Traumatized and unhappy

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

Q:country unknown: I am a very well educated person.Unfortunately suffered abuse when I was 12. My mother never beleived me and my dad was abroad.I finally hit my uncle and created a fuss . It stopped. As I went along my life I struggled to be on top .I have extremely low self esteem despite my excellent performance at my job and my credentials. While graduating from a top B school I was date raped by one of the guys whom I trusted. I suffered enough mental anguish and decided to put it behind me. I had an affair with another casanova on campus who after sometime treated me even more badly. I finally got my act togeather and vowed never to look back. I worked hard and did well.I earned my peers’ respect. I dealt with my past with tears and an unknown sadness. As time went by I forgot about my rapist or my campus love. I never once behaved violently or looked back.I have done well at everything I have been given some how I feel very cheated that I am unable to get what I want.

I met my husband before 4 years. We got along very well. However when he proposed marriage I declined as he was not from a well to do background and not doing too well in his career.Too orthodox and lower middle class mentality. However as time went by I got older and was scared to end up old. I finally agreed to marry him. However our relationship had become very strained by then. I was unable to take up any good oppurtunity due to my personal relationship with him. Somehow my top B school degree expectations and my current job just didnt match.He changed after marraige and started treating me as secondary to his parents. He refused to even provide basic things. I started getting very frustrated and angry. Lately I started hitting him in my anger and blaming him for my misery.

I deeply regret my marriage. I am shocked at my behaviour towards my husband. I never hated the rapist.Never was so bitter about life even when I had reason to. My inlaws make my life a living hell. Instead of facing to my husband I have started blaming them for his behaviour. All my life I have felt like seconds.

In bouts of extreme anger i shut myself in a room and imagine strangling my husband and torturing him for all the misery and abuse. Earlier he was vey caring…Now he just treats me badly. Any of my anger episodes he just ignores me. I plead and make a mockery of myself. I have no dignity and self respect in his eyes.He treats me like a mental patient and that annoys me even more. Sometimes I wish him dead.

I am scared about the fact taht I will hurt myself in my misery. No one can even guess looking at me at the mental traumas I have been through. I seem a very easy go lucky sucessful and admired person. No one knows what lies beneath. I cry hours together in bathrooms…Feel lost and lonely and cheated and angry that my husband doesnt care. I wish i had not married him.

I am addicted to him. I doubt if i love him …..i wouldnt treat him like he treats me. Is this right? Please help me. I am sad enough to harm myself. therapy is not commmon in my country.

A: You’ve done your very best to shut the door on a traumatic history and go forward with your life. Some people can do that. Others can’t. Still others do as you have and compartmentalize things so that they can achieve in most areas of life while still struggling with relationships that involve intimacy and trust. We don’t yet know why people respond so differently to abuse. It may have something to do with temperament or with how much people supported the victim in its aftermath. Please give yourself lots of credit for doing so well in spite of a difficult past. Don’t judge yourself harshly for still having some work to do.

Your personal life is still being shaped and affected by unresolved trauma. Like many victims of sexual assault, you act as if there are only two positions in an intimate relationship: the victim or the victimizer. Not wanting to ever again be the victim, you sometimes take on the other role. At other times, you create a situation where your husband becomes the victimizer you fear. Neither position is healthy. You haven’t figured out how to create a third alternative, that of a partner in a loving relationship. This isn’t an uncommon response to unresolved trauma but it is certainly a painful one for you and for your husband. Most important, it doesn’t have to continue.

I’m sorry that therapy isn’t common in your country. Nonetheless, you do need to do something therapeutic to work through the effects of abuse so that you can feel safe in a relationship. If you truly can’t access therapy, please start reading. There are many, many books on overcoming the effects of sexual abuse and there are many first person accounts by survivors that can serve as inspiration. There are also web sites and web chat rooms available where survivors support and help each other. If you have a spiritual life, you may also find it helpful to turn to your god for comfort and support while you deal with old pain and work on making a better psychological life for yourself.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 26 May 2008

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2008). Traumatized and unhappy. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 20, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2008/05/26/traumatized-and-unhappy/