PTSD Isn't Just Something Veterans or EMT's Get
Traumatic relationships cause it too
I've known I've had PTSD for almost six or seven years. I've never been to war. I'm not an EMT or a LEO. I'm just a mom. I'm 30 now.
From when I was 17 to when I was 24, I was with a man who was the textbook definition of gas lighting. Looking back, the way he hungered for control in any means possible suffocates me just thinking about it.
For the longest time, I felt that I handled the emotional and psychological abuse quite well. After all, I had grown up in a very toxic family household, so getting yelled at or being in the midst of fights was normal to me. Seeing plates get smashed and phones being yanked from the phone jack so we couldn't call the cops was normal to me.
Being in a relationship so toxic was paralyzing. I had to watch what I wore, ask permission to see my friends, he would demand sex and if I refused he'd get violent and throw things. I wasn't allowed my own car or to even get my driver's license. Every time I'd ask to go get it, he'd make up an excuse as to why he couldn't take me to get my license. It got to the point, I had to get sneaky and hide my money because he was taking all of it every time I got paid while he wasn't working and was collecting unemployment.
The last year and a half was probably the worst. I remember telling him while we were in the car that I wanted a divorce. That was a mistake. As soon as those words flew from my mouth, he punched the windshield so hard it cracked all the way across. He punched the dashboard repeatedly. All while our young son was asleep in the backseat. He woke up crying because he had no idea what was happening, he had just heard a loud sound. He thought we had crashed. At that point I knew I had to be careful and plan my escape thoroughly. Who knows what he might do next time, he might kill me. I didn't know. I convinced him to move into my dad's house outside of town. He hadn't been paying our rent for two months and I had no idea. It still makes me wonder where that money was going to... but we were getting evicted anyways. It couldn't have came at a more perfect time to be honest.
Shortly after moving into my dad's, I had convinced my soon to be ex to let me practice driving. He let me drive a few times, enough to give me the basics of it. Then he quit letting me drive and became more controlling about it. Asking me why I wanted to learn so bad and why I even need to learn how to drive. He would start jerking the wheel and threatening to kill us while driving down the road. He did it enough times that I always had my hand on the door ready to jump out if I needed too. It's something I still do to this day. I even keep the window rolled down slightly just so I can breathe.
I finally got the courage to leave three months after the last time he threatened to kill us on the road. I can't tell you how good it felt. To feel confident enough to not be afraid what happens once you tell your abuser that you are done with their crap. It's a feeling of euphoria. You sleep better. Life feels amazing again, like when you were a kid. You actually look happily towards the future.
I was excited to have my own car, to drive, to be independent—FINALLY ! Then I started having panic attacks getting in the car and driving. I was so embarrassed. I was 24 years old and couldn't even drive because of the trauma I went through. I'd pull over to the side of the road and sob. Praying to God no one pulled over to see if I was okay because i couldn't handle the embarrassment of saying, "I was having a panic attack."
Even though me and him weren't together anymore, and he wasn't even in the vehicle with me, my mind still associated driving and being in a vehicle as him being there and myself being in danger. This angered me so much. All I ever wanted was to be independent and to be able to drive and I couldn't even do that. It got better with time and then it got bad again, and it got better. PTSD is like a roller coaster. Some days are really really good and you feel fine, you feel like you can manage and then sometimes, you go through periods of paralyzing fear and you hate yourself for it.
My biggest regret is not getting out of that abusive relationship sooner. I often wonder if I would even have PTSD. If I had just had the courage to leave sooner, would I be better now?
If anyone is reading this and you're trapped in an abusive relationship, please get out now. Staying in one does nothing for you. You owe yourself a better life, a better future; one filled with love and support and not having to live in constant stress and fear. I hope my story can help you find the courage within yourself to be brave and leave.