I am not going to delve into much detail in this post. I think the more detail this post has, the more triggering it can be for someone with similar experiences. I think that’s important (for me) to remember when I write about things that have affected me in a negative way. On one hand it can have a profound impact on someone’s current or past circumstances, on the other hand, it can remind them of the trauma they have experienced and be a trigger. I never want to be responsible for the latter. (In saying that, I do want to provide context when explaining things.)
When we talk about abuse, we don’t always talk about emotional abuse. I feel like there is still a social stigma around this. And although there is more awareness now, there is still a lack of awareness for what it is and the trauma it causes.
I am not perfect. And as I pride myself on self-awareness, I know that I have made some really big mistakes when it comes to relationships. I have lied, I have said things I shouldn’t have and I have been demanding. When I look back on a past relationship, a lot of the time I can see my faults. In my mind I can almost go back to the day and time of day of my mistake and if I could rewrite the script to avoid hurt for the other person I would. I think its normal to feel this way, healthy even, to want to treat people with respect and ensure that whatever I do I don’t cause another person any pain (even though sometimes that is unavoidable).
Emotional abuse causes psychological pain. And I don’t think the abuser stays up at night wishing they could go back in time and undo their behaviour to protect the one they love from any suffering. In fact in my case, I’m almost convinced they wouldn’t give their behaviour another thought. Sometimes they didn’t even have to use words or actions to emotionally abuse. Sometimes it was the silent treatment that gave them ultimate control. The thing about the silent treatment is that it is a mass form of manipulation, essentially denying the other persons existence as a form of punishment. For me, they would wait until I gave up trying to make things right. They would wait until they hadn’t heard from me for a while, they would wait until their ‘silent treatment’ worked. But sometimes this would last months and each time my mind would go bonkers. I would constantly re-trace my steps, and try to figure out where I went wrong. I felt completely powerless. It wouldn’t matter what I said, how I said it, it wouldn’t matter if it was in the form of a letter or a text, I would get no response. Experiencing this type of abuse numerous times has affected me well into present day. I am still re-training my mind to learn boundaries and the reality that we do not control people. That every person has the right to not respond to a text message, an email, not answer a phone call and when they ‘behave’ this way, it is not a form of punishment at all and has nothing to do with me.
You know, at times I was shocked that I could be in love with someone who would say hurtful things to me, hurtful things about my family, but then cook me a nice meal. Someone who could say hurtful things about me behind my back but then tell me how much they appreciated me. I was shocked when they would yell at me, scream in my face, or tell me to get out of their house, but then apologise and praise me for always being there for them. I was shocked when they would remind me how to behave or compare me to other women. The thing is, I would defend myself. Defend my family. I would yell back. I would ask nicely not to be compared to others. I would explain how things made me feel. I would ask nicely if we could approach things differently. But an emotional abuser has an award winning talent in gas-lighting. And when you are told enough times that you are ‘crazy’ or ‘being ridiculous’ or ‘that never happened’ you really start to believe it and you start questioning yourself not them.
Telling someone you love them while treating them like shit … is abuse.
People don’t really talk about the pain that comes with letting go. Letting go of an idea of someone – a person you built up in your head for so many years. Letting go of an idea of love, the idea of a romantic relationship, the idea of a future together. Letting go of all the good memories you had together. Sometimes love is forgotten after all of the pain endured. Sometimes all the good things a person has said and done, all the good memories you had together and everything you thought you would be together … just dies when the abuse continues. Sometimes all you are left with is trauma. But other times love is the only thing getting you through. Personally, I chose to rename the love as co-dependency. From a young age I had a beautiful representation of love in front of me and I knew that what I was experiencing was no longer love. The more I renamed it, the easier it was for me to make decisions for my future. I didn’t want this person to destroy my idea of love. I didn’t want this hurt to shape my future relationships.
But when I would tell close friends that I am letting go, that I am moving away, that I am going no contact, that I have blocked this persons number, social accounts, that I am starting fresh. It was so easy for them to say ‘YAY’, and so easy for me to then doubt the process. Because it wasn’t ‘YAY’ it was heart breaking. My body hurt and my eyes would well up, my throat would ache and I just wanted to scream. Letting go is a process. It isn’t as easy as lighting a candle that smells like sandalwood or diffusing essential oils that smell like lavender and saying a prayer. It’s not as easy as just saying daily affirmations and exercising and keeping busy. It’s not as easy as eating healthy and making sure to exfoliate your skin to feel good about yourself physically. It’s not as easy as finding someone new and saying ‘YAY’.
It’s constantly sitting with your pain, crying, and telling yourself you are doing the right thing for your future. It’s constantly unblocking them on social media and blocking them again until you have the courage to promise yourself they will remain blocked. It’s being brave enough not to go back to what became so normal for you. It’s reading self help books and holding on to the words like gospel. It’s seeing a therapist time and time again and not speaking about the one thing you went there for. It’s learning to believe in yourself, quite literally though, believing that the words that come out of your mouth are true. It’s learning to have faith in yourself. It’s allowing pain to slowly leave you, allowing yourself to cry and then cry a little less. It’s learning how to set goals again and achieve them one by one. It’s learning the difference between connection and attachment. It’s re- naming, re-training, re-learning, re-thinking, re-loving yourself. and letting go. Letting go is so hard.
This post has no ending. I don’t know how to finish it. My experience is far from unique. The mental health consequences I have sustained as a result is minimal compared to the trauma other people have endured. When I look back over those years, some friends would try and reason with me. They would try and explain what was happening right in front of me in hope that an intervention would encourage me to walk away and start fresh. But it wasn’t until I gave myself permission to leave, that I actually did. It was when I realised I wanted more and possibly deserved more that I walked away.