Editor’s note: Resource Perspectives features articles written by members of Lovefraud’s Professional Resources Guide. Rebecca Potter works as a licensed mental health counselor in West Palm Beach, Florida.
I’m every woman … It’s all in me …
By Rebecca Potter
Sadly, on February 11, 2012, the world lost another woman’s voice when Whitney Elizabeth Houston died in her hotel room. The press talked about her drug and alcohol use, her bizarre behavior, etc. Reporters briefly mentioned her tumultuous marriage. Did we lose another beautiful woman’s voice to the tragic, permanent, emotional and physical side effects of leaving an abusive marriage, and/or the struggle of trying to protect her young child from a dangerous man in the legal system?
A quote from a news article reads:
“When Whitney Houston decided to end her marriage with Bobby Brown, the thought in many minds was why did this decision take so long in light of the history of infidelity, scandals, drug and alcohol arrests, and marital problems during their marriage?”
It appears that Whitney’s life took a turn for the worse when she entered into a relationship with Bobby Brown
Although I can only offer a hypothetical opinion as a therapist, her struggle seems hauntingly familiar. Is it possible that Whitney Houston suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder? Those of us who have left an abusive relationship understand the fear and anxiety we developed in the relationship. We know it is hard to leave, and repeated exposure to the trauma creates Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
The neurological and biological effects of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder symptoms affect our ability to clearly identify what is happening. The powerful biological responses of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder may cause an abused woman to under react (dissociate) or to overreact (perhaps explaining some of Whitney’s bizarre behavior). What we also know is that the mere exposure to a dangerous man in a relationship causes a continuous roller coaster of biological and neurological reactions that affect our brain chemistry and create anxiety. This biological reaction from post traumatic stress disorder can be triggered instantly by any environmental cue (where the abuse occurred, angry voices, displeasure from someone, etc.), long after leaving the abusive situation.
Lack of effective medical treatment
Sadly, many women medicate this anxiety with drugs and alcohol. The medical community, governed by insurance corporations, will allow and cover drug and alcohol treatment usually only for 30 days. Drug and alcohol treatment is ineffective with patients who have suffered trauma and betrayal bonding. Still, the standard approach is to use prescription medication to treat the substance abuse. These professionals know all too well that an addict is going to relapse. Professionals know that recovery involves a desire to heal, to attend meetings, and professional therapy, for much more than 30 days of treatment.
Whitney went to treatment and possibly in treatment she was given her prescription medications. She left treatment early, but continued to be given the prescription medications, continued to abuse substances and possibly continued to be triggered by trauma symptoms. It is unlikely that she was informed and educated about the permanent and pervasive effects of a dangerous relationship.
What if Whitney would have been able to seek treatment to understand the betrayal bonding that occurred in her relationship with Bobby Brown?
What if …
- she had been treated with biofeedback
- she learned to recognize the trauma triggers
- she had connected with a group of other women who could have supported her
- she had heard from other professional women who had given so much of themselves to a man who was not able to love and return love because of a serious mental illness and genetic disorder
- she heard from others that they endured the emotional , financial, mental traumas, who stayed because they were trying to live by God’s law and supporting an erratic husband
- she heard that many women feel relief when a husband finally hits them, because they are able to recognize physical abuse, but have become numb to verbal, mental, and financial abuse
- she knew what to expect when she went to the court system, that she would then be abused by attorneys who wanted what was left of her money and the fear she may have felt from a legal system that could award her child to an abuser
- she knew that due to mere exposure to the trauma and domestic violence her daughter could marry the same type of man
- she understood that personality disorders are an enduring pattern of behaviors; stable and long duration that are inflexible and pervasive across a broad range of personal and social situations
- she knew that the abuser could appear so supportive and caring to groom and gain her trust
- she knew that the sexual intensity between them was part of the betrayal bonding component
- she knew that many women begin substance use to try to connect with these abusive mates
- she knew that exposure to these kinds of people would leave her emotionally and physically ill and leaving him would expose her to devastating financial harm
- she knew that these abusers looked for injured folks and put up a mask to draw them in, usually with intense personalities and sex, only to take everything and leave them
- she could have let go of the fear and shame that haunted her
The world lost a beautiful musical voice. My hope is that the world learns from the tragedy of Whitney. To all other beautiful voices who may currently feel or have felt the pain of betrayal, I encourage treatment with professionals who understand the complex treatment of trauma, professionals who clearly understand the effects of abusive betrayal bonds used by so many in our society to take and pillage from innocent people.
God bless you and keep you Whitney Elizabeth Houston and ALL OTHER VOICES who struggle with healing from trauma bonding.
Rebecca Potter, LMHC is a licensed therapist in Florida who has also suffered trauma from a former abusive husband and a corrupt, abusive family court system. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information, read: Inside Whitney Houston’s violent marriage to Bobby Brown on TheDailyBeast.com.