Relationship Red Flags

I just wanted to share this link to this article: “Dangerous Men, Red Flags, Victim Mentality” from the blog “Emerging from Broken.”

The article talks more about Red Flags when it comes to men and relationships (for my own post on recognizing these signs in my domestically violent ex, see here).

There are also some great comments underneath the “Dangerous Men” article, where survivors of abuse share their stories of how, after being trained by abuse, we allow ourselves to overlook red flags. This is a great site to know that none of us are alone. We’ve all overlooked Red Flags in relationships, or with abusers, whether because we blamed ourselves, thought we weren’t good enough, thought our abuser was right about us, etc. But none of us are to blame.

For me, the red flags were mostly verbal at first. I feel like that’s how most abusers start. They begin with little things, things they can pass off as “jokes” or as my “overreacting.” They test the waters, as they get away with more and more, they begin to escalate the abuse. Until it can result in physical attacks, etc.

I had several red flags about my ex-boyfriend. First, the gut feeling in my stomach. But he seemed to really like me, he seemed to treat me really well. He’d liked me for a long time, and bla bla and other justifications. Once he got me to date him, the situation changed. He started subtly cutting me down; constantly calling me “ridiculous” or “clumsy,” laughing at me when I’d trip, embarrassing me in front of my friends when I’d say something silly. All under the cover of “joking.” I blamed myself. Why was I such a clumsy, awkward person? I thought. It got to the point where I could hardly cook or do anything with him around, because I’d start shaking so much from nerves.

Eventually, the problem escalated, to the point where he assaulted me one night. Way later than I should have, I broke up with him. But even then, I never knew what the relationship really was until afterwards, when I was looking up domestic violence online. The truth is, we blame ourselves when we shouldn’t.
These people who abuse us are master manipulators. We just have to have faith in ourselves and love for ourselves, not critique, and that will guide us the way we need to go.

This article helped me process a lot of red flags, and recognize several I hadn’t thought of before. I hope it helps you do the same. For more about my struggle with domestic violence, see here:

Healing with Yoga

In one translation, the word Yoga means “practice.” I think practicing is what it takes to retrain our brains after trauma. We have to have the patience to confront our problems head-on, and work through them slowly, piece by piece. Practice is how you heal. Patience is how you have the kindness to yourself to heal, and Yoga is just another tool to help with the healing process.

Five years ago, before confronting my childhood abuse and before my domestically violent relationship, I went to the doctor because I was having severe back problems. These problems weren’t because of an injury or an accident; my back just seemed to go crazy. I had knots, muscle spasms, and tension from emotional stress just seemed to lodge itself into the ridges of my spinal column, the dips below my shoulder blades, and the lining of my neck and spine.

After a few weeks of physical therapy, massages, exercises, etc., my doctor prescribed Yoga, as a way to continue my healing process after therapy. He didn’t write out a little paper and have me take it to the pharmacy, he simply encouraged me to try it. So I did. The first class of yoga I took, I absolutely hated. What is this “down-dog” thing and why do I have to be in it for so long? Do I really have to do this? I don’t know if I want to devote an hour of my week to an EXERCISE class. But that night, something amazing happened–something that hadn’t happened in a long time: I SLEPT. PEACEFULLY. And for the WHOLE NIGHT.

Well, I thought to myself, I wasn’t the biggest fan of yoga so far, but I guess I shouldn’t write off a whole field of exercise practices just because of one class from one teacher. So I went back the next week, and things got a little better. And the next week. Still better.

After one month of weekly yoga, I didn’t even recognize myself. Every knot in my back was gone, my posture was better, I was less stressed, and I could breathe easier. I felt like an entirely new person. I would go whole days without my back hurting, and I was sleeping better than ever before.

More than anything, Yoga helped me with my healing from abuse. It taught me to ground myself, to trust myself, to push through a few discomforts, to have patience with myself and recognize my boundaries and limitations. And it just plain made me happier and made me feel better.

For those of you who feel like you’ve tried it all and nothing’s helped. Try Yoga. It’s changed my life and helped me find peace and sanity amidst a world of hurt. As I’ve said in earlier blogs, our minds and bodies are so connected. If one hurts, the other hurts. If one feels better, then the other feels better as well.

WebMD cites that yoga helps improve:
-breathing
-concentration
-mood
-insomnia
-flexibility
-strength
-posture
-stress relief

Healing takes practice. Yoga is practice. It’s another way to get grounded within yourself and find a calm place to channel your emotional energy.

grounding yourself

Getting grounded in yourself. The idea seems so simple, when you look at it from the surface. Be aware of your surroundings. Pretty basic, right? Well, for someone suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), this can be the most complicated goal to attain when faced with flashbacks, panic attacks, nightmares, over vigilance and constant, pervasive fear.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder isn’t just an outcome of serving a military tour. Chances are, if you are a survivor of sexual/physical abuse and/or domestic violence, you have suffered from some form of PTSD. I know I have.

During my moments of panic, I noticed that nothing helped more than finding my physical footing. When I had sudden upsurges of panic, I could feel my muscles clenching, feel my mind floating out of my head. It was like I lost all touch with my body, like I was floating away and watching from somewhere else. My peripheral vision would disappear, and I felt my breath grow short and my eyes cloud in panic. Absolute fear-and all just from talking about things that happened in the past. Or from being confronted with flashbacks during sporadic moments of my day. Or in waking, with shortness of breath, to a panic attack in the middle of the night.

Getting grounded means taking account of your current surroundings, not of those in the flashbacks. Being aware of what’s truly happening around you, and not just of the closed periphery of your vision during a panic attack.

Breath and awareness sound like such small things, but to me, they were the most helpful in returning to myself during these episodes. Try it out for yourself. Over time, with practice, it became less conscious effort and more unconscious habit.

How to get grounded:
-Most importantly, BREATHE. When you are feeling panicked, take deep breaths.
-Feel your feet on the ground. Really feel them. Think about the weight of your feet. Put both feet firmly on the floor. Feel the texture of the earth underneath. Think about how hard/soft the ground below your feet are. Feel your toes wiggle, or the weight of your shoes.
-Focus on something. If there’s a person in front of you, focus on their face. If there’s a painting on the wall, a tree outside, anything, take a moment to really LOOK at it. Think about describing what you are looking at to yourself. Think about the color of the person’s eyes, or the shapes in the painting, or the textures of the tree bark.

When I start practicing being grounded, I instantly feel calmer. Instead of clouded vision, I focus on something in front of me. Instead of out-of-body disassociation, I focus on being in my body, and on feeling my feet. This is just another way to retrain our brain. Our bodies and minds are so connected, that if one relaxes, the other will follow. This is why exercise can be so helpful as well.

Other good techniques for getting grounded include practicing meditation and participating in a regular yoga practice. Both have been proven to reduce stress, lower anxiety, and help alleviate depression.

See HERE for an article from Yoga Journal on how Yoga can help alleviate PTSD