The After Effects of Abuse
What they didn’t tell me about the Emotionally Abusive Relationships
They never warned me about the after effects of emotional abuse. They never told me that recovering from an abusive relationship (or lack there of) would be just as bad emotionally as it was to be still in the abusive relationship. They never told me about the side effects of being torn down emotionally for fun by other people around me. They never told me about the PTSD that comes after the abuse ends. They never told me how tough it would be to just get back to me.
Sometimes, I will sit and just think about everything I have went through behind closed doors, in silence and cry. I cry because I know now what I knew then — I am better than this and I did not deserve what I was put through. What hurts me the most about my experience with an emotionally abusive man is that not only could no one physically see the bruises and hits I was taking constantly, but that my abuser will never care about how he treated me period. He will never care about what was done to me, nor the after effects of his actions. It does not phase him, nor will it affect him in the long run like it has affected me. Just like he didn’t care about me when he began the abuse, he will never care about how I have been affected after the fact. It makes me angry to know that most abusive people move on with their lives like nothing happened after they have torn down their latest victim, just to do the same to the next person in line.
After Effects of Emotional Abuse
- You are going to cry a lot.
Of course the main side effects of being hurt by anything emotionally is crying. Go ahead and shed those tears. Get them out of your system. What is not alright, is bottling up your feelings. The more you bottle them up the more you are going to hurt. The more you bottle your feelings inside, the less it will take for them to be forced out during the wrong times. For me, I opted to bottle my feelings — in the beginning. I did not want my abuser to have the satisfaction of knowing and seeing me hurt by his actions. I felt like once I gave him that power, he would come back just to emotionally abuse me again, or worse — the physical abuse would be begin after that because I felt like he would feel he had that much power over me. When I bottled my feelings, though, it took little to press my buttons. I found myself being triggered by normal things others would be able to handle normally. I found myself lashing out at the people who were only trying to help and only loved me. Bottling up my feelings, hurt and pain left me with a negative effect to my health. Stress levels were through the roof. Blood pressure went from being extremely high, to being extremely low weekly. I lost focus of everything including my business, school and work. The moment I let the tears fall is the moment a weight was lifted off my shoulders.
- You are going to be slightly paranoid.
The paranoia was new for me. I did not understand why I kept finding the need to watch my back everywhere I went no matter what state I was in. The main memory I can remember that was a clear sign that I was dealing with an abusive man is when he told me in the most calm and reassuring voice, “I have my eyes on you.” When he told me this, and by me being deeply in love with him, I thought he meant this as an endearment and something positive. I thought he meant that he was keeping an eye on me to keep me out of harm’s way. I thought he cared that much about me to always make sure I was safe, but he truly meant the opposite. It was not that he wanted to keep me safe, but more so that he wanted to control what I done and when I done it, something very common with any abusive person whether male or female. With that realization, I found it hard to really be out and about with my friends and family like a normal person anymore. I did not want to see him. I did not want to be around him. I still don’t. I could not handle running into him because again as I said before I was already bottling my emotions up, so I had no idea how I was going to end up reacting to him and what he had done to me. I did not know if I would be mad or upset. I did not know if I would allow my anger and frustration to get the best of me. Most importantly I became afraid of seeing and being around him. Not only was I afraid of my own actions around him, but I was also afraid of what he would do to me if I said the wrong thing or looked the wrong way. After a while, I could not live like that anymore. That state of fear everywhere I went. Me having to turn around and make sure no one was following me. Me having to double check and make sure none of his friends were attending the same events I would be became a big hassle. No one should live in fear and no one has to.
- The depression will be real.
My depression was so deep and bad, there were times where I had to force myself to get up, take a shower and eat for the day. The day I came to the conclusion and realization that I had been in this horrible relationship is the same day my depression took over the most. Depression literally feels like your heart is being ripped apart piece by piece. Depression is something you must take each day one step at a time. It is not something that just goes away. Sometimes you are going to feel like you are good and then you may back slide and that is alright. That happens from time to time but it does not mean that you are stuck there or that you will be there forever. I had to find myself again in order to make the depression slow down. I had to find things that I loved to do again and focus on them, that included my business, school and working.
- You may blame yourself.
I still blame myself everyday for being abused. Being a straight A student throughout school, even having a 3.8 GPA throughout my undergrad years of college, I felt like it was my fault. I felt like how could I be that smart in school, be street savvy enough to start my own business at just 18 years old, be smart enough to hold two different jobs plus strive to get a higher education and run my own freelance service all at the same time with no problems yet be that stupid, dumb, naive and foolish enough to allow someone to drag me down that far. That low. That is what he would often refer to me as — stupid, dumb, naive, and foolish. How could I not see the signs. How did I not know about what emotional abuse was even? The more I thought about what all took place and the more I thought about and realized all the red flags I missed or ignored, the more I began to blame myself for everything that happened. I blamed myself for getting hurt instead of blaming the person who was hurting me in the first place. I found myself going back and forth. One minute everything was good between us and the next things were dangerous between us. Each time I went back trying to fix things because I placed that blame on myself. I felt like it was my fault this man was the way he was. I felt like it was my responsibility as a woman, a black woman, to fix the issues in this imaginary relationship he made seem like existed when it did not. I blamed myself by telling myself that I was not listening to my abuser enough. I kept telling myself that I was not being patient enough with my abuser and he would stop the harm being done to me. The more I blamed myself, the more I went back and the more I became abused emotionally.
- PTSD is possible.
During my longer than needed time of experiencing emotional abuse, I did not realize I was going through what you call PTSD. Another name used is post traumatic stress disorder. According to the National Institute for Mental Health, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) comes about in some when they have been through a traumatic experience. It does not matter if it was physical or emotional. Some experiences can be so intense for some that the trauma is too much to take which leads to you feeling like you are in danger even when you are not. You can tell I was going through this from my paranoia mentioned before in this article. I always felt like I was going to be in danger when I went out in public so I stayed in a majority of the time. I felt like I was going to be in danger if I attended any events in which he had friends attending too. I even felt like I was in danger by just staying in my hometown and the area I grew up in because I knew he was there as well. I never felt safe after my encounter with this abusive relationship, even when I truly was out of harm’s way.
Symptoms you should look for include:
-Re-experiences like having flashbacks, bad dreams and frightening thoughts are the first sign that your abuse may be leading you down the road of PTSD. You may begin to re-play what happened to you, just like I still do. It is not that you are wanting to do this, but more so like your brain is now wired to do this over and over again. Your dreams may become more vivid. With me being an artist and creative, I have always had very vivid dreams. I remember as a child I would often dream fully in color, as though I was truly there and then waking up and drawing what I had seen in my dreams. This is how I knew I wanted to do something in the art field when I became of age. But those dreams turned dark and cold during my experience with abuse. My dreams became nightmares and then those nightmares became night terrors. Those night terrors led me to no sleep and that no sleep led me to insomnia which amplified my depression overall.
-Avoidances are a second sign that you may be going through PTSD. Remember, I said I would avoid going places out of fear? Well, that is basically what this is. You will not go anywhere or do anything that provides reminders of what happened to you. Even small things like objects may trigger you here back to that bad place. Sometimes this stage can get so bad that a person may pack up their things and leave whatever area they are in to avoid being reminded of what happened to them.
-Arousals or Re-activity occurs when you become easily startled by the smallest things, or feel on edge constantly. This symptom of PTSD is the worst. They are constant, meaning they happen daily and on a regular basis. The smallest things that remind you of your situation can cause you to be startled. Being on edge can ruin your good relationships as well. I found myself lashing out towards others because small things they were doing around me would trigger bad memories from my abusive relationship. My lashing out, led to the lose of some great relationships, mainly friendships. Even if I would opt to move on with my life and begin something new with someone else, 9 times out of 10, I would ruin it with false assumptions and just flat out anger from my past abuse.
-Cognition or Mood symptoms come about through feeling insecure. After my abuse I still blamed myself. This blaming game with myself came about through feeling insecure. I tried to figure out what was wrong with me that led to me being treated so poorly. Somehow, I was convinced that I was not dressing good enough, I did not look good enough, my hair was not long enough, I was not making enough money, I did not have a house big enough, I did not have a car good enough, I was not big or small enough in body size, my personality was trash and I just was not good enough to be with this person in a positive manner and that is why they were so angry with me but that was not the case at all. It was all in my head. My abuser had messed me up so bad mentally and emotionally that I began to change the great things about me that were not even the problem. I was so convinced that I was not good enough that I began to tear myself down over and over again with no solution or answers to my questions about myself in sight. With me feeling terrible with myself, this led to me not enjoying the things I once did beforehand as well. Eventually I just felt alone. Isolation began to take over emotionally and spiritually.
- You don’t have to be hit to hurt.
With abuse, I always assumed that you have to be physically harmed in order for it to be considered an abusive relationship or domestic violence. I never knew that emotional abuse existed until I was being emotionally abused. I kept questioning why I was feeling so sad in my relationship. I kept questioning why I was being controlled so much but falsely assumed that this was how it was supposed to be. That I had to suffer first and then be glorified later. That I had to put up with my abusers actions and eventually he would stop and we would be happy but it never happened. I did not realize that my hits were there. The damage of physical abuse is physical harm like punches, shoves, slaps and that sort of thing. The damage of emotional abuse is psychological. An emotional abusive person will see how strong you are mentally beforehand, study your ways of doing things and then tear you down bit by bit until you are no longer the same person you were before. The hits will come for your self-esteem versus with physical abuse the hits will come for your beauty.
Was I able to get out of my abusive relationship? Yes. But the recovery has been long and painful. Have I bounced back since I left? Yes. But it has not been easy and it is still a work in progress to this day.