Abuse and Self-Stigma: Break Free for Your Mental Health

February 3, 2022 Cheryl Wozny

It can be extremely tough to talk about mental illness, especially for individuals who suffered abuse and self-stigma, who may not feel comfortable being vulnerable. When you start the conversation about emotional wellbeing and mental health treatments, unfortunately, many individuals still prefer to avoid the subject entirely. Being open and honest with others outside of my close circle about my mental health is still a struggle for me most days. 

Self-Stigma After Abuse Caused by Low Self-Esteem and Vulnerability 

Vulnerability and self-esteem go hand in hand. When individuals do not feel confident or comfortable about themselves, they try to avoid situations that expose them or make them vulnerable. As a victim of verbal abuse, I know first-hand how I have deliberately made choices to avoid putting myself out into situations that may expose my emotions. I self-stigmatize when thinking that other people won't understand the mental illnesses and mental health problems I developed because of the abuse, so I stay quiet instead of being vulnerable.

However, as I continue therapy and grow, I am beginning to take chances and branch out. I'm doing things I would never have done before and enjoying all the new experiences that come with being brave as I become more familiar with the fact that I am not useless, worthless, or a waste. 

It Takes Time to Heal Self-Stigma After Abuse

Unfortunately, I still have a lot of work to do with my therapists (yes, I have two different professional therapists to help with alternative healing methods) and on my own. It has taken more than three years of intense work on my part to make even the slight progress to where I am now. 

I still have so much I carry with me that many individuals close to me do not know about. Someday I may elaborate on the passive suicidal ideation that plagued me for some time, but I am just not at that point yet. However, I still fear what others may think or say about me if they become aware of these extremely low points in my life. Would they still want to go for coffee or hang out on the weekend? Would they talk about me behind my back to others? I know these things should not bother me since I cannot control what other people think or say, and I should not rely too heavily on approval from others. But as a victim of abuse, seeking approval is the backbone of belonging and acceptance. It's a hard habit to break. 

There are good days when I won't care what someone says or thinks about me. But I also have those bad days that roll in like a dark cloud, covering me and changing my perception. It will take time for the good days to outnumber the bad, but I'm slowly moving forward to this goal. 

APA Reference
Wozny, C. (2022, February 3). Abuse and Self-Stigma: Break Free for Your Mental Health, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 12 from

Author: Cheryl Wozny

Cheryl Wozny is a freelance writer and published author of several books, including mental health resources for children titled, Why Is My Mommy So Sad? and Why is My Daddy So Sick? Writing has become her way of healing and helping others. Find Cheryl on TwitterInstagramFacebook, and her blog

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