I lived in an abusive relationship heart and soul for over 17 years. I’ve often wondered if the effects of abuse changed who I am permanently or temporarily. I run into trouble with this question because I was in the relationship for almost half of my life. If I compare myself to how I was at 20-years-old (after I married him), I’m not sure I can answer that question. After all, in any normal relationship I would naturally change across the span of two decades.
Despite the abuse, I think I gained wisdom and the ability to express myself. During the abuse I couldn’t see those changes because I was trapped in the cycle of explaining myself, self-analysis for problem areas, and giving weight to his thoughts that I was naive, selfish, confused, and worthless.
- How was I to know I could communicate clearly when he didn’t seem to understand a word I said?
- How could I know I was wise beyond my years when he discounted and diminished my every statement and action?
- How could I counter-act the words he used to define me when I accepted his definitions for those words?
In short, the work I did on myself paid off, but I didn’t value it because I valued his opinion over my own. In this new life, absent of the abuser, I’ve come to realize that I’ve changed for the better over the course of the abuse in ways that matter to me.
This morning, a facebook friend asked a question about relationships after abuse and his question reminded me that it’s time to see where I stand on some important issues of Self. Have I changed for the better or worse? Does the abuse continue to affect my personality, and if so, how?
Effects of Abuse
Thoughts on Physical Symptoms of Abuse
The list of effects of abuse is a long one ranging from impaired emotional and mental abilities to physical symptoms. I believe physical symptoms manifest in the body after severe or prolonged abuse, and physical pains effect our personalities by causing angry outbursts and appearance of laziness due to inability to focus or constant fatigue.
In the bigger picture, what you think is what you get when it comes to symptoms of abuse. Heart problems could come from thinking your heart is breaking. Fibromyalgia (chronic widespread muscle pain and fatigue) could result from damage to every neural connection as you deal with chronic and painful psycho-emotional attacks.
One of my physical effects of abuse could be Depression (the result of thinking my abuser will never love me so I am unlovable?). The doctor diagnosed me with Depression six years into my marriage. I am uncertain whether the abuse caused Depression or if it was genetic. There is no question that Depression affected my personality! I’m left to wonder whether or not marrying an abuser amplified my genetic leanings toward Depression. If I ‘d married a non-abuser, would Depression have withered in the shadows? I’ll never know. Perhaps my Depression’s slow-growing onset forecasts its slowness in leaving my body. It took six years to develop after marrying, so it may take six years after leaving him to leave me, too.
The brain leads the body everywhere it goes – even into the manifestation of physical symptoms to mirror our thought processes. Lesson I learned: Be careful how I describe my mental/emotional pain! Keep body references out of it. After I recognized abuse in my marriage, I started saying and thinking, “This whole situation makes me sick to my stomach!” Guess what? A year after leaving I had to deal with the physical effects of that statement, culminating in gall bladder removal surgery.
Long-term and severe abuse changes our bodies. When our bodies are in disrepair, our personalities suffer along with it. The physical manifestation of abuse takes on a life of its own. Even if you leave the abuser, these diseases may follow you permanently. On the other hand, reducing the stress in your life by leaving the abusive partner can significantly improve or eradicate any physical symptoms.
During the past week I’ve learned some startling things about physical abuse from you readers. I had no idea how long lasting the effects of choking, shaking, and blows or penetrating injuries to the head could be. Some women suffer from traumatic brain injuries resulting in epilepsy, emotional and behavioral problems, cognitive defects, communication problems, sensory defects and multiple physical complications.
Please, please consider leaving your emotionally/verbally abusive partner before physical abuse begins – and it will happen eventually! Even one blow to the head can permanently damage your body’s ability to heal from abuse. Do we even need to discuss bullets, knives, bats, or counter-top corners?