Serious Topic Tuesday: Signs of Emotional Abuse
This may be my most serious, triggering post I’ve ever written on this blog; however, it needs to be said. There are a myriad of posts that touch upon emotional abuse, so mine is just another one. Even so, I want to contribute to this conversation, because emotional abuse IS just as bad as physical abuse. In fact, sometimes it can be more harmful. Maria Bogdanos says, “it can be more harmful than physical abuse because it can undermine what we think about ourselves. It can cripple all we are meant to be as we allow something untrue to define us.” This is not to undermine physical abuse. After all, physical abuse can be paired with emotional abuse.
Like the picture above shows, emotional abuse is forever running in a dark, mist-shrouded forest that frees you at the edge of the cliff. You have two choices: return to the forest or jump this cliff. Like Frost’s poem, “The Road Not Taken,” you’re looking for details that drive you to what your dried-up brain feels is a reasonable solution. Turning back to the forest means clawing your way through the fog, the dark trees growing malformed faces that say, “You’ll die no matter what.” Below the cliff is a valley of green, soothing, rolling hills sprouting sunflowers that rise toward the sunshine like you wish you could. You choose to run to the forest, because it’s the only thing you know. You recognize the beauty beyond is far more terrifying than ending up alone. You don’t know if the flowers will talk to you the way the trees do. After all, if you decided to choose the hills, you wouldn’t be able to return. The flowers might be silent.
This is what emotional abuse does to you. You stay in the relationship because you’re afraid of what’s after. You don’t want to end up alone. You downplay the abuse by thinking At least he isn’t hitting me, while in the same vein wishing he would since you feel like it’d be easier to leave him that way. If only abuse were that simple. Abuse, in my opinion, is like an eating disorder. You know you should stop, but your ED has taken complete control of your body because you don’t know what your life is going to be like without it. After all, EDs are symptoms of trauma that eventually grow into their own thing in the same way trauma does–PTSD.
This isn’t a post about pushing through trauma. I wish it could be. Yet, when I talk about something as serious as this, I present what’s real. Trauma damages you for far too long. It molds your brain into “The Scream Painting” by Edward Munch. Your brain is far different than those with healthy brains who experience cases of ups and downs.
Mental illness is not an up and down, especially when trauma has been involved, and I’ve been too traumatized since September. I’m keeping myself from bipolar depression (or else i wouldn’t be writing this), but the situational depression becomes a weighted blanket for me at night–sometimes I sob.
As you can see from this chart, there are so many things trauma can do to an always malleable brain–and it sucks. I can’t tell you how many traumas have hit me in such a short amount of time. My own dad even admits he can’t imagine what I’m going through. Mom most likely feels the same way. Despite trying to be happy, my parents are the most incredible parents ever to be able to recognize that I truly have not been happy. Unfortunately, there are those in my life who want to tell me nothing is wrong. They won’t let me just be not okay. In fact, they worsen things to the most difficult calculus problem in the world.
I am utterly miserable, but I’m still waking up each day, putting on a gorgeous outfit I planned the other night, putting my make-up on to infuse some cheeriness in me, and writing in my poetry chapbook to purge my trauma. For many survivors of a lot of trauma, writing down their feelings is rough. However, writing is more of a first language for me than English itself. Poetry is especially the best way to write my trauma, because I don’t have to go into the specifics of what happened to me like I would with a memoir detailing my trauma. I can use metaphors to describe what happened. Those metaphors protect my mind, creating an impenetrable castle that not even the Spartans can breach. Poetry is the reason why I’m waking up instead of downing 700 mg. of Seroquel to keep me knocked out for the rest of the day, until it’s time for dinner and time to see my fiance.
Here is a guest post from Rachel Thompson’s blog detailing trauma.
Unfortunately, I have my own personal experiences with emotional abuse, but there is an article you can read that expresses the myriad of symptoms of emotional abuse. This is what I have experienced:
- Everything is your fault. I’m not perfect. I will apologize when I need to; it takes a taxing amount of energy to pull out an apology because the other party never wants to admit fault for causing you to cry so much that you’re unable to function. Seriously, you just can’t function. You don’t know what to say to stand up for yourself. You’re too wrapped up in your emotions, and the other party can’t understand why you’re crying, no matter how many times you express why up you are. The other party demands you speak, instead of trying to figure out why you’re drowning in pain.
- The other party lacks both sympathy and empathy. When this person hurts you, and you break down sobbing, they just tell you what to do. They tell you to come over to be with them. Sometimes they tell you to leave if you’re going to act that way. If you don’t, they get pissed and accuse you of never wanting to speak. They never, for a second, consider that you don’t want to come over and speak because your heart is being flayed by a weed whacker. They’ll constantly ask you what you want while in the same vein asking what you’re crying for. When you tell them what you want, they ignore it, and either tell you they don’t want to give you that, or they’ll keep asking the same question.
- Stalking. This isn’t physical stalking. Stalking can take place in the form of going through someone’s social media account to find incriminating evidence that you’re doing something wrong so they have a reason to ax your body in half from that pedestal they constantly put you on top of. Even if you accidentally leave your social media open on the other party’s computer, that party has no right to snoop. In fact, the respectful thing would be to log out. A parent would do that. Yet, the other party will feel justified in doing so because you don’t tell them everything. Your lover doesn’t need to know everything, so long as it’s nothing that may damage the relationship in the long run. This brings me to my next point.
- Accusations. Your lover finds an FB conversation you were having with someone. That someone just happened to be of the opposite sex, and you were venting personal things because this person could understand those things more than your own lover, as your lover doesn’t even want to try to understand. They see your feelings as a sign of weakness.You understand their initial reaction would be shock, but when they keep accusing you of cheating, speaking in vagaries about why they think you’re cheating, they whittle down this statuesque body of yours they so admire, until you’re little more than stony dust, even though you keep telling that, truthfully, you weren’t cheating. When you do finally understand what they’re talking about, you stand up for yourself and say you spent time with this person because there was something the other party did wrong. For example, the other party buried a grave so deeply and stuck you in it. You can’t climb out of it. Your lover is slowly piling on the dirt to both bury and suffocate you. You’re desperate to not wallow in damaging feelings, so this person happens to be the most immediate one available, so you decide to hang out with that person, not realizing you were feeding on the other party’s already intense insecurities. You lied about whom you were with, because you knew they’d be angry, not knowing they were going through your FB account, trying to find evidence that you were indeed cheating. It’s a terrifying thought, especially because you never once thought of going through any of your lover’s social media or text messages or anything of that nature. It’s especially more terrifying when you can connect the accusations to another event that ended in tragedy. You don’t want to meet that same fate.
- Flipping back and forth. They feel bad for what they did, so they drown you with affection that makes you happy, makes you confident the cycle won’t repeat. But it does. They knock you off that pedestal again, treat you in appalling ways no one else has ever had, and then switch back to mushy mode when they realize they’ve wronged you. Yet, somehow, some way, they always find SOMETHING that makes them resent you.
- You’re ignorant. You go through your day being nothing but busy that you have no time for a social life besides with your lover. When you do get to see your lover, they start tossing their problems at you, about you, and you wonder what the hell happened between yesterday and today, especially because yesterday ended with such a positive note between you two. You spiral down again, melt into a pile of tears, and consider suicide so intensely that you wonder if you’re being manipulative by feeling that way. You’re not, though, because that is what you feel, and that feeling is very, very real.
- Mood. You never know what mood they’re going to be in when you do see them. You’ve accepted some things about them that you’re comfortable with accepting, but then other times they toss their moodiness on you, and you’re left, once again, questioning what you did wrong. When you ask what’s going on, they tell you it doesn’t matter. You then tell them they’re a hypocrite, because they expect you to talk about your problems, but they will not do the same because they claim they just don’t do that. You then prod to know what’s wrong, and you’re met with a wasp’s sting: it doesn’t matter because you’re going to keep doing it anyway. This leaves you flummoxed. What are you doing?
- Their problems are always worse than yours. Again, they will always, always, always downplay your feelings and tell you you’re okay, which doesn’t help because you are not okay in that moment. When your tears are because of what your lover has done to you, they tell you they don’t want to deal with your crap because of what they’re dealing with. Then it hits you that you don’t know what they’re dealing with. It’s like they claim they’re dealing with something that is in fact imaginary, just so they can widen an already wide gap between you. They will tell you your life is great, which implies you are never allowed to cry or be upset over something. They will tell you to get over it, because they can–so why can’t you? But you know they’re not over their own baggage; they’re angry every single day. They don’t do anything to help with that anger because they claim it’s part of their personality, and they’re just dandy being that way. It’s complete crap. Their anger spreads to you eventually, then you just hate yourself as you look at past transgressions toward them.
- They always threaten to leave you. Oh sure they don’t want to. They’re just convinced you do and that you’d get over it quickly, when you know you wouldn’t. You have to be the one to fight to keep the relationship together.Through tears, words, and desperation, you somehow mend the relationship. At the back of your mind, however, you’re wondering if they want you to get rid of them.
- They consistently want time alone. This is bad when you’re engaged. They’ll kick you out, and they won’t talk to you for days. You then tell them they can’t do that when you’re married, and they’ll retort by saying they’ll just do something different. You’ve never done that to them before, kick them out of your life because you’re upset at what they did. You want to fix the problem right then and there, even though they will accuse you of always running away. You’re not running away. You’re drowning in unmanageable feelings. They, on the other hand, want you out because they insist you’re the cause of their problems.
- Insults. If something is very bad between you, they will insult you. It doesn’t have to be name calling. It can be as simple as saying that you’re like everyone else, a conniving backstabber.
- They don’t see anything wrong with what they’re doing. But you do. If you’ve been together long enough, they know what hurts you. No matter how much you tell them to cut the crap, they still hurt you, even though they claim they don’t like upsetting you.
- Everything is about them. When you try to express your feelings, they will try to to stop you. Then they will accuse you of being selfish because you always make it about you. You then wonder if you’re truly doing that, while knowing the other party never once questioned their actions. Both of you are hurt, justifiably so. They try to make their hurt much bigger than yours, though. They effectively silence you by sewing your mouth shut with thick, not-easily-breakable thread. Then they get mad that you’re not talking to them.
- They’re constantly convinced you don’t love them. You have to continuously sate their insecurities all. the. dang. time. It’s exhausting. You eventually get to sense there is a tense air between the two of you when you’re together, and you know something negative is about to happen that you don’t even start.
- When they finally realize they’ve made you miserable, they will make it up to you. They will spend an exorbitant amount of money on you, whether it’s taking you to a restaurant you like, buying an outfit you desperately wanted, jewelry, or whatever you love. Then the cycle repeats itself.
I can’t tell you to leave. If only it were that easy. In reality, the only way to get you to leave is if some external force makes you, like a friend or a parent or even a therapist. But by the time you realize you’ve been wronged, your brain chemicals have dramatically changed, and you can no longer see things as they are but see things as they ought to be; thus, you spend time trying to fix the situation to come to a happy medium. The only way to do this is to finally stand up for yourself, to be firm and angry, but that can take years, and oftentimes those years aren’t worth it.
Goodness do I wish I could be positive, I truly do. In these instances, it’s hard to be positive. So many people are abused, so many stay with their abusers, and so many are miserable, sometimes forever miserable until they die. I can’t tell you what to do. All I can do is make you realize that you’re in an abusive relationship if you happen to be in one.
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