JoinOneLove.org defines emotional abuse as any abusive behavior that isn’t physical, which may include verbal aggression, intimidation, manipulation, and humiliation, which most often unfolds as a pattern of behavior over time that aims to diminish another person’s sense of identity, dignity and self worth, and which often results in anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts or behaviors, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
That’s a lot to understand for just 2 words, but being emotionally abused is a lot to endure. In this week’s blog, I share my story of how I was emotionally abused for 4 years in high school. I plan on breaking down the definition by discussing my experience with it. But first I need to give you some context!
My story begins in 9th chorus class and I saw this cute guy standing in the corner and he had green eyes (they were fake by they way)! I thought he was sooooooo cute and developed a crush on him right away. I don’t remember exactly how we started talking, but I remember being swept up in this ‘romance’ with a senior.
I was consumed and in awe of him. I was flattered that he ‘chose me’ even though I was young. His family praised me for being the first Black girl he dated in a while. He made it seem like he the things he said to me because he cared so much. All he wanted to do was spend time with me that’s why he wanted me all to himself. Do you see where I’m going with this - I ignored the warning signs and red flags because I was in ‘love’ and I thought that my love would change him.
People who look from the outside like to judge and say you saw the warning signs, why didn’t you leave? Well Judgey Judy, it’s not that simple! When you’re emotionally abused, it’s as though you’ve been brainwashed and can no longer think for yourself or if you try to, you’re somehow wrong. If you decided to read this blog, then you must have some inkling that you are in an emotionally abusive relationship, hopefully my story will help EDUCATE, UPLIFT and EMPOWER you do what is right: leave and get help!
As as I stated in the beginning, I want to give you my experience as it relates to the definition, so here it is:
“...Any abusive behavior that isn't physical…” that really is hard to define, so I referred to JoinOneLove.org to help me out and they list a few behaviors that I can relate to experiencing.
Manipulation - Oh, the guy I was in a relationship with, let’s call him Tom, loved to manipulate me. He loved to make me feel guilty about not wanting to spend time with him. I would try to see him during my lunch period and when I tried to get back to school to go to class, he made me feel bad about it
Never Pleased - I ended up cutting school to please him, but that was never enough. Tom wanted to take up ALL my time which was impossible because other than school, I had other obligations. It didn’t matter though, whatever I did, it wasn’t good enough. I’d wear his favorite outfit, he’d find something wrong. I’d tried to find ways to see him, it was never enough. It was exhausting to try and please him, but that is the name of the emotional abuse game - abusers always try to have the upper hand.
Silent Treatment - if I did something (it could be anything) that made Tom mad, he wouldn’t talk to me until he felt like it. He’d hang up, walk past me in school, ignore me you name it. Since he was in control, I had to wait for him to want to talk to me or I if he did talk to me again, it was because he felt I had done something to please him.
Projection - Tom portrayed himself as someone who was hurt by a cheating girlfriend and felt that I would do the same. OMG, I had to hear this all the time - You’re gonna cheat on me, When are you leaving me, I know you want to see someone else and on and on and on he went. However, looking back now, he must have done A LOT of cheating because he always accusing me
Forced Isolation - I wasn’t ‘allowed’ to talk to other guys, when I did, there would be hell to pay. He wanted to spend so much time with me that I alienated my close friends to the point when I did come around, they didn’t want to be bothered and I couldn’t blame them. It hurt, but deep down I understood why
“Which may include verbal aggression, intimidation and humiliation...”
I don’t recall him intimidating me, but I do recall verbal aggression and humiliation. Let’s start with the latter. It was my birthday and I had colorguard practice and somehow we got into one of many arguments. I left his truck and proceeded to sit with the rest of the team. Out of nowhere he throws the gift at me from his track and yells, “Happy Birthday Bitch!” and he squead away leaving me completely embarrassed and humiliated, it also didn’t help that 2 of the biggest gossipers were on the team and took delight in what just happened.
My parents didn't allow me to go to his prom, so he took someone else, let me tried to have done and it wouldn’t fly, anyway, I had a feeling something was wrong and went to his house. Sure enough him and his date were lying in bed and I went off, needless to say I was angry, hurt and yet again humiliated. When I arrived at school and all these people were coming up up to me telling me how sorry they were for what happened. I was caught completely off guard, only to find out that he beat me to school and told everyone who he could tell. By the end of the day, the whole school knew and yet again I was embarrassed and humiliated. Verbal aggression, that happened a lot. Anytime he was mad, he’d yell or get angry and talk to me in a disrespectful manner and tone.
“A pattern of behavior over time”
Emotional abuse is gradual and before you realize it, you’re too deep in to realize what’s happened. Tom didn’t start out an abusive asshole, but I guess you could say he groomed me to his liking and molded me to become compliant. However, it was during this time, my self-esteem was dwindling and self-doubt crept in.
“Aims to diminish another person’s sense of identity, dignity, and self-worth”
Although Tom never hit me and I didn’t have bruises or scars, I had them inwardly. JoinOneLove.org gives a great example of imagining a really bad physical fight and in the aftermath there is blood, tears, bruises and pain. Now picture emotional abuse where the person’s self-identity has been destroyed. That’s what happened to me, Tom destroyed who I was, embarrassed me to the point of not wanting to show my face at school and I felt unlovable for a long time. I took that pain with me for years after our relationship was over and I carried it with me into my next toxic relationship.
“Results in anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts or behaviors, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)”
Life with and without Tom was difficult. Being with him was such a rollercoaster of emotions, always on a high state of alert that I started to become anxious and have panic attacks. I was depressed because I never felt good enough and I had no friends. I felt alone and worthless until one day….
I believe that all women, especially women of color have an inner strength within them that they don’t know about or believe they have until…. one day. One day I woke up and saw Tom for who he really was, one day I woke up had enough. One day I woke up and broke up with him for good and I never looked back, I was done being broken and emotionally battered. I knew I deserved better even though my track record after that wasn’t the best. I finally stepped away and got some of my life back, it took a while, but I got it back. And guess what, you can too!
After experiencing all that, how does someone heal? Let me say it’s not easy and it took a while, but I will share what worked for me:
Forgiveness - this can be hard, but over time I’ve realized that forgiveness is more for you than the other person. I didn’t want Tom and Co. to live rent free in my head, I didn’t want to walk around with anger, resentment and hate. I had to let that go and forgive them so that I can live a burden free life filled with peace.
Therapy - as I said earlier, I had a lot of negative emotions weighing me down and they lingered for a while and impacted my life in ways that I wish I would have started therapy sooner. Leaving abusive relationships can deplete you in many ways, and you many need to seek help to repair the damage it left behind.
Support - I didn’t have the best track record with men and was distrustful of getting into another serious relationship with a man. However, I met my husband and although I gave him a run for his money, he was patient with me ( he did leave, I can't blame him) and we’ve been married for 15 years. I know you may be scared to let other people get close to you, but you can’t heal on your own, at some point you’re going to have to let others help you with their love and support.
Be patient with yourself - healing takes time and it’s not linear. You will have good days and bad days. Days where you feel great and days where you miss your partner. All of this is normal and to be expected, don’t beat yourself up for it. I always say little steps can lead to big results if you remain patient and trust the process
I leave this bit of advice with you, it's not much but looking back on my experience, I wish I would have listened to my gut. You know that little voice or that feeling that you have that something is not right, listen to it! Learn to trust and believe in yourself. Lastly, I wish I would have listened to my friends/family. Sometimes others can see what we don’t or won’t see, if you have people in your life that you trust and they tell you something about your partner, listen.
Hey Brown Girls! I know the pain you’re going through and it’s hard, but if I got out you can too. It took time to forgive myself and those that hurt me, but I did it. It took me time to heal, but I did. It took me time to let others in, and my life right now is good. If I can do it, you can too. Remember, you are part of a community that has you back and that supports you. You are not alone in this journey!
I now have a podcast called For My Brown Girls! Podcast, here’s the the link to listen: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/for-my-brown-girls-podcast/id1507206366
I could really use some feedback from my Brown Girls! PLEASE leave a comment, like and if you want to help further - share my postS <3
Make sure you follow #ForBrownGirlsBlog on:
*I am not a licensed therapist. This post does not serve as a form of therapy or diagnosis. If you are experiencing an emergency, please call 911 or your doctor.