My Bruises Are REAL, You Just Can’t SEE Them!
I have been wrestling for weeks about how this blog should be written. I want to tell my story but I don’t want to give my abuser any further power over my life or what I do. At first, I wrote a tell all piece but then I decided that my experience would far better serve you if I tell you what Emotional / Psychological Abuse is. You can then ask yourself if you think that is what you are currently experiencing in your relationship
Most of us don’t even realise that we are in an abusive relationship until it turns into some other form of abuse or we leave the relationship and look back at what happened. It is also said that in some cases, neither the abuser nor the victim is fully aware that it is happening.
You might just feel your relationship is toxic, maybe just a bit off balance or my favourite as this is how I felt, was like walking on eggshells. Afraid to say or do anything that might be wrong in the eyes of your partner and upset them. When you feel like nothing you do is right no matter what.
It is not just women who suffer from this kind of abuse, in fact, it can occur in any relationship – between a child and a parent, in friendships and with relatives not just necessarily in a normal supposedly loving relationship.
I was a strong, independent woman when I met him, but by the end I was an emotional mess. I cried all the time and was majorly depressed. I even thought of seeing someone to get anti-depressants prescribed. I had suffered from depression in the past. Part of me thought perhaps the stress of running my own business was the reason I was so down not realising that I felt like this due to the emotional abuse I suffered at his hands. I am not proud of this but I had a glass of wine every day, sometimes more than one. At first, I didn’t realise how much I was starting to depend on alcohol. I was such an emotional wreck and really needed to feel love but didn’t get it. I just drank to kill all my emotions so that I was numb. I have never in my life had that much alcohol on a regular basis. After our relationship ended, I no longer needed to drink. Now I might have a glass of red every now and then or if there is a special occasion. What I am trying to say is that you will do things like this to feel better emotionally or to numb the pain you are feeling daily.
So when I say this is a Subtle Destroyer then believe me I am not just guessing here I have first-hand experience. This abuse almost destroyed me completely. I thank God for releasing me from this man.
Even when it ends you still have that feeling like you need to go back like this is where I belong, I won’t fit in anywhere else and no one else will love me like he did! Correct, no one will “love” me like he did because he didn’t love me! In fact, those were the words that he spoke on the night we broke up, I don’t love you! It felt like someone punched me in the stomach! I packed what I could and left as I knew then he never did.
After I left I put some pictures up on Facebook, things that explained exactly who he was and boy oh boy he did not like that but he never liked me putting anything about us up on Facebook, good or bad.
On the day I moved everything out I got a message telling me he missed me and I almost fell for it! I even arranged to meet him, to try and resolve our issues and who knows, perhaps we could try again. The meeting however was set up on his terms. A friend of mine asked me, “Why are you doing everything on his terms again!” That made me think, why indeed? That was that day that I took my control back. I gave him a time to meet and made a decision that if he could not make it, it would show me that I was right about him not actually ever “loving” me! As I thought he couldn’t make it and that is where my healing began. Even though I wanted to meet him to have my say it never happened and it took me a while to cut all ties with him and that was the best thing I could have done. Once I did that I started healing.
The problem with emotional abuse or any abuse for that matter is that you become an addict to the way you are being treated. You start liking the highs because they are so amazing and you excuse the lows! I use to say he is 99% a great guy (because of the high moments) but that 1% of the bad guy ruined all the good qualities he had.
Most of the time a relationship like this begins like a whirlwind. It is almost too good to be true and even though your gut gives you the signals to be aware you ignore it because you are in “love” and more than likely have not been in “love” for a while so you don’t want to lose that “love”.
Psychcentral.com describes Emotional / Psychological abuse as abuse that occurs when a person in a relationship tries to control information available to another person with intent to manipulate that person’s sense of reality or their view of what is acceptable and unacceptable. It often contains strong emotionally manipulative content and threats designed to force the victim to comply with the abuser’s wishes.
Psychcentral.com also highlights that any kind of abuse severely affects one’s self-esteem. The abused person starts feeling helpless and possibly even hopeless, from my experience helpless and hopeless goes hand in hand. In addition, most mental abusers are adept at convincing the victim that the abuse is his / her fault. So if you have felt like everything is your fault, then you are more than likely being made to feel that way.
Another part of this abuse is “Gaslighting”; this is when false information is presented with the intent of making victims doubt their memory, perception and sanity. Examples may range simply from the abuser denying that previous abusive incidents ever occurred to staging bizarre events with the intention of confusing the victim.
The worst part of this kind of abuse must be the, “I love you”, but……. This is a form of disguised criticism and a threat. It is a form of control because if you don’t do what they want they will take their love away. It’s a constant jab that strips away your self-esteem, according to Psychcentral.com. “Love” is a reinforcement word for abusers and the magic word to control you.
Abusers will make you feel really insecure, bad about yourself, deliberate hurt you psychologically. Take their love away and shut you out one day and the next they will shower you with love and affection. Making you believe you are the problem and make you feel like you must be seeing things that are not there. Making you feel like all the problems in your relationship is your fault and you must change. I was once asked where the strong, confident girl he fell in love with was! Inside I screamed you ruined her, but what came out of my mouth was I don’t know I must just be depressed.
You must know though that it is absolutely not your fault!!! Abusers are expert manipulators and specialise in getting you to believe that the way they treat you is your fault. They prey on your insecurities and use them against you.
The typical Abuser behaviour is that in public they are charming and nice. Most of your friends and family will like them and think they are amazing. Making you feel even more like you have the problem. There will always, however, be one friend that points out to you that this is not the man for you because they see them for what they really are. Listen to that friend! The Abuser will not like your relationship with that friend and will try and do everything in their power to discredit that friend so that you don’t believe anything they say! In private, your Abuser will be a different person, maybe not at first, but eventually they will withdraw little bit more every day! They will more than likely have relationships with other men / women that they justify by telling you that you are insecure and that they are just their friends.
People like this also love spending time away from you. They love going out with their friends as if they are single. I use to say, “When you go out you seem to forget that you are in a relationship”; his answer was yes, you are right I do forget that I am in a relationship. They will make promises of the wonderful, amazing things they want to do with you, but you will never ever do anything except if it is something the Abuser really wants to do.
Emotional / Psychological abuse involves a regular pattern of verbal offensive, threatening, bullying and constant criticism. The more subtle tactics used is intimidation, shaming and manipulation according to www.liveboldandbloom.com.
They also say that Abusers usually have childhood wounds and insecurities that has not been dealt with – perhaps as a result of being abused themselves. They didn’t learn healthy coping mechanisms or how to have positive, healthy relationships. Instead, they feel angry, hurt, fearful and powerless.
Liveboldandbloom.com also says that male and female abusers tend to have high rates of personality disorders including borderline personality disorder, narcissistic personality disorder, and antisocial personality disorder. Emotional Abuse / Psychological abuse doesn’t always lead to physical abuse but physical abuse is almost always preceded and accompanied by emotional abuse.
If you still don’t know how to identify Emotional / Psychological abuse, then look at the 30 signs as per www.liveboldandbloom.com for clarification:
- They humiliate you, put you down, or make fun of you in front of other people.
- They regularly demean or disregard your opinions, ideas, suggestions, or needs.
- They use sarcasm or “teasing” to put you down or make you feel bad about yourself.
- They accuse you of being “too sensitive” in order to deflect their abusive remarks.
- They try to controlyou and treat you like a child.
- They correct or chastise you for your behaviour.
- You feel like you need permission to make decisions or go out somewhere.
- They try to control the finances and how you spend money.
- They belittle and trivialize you, your accomplishments, or your hopes and dreams.
- They try to make you feel as though they are always right, and you are wrong.
- They give you disapproving or contemptuous looks or body language.
- They regularly point out your flaws, mistakes, or shortcomings.
- They accuse or blame you for things you know aren’t true.
- They have an inability to laugh at themselves and can’t tolerate others laughing at them.
- They are intolerant of any seeming lack of respect.
- They make excuses for their behaviour, try to blame others, and have difficulty apologizing.
- The repeatedly cross your boundaries and ignore your requests.
- They blame you for their problems, life difficulties, or unhappiness.
- They call you names, give you unpleasant labels, or make cutting remarks under their breath.
- They are emotionally distant or emotionally unavailable most of the time.
- They resort to pouting or withdrawal to get attention or attain what they want.
- They don’t show you empathy or compassion.
- They play the victim and try to deflect blame to you rather than taking personal responsibility.
- They disengage or use, neglect or abandonment to punish or frighten you.
- They don’t seem to notice or care about your feelings.
- They view you as an extension of themselves rather than as an individual.
- They withhold sex as a way to manipulate and control.
- They share personal information about you with others.
- They invalidate or deny their emotionally abusive behaviour when confronted.
- They make subtle threats or negative remarks with the intent to frighten or control you.
You are asking yourself now, why didn’t I see the signs and realise I was in an Emotionally / Psychologically Abusive relationship? Well, most of us, that is in this type of relationship does not realise it because it’s so subtly done. Until we read these signs. When I read it, I answered yes to all 30!!! I was in shock and couldn’t believe that I had never realised it. Don’t blame yourself; you are not to blame at all!
I am in an Emotional / Psychological Abusive relationship, what do I do now?
The first step is knowing that it’s happening. You need to be honest with yourself in order to regain power over your life. I know it’s easier said than done but you can’t move forward if you don’t. You need to get out of the relationship as it will not get better, it’s more likely to get worst.
This is probably going to be a very frightening and painful step. You are going to feel like your life is over and that you are nothing without that person. You will do a lot of crying and self-exploration and self-blame. You will even go as far as trying to convince yourself that he is not that bad maybe you can make it work a second time around.
When you get these thoughts, start writing down the good side of that person as well as the bad to remind yourself who they really are and what they have been doing to you. I use to read the messages we sent to each other in the low moments just to shock myself back to reality of who he really is.
You have to open your eyes and see them for what they are and once you do, believe me then you will never see them in a loving light again.
If you don’t get out you will be facing stress from the Emotional / Psychological Abuse and this will catch up with you in the form of illness, emotional trauma, depression or anxiety. Seek counselling in order to help you with the pain and fear of leaving and to help rebuild your self-esteem.
Many of us who have been victim to this kind of abuse have wondered if our abuser can change. There is no clear cut answer here in some cases, it is possible that the abuser can change if the abuser deeply desires to change and recognises their abusive patterns and the damage they cause.
In most cases the learned behaviours and feelings of entitlement and privilege are very difficult to change. Abusers tend to enjoy the power they feel and as a result a very low percentage of abusers can turn themselves around.
According to Lundy Bancroft, author of the book Why Does He Do That? : Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men, here are some of the changes an abuser (either man or woman) needs to make to begin recovery:
- Admit fully to what they have done.
- Stop making excuses and blaming.
- Make amends.
- Accept responsibility and recognize that abuse is a choice.
- Identify the patterns of controlling behaviour they use.
- Identify the attitudes that drive their abuse.
- Accept that overcoming abusiveness is a decade-long process — not declaring themselves “cured.”
- Not demanding credit for improvements they’ve made.
- Not treating improvements as vouchers to be spent on occasional acts of abuse (ex. “I haven’t done anything
- like this in a long time, so it’s not a big deal).
- Develop respectful, kind, supportive behaviours.
- Carry their weight and sharing power.
- Change how they respond to their partner’s (or former partner’s) anger and grievances.
- Change how they act in heated conflicts.
- Accept the consequences of their actions (including not feeling sorry for themselves about the
- consequences, and not blaming their partner or children for them)
If for whatever reason, you are NOT able to leave this destructive relationship, then here are some strategies to help you reclaim your self-esteem for the short term as posted on http://liveboldandbloom.com/11/relationships/signs-of-emotional-abuse:
- Put your own needs first!
Stop worrying about pleasing or protecting the abuser. Take care of yourself and your needs, and let the other person worry about themselves — even when they pout or try to manipulate you and control your behaviour.
- Set some firm boundaries!
Tell your abuser, he or she may no longer yell at you, call you names, be rude to you, etc. If the bad behaviour occurs, let them know you will not tolerate it and leave the room or get in the car and drive to a friend’s house.
- Don’t engage!
If the abuser tries to pick a fight or win an argument, don’t engage with anger, over-explaining yourself, or apologies to try to soothe him/her. Just keep quiet and walk away.
- Realize you can’t “fix” them!
You can’t make this person change or reason your way into their hearts and minds. They must want to change and recognize the destructive quality of their behaviour and words. You’ll only feel worse about yourself and the situation by repeated “interventions.”
- You are not to blame!
If you’ve been entrenched in an abusive relationship for a while, it can be crazy-making. You start to feel like something must be wrong with you since this other person treats you so poorly. Begin to acknowledge to yourself that it is NOT you. This is the first step toward rebuilding your self-esteem.
- Seek support!
Talk to trusted friends and family or a counsellor about what you are going through. Get away from the abusive person as often as possible, and spend time with those who love and support you. This support system will help you feel less alone and isolated while you still contend with the abuser.
- Develop an exit plan!
You can’t remain in an emotionally abusive relationship forever. If finances or children or some other valid reason prevents you from leaving now, develop a plan for leaving as soon as possible. Begin saving money, looking for a place to live, or planning for divorce if necessary so you can feel more in control and empowered.
Emotional / Psychological Abuse is a form of brainwashing that slowly erodes your sense of self-worth, security, and trust in yourself and others. To me personally, it is more detrimental than physical abuse! It slowly and quietly disintegrates ones self-worth and personal value. It cuts to the core of your essential being which can create lifelong psychological scars and emotional pain.
If an abuser smacks you and leaves a mark, that mark heals, but the mark that is left on your soul after Emotional / Psychological Abuse remains with you for a very long time. Even when you have moved on and found a loving, healthy relationship there will be times when the scars of this abuse reveals its ugly head.
I am fortunate that I am a strong person, have always been. Even though dealing with the scars that my abuser left is hard for me. I can still carry on living my life and remain positive when it comes to letting someone back in but not everyone is me.
I was also lucky that my ordeal did not last many years, but only some months and that on the night it all ended that I had the courage to take my stuff and get out. I had nowhere to go and when I started my car to leave I had no idea how I was going to cope or even where I was going to sleep that night. I was petrified and in a complete state of shock! I remember the tears flowing so much that I had to pull my car to the side of the road because I could not see in front of me. At that point I was at the lowest I have ever been. I wanted all the pain to go away. I even contemplated suicide.
I am, however, lucky enough to have two amazing Sons whom I love dearly and I would never, even at my lowest moment, end my life because this would cause them a great deal of pain and I never want to inflict that kind of pain on anyone.
I was also lucky that I have friends who loved me so much that they took me in and helped me heal and get back onto my feet. For that I will forever be grateful and I don’t think I will ever be able to repay them for what they did for me. I don’t even think they realise how much they helped me.
I also have a family that loves me dearly and stood by me through everything. I know I worried a lot of people that night and the weeks after but I can only thank all of them for their support. They made me stronger and I realised that I was not the problem.
I joined a feeding scheme, a group of normal people that go out every Tuesday to feed the less fortunate! This helped me to give back as I have received so much in the weeks after the break up. This feeding scheme helped to humble me and show me that there are people in worse situations than me and that they are still smiling and living their lives despite what they are going through. Our clients that we feed helped heal my heart and restored my self-esteem. Helping others ended up helping me more.
I hope that my story will help at least one person recognise that they are not alone and that there is hope. I left with nothing, no job, no home and no self-esteem. That night I thought it was the end of my life!
Well, it was not the end of my life, it was merely the beginning. I am now employed and earning my own money again. I am also still the entrepreneur that I was a year ago and I am still working on establishing my own business and since I have rid myself of the negative influence in my life everything in my business is flourishing.
I have a loving, caring man in my life now, who has shown me that there are still good relationships out there. Someone who puts me first, who treats me with respect and who values me as a person.
I still, of course, have all my amazing friends and family whom I love dearly. They are my pillars of strength when I had nothing left within me.
I am free, happy and I appreciate all the good things in life so much more now and so can you if you are going through this now.
Don’t lose hope! There is light at the end of the very dark tunnel and I can promise you that the world on the other side is a very beautiful place! You just have to believe that you can do it.