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Coming To Terms With the Emotional Abuse I Suffered

Shanice reflects on the emotional abuse, how to recognise this behaviour and her journey to healing.

We can all agree that any kind of abuse is horrific, but out of all the different types of abuse;

emotional abuse is perhaps the most difficult to identify.

"Many people experience this type of abuse, not fully being aware or realising the abuse that is being inflicted on them."

So why is emotional abuse so hard to identify? Well for many it doesn’t leave any visible scars like domestic abuse, but also it’s so subtle and covert that the victim can begin to doubt their reality, thoughts and feelings, and believe a narrative that is entirely false, pushing them to question themselves instead of questioning the person that is committing the abuse.

Emotional abuse can happen in all types of connections, such as romantic partners, friendships and even family members, and when it happens so many victims suffer in silence trying to understand what is happening to them.

There can be many signs that someone is going through emotional abuse, such as gaslighting, controlling behaviour, isolation from loved ones and the abuser not taking any accountability for their actions and shifting blame onto you.

A few months back my friend invited me to her work screening of the Ana Kendrick film Alice

Darling. The film centres on Kendrick’s character who is in an emotionally abusive relationship with her boyfriend, and things reach a breaking point when she goes on a holiday that she lies about, with her friends.

After, there was a Q & A with the director Mary Nighy, who spoke on the film's process and the reaction people had to it. I sat there listening to her words but couldn’t shake the feeling the film had left me with. I felt vulnerable sitting with my friend and her colleagues whom I had just met. This film hit me hard, in a way a film hadn’t hit me in a long time, and that was because the theme of emotional abuse resonated with me.

You see my previous relationship started like any other, fun new and exciting, with two people just ready to explore each other on a deeper level, but as our relationship started to progress things became more toxic and I began to feel this pressure I never felt before, and soon every conversation we would have I suddenly became anxious, and everything I said seems to be the wrong thing as my ex-partner would pick it apart, they would also try to help with various things in my life, but I soon realise this was just a way to control me and get me to do what they wanted.

"At first, I couldn’t quite put my fingers on what was going on, but something really felt off."

Soon after I began to feel nervous about having to speak to them, especially over the phone as I already had phone anxiety, but it felt much heightened in this relationship. It always seemed like my responses never felt good enough or as they once said “from the heart”, even though how I would respond to them was the truth, it just wasn’t the truth they wanted to hear and this would cause issues.

Things got to a point where I started to just feel like I was walking on eggshells, as I didn’t know what version of them I would get, and I began often rehearsing what I would say to them in the way they would want, so they wouldn’t get upset or blame me for most of the problems in our relationship. They never really seemed to hold themselves accountable for much, but expected me too.

Suddenly everything became so confusing and my mental health wasn’t doing great. What was even more upsetting is that this person was someone who worked in the mental health sector listening to people and helping them with their problems and leading with empathy, and I couldn’t understand why they showed up in our relationship in a controlling and violate way, that caused me serious emotional stress.

After the relationship ended I was left with so much shame and confusion about how I could have been in a relationship like that, and the feeling of being this bad person. I felt like I didn’t know who I was anymore. My friends would constantly tell me I wasn’t a bad person, but I couldn’t shake the feeling.

"I had what you would call toxic shame."

I still couldn’t come to terms with the emotional abuse I had suffered, because firstly I didn’t think I had suffered any emotional abuse, because I really didn’t know much about what it was, and even when my friends would tell me my ex-partner was emotionally abusing me, it still didn’t really sink in.

Leaving any abusive relationship can be hard, with many leaving and going back for various

reasons. I mean I broke up with my ex-partner twice but still went back because I loved them, and I thought things would be better, and they would change, but the only person that changed was me, and the very foundation of whom I was started to be stripped away.

The breaking point for me was when I had a mental breakdown while I was working at home, and I had to tell my work colleague that I was having a bit of a mental health problem, and I couldn’t work, because I generally could not function.

As I began to do my healing and reflect more on the relationship and situation, it wasn’t until the end of last year that I really came to terms with the fact that I was emotionally abused because no one going through any abuse wants to be seen as weak or powerless.

It's been a year since I left that relationship, and I am still on my path of healing, but for anyone who has been through emotional abuse, just acknowledging what happened is the first step to really moving forward in the healing process.


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