The concept of "forgiveness" in therapy is very controversial. As someone who works largely with survivors of trauma, I've found that the pursuit of "forgiveness" is not the answer. I also don't think that "getting over" childhood challenges is the answer either. I don't know what your experience as a child was like, but you obviously harbor some resentment and frustration regarding what happened to you. And for me personally, to insist that you "forgive" or "get over" any of that--that's not fair to you, nor (in my opinion) is at all necessary. I like to replace the word "forgive" with "cope with". Maybe you'll choose to forgive your parents, but even if you do, acceptance needs to come first. You can cope with what happened when you were a child. Therapy can be a great way to work on coping with neglect, or abandonment, or mistreatment, or trauma, but it all comes down to how you choose to perceive the events of your childhood. I felt a similar way toward my parents in the past. It was hard, but being able to understand that I didn't know what they were going through, that I couldn't appreciate the challenges that they were facing, that was helpful for me. That isn't equivalent to forgiveness, but trying (even though it's so hard when we've been hurt by someone) to understand that some of the pain inflicted upon us really isn't about us at all, but about issues that the perpetrator of that pain is experiencing, that can be a huge step in recovering from what happened. Anyway, I know there are different ideas about forgiveness, but my personal perspective is that forgiveness is not the ultimate goal, and it certainly doesn't help one to cope with how the mistreatment affects him or her currently. I do encourage you to give therapy a try, not just to deal with the past, but also to move forward without carrying the burden of what transpired when you were a child. If I can help at all, or if you have any further questions for me, just let me know.  Take care, Nick
Answered on 10/28/2022

How do I cope with trauma?

Hello Mary, It is very nice to meet you. You ask an excellent question. It sounds like you have been through a great deal in your life with your parents. You have insight into how these patterns have affected you into adulthood. This is also very common that we take childhood traumas into our adult lives. Codependency is also common in households in which one or both parents struggled with addiction issues.  I would also want to know more about what your current relationship is like with your parents now? Are things still the same? Are they still together? If you and I were working together in therapy, I would want to explore more about your background and what you experienced when you were growing up. From what you are describing, I do hear symptoms and signs of PTSD. Which is common with adult children who grew up with parents who struggled with substance abuse and domestic violence issues. I would want to explore more with you about your coping strategies, which you state are not healthy. What does that look like for you? Is it difficult for you to set boundaries with others? It is important for you to know that you do not have to be a people pleaser or do things that you don't want to do for others out of fear that they will not be happy with you or will reject you. You have a right to say "no". I would encourage you to reach out for your own therapist to work with and process these traumas. Practice kindness with yourself. You are strong and the fact that you recognize that you do not want to continue to feel like you do shows that. Focus on the things in your life now that you do have control over. Focus on setting firm and consistent boundaries with those around you, even with parents. You are entitled to feel safe and if someone's behaviors or actions cause you to feel unsafe, you are not obligated to keep them in your life. Journaling is an excellent way to get these feelings and memories out. Surround yourself with positive outlets that feel good. Care for yourself. I hope that you have found this information helpful. I wish you all the best moving forward on your journey.
Answered on 10/26/2022

How do I heal myself from trauma, toxic thinking, anxiety, overthinking, codependency etc etc?

In life we all have challenges.  Many of us experience terrible pain that might almost overwhelm us. Yet somehow even when we don't understand how or even why, we can find a glimmer of hope.  We can go on. It is frightening to realize that we don't have all of the answers, sometimes even the next answer, in the process.  Yet if we are willing to take a half step beyond our fears, a way forward can manifest itself. I would never pretend to have all of the answers life has to offer. Yet I have endured great pain during my life journey.  I'm willing to share what has worked for me, how I have learned to embrace and transform my pain into peace. The way I describe is NOT easy. Yet it can be done. You can have the past or the future, but not both. All I offer is another way to see yourself, nothing more, nothing less.  Please join me to find the self you wish you could be but don't believe that you have the hope of becoming.  I will never say that I know how you feel or I understand.  Those statements are insulting from my perspective.  I will say that I can relate to your experience.  I want to help you heal. Thanks for listening to me. I would like to help you find the peace for yourself. Scary is not impossible. Difficult is not impossible.  It's just around the bend, something that you can't see but is still there to experience.  Most people never take the necessary steps to get to your current level of readiness. They just settle for the mild river of misery that runs through their mind forever.  They never know rest or peace. Surely you want more than that. Surely you are willing to do the work in counseling to face the fear and move forward.  Healing from trauma is some of the hardest work I've ever done but also the most fulfilling. It's like opening up a wound that has festered for years. It hurts more in the beginning. Then, as you treat it with antibiotic salve, it begins to heal.
Answered on 10/25/2022

How to recover from a narcissistic relationship?

First off congratulations you already took the first step which was separating yourself from a challenging situation.  Your next concern, if I am understanding you correctly, is the fact you feel you may have waited too long to do something about this, and there are days when you want to go back to what you knew so well.  That would be something one could label as normal for that type of a situation. Some people tend to blame themselves (you mentioned hating of yourself). The feelings you mentioned are all normal responses to being emotionally manipulated over long periods of time. One may lean toward self doubt and the dependency that relationship created. It becomes as the colloquialism states "the devil you know".   It may take a  little time to strengthen your resolve and learn coping mechanisms that will help  guide you through practicing habits that will foster self efficacy and self love whereas you will stop allowing anyone to use or abuse you. You deserve to be happy right? We can discuss what goals you see for yourself moving forward, and we can collaborate on the best objectives to meet those goals moving forward.  Typically objectives are the ways to meet the goals you set for yourself. We can collaborate on whether or not the objectives are achievable,  and whether or not they objectives are measurable in order to make sure you are going about this in a meaningful way. We would collaborate on all possible ways to help you keep a level of confidence and self efficacy as you know yourself better than anyone else right!  Our sessions would focus on self care, self efficacy, self discipline, and most of all, love of self. The approach is collaborative, and educational. We will work together on ways to keep your confidence levels high; we can discuss how to identify and develop your standards; we can collaborate on identifying boundaries, setting boundaries, and how to keep boundaries in place. You will learn about coping methods and what are considered mature coping skills. Mature coping skills will better prepare you to communicate your needs in any relationship. 
Answered on 10/19/2022

How to get rid of childhood trauma?

When processing trauma, it is useful to start with smaller trauma incidents and then build your way up to processing the bigger trauma.  One exercise that might be helpful to process trauma is: Grounding the trauma. Recalling the trauma. Naming the trauma. Sharing the trauma. In order to work through the childhood trauma or any kind of trauma, we must understand it, process it and find a way to heal from it. It sounds as though a lot of shame was put on you through making you feel incredibly worthless which resulted in a decline in your self esteem. It is important to work on and remember that YOU are the one in control. The inner child needs space to heal, and therapy would be one of the ways in which you could do this. Exploring your thoughts and feelings of what you went through as a child and acknowledging that you did nothing wrong will allow you to work towards acceptance and finding a place where you are able to separate the trauma from yourself. It will always be there as a part of your experiences but it does not define who you are. Working through the idea that you are more than your trauma will allow you to reassert that control and remind you of how able you are to have gone through everything you did as a child and made it out as the person you are now. Acknowledging that you survived it all and are working on yourself is a form of an act of kindness to yourself.  In addition to this, it would also be useful to work through the shame you hold from the introjects that were passed onto you. Whilst healing and learning to separate the trauma, you can also begin to think about the shame that is with you and hold it as not being yours but it is someone else's shame that was put on you. This is not fair on you to hold and it might be a good time to think about how to put the shame down and disown it. Finally, in order to do this you must be kind to yourself and give yourself space to grow and learn that this is not your fault. You are worth more than your trauma and you are strong. Giving yourself positive affirmations that you tell yourself daily will support the change in your mindset. 
Answered on 10/19/2022

How do I get past the hurt I was caused during an alcoholic relapse of my partner? I hurt

I'm so sorry that this is something you have had to experience. After something traumatic happens in our lives we are determined to figure out how to get past it, but since memories cannot be erased from our minds it is our responsibility to find a way to live with these memories that is manageable and healthy. The very first thing that would be helpful to focus on is ourselves and how to heal. Self-compassion is a very tough skill to master, we as humans were not taught how to be self-compassionate effectively so when it comes time to address our suffering we are uncomfortable. We must realize that we deserve to give ourselves just as much care and concern that we would give to others in times like this; by virtue of being a human we are worthy of it. We have the power to heal ourselves when we put in effort and work, it is the most genuine and loving thing we can do for ourselves. After investing time in yourself and your healing, then you can consider where you stand regarding your relationship with your partner. It would be a great time to first ask yourself and honestly answer "Is my safety (literal and perceived) at stake?" "Is this relationship something I can handle right now?" "Will I be able to heal for my sake and stay true to myself if I resume being in this relationship?" and "Is the love that we have worth putting in the work on both of our ends to fix the relationship? Would he even be willing to work on himself and work on the relationship?" These are all questions that would need to be addressed after you begin addressing your trauma because again, you are your best chance at getting better. Ultimately it is you who needs to be able to love yourself before you can consider giving and receiving love from someone else, especially since being with this person has caused you trauma and PTSD resulting. I really hope this was helpful, if you are looking to begin therapy to address your trauma I would be more than happy to help you through your journey. Please take care.
Answered on 10/11/2022

Can a rape victim and a biplor patient leads a normal life

What you survived has apparently left some seeming indelible psychological damage. The reality is that you can heal – even the most severe forms of trauma can be overcome with time and work. Time does not heal all wounds. It is the work you invest in during that time since the trauma that makes all the difference.    I imagine what you mentioned is not easy to have lived through let alone talk about, but I admire your strength and courage in reaching out for help. You asked if a rape survivor diagnosed with Bipolar disorder can lead a normal life. I am not sure if I can answer this question to your satisfaction without knowing your definition of “normal.” What I can say without equivocation is that change is possible. People can heal from their past trauma, including rape survivors. You can additionally manage Bipolar disorder with the proper medication regimen, psychotherapy interventions and lifestyle changes.  It sounds like you also engage in self-injurious behaviors, self-reported anger issues, and insecurity. Self-injury, anger, an insecurity are all very common and normal responses to trauma. When you work on healing from this trauma, you will hopefully also learn healthy forms of coping to replace the self-harming as you get to the root of your anger and insecurity.    In spite of all of this, it seems like you have a goal of being a successful woman. I believe you are capable of much more than you may even think possible. The fact that you survived something so devastatingly traumatic, and live with a mood disorder to boot, speaks to your strength. You overcame something that some people do not live to tell the story about.  I encourage you to adjust your word choice as words make worlds. What you speak to yourself becomes your truth. For example, you identified yourself as a “victim.” You are not a victim: you are a survivor. There are many people who end up living what society would deem a “normal life” and “successful” despite having survived rape and living with a mood disorder diagnosis.  It is possible that you may have even come across some of these people in your daily life unbeknownst to you! Not unlike these people you may have come across in passing, your past trauma, too, is not something anyone will know unless you choose to divulge that part of your past with them. You have the power to share your story if you wish.  Speaking of which, I encourage you to work with a therapist to partner with you in your journey to healing and achieving your goals of normalcy and success.
Answered on 08/15/2022

How do you start to thrive in life and not just survive after trauma?

Content/Trigger Warning: Please be advised that the article below mentions trauma-related topics that include relationship abuse that could be triggering. Hello and thanks for reaching out to this platform.  It takes a great deal of strength and self respect to seek out help in this way. I hope you can acknowledge this strength in yourself as you move forward in your life. It also takes strength to flee an abusive relationship.  This is not an easy thing to do, nor is it easy to make a living on your own and start to rebuild your life.  You have much determination and grit! It sounds like you are wishing to heal, not just cope, with the trauma you've experienced in your life.  This is understandable, because in order to thrive, you will want to heal.  We can all learn good coping skills that help us when we feel activated to anxiety or sadness, that's of value to all of us.  Yet you've been through a great deal and it sounds as if you understand that your previous experiences remain within you to some degree.  That is the basis of trauma counseling, where those memories can be processed, understood and accepted (as having happened, not as being "okay"), so you can grow from them, learn and heal.  This type of therapy often involves talking about, even writing about, the trauma you've experienced.  It is powerful work. Careful trauma counseling also involves understanding where you might be stuck.  We can all become stuck in life, by our own thinking patterns and negative thoughts.  Life experiences, particularly those that are traumatic, can lead to narratives in our minds that are not true, highly negative and cause us to feel threatened.  This is where work with those negative thoughts, through Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, can be so valuable.  This type of work leads to skills that enable you to take care of not just your body, but your mind, and your soul.  We hope to clear the decks of your mind, free up your body and help you to understand and dismiss, so to speak, distortions of thought.  But you are not alone...we all can and do have thoughts that can keep us stuck to a degree. I hope this is helpful.  All the best to you!
Answered on 07/20/2022

Whether to get back together with an abusive partner who's undergoing therapy

Hello Frank, It is quite natural for you to want to save a relationship that you have been in for a while especially if you are still attached to him.  After all, even abusive relationships can have moments that are calm and enjoyable. The rosy memory of your relationship that you treasured suddenly breaks in tiny pieces.  The partner that you cherished suddenly becomes someone to fear. For some, professional help and significant changes a relationship can become healthy.  Abusive relationships are a sign of 'imbalance of control and power on the abuser's part. I have to caution you that most abusers aren't able to make the changes needed.  Given that many abusers never make the necessary changes, it is not unusual for a counselor to counsel the victim to leave rather than trying to fix the relationship. On a positive note, your abuser does seem to be taking responsibility for his behaviors and not blaming you. It takes time, deliberation and a lot of action to create the changes needed. Just because someone can change it doesn't mean they will.  So if you do decide to return to your partner you will need to look for signs of real change in him. If you find yourself asking if your partner can make the changes needed here is something to consider. Change is often unsuccessful if you try not to react or suppress your emotions to prevent a fight.  This may result in you exploding with frustration and it results in a violent episode again. Reach out for professional relationship counseling - being open to this is a good sign.  A counselor can help you both understand the faulty patterns of your relationship and help you address them. A counselor can provide you both with a safe place to discuss your problems, your terms and your future together. Old wounds, fights and wrongdoing and so on, are heavy to hold. You and your partner must be willing to let go of these problems to heal after an abusive relationship. So unresolved issues are one of the major reasons behind ongoing arguments.  You will need to resolve your old fights and let go of any resentment you have been holding on to. To fully have a healthy relationship you will both need to unlearn old patterns when facing an argument and find new ways to interact with your partner. Staying in the relationship after the abuse will be possible only if you learn how to argue and resolve your issues - a counselor will help with this.   Many abusers promise to change but fail to do so when it counts. This is what often creates a cycle of abuse. There isn't really a way to measure any change  your partner is making. There are however some signs an abuser has changed.  I will share some of them with you. Conversations about past wrongs - when he talks about the past - does he show remorse and own his mistakes.  He will stop being defensive and stop making making excuses like "you wind me up and made me do it" so they take little to no responsibility for their actions. Improved patience - You should notice more patience in your partner. Things that used to annoy him no longer do so. You will notice more emotional maturity in your partner. Psychological help - if your partner continues to attend counseling the changes are more likely to be permanent. Letting go of old habits and patterns - You should notice that your partner starts to let go of the old thought patterns and be more accepting.  For example, your partner will be more accepting if he has to wait for you if you are making him wait. Increased Respect - You should notice your partner shows you more respect.  Rebuilding a relationship after abuse does not happen over night. It may take many months of effort to start from ground zero in your relationship. It won't be the easiest path to take in the world and it will most definitely require a lot of effort, vulnerability and openness to create the change you will need from both sides. It is okay to be unsure about staying or leaving the relationship.  It is a big decision and indeed one you should not take lightly.  The more you think about this the more confusing it can be and it can leave you feeling bewildered, anxious and confusing to say the least. Talk to a friend, a family member you are close with before you make a decision.  You can also connect with a professional counselor at BetterHelp before making your decision if you think that will help you. The power to have a successful relationship reconciliation is actually with the abuser since the majority of responsibility of making the necessary changes and taking responsibility lies with them to - they will need to take responsibility of their actions and need to accept the gravity of their behaviors towards you. Regaining a Safe Environment - Successful reconciliation can only happen if you both agree to turn your relationship back to a safe environment. Here are a few tips on how to achieve this: Take one step at a time - Expecting things just to change because you want things to be right is unrealistic.  You need to pace your partner that they are comfortable with.   You cannot rush the process. Forgiveness - You will need to forgive your partner for many things and this may not be easy for you and it may take a bit of time. Acceptance - You need to accept what has happened - this is not something you can sweep under the carpet or act like an ostrich burning your head in the sand by pretending nothing has happened.  You will have to accept things for how they are and move on.  If you are able to absorb the above you will perhaps see there is a lot of work to do - both of you.  The decision to stay is a collective one; one you need to both realize that you will have to make major changes in. Making the promises is the easy part, keeping to them is not.  It takes a lot of hard work over time. A relationship can survive domestic abuse if two partners are fully committed to change and both willing to do their part. Remember, there is help awaiting you at BetterHelp if you need further guidance and support.   Best Wishes, Gaynor 
Answered on 05/29/2022

I feel anxious and depressed often. I’m unsure if I need therapy though.

Thanks for this question K. Firstly, determining your readiness for therapy is paramount. None of the issues you want resolved can be so until you can decide if you can make a sincere commitment to your growth and development. What things might you need to have squared away before that decision becomes realistic to you? There's nothing wrong with wanting to take your time through this process, but the process is for certain. Secondly, how long have you felt like the people around you do not care about you? What type of care and concern are you looking for and how well can you show that kind of love to yourself? Are these feelings in any way brought on by you still resolving the trauma from being outed in middle school? Having a distorted perception around who you can trust is common after experiences such as yours and it would make complete sense that you find difficulty in believing your friends are honoring you and your relationship.  Thirdly, coping with any substance can have dangerously lasting effects and can neurochemically alter our disposition. The more we find a release through the substance the less we'll feel motivated and secure in holistic methods of coping with difficult emotions. Be mindful of your frequency and usage, as well as thinking of a plan to holistically address issues without weed as an intervention. Fourthly, what happened to you in middle school was disgusting and betraying. No one should have their personal business especially their identity politics aired out for all to make their own judgment and assessment on. You are not a spectacle and you are no one's symbol to concentrate pain and hate towards. I am happy you have been able to move forward in life through making healthier relationships in high school and college but you are absolutely right, trauma such as the kind you faced in middle school can leave a lasting impression on how we perceive things in our immediate relationships regardless if it matches reality. When our perception does not compliment reality we know for sure our perception has been compromised due to some form of trauma. Correcting your perception and being able to dispel those beliefs that your friends even now do not care comes with committing to the therapeutic process. I look forward to us being able to continue this conversation through conducted sessions when you are ready K. Peace!
(M.Ed, LPC)
Answered on 05/21/2022

How do I become less dependent in my relationship?

Thank you for your question. I can hear the honesty and pain reflected in your question. If I am understanding your question correctly, you are asking about how to know if your relationship has some codependency, and if relationship issues may show up in the future.  True codependency is about feeling compelled (unable to say no) to take care of someone else, for your sense of peace. To having to be needed in that way by taking care of someone else. Their very identity is defined by this.  Someone with relationship trauma may show signs of codependency or they may feel so uncomfortable with the idea of inter-dependency in a relationship. Healthy inter-dependency feels more like unhealthy dependency.  Sometimes the idea of depending on another person at all is scary.  On some level it is, but much less scary with someone who truly cares about what happens to you, how their actions affect you and values your trust. A person must be trustworthy to be worthy of you depending on them on any level. If they are emotionally healthy, they will want you to succeed, to make decisions that make you happy, and to apologize when they have hurt you or disappointed you. I think it is important to note a feature of codependency is the way both people interact in the relationship, it is about the dynamic between both of them. So while you may feel uncomfortable with healthy dependency, an important question to reflect on is: is this person supporting me as an individual, or do they need me for their own benefit? Do they respect you when you disagree with them?  Inter-dependence looks like both partners seeking input from the other person and then making a decision that they are most comfortable with and receiving support from their partner for their decision. A therapist can help you learn about healthy relationships, boundaries, healthy inter-dependence in relationships, and empower you to make decisions based on what you need and want in a relationship. No one knows what will happen in the future with our relationships. However, when you know that the support, affection and love are enjoyed and reciprocated by both of you, you can reasonably believe this will continue in the future. Communicate through the issues that come up and resolve conflict as it comes. Find a solution you are both comfortable with. Seek couples counseling if issues or disagreements increase in frequency or are not coming to a resolution. 
Answered on 05/20/2022

Could it be emotional abuse?

Content/Trigger Warning: Please be advised that the article below might mention trauma-related topics that include types of abuse that could be triggering.   Emotional abuse is a pattern of behavior that can include verbal abuse (yelling, insults, etc.), rejection (not talking to you, acting as if you do not exist), and/or manipulation (gaslighting).  The purpose of these behaviors is to exert control over the other through fear, isolation, and self-doubt.  People who experience emotional abuse often question their own reality, minimize their emotions, and can become dependent on the other to understand themselves, others, and the world around them.  In this way, the abuser has control over the abused and the cycle continues as the abuser's sense of control increases.   In addition to self-doubt and the mental strain of being controlled, people who are abused might experience physical symptoms of pain, headache, stomach pain, sleeping problems, or other physical ailments.  Anxiety and depression may emerge in response to emotional abuse, along with low self-esteem or sense of worth.  Over time it can lead to developing dependency on unhealthy relationships or putting your own best interests aside as a "people pleaser." So emotional abuse is used to control another, occurs over time, and evokes a response from the abused, such as, self-doubt, fear, or isolation.  If this describes what you are experiencing, then it could be emotional abuse.   No one deserves to be abused in any way.  The good news is, whether it is a current relationship or a pattern in relationships, there are ways to learn how to recognize signs of emotional abuse in relationships, prevent gaslighting, and build self-esteem to enjoy healthy relationships.    Working with a therapist can help to identify prior experiences or learned behaviors that may make a person vulnerable to emotional abuse.  Over the course of time, these experiences can lead us to develop unhelpful thoughts and beliefs about ourselves (I'm not good enough), others (people can hurt me), or the world (it is unsafe).  Therapy will work to identify, challenge, and shift (or replace) those unhelpful thoughts and beliefs with more beneficial ones.  Therapy can also work on building skills to maintain a balance in relationships to ensure both individuals are getting their needs met in addition to specific skills to use when asking for the other to meet our need.   There are many types of therapy that can achieve this outcome.  Cognitive Behavior Therapy and Dialectical Behavior Therapy are common therapies to learn new skills and develop new thought patterns and can be relatively short-term.  Both look at a person who could benefit from learning some skills--not as someone who is broken.
Answered on 05/18/2022

How do I start the process of healing my childhood trauma?

Content/Trigger Warning: Please be advised that the article below might mention trauma-related topics that include types of abuse that could be triggering.   Hello Ashley, thank you for your question, I am so pleased that you have reached out for help. The fact that you have identified the origin of the anxiety, low confidence and fear of abandonment and reached out for help to understand how it is affecting you as an adult lets me know that you have done some powerful therapeutic work on yourself already, I wonder if that is how it feels for you? I'm wondering how you have felt since you asked me the question and if you have found you are feeling more out of sorts since sending the message? I ask because it sounds like you are starting on a journey, and verbalising experiences can often bring some difficult feelings to the surface. I wonder how you would feel about thinking and talking about the memories you have blocked out? Do you feel that you are ready to go there? I wonder if it would help you to know that as I am a person-centred counsellor, you are in charge of the pace of the sessions and we would not revisit events in particular detail if you did not feel ready to share that. It is important that you are not retraumatised but able to understand the affect the abuse had on you both as a child and as an adult and successfully work through the feelings to enable you to feel more comfortable in your own skin, so I would suggest working on this in live session therapy rather than email therapy so you are not left sitting with the feelings it may bring up for you and we are able to metaphorically pack the box away at the end of each session as you mention having a successful career, partner and home. Writing and talking about your experiences can help heal your child within and reduce the impact on your adult self. Adverse childhood experiences such as experiencing abuse can impact on adult life and result in the feelings you are experiencing, so in answer to your question to heal the childhood trauma, the first step is to heal the inner child. I have successfully worked with other clients who have experienced physical abuse as a child so can hear the hurt, I wonder if that helps you to feel supported to explore this with me? I hope you have found my answer to your question helpful, feel free to get in touch if you have any other questions or would like to arrange a session. Kind regards, Charlotte
Answered on 05/15/2022

How to get over past trauma

Dear Lexi,   The situation you describe is all too common among trauma survivors. It’s great that you are inquiring about it, because the good news is that patterns of behavior, even deeply entrenched patterns, can be modified. It is very normal that you have not been able to make these changes on your own. The mind is complicated and confusing, such as when you say you know your self-worth, but realize you are not behaving as that worthy person.   Knowing what to do and actually doing it are two very different things. This is a frequent source of huge frustration for anyone who has ever tried to make positive changes in their life. The knowing comes way before the capacity to implement new behavior.   I hope you plan to follow up this question and answer by signing up for therapy. Working with a therapist who is skilled in trauma treatment can help you figure out how to make the changes needed so that your actions will reflect the person you are and want to be.   Your therapist would likely start out by providing you with some psychoeducation about traumatic experiences and how they impact a person’s brain. Psychoeducation is the process of providing information to a client about the issues they are dealing with, how they originate, how they are treated, and what the person can expect in therapy. Knowledge is power, and this fact-based information creates a good foundation for your future work in therapy.   You might wonder why you have chosen partners or ended up in friendships with people who mistreat you when that is the last thing you want. No one wants to be mistreated. But trauma can impact a person’s judgement. When you have a history of abuse and mistreatment, your mind develops a subconscious expectation regarding how you expect people to treat you, about what is “safe” and what is suspicious.   One of my favorite trauma therapists, Janina Fisher, PhD, explains it well. She says, “Emotional memory converts the past into an expectation of the future.” This illustrates the fact that trauma is not so much a matter what happened to you in the past. It is about how your mind and body adapted to that dangerous situation. There is a part of you that continues trying to protect you as if you still lived in a state of danger. Trauma symptoms are really emergency coping skills that have outlived their usefulness, but have become automatic.   You reference that you have become tired and frustrated in relationships in which you have been treated badly. And that you have then displayed toxic traits or behavior toward the other person. This actually makes perfect sense. We all have different “parts” of our personalities. For you, it sounds like one part of you expects and accepts mistreatment. But I’m sure there are other parts that realize this is not acceptable. So, after a time when the submissive part accepts someone’s bad behavior toward you, it is likely that a “fight part” emerges. This part does not know how to calmly set boundaries, so it responds in kind – lashing out with anger, protecting itself any way it can.   Therapy can help you integrate your different parts and allow your true self to guide you in both choosing healthy relationship and reacting to conflict.   I hope this has shed some light on the confusing aspects of your own behavior and given you hope that, with time, you will be able to act intentionally and deliberately according to your true values.   Julie
Answered on 05/14/2022

Can you provide attainable tools/skills/feedback to help me ‘rewire’ years of trauma, ptsd, etc.

First off, kudos to you for being a single mom. It's hard to describe in words just what it takes and the load you're carrying as a single parent. That you are endeavoring to work on your healing while holding such a demanding job is admirable, and I applaud your efforts. Especially, as you say, in the context of the state of the world and the systems we all struggle inside of. It sounds to me like you've really been through a lot in your life, and all of the struggles you're now navigating are indicative to me of a likely build-up of unresolved / unhealed trauma. My guess from what you're sharing here is that some of the trauma you've experienced was likely preverbal / preconscious, so in your very earliest years - and this can be the trickiest kind to try to heal from - as well as events that you do have conscious memory of. In any case, since you are asking, I think, for tangible or more concrete tools for dealing with all of this, let me suggest to you that trauma, and the way we respond to it, is primarily a biological (rather than psychological) phenomenon. (This is the assertion of Dr. Peter Levine, the internationally renowned trauma expert and creator / developer of Somatic Experiencing, a naturalistic and neurobiological approach to healing trauma.) So in other words, yes - we can accomplish a great deal toward healing our traumas by doing things like talk therapy, and, the most meaningful and profound ways to heal our traumas are through physiological or somatic processes. One thing that trauma does to us - whether it's physical, sexual, verbal, emotional, psychological - is that it overwhelms our senses, and in that process of overwhelm disconnects us from our bodies. But what's arguably more important than what has happened to us is the way we've responded to what's happened to us, and/or the support we've had from others in moving through what's happened to us. For instance, let's say I was physically assaulted by someone bigger than me when I was a child. My body knew it needed to get away, but I was physically inferior and so unable to get away. All of this energy that I desperately needed to use in that moment but couldn't becomes stored up in my system, and it still needs to be released, or else my internal motor will just be constantly running (at least until it is released). And often, this is what happens when people experience things like panic attacks, for instance - their bodies are reminded of and perceive an immediate threat, so their nervous systems go into fight or flight mode...all the while, there's no actual threat in their immediate environment; it would probably look silly if they started running, or it would be a problem if they started threatening or attacking a person in their vicinity, so that energy tends to stay stuck, and they become paralyzed, temporarily (and often start sweating, shaking, crying, heart starts racing). So the focus then in healing these kinds of symptoms lies in the whole body more than just the brain, with the goal being to reconnect us to our physical bodies, where we've been disconnected from them. There are a number of somatic exercises we can try as a way to reconnect us to our bodies. One fairly common way is meditating and/or building smaller mindfulness practices and activities into our day to day, where for instance we take just a moment to stop, pause, take a breath, remind ourselves we have a body, and consciously and intentionally notice what is happening inside of our body. Do I feel warmth, heat, tightness, coolness, soreness? Where am I feeling it? What does it feel like? Doing something like this even just once a day or a couple of times a week at first can get us into the habit of paying more attention to our bodies, which helps us move toward reconnecting with them. If you're interested, here is a link to five Somatic Experiencing exercises you might take a look at: https://life-care-wellness.com/somatic-experiencing-exercises-to-keep-you-grounded/  And, since you mentioned trying to manage all you're managing against the backdrop of the heaviness of the current state of the world, I would be curious, for one, to know what your news intake looks like. Not to suggest we can (or should) close our eyes and ears to what is going on around us and hole ourselves up, but, most if not all of us have a strong intuitive sense of the way things are and how things are going, generally speaking - what's working, what's not, what needs to change - and regular consumption of the news can be redundant and even harmful to our health, for instance by increasing the amount of cortisol in our systems. And news intake can represent a form of addiction, as well - we all, at a more instinctive level, have a desire to know the latest big thing that's happened, good or bad. When we seek this out and then get it, we get an immediate injection of dopamine into our brains the same way we would when we self-soothe with things like alcohol, cannabis, and other substances more typically associated with addiction. So, to the extent you can reduce your news intake, by setting time limits for yourself on certain social media accounts, unfollowing people and organizations, or even deactivating certain social media accounts, this will be better for your overall health. And my guess is you'll still have a good enough sense of what's going on in the world. Additionally, when we have the urge to check the news, or our phones in general, this can offer us a great opportunity to stop, breathe, and check in on what's happening in our bodies. (And if you already feel like you have your news intake under control, you can disregard this part of my answer :) ) I hope this has been at least somewhat helpful, Z. I wish you the best going forward. Chris
Answered on 05/06/2022

Should I expect my husband to answer questions about his affair and prove that it is over?

I think you have to determine what you need for you to reconcile with your husband.  You have to decide why it is important to hear the details of the affair.  Sometimes this is what people think they want but it does not go as well as they may think.  I can't really tell you what you should or should not do   I think the most important thing is to have you forgiving him and having you move on from the affair. The important questions may be: Have you forgiven him and do you trust him?  Why is it important that you hear the details and do you need to hear them in order to forgive him?  Do you think he will do it again and do you know why he committed the affair? I think the important thing is that you build trust and learn communication skills that will help you to understand one another and to learn now you can both prevent it from happening again.   Has your husband accepted his responsibility in the situation and has he asked for forgiveness from a place of true remorse?  He is definitely responsible for his own behavior; however was there something going on the marriage that many have contributed to the situation.  You know what you need to move on and it is important that you get what you need to move on.  Explore whether your expectations are reasonable.  Therapy can help you explore your options in a nonjudgmental and effective manner.  You need to be sure that you are healed and can accept him back into your space.  You can survive this situation if you take the right steps.  You have to be honest about your feelings and you have to be able to trust that what he says is the truth.    How do you think knowing the details will help?  Make sure you are making decisions based on the relationship between the two of you and not what others think and believe. Do you love him and do you believe he loves you?  Do you trust him?  I would enjoy the opportunity to help you figure this out.  
Answered on 05/01/2022