Emotional and mental abuse creates scars with no obvious physical ailments, with no "appropriate" stories to share, and no discernible villains to put behind bars. There is little help and little closure. Labels help us categorize and compartmentalize things in our lives. But suffering can't often be labeled and tucked into neat little boxes. We experience and we process but . . .
Emotional and mental abuse breaks our "processor". Emotional abuse strikes in a particularly vicious way, making us question our own identity. Our head begins to question even the most basic matters of the heart. The constant psychological stress and continued searing pain of contempt exhausts our spirit. It poisons all of our thoughts and either makes us cynical or so idealistic that, in our minds, it's impossible to be anything less than perfect. One's own judgment and knowledge becomes a casualty of war.
One of my first steps in seeking truth and healing is learning to label. Labeling helps me see things as they actually are rather than how they are through the eyes of someone else. As I go on this journey of discovery and truth, I want to be able to share the ups and downs, progress and setbacks. Hopefully it will help someone else in their journey ... or help a friend reach out to someone they know.
Here are some thoughts, lessons, and labels I have learned over the years [and am still working through if I am being completely honest]:
Speaking about abuse is not disrespect. It is not ungratefulness or pride or harsh judgment. It is coming to terms with the facts. It's putting your emotional, mental, and spiritual well-being as a top priority.
Healing from abuse requires support. Unlike many other sufferings, this form lives within the mind and heart only. It's hard to be supportive about something that we aren't familiar with or haven't experienced. But trying ... that is what really counts. Someone that has suffered at the hands of an identity thief [abuser], really needs affirmation. It can take a long time for the light to win.
Working through abuse is not living in the past or dwelling on the bad. Overcoming distorted views requires digging through the garbage. It required picking through things that are rotten and fraudulent while searching for everything that is ethical and honorable and honest.
It's grief. It's fear. It's doubt. It's distrust.
It's questioning. It's uncertainty. It's confusion.
It's identity. It's vulnerability. It's personal.
Abuse makes you certain of only one thing, that you are the problem. You are not enough. You are failing. You are destructive. You are unwanted and you are deplorable. It's being bound by invisible chains that make asking for help, needy and not asking for help, foolish. It's about hating who you are, how you got here and how you are thought of. It's about never living up to expectations. It's seeing love and acceptance as a direct result of action and effort.
"You can do anything you put your mind to" they say ... but your mind is a mess. You feel crazy, misunderstood, and misinterpreted. You live and love in a constant state of emotional exhaustion. You overthink everything. Everything. You desperately want to be accepted for who you are, but you aren't really sure who that is or who that should be. Church sermons designed to correct bad behavior feel designed and directed at you. Harsh advice breaks your heart and shatters your emotional stability. Every comment penetrates to your core, not because it's cruel or wrong or even meant for you but because you believe every bad trait and character flaw is you, defines you. It can take years to recover from a stray comment that further confirms your weaknesses and fears. Compliments are usually rejected until they begin to outweigh the heaviness within your heart.
Emotional turmoil is never really knowing what you are good at. It's insecurity. It's constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop, for love to become conditional. It's remembering that your feelings don't really matter. It's knowing that your perspective isn't valid or valued. It's hating manipulation but falling for it every time because you hate discord and desire to please. It's complete vulnerability. It's the risking bearing your soul or becoming an impenetrable fortress. It's cold and it's isolating. It's helpless. It's infuriating. It's worth weeping over.
It makes crying shameful and anger invalid. It makes boundaries impossible. It makes anxiety the primary emotion. It makes mountains out if molehills. It makes lions into lambs and lambs into vicious lions. It makes you prey. Prey to your own thoughts, your own fears, and others' assumptions. It always keeps true love at a distance.
Suffering is hard, no matter who, and why, and how it happens. We experience loss and hardship, broken dreams and broken promises. We question who we are and who we want to be. We question authority. We question spiritual matters and ultimate truth. We wonder if we are failing and we consider life on greener pastures.
The main thing about suffering is ... it takes time to heal. It takes strength. And it requires divine intervention. It requires freedom from the bondage of emotional and spiritual darkness. It requires a new identity. It requires a healer.
To the label-less sufferer,
God sees you. He wants to make your heart whole and full. He will fight for you. You are loved. You are known. You are wanted.