A little less than a year ago, I ended a 2 yearlong abusive relationship. My abuser was verbally and physically abusive, and somewhat sexually abusive.
I was fine for a while after the relationship ended, and felt relief and hope that I was out of what had seemed like a hopeless situation.
But recently, it’s been hard to think about anything else. I was recently being intimate (not having sex) with a boy, and suddenly had a flashback of a time when my past abuser had been sexually abusive. I began shaking and found it hard to keep my composure.
Since then, in random situations, I’ll suddenly remembered or have a flashback of a past time I had been abused. Most of the times, these are incidents I had forgotten about completely until the flashback.
Now, I am constantly worry that my abuser will try to make contact with me or that I will run into him somewhere on the street.
And, finally, I feel like this is something that will always haunt me forever, and that will impair my ability to function in a healthy relationship in the future.
What is going on with me? Can you please explain these feelings and experiences, and tell me if there’s anything I can do for myself?

A: Thank you for writing about this. Many people have had abuse in their life, and learning how to manage it will be important for them and you. Here are my thoughts.

When the psyche holds back uncomfortable memories the suppression (deliberately holding back) or repression (unconsciously holding back) takes a lot of our emotional energy. The fact that some of these memories are coming through is a very good thing because it means that there is a readiness for you to now cope with these thoughts.

I would encourage you to find a therapist trained in EMDR:
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. This form of therapy is specifically designed to deal with trauma, and the memories of being abused fall into that category. Something happened to you that shouldn’t have and there was a type of helplessness that was felt. Therapists with this additional level of training should be able to help you begin to move toward it.

As you enter therapy I would strongly encourage you to interview a few therapists, and to include a male and female with the same EMDR training. While the credential is important, your comfort with the therapist is the most essential ingredient.

Wishing you patience and peace,
Dr. Dan
Proof Positive Blog @ PsychCentral

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 17 May 2011

APA Reference
Tomasulo, D. (2011). What are possible implications of a past abusive relationship on my life now?. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 21, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2011/05/17/what-are-possible-implications-of-a-past-abusive-relationship-on-my-life-now/