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“Will I ever be the same?” (Part 1)

Nearly every person who has been in a relationship with a sociopath and survived, has asked, “Will I ever be the same?” When we ask this question, what we are really asking is if we are permanently damaged. We all know that every day we age, grow and change, therefore on a minute to minute basis we are technically not the same even when good things happen. But the trauma we have experienced is different from our everyday experiences that change us little by little. This trauma resulted from an enormous psychological, emotional and financial catastrophe. The trauma is all the more severe because the catastrophe was caused intentionally as an act of aggression by someone we loved-a sociopath. Over the next few weeks I will be discussing the psychological and emotional damage caused by sociopaths.

I was always a passionate, feeling person. Then suddenly, four years ago, in the acute aftermath of my relationship with a sociopath, I went numb. I was completely unable to feel any emotion other than fear. The fear and anxiety were very intense and were present nearly every waking moment. The waking moments were the rule rather than the exception because for the first time in my life, I was also an insomniac. I went from being a person who always hated TV to being unable to relax at all at night unless it was on. It was then I wondered if I would ever be healthy again.

I had other symptoms too. Everything seemed unreal, I as if I was dreaming. Things seemed to go in slow motion. I felt separated from what was happening, like I was an actress in a movie or play. Everything looked different than before. Colors were less vivid, but sounds seemed uncomfortably loud. The trauma had been so severe that I developed these symptoms of dissociation. Indeed, I was coming unglued!

You may have read my story and said, “Wow! I felt that way too.” Maybe you felt these feelings, but never experiencing them before, didn’t know that they represent dissociation. But what is dissociation? Does it indicate a damaged person? Does dissociation mean a person has or will develop post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)?

Dissociation is the psychological experience associated with trauma that is so severe that our stress hormones and neurochemicals act like hallucinogenic drugs. Dissociation affects our senses. Our sense of time, vision, hearing, taste and touch may all be affected. Our bodies may even feel different. In extreme cases ongoing memory is also impaired and the person may develop amnesia. It is no coincidence that these symptoms are similar to those caused by serotonergic hallucinogens like Ecstasy and LSD. The serotonin system of the brain is affected by severe stress. We also know that severe stress and Ecstasy can damage the serotonin system of the brain.

That was the bad news. This is the good news. These symptoms do not necessarily evolve into PTSD or indicate damage. They can occur in most anyone if the trauma is severe enough. However, the longer a person has these symptoms, the more likely it is he/she will develop PTSD. Consider these symptoms to be a warning siren signaling the possibility of long term damage to your system.

You can protect yourself from long term damage if you recognize you are having these symptoms of dissociation. Perhaps, following your severely traumatic experience, smaller stresses cause these symptoms to recur or intensify. Your capacity to withstand stress may be severely limited for a while. If you work to reduce the controllable stress in your life you can do a lot to protect yourself from long term damage.

There are four very important practical things you can do if you recognize these signs of stress hormone overdose. The most important is to get love and social support as much as you can. Even a pet can be a source of wellness for you. By love I mean giving and receiving physical affection, hugs and caresses. If you are a parent, giving love and affection to your children will help them and you. Talking about your experiences to a friend can be helpful if you end the conversations on a positive note. Put a positive spin on everything you can.

The second thing you can do is get exercise everyday. Exercise will help your body regulate its stress hormone levels. Exercise may also help clear your mind.

The third thing you can do is eat right. Go easy on the high sugar, high fat foods. Eating right may be hard to do because the stress hormones cause carbohydrate cravings. In the early stages of my own trauma, the carbohydrate cravings fueled an obsession with food. For the first time in my life, I enjoyed watching the food channel. I also took up cooking as a hobby!

The fourth and last defense against stress is stress management. Learn to relax yourself with deep breathing. Replace hopeless, negative thoughts with more positive ones. Think everyday about what you have to be hopeful about and thankful for. Most of all don’t glorify or ruminate about being a victim. Don’t allow “victim” to become your status or your identity.

If love, exercise, diet and stress management do not greatly reduce or eliminate symptoms of dissociation, you should seek a mental health evaluation. Symptoms of dissociation are like fever. They indicate you may have a serious issue that could cause long term harm. Medication and/or psychotherapy will reduce these symptoms and hopefully prevent long term damage. If you have never had symptoms of dissociation, it is statistically unlikely you will develop PTSD. Next week I’ll discuss PTSD.


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15 Comments on "“Will I ever be the same?” (Part 1)"

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In August, I had a scary situation with my ex-husband. My 14 year old son was starting a new high school. We live in a city, so the school is really large and I thought it important that he attend the orientation. I arranged with his hockey coach that he would miss practice that day for the orientation.
My ex was unhappy about this decision and picked my son up while I was at work and took him to the practice anyway. I ended up going to the orientation alone, so I could pass the information on to my son. Later that night (at 10:00 pm) my son was still not home. I called my ex to see when he was bringing my son home. He said any minute. At 11:00, I called the police to say my ex was not returning my son home. The police did bring my son home, but when they dropped him off, one of the officers began yelling at me, saying that I would be sorry for calling the police. He said that my son told the police that he was sitting right next to me at the orientation and that I gave my consent for him to be at his dad’s. The officer then said that our agreement states that my ex could take my son anytime to practice and that my ex said I was going to be evaluated for being crazy. He said his report would agree that I was crazy. I could not think straight when the officer was yelling at me. I couldn’t even defend myself at all. My mind went completely blank…I think I was paralyzed with fear. Later when I thought about it, I realized that I had sat next to the mother of one of my son’s friends, and we had talked about my son missing the orientation. Also, our agreement does not say that he can take him anytime…and there is no motion for me to have a psych. evaluation.
The whole incident was really upsetting to me. I felt horrible that my son would be put in a situation to lie to the police. I felt scared that my ex would include my son in a lie like that and then viciously tell the police I was crazy. I was also scared about myself. I completely froze. I was not able to defend myself when I really needed to. This still scares me today. My ex comes across so self assured…he can lie whenever he needs to and I am not even able to protect myself.
After that night, I started waking up in the middle of the night in a complete panic. My heart would be racing and I couldn’t catch my breath. I would be in complete panic and I wouldn’t know why. This would happen from a sound sleep. Then, I could not go back to sleep. I ended up going to my family doctor. He said I was experiencing panic. He put me on a small dosage of anti-depressant and this has helped me a lot. I no longer wake up in a panic, I am sleeping better. I hope also that maybe by being on this medication I would be able to better defend myself if the situation arises.

” …. sounds seemed uncomfortably loud….”

I can so relate to this. When my realtionship abruptly came to an end (about 4 years) ago, my whole world came crumbling down. Not only did my ex tell me he had had a “fling” with one of his employees, he also lost his job because of it, and had to leave the country (the US) because the company revoked his visa. I was left behind with his three sons, one of which was exiled as well, because I could not cover him under my visa status as he was 18. We had lived in a beautiful home in the middle of nature and I loved waking up in the morning to the singing of the birds. When all the “bad” stuff happened, the noise of the birds was so intensified, I could not stand having my windows open and I covered my ears with pillows to escape the shrill of the birds…

What you say about the police makes sense. After that happened, I asked two neighbors if they would mind being present if I need to call the police again. I think the police officer would have talked to me differently if there was someone else to hear it. I also now have my custody agreement in a very accessible place, so I can refer to it if I need to.
I know there is a police record of that night, one side of me would like to know what it says, but the other side of me, is too afraid to go to the police station to find out. The thought of even going to the police station scares me, and then if the officer did say I was crazy this would distress me very much. So, it’s probably better not to know.

I want to thank every single person who wrote to me, encouraged me from your heart, truly, truly cared, prayed for me…forgive me if I leave anything out. I wanted to write this sooner, but I wasn’t feeling so well, and then I didn’t know how to write back to you. I emailed Donna and she told me to find the article I blogged in, and today, I finally found it! Her first email to me was that several people were very concerned about me…taking my own life. She told me to call 911 and that when I talked about wanting to kill myself, that is when people get so upset and worry about me. I told her that I am very sorry, and I am sincerely sorry for upsetting people, causing people to fear and worry about me, and most of all, CAUSING TRIGGERS! I thought about that after reading Donna’s email a few times. I didn’t realize it, but I was causing triggers and I could have harmed someone by doing that. I also heard Dr. Phil say a few days later that: “there is something called contagius suicide.” I AM SO SORRY FOR HURTING ALL THOSE I HURT, BRINGING AWFUL MEMORIES BACK FROM THE PAST, DEPRESSING THOSE WHO I DEPRESSED, AND ALL THAT I DID WRONG, TRULY SORRY, AND I WILL TRY TO THINK BEFORE I WRITE SO THAT I WILL NOT AFFECT ANYONE IN A DETRIMENTAL WAY. DEAR GOD, I APOLGIZE. I DO NOT LIKE TO HURT PEOPLE AT ALL. I AM SUPERSENSITIVE AND SOMETIMES I DON’T REALIZE WITH ALL MY WRITING ON AND ON AND ON (BECAUSE I NEED TO GET IT OUT BEFORE I GO CRAZY (IF I’M NOT ALREADY) AND I KNOW ALL OF YOU UNDERSTAND, I JUST GO ON AND ON AND ON. IT IS SO DIFFICULT TO TRUST PEOPLE NOW, BUT FROM THE FIRST TIME I WROTE AND SUCH NICE, WONDERFUL, CARING PEOPLE RESOPONDED AND UNDERSTOOD AND ENCOURAGED AND HELPED ME, I FELT SO COMFORTABLE AND I FELT AS THOUGH I WAS A PART OF A FAMILY, A SAFE PLACE WHERE THERE WERE PEOPLE WHO LOVED ME ALTHOUGH I DIDN’T KNOW ALL OF YOU. I WISH I DID. I WISH I HAD FRIENDS LIKE YOU IN PERSON. AGAIN, THANK YOU FROM MY WHOLE HEART, AND, AGAIN, I DO APOLOGIZE, HONESTLY, I AM SO SORRY, AND, AGAIN, I’M NOT TOO HAPPY WITH MYSELF, YOU DON’T HAVE TO FORGIVE ME, IT’S OK, I UNDERSTAND. I AM NOT LOOKING FOR FORGIVENESS; I WANTED TO APOLIGIZE TO YOU ALL. IF/WHEN I DO WRITE, PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE, IF/WHEN I SAY SOMETHING THAT IS UPSETTING TO ANYONE OR I SHOULDN’T SAY AT ALL, PLEASE BE HONEST AND TELL ME. I WANT CONSTRUCTIVE CRITICISM AND HELP. I FEEL AS THOUGH YOU ARE MY SISTERS AND BROTHERS, HONEST TO GOD! I DO HAVE SOME GOOD NEWS, AT LEAST, I DID, BUT I’LL TELL YOU THE GOOD NEWS. I CALLED DOMESTIVE VIOLENCE SERVICES IN A TOWN CLOSE BY. THEY HAVE A SUPPORT GROUP THAT MEETS EVERY THURSDAY NIGHT. I KNEW ABOUT IT BEFORE, BUT I NEVER WENT BECAUSE I DIDN’T WANT TO BE OUT AT NIGHT, IN THE DARK, BECAUSE NUTSO USED TO AND STILL DOES HIDE IN THE BUSHES AND TREES – HONEST TO GOD – I STILL FEEL AS THOUGH HE IS EVERYWHERE I GO, IT’S CREEPY. I DON’T HAVE A CAR, BUT NOW THAT IT DOESN’T GET DARK HERE UNTIL 7-7:30, I CAN TAKE A BUS, WHICH RUNS A BLOCK AWAY FROM WHERE I LIVE, THE MEETING STARTS AT 5-5:30 AND I SHOULD BE HOME BY THE TIME IT GETS DARK. THE WOMEN WHO ANSWERED THE PHONE WAS SO NICE AND HELPFU. SHE TOLD ME THAT MAYBE I WILL MEET SOMEONE FROM MY TOWN OR CLOSE TO IT AND GET A RIDE HOME. I DON’T HAVE TO WALK BY HIS BUILDING EVEN THOUGH IT IS IN SIGHT EVERYWHERE I WALK, BUT I DON’T HAVE TO LOOK THAT WAY AND I DON’T HAVE TO GET THE BUS NEAR THIS LIBRARY, WHICH IS RIGHT BESIDE HIS BUILDING. I CAN CUT THROUGH THE BACK OF MY YARD, I FOUND A SHORTCUT PATH, WALK A BLOCK TO ANOTHER BUS STOP AND GET THE SAME BUS. GOOD NEWS. IF I SEE HIM, I WILL JUST KEEP WALKING. IF HE BOTHERS ME, AS HE HAS STARTED TO COME BY AGAIN A FEW TIMES A WEEK, WHISTLING HIS “I LOVE YOU, I MISS YOU SONG,” – WHAT A JERK! ANYWAY, IF HE DOES BOTHER ME, I WILL JUST WALK A BLOCK AWAY TO THE POLICE STATION, AND MAYBE, JUST MAYBE THIS TIME, THEY WILL ARREST HIM. SO THAT IS GOOD NEWS. THE BAD NEWS IS I HAVEN’T GONE YET, BUT I WILL TRY THIS WEEK. IT’S NOT EASY, AND YOU ALL KNOW THAT, BUT I WANT TO GO. I ALSO RAN INTO TWO NICE WOMEN WHOM I HADN’T SEEN IN A VERY LONG TIME AT A STORE, AFTER I BEGGED GOD FOR HELP TO EVEN GET OUT OF BED, AND I HAD PLANNED ON GOING BACK TO BED. BUT, ALL OF A SUDDEN ABOUT AN HOUR LATER, I GOT THIS STRONG FEELING (I KNOW IT WAS GOD AND A MAJOR MIRACLE FOR ME) I SAID TO MYSELF, I’M GETTING OUT OF THIS DEPRESSING TWO ROOMS, I DON’T CARE IF HE IS OUTSIDE (HE’S BEEN HANGING OUTSIDE A LOT WITH HIS SP/P BUDDIES BECAUSE THE WEAHTER IS NICE). I DIDN’T REALLY HAVE ANY MONEY TO BUY ANYTHING, BUT I DIDN’T CARE. I GOT ON THE BUS FOR THE 3RD TIME IN TWO MONTHS (I HAD DEVELOPED TERRIBLE PANIC OF TAKING THE BUS, LEAVING THE APT EVEN THOUGH I WANTED TO, ETC.) I WENT TO WALMART AND THERE I WAS JUST WALKING THROUGH THE AILSES AND THERE THEY WERE, THESE TWO WOMEN AND THEY GOT ALL EXCITED TO SEE ME AND I WAS SO HAPPY TO SEE THEM. WE USED TO GO TO A LOT OF CHURCH FUNCTIONS AND STUDY THE BIBLE (YEARS AGO) WHEN I LIKED MYSELF AND WAS STUDYING TO BE A MINISTER (HONESTLY, I AM NOT LYING). I KNOW IT SOUNDS CRAZY…I WISH I WAS THAT WOMAN NOW, BUT IT REALLY IS TRUE. I EVEN WENT OUT WITH THEM AND WENT TO ONE OF THE LADIE’S HOME FOR DINNER. WELL, ANYWAY, THE PC IS GOING TO TURN OFF – THEY INVITED ME TO GO TO CHURCH, AND AS SOON AS THEY CAN GET ME A RIDE FROM SOME LADY IN MY TOWN, I AM GOING TO GO, HOPEFULLY, I WILL NOT TALK MYSELF OUT OF THIS TOO. I CUT DOWN ON THE DRINKING. IT IS TRUE, IT ONLY MAKES THINGS WORESE. LOVE YA ALL…

Alicia, Yay. You go Girl. I am sooo proud of you for reaching out. This is the beginning of a new life for you. I am sooo glad that God sent Angels. I remember being very worried about you.

You owe it to yourself to follow through on this. I promise you you will start to feel better. It’s sooo good to hear from you, and I’m glad you’re beginning to want to help yourself.

Best of wishes and good luck!

Dear Alicia,

I second what Kim said!!! GOOD for you! No one is angry at you, we have all been “crazy” at times with the stress, and so we do empathize with you very much.

Take care of YOURSELF and you go to that meeting! You GO!!!! We will be here to cheer you on! (((hugs)))) and my prayers for you!

KIM, it was the tone of the above post.

No. I don’t think so. I’m not sure what similarities you’re seeing. Alicia is someone who has been severly depressed, having trouble even getting out of bed….living in an area where everyday nshye has to see her x and his new GF… she has posted here in the past as someone who is feeling totally without hope.

What made you think of TB?

CRS and i was hoping it was her!!!

I still wonder this after 4 years…will I ever be the same? I trust no one. I have a wall around me not letting anyone get close to me. I went through years of taking pills to help me sleep. I for a short term took anti-depressants, but that didnt work. I am skeptical of every word people say to me, I assume everyone is lying and has an alterior motive if they are nice to me.
I am not the same fun loving, caring, happy , laughing person I used to be. I miss me.

I have dated, and been in a few short term dating relationships since leaving my ex 4 years ago, but never had any real feelings for the people. I was dating just for the sake of dating and becasue I was lonely. The first little white lie I was outta there and left. I see the red flags everywhere with everyone.
I am currently dating a man and can’t allow myself to be vulnerable and relax around him. I look for any inconsistancy in stories to find the lies becasue I will not allow myself to be conned and used again, especially since my son ( my xpath is his biological father) is now 5 and I do not want him anywhere near someone who might not be genuine and sincere.

I have been through therapy, it didnt help, I have taken medications, it didnt help, I have read so many self help books my head spins, I have let time pass hoping it will change, but it hasnt really, except that I sleep some nights.

When will I find myself again? I really do miss the person I was but am afraid I will never find her again, or find happiness and love again.

Jorja:

I feel exactly the same way. I feel like I will never find my way back. I still have all the same symptoms…can’t sleep at night, took antidepressants for a short time, but stopped… I watch every single thing people do and say now…I have a lot of anger. I don’t date and don’t plan on it and have my friends encouraging me to do so. They all say the same thing…don’t cut yourself off from the possibilites…you may miss the one because you are being too cautious…blah, blah, blah. I get tired of hearing it. I know what I need to do for me and if I never meet anyone again, that is OK with me. It’s almost comforting in a way if that makes any sense…that if I never meet someone I will be free of the drama. Anyway, why do we put so much emphasis on a man in our lives??? That’s how we got in this situation to begin with. We need to be happy with ourselves and whatever we have in our own life. It’s really just not worth it to me. I guess I am just a jaded old woman now at 48 years old!

Hi Jorja,

It’s inconceivable for me to date. But I restarted my social life by meeting friends, going out with friends or environments where I know I will meet likeminded people. Couple of months ago, I went to the pub with my best friend, who I had neglected the past years except for a meeting every few months (and then we stayed at home). We laughed so hard, like in the old days, that I realized how long ago that was. I was still not healed though, and for a major part felt worse in the ensuing months… I finally made my first real breakthrough couple of weeks ago, able to put myself as I was the past half year (and before) into perspective. I regained some self-trust and a plan how to make my environment more controllable again so that I could feel safer and securer about myself. Nothing to do with spaths all that much, but structuring my life, prioritizing, doing what needs to be done even if I didn’t feel like it, and preparing myself more. I could see immediate positive results returning from my environment. And since a week I’m even feeling a daily happiness, rather than just joyful moments that contrast the dark days. But I know that dating would be too soon for me. I’d get majorly triggered and I don’t trust myself yet to date, neither a spath nor a genuine normal man. The risk at being triggered is too big still, and I’ll be very distrustful.

It sounds to me, you may have pushed yourself into dating while you were totally not ready for it yet. It’s not solely our trust in humanity that has been damaged by a spath, but also the trust in ourselves to keep us safe that is damaged. As long as you cannot trust yourself yet to keep yourself safe, you will not be able to trust someone you are dating. A good testing ground though imo are friendships. Go out with the most trustworthy ones and see from there. At least you will laugh, have some fun. It’s like our mind and body needs to be reminded again of what it’s like to laugh, have fun and let a little bit of our guard down to enjoy the moment. And if you meet an acquaintance or stranger with red flags you can exercise your NC on them: are you able to cut them off, how do you respond to their red flags… out of those meetings you will gain confidence for yourself.

Confidence, security and trust in ourselves cannot be built in one day, just like my home wil not be decluttered and sparkling clean in one day. But we can do small babysteps, and step by step, you may discover you have climbed the mountain.

Darwinsmom,

Good post to jorja! Well said!

Thank you all.
My friends kept saying the same thing..after being single for 2 years, trying to rebuilt my life, they talked me into accepting offers for dates..although I wasnt convinced I was ready. After 6 months I decided I wasnt ready yet, explained this to him and we have remained platonic friends since. I have been single again now for almost 2 years and just started officially “dating” a man a month ago who I have been friends with for over a year. It’s only been a month, but instinctively I can feel I am not into him on more than a friendship level and am nt ready to make any committments. I guess because I dont have much of a social life due to being a single parent, having no family nearby to help waatch my son so I can go out with the girls, and not having family near to spend time with…the lonliness has pushed me into convincing myself that if I dont make myself available to a relationship then I will never meet someone I fgeel safe with and trust.

I think you are right though….I am not ready for a sexual dating relationship…although I try to convince myself I am, my heart is not in it.

I think this weekend while my son is (unfortunately) with his father), I need to do some real self evalaluation and talk to this person about my feelings about staying friends and not dating right now.

If I had more of a social life and had family to spend time with the loneliness would not be an issue…perhaps I need to focus on finding a way to make this happen first…baby steps to allowing myself to be open to trusting a man again.

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