One morning, while applying waterproof mascara, I looked into my eyes and saw it. Nothing. My eyes didn’t shine or pop; there was no light. Where did I go? Where was my soul? Fiery hot tears boiled in the corners of my eyes and rolled down my cheeks leaving their tracks in the pink blush and and make-up. I felt scared and then sad. How did this happen? How did I lose my Self when I was living right here?
My feelings of loss, helplessness, and hopelessness were overpowering. I couldn’t see what was happening to me because the abuse distracted me from seeing the truth.
Abuse, at its core, is a great and powerful lie. The lie seems to be truth, and truth seems to be lies. That circular thought process is itself an effect of abuse! But once you recognize and accept that there is abuse in your relationship, the first powerful spell breaks and healing begins.
Beyond a doubt, it is easier to heal from abuse if the relationship ends. I wouldn’t be where I am today in the healing process if I still carried my abuser’s daily words on my shoulders.
However, some healing takes place during the relationship when you, the target of abuse, wants the abuse to end. You no longer think of yourself as a victim. Instead, you take on the persona of an agent of change and begin the work of changing your reactions to the abuse. You will experience some healing during the process.
Healing is almost the same as empowering yourself to make clearer and better choices for you. In time, the decision to leave or stay will become clear and you will gain the ability to decide.
Symptoms of Abuse to Conquer
Whether you leave or stay in the end, there will be some personality, mental and emotional issues to contend with and overcome. At one point I wrote: “The abuse is bad, but the things I’ve allowed to change in my mind and heart are horrid.” At the turning point of your healing, you realize that you, not your abuser, has the ability to change and create how you think, feel and act. You know that you “allowed” certain changes to take place, and now it’s time to undo or alter those changes to become the person you want to be.
Patricia Evans, author of several books about verbal abuse, offers a *list of symptoms abuse victims may suffer. Let’s take a look at that list along with my experience in overcoming them:
A verbal abuse victim often…
- distrusts their spontaneity and suffers a loss of enthusiasm
I am not a spontaneous person! But my enthusiasm and excitement for the future returned about three months after leaving and continues to grow.
- lives in a perpetually in a ready, on-guard state
If you suffer PTSD, this symptom will take time to conquer. Professional help may be necessary. I learned how to relax and trust the peace I created after leaving.
- wonders about how they are coming across
During my marriage I discovered that he was the only one who misunderstood what I said or misinterpreted my behaviors.
- thinks and feels that something is wrong with her
I quickly came to understand that I wasn’t as damaged as I had thought. Yes, I have issues to overcome, everyone does. I am more accepting of my limitations; I’m at peace with myself.
- soul-searches and reviews incidents in hope of determining “what went wrong”
I don’t do this anymore. I am able to tell the difference between when “I need to apologize” and “that was abuse”. If I need to apologize, I do. If it was abuse, I choose a reaction carefully.
- experiences a loss of self-confidence, harbors a growing feeling of self-doubt
I’m regaining self-confidence and belief in myself, slowly but surely.
- hears only her internalized “critical voice”
The hardest thing about this is separating my internal nag from his criticisms of me. I sometimes ask myself, “Kellie, is this what he told you?” If it is, I banish the thought without question.
- wonders why she isn’t happier and feels that she should be
Today, if I feel I should be happier, I find ways to get there. Sometimes changing my current thoughts leads to “feeling happier” immediately!
- suffers from anxiety or fear of being crazy
I am sane. I do not doubt my sanity any longer – not for one second. The anxiety associated with the fear that I may be crazy is gone.
- senses that time is passing and she is missing something
Time is passing. But today I am flexible. I decide to go for something (or not), and I have no regrets. I do the best I know how right now.
- wishes she was not the way she is – “too sensitive”, etc.
I am perfectly me. I can be “struck wrong” by other people’s statements when they are similar to my abuser’s old words. It feels like a little emotional sting. Sometimes I still overreact. Yet the people I choose to have in my life now are safe; I can tell them exactly what I’m feeling and they respond to me with love. The more I come to trust them, the less often I feel those stings.
- is hesitant to accept her perceptions
Now my perceptions are the most important ones to me. I realize that the way I perceive things may not be complete, so I ask people what they meant when they said or did something. I do not try to read their minds. I listen to their explanations. I can tell whether they’re lying or not in time by watching what they do.
- sometimes or usually has a wish to escape or run away
The only time I want to run away is when I need a vacation! There is nothing and no one to run from any longer.
- believes that what she does best may be what she does worst
I once believed I had no worthwhile talents or abilities. Although I know that isn’t true, it is still tough to trust my talents completely. But I keep practicing, and my results help me overcome that block.
- tends to live in the future – “everything will be great when/after”, etc.
I do look forward to future events (like graduation and moving to Austin), but I do my best to make NOW great, too. Life flows, and it feels good to be in the flow instead of predicting what will happen when or after.
- has a distrust of future relationships
I used to think I was unlovable and couldn’t be a great friend to someone. He didn’t love me and he didn’t want my friendship. Accepting that fact allowed me to move past him. I trust myself to know if a relationship is a good one for me or not. I invest my thought and emotion into great people who work with me to make our relationship wonderful.
As you can tell, I believe we can conquer all of these emotional effects of abuse. Some effects will take more time than others. Trusting myself seems to be at the core of it all.
I’m not done healing, but I will completely heal. I will completely trust myself. It will be sooner rather than later. It can happen for you, too.
*Evans, P. (1996). The verbally abusive relationship: how to recognize it and how to respond (Expanded 2nd ed.). Holbrook, Mass.: Adams Media Corporation.
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