Every victim has a unique story, and anyone can be a victim of an abusive relationship. But one thing's for sure: these people will never be completely the same.
When the Japanese mend broken objects, they aggrandize the damage by filling the cracks with gold. They believe that when something's suffered damage and has a history it becomes more beautiful.
Leaving an abusive relationship is a lot more complicated than it looks to an outsider. A woman is changed for good, and she might be brave, but she's also been betrayed by someone she loved. The confusion, memories, self-blame, and anxious feelings are just parts of the puzzle.
Though no one can predict how the victim will react to reentering her old world, there are some mutual behaviors the majority of women express once they are out of toxic relationships.
Feeling Overwhelmed And Isolated
No matter how many times you say: "It's not your fault," they won't believe you until they are ready.
Self-blame is strongly connected to PTSD, and it includes anxiety, panic attacks, and isolation.
Mindfulness and breathing exercises can help a person cope with these unpleasant feelings. As for socialization, you don't have to ask them to go to a party right away, but a lovely weekend away, somewhere in nature, might do wonders.
Always Being Guarded
When you survive an abuse, you're left with many feelings, and you don't know how to cope with them. To gain control, the victim appears to be guarded.
This woman you knew now has walls so high that it's hard to imagine they will ever fall. Not only that, she doesn't want to meet new people or gain new experiences, but she also doesn't want to see many of her oldest friends.
Imagine handling such guilt, feeling so broken, and like a stranger in your skin. Imagine having to talk to people about something so intimate, while at the same time, thoughts and emotions are racing, and you just want to curl up in your bed. No wonder victims are guarded: the last thing they need is more people, and more pleasing.
That carefree girl you used to know isn't entirely gone. She's just taking some time off while dealing with the fact that the person she loved was a monster. She'll come back, but stronger and more mature.
A victim doesn't trust you fully because the betrayal was so mortifying, and in her mind, anyone can be an abuser. Even you, her closest friend and confidant.
There's not much you can say, but you can be present, and if she's willing to talk, listen. If not, watch a movie, talk about the good old days, and don't get freaked out if your old friend bursts into tears.
Crying can help all the bottled-up emotions come to the surface, which is a way of self-healing.
Love Is Off Topic
This girl you know and love escaped an abuser on the one hand, but on the other, she's grieving her failed relationship.
Don't be surprised if you hear unhealthy talks about love and relationships. The victim is afraid that she may repeat old patterns and end up in the same spot.
She knows deep down that not all people will hurt her, but for now, let her be. She's keeping herself safe and trying to pick up the pieces.
Many victims simply feel they don't deserve love, and that's a natural response to humiliations, insults, and manipulations. While a therapist will know what to do, you, as a friend, should focus on the brighter side of life, and exclude relationship talks.
Even if you think she's losing it, remember that she's now stronger than ever. It will take time, maybe therapy, and a lot of soul searching. The process is never easy, but having a good support system is priceless.