The big one. In relationships this is the one that leaves you vulnerable, that leaves your heart open to others to take advantage if they so wish. You can be friends without trust, you can even love without trust. You can hold a part of you back to protect yourself if you have to. I know, I’ve done it.
The trouble with being in an emotionally abusive relationship is that you love and trust the person that hurts you. So, of course, you begin to mistrust, you hold a part of you back purely out of self-protection. You start to mistrust yourself, your own judgement, your own sanity. When someone repeatedly tells you how stupid, useless, worthless, childish…
>insert personally crafted and individually tailored insult to hurt you more than anything else ever could, here<
…you start to wonder if some of it is true. It doesn’t happen overnight, they don’t take a confident person and destroy their self-esteem in one fell swoop, oh no, it starts off slowly, subtly and builds up over time. Eventually without you realising you have become so unsure of yourself and of others, that you begin doubt your instincts, you even question your own motives.
For me, I was sent into a spiralling depression, I felt worthless and completely incapable of changing anything. I had no energy or motivation. After all, why try to do anything if everything you do is wrong or inadequate in some way? I sank so low that I was barely getting by. While my ex was at work I was happy with my children, I felt fairly relaxed and comfortable and able to take care of them despite the crushing tiredness. I’m sure I wasn’t amazing at times, I know I didn’t always have the energy to do things and took the easy option out on many occasions. But it was when he came home that things became very difficult.
I didn’t know that I was a victim of abuse, I genuinely thought he had a point. I thought perhaps I was inadequate. Despite the fact that I used to believe I was quite an organised person, the house was a mess, disorganised and chaotic, no matter how hard I tried I just couldn’t get systems in place to run the house effectively with two adults and three children. I cleared stuff out and decorated rooms and it would all be in a mess again before I knew it, I just couldn’t keep up. So, I believed it must be me, right? I must be the one who can’t quite grasp it, it must be me who is too lazy and slow to manage. And so I gave up some more. Slowly, over time, I gave up little by little, shut down, more and more. It was all I could do to protect myself.
During all of this the shouting became more often, more intense, the less I managed the more he shouted. The more he shouted, the less I managed and it looked more and more like he was right. I wasn’t ok. I wasn’t managing and it was clear to see. And the good times, the nice times, the times where he rescued me from the brink, let me rest, did the work, all in the name of ‘taking care of me’, I became so grateful for. I was so very, very tired. But even this was done with an agenda, either of expectations in return or to be thrown back in my face if I dared complain about anything.
After about 4 years of intensifying verbal and emotional abuse I hit rock bottom. There was nowhere to go. I was a shadow of myself, I’d put on weight, stopped worrying about my appearance and my health, the only thing that mattered was the kids, everything else didn’t matter. So there I sat. At the bottom of a metaphorical well, lost, alone and feeling god awful. There I was needing help and all he could do was scream and shout at me, insult me, tell me I am worthless.
Then out of nowhere something clicked. I don’t know what, but something did. Not like a big thing, not like an enlightenment, or a sudden flash of insight. No, nothing so dramatic. Just a very, very small, tiny light switched on. It was small, so small as to be barely discernible, believe me, but as I was already at rock bottom and very much in the dark, it was a something. That little light asked a question, in a tiny whisper of a voice it asked, “Are you SURE this is you? Are you sure you deserve this?”
And there it was, a tiny flicker of hope inside what seemed to be an ever ending cycle of pain. At this point I had started to physically shake when he shouted at me, then that got worse and I started to shake about 15 minutes BEFORE he got home from work, I’d be trying to get the kids to help with tidying up and straightening things so that there was less for him to criticise. Of course, the truth was that it didn’t matter what I did, there was always something, regardless. If the house was spotless it was that I spent too much money, not on myself mind you. I barely bought anything for myself in years. I had panic attacks at the tills in the supermarket worrying I’d spent too much on food for the family. If I hadn’t spent any money, I was spending too much time with the children. If I wasn’t spending too much time with the children, I hadn’t praised him and what he does for us enough… There was always something. My anxiety was through the roof, panic attacks common and a general feeling of disquiet haunted my days and nights. Couldn’t sleep at night and I had a job staying awake during the day.
Let me get something straight at this point. He didn’t storm in shouting. It wasn’t that obvious. Some days he was fine, everything was normal, nice even. But when there was something wrong it would ooze out of every his pore. And when there was something wrong it was always someone else’s fault, namely mine. So I’d start to worry. My stomach would knot up and I’d ask “what’s the matter?”, “Is everything ok?” and I’d get, “Yes fine.” Through gritted teeth… his physicality and energy oozing irritation and anger. I learnt not to push it.
To say that he doesn’t seem fine, when he is making no effort to pretend he’s fine and yet all the time saying “I’m fine” was asking for trouble.
I didn’t know what was happening from one moment to the next. One minute everything was fine, the next it definitely wasn’t. I didn’t know who I was dealing with next. Nice man, nasty man. Treading on eggshells doesn’t even cover it. Treading on broken glass laid on top of highly explosive material next to an open flame, doesn’t even get close. It undoubtably feels like a very unsafe place to be.
I also had my privacy compromised by him, he told people details about our lives I’d have preferred to keep private, but he didn’t give me a choice. I see our mutual friends even now and wonder what they know, or rather what he has told them, because I guess they don’t know anything if they have listened to him.
But now I had this little voice that urged me to watch him carefully, step back and just look, so I observed, I watched and stepped back emotionally. Not immediately and not all of the time, but each time that I remembered, each time I saw something different and the little voice, getting a bit stronger now said, “See?” And I could see. See that the chaos was his, the fault was his. That everything I did he somehow undermined, he played down my achievements, he was deliberately awkward about things that should have been positive. He pulled the rug from under me when I thought everything was good… it was him who had suddenly decided it wasn’t and then blamed me.
I started to realise… How could anyone cope in this situation? How can anything be good,if even the good is conditional and with an agenda? How could anyone live like this?? I began wake up to the fact that the fault did not lie with me, that I was being sidetracked and sabotaged and controlled. Slowly, I started to climb up those black walls of depression. They were slippery and I often made progress only to slip back down. But the little voice of reason kept talking and the more I watched from a detached point of view, the more I could see the absurdity of it all.
And there, about three years ago, my slow journey began to healing, to standing up and not accepting that any more. And that is a story in itself.
But trust is where this began and trust is what I was thinking about today. Since leaving him one of the most frustrating and difficult things I am finding to do is trust.
Trusting myself. Trusting that I can manage on my own. Am I capable? Am I stupid? Was he right? Can I do this? Was I really useless all that time? Am I making huge mistakes? Am I jeopardising my children’s future? Have I missed something?
Trusting others. My bullshit radar is on red alert, I’m seeing bullshit where there is none. I’m terrified someone is going to say all the right things then tear me down later. I think everyone thinks I’m useless and stupid. I have moments where I feel that no one can be trusted, not one person, not my family, not those closest to me, after all you just don’t know do you? Some people are unscrupulous.
Really though, I do know that I am lucky. I have a wonderful family around me, three beautiful children, great friends, old and new and to all of those people I’d like to say a deep and heartfelt thank you. Thank you for letting me be me, imperfect me without making me feel inadequate.
And the little voice, I believe, was only me. The truest part of me deep in my soul. I believe that we all have that voice but we don’t always listen to it. I had started meditating very regularly to control panic attacks and anxiety so perhaps that helped me tune into my subconscious. Perhaps that is something I should continue on a regular basis to keep me balanced.
Emotional, verbal, psychological abuse means that no one can see the bruises and scars. They are hidden on the soul and heart. Yet I am healing. Through the wonderful actions and true words of others I am slowly learning to trust again.
Verbal and Emotional abuse are forms of abuse that can cause untold damage to a person emotionally and psychologically. Domestic abuse does not just involve physical abuse, it can manifest in many forms. Often a physically abusive relationships will have been emotionally abusive for many years before anything physical happened. Emotional and verbal abuse often never turns into physical abuse.
Abuse damages in whatever form it takes and here at Many Small Voices we hope to gather the stories of those who have survived abuse into one resource to help and support those who are still victims. We also hope to support survivors through recovery once the abuse has stopped because the scars are still there and will remain forever. Support after abuse is just as important.
We are not experts, just people who are passionate that domestic abuse, in whatever form it takes, must be stopped.
If you think you or someone you know needs help please take a look in our links page to find a list of organisations that strive to help support victims of abuse.
We are looking for your stories of abuse to feature on our blog and make many small voices one LOUD voice. We will protect your anonymity at all times should you wish to remain anonymous, so please contact us for more details.
Many Small Voices To Make One Big Voice Speaking Out Against Domestic Abuse.