By Sandra L. Brown
‘Put a smile on your face no matter what’ ‘turn your frown upside down’ ‘if you keep your face like that it’ll freeze’–who ever came up with these statements was never in a relationship with a dangerous man.
The predominant thing women want to know in their phone counseling sessions is: ‘Is what I lived thru in my dangerous man experience normal?’ ‘The effects I suffer today from that experience–do others have those experiences too?’ ‘Why am I so depressed/anxious/obsessed/paranoid?’ “What is it called that I have and will I always be like this?’
Women greatly under estimate the damage done in dangerous and/or pathological relationships. Why? Often because they have been in so many of them that it’s now normal…being with someone so dangerous is normal AND feeling this bad is normal. It’s been so long since they didn’t have depression, anxiety, flashbacks, intrusive thoughts, nightmares, obsessions or paranoia–they have no idea what it feels like to not have these symptoms.
They also under estimate the damage because some were raised in families where dangerous behavior was also the norm. The chaos, drama, trauma, stress, and instability were the foundations of their home lives. Their childhood simply melded into their adulthood of the same kinds of relationship–except now, by their own choosing.
Women who have gone from pathological families into pathological relationships have been chronically depressed so long that the biochemistry in their brain is currently altered. They have been anxious for so long that that their biochemistry is altered by all the adrenaline they have lived on for so long. Long term exposure to chronic stress, so often seen in dangerous relationships, eventually can create medical disorders. Some of those disorders suspected of being linked to unrelenting traumatic exposure includes: autoimmune disorders like lupus, chronic fatigue and Epstein-Barr. Stress reactions like TMJ from teeth grinding, digestive disorders, migraines, hives and female disorders like endometriosis, phantom pelvic pain and other similar disorders.
Stress has to go somewhere and often it is crammed into the body to wreak its havoc on the body. Even when trauma has been so severe that much of it is not remembered, the body still remembers what the mind has chosen to forget. Your body always tells the truth.
Mood disorders are one of the most common disorders associated with life with disordered relationships. Women are often in denial of the extent of their depression and/or anxiety–either it now feels normal or they don’t want to face ‘what’ the relationship has cost them in medical and emotional disorders. ‘Facing the funk’ is just one way of coming to the truth of how ‘bodily expensive’ that relationship was. You can’t heal what you don’t see. So taking your own inventory about ‘how’ you really are is the first step in recovery. Mood disorders are often manageable thru various means but you won’t be managing anything until you stop faking how effected you are by your own relational history.
Many women emerge from these relationships either diagnosed, or not yet diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) — an anxiety disorder so extreme that the core concept of self is often fragmented. The cracked vessel must try to now function as an undamaged vase–but push on the crack and the vessel will break again.