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No matter your gender, whether you are male or female, you can become a victim of abuse. And while some forms may be physical and easy to spot, emotional abuse can be more covert, thus making it harder to spot and to treat.

With that being said, if you have found this article, then you probably know that what you have encountered abuse. And while you may feel a bit damaged, hurt and probably lost, you are never unable to be healed. While healing may sound like a daunting task, and to be honest, it most definitely can be – it is completely worth it.

Regardless of whether your encounter was with a partner or family member, you can overcome it. When we have been abused, a multitude of symptoms will arise, including self-destructive habits, unsettling memories, and nightmares/flashbacks, strange bodily responses, constant anxiety, blame, guilt, startle responses and internal feelings of isolation and helplessness.

So where does the healing begin?

1. Understand what is and isn’t abuse.

Begin reading and trying to understand what defines covert abuse. You will find that emotional abuse is an ongoing pattern of behavior in which you are shamed, manipulated, bullied, and then made to feel insane for your perceptions. Once you understand the mindset behind this behavior, you will feel better able to spot it when it is happening to you.

2. Learn about healthy relationships.

While you may still be on the verge of deciding if you are in an abusive relationship, it helps to understand what a healthy one is. Are you able to go to this person with criticism, without feeling afraid? Are you able to express your opinions/feelings with this person? Can you say no to your partner?

3. Get your confidence back.

Through learning, getting back your strength through exercise, and self-care, and by learning to speak up for yourself when someone is attempting to keep you down- you can gain confidence back. While it will take baby steps, there are several ways to do this. However, it is best to start with understanding and learning about abuse, so you will know when to speak up.

4. Seek professional help.

No one solution works for all victims of abuse. Abuse can cause a myriad of issues in each person dealing with it, and finding a trained professional to hone in on your specific symptoms will help immensely. While it won’t be an easy journey, it will be much easier with a therapist who understands your needs.

5. Find meaningful relationships.

Find people who are supportive, loving, and that wish to help you. New friends, or old friends that you have been distant with since your abuse can be helpful, and friends you find in a support group, those who understand what you are dealing with are also quite helpful.

6. Establish healthy boundaries in your new relationships.

Learn to establish healthy boundaries in relationships of all sorts, by standing firm by what you believe. Do not ever let anyone treat you less than you should be treated, and when they do, confidently and assertively say how you feel.

7. Remember that every day is a step forward.

As someone who has overcome domestic abuse, I know just how hopeless you may feel in the beginning. However, I promise that through time and work, you will wake up one day and realize that your abuse no longer defines you. And when you look back at the journey, you will be proud of who you have become through a very unfortunate situation.