Some people may ask why I’m writing this blog post. It’s a very difficult, painful topic to write about. Some people may even accuse me of lying. Trying to get attention. Trying to get my mum into trouble. Trying to tear my family apart. Some people may say it is less emotional abuse and more emotional neglect. But I want to tell my story. Share my experience. In the hopes that other people may be able to identify themselves in this awful position and do something about it before the damage is too great.
Emotional abuse covers a wide variety of behaviours. It involves the abuser making out that they are the victim in any situation where you try and stand up for yourself or get help for the abuse you have faced and the impact of that abuse on your emotional wellbeing.
This is something I have experienced a lot of in the past. Through secondary school I had a lot of CAMHS referrals and being a catholic school, a lot of chaplaincy meetings. Ya know, as if god was going to cure me. And my mum, manipulative as she is convinced everyone that she was a lovely woman. That I was a problem that needed to be fixed and I was the one abusing her. Which as you can imagine was great for my already low self esteem.
There’s the outright, making someone feel bad about themselves element of emotional abuse. I have vivid memories of my parents going on about how I’m borderline autistic but they didn’t want to get me officially diagnosed for my benefit and that it was somehow my fault.
It was something they used against me, something that was used in a way to make me feel bad about being me. If I had a meltdown and broke something in the house they would be all. “If we got you diagnosed we could get money back from that but we love you too much to do that.” Only now as an adult, and as someone with chronic and mental health conditions, some diagnosed, some not, do I realise how stupid that it. With a diagnosis I could access support to help me. Access the support needed to become a more functional human being. Accomodations could be made at uni and in future, the work place. To make my life that little bit easier. To allow me to succeed and thrive. Now it weighs on me so much. I’m scared people can see my autism. Even though I’m not necessarily autistic.
Life shouldn’t be this hard ya know. No one should have to lack compassion from the people who should love them most. No one should have to have never really felt secure in a friendship. No one should have to feel the need to hide and put up with a chronic health condition that causes severe pain for 9 years of their life, all throughout adolescence because no one belives you and everyone thinks your a burden. And a whole life of other crap that makes my life more difficult than it should be.
There’s the severe lack of compassion. Lack of caring. This can manifest in different ways. The disproving statements, or looks. When you do something that your abuser is not okay with. That trying to control your life. For me, that was with youtube. Even as an adult my mum wouldn’t allow me to film youtube videos. Even in the comfort of my own room. And if she caught at. I would be yelled at, given a whole lecture. And this is one of the main reasons why I havn’t been able to grow a channel. Because I’ve never come across natural, It’s always come across awkward because I was worried about my mum finding out. I’ve never invested in decant camera’s etc because although there have been times in my life where I could have invested in such things, or atleast saved up to do so but I havn’t because what would my parents think?
It can also translate into your parents not liking your friends, and trying to control who you can spend your time with. Either in a way that makes you feel like you need to cut ties or in an outright ban in seeing x,y or z. It seemed every friend I had as a teenager. My mum always had something bad to say. It’s trying to control your outfit choices, trying to control where you go to university and what you study at university.
It’s never having the time for you or your needs but the second your abuser needs you, you need to be there and provide full attention. Countless things I’ve needed my mum for in my life she’s never been there.
From things as simple as never being taught how to shave, but being made aware that it’s something you need to do or never being really supported in the world of periods. To bigger things. When I’ve needed my mum to help me with something, she’s never been there. When I could have done with her to book me a dr’s appointment or come to a big appointment with me. She never would. I’d ask when I was younger and I reached 16 and she was like “your too old, they won’t let me.” Which I have since learnt is an outright lie, seeing as my dad booked a GP appointment for me at 18.
Never being able to talk to her about my illness because although she’ll be like “I’m your mum I want to know.” She never had the time for it. She never cares and she’s never compassionate. It’s feeling like I have to go along with her plans exactly. When I ask her to walk slower because her pace is too fatiguing and causes too much pain and I literally can’t keep up. She’ll tell me I can. Making me feel small. Like I’m just being weak and pathetic and not trying hard enough.
Actually any time I try and explain my health issues to her. It’s a lot of making me feel weak and pathetic, making me feel selfish, lazy. Or making me feel guilty for not pushing to extreme lengths by telling me “I just have to do it.” Which great sentiment until your in severe pain every day of your life. Next time you have a thumb dislocate at the end of an exam, fingers so painful that you can barely hold your pen I’ll tell you the same and see how you feel.
It’s never remembering the last time your abuser hugged you. Really, properly, lovingly hugged you.
And every time you try to bring that issue up. That you just need to feel loved it’s “We buy you birthday and Christmas presents, we feed you etc.” That’s not making me feel loved. That’s what you need to do to look like a good parent to the outside world. Then being made to feel guilty, because your clearly just selfish.
It’s treating your siblings differently, treating them with compassion. Hugging them, listening to their problems, having proper conversations with them. But you never get that same treatment. You get none of that. It’s when it gets to such an extent that unknowingly your siblings tap into this abuse and start calling you a selfish brat for making totally reasonable demands. They start calling you mean, horrible, lazy. And although you know that deep down they love you. They don’t know how to show it because their whole life my mum especially has done a terrible job of providing me with what I need.
It’s shouting at you even if you’ve done nothing wrong, leaving you out things, generally saying things or behaving in a way that makes you feel bad about yourself.
And the worst part, other than how difficult it is to identify. It’s that it keeps on causing you to question yourself question the situation. It’s like a vicious cycle. You get to a point where you convince yourself it’s not abuse. That it’s getting better. And then it hits you again like a ton of bricks. The cycle continues like that. Which makes it nearly impossible to get out of an emotionally abusive relationship.
And long term emotional abuse has a really damaging effect on your mental health, and your ability to function as a normal adult. For me, it’s caused an inability to advocate for myself. Which means if I have a job and I don’t get paid I really struggle to do anything about it, because I feel like it’s my fault. Even if I know it’s not. It means I cannot deal with doctors and receptionists and pharmacists for the life of me. I’m getting better but it’s still such a struggle and causes a huge amount of anxiety. This means I’m now possible going to the other side of the world without pain medication which even with, I’m still in severe daily pain. It means I cancelled my wheelchair assistance at the airport because although I know I need it. I don’t feel validated in it and in person I wouldn’t be able to advocate for myself when needed to ensure I get on the right plane, can buy water before etc.
It causes difficulty’s both personally and professionally. You struggle to keep and maintain friendships because you feel so worthless as a person. You can’t approach your lecturers to send past paper answers because you feel like your being annoying, or wasting their time. It’s an experience that can become hugely impactful in every aspect of your life.
That’s why as soon as you identify yourself in such a situation you need the courage to get out of it. So it doesn’t manifest into such a hugely impactful experience.