Recently I was reminded about the lasting effects of verbal abuse. My fiancé and I were visiting friends in another city. We have not been to their place too much and got a bit lost on our way home. It was late, we were all tired and somehow ended up in some industrial area. Wrong turns were made and tensions rose. No name calling happened between us but suddenly I was being verbally abused. I could hear my ex in my head telling me how stupid I was, that I was an idiot. I had flashbacks to times he would give me a map and tell me to navigate (usually in a strange city while we sped down some freeway) and I would fail at it. This is of course what he wanted to happen so then he could justify yelling at me for a 1/2 hour or more. It was horrible and damaging to my self worth. Last night, as I quietly cried, I was a reminded of the damage done.
Many verbal abuse Survivors will tell you that they would take getting hit over one more minute of being verbally abused. I remember saying to my ex more than once, “just hit me already!” My thinking was that if I was hit then the abuse was over and I could heal from a bruise whereas verbal abuse cuts you to your soul. Verbal abuse changes how you think of yourself. Verbal abuse is crazy making. Often the victim feels like it is all just in their head, maybe they aren’t being abused, maybe they are just going crazy. If this is how you feel after suffering verbal abuse let me tell you that you are NOT crazy. You have been abused.
So what is verbal abuse? It is just name calling? No it is not.
Verbal abuse includes the following:
- abusive anger
- accusing and blaming
- blocking and diverting
- chronic forgetting
- denial of anger or abuse
- judging and criticizing
- minimisation, discounting, trivializing
- name calling
- also age descrimination can be considered a form of verbal abuse.
How do you heal from verbal abuse?
Well I am still working that, its a journey of ups and downs. If you have to remain in contact with your verbal abuser it is important to set boundaries with them. Telling them to “Stop it!” or saying, “You aren’t allowed to talk to me that way!” are two statements you can use to bring your abuser up short. If possible cut all ties with your abuser. I know this is not always easy to do. Some verbal abusers are family members, a boss or your spouse, but you are worth more than what they are giving you. You cannot properly heal until there is closure. Another important point is that most verbal abuse will escalate over time and it WILL lead to physical abuse. No one deserves that.
It’s important to seek support as you recover from the abuse. A counsellor can be a great confident who can give you insight as a third party. Unlike a family member or close friend they are able to give you professional advice without the overshadowing of family dynamics or friendships. This does not mean support from family and friends is not valid, it defiantly is. You might even find yourself reconnecting with family and friends once you leave the relationship. Abusers often isolate their victim from family and friends as it is then easier to control them. So reach out to them. They can help you remember who you are rather than what the abuser tells you, you are. Social support is also another support system. There are many groups on facebook, twitter or domestic violence hotlines that can help you. It is easier to move forward when you have a positive support system around you.
As for me, well we did find our way home. Today my fiancé and I sorted through what the effects of my verbally abusive past had on me last night. It is a two steps forward, one step back sort of journey. I am just glad that I keep moving forward.