A Message to Emotional Abuse Survivors
Before anything else, I want to tell you your experience is valid — even if you don’t have bruises or scars and feel like you don’t have “proof.” Even if you were only with them for a short time. Even if you feel like it was your fault and you had your chance to leave. You are not “crazy” or complaining for being honest about your experience.
You are not the only one who feels this way. You are not alone in your confusion, frustration and pain.
It may take you a long time to recognize you were abused. It may take years. That doesn’t mean you’re making it up. It may take several therapists to properly deal with your residual feelings. That doesn’t mean you’re being “too dramatic.”
Someday, you might find yourself doing things your abuser used to do, and you may start to panic and think, I’m turning into him/her. You’re not. You’re not like them. You’re a survivor and you can change those behaviors.
You might be reading this and thinking you were “crazy” to leave, they weren’t abusive — just a little hard to love. You might miss them and feel guilty for abandoning them. But you didn’t. You made the best decision for you, and I’m proud of you. You do not need to apologize and try to “make it right” again — it never was right in the first place.
Maybe you’re reading this and you haven’t quite left yet. Please know, no matter what you decide to do, you are capable and you are worth so much.
The important thing to know is you are not “out of your mind,” even if they convinced you that you wouldn’t survive without them. They will not be the only people to ever love you.
You may have been isolated from your other loved ones, but you can still repair relationships. And even if you really can’t, you can still make new ones. There is a whole life after your abuser.
You may find yourself with vestiges of the broken relationship. You may be apologizing just a bit too much, but know it’s not your fault. They might have turned everything back on you, but it’s not always your fault. The abuse wasn’t your fault, either.
It’s OK to need therapists to work it out. It’s OK if recovery takes a while. It’s OK if you’re still working through it. It’s all OK — there’s no “right” way to cope. You just do the best you can. Find other survivors, talk about things, make new connections.
One word of caution: Please remember a relationship’s purpose is not to “fix” someone. A relationship is two whole individuals coming together to make something new and healthy, not two halves attempting to complete each other. Relationships of love should never be about a power struggle.
You are not unlovable or unworthy of someone’s genuine affections. You are whole. You are priceless and irreplaceable. You are more than what’s been done to you. I believe you can choose to become bitter or become better.
And most of all, you deserve a future in which you are loved and happy.
P.S. To learn more about emotional abuse, read up here.
A version of this post appeared on The Casual Existentialist.
If you or a loved one is affected by domestic violence or emotional abuse and need help, call The National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.
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Thinkstock photo via Archv.