Exhaustion

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Exhaustion

Regardless of who you are, we have all had times when we wake after few hours sleep and spend the rest of the night rolling around the bed getting angry with ourselves because we cannot get back to sleep. But imagine if this pattern became a routine and you know fully well, that when you go to bed within a few hours you will be awake again repeating the events of the night before. But what makes matters worse is that the resulting tiredness effects moods, concentration, thoughts and even appetite. So, your body ends up lacking nourishment and craving rest. Like an alcoholic or a drug user craving their new fix an exhausted person desires rest. Yet, unlike the drink/drug user there is no ready access to gaining support. When it is announced that you are suffering with fatigue all is offered is having a lazy day on your day off. But it not as simple as that. The lead up to exhaustion is more complex than just getting your eight hours sleep at night. There are overlapping and related factors that need to be considered.

Same problem, different name.

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Exhaustion

Like depression or domestic abuse, men fail to either recognise the signs or fail to admit that the problem exists. Indeed, following simple research I have found that exhaustion is extremely dangerous and is actually deadly. In some cases, exhaustion is a sign of an underlying disease, including cancer, low thyroid, anemia or other metabolic abnormalities, such as adrenal insufficiency. Exhaustion is commonly seen with depression and is a possible side effect of many prescription drugs, including beta blockers, muscle relaxants and mood stabilizers. However, given that depression also tends to involve lethargy and detachment, some have argued that burnout is just a stigma-free label for depression. In her book, Exhaustion: A History, Schaffner quotes one German newspaper article that claimed burnout is just a “luxury version” of depression for high-flying professionals. “Only losers become depressive,” the article continued. “Burnout is a diagnosis for winners, or, more specifically, for former winners.”

Suffer

Exhaustion, by any name, is hardly a new phenomenon. In the 1800s, women were said to suffer from hystero-neurasthenia, or “nervous exhaustion.” Triggers included excessive amounts of exercise, cohabitation, brain work and worries over motherhood, according to an 1887 article in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Women were also at risk if they worried too much about “impending or actual misfortune.”

In the 1950s, around the time women were having “nervous breakdowns,” scientists published research showing that it was, indeed, possible for business executives to suffer from exhaustion. Today the term burnout, which is characterized by emotional exhaustion, is recognized in Europe and is a common concern among those who work in the medical or humanitarian aid fields.

Four humours
Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Exhaustion

When Schaffner explored the historic literature, however, she found that people suffered from extreme fatigue long before the rise of the modern workplace. One of the earliest discussions of exhaustion was written by the Roman physician Galen (129 –  216 AD ). Like Hippocrates (460 –  370 BC), he believed that all physical and mental ailments could be traced to the relative balance of the four humours – blood, yellow bile, black bile and phlegm. A build-up of black bile, he said, slowed the body’s circulation and clogged up the brain’s pathways, bringing about lethargy, torpor, weariness, sluggishness and melancholy. Although by modern standards and knowledge we now know it has no scientific basis, the idea that our brains are filled with a tar-like liquid certainly captures the foggy, clouded thinking that many people with exhaustion report today.

By the time Christianity had taken hold of Western culture, exhaustion was seen as a sign of spiritual weakness. Schaffner points to the writing of Evagrius Ponticus in the 4th Century, which described the ‘noonday demon’, for instance, that leads the monk to stare listlessly out of the window. “It was very much seen as a lack of faith and a lack of willpower – the spirit versus the flesh.” Schaffner also discovered a case of a monk compulsively and restlessly seeking out his brethren for idle chit-chat rather than engaging in useful employment – Is this not too dissimilar to the way that 21st-century sufferers may find themselves compulsively checking social media?

Modern views – class struggles

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Exhaustion

Religious and astrological explanations continued to abound until the birth of modern medicine, when doctors began diagnosing symptoms of fatigue as ‘neurasthenia’. It is now understood that nerves transmit electrical signals, so perhaps someone with weak nerves may therefore dissipate energy like a badly insulated wire. Intellectual figures from Oscar Wilde to Charles Darwin, Thomas Mann and Virginia Woolf were all diagnosed with neurasthenia. Doctors blamed it on the social changes of the industrial revolution, although delicate nerves were also seen as a sign of refinement and intelligence – some patients languished with pride in their condition. As stated previously, exhaustion is associated with success. To give it another comparison the rich are eccentric but the poor are mad.

In modern, industrial nations, a problem is that the main treatment for exhaustion — sleep — is often seen as laziness and being lazy is a barrier to productivity. In 1960, the average adult received a luxurious amount of sleep at eight and a half hours sleep a night. Today, most people get by on an average of less than seven hours, and a substantial proportion sleep less than six hours, according to National Sleep Foundation data.

Inevitable?

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Exhaustion
But are periods of lethargy and detachment as inevitable a part of human life as head colds and hunger? There is no doubt that exhaustion is a pressing concern. A study of German doctors found that nearly 50% of physicians appeared to be suffering ‘burnout’, reporting, for instance, that they feel tired during every single hour of the day and that the mere thought of work in the morning left them feeling exhausted. Interestingly, men and women seem to deal with burnout in different ways: one recent Finnish survey found that male employees reporting exhaustion were far more likely to take extended sick leave than burned out women, for instance.

Like I have said at the begining, we have all had these moments. But to live with exhaustion is extremely difficult. Even more so when those around you do not have any idea what it is like. There have been times that I know I could not get through the day without a moments rest. In fact, the need to just stop often outweighs the need for food or drink. The need to sleep overshadows everything around me. As a result, a zombie like status emerges and the recognition of the world around you no longer makes sense or even exists. A sense of heaviness emerges and as a result the simplest of tasks literally sap any reserve energy out of you. Alongside the feelings of weariness also comes feelings of emotional despondency, disillusionment and hopelessness.

Although few countries tend to diagnosis neurasthenia today, the term is often used by doctors in China and Japan – again, with the occasional accusation that it is an alternative, stigma-free way of labelling depression.

Distinct

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Exhaustion  

In general, however, the two conditions are generally considered to be distinct. It is generally agreed that depression entails a loss of self-confidence, or even self-hatred or self-contempt, which is not the case for burnout, where the image of the self often remains unbroken. The anger felt in a burnout is generally not turned against the self but rather against the organisation or persons who are seen as the cause of the problem (for example, work or the ex). Nor should burnout be confused with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), which involves prolonged periods of excruciating physical and mental exhaustion for at least six months.



Some data suggest “vital exhaustion,” or a state of excessive fatigue, irritability and hopelessness, can be a risk factor for heart attacks and death. Dutch researchers found that people with high vital exhaustion scores were three times as likely to suffer a subsequent heart attack, perhaps because it increases blood clotting.

I suppose I could give you some obvious advice and suggest you visit the doctor should you develop these symptoms over a significant period. Indeed, you should. But the battle to disassociate ourselves from any form of illness seems to be the norm for many people. In essence, I should state that tiredness does indeed go hand in hand with depression. The two factors together, however, are a burden of which carries a heavy weight upon a daily existence and routine. True fatigue cannot be cured by sleep alone like telling a depressed person to pull themselves together. To me that is the same as telling an obese person to think themselves thin.

Human Progress and Isolation

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Human Progress and Isolation

It is surprising how powerful the mind can be when you think about it. Many times, over these past few weeks I have wondered what path the human race is taking.

To challenge a view

Time and again I have been told or overheard people say that the development of time is equal to progress. Although I believe I am not in a position to challenge this view head on, I don’t think a statement like that cannot go unchallenged.

A slice of bread

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Human Progress and Isolation

Believe it or not but I had an inspiration whilst making toast one morning. Two centuries ago our ancestors would have known the precise history and origin of everything they ate or owned. Perhaps it could even be fair to argue that the consumers of the day may have even known the producers of their goods.

If I take it back to the bread analogy my great, great, great grandmother (say) would have passed the fields of wheat where the flour came from on her way to the baker of whom she may have known who had baked the loaf. The salt pits may have been dug from the roman salt pits only a short distance away and so on.

Where did that come from?

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Human Progress and Isolation

By today’s standards we are so disconnected from the manufacture and distribution of so many things that I cannot tell you who made the bread for my toast, where the ingredients came from, or for that matter what the loaf actually contains beyond the basic ingredients to make a loaf.

What I am sure of is that I do not know the name of the baker and I would never guest where the flour came from but I expect it to be from overseas.

One long season

I have often walked up and  down supermarket fruit and vegetable isles and gave thought to the fact, regardless of the season, we  manage to obtain fruits and vegetables that were once considered seasonal. At some point in time our ancestors would have been delighted to have grabbed handfuls of berries found on a bush in late summer. Perhaps they would have viewed them as some form of divine gift. But as we became ‘modern’ our impatient attitudes turned our backs on sporadic gifts and demanded an immediate and continual flow of such gastric delights.  In effect, even the seasons have now become controlled.

This process of alienation has stripped us of wonder (because we have no appreciation of the production process) and gratitude (for the science and skill involved).

Village/town/city structures

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Human Progress and Isolation

I have become also aware that this process of removal from local centralisation has shaped and developed the way our homes have been built. All villages, towns and cities were built around the central figure of religion.

All churches or cathedrals where the central point of the village or city. For the village the local population would gather once a week and not only prey but socialise with their neighbours and also with the local tradesmen (like the baker and my great, great, great grandparents). Although, I am sure most of the people then would not have realised it but this enforced community relations would soon be exchanged with a new religion or belief.

A new religion

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Human Progress and Isolation

The new religion of consumerism replaced the Sunday meetings in the church with new towns being built around the central figure of vast supermarkets where people now congregate to worship at the tills with their credit cards or cash. Whichever way you look at it both processes were profitable yet the new religion has separated communities into individuals where once they would have prayed collectively we now move down the isles with a list in our hands not making eye contact  or speaking to anyone (unless we are failing to find a special ingredient and then we ask an employee).

Now don’t get me wrong at this point. I am not advocating religion as the perfect solution to societies problems. Far from it, as I don’t have any form of religious conviction. But I do think there must have been some form of benefit to having local people meet and be forced to mix for the benefit of the village rather than the sterile brightly lit cathedrals paying homage to St Sainsbury’s or St Tescos on a Sunday morning. And it is here I have identified the problem with so called progress.

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Human Progress and Isolation

For me an ancient church or cathedral only holds an historical interest. Perhaps it may even be considered as arrogant to walk amongst the memorials and consider them to be foolish to have had such simple beliefs by what I now know to be science and not divine inspirations.

Food

I have also noted that people are happily divorced from the realities of what they eat. Time after time I have met people who are squeamish about handling raw meat or refuse to come into contact with the fish counter. Yet will eat the meat of something they had considered endearing running around a field a few hours previously.

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Human Progress and Isolation

Although I am not a vegetarian I do think the processing of our foods has divorced us from the reality of what our food is. Nothing is born wrapped in cellophane, yet many people are happy to disassociate the meat on their plates with the creatures they consider as cute.

“Loneliness can kill. It’s proven to be worse for health than smoking 15 cigarettes a day,”(Mark Robinson, Age UK)

Over the past few years I have noticed the rise in people who are alone. Children are now almost expected to move out of their home towns to seek work or further education.

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Human Progress and Isolation

So like the baker many centuries ago he has now moved from the bakery on the village green to a larger bakery out of town or to a central bakery miles away from home. He will never meet his customers like the isolated pensioner rarely sees their family or for that matter a neighbour. After all, I don’t know mine and I’m sure they don’t know me either.

Forgotten

Although it is still relatively rare, finding a deceased person who has laid dormant and undisturbed for months is become more of a familiar factor within my job. It is only when the body has started to emit pungent smells or bills are not paid does anyone intend to act. The systematic and automatic paying of bills via direct debits has removed regular human contact further. Thus even in the stages before death the individual may know that the months to follow may still be lonely as their body ceases to function. As a result of this it has now become a realisation that families now only meet at weddings and funerals.

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Human Progress and Isolation

Of the 66 million people crammed into the UK boarders 9 million people report often or always feeling lonely. One study showed about 200,000 elderly people in the U.K. had not had a conversation with a friend or a relative in over a month (Mark Robinson, Age UK).

24 hour daytime

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Human Progress and Isolation

Nightfall was also a time when our ancestors became aware that the end of the working day had arrived.  For many I assume, would have rushed to a safe place to ensure safety from marauding wolves or witches on the prowl for victims. Yet the natural process of day and night have given way to electrical lights such as flood, street and headlights. Thus, enforcing some form of unnatural order on our body clocks. It is therefore, no wonder that shift workers are so tired all of the time. Whilst others sleep many are working to ensure that the daily flow of consumerism is not missed because of darkness.

Speaking from my own experience, shift work is far more debilitating than just feeling a little bit tired. Shift work has an impact not only on a person’s health but also on family life and relationships.

So where is this discussion leading to?

Well, I think the passing of time and its associated conveniences has moved communities further apart. The void between close families and loneliness is far smaller now than it has ever been. Hence, a rise in recognised mental health conditions has become evident. Now I know that many of you may be saying that with the developments of modern medicine we may now be able to identify more health concerns, I would like to argue an alternative view.

Animal studies

A relative of mine (who is currently studying animal welfare) discussed the idea of animal communities. He stated that most animals have a pack mentality and so if they are separated from the pack they either become a victim of an attack or become so stressed they eventually die. So why do we expect it to be so different to for humans? People chose either to live in towns or villages and yet we call a hermit some form of eccentric?

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Human Progress and Isolation

But isolation isn’t the only problem. Although we live in larger communities than ever before we are more isolated than ever with our isolated homes, divided neighbours, distant families and easily purchased produce. By our own making we have created a society that is extremely lonely and isolated, and this, as a result, has further associated problems.

An unpleasant emotion

Loneliness is a complex and usually unpleasant emotional response to isolation.

Loneliness is a bigger problem than simply an emotional experience.  Research shows that loneliness and social isolation are harmful to our health: lacking social connections is a comparable risk factor for early death as is smoking 15 cigarettes a day, and is worse for us than well-known risk factors such as obesity and physical inactivity. Loneliness increases the likelihood of mortality by 26%.

Social agony

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Human Progress and Isolation

Research has shown that loneliness is prevalent throughout society, including people in marriages, relationships, families, veterans, and those with successful careers. Loneliness has also been described as social pain. Or to put it another way, a psychological mechanism meant to motivate an individual to seek social connections.

Loneliness is often defined in terms of one’s connectedness to others, or more specifically as “the unpleasant experience that occurs when a person’s network of social relations is deficient in some important way” (Pittman, Matthew; Reich, Brandon. “Social media and loneliness: Why an Instagram picture may be worth more than a thousand Twitter words”. Computers in Human Behaviour. pg 62)

Suicide risks

Loneliness has been linked with depression, and is thus a risk factor for suicide. Émile Durkheim  described loneliness, specifically the inability or unwillingness to live for others ( i.e. for friendships etc), as the main reason for what he called egoistic suicide ( Marano, Hara. “The Dangers of Loneliness”).

In adults, loneliness is a major cause of depression and alcoholism. People who are socially isolated may report poor sleep quality, and thus have diminished restorative processes. Loneliness has also been linked with a schizoid character type in which one may see the world differently and experience social alienation, described as the self in exile.

Loneliness and social isolation in the United Kingdom

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Human Progress and Isolation

Although specifically focused on one section of society, Age UK carried out a range of studies connected to loneliness and isolation and discovered the following statistics;

  • 17% of older people are in contact with family, friends and neighbours less than once a week and 11% are in contact less than once a month (Victor et al, 2003)
  • Over half (51%) of all people aged 75 and over live alone (ONS, 2010)
  • Two fifths all older people (about 3.9 million) say the television is their main company (Age UK, 2014)
  • 63% of adults aged 52 or over who have been widowed, and 51% of the same group who are separated or divorced report, feeling lonely some of the time or often (Beaumont, 2013)
  • 59% of adults aged over 52 who report poor health say they feel lonely some of the time or often, compared to 21% who say they are in excellent health (Beaumont, 2013)
  • A higher percentage of women than men report feeling lonely some of the time or often (Beaumont, 2013)

Isolation and suicide rates

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Human Progress and Isolation

The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that each year approximately one million people die from suicide, which represents a global mortality rate of 16 people per 100,000 or one death every 40 seconds. It is predicted that by 2020 the rate of death will increase to one every 20 seconds (https://www.befrienders.org/suicide-statistics)

The WHO further reports that:

In the last 45 years suicide rates have increased by 60% worldwide. Suicide is now among the three leading causes of death among those aged 15-44 (male and female). Suicide attempts are up to 20 times more frequent than completed suicides.

Although suicide rates have traditionally been highest amongst elderly males, rates among young people have been increasing to such an extent that they are now the group at highest risk in a third of all countries. is this now evidence of the most loneliness generation ever? It has now become the norm to see our youth preferring to text on their phones than to hold a face to face conversation.

90%

Mental health disorders (particularly depression and substance abuse) are associated with more than 90% of all cases of suicide.

Although it is difficult to measure the suicide rates historically (due to the lack of record keeping and the associated shame of ‘self murder’ and religious views) the most accurate suicide statistic I could find dated from 1285. The Essex eyre roll of 1285 points to an annual suicide rate of 0.88 per 100,000 since 1272 which covers a period of 13 years (Suicide in the Middle Ages. Volume I: The Violent against Themselves. Alexander Murray. Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1998, ISBN).

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Human Progress and Isolation

In comparison, modern figures for deaths registered in 2016 in the UK, persons aged 40 to 44 years had the highest age-specific suicide rate at 15.3 per 100,000; this age group also had the highest rate among males at 24.1 per 100,000; the age group with the highest rate for females was 50 to 54 years, at 8.3 per 100,000.

Therefore…

I think it would be narrow minded and wrong to suggest that loneliness is specifically associated with people who are physically alone. By my own experiences and that of many others it can be said that you could be surrounded by a thousand people and still be lonely.  But the new modern era has ensured that humans are incarcerated through choice and has developed over the centuries.

The world of social media has narrowed our human interaction as we falsely believe that we are in contact with others on the same measure as face to face contact would be.  I would suggest, therefore, that the so-called progress of the modern age has not been beneficial for the human species at all. In fact it appears that it has had the opposite effect.

 

 

 

Recovery

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Recovery

Very often a change in your views or conceptions doesn’t actually hit you until something ‘clicks’ in your head. This is very much like the recovery process of which I wish to discuss.

Like the stages of mourning, there is a process that a person must endure before they can either move on or consider themselves cured from the grief that they had experienced.

5 stages of mourning

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Recovery

Put simply Kubler Ross and David Kessler described the five stages as; denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. They are tools to help us frame and identify what we may be feeling. But most importantly they are not checkpoints on a linear timeline.

Writing the sequal

Last week I had a chat with one of my potential publishers. It was during this conversation that I informed him that I had started work on a sequel to my book (which incidentally will be called Silent Story). Almost at that point I had realised that I had, indeed, moved onto a new stage.

In essence, I had stopped trying to work out why things had happened but had now tried to understand why things are the way they are. I was no longer a victim but a veteran with a story to tell with a benefit of hindsight. I didn’t have to try and understand why things were the way they were but to try and find a science or formula to share or to understand.

Early work

When I read and re-read my earlier material, I can see and hear the distress and pain that the events had caused. There were so many questions I was seeking answers for and it became a maelstrom of paths and directions I needed to venture down to try and make sense of it all. Yet my later writings were an attempt to answer those questions and to try and gain some form of perspective.

However, it is impossible to identify at what point this change happened. Like the mourning process I mentioned above it became organic and was a slow process.

Recovery

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Recovery

But I will now argue that I am sitting comfortably in the recovery zone.

Several weeks ago. I asked if I could return to work but on light duties due to a back injury I sustained. Unfortunately for me there was nothing available, so I just came home and focused my working energy on the publication of my book. Finally, it was decided that I had recovered enough to consider going back to work (on a phased return). However, I had so much leave to take that it was decided to take some prior to my return otherwise I would lose it. So, as I write this I am coming to the end of a period of leave as opposed to a period of sickness. That for me shows a tangible example of recovery.

Ups and downs

A viciously intense roller-coaster of emotions and experiences is how most victims would describe their time spent with an abuser. You’d hope then, that once you break free of their grip, this unpleasant ride would come to an end…but you’d be wrong.

The ups and downs tend to continue long after you’ve left them behind, as if their poison still courses through your veins. Recovery from abuse is just like any other form of mental or physical recovery – it takes time and determination for the wounds to heal.

 Healing the wounds

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Recovery

My research identified that abuse in all of its forms, affects so many people that it is too horrifying to comprehend. Yet, I have shown that once you leave the relationship the problems don’t just end there. Time and again in my earlier blogs I have demonstrated and highlighted the consequences of the psychological anguish. Physical assaults don’t just end with a punch or kick, they too become a mental suffering when flashbacks occur. It is similar to a pebble being dropped into a pond. The splash is all too evident, but the ripples are the consequence of that initial violent, penetrative action.

My dreams are no longer focused on nightmares but on future events and potential adventures. I now rest with an element of comfort that there is a strong possibility of a restful night’s sleep. This, only a few months ago was something that I had longed for.

Guilt, shame and blame

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Recovery

When I first decided to write I was instantly told by friends and colleagues that I was taking a brave but right step. Indeed, I was expecting some form of backlash. But (to date) I have not. I have had comments from around the world (thank god for the internet) that a majority of what I have written is what a lot of people wish they could say. For me it was the only path available to try and find answers. I searched bookshops and the internet for what I needed. And as there was nothing I decided to write my own.

For me I had lost everything in a moment and so I had nothing else left to loose. And with great confidence I can argue that it has been the best thing I have ever done. I have been able to address old issues, vent my anger and frustrations and reached out to people I would never have had the chance to previously.

Self blame

But, like so many others I too blamed myself for allowing the abuse to occur and continue for as long as it did. Survivors feel guilty for not allowing their better judgement to take over. Unfortunately, I have also found that others blame the survivors for allowing themselves to be victims in the first place. These emotions increase the survivor’s negative self-image and distrustful view of the world.

My advice is that these criticisers should celebrate the wonderful life they have had. It is only luck that has protected them so far. Ultimately, luck does run out and it is the victims they will seek out for comfort and protection when their time comes. In my view life is too fragile to be complacent.

Family Members

I am probably not qualified enough to comment about family members when it comes to my own family back ground.

I was always led to believe that family should stick together regardless of what has happened. Yet, in my case this was not the case.

My children have been fantastic. At no point was their loyalty questionable. Yet, my recovery process found the flaws in my (biological) father.

The knight in rusty armour

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Recovery

To put this simply, if I was not related to him I would not have had him as a friend. It was only the recovery process that allowed me to see things from behind a veil. I would never have a friend who would consider women as a tool for the home or a son as a meal ticket. But I was not being instantly dismissive of him as I gave him chance after chance. It’s just that I was no longer prepared to be taken advantage of, especially when he opted to be the heroic knight to a vengeful and bitter ex abuser.

My recovery allowed for me to put people in order of preference based on how they treated me. I was no longer grateful for a glimmer of recognition, but I felt that my worth was far greater than I was being afforded by him. Since writing my last blog I found out that he had suffered another stroke. Interestingly enough, my brother who had previously warned me about him was unable (or unwilling) to visit him and my father is fully aware that he has shot himself in the foot with regards to his relationship with me. It’s a shame really as I had spent 40 years trying to find him. But it was he who opted to behave in an unfatherly way.

Indeed a narcissistic ex-partner can be so persuasive and calculating that your own family will blame you for the breakdown of a relationship. But my father had equal knowledge of us both due to the time we had known each other. But a flash of tit and a wisp of blonde hair and I had lost him.

He who has the last laugh…..

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Recovery

But my recovery has allowed me to see them both for what they are. My dad is now alone, and my ex has a new prey. Well as the stronger person I wish them all the best when trying to either play the victim (again) or the superhero of nothing. I won’t say I am laughing but there is a slight curl in the corner of my lip.

Equal Measure

The freedom of recovery can be both liberating and disheartening in equal measure and it will often shift back and forth from one to the other. For me the liberation came when I did not have to seek justification for the behaviour of others. It was a great weight lifted from my shoulders. Yet, this development came with the cost that fake dreams of happiness were just that – fake.

So many people wish for the 2.5 children, a nice semi-detached house in a respectable area with a nice car (or two) on the drive. The reality is nothing like this. To obtain a dream you often have to endure a nightmare and then there is no guarantee. It appears that behind every closed door a story is developing and it is often not the story the characters wish to play. The progression of recovery indicates that it is important to be happy with what you have and any positive developments just add to the pleasure. This approach just makes life so much easier. It is both simplistic and helps to avoid pain and disappointment.

Rebuilding

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Recovery

The art of rebuilding yourself takes a significant amount of time. For me it had required the big step of facing my demons. These demons were the remnants of the abusive ex; the scars she had left and the false beliefs about myself that grew out of this experience.

Rebuilding is not a straightforward task. Some days it felt as if I was making leaps and bounds. But then it was often followed by days of not wanting to venture out of the bed of which mirrored the early days of my recovery. Alas, there is no straight answer to this. I found that elation and celebration often gave way to fatigue or loss of appetite. But sitting here, right now, I can see that these episodes are getting less and less with the realisation that things are falling into place now. Being and remaining positive is an exhausting occupation of which is great to have but tiresome to maintain when you have not fully recovered.

Retribution

As I have previously said, I have looked back on previous blogs and noticed a shift in my approach to justice. Initially I was so angry and venomous about my ex that it was becoming all consuming. Indeed my focus had changed and I am glad it has.

I have come to realise that a person who does not wish to change never will. For her being abusive is profitable both financially and emotionally. If a person plays the victim they will get sympathy – that is until people get smart to their games. As you know it transpired that she had a history of such actions, and so it has come to pass that my fight could not be with her. My fight had to be with the system that allowed this behaviour to persist unchallenged and unhindered.

As a result I focused my attentions to the police officers that dealt with my case and the social workers that threw their weight around unchallenged.

Just a little shift in focus

This new focus has been more productive and has shed a greater light on the processes that are so wrong.

I know to the reader it may sound evil when I say ‘I am delighted that I got a social worker sacked’. It is a big achievement when the system is stacked against you. But, indeed I got one sacked. My recovery gave me the confidence to know that I was right about the injustice I had experienced. Unfortunately, I cannot name the specific social worker but when he said; ‘how dare I challenge him when he is a social worker’ it was like a red rag to a bull and I went out of my way to prove his unprofessionalism.  But what came as a shock after the event was that he knew he was wrong and gave a false name to try and deflect what was coming. My recovery allowed me to challenge him and gave me peace of mind when I knew a corrupt social worker was now out of the system.

Learning development

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Recovery

In fact my drive for truth, equality and justice has now put me on first name terms with a senior police officer at Worcester Police station. I am realistic in knowing that full justice may never be achieved but we have come to an understanding that a learning development is required by his police officers.

Again, I’m not out for early morning arrests or punishments. Time has allowed me to consider that my recovery is the knowledge that the next victim may have better treatment than I experienced. Indeed, the fight with the authorities and my ex is not over but I am seeing a realisation that what they (the police, social services and CPS) did was wrong. And I am starting to feel comfortable with this because the fight has come with a heavy cost.

Listen and be heard

My recovery and open, frank conversations has allowed me to know that she is being monitored about her future accusations and behaviours. In essence she is being watched. Perhaps, by being able to challenge pre-conceived ideas or measure the authorities by their own standards has made them sit up and listen. I knew I had been wronged and I was not going to let it go. It’s not about being pig-headed it is about demanding to be heard (even if I have solicited an interest from the press). To do this you need to have confidence and to have confidence you need to be on the road to recovery.

Questioning

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Recovery

It is all too easy to beat yourself up and subject yourself to self-anger for overlooking things which are now plain to see. Of course, everything is clear in hindsight. I suppose this is why I set out to write in the first place. I wanted to be able to reflect on my own hindsight. But I also wanted to let other readers experience my hindsight and experiences.

These works have been my ability to shout and to point. My recovery has been the ability to do so.

Perhaps by now I have moved on. I am getting ready to return to work. I am planning a holiday of lifetime (of which was inconceivable until recently) and my future writing is now acknowledged to be from a different standpoint from that of the beginning.

For me the recovery has been a process of no return. Put simply I have learnt so much of which still needs to be developed. And so the recovery process will forever continue. Which of course is not actually a bad thing.

 

 

Nightmares

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Nightmares

 

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Nightmares

I recall as a child often waking in the night after a nightmare. After all of these years I cannot recall the exact nature of these dreams but I can remember waking in my bed crying. After a while they must have subdued as there have been many years between my childhood night terrors and what I have experienced lately.

Knowing things are not right

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Nightmares

It does not necessarily mean that by not being able to recall the dreams that they did not happen. Sometimes I have awoken with a feeling that things were not right. This is often in the dead of night when there was no reason to either be awake or any reason to have been awoken following the dream.

Illogical

However, sometimes I can recall the visions and they do seem to have a relevance to what has been going on. Many of the nightmares have been based on things that have either happened recently or from events I experienced many years ago. There seems to be no logic to their visitations as time, when it comes to dreams, does not appear to be linier.

The problem with night terrors is the feeling of vulnerability. From the dreams, I can recall experiencing a feeling of helplessness within the horrors I am experiencing. These horrors can be based on recent experiences or a time that I would rather forget. As stated it has no logic and time has no relevance to the dreams. In some dreams I am a child again, or an adult fighting in Iraq or Afghanistan. I am also aware that some of the dreams are events related to events from a few months ago.

Recent nightmare

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Nightmares

However, I have recently experienced dreams that are somewhat out of the box. Last week I dreamt that I was a soldier during the first world war. The environment was real. I found myself fighting Germans in a deep muddy trench where puddles splashed onto my uniform. The faces of those soldiers I was killing were real with uniforms and facial features. However, during the fighting I spotted my ex in an enemy’s uniform trying to kill me. The strangest this was that I was unable to fight her off.

I am aware that all manner of interpretations can be made with regards to this specific dream. But when it effects your health interpretation has very little importance other than you want them to stop.

Now, I am aware that this may sound very strange but I think it reminded me of my vulnerability whilst I was with her. For heaven’s sake, I was able to fight off a number of heavily armed and experienced combatants yet I was helpless when I was in her line of fire.

There a vast range of other experiences I can give but the common denominator is based upon the wickedness I have experienced.

Waking becomes an escape

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Nightmares

Waking becomes a relief and an escape from the reality of that moment. Yet, I am able to recall the dreams much better than when I experienced them many years ago. I have often awoke completely disorientated and the confusion is compounded because the reality of the dream does not match up to the room in which I awake in.

To explain this better, the reality of being in the trench was tangible. I could feel the mud under my feet. The smell of blood, sweat and explosives are also real. The physical effort of fighting could be felt in my muscles (I am also experiencing physical pains on a daily basis) and the sounds are loud and unmissable. But when I awake, the complete opposite is the reality. The room is in darkness and my safety feels assured. Yet it wakes you with a jolt of which is difficult to grasp when you are not sure of which reality you now find yourself in.

Walking away

It’s silly really, but as an adult I can distinguish the difference between the dream world and reality. Yet the fact remains that whilst curled up in the safety of a new home, warm in bed, we are perhaps all vulnerable to things out of our control. And I feel this is where the terror lies. There is no escape because we have no control over our dreams. In the waking world if I feel unsafe or uncomfortable I have the option to either get up and leave or address my concerns directly. However, we don’t have that luxury in a dream. We are carried by uncontrollable forces into undesirable circumstances. And this is not nice at all.

After leaving the forces many years ago I also had similar experiences that were evident but slowly faded away. However, these present dreams now seem to overlap what I felt I had recovered from before.

Night vs day

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Nightmares

These restless night obviously have an impact upon my day time pursuits. As previously mentioned in recent blogs, I am constantly tired and crave a decent night’s sleep. Yet my sleep is often either broken by the night terrors or the physical pains I feel with my PTSD. It’s no surprise that abuse victims and people with depression feel so tired and ill all the time. There is, in effect, no escape from both a living nightmare and those of which invade our thoughts during the night.

Taking time

I mentioned these dreams to my GP when I saw him at the beginning of the week. He directly attached them to the PTSD I am experiencing. What was extra worrying was the fact that it may take a while to recover from the situation I now find myself in. It is only complete exhaustion that allows me to get some sleep but this is often hard to predict as it sometimes happens during the day.

The Art Of Forgetting

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression The Art Of Forgetting

I’m not a psychiatrist, and although I work in the medical profession I mainly work in trauma. I have realised that the power of the mind far out ways physical strength in so many ways. There are various views about how much of the brain is actually being used at any one time, and these theories are still under discussion and investigation. See – how much of our brain do we use

Busy mind – overdrive

I have spent many nights lay awake not being able to sleep because my mind is bouncing with thoughts or ideas. I have also had days when I have recalled past events either from decades ago or more recently, which sometimes triggers feelings of self-doubt or utter sadness. Although on the flip side it is just as easy to recall happier moments which bring feelings of warmth and contentment.

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression The Art Of Forgetting

It can be considered that our trains of thought can be built on habits. For example, every one of us can attach a memory to a certain song (either good or bad). Or we may recall when we first had a certain meal. For me, I can recall walking along the River Avon in Evesham every time I consume a chocolate lime (see quite man). This is a positive recall. However, I can now associate a certain song with being punched in the back, or a fragrance being attached to a specific human.

Trying to forget

But is it possible that we can train ourselves to think differently to help improve our mental health or to forget an abusive relationship?

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression The Art Of Forgetting

I once joined a slimming club many years ago. It was utter agony. Throughout my period of membership, I was constantly recalling how lovely chocolate tasted, or how lovely KFC chicken actually smelt on an empty stomach. In fact, I failed at being a vegetarian because my will power over a bacon sandwich was just not strong enough.

But is it fair to argue or consider that people who slim, or people who try to refrain from smoking suffer the same torments as someone who has just left an abusive relationship. Are we drawn to the evils because we are used to it and we are only addicted because our minds crave the routine of which we are now used to?

Balloon

Many years ago, I went on a course, I really cannot recall what it was about, but one thing really stuck in my head, and I’m going to share it with you now.

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression The Art Of Forgetting

The host said to us all “whatever you do, I plead with you not to think of a red balloon”. Well yes you guessed it, everyone, including myself thought of a red balloon. I don’t know the science behind it, perhaps it was a suggestive thought, but the power that individual had over my free thoughts was phenomenal.

So, to put this into perspective; when you try to avoid certain foods because of a diet – all you can think about is that food. If you are trying to forget an ex, they instantly spring to mind. When you try and forget why you flinch every time a certain word is mentioned you are flashed back to a specific event.

No longer will I be held to ransom by the actions of an ex. I have moved on but she still accommodates an area of my mind. I’m fighting depression, but my life has so many associations attached to such events. I have tried to stop but when I do I often find my mind wonders back to those moments. Perhaps my brain is seeking safety in a place it recognises. If this is the case it’s an uncomfortable state to live in.

Alternative

If you have noticed, to the regular readers of this blog, I have not written much over the past couple of days. Not because I had nothing to say (far from it), but because I wanted to spend my research and writing time trying something new  out.

I heard a song on the radio whilst making a coffee. Instantly, I recalled an uncomfortable memory about my ex. My mouth went dry and I could feel my heart race. It was if they had a presence in the room. I felt instantly vulnerable. To be honest with you I felt quite scared by my lack of strength even after all this time.

It fails to make sense

It was an unreasonable action. I knew she wasn’t there. I know she is miles away. But the power of my thoughts was shocking. It had utter control of my physical self.

It was at this moment that I tried something new. The song was playing but I refused to switch the radio off. So, I picked up the dog and hugged her. I would hope to think that the next time I hear that specific song I will now associate it with hugging the dog as opposed to blocking a punch. Even now as I write this I am recalling lifted the dog and holding her like a small child. That is surely a better memory to associate with.

Ctrl, Alt, Delete

It would be impossible to wipe clean your whole life. We are after all, a product of past events. I remember when my son was younger and he did something which required a stern word. Instantly, I recalled being told the same thing by my parents – or did I just sound like my (adopted) mother at that specific moment?

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression The Art Of Forgetting

I remember as a teenager in the 1980’s I could recall any phone number. Being able to dial the numbers like how a secretary types, with speed and not looking at the phone. I think I could recall probably about seven or eight numbers instantly. In fact if you gave me the first few numbers of a specific telephone number I could probably still continue the rest. 0121 475…., 0121 443….. But we don’t need to anymore. Modern phones only require you to remember the name of the person you are about to call.

But modern life and its instruments almost reinforces negative memories. When I flick through my ‘Pictures’ file for this blog, I come across a range of photographs that were taken many years ago. Instantly, my mind is flashed back to that moment of capture. This is also the case with things such as Facebook, for example. I have read many comments that people have written stating that they have looked up an ex on Facebook. Why, the pictures are fake (see humiliation) but your memories are real. They are an ex for a reason. No-one (that I know of) has stayed in a toxic relationship because they liked their abusers ‘smile’ – of which is all you see in a photograph.

If you look at that picture remember them kicking the shit out of you or screaming in your face. Remember your mind is suggesting something. I would like to suggest a red balloon.

Time will tell

Ironically, I am not asking you to stop reading my blogs in case it makes the reader recall negative events or thoughts. I write these because I want to share my experiences and offer an alternative to what you are experiencing. It might even be that you are reading my blogs and saying “yes, I’ve had that too, I’m, therefore, not alone”.

But I want to offer a glimmer of hope. Perhaps the ability to think differently is an indication that I am recovering. Perhaps I am getting better.  I hope so. My depression took away my best years and my ex tried to smash the remaining. I don’t want to lose any more. Is that an unreasonable ask?

Venture (adventure)

I want to continue to write. And I want to continue with my experiment of disassociation. It’s about time I tried to break the cycle, I hope it works. But I would love to hear from anyone else that tries this approach and to see if it works. Perhaps I might be on to something here and if it makes anyone rich, remember you heard it here first!!

 

 

 

 

Forgive – Why should you?

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Forgive - Why should you?

Religion preaches forgiveness

Let’s make this clear from the start. I am not religious. I was brought up as a Methodist but gradually turned my back on formal religion as I grew older. There are many reasons for this but far too many to include in this blog. Not being religious does not make me a bad person. Far from it. I’m more at peace than most of the religious people I know.

Today I attended a funeral. I always enter a funeral with an open mind. When it comes to religion I have a level of respect for people who can have a belief in something that has questionable ‘facts’. I’m not having a ‘pop’ at religion. As I see it, it offers relief and support to those of whom require it. That must, therefore, be a good thing. Anyway, one vein I have found with most religions is its attempt to ‘forgive’. This is a massive request to ask of most people. Especially people who have been hurt or are hurting right now.

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Forgive - Why should you?
Religion

From my own perspective, I have experienced hatred (I’ve possibly been hated too). But I have found my hate turn to resentment then pity, and finally apathy. But why is forgiveness not the answer to all the hurt and pain we feel? I know (deep, deep down) that is probably the best thing to do. But I don’t think ‘forgiveness is the ‘be all – end all’ to the pain of abuse.

Does forgiveness deny the pain you have been subjected to?

I am trying so hard to forgive my ex for the things she has said and done. I refuse to excuse the reasons for her behaviours as she is responsible, as an adult, for those actions. And ultimately the consequences, to both herself and I.

I just feel at the moment, a sense of pity. Pity because she has no idea of what she has done, the problems that this has caused and the damage it has done. Furthermore, I feel pity for her as she will one day wonder why she is alone. She cannot depend on her looks for ever. They fade. But real beauty is based on character and personality. And hers, ladies and gentlemen is ugly. I feel pity for all of those things. Yet I still find it hard to forgive.

What are the benefits of forgiving someone?

I have seen it said in many self-help books that forgiveness can lead to:

  • Healthier relationships
  • Greater spiritual and psychological well-being
  • Less anxiety, stress and hostility
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Fewer symptoms of depression
  • Stronger immune system
  • Improved heart health
  • Higher self-esteem

Yet, she was the cause of all these problems. I have been proud of my physical health in general. I have never attended hospital although I do have a history of depression. I’ve never even had a filling. But the abuse I suffered left me with a greater level of anxiety, a greater level of depression and PTSD. And little, if any self-esteem.

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Forgive - Why should you?

Yet I still feel pity for her, because I know I will get better. Her life is based on denial and bitterness. Her problems cannot be treated with medication alone. So I don’t need to forgive. I just have pity for her.

Forgiveness isn’t always a good idea.

I have literally found tonnes of literature stating that forgiveness can improve your mental and physical health. It also focuses on the idea of easing anxiety and depression.  Letting go of a grudge, it seems, may be up there with exercising and getting enough sleep as one of the best things you can do for yourself. But I believe that refusing to forgive is a healthy frame of mind that protects you against further damage. It further stops you from being someone else’s ‘door mat’. What’s wrong with that? From my point of view, nothing. I’m more than happy to promote self protection.

I think it is wrong and a fallacy to suggest to anyone that they cannot move on without forgiveness. To even suggest that this is the only way out of unhappiness is a cruel suggestion, especially when no one else has walked in your shoes. Let’s make it clear, it’s not anybody’s place to tell you when to forgive or not. It is your decision when, and only when, the time is right. Whether that is today, next year or never.

Forgiveness isn’t the only way to move on.

I have found that wanting to move away from the damage and hurt (isn’t that what we are trying to do?), does not require you to say “I forgive you”. You can get the same relief and escape from your pains by taking a new approach to problems.

Previously, my approach usually meant rolling over and accepting her poisons. However, my new approach involves; counselling, medication, keeping a journal and so on. I’ve not forgiven, yet I’m feeling pretty good. I think this is mainly down to the fact that it wasn’t me, it was all her. What is there to forgive when she would never change anyway. Forgiveness would be an utter waste of time. I have no anger, just pity for a lost soul. A soul who think’s its ok to abuse in all of it ugly forms.

Forgiveness gives licence to the abuser to remain blind

There is enough pressure already to try and rebuild our lives without the added pressure of not forgiving.  Especially to those who abused. And by the people who had no idea.

Undoubtably, I will probably get a long line of people criticising what I have said. That is perfectly fine. We are all entitled to our opinions and this is mine (I make no apology for it). But from my point of view if I forgave she would not see the damage she had done. because I had seemed to forgive so easily. I want her to know she has done wrong. Deep down I want her to stop for her own well-being. That does not require forgiveness. It requires pity.

In the kingdom of the blind, the one eyed is king

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Forgive - Why should you?
In the kingdom of the blind

But, I firmly believe that you should not be carrying the burden of not forgiving. No one can point the finger at you and condemn you for feeling pain and distress caused by others. After all, would our abusers condemn us for standing up for ourselves. Mine didn’t condemn, she just dug herself in even deeper and I walked away. Therefore, I have no reason to forgive someone who continues to damage everything around her and will continue to do so. I just pity her.


Forgiveness Is wrong

 

How To Hide Depression

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression How To Hide Depression

I had a thought provoking conversation with a friend last night.  Out of respect, I won’t mention his name, but he will know who he is after reading this.

I took the step to tell my friend about what I had been through. After I had sent him a link to this blog he called within minutes. I wanted him to know because I could see the signs that he was also suffering with depression. The difference between us was that I was more proficient at hiding it. He stated during the conversation that he had no idea that I had depression, but felt refreshed that I was able to share it and identify his plight too.

It takes one to know one

I am able to say with great confidence that I have had depression for most of my life. I briefly touched upon it in my blog My father And I. In that blog I talked about the lack of identity and the complications that that had entailed.

As I grew into a man

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression How To Hide Depression
As I grew..

Teenage years are often riddled with angst but I lived in a loveless home, I had accepted that I was adopted and evidence of depression was starting to emerge.

As I reached my 20s I was fully aware that there was a problem and started to seek some form of identification of what it was I was suffering. By the time I reached 30 I knew I was a sufferer. I adapted to my life and came  to accept it. By the time I had reached mid 30s I was fully proficient at hiding it. I had learnt this because depression at this stage was seen as a weakness and there was no room for weakness in any parts of my life at that moment. As a result I had adapted and developed clever ways of hiding it from pretty much everyone around me. Unfortunately, this act stopped me from getting the professional help I needed at the time. In effect I had fooled myself into believing that my depression was not a problem and manageable.

 

Tricks of the trade

My depression went unseen and unrecognised. I was able to conceal my depression so well that I became conditioned to deal with my inner demons on a daily basis. This way my depression was not clearly visible to people who were not aware. By being able to do this I knew I had cracked the code of being able to hide my pains. I was not being deceitful, I was protecting myself and those of whom I love.

I intentionally made efforts to appear happy and upbeat.

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression How To Hide Depression

The perception that those with depression all have a dreary personality is false. My depression was more than just a mood. It was a way of life of which I had learnt to adapt to. I had learnt to create a happy persona that often required recycling old jokes and actions because I knew they worked at particular times. My depression was my pain and not anyone else’s. I didn’t want to bring anyone else down by exposing my true feelings.

I feared abandonment and rejection.

Depression for me felt like leprosy. I feared being rejected and cast aside. An outsider. Unloved and unclean. I had felt rejection at an early age due to my adoption and this was more deeply ingrained than I had given it credit for.

I felt that if I had let someone in enough to see the depression, they would walk way. As a result, I can see now why I had had a series of failed relationships.  It endorsed my need for secrecy, out of fear of rejection from those of whom I love. There was nothing more painful than to expose the ugliest layer of my personality that I wished to hide even from myself.

I was an expert at deflecting questions.

During my lowest periods I knew how to avoid any unwanted attention. The use of humour was good, but I also used a tactic I called ‘questioning’. I found that people often liked to talk about themselves. From this approach, I would ask an open question that required them to discuss their views and feeling on a subject. By doing this it required them to speak for longer than I needed to, hence I didn’t have to talk or explain.

I had habitual remedies.

My relationship with medication was always a bit ‘on and off’. I took them and then when I felt better, I stopped  (foolish this to do). In-between these periods of medication I used to use activities that offered a routine. This gave me goals to reach by certain times of the day. It was often in the form of music, walks, and so on. If by 5 o’clock for example, I had made it to the time of day for my daily walk, then I was doing ok.

I understood the impact of certain substances.

I have always known that alcohol can be problematic for people with depression. As a result I became tea-total to avoid falling into its grasp. This was further validated by witnessing the effects of alcohol on people around me and ultimately my step mother. I knew that caffeine was an upper and so was sugary foods. As a result, I favoured coffee over tea and could polish off a large amount of sweets quite easily.

I had a very good understanding of life and death.

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression How To Hide Depression

I have spent most of my life trying to work it all out. Especially the meaning of life. Is it a pursuit of something, or are we to reach certain points in various stages of our lives? As a paramedic, I also witnessed a range of deaths. I quickly learnt which were more favourable ways to die over others. I feel I became an expert in death and its aftermath. As a result, even now whilst I feel ok, I have no fear of death. However, I must admit, following my treatments and medication I have given less time and thought to the later.

I needed to find a purpose.

My goal in life was that I had a purpose. What I was needing to do was to find something that was worthwhile otherwise my life had been pointless. But for me I also needed reassurance that I was moving in the right direction (whatever that is or was). Recognising my depression also gave me a feeling of inadequacy. I felt inadequate compared to the people around me. Everyone was happier than I. Other people were better at their job than I and this compounded my feeling of being a failure even though I was fighting a battle to give my life a purpose. I felt I even failed when my best efforts were in place. As a result I was always trying to compensate in my life for the frailties that I had inside. Even now I am still striving and searching for more to validate my purpose in life.

The meaning of life with depression

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression How To Hide Depression
It takes one to know one

The reality of my life with depression is that I have been striving to find love and acceptance. This stemmed from trying to be accepted by my adopted family to the need to find my father. But the reality is that everyone strives for this requirement. It’s human nature. My personal advice is to never turn away from a person who seems to be struggling. Love us, especially when it’s difficult.

I once heard a quote from Stephen Fry who stated that

“I hate the fact that I have [depression]….. but I wouldn’t want to live without it because it is a part of me that I have come to accept…”

What I want to say to my friend who I spoke to last night is this. I knew you had depression from the moment I first met you. How? Because you showed all the signs that I had perfected. As I have highlighted, it takes one to know one. Embrace it, it has made you the outstanding man that you are.

Stephen Fry and depression

 

Anxiety After Abuse

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Anxiety After Abuse

Anxiety is a good thing. It stops you from heading into dangerous or unusual situations. It is a normal reaction to things that we dread.  For example, as a teenager, I always felt anxiety before entering the exam hall. As an adult, I get anxious everytime I have to have a blood test – I just hate needles. I have known other people become anxious if they spot a spider within close proximity. Everytime I get anxious my mouth goes dry, my breathing increases and I feel light headed. Sometimes I sweat and I can hear my heart racing. But this is normally a short lasting period of panic.

There is nothing wrong with any of this. It’s good and it’s natural.

But what is life like when anxiety takes over everything?

Earth shattering legacy

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Anxiety After Abuse
Shattered

I have given this some thought today. The only example I can give is that after an earth quake (depression) there is always an after shock (the anxiety). After having my personality shattered I then started to question what I knew or understood. This led to having anxiety about doing normal everyday things that I had previously taken for granted.

My anxiety gave rise to other psychological problems. Such as:

These feelings became a problem when they were too strong to deal with. My anxiety generally made my life difficult and making choices even harder.

Domestic abuse and anxiety

Following research, it has been established that sufferers and survivors of domestic abuse experience increased levels of anxiety. Living in constant stress or fear can indeed create a constant raised level of anxiety.

I always lived in fear of what I would expect to find when I got home from work. The above examples of how I felt (dry mouth, increased heart rate and so on) was often a characteristic of my journey home. However, I could also add the churning feeling inside my stomach. Once home, I would feel anxious about her ever-changing moods and behaviours. This anxiety was a result of living in fear. And this living fear became a habit which increased my anxiety and depression. And so, the constant cycle continued.

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Anxiety After Abuse

Constant high anxiety

When I found that my living conditions were stressful I had no opportunities to off load, other than going to work. I was not allowed out on my own and I had to contact my partner at least three times a day when I was at work (sometimes I had to include a photo so she could see I was in uniform). I had no opportunity to relax or de stress. Also, I couldn’t socialise with friends or family and so had no escape from the captivity I found myself in. What was worse was that a home should be a haven yet it became my prison.

However, what I found once I had left was that the same levels of anxiety still existed. I had learnt that following the lack of support I had received, and the lack of help from the authorities the world is a dangerous place. I felt vulnerable and often experienced nightmares. In effect, the life I had led remained after leaving the environment. Now, I have become accustomed to the feelings of fear and vulnerability even though I was no longer living under that regime.

Further research found that people who are exposed to any form of abuse or persecution, tend to develop extreme social anxiety, or/and stress related illnesses. Sadly they can also develop confusion over their own identities.

Anxiety after domestic abuse

Lasting effects

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Anxiety After Abuse
Lasting effects

Emotionally abused people can experience post-breakup symptoms similar to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

I worked out I had PTSD after taking a walk one afternoon.  I heard a song that she used to like and my mind was rushed back to a moment I heard it in the kitchen. This time in the kitchen was when she said she was going to have me killed. Other occasions also cause PTSD such as smells, colours and even types of cars. My mind would associate these ‘items’ with periods of stress and unhappiness. As a result it took me a while to try and do normal things like listen to certain songs. Even shop in certain supermarkets. I no longer visit certain places, not only for the fear of bumping into her but because these places have so much association with the cause of my problems.

Anxiety has left me hesitant although I am able to often hide it well. My anxiety has taught me to be even more suspicious of authority or kind actions by others.

I know that this will be overcome. It has to. I have a lot of support in place and I have created nice, easy personal goals to give me a level of achievements of which to reflect upon. The abuse left a long dark shadow that created, depression, PTSD and anxiety. With enough light and reflection this shadow will recede and I will be able to replicate the person I eventually want to be.

PTSD Following An Abusive Relationship

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression PTSD Following An Abusive Relationship

Making sense of PTSD

Having now left an abusive relationship I found that struggles began in other areas. PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) became a daily (and nightly) problem. For me this didn’t make any sense, here I was now free of any form of abuse -although I was struggling with depression. Yet I was experiencing all manner of ‘flashbacks’. Furthermore, there was no initial trigger or understanding why they were happening. The worst was waking up following a bad dream thinking she was in the room with me.

Having to admit to being a male victim of domestic abuse (especially sexual assault) was extremely difficult. Perhaps these episodes of PTSD was a way of venting this frustration against a world of whom I considered did not care – this was enforced and endorsed by the police who failed to react or support me in my claims.

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression PTSD Following An Abusive Relationship
Flashbacks hurt

My experience of PTSD

Enduring any length of abuse whether physical, emotional, sexual or psychological will leave some form of mark. Some domestic violence survivors, like myself, will suffer PTSD. Suffering these emotions does not indicate any form of weakness.  I have had to deal with my PTSD which has made me relive my ordeal through flashbacks and nightmares that have interfered with my ability to function normally on a daily basis. This has often left me tired or uninterested in doing daily activities. Further symptoms are listed below

The symptoms of PTSD can include

  • Intrusive memories of the abuse – this can come following certain songs or smells or even being in certain places at certain times. There are no strict rules to this – it can just happen anywhere at any time.
  • Loss of interest in other people and the outside world – I found that I isolated myself from friends and was happy to stay indoors.
  • Insomnia (see my post on depression and sleep)
  • Agitation – I found that I would often jump at the slightest movement by other people
  • Depression – (see my article on depression)
  • Overwhelming feelings of sadness, fear, despair, guilt or self-hatred. I questioned my self worth. If I could allow one person to do these things to me what was my true worth?
  • Physical pain that migrates throughout the body. I experienced headaches and joint pains.
  • An inability to imagine a positive future (why depression makes you feel guilty)

Following research I found that these symptoms will last for at least a month and can occur either directly after the trauma, or be delayed, beginning six months, a year or 20 years after the abuse has ended.

 Treatments

Everyone recovers at their own pace. As a minimum you should be seeking help and support from your doctor.

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression PTSD Following An Abusive Relationship
Medications.

I had to move to temporary accommodation and as a result I registered with the local GP there. I must stress that from the outset they were fantastic. She took the time to listen to events and and aftershocks. I was prescribed medication for both my depression and my sleep problems (see my relationship with medication).

My work supplied and paid for counselling sessions. Initially, I was cautious about sharing my thoughts and experiences with a complete stranger but she allowed me to work at my pace.

Afterwards

I wondered if the effects of abuse would ever go away. Yes, I am still jumpy at times and I still experience thoughts following certain triggers but I recognise these now and can prepare myself for this. I have not fully recovered but I sense a certain amount of freedom from PTSD. There was a time when I stayed silent about the abuse but a part of my recovery was to share what happened either with friends or by writing it down (via this blog), medication, counselling and a slow recognition of my own self-worth.

http://www.thehealthsite.com/diseases-conditions/ways-to-care-for-a-loved-one-undergoing-ptsd-k0717/

Dealing With PTSD Symptoms After Leaving Abuse

Living after your relationship breakdown

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Living after your relationship breakdown

The only long term relationship is with yourself

The reality is this; all of the nice things have gone. In fact they probably stopped ages ago and it is only now that you realise this. You have probably lived in hope that things will work out and everything will be fine. But the truth is, things are going to be pretty difficult for a while.

If any of you are going through the same thing, I promise that it’s not the end of the world.

It’s easy to just want to watch TV all day after a difficult breakup. But don’t forget that for you to feel better, you have to move on with your life (KEEPING MYSELF BUSY). Start with small goals first. This is a great time to keep your mind occupied with productive things.

Below are some things you can do to help yourself cope and heal. I’ve tried and tested these for myself and they do help. But you must realise that you need to work at your own pace and not that set by others.

Have time to grieve.

You may feel that what has happened is “worst possible thing that can ever happen.” You may feel that this is an accurate description of how you feel right now. It’s really like all the butterflies died and you feel like you’re being stabbed over and over again and there’s nothing you can do to stop it.

I felt I was confused and in denial at what she had done to me. It felt like there was this hole inside of me that was never going to be filled again. I couldn’t believe that the person who once told me things like “I love you” and “Don’t leave me”. She was now the same person telling me she “wishes I was dead” or “I will destroy you at the earliest opportunity”.

I was left feeling weak and broken. I could not eat properly and I had to result to sleeping pills to get some sleep. Sleeping was often plagued by nightmares and flashbacks of what went on behind closed doors. Every little thing seemed to remind me of her from songs to smells and so on.

If you find yourself in the same situation, know that it’s okay to feel the pain. It is inevitable, unavoidable and necessary. No one’s stopping you and it’s better to do so than repress (especially if you are a male – we are well known for this), because you might end up exploding one day and the implications will be worse.

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Living after your relationship breakdown
stages of grief

Don’t rush things and let time pass. You’ll eventually get exhausted and run out of tears before you even realize it.

Don’t let the breakup consume you.

My greatest mistake was that I let it consume me for far long than it should have. It is okay to feel the hurt and bitterness, but you have to remember to pick yourself up every time. Don’t let it get the best of you.

I found that writing everything down (including this blog) and attending the gym helped me to recover (possibly quicker than doing nothing about it).

Stop blaming yourself.

It’s not your fault. You had offered them every opportunity to change their ways but their hatred was so deeply ingrained there was nothing more you could do than protect yourself from them. There’s no use dwelling over the things you could have or should have done to save it.

If you continually fought to keep it alive, then you should be proud of yourself. But equally proud that you have now found the strength to walk away. Bear in mind that if the other person isn’t willing to compromise or work it out anymore then there’s no point in staying.

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Living after your relationship breakdown
Toxic relationships, nice people, destroying, personaility

Distance yourself from them.

Rose tinted glasses are fake. They show you falsehoods. I strongly advise that it is best to cut all sorts of contact with them after the breakup. She was the source of all my difficulties and once I had left I wanted to be as far away as possible from her.  You must never text them, call them or even stalk them online. She has now become a stranger and will he be able answers the questions of which you feel you are entitled to. She will never admit what she had done was wrong. Why should she when she was able to convince everyone that I was at fault.

It’s okay to be angry

There are various stages of guilt. There will come a point when anger and hatred will replace what was once pain, and it will leave you exhausted. You will wonder how vile and inhumane they became.  You will be thinking “How could she do this?” Don’t let the anger get the best of you. A lot of people who’ve gone through breakups say that one day you’ll wake up and just not care anymore. Wouldn’t it be nice to just feel nothing for the person rather than hate him for a long time? Remember: the opposite of love is not hate, but apathy.

Try looking on the bright side.

I know it’s always easier said than done, but there’s always a silver lining in every grey cloud. The breakup will be a blessing in disguise. The fact remains that you cannot make someone love you who doesn’t.

Make time for your family and friends who love you unconditionally. Join more organizations, focus on your goals, and make new plans for the future. I have found completely new enjoyment by visiting the library or walking around a supermarket. It sounds simple but that’s all I want, the simple things. I have reflect back on all the things that I used to enjoy doing prior to meeting my ex and I intend to start doing them again!

Love yourself enough to know that you deserve better.

Your ex who just broke you wasn’t the best. You deserve stability; someone who won’t ever take it out on you when things get difficult. You deserve decency at all times. Everyone should to be treated right. We are owed, respect and compassion; otherwise it isn’t love at all.

6 Ways To Recover From The End Of A Toxic Relationship