sunset over lake

Leaving an abusive relationship is never easy, and it takes considerable emotional strength to get out.

Trauma has to be addressed not just on an intellectual level, but on an emotional and physiological one as well.

We can know something intellectually; we can study and learn from it (which is extremely important), but that doesn't mean that we have moved through it on a deeper emotional level. When we feel threatened, our bodies go into fight-or-flight mode in response to the perceived danger. Theoretically, the danger passes and our bodies return to our normal baseline level of calm.

In the case of trauma, however, the body can remain in this heightened state of arousal, and even though it may be to a lesser degree, it still impacts our well-being. We are more sensitive to potential danger and are triggered more easily and more often. Abuse is cyclical, so even after the overtly abusive episode or "danger" has passed, there is the underlying fear and knowledge that it will happen again. Intuitively those that were abused know that they are not safe, physically or emotionally. They wait for the next shoe to drop. It is quite difficult to exist in this space, and anxiety is inevitable. Even after the relationship has ended or the danger has passed, the body braces for the next blow.

If unresolved, our bodies will hold onto trauma for an entire lifetime. Moving through the trauma is an intense and immersive process, and you get as much from it as you put into it. Learning how to self-soothe is a necessary skill to move past this heightened state of arousal, and if one doesn't have access to therapy, then this process must be accessible in another way.

Today, there is no excuse for not seeking and taking advantage of the many resources that are available through your state's 211 hotline or the National Domestic Violence Hotline- 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).

Thank you to Avery Neal, author of "If He's So Great, Why Do I Feel So Bad" our resource for this series.