Dear Dr. Archer,
I’ve been involved in an abusive relationship for nearly two years. To be honest, I’ve been in a long string of abusive relationships.
I knew better when I met this man, as he managed to break me down little by little, and now I have no hope. I blame myself for the situation I’m in, but I’m too ashamed to go to my family and friends, at least the ones who still talk to me. I thought things would get better, but they haven’t. Now I’m in fear for my life.
I’ve left him before, but it came to be that I received an insurance payment of $30,000. He convinced me to move back in with him. Once there, I got an excellent job. But over the course of four months, he drained my bank account, moved me away from everyone I loved, and convinced me to leave my job, saying he’d take care of me.
He has completely isolated me away from everyone, and taken away every ounce of security I knew. I’m smart enough to see exactly what he has done, but for the life of me, I can’t figure out how I let it happen. I don’t know why I’m where I am. I’m afraid to go to the police or the women’s shelter, because he has threatened to kill me.
I don’t want to find help in this town, and I have no one here. I don’t have the strength to start over again. He’s a sick man — I just don’t know what kind of mental disorder he has. He’s evil when he has an episode.
So, here I am with this freaky guy who snaps for no reason, accuses me of things, tells me I’m not cleaning to his standards, says he will kill me, and calls me every name in the book. I have no money or friends, and I live out in the middle of nowhere on 20 acres, miles from the nearest town.
I’m terrified he’s going to kill me. He’s on probation for threats he has made to me in the past, but I know if I call the police, they will just let him go. Since I have nowhere safe, he will find me, and I’ll be dead.
You’re not alone. Many abused people return to the abuser, some over and over, all for very different reasons. All too often, when the abused leaves the relationship, they actually go through mourning. Their grief is compounded because they mourn a fantasy, a loving, caring relationship — one that never existed in the first place. This distorted reality is what brings them back.
It’s a terrible cycle: The victim feels small, withdrawn, helpless and angry, and also feels helpless to do anything about it. Victims believe the lies the abuser tells them: That the abuser is a savior, and will take care of the victim, and provide for the victim’s needs, and that no one else loves the victim.
Isolating the victim is a classic move, cutting the ties to all supportive family and friends. This, of course makes it harder to get out, because you have nowhere to go. So, I get that it’s hard. Hard — but not impossible.
I don’t want to sound heartless, but you have two choices: Stay in this horrible situation, or get the hell out. It’s time to take a stand; the time for action is now.
To do nothing means that nothing will change, and you’ll remain as miserable as you are at this moment. There’s a saying: “Abusive relationships are like being addicted to a bad drug. You know it’s bad for you, but you have a really hard time escaping from it.”
Take charge of your life! The only time it’s too late is when you no longer have breath in your body. Plenty of abused men and women lose friends because they do nothing to help themselves. Plan your escape, and decide where you’re going to go. Whether it’s a family member, a remaining friend, the women’s shelter or an apartment in a new city — the time is now.
No more excuses. Quit believing his lies. Death threats are prevalent among abusers; it’s just another form of control. But, be clear, the danger is very real.
OK, enough with the analysis. Here’s how you do it:
· First, find your nearest woman’s shelter, and talk to them about formulating a plan.
· Keep the plan a secret from him.
· Contact family and friends that are still speaking to you, and tell them what you are planning. They will doubt you; let them know this time is real, and for forever, and that you need their help.
· Try to hide as much money in advance as possible. You can also write a check for cash on the day you leave.
· Plan in advance the day of your exit, and where you will go. The women’s shelter can help with this.
· On the day you leave, go to the police and get a restraining order, so you create a paper trail.
· Do it.
You can do this. It will take courage, but once done, it will be over — hopefully never to be repeated. I wish you much success in the future.
Dear Dr. Archer,
Five days ago, my wife had what has been referred to as a psychotic episode. Her psychiatrist said it was likely caused by a diet pill she had been taking for a prolonged time. It contains 5-HTP to boost serotonin levels, as well as high levels of caffeine. She has been prescribed Abilify for the psychosis.
One of the symptoms has been an increasing obsession with a pop band, particularly the lead singer. It has become an infatuation, bordering on pathological.
As a result, after nearly seven blissfully happy years together, she has informed me she wants to separate. She says she realizes if the opportunity arose, she would leave me for him, even though she accepts the chances of her meeting him are zero. She says she realizes she cannot love me like she did, if she’s so willing to end our marriage for this fantasy.
She says she still loves me, and would always want me to be a part of her life. She’s not leaving me for somebody else. She wants to become and stay single and independent, just in case her fantasy becomes a reality.
I’d like to know how long it will be before she accepts that this is just a vivid fantasy, and throwing our marriage away for this would be the biggest mistake of her life.
Many diet pills on the market today include intense doses of caffeine or other stimulants, and can actually become addictive, or cause health problems, whether they’re abused or not. Some adverse effects are increased heart rate, sleeplessness, shortness of breath, anxiety, panic attacks and, yes, psychosis.
How long will it take for your wife to realize this is just a fantasy and drop it? Unfortunately, there is no definite time frame. However, generally speaking, it takes a couple of months — perhaps up to six — after a psychotic episode for normal judgment to return. I fully expect with time this will resolve itself.
In the meantime, be patient, and tell her that after this episode, neither of you should make any major life decisions for six months. Be firm, and then refuse to discuss the matter until after that time period. Tell her if that’s what she wants after that point, then you will consider it, but not until then. Essentially, you are buying time to allow her brain to recover.
You’re honoring your commitment not only to your wife, but to your marriage, and you’re to be commended. It may be difficult at times, but remain strong and focused. Good luck.
Dr. Dale Archer is a board certified psychiatrist who founded the Institute for Neuropsychiatry in Southwest Louisiana. He is a frequent guest on Fox News, CNN Headline News and other national TV programs, and is the author of The ADHD Advantage and the New York Times’ bestselling book Better than Normal. Visit him at DrDaleArcher.com.