How do you write about something when you don’t really understand it yourself? Or when it all began? Or when you are still navigating your way through?
How do you write about something when for years you didn’t believe it could happen to you? Or was happening to you? Or that it even had a name?
How do you talk and share about something that sounds unreal? Or made up? Or so complex, complicated, and twisted it sounds straight out of a Lifetime movie script?
Yet it is real, true, and currently resulting in leaving you a messy, broken, wounded person sitting on the therapist’s couch fighting for peace and healing.
Because somehow, in some way, I am a person who has been emotionally abused.
Oh my gosh, I just started laughing when I typed that sentence out. Laughter in a hysterical, crying, hurting way. For when I think how the past years have been, I cannot believe it is really emotional abuse. But it is.
Lying. Manipulation. Deception. Gaslighting. Being taken advantage of. Belittling. Blame shifting.
Add these all up and here I am. Living smack dab in the middle of psychological trauma that has given me anxiety, depression, and PTSD, leaving me with no self-confidence, feelings of worthlessness, and so much more.
Not only did this abuse occur in the past, but it is occurring today.
The thing is, as I am trying to explain what is happening, it sounds quite silly in my own head. Because I have been trained for years to second guess every emotion, every thought, every choice I have.
Well, maybe I am overreacting. Maybe I am not doing what is best for my kids. Maybe I am not seeing this from the other person’s viewpoint. Maybe I don’t understand. Maybe I am making this bigger than it is. Maybe I am selfish. Maybe I don’t care enough. Maybe I am using my kids against him. Maybe I am not smart enough. Maybe I am bitter. Maybe I am the angry ex-wife.
Oh, did I tell you? It was my husband. Well. Ex-husband. Yes the man I loved, married, and had kids with emotionally abused me for years.
If you looked at me, you wouldn’t see me as someone who has been emotionally abused. I act happy, confident, steady, strong.
If you looked at him, you wouldn’t see someone who could emotionally abuse. He acts nice, clean-cut, successful, kind. Don’t worry. I don’t always believe it either. He cares about me. Or so I think. He never physically hurt me. So it isn’t that bad.
Was it on purpose? I don’t know. But see that is what happens. A hurt person hurts people. And rather than work on healing past wounds and life issues, he held on to controlling his life and seeking his happiness. For that to happen, he hurt me.
He never believes what I say.
If he can’t believe me, then who else can. And I must not be very smart even though I have a college degree and a good job.
He questions my beliefs and actions in motherhood.
If he questions me as a mom, then maybe I really am not a very good one. Or maybe I don’t know what is best for my kids since their dad doesn’t think so.
Telling me he doesn’t think I am strong enough to get through divorce.
Lying to me about money, jobs, and friends.
Saying he wants to support me, yet legally attacks me.
Making me feel worthless and unlovable.
Accusing me of actions he did.
Using our children as a weapon against me.
Sleeping with another woman within our marriage.
Attempting to turn family and friends away from me.
And all of this is my fault. I did this. Didn’t I?
I no longer know what is real. What is right. What is logical. The abuse has taken me from strong, capable, and steady to anxious, scared, and confused.
I no longer feel safe. Whenever I must communicate with him. Whenever I must physically interact with him. Whenever I hear his name.
I no longer trust. Anyone. Any situation. Any event.
I no longer believe. In my judgement. In my beliefs. In my self-worth. In my ability. In my rights.
The thing about emotional abuse is it has been happening slowly over time for years and now I am exactly what he wanted me to be. Someone who never said no to him, gave him whatever he wanted, and never stood up for herself.
I remember times when I would get so angry at the situation that was occurring. I would attempt to reason with him. I would speak the truth and facts. Yet, he was able to twist everything back around. Holding me responsible for his actions. Confusing me. Leaving me baffled about what just happened. Is this real? When we were married, I just thought it is what marriage is like. What he is like. This is just who he is. I can’t change him, so I must change. For him. For our marriage to work. For our home to be happy.
During the divorce process and after, I thought this is just divorce. This is what co-parenting is. This is what adding in another person to the already complex dynamic is. When I shared with my therapist and friends conversations I had with my ex, they couldn’t fathom how wrong and contorted the situation was.
Until six months ago, I thought this was all normal. Well, normal for me.
The actions that have been occurring to me were given a label.
Since that day, I have been working to set myself free. Free from psychological abuse. Free from the gaslighting. Free from the controlling words and actions. Free from the power his actions have over me. Free from feeling scared and unsafe around him.
I know this won’t be easy. I have already been working hard at healing from divorce. I know this will take time. Maybe the rest of my life. I know this will never stop unless I take the steps to walk away from it all. Even though I can’t walk away fully.
Here I am. Saying this out loud.
I have been and am being emotionally abused.
One day, I will be an emotional abuse survivor.