Emotional Abuse. It’s just as wrong.

Mostly my blog posts focus on my recovery, my perspectives of the world, or memories of the physical and sexual abuse I lived through whilst in the ritual ring. There’s not a huge deal about my home life, with perhaps the most telling post about life at home being this one: https://fightingtheabuse.wordpress.com/2013/07/07/nominating-my-abusers-for-a-hero-award/

I was abused at home. The ring mostly came to a close when I was 12 but the abuse did not stop for me, and if anything was harder to cope with (despite it being less life-threatening) because I wasn’t  surrounded by other children who could validate my experiences, share my tears, and keep me laughing.

I was sexually abused. I have a concrete memory of being raped by my grandfather on the dining room table, staring numbly at my piano with soft tears rolling down my face, whilst my grandmother sat working at the other end of the table. Totally content with the situation in front of her. Her apparent acceptance of this made my own beliefs about the world to grow more flawed. She’d shown more notice to the ring abuse. More of a need to make sure I kept it quiet. This? Nothing. So I wondered… well, this isn’t the ring. This is home. So maybe this is normal, actually. Maybe this is what happens…

It was a desperately sad thing to dawn on me, and despite the fact it had been happening for years, the realisation that this might actually be completely ‘normal’ was painful. I felt trapped. I thought there was something wrong with me, because I didn’t feel like it was ‘normal’. It felt wrong. But she sat there working. So it must have been okay…

And so, ultimately, started the proper decline in my mental health. In the ring I could see the same harm happening to other children and I could be the one outraged for them. But there was nobody to be outraged for me, at home. So I guessed it must have been normal. Somehow.

But the worst part of the abuse for me at home wasn’t the sexual abuse. I was very used to this type of treatment. The emotional abuse is what nearly destroyed me, actually. The drips and drips of constant reminders that I was some hideous, worthless monster who deserved to be dead. I’d had emotional abuse in the ring but the horror of the torture had been more of my focus, funnily enough. Without that, the emotional abuse at home was more obvious. And hurt, so much. I can point at a bruise and see it was something done to me. I can’t point at something which has hurt my head, or even recognise what part of my head has been hurt.

I actually craved the torture from the ring, to help me dissociate properly. To help distract me. It was the only form of distraction I properly knew. Miraculously, I discovered music and that became a different type of distraction, and was much better! However, I still self-harmed terribly, and although I hated the sexual and physical abuse…I was also sadly grateful for it. By some random means of logic, it took the edge off of the emotional abuse. It helped me dissociate. The torture helped me survive. The fact I relied on torture to help me survive leaves me reeling with despair, shock and anger now. What child/teenager actually relies on torture for survival? What even is that?

The emotional abuse was extreme. Every day I realise something which I thought was normal was in fact emotional abuse. I was made to feel that I was beyond worthless and a selfish monster. I was frequently told by my grandparents that I was the “most selfish person ever met.” My grandmother would get out her home DIY blood pressure kit and show to me that it was high – “that’s your fault. You’re killing me. I really hope that one day when I’m dead you look back and think about everything you’ve done to us. You’ll be a murderer.” She normally did this whenever I *dared* stand up for myself. Every time it worked; I’d start standing my ground, she’d pull the “you’re killing me” card, and then I’d back off for fear of her having a heart attack right there in front of me. I’d be told daily that I should be more grateful for everything they’d done for us, that they never wanted us in the first place and had kindly agreed to take us in. We had a house, food, clothes, school, trips away….how could we possibly feel miserable?

For a long time, I felt guilty for feeling miserable. I felt guilty for feeling afraid, because of “everything they’d done for me.” I genuinely believed that they were good people and only punishing me for something awful. I self-harmed more, to punish myself too.

There would be countless times where I would be backed against a wall, either crying my eyes out or frozen solid, whilst they screamed at me and threw things at me. If I blended enough into the wall and became an object, then they got bored and left me alone. But I had to remain there, an object…a statue. I didn’t dare move. Once I stood frozen solid, in a very uncomfortable position, for 11 hours straight. It felt the safest thing to do.

I would repeatedly be told that I deserved to be dead. That I was an infection. That I was dirty. I believed them. One day I thought I’d do them a favour, and got out a bottle of bleach. Best way of cleaning, no? Crying my eyes out with despair and hatred for myself and the situation I was in, and just wanting to be clean so that my family might love me, I drank some bleach. I  remember pain. A lot of it. I remember blackness. I remember half-waking up surrounded by my own vomit and with blistered lips. I remember being raped as punishment for being so “stupid.” I remember feeling incredibly confused after  this.

Once myself and my siblings came home from school, for my Grandad to tell me we had to do an exam. I tensed up, and looked at the table. Sure enough, there were paper and pens, and it was set out in an exam desk style. Cautiously, I sat down. The paper had a table on it with two columns. One had a load of acts which may happen in a house “put on my slippers” “go to the toilet” “get a shower” “have a drink”  “put on my socks” “eat breakfast” “clean the kitchen” etc etc. The other column was blank. My grandad had a smug smile, and said to us “you have fifteen minutes to do the exam. It’s very simple. Just write down in minutes and seconds how long each item on the agenda should take you.” He set an alarm which would ring after fifteen minutes, and then we had to work in total silence.

My head was racing. What crazy game of his is this? I knew there’d be a catch. This was far too simple.

I realised he was designing a timetable for us. He’d been getting ever more furious with us for spending too much time in our bedrooms lately. He wanted us where he could see us. At most I could spend half an hour in my room, in my own space, able to do my work in peace. Now he wanted to have a solid reason as to why we couldn’t apparently have nothing to do. I glanced at my brother and sister and silently pleaded that they’d look up so I could try and signal to them that there was a catch. But they didn’t. My sister was too young to even start guessing at whether there was a catch. She was obediently and naively answering very truthfully, and working out to the second what each act would take her. Putting on slippers, apparently 13 seconds.

My brother looked aged and very sad. He clearly knew there was a catch but I don’t know if he knew what it was. I didn’t see all the tasks he’d been given, and can now only imagine what might have been on that sheet of paper.

I didn’t lie. I just pretended I was planning it all based on if I were ill. I just did the exam wrong. For putting on my slippers, I granted myself 2 and a half minutes. I bought myself extra time for each act. If he was handing me control, I was gonna use it. I wasn’t going to be his toy in this game.

When we returned the sheets, he smirked at my sister’s. My heart filled with rage as I saw her tremble and say quietly, “did I do it right Grandad?” My broth remained stony and silent as my grandad smirked at his too. Then he got to mine. He frowned and looked at me, white hot rage in his eyes. He so knew I’d worked out his game. I fought to remain eye contact. To stare at him and say with my eyes you’re not taking me.

As predicted, they were stuck to the wall and became our timetable. For each second over a task, I’d be slapped or  hit. I would be told how useless I was; that I couldn’t even stick to my own timetable. When he wasn’t looking, I fiddled with my sister’s one, to buy her more time.

Following this I developed quite a bizarre form of something I guess could be classed as OCD. When I had my absolute breakdown in my final year of college, I fought for control by developing my own daily timetable which spanned over several sheets of paper. I even had time put in for “breathe in” and shortly afterwards “breathe out.” It was ridiculous. It made me very ill. I can always tell if I’m on a downwards slope now because I firstly start to plan my day in a rigid order, and panic if I miss anything or am even a couple of minutes late.

The scars from emotional abuse run deeper, somehow. They’re harder to see, and harder to soothe. A lot of their beliefs about me were forced upon me so brutally, and for so long, that they became my own beliefs about myself. I struggle to find a solid reason as to why I should live. I cannot except that I am not a burden. I struggle to believe I’m worthwhile, and I often have panicked feelings of being too selfish…and will therefore often say ‘yes’ to any favour asked, irrespective of whether I actually have the time or energy. This has put me in some very dangerous situations, for example “Please have sex with me. You’ll make me feel better. Can I tie you up?” Instincts screaming no…but I quietly agreed, just so I knew I wasn’t being selfish….and that I was worth something to him.

I remember lying curled up in a corner, crying my eyes out, begging for forgiveness despite not knowing what I’d done wrong. I remember them standing over me and making me feel so awful, so hideous and vile, that I wanted to die right there and then. I remember weakly saying “please rape me Grandad…so that I can be good. I need you to punish me.” I hated what I was saying, but I fully believed it. My self-worth was so dead. This was his purpose. He didn’t need asking twice. On other times, he would say “why would anyone want to shag a bitch like  you?” and walk off. This hurt more. I wasn’t even worth his abuse. I wasn’t even worth punishing. I was as good as shit on his shoe.

We would clean the house, spotless….and the smallest speck of dust will be found, and we’d be crushed by emotional abuse as punishment. “Stop crying or I’ll give you something to cry about” was a common threat. I would swallow back my tears. I would let them continue to pull me to pieces, and not even be allowed to show them I was hurting.

Every day, I hear the words “you deserve to be dead” clear as day, hissed in my ear. I turn and nobody is there, but the words were there. I remember that feeling of despair and guilt. I bow my head and remember the hurt. I imagine dying and feel sure I deserve it.

Emotional abuse is spoken about less, somehow…and I get the feeling when people talk about it, that it’s seen as less significant. Please hear me…as someone who went through such horrific torture in the ring… emotional abuse is just as wrong, just as damaging, and just as difficult to recover from…and the root and cause of the damage actually far harder to spot.

It’s all just very sick. If you’ve been a victim, or are a victim, of emotional abuse…please try and find something which is *you*…which *you* can be proud of and which cannot be taken from you. For me it was music. Even if they took the piano out of the house and hurt me enough that I lost my voice, they couldn’t take away music. There’s music everywhere. The birds at dawn. The harmonics of the hoover. The rhythm of people going up and down stairs. This is what kept me alive through the emotional abuse. This was *me* and they couldn’t take it. This is the thread back, the way to hold onto something when I find myself back in the pit of despair….

The emotional abuse will take me longer to recover from, longer to recover from than the extreme physical torture in the ring. Because the torture I can point at and instantly know is wrong. The emotional abuse I have to actually recognise as abusive acts, rather than the false truths I took from it and believed. If I can’t recognise it…how can I recover?

Please don’t underestimate emotional abuse. It’s just as wrong and dangerous.

 

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2 thoughts on “Emotional Abuse. It’s just as wrong.

  1. Believing what they said about you was a part of what kept you alive. Abusers want to be agreed with. They become further enraged when their delusions are not supported by others. Disagreeing–acting as if you have worth and value–put you further at risk for more intense and dangerous forms of abuse. You didn’t betray yourself in believing them. It was an adaptive strategy. It’s just that it’s no longer necessary. You are free now to make up your own mind about your character and your worth, and what kind of behavior is allowed for you. The hardest prison is the one that becomes built in your mind.

    I think also what people forget is that the emotional abuse very often works in tandem with other forms of abuse. They aren’t so easily separable. But the worst effects of physical forms of abuse are psychic–actions communicate. And hitting alone communicates a child is not worth protecting.

  2. I have been emotionally abused, and you’re right- it IS often viewed as ‘lesser’. The only people who I know fully realize what I went through are those friends of mine who watched me fade throughout that period of time.
    The hardest part, I think, is reminding myself that it WAS abuse. Because a large part of me wants to say it wasn’t. After all- he never HIT me. We weren’t even in the same damn state, so how could it have been abuse?
    Thoughts like those make it hard for me to get help. If it were not for my mother, sister, and friends insisting, I’d probably still let the fear overwhelm me.

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