17 Excuses People Give to Avoid Going to Talk Therapy (and Why They Should Really Rethink Them)

[photo credit: flickr user Jack Lyons]

If you’ve been reading the Invisible Scar articles for some time, you know that we are proponents of therapy. We don’t espouse a specific psychological approach nor do we care whether you choose a psychologist, psychiatrist, therapist, or counselor.

We do care about Invisible Scar readers, though, and so we repeat (often) the phrase please seek professional counseling.

Professional counseling is crucial for an adult survivor of emotional child abuse.

Yes, you can read books about emotional child abuse and healing (we highly recommend doing so), but you’re going to reach a point where you need to vent, to cry your heart out, to shout and rage in a safe environment, and to have someone there who can help you figure out how to navigate through the hurt and towards healing.

But you will find it almost impossible to do that solely on your own because you were raised by people who didn’t teach you those skills and who kept you in emotional captivity.

That is not your fault.

That is not your fault.

Once more: That is not your fault.

You didn’t choose to be abused as a child… but now, as an adult, you get to choose to get professional help and to learn new skills and behaviors needed for an emotionally healthy life.

Reasons, Excuses, and Misconceptions About Talk Therapy

Every day, we receive emails—some short as telegrams; others, sprawling tomes. Some readers seek very specific answers to their very specific questions, and we always urge those senders (and our readers) to seek professional help.

Judging by some of the responses to our recommendation of professional counseling, we thought to write a post tackling the different reasons/excuses/misconceptions people have regarding therapy.

1. I don’t know a good therapist and wouldn’t know where to get one

A few good places to start looking for a therapist are…

You can also ask your friends for recommendations, check out the blogs of your local therapists, etc.

Remember that you are not signing an agreement in blood and promising your firstborn to the mental health professional.

In other words, you can interview a few therapists until you find the one that connects with you. And you can always choose a new one later down the road.

2. A good therapist costs too much money

The fees associated with going to therapy are often high, but you can try the following options.

  • Some therapists use a sliding scale that depends on their clients’ income.
  • You can see whether your workplace offers free counseling or your insurance pays for it.
  • Local charities and churches often also have therapists who use their skills as a ministry. (Do check to see whether the church counselor has proper training, certification, and an understanding of emotional child abuse. Sometimes, a church “counselor” is only a sympathetic ear only. The intention might come from a good place, but you’ll want professional help and not one with a bias towards reunification with the biological parents.)

For more ideas about affordable therapy, check out the very helpful “How to Find Someone to Talk to When You Can’t Afford It” article at Lifehacker.

3. I don’t need a therapist

Are you the adult survivor of emotional child abuse? The effects of childhood abuse on adults are…

  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Cognitive distortions (e.g., “highly fearful and overestimate danger and adversity in your current environment”)
  • Emotional distress (e.g., depression, anxiety, and anger)
  • Anxiety, disorders, panic disorders, phobias, and obsessive-compulsive order
  • Chronic irritability, rage, and difficulties expressing anger constructively
  • Impaired sense of self
  • Avoidance (e.g., disassociation, amnesia for abuse-related events)
  • Interpersonal problems
  • Physical health problems

In reading that list, you may relate to some effects and know you need help. Perhaps something within you is whispering (or perhaps even shouting) that you need to find some sort of livable peace, some direction, some guidance in your journey.

You didn’t just stumble onto The Invisible Scar for no reason. Something or someone brought you here.

Moreover, if you’ve found yourself wanting to share your story in the comments or via the contact form, you clearly do want someone to hear your story, to validate what you’ve endured, to make you feel not so crazy and lost and hurt by what has happened and to feel hopeful for the future.

You may long for that personal touch, that face-to-face interaction, and that’s all very normal and healthy and, if anything, a good sign that you want to heal.

4. All I need is [____________]

The healing journey often requires more than just one tool in your toolbox. Adult survivors need a variety of coping skills and healing approaches to help them grow as a person.

For example, an adult survivor will need to learn to identify different emotions (because s/he was taught that only a couple were permissible), how to vocalize his/her feelings and thoughts without fear of being reprimanded, how to identify “safe” people for relationships, how to avoid repeating behaviors that abusive parents may have taught them, how to conquer the little critic deep within them, how to carry the weight of an abusive childhood—you get the point. An adult survivor needs to figure all this out.

Without a guide, be it a counselor or psychiatrist, an adult survivor might overreach by trying to learn everything at once and expecting immediate results. Or not understand how to navigate through that morass of behaviors.

It’s a lot to take in. Professional counseling can help.

5. I don’t want to complain

Complaining is “expressing dissatisfaction or annoyance about a state of affairs or event” or “expressing a grievance,” according to Merriam-Webster.

So, what’s so wrong about complaining? Why wouldn’t an adult survivor complain about the state of affairs? The adult survivor has been abused throughout his/her childhood and is now trying to make sense of it all. Of course grievances will be stated.

Now, chronic complaining sucks the life out of you (and those who have to listen to it constantly).  Chronic complaining means you’re only seeing the negative in the world and calling dark clouds of gloom over people who are in contact with you.  Being a complainer is not something that is quirky or just a personality trait; it can be changed.

But complaining (in moderation) to your mental health practitioner can be a good thing. You need to find a safe place for your venting, and in time, learn to cope with the subject of your vents and the skills to be less complaining.

6. I don’t have time

Sure you do!

If you have time to watch something on TV, read a book, meet a friend, play an instrument, go out to dinner, etc., you have time to go to therapy.

You just need to make it a priority. You need to make your emotional well-being a priority.

Adult survivors, as children, always focused first on their parents—meeting their parents’ emotional needs, catering to their parents’ whims, obeying every single mandate without question, always thinking about their parents first.

No more. Adult survivors need to place their own well-being now far high on their list of priorities. They are so worth it.

You are worth it.

7. I’d feel guilty talking about other people

You’ll be talking to one person, a licensed mental health professional, about them, and this person won’t be able to dish about what you’ve said. You’re not spreading discontent, gossip, or slander in your social circle or neighborhood. This isn’t about them.

Moreover, you’re really talking about yourself.

About your story.

About what happened to you.

About how you handled (or didn’t handle or internalized) situations and life-changing events.

About how you see relationships.

About your worth or sense of worthlessness.

The sessions will be not just about other people but about you. And that’s the focus for your therapy: your emotional well-being.

You won’t hurt anyone’s feelings during your session nor will you break any rule about gossiping. In a safe environment, with the right mental health professional, you can talk about others without fear or repercussions.

8. Only weak people go to therapy

You have been, in a sense, weakened or at least deprived of essential skills and peace of mind by enduring an abusive childhood. That’s not your fault. It’s like blaming someone for being born without a limb; you just had no say in that.

Now that you know that, you have every right (and even, in a sense, an obligation to yourself) to get fitted with the skills and peace of mind to live a healthy happy life.

Virtually anybody can benefit from these services, and they are not limited to any stereotype. You name it—presidents, celebrities, macho men, kindly grandparents, marriage therapists, happiness experts, Olympic athletes—anyone can benefit from the support and different perspective of a helping professional. It’s not limited to the pop-culture stereotypes of crazy people or damaged people.” (Brad Waters, LCSW, “10 Stereotypes of Mental Health Professionals“)

Not going to therapy is like a person with a physical ailment never getting help. “Oh, I was born near-sighted, I just have to be tough and take it.”

No, you can actually get help. It’s all right… It takes a strong person to admit s/he needs help.

9. I’m over it

Now, this might be true. However, if you are reading posts on The Invisible Scar, you may have some unresolved emotions or issues that you need to discuss.

And that’s all right. Adult survivors of emotional child abuse have endured the worst kind of emotional child abuse. It takes time to heal. Therapy won’t magically patch up all the holes that the abuse has created, but you’ll learn in time to craft an emotionally healthier life.

Adult survivors usually go to therapy for a long while, then, as they grow stronger and more emotionally healthy, visit their therapists as needed. Some survivors go in every two months or so as a “check in” to make sure they’re still on the right path.

10. I don’t want anyone to know that I go to therapy

No one needs to know. You don’t need to share everything with everyone.

That said, you may be surprised to find out that more people go to therapy than you think. Should you choose in time to share this information with your inner circle, you may find a friend saying s/he has also gone to talk therapy.

More and more people in the public eye are sharing their stories of depression, emotional child abuse, anxieties, and other issues because everyone struggles with something. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. You didn’t cause your emotional child abuse. It’s not your fault.

But if you don’t feel comfortable telling friends that you go to therapy, don’t tell them. You’re not required to share that information with people you don’t feel comfortable with.

11. I’ll feel judged

Say someone does find out that an adult survivor attends therapy. What then? He may fear that they will judge him.

People might judge him. But then again, people tend to judge others based on their hair color, weight, body shape, voice, looks, education, music choices, fashion choices… In other words, critical people will always find reasons to judge others.

Ignore them. Shake it off.

A big step is to not think about what “they” will say. Think about what you need to do to get emotionally healthy. Think about what a tremendous gift you are giving yourself by attending therapy.

“Stigma connected to getting help for psychological or behavioral concerns used to be a strong deterrent for people,” states the American Psychological in its article Psychotherapy: Myth vs Reality. “But getting help is now seen as a sign of resourcefulness.”

12. I want to be sure it works

Therapy isn’t magical. No magic spell exists to immediately “fix” the problem.

However, if you dedicate yourself to going to the right therapist and you are honest and open in your sessions, you will most likely find yourself getting better.

“Talking can actually do a lot of good. Discussing something with someone who cares about you and who is not judgmental helps relieve the emotional pressure caused by keeping our thoughts and feelings to ourselves. But counseling involves much more than just talking. Counseling provides a way for us to understand who we are and how we relate to the world around us. In counseling we focus our attention on aspects of our experience that we may have been previously unaware of. This provides new ways of looking at our problems and this often gives us new ways to handle these problems.” (Gustavus Augustus College,The Top 10 Reasons People Avoid Counseling“)

13. I don’t want to even think about my problems

But here you are at The Invisible Scar. Clearly, you are searching for understanding, for healing. (And that’s a good thing!)

14. I don’t want to feel bad about myself or my life

A good therapist will not set out to make you feel bad.

A good therapist should be open and willing to understand your concerns. If your counselor doesn’t take your concerns seriously or is unwilling to accept feedback, then it’s probably in your best interest to consult with another therapist about it.” (Noah Rubenstein, “50 Warning Signs of Questionable Therapy and Counseling)

15. No one will understand me

A good therapist wants to understand and help her patient. (Helping others is one reason therapists become therapists, after all.) And chances are high that a therapist will be disposed to believe the patient.

However, should an adult survivor find himself with a therapist who doesn’t believe him—even though he is being open and honest in what has happened—the adult survivor should consider talking to a different therapist.

Sometimes, that happens… but don’t let the possibility of that happening deter you from seeking therapy.

16. My last therapist was awful

Some therapists are wonderful; some are wretched. Perhaps you didn’t do your homework and ended up with a therapist who ended up not being the right fit for your needs. Or maybe you did do your homework and still your therapist was a walking disaster.

I get a lot of emails and comments about people telling me that I am wrong, wrong, wrong, in recommending therapy. “No one can help me! I tried X many therapists and they didn’t work for me!” or “I had a bad therapist! I am never trying therapy again!” or “Therapists suck! They’re all awful.”

Let’s be real, friends. Not every therapist provides stellar counseling. But some do. A heckuva lot of them do. So, stay vigilant, stay persistent, and find that therapist that will click with you.

And then be patient with your therapist. They can only offer counseling on what you tell them, so be open and honest with your therapist. Give the relationship some time to work. If after several sessions, you feel disheartened and lost and like you’ve gotten worse … then, by all means, look for a new therapist.

Crappy therapy happens. But don’t give up. Find a new counselor. Give therapy another shot.

17. I can’t see the point of going

The benefits of therapy are manifold. People who attend talk therapy usually gain…

  • Long-lasting change
  • The feeling of being understood
  • Better health due to facing repressed emotions
  • The skills needed to handle future flashbacks or setbacks
  • A greater ability to express his/her thoughts
  • A greater sense of self-worth
  • A better understanding of who s/he is
  • A better understanding of other people
  • Greater empathy
  • Deeper relationships
  • Rewired brain
  • Better skill set for handling pain, sorrow, and frustration
  • Reduced stress
  • Better boundary-setting

And much more.

* * *

Need more convincing that therapy isn’t just for crazy, weak oddballs? Check out this helpful article “Myths About Therapy” by the founder of GoodTherapy.org, Noah Rubenstein.

“A huge benefit of talk therapy is that its effects are long-lasting,” writes Alice G. Walton in her Forbes article 11 Intriguing Reasons to Give Talk Therapy a Try. “This is because you’re not only working through stuff, but you’re also developing the tools to help you deal with future stuff.”

Go for it. You’re worth it.

Originally published in June 2015. Updated article in May 2019.


Veronica Jarski is founder and managing editor of The Invisible Scar. She has extensive editorial experience and a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Her work has been featured on myriad publications. She also put together this ebook “What Really Happened,” a collection of expanded already published articles here in one easy-to-read PDF.

You Don’t Owe Your Toxic Mother a Card, Candy, or Quality Time on Mother’s Day

[photo credit: flickr user George Chelebiev]

Whenever you see your mother, she belittles you, emotionally abuses you, treats you like a peasant, and demands to be fawned over like a queen. After you spend time with her, whether in person or on the phone or even reading an email from her, you feel very, very tiny and insignificant.

You hurt inside, where no one can see. You are invisibly cut and scarred again and again.

You can hardly remember more than a handful of times (if that) when you enjoyed your mother’s company. You can’t even really recall feeling nurtured or loved unconditionally.

Yet you have spent your entire life trying to find the mythical and magical key that will open her heart to you and unleash the maternal love you’ve always longed for.

Deep in your heart, you suspect that there is no key. It’s not your fault; it’s just broken.

But somehow, every second Sunday of May, you find yourself wondering whether you should send this toxic mother some sort of card or maybe make a quick phone call or stop by her house for a short visit.

I know you wonder because my inbox gets jam-packed every May and the traffic here at The Invisible Scar absolutely skyrockets.

Every year, readers email me such questions as “Should I send my mother a card on Mother’s Day even thought we haven’t talked in years?” or “Should I send my mother a card even though she always treats me like crap?”

My answer is always: You have to make your own informed decision. I can’t make that decision for anyone.

That said, in making such a decision, do keep the following in mind:

Mother’s Day is to honor good mothers

The holiday was not created to honor toxic mothers, abusive mothers, neglectful mothers, etc. It is meant to honor the good women who fulfill the vocation of motherhood.

By unilaterally honoring all mothers, we neglect the truth that not all mothers are good ones. The ads on TV and radio often exclaim such phrases as “Mother always…” or “Mothers this or that” but the truth is that not all mothers are loving.

Yes, most mothers are good. It is far more common to have a loving, kind, and caring mother than to not have one. And those are the mothers who we celebrate. They deserve a day. They remind us of what good mothers are, what they should be.

We are not to honor the small group of abusive mothers. They besmirch the role of motherhood. They dishonor the true vocation of motherhood.

You are under no moral obligation to send a card or gift or spend time with your emotionally abusive mother

If you are still in contact with your abusive mother or in limited contact, you can be honest about the holiday. There’s nothing wrong in admitting that the holiday brings up a lot of emotions and that you didn’t feel right giving a false impression with a card or gift.

Some readers who have very limited contact with their mothers have said they send their mom a “thanks for giving birth to me” card. It’s direct, shows you’re thankful for the gift of life, and yet does not tell falsehoods about the relationship.

A Mother’s Day card is not going to fix everything

That card that you think you might want to send your mother does not possess magical qualities. I know that sounds harsh; I’m so very sorry for having to be so blunt. But I hear so very many stories about adult survivors of emotional child abuse who think that this Mother’s Day card will somehow:

  • Show their mother that they still acknowledge their existence
  • Warm their mother’s heart to what a healthy relationship could be
  • Open a new communication channel
  • Let their mom see what she’s missing out on by being abusive

This card or phone call from you is not going to do any of that. I’m so, so sorry.

If your mother is truly toxic, the only thing that this card or phone call will do is keep the lines open for continued abuse, knock down the boundaries that you have set for yourself, lie to your mother about doing a great job mothering (because that’s what all Mother’s Day cards say), make her feel like she’s been maligned by you in the past, and demonstrate that you can be manipulated into lowering your boundaries.

A loving mother who wants a better relationship with you will give you space to heal and also work on healing herself

Not every crappy mother is a toxic one.

Some emotionally abusive mothers are awful at parenting out of ignorance. They honestly do not know any better…and through therapy, honest communication with their children, and boundary-setting, they can learn to change and sustain that change for a long, long time (hopefully, the rest of their lives).

A mother who is making a true effort at becoming better and an emotionally healthier person will understand that her child has emotional wounds and perhaps does not want to celebrate Mother’s Day.

A toxic mother will make this holiday hellish

Unfortunately, most readers of The Invisible Scar have toxic mothers. These mothers will take a simple holiday (cards, flowers, a small gift, and, hey, thanks, good mom, for everything!) and turn it into a spectacle.

But only you can decide whether to continue setting your boundaries (i.e., going no contact or limiting contact) or to suspend them for the sake of a random holiday.

Just remember that you can survive the peer pressure of celebrating Mother’s Day

You are so much stronger than one holiday in May. You really are.

And if you need some extra ideas for powering through Mother’s Day, here are some four sanity-saving tips for ignoring Mother’s Day and ideas for how to handle Mother’s Day when your own mother was abusive.


Veronica Jarski is the founder and writer of The Invisible Scar, a passion project dedicated to raising awareness of emotional child abuse and its effects on adult survivors. She has extensive editorial experience and a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Her work has been featured on myriad online publications. She also is the author of an e-book about waking up to the realization that one had an emotionally abusive childhood.

Soldiering On

[photo credit: flickr user Andre Rodrigues]

I must’ve argued with myself a dozen or so times about whether I should write this post. I loathe writing about myself.

But this post is really for you. See, I understand what a blog reader feels when he or she hasn’t seen a new post at a favorite blog for a long time. You think, “Are they all right? Is everything OK? Has the blog been abandoned? Will there be new posts?”

Many of you have emailed me such questions, and I’ve written back. But then, I thought I’d write here as well for those readers who had the same questions but did not email.

Short answer: Yes, I’m fine. No, The Invisible Scar has not stopped publication. Yes, a new post is slated for Monday, May 1.

Longer answer:  Several months ago, the company where I worked for almost a decade had a major restructure. A few of us were laid off before the holidays. It was a brutal hit, financially, emotionally, everything-ly.

It hurt.

But being the primary breadwinner of a family of six means you cannot fall apart. You get up…even if it’s slowly, if your ears are ringing from the hard hit, if you don’t want to. You put one foot in front of the other, and you get moving. You get done what needs to get done.

You pray, you cry, you hope. You look for a break of the light in the clouds and soldier on.

Soldiering on, however, is exhausting, and it left me little energy for The Invisible Scar. Despite my love for its focus and readers (I pray for you regularly), I had to put the blog on hold and focus on finding work.

Now, months later, the clouds are beginning to dissipate. My resume gleams; I’ve steady freelance work at an amazing content marketing agency; I’ve interviews lined up for full-time work.

Most importantly, I’ve learned to find peace and joy, even while soldiering on.

That’s why I’m sharing this personal story here.

If you’re a regular reader of The Invisible Scar, you know I never share about myself. The focus is you, not me. (My only personal post is about a friend’s suicide.) But I wanted to let you know that everyone goes through bad times.

Everyone gets blindsided at some point. Everyone gets hit hard emotionally and loses their breath. Everyone has suffered. Everyone has really terrible events happen—sometimes, even in succession. You might not think so because people often smile through pain, they joke through tears, they hide their hurts.

But it’s human to get hurt. And it’s also very human to have hope.

So, if you’re going through a really bad time, please know that you’re not alone. Soldier on. Don’t look at the whole path. Focus on this moment, right now, and put one foot in front of the other. Pause but never, ever, ever, ever quit moving forward.

Onward and upward, friends.


Veronica Jarski is the founder and writer of The Invisible Scar, a passion project dedicated to raising awareness of emotional child abuse averonicajarski-profilepic-smallnd its effects on adult survivors. She has extensive editorial experience and a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Her work has been featured on myriad online publications. She also is the author of an e-book about waking up to the realization that one had an emotionally abusive childhood.

Suicide: When Your Sorrow Feels Too Dark

[photo credit: flick user darren bertram]

[photo credit: flick user darren bertram]

In memory of SKB

Sometimes, adult survivors of emotional child abuse feel a deepening sadness that grows heavier and heavier with time. The burden of it can feel too much to carry… and they may think about suicide.

So, we need to talk about suicide… and to discuss it with compassion and without judgment.

Let’s drag this howling monster from the shadows and force it to the spotlight, so we can see what it truly is and talk about finding help to battle suicidal thoughts.

Don’t be afraid to discuss this subject. The mention of the word “suicide” will not summon death. It is not an evil spell that a person can cast. Most importantly, we can weaken suicide’s seemingly overwhelming power when we discuss it and seek healthier solutions for such severe depression.

After all, suicide is a tragic death… and yet it can be preventable.

Why We’re Discussing Suicide

An adult survivor of emotional child abuse will grow weary of the battle to be authentic. Aching from emotional bruises, worn from the childhood memories, feeling alone in the truth, some adult survivors want to die.

There. I said it. Sometimes, people wish they were dead, so everything wouldn’t hurt so damn much anymore.

That’s a fact that wails from emails some readers send to me.

But it’s also a fact that this feeling doesn’t last forever. The sorrow and the hurt and exhaustion may feel endless, but it will pass in due course, no suicide needed.

What Suicide Really Is

At its core, suicide is about someone ending his or her life because life feels too painful.

“Suicide is a desperate attempt to escape suffering that has become unbearable,” states Melinda Smith, M.A., Jeanne Segal, Ph.D., and Lawrence Robinson, authors of the Suicide Prevention Guide. “Blinded by feelings of self-loathing, hopelessness, and isolation, a suicidal person can’t see any way of finding relief except through death. But despite their desire for the pain to stop, most suicidal people are deeply conflicted about ending their own lives. They wish there was an alternative to committing suicide, but they just can’t see one.”

You Are Not Alone

The road may be darkened and difficult, but don’t walk it alone. Find someone to talk to. Seek help. Keep moving, pausing when you need to, but do not make that pause a stop.

You may feel alone right now, but you aren’t.

Even if you look around your life right now, your heart breaking inside your chest, your head full of storm clouds, your eyes unable to see the light, you are not alone.

I care about you.

Every single night, I pray and hold in my heart all the readers of The Invisible Scar. I pray for you, want the best for you, desire your healing. I carry your heart in my heart, as the poet e.e. cummings wrote.

Your fellow adult survivors of emotional child abuse here at The Invisible Scar care about you, too. Our narratives share much in common, despite the uniqueness of each person. And we all understand sorrows.

You can also find comfort on The Invisible Scar Facebook Page. If you’re in despair and feel alone, you can post there.

We’ve gathered on this online prairie, listening to the howls of wolves in the distance, looking at the sky for signs of hope in better things ahead, plotting our next trails… and we also warm ourselves by the bonfire and tell our stories and share our griefs and celebrate our victories.

You’re not crying into the wind. We are listening.

And He who created the world also hears you. God is here, though you may not feel Him right now. And if you are despairing about your upbringing or current situation, God will not be mad at you. He’s not pissed off that you’re contemplating suicide. He’s not rolling His eyes at your despair or just waiting to condemn you.

A good, good father would never reject a child who is hurting. And though your earthly parents have proven cruel or empty, your true Father is always there to hear your prayers, the whispers that you cry into your pillow. He loves you so very much.

If you think He doesn’t care, do know that He helped you find this article—and that its author prays for you and wishes to help…

Getting Help for Suicidal Thoughts

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by your despair or feelings of hopeless, please keep this in mind:

  • Give yourself time. If you feel like killing yourself right now, wait rather than act on that impulse. Stop. Give yourself another day, a week, a month. Focus on something else for the next hour… Then, the next. Hang in there.
  • People do overcome suicidal thoughts and get better. You can get help and learn to banish that darkness.
  • Feelings pass. They might not feel like they do, but feelings do change. None lasts forever.
  • You are irreplaceable. There is only one you in the world, and we need you here. Stay with us. “Man exists as a unique and unrepeatable being,” writes the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. We need your uniqueness. Don’t go so early.

Now, please go talk to someone who can help you. If you’d rather not call but would prefer to email, then email the Samaritans immediately.

If you’d rather text, then text for help. (For help outside the United States, visit here.)

Helping Someone Who Is Contemplating Suicide

If you know someone who is contemplating suicide (or you suspect that he or she is), prepare to talk about suicide and then start the conversation.

A person thinking about suicide (whether the thoughts are periodic or constant) often talks about feeling hopeless, about despairing, about the seemingly endless suffering. We must listen to this person. We need to listen to one another when we talk about the darker feelings inside us.

As painful as it can be to discuss depression, it is a far more painful to discuss the tragedy of a preventable death…

When I was a teenager, a girl in my freshman gym class committed suicide.

Sheila* had a lovely cheerful face, freckles sprinkled liberally over it, and shining sky-blue eyes. Petite, round, and golden-haired, she reminded me of an extra from an old “Gidget” movie, everything sunshine and bright.

But Sheila was being ravaged by depression, and I never knew it.

One morning in March, after gym class, she gave me her lime-green bead necklace. I had said it was pretty, and she had hesitated then taken it off and insisted that I keep it. I put it on immediately, struck by her generosity and sweetness.

The next day, our teachers told us all that Sheila had killed herself. She hadn’t made it to her fifteenth birthday, just three months away.

For years, I felt like I had failed Sheila. If I’d only been friendlier, if only I had talked to her, if only I’d invited her to my house to hang out that day, if only we’d been close friends, if only I hadn’t accepted the necklace, if only I’d given her something, too, if only, if only, if only…

At 14, I carried my own sorrows, and I would not have had answers or the right words. But had she reached out, I could have sat with her amid the sorrow and held her hand. And she’d have known that she was not alone. That I had ears to listen, a shoulder to cry on, arms to hug her, a heart that cared…

Perhaps whatever sorrow Sheila held, whatever despair she felt, would have passed by now, still having left its scar on her but not permanently slaying her.

News of her suicide tore through our high school like a monster from a nightmare. Teachers showed us after-school specials about suicide and urged us to seek help; they were so afraid that Sheila’s suicide was somehow catching.

Her death was the topic of conversation for days. A few students lacked compassion and were cruel about how “only losers killed themselves.” But a lot more of us were quiet and scared, wondering whether our sorrows would turn into monsters, too.

The realization I had then—and that remains with me—is that all types of people commit suicide. Young people. Old people. Rich people. Poor people. But they don’t have to commit suicide, they don’t have to give into despair. Suicidal thoughts can be overcome.

Please, don’t take your life. Things may seem dark, tragedies may feel insurmountable, but suicidal thoughts are treatable.

“Others have experienced suicidal thoughts and go on to lead fulfilling lives after seeking treatment,” writes Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S., at Psych Central.

Please seek help. Show a trusted person where the shadows are so he or she can help you find the light and emerge from the darkness.


veronica-jarski-managing-editor-the-invisible-scarVeronica Jarski is founder and managing editor of The Invisible Scar, a passion project dedicated to raising awareness of emotional child abuse and its effects on adult survivors. She has extensive editorial experience and a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Her work has been featured on myriad publications, such as Kapost, MarketingProfs, and Ragan. She also is the author of an e-book about waking up to the realization that one had an emotionally abusive childhood.

* Name changed out of respect for her family

From the Editor’s Mailbox: Being a Trusted Adult to Your Siblings, Going No Contact, and Why Therapy May Not Work for You

photo credit: flickr user charles clegg

photo credit: flickr user charles clegg

Editor’s Note: The Invisible Scar does not offer professional advice, only opinion.

Here’s a look at the most common questions popping up in my inbox lately and some thoughts regarding them.

My younger siblings live at home, and they’re being emotionally abused by our parents. What can I do?

Call the Childhelp National Child Abuse hotline, and talk to a qualified crisis counselor about the details of your situation. By calling, you are not immediately reporting abuse—so don’t be afraid of calling. You will be able to ask the professionals there about the best way to handle such an issue.

In addition to what the professionals might tell you there, I’d suggest doing what you can to love, support, and nurture your siblings as much as possible.

For example, if your parents are neglectful, you can reach out to your siblings and just listen to them, hug them, show them that someone in this crazy big world loves them unconditionally, encourage their (healthy) interests, etc. Or if your parents tend to be overly critical of your siblings, you can make time to talk to them in an encouraging, soul-building way,

Say your siblings love to draw or paint, then encourage their art, take your siblings to art shows, give them books about art, look at the art they produce, listen to their talk about art, etc.

The heart of an abused child starves for attention, for acknowledgement, for love…. and if the abusive parent does not offer that, the child will often turn to other people and things… Be that trusted adult that your siblings can turn to.

Know that one person can make a tremendous positive difference in a child’s life.  This article by Josh Shipp discusses the power of a trusted adult in a teen’s life. I’m not familiar with all of Josh’s work, so I’m not fully endorsing—or not endorsing—his work, but that article’s worth a read for people wondering how to help emotionally abused children in their lives.

Moreover, myriad adult survivors of emotional child abuse are alive today and on the path to emotional health because one adult in their life cared about them. Those trusted adults were coaches, teachers, librarians, neighbors, etc., that took the time to see the child, to listen to him/her, to let that child know that he/she matters. They weren’t creepy or overly fawning adults; they were adults who could be trusted, who could be like a beacon of light in the child’s dark childhood.

Those people made a huge difference. You can, too.

How can I make my parents’ stop abusing me? They are always gaslighting me, making fun of me, and making me feel awful. But then sometimes, they’re nice. How can I just make the abuse stop?

You extract yourself from the relationship. You get the hell out of Dodge.

Your parents choose to abuse you… Now, you choose to get out of the relationship and create some space for yourself.

Whether that decision is permanent, only you can decide. But until the abusive parent shows remorse, apologizes, and exhibits a sustained (read: for a long time) change of improved behavior, the adult child should stay away and get emotionally healthy.

“Improved behavior” doesn’t mean that your abusive parents are nice to you now and then. They should always treat you with respect and love. “Normal” parents drop the ball here now and then, but they are good people who have a bad day—in contrast to abusive parents who are mostly bad people who have good days.

Many truly awful human beings have their moments of being charming and sweet and engaging. Many abusive people have sparkling, loving sides that fool people. But emotionally abused children know that any good moment with the abusive parent will be outweighed by the many, many, many terrible moments. And yet somehow, the abused child will focus on the brief glimmering moment of good and try not to think too much about the bad.

Don’t let yourself get caught up in looking at those rare pretty photos in your memory and avoiding the giant gaps in between them. Keep your eyes wide open. Walk in the truth. Don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself and to pull away from abusive people.

I want to go No Contact with my parents, but I don’t know whether blocking their number or not answering their phone calls is too extreme. Do you need the permission of the other person to let go? What happens if they don’t let go of you?

If you want to go No Contact with parents who are toxic to you, then do it. And, yes, going No Contact means to not allow them into your life… which means blocked phone numbers and emails, etc.

“Going No Contact is not an attempt to change a person or to teach them a lesson,” states the Out of the Fog website. “If it were it wouldn’t be No Contact but a bluff and an ill-advised one at that. Going No Contact is more about protecting yourself and letting go of the need or desire to change another person.”

You don’t need anyone’s permission to go No Contact. The best part of being an adult is that you get to choose who to have a relationship with. Familial ties, circumstance, office environments, etc. can put people in your path, but you get to decide whether to socialize with any of them. You get to decide what is best for your emotional health.

You have the power to say…

  • “No, I no longer want this toxic person in my life.”
  • “No, I do not want to be an emotional punching bag for this person anymore.”
  • “No, I will no longer put myself in the path of an emotional vampire.”
  • “No, I will not give my time and energy to someone who will turn on me and treat me like shit.”

You have the power to say…

  • “Yes, I matter, and I have a voice.”
  • “Yes, every person is precious to God, and that includes me.”
  • “Yes, I have the right to live a life free from someone else’s toxicity.”
  • “Yes, I can and will choose how to spend my time and energy.”
  • “Yes, I will choose friends who are loving and kind and supportive and not toxic.”

The finer points of going no contact are explained well by this article from Out of the Fog organization.

And remember: If someone armed to the teeth with daggers to wound you, bared teeth to rip you to shreds, and a mind determined to hurt you came to your front door, would you open the front door? No, you wouldn’t. Now, if someone is hell-bent on hurting your soul in that way, why would you let them in?

How can I get people to see me as okay and that going to NC was the best thing I ever did with my life?

The above question comes up a lot in my inbox. A whole lot.

Here’s the truth of the matter: You can’t make anyone understand you and sympathize with you… You can’t make anyone really get it, and few people do.  Most people have loving, kind, and well-meaning parents, and they cannot see how any parent would be as hurtful and destructive as yours.

They are fortunate.

But you, dear reader, have had a different sort of childhood. And some people just don’t get it. That’s all right—you don’t have to explain yourself to them.

Your gift to yourself—and you deserve this—is a more peaceful life, without your abusive parents’ drama and their abuse.  And that is a huge and wonderful thing.

Live your life in the truth. Good people will see how much happier, calmer, and healthier you are in comparison to who you were. And if some people don’t, they weren’t friends to begin with. And as you meet new people who don’t know about your past and who ask about your parents, tell them that you’re estranged and leave it at that.“I’ve chosen not to have my toxic parents in my life.”

Let your life, your newer and emotionally healthier life, this honest life rid of parental toxicity, be your testimony. Praise God, you’re living an emotionally healthier life. Enjoy it.

And don’t forget that readers of The Invisible Scar understand the value of going no contact. You can always find support here in the comments or post something on The Invisible Scar’s Facebook page.

Therapy isn’t working for me. Why are you pushing therapy?! It doesn’t work.

Therapy may not be working for you for a few reasons:

  • Your therapist sucks.
    Not all therapists are good. Some are laughable, some are terrible, some should’ve definitely chosen a different career. That’s why it’s important for you to do your research and take time to find the right therapist for you. Know that doing so can take time.
  • You hate the idea of therapy… and you’re only semi-interested in your therapy sessions.
    “Everyone who wants to engage in therapy can benefit,” writes Margarita Tartarkovsky in Therapists Spill: 11 Myths About Therapy. “Not surprisingly, people who don’t have a modicum of motivation to change probably won’t.” Therapy can be hard, and if you drag your feet to it and don’t open up very well, you may be doing yourself a disservice.
  • You haven’t gone to therapy for very long.
    Healing takes time… lots of time. Be patient with the process.

Don’t give up on therapy. Don’t give up on yourself.

Sometimes, watching movies help me work through my emotional child abuse. Is that too weird?

Only one person asked me this question, but I had to share it. The question plugs into the fact that people love narratives, we love stories, we grow and learn through stories, written, told, and presented.

No, you’re not being weird.

Good movies reveal ourselves to ourselves and shed light on the human condition. That’s why watching the “Tangled” movie led to a very long blog post analyzing the narcissistic personality disorder of Mother Gothel. And why I’m taking notes about Finn from “The Force Awakens” for another article…

Onward and upward.


veronica-jarski_authorVeronica Jarski is founder and managing editor of The Invisible Scar, a passion project dedicated to raising awareness of emotional child abuse and its effects on adult survivors. She has extensive editorial experience and a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Her work has been featured on myriad publications, such as Kapost, MarketingProfs, and Ragan. She also is the author of an e-book about waking up to the realization that one had an emotionally abusive childhood.

What Really Happened: Finding Out You Had an Emotionally Abusive Childhood (and Tips for Healing)

what-really-happened-finding-out-you-head-an-emotionally-abusive-childhood-lgHave you recently come to the realization that you’ve had an emotionally abusive childhood? If so, that awakening to the truth can be brutal. But do know that you’re not alone.

At The Invisible Scar, I receive tons of emails from people who have had this epiphany. And I tell them that, though this discovery is a hard one, you can get through this difficult time and move along the healing journey.

By popular demand, I’ve collected my articles covering that first part of the healing journey—waking up to the truth of your emotionally abusive childhood —and put them in a PDF for you. The 11 articles have been updated and expanded for a longer read.

This 92-page PDF is not intended to give professional advice nor take the place of a therapist. The articles are fueled by my extensive reading about emotional child abuse, stories shared by myriad adult survivors, and my personal experiences.

Download the PDF “What Really Happened: Finding Out You Had an Emotionally Abusive Childhood (and Ideas for Healing)” for just $7.99.

Onward and upward!

Add to Cart

Four Sanity-Saving Tips for Ignoring Mother’s Day

How should you celebrate Mother’s Day when your mother was emotionally abusive?

Short answer: You don’t have to celebrate it.

Short answer for adult survivors who are mothers: You celebrate your being a mom, and you reflect, pray, and learn about being a better one every day.

Last year, I wrote about celebrating Mother’s Day when you have an abusive mother. But this year, I wanted to write about another option: ignoring the holiday altogether.

You can ignore Mother’s Day, you know.

You’re not under any moral obligation to celebrate this holiday. After all, it didn’t even come to existence until 1914! Anna Jarvis started Mother’s Day in the United States to honor her mom’s life and inspire people to honor their own moms. But the holiday got quickly out of control, with huge candy corporations and greeting-card companies exploiting the holiday, and by the early 1920s, Anna Jarvis wanted to abolish Mother’s Day.

Beginning around 1920, she urged people to stop buying flowers and other gifts for their mothers, and she turned against her former commercial supporters. She referred to the florists, greeting card manufacturers and the confectionery industry as ‘charlatans, bandits, pirates, racketeers, kidnappers and termites that would undermine with their greed one of the finest, noblest and truest movements and celebrations.'” (Mental Floss article)

All that to say that if the founder of the holiday can hate Mother’s Day, you can, too!

1. Remember that this holiday may not pertain to you at all

Seriously. Do you celebrate every other holiday? If you don’t have an admin, do you celebrate Administrative Assistant Week? If you don’t know a nurse or aren’t you, do you celebrate National Nurses Day?

Likewise, when you have an emotionally abusive mother, you didn’t have one worth celebrating. And, as Anna Valerious wrote on her brilliant Narcissists Suck blog, Mother’s Day is for honoring good mothers.

2. Avoid social media until the Mother’s Day frenzy dies down

You don’t have to ignore everyone on social media forever. But you may want to take the next couple of days off your social media platforms.

“At its best, social media allows us to connect and keep up with friends and people we don’t see very often,” writes Mark Widdowson in his The Conversation article. “It allows us to have short interactions with them that keep the relationships going when we don’t have much free time. At its worst, social media can, it seems, feed into feelings of inadequacy.”

Do not feel guilty about giving yourself a break from social media.

Do not think it’s a sign of weakness if you need to avoid social media right now.  Avoiding social media may be what your heart needs right now, and that’s OK. You need to take care of you.

Myriad adult survivors cannot bear the constant barrage right now of people sharing memes about amazing mothers or photos of Mother’s Day celebrations or text posts about how mothers are all incredible.

So, don’t expose yourself to them. If you do, you might grow more and more resentful. Worse, you may start leaving comments about your own personal pain and childhood suffering—which are not appropriate at the time. You don’t want to ruin a good mom’s happy day by leaving a long comment about how your own mother sucked and broke your heart. That may be true, but pissing on someone’s parade won’t make you feel better. (If you do want to vent, you can always come here to The Invisible Scar and leave comments on this post. Readers here understand that, no, not all mothers were loving and nurturing.)

3. Be mindful of your TV viewing

All the commercials. All. the. commercials. Anna Jarvis thought Mother’s Day was overdone in the 1920s… can you imagine what she’d say about today’s over-the-top celebrations?

Avoid seeing the commercials by not watching TV. Instead, pop in a DVD of something you’ve been meaning to see but put off. Or Netflix binge a new (or new-to-you) TV series. (At The Invisible Scar, we’re partial to Sherlock, Foyle’s War, and Arrow.)

If you feel like cutting off TV is like isolating yourself too much, then find some other non-celebratory friends and have a dinner party or movie-viewing party at home. Or do something fun in the unplugged world.

4. Go through your day like every other Sunday

How’d you celebrate last Sunday? Maybe it’s how you like to spend your Sundays. Well, you can do that this Sunday instead of celebrating Mother’s Day.

Again, you don’t owe it to anyone to celebrate a holiday that does not resonate with you.

* * *

What to Tell People If They Ask You

Some adult survivors worry about what they will tell people who ask them about Mother’s Day. Emotional child abuse survivors tend to overexplain themselves and anticipate problems, both possible and improbable, and the stress of what people will ask or what people will say can make them sick.

So, here are some ideas for tackling those social situations.

Other Person: How was your Mother’s Day?
You: I had a nice Sunday, thanks for asking. [change subject]

Other Person: Happy Mother’s Day!
You: Hope you have a good day, too.

Other Person: So, happy Mother’s Day! Did you do anything special?
You: I have a lovely/good/fun/relaxing Sunday, thanks. [change subject]

Those answers work if you’d rather not get into your past. You’re not lying; you mention Sunday and a day, not Mother’s Day. And you’re not being rude. Just succinct.

But say, you want to touch briefly on what your childhood was like. Then maybe these approaches can help…

Other Person: How was your Mother’s Day?
You: Oh, just like any other day. Thanks. [change subject]

Other Person: Did you have a fun Mother’s Day?
You: I don’t really do Mother’s Day, but, yeah, I had a great Sunday. [change subject]

Note that in those examples, you change the subject after answering. That’s because you may not be up to asking, “How was yours?” and then get stuck listening to answers that make you feel sad and sort of hurt and a wee bit jealous and maybe, on a certain level, like a little emotionally abandoned kid again.

And that’s fine. You don’t have to reciprocate that curiosity about your day. Your good friends will understand why you don’t want to dig too deep into the going-ons of the day. And strangers who ask just really want to either seem polite or just talk about themselves.

You’re fine keeping any answer brief and friendly, and then changing the subject.

What to Tell Your Family Members When They Ask You About the Holiday

You don’t have to tell them anything. But if you’re feeling guilty about not getting together with your mom, you can tell them the truth. Always speak the truth—even if your voice shakes.

Speaking the truth doesn’t mean you have to be long-winded, explain everything, and/or divulge all your secrets. Speaking the truth means not bullshitting other people, not feeding the lies that surround family dynamics, not continuing to participate in a toxic relationship for the sake of appearances or hurting someone’s feelings.

If a relative asks you about Mother’s Day, you say, “I’m doing something different this year. Thanks for asking.” And you change the subject.

If a relative cries and tells you that your mother’s heart is breaking and everyone yells, screams, and tries to guilt you into meeting up with your mother and perpetuating the myth that she is a good one and doesn’t royally suck, you say, “I’m doing something different this year. Thanks for asking.” And you hang up or walk away or close the door.

If your abusive mother calls you or leaves voicemail messages weeping that she did everything for you, that you’re an ingrate and terrible person, that she’s going to end up at the hospital because of her nerves, that she will die from shame and heartbreak, you say, “This shouldn’t be a surprise to you. We’ve discussed my childhood before. You know how I feel. So, I’m doing something different this year.” And you hang up or walk away or close the door.

Be strong. Be strong in the light and the truth. Stand in the truth, even if you have to stand alone. (And know that you’re not alone. We’re here.)

* * *

The choice to celebrate Mother’s Day or not is yours. This article covered the angle of ignoring the holiday, but you also have the option of celebrating Mother’s Day in your own way.

You can honor the woman in your life who was like a loving mother to you, celebrate the good moms that your friends are, reach out and mother yourself, or focus on being a good mom yourself. In the Catholic culture, Mother’s Day is also one that honors the Blessed Mother.

Onward and upward.


veronica-jarski_authorVeronica Jarski is founder and managing editor of The Invisible Scar, a passion project dedicated to raising awareness of emotional child abuse and its effects on adult survivors. She has extensive editorial experience and a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Her work has been featured on myriad publications, such as Kapost, MarketingProfs, and Ragan.

Three-Year Blog Anniversary: Lessons From Writing About a Tough Subject, a Peek at the Creative Process & Some Music

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Today is the third anniversary of The Invisible Scar. And in light of this frabjous day (callooh, callay!), I thought I’d share a little behind-the-scenes content:

  • What I’ve learned in writing and running The Invisible Scar for three years
  • The creative process for The Invisible Scar articles
  • Favorite songs on my playlist while I write that you might like, too

Because despite this site not being a personal blog, I want you to know that a real person is here writing all these articles, and I care about you very much and keep you all in my nightly prayers.

Eight Things I’ve Learned From Writing About a Very Tough Subject

1. Know your mission

Before launching The Invisible Scar three years ago, I spent much time considering why I would start such a website. I felt an inclination to start one, but I didn’t want to start just writing without a defined purpose for it.

I knew a few things I didn’t want The Invisible Scar to be. For example, I didn’t want this site to have the same deeply personal, intensely detailed focus as the myriad blogs from ACoNs and adult survivors of abuse. Those definitely have a helpful, emotional purpose, but I didn’t feel called to create that sort of website.

After talking to my therapist about my ideas for The Invisible Scar, he encouraged me to share all the thoughts and knowledge in the spirit of a friend, someone who understands and who has learned so much. My therapist planted the seeds to get me thinking in the terms of writing a site that covers a tough subject but writes about it with hope for healing, a light in the darkness.

2. Experiment with word counts then stick with what works

In the beginning, sometimes I’d dash off a quick article on a subject that sprung to mind. However, at some point, I decided to stop doing those quick, brief articles because The Invisible Scar readers prefer long-form content. (Articles here hover between 2,500-3,000 words. One of the most popular pieces is 8K words long!)

Moreover, readers are making the time to come here and spend time reading thoughtful, researched articles. They want a satisfying meal, not an appetizer.

So, unless a compelling reason to present a short article exists, I’ll leave those to other blogs and sites.

I respect and value the time you’ve made to come to The Invisible Scar, so I’ll serve up some hearty helpings of food for thought and, I pray, encouragement as well.

3. Always give your readers a sense of hope, of healing, of encouragement

Writing about emotional child abuse is heavy stuff.

Reading about it is, too.

But since we’re here together to explore, discuss, and guide each other through the understanding of this subject, let’s always stay on the road toward healing.

Too many psychology websites or personal blogs focus strictly on the effects of the abuse (which is important, of course) but fail to let the readers know that, yes, they can heal. Yes, they can have good lives. Yes, adult survivors of emotional child abuse can move toward healing and find themselves stronger emotionally, healthier mentally, than they ever have. They just need to keep moving forward, keep attending therapy, keep praying, keep on the path.

4. Stay focused

As an adult with ADHD, I get distracted very easily and must continuously bring my thoughts back to tasks, activities, conversations, etc. Fortunately, the Evernote app, sticky notes, a color-coded calendar, and Sharpie-scrawled reminders on the palm of my hand keep me organized and production.

In a way, all that helps me keep this website focused on its mission as well.

Sometimes, especially when a tough subject encompasses so many different aspects of a life, I feel the urge to cover other topics that seem enfolded within the world of emotional child abuse. However, I keep reminding myself that the reader here is the adult survivor of emotional child abuse. At the heart of it all, that person is who I write for.

Remembering who I write for helps me avoid the various rabbit holes that I could jump down and follow and lose my sense of focus for this website.

5. Listen to what your readers are talking about

In January, I took some time from writing here to plan different topics to cover in 2016… However, sometimes what is on my mind may not necessarily be top of mind for readers.

For example, lately, many readers have expressed (via comments here, The Invisible Scar Facebook Page, and emails) concerns about the role of grandparents. What can be done when abusive parents become grandparents? What’s an adult survivor of emotional child abuse to do when he/she is asked about grandparents for their children?

Those questions were not something I considered exploring here at The Invisible Scar. However, I’ve been paying attention to what you are discussing, and I’m now scrapping my original idea for an article and gathering research and making drafts of an article focusing on grandparents. Because you care about it. Because you need to talk about it with your fellow adult survivors of emotional child abuse.

6. Always be learning

The worst teachers in high school and college taught from their memories of textbooks studied long ago; they came from a stagnant place of understanding. The ones who inspired, who made me want to analyze the material, to immerse myself in it, were teachers who constantly learned. They pushed themselves to go deeper into their education and to stretch mentally to acquire new information and understanding.

In writing The Invisible Scar, I hope to maintain that spirit of learning. Books, articles, and studies keep me fueled with inspiration and information. (And if you have any recommendations, do leave it in the comments!)

7. Know you sometimes just hit a wall and need a break

As I mentioned before, writing about emotional child abuse is a heavy, hard subject.

Sometimes, I feel drained (and may even cry) as I plan, research, and write articles because emotional child abuse is so wrong, so sad, so misunderstood by society. And then, I wonder why I’ve chosen to write about such a subject rather to write about clean eating, classic movies, history, and the hundreds of other interests I have.

And because The Invisible Scar is a one-woman project, when I hit that emotional wall, everything grows quieter here.

However, I don’t despair about my work here. I’m not scared that I won’t write again nor worried that I’ve failed in running The Invisible Scar. Since I’ve been a writer for so very long, I know that silence and thinking are an enormous part of the creative process.

Even though I’m physically not writing anything down, my mind’s back burners are quietly cooking up new articles and ideas. Meanwhile, I spend more time at the beach, for it’s my therapeutic center. My four kids and I go for long nature walks. I immerse myself in good, healthy activities.

Eventually, a glimmer of light appears once more. The back burners start bubbling, and I test what’s there, and I find it nourishing and good. So, I sit at my laptop once more and begin to write.

8. Haters gonna hate

Vicious and horrific things on blogs have been said about me and the purpose of this site. Emails full of venom regarding my focus on adult survivors have invaded my inbox (abusive parents really, really don’t like what I write).

People have told me to fuck off, to shrivel up and die, to stop writing.

However, I keep on writing from a place of truth and hope. For all the hate-filled emails, I receive far more telling me that readers feel understood, feel hope, feel like they want to start working toward their own healing and stop wishing to disappear. So, that’s why I keep writing.

In writing this blog and running it, I’ve had to deepen my prayer life, add more peace and quiet to my life, and to focus on what matters. And all the hate and venom and poison sent to me are not what matter.

My following Scripture quote serves me in time of difficulties:

My child, when you come to serve the Lord,
prepare yourself for trials.
Be sincere of heart and steadfast,
and do not be impetuous in time of adversity.
Cling to him, do not leave him,
that you may prosper in your last days…
Trust in God, and He will help you;
make your ways straight and hope in him.

Now, for the second part of The Invisible Scar’s anniversary festivities, let’s take a look at…

The Invisible Scar’s Creative Process

As a professional writer and editor, I tend to overanalyze, well, everything. When at the grocery store, that quirk is not helpful. (Artichokes or asparagus? Should I get one? Should I get both? What about broccoli? Is that too much green for one meal?)

When writing and maintaining a website, though, that quirk does come in handy. Everything is possible fodder for an article. Emails, books, movies, conversations with friends, news articles… everything.

However, one has to sift through all the possibilities and weigh each one, keeping in mind what ideas will make for meaty, helpful articles.

For fun, I thought I’d share a quick look at how the creative process for The Invisible Scar articles:

the-invisible-scar-creative-process

To wrap things up here on this fine anniversary, I’d love to share what’s been filling up my headphones lately.

The Invisible Scar’s Current Playlist

The Invisible Scar is fueled by the dynamic duo of prayer and music. It’s impossible for me to write without music pouring through my headphones.

Rather than load up the end of this article with my beloved selections by Joshua Bell, The Avett Brothers, Radiohead, The Innocence Mission, Yo-Yo Ma, The Head and the Heart (and so on), I’ll share three songs of hope for the journey…

* * *

Thanks, dear readers, for being such a lively caring group. You’re all so generous and thoughtful in your comments and in how you reach out to one another. May you continue on your healing journey!

Peace to you all.
(Veronica Jarski, founder of The Invisible Scar)

Veronica Jarski is founder and managing editor of The Invisible Scar, a passion project dedicated to raising awareness of emotional child abuse and its effects on adult survivors. She has extensive editorial experience and a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Her work has been featured on myriad publications, such as Kapost, MarketingProfs, and Ragan.

Will I Ever Be Good Enough? Healing the Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers [Book Review]

[photo credit: flickr user Stephanie Overton]

[photo credit: flickr user Stephanie Overton]

Some daughters grow up with a nagging sense of something not quite right in their relationship with their mothers, though the daughters can’t place their finger on what’s off exactly. It’s a vague, pervasive feeling of being unloved and ignored. They feel like somehow, in some way, the loving relationship that other people seem to have with their parents is eluding them.

These daughters may not even know they are being emotionally abused. They’ve been conditioned to endure—from their mothers—constant demands for the spotlight, attacks on their personhood, razor-sharp verbal abuse, debilitating mind games, the Greek chorus of belittling comments implanted in their heads by their mothers, and so much more. These daughters just want their mothers will treat them lovingly… but their mothers only care about being adored.

Perhaps you, too, have felt something was terribly wrong in your relationship with your mother. Something inside you whispered, “My mother is never very loving to me. She’s actually very mean and selfish. Why is everything always about her?”

As immediate as that thought maybe have been, your trained (by your mother) inner child immediately sprang to berate you for feeling that way. How dare you think such awful things about your mother! How could you demand anything, you worthless child? How could you ever say that your poor, dear loving mother is anything but loving? Everyone says she’s the best mom! Why would you ever think badly of her?

Yet that little voice was there, for one shining moment, and it has led you to seek answers and find help. And now you have the obligation to yourself to find out exactly what happened to you, what lifelong effects you now bear because of your upbringing.

How Do I Know Whether My Mother Is a Narcissist?

If you suspect that your mother is a narcissist (i.e., that your entire upbringing and beyond revolved around her needs), you are not alone.

The exceptional book “Will I Ever Be Good Enough? Healing the Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers” by Dr. Karyl McBride provides the guidance you need to determine whether your mother has narcissistic traits, understand the type of narcissist she may be, and, of utmost important to The Invisible Scar readers, how to break free from the narcissistic cycle and become emotionally healthier.

What’s particularly engaging about the book is how the author, a licensed marriage and family therapist, weaves a sub-narrative of her own relationship with her narcissistic mother into the book. McBride doesn’t reveal so much that the book becomes an exercise in navel-gazing nor reveal so little that the reader is left feeling cold and alone.

The book is written in the voice of a well-informed, caring, and understanding friend, who will support you in a better understanding of your upbringing and its effects on you. McBride’s guide is, at its heart, an optimistic one that focuses on the reader’s awakening and healing. It is not about picking at one’s emotional wounds and allowing hate or anger to fester.

“I do not believe in creating victims,” McBride writes in the introduction. (Don’t skip the intro. It sets the tone for the book.)

“We are accountable for our own lives and feelings. To be healthy, we first have to understand what we experienced as daughters of narcissistic mothers, and then we can move forward in recovery to make things the way they need to be for us.”

The book is divided into three parts:

  1. Recognizing the Problem
  2. How Narcissistic Mothering Affects Your Entire Life
  3. Ending the Legacy

1. Recognizing the Problemgood-enough-book-cover-290x441

The term “narcissist” is frequently misused in the media, but McBride’s book provides a professional, solid definition of what narcissism is. “Narcissism is a spectrum disorder, which means it exists on a continuum ranging from a few narcissistic traits to the full-blown narcissistic personality disorder.”

The nine traits of narcissism, as listed in the book, are…

  • Has a grandiose of self-importance, e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements
  • Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
  • Believes that he or she is “special” and unique, and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions)
  • Requires excessive admiration
  • Has a sense of entitlement, i.e., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations
  • Is interpersonally exploitive, i.e., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her ends
  • Lacks empathy: is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others
  • Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of her
  • Shows arrogance, haughty behaviors or attitudes

McBride then provides examples of each of those traits and a questionnaire that helps shed light on the existing relationship between mother and daughter.

Also in the first section, McBride discusses the 10 “stingers” of the narcissistic-mother/daughter dynamic. Those stingers are “ten common relationship issues that occur between mothers and daughters when the mother is narcissistic,” states McBride.

Examples include…

You find yourself constantly attempting to win your mother’s love, attention, and approval, but never feel able to please her.
Your mother does not support your healthy expressions of self, especially when they conflict with her own needs or threaten her.
In your family, it’s always about Mom.
Your mother is critical and judgmental.”

That constant lack of self-worth, that unending barrage of crippling self-criticism inside your head, is the voice of the narcissistic mother. And that criticism can manifest itself in different ways, as explored in the chapter “Faces of Maternal Narcissism.”

2. How Narcissistic Mothering Affects Your Life

If you’ve arrived to The Invisible Scar to learn more about narcissistic parents, you know that you’ve been deeply affected by having such a parent.

There’s the self-doubt, the “jumpiness” (from being trained, as a child, to hurry to your NPD parent’s every beck and call), the lingering sadness of the mother-sized hole in your heart, the lack of boundaries (or trust) within your other relationships due to your first relationship with your mother, illnesses… and so, so much more.

You probably aren’t even aware of all the ways that your narcissistic mother affected you.

Take time to read about what behaviors you might have learned and/or imitated.

For example, McBride discusses the high-achieving daughter (who will try to “win” Mom’s love), the self-sabotaging daughter (who will make herself feel as crappy as her mother says she is), and the myriad behaviors that the daughters of NPD mothers adopt, subconsciously or not.

Those behaviors can affect how the daughter mothers when she becomes a parent.

At The Invisible Scar, I receive so many emails about adult survivors terrified that they will become their mothers. “I won’t have kids! I refuse to become my mother!” and “I’m becoming my mother! Help me!” are common themes in those emails.

The good news is that daughters of narcissistic mothers aren’t fated to become their mothers. Daughters get to choose what sort of mother they will become.

In the book, McBride discusses the turmoil and issues those daughters have once they become others. Some overcorrect the deficiencies in their mother’s parenting (e.g., they become ultra-lenient in opposition of their mother’s ultra-control); some end up being like their mothers because they lack the blueprint for new parenting skills or simply have not awoken to the truth of their upbringing.

And some daughters do find a middle ground.

We strive to do the right things for our children, and none of us wants to pass along our own undesirable legacy,” writes McBride. “Breaking the cycle is a challenge when you have no positive role model as a mother. Daughters of narcissistic mothers often feel as if we are blazing our own trail of love in raising our babies.

If you see yourself making mistakes in parenting, don’t panic. You don’t have to be afraid even if you have learned or inherited some narcissistic parenting traits. This does not mean you are narcissistic. You can change. The best thing you can do for yourself and your family is to allow yourself the awareness of possible mistakes you could make or have made, and work to correct them.”

3. Ending the Legacy

In the last section of the book, McBride also provides a very detailed step-by-step guide to recovery from this mother-daughter relationship.

“Now that you have a solid understanding of the psychological dynamics you were subject to as a daughter of a narcissistic mother and how they have adversely affected your life, it is time for you to come to terms with the past, release your unrealistic expectations of your mother, and take charge of your life to heal,” writes McBride. “Now it’s your time to make your life more peaceful and comfortable.”

For the daughter of a narcissistic mother, the idea of life being peaceful sounds like a having a unicorn for a pet—yes, it’d be lovely, but such a thing isn’t possible.

But, oh, dear daughter of a narcissistic mother, yes, peace is possible.

The road to recovery is clearly outlined in McBride’s clear, unhurried but succinct writing. She details the various stages of grief (including grief for the relationship that you never had with your narcissistic mother and grief for the child you didn’t get to be).

To Invisible Scar readers who write me about how to become individuals rather than attachments or extensions of their abusive parents, “Chapter 11: A Part of and Apart From” is crucial. (Read it with your highlighters and sticky notes on hand.)

McBride stresses repeatedly the necessity of adult daughters to stand on their own.

“To be authentic and whole—this is the ultimate goal in recovering from a narcissistic mother,” writes McBride. “The next step for you to take toward this is to separate psychologically from Mother as an adult, so that you can grow your own internal emotional psyche. For when you grow your own internal emotion being, you become resilient and strong. You can stand on your own. You can sustain yourself in the face of maternal deprivation, bear up under any negative litanies from your mother, and withstand criticism from anyone in the external environment.”

McBride wraps up the book with guidance, a list of questions, case-study segments, and encouragement to help the daughters of narcissistic mother heal and, most importantly, lead a far more emotionally healthy and authentic life.

A Word About Toxic Mothers

The author avoids the trap of only discussing an active relationship between mother and daughter. McBride acknowledges (in Chapter 13) that some mothers are too toxic for any form of relationship.

“If your mother is indeed unchangeable and you find yourself being constantly abused by her, it is important to know that disconnecting from her can be healthy,” writes McBride. “When you decide to make this choice, however, make sure that you have completed your own recovery work. If you simply detach and remove yourself from your mother without doing your own work, you will not diminish your pain, and your true self cannot emerge to the peacefulness that  you desire.”

***

That recovery work, the healing journey, and the peacefulness of living in the truth are the focus of the work here at The Invisible Scar.

Because of McBride’s clear understanding of the reality of daughters of narcissistic mothers and her dedication to improving the emotional well-being of those daughters, I highly recommend this book to all women who suspect their mothers are narcissists and who want to break the cycle and become emotionally healthier and happier human beings.


 

Veronica Jarski is founder and managing editor of The Invisible Scar, a passion project dedicated to raising awareness of emotional child abuse and its effects on adult survivors. She has extensive editorial experience and a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Her work has been featured on myriad publications, such as Kapost, MarketingProfs, and Ragan.

 

National Child Abuse Awareness Month: Emotional Child Abuse Is Real and Its Effects Last Long Into Adulthood

Editor’s note: April is National Child Abuse Awareness and Prevention month. The Invisible Scar is dedicated to raising awareness of emotional child abuse, so in honor of this month’s focus, we’ll revisit the definition of emotional child abuse, types of emotional child abuse, and its effects for those who are not yet familiar with the fact that emotional child abuse is real.

When child-advocate lawyer Andrew Vachss was asked, “What is the worst case you ever handled?” when protecting abused children, he answered, “Of all the many forms of child abuse, emotional abuse may be the cruelest and longest-lasting of all.”

Why is emotional child abuse  the worst kind? Why is it even worse than physical child abuse or sexual child abuse?

It’s because emotional child abuse seeks to destroy the person’s very being.

“Emotional abuse is the systematic diminishment of another,” Vachss writes in You Carry the Cure in Your Own Heart. “It may be intentional or subconscious (or both), but it is always a course of conduct, not a single event. It is designed to reduce a child’s self-concept to the point where the victim considers himself unworthy—unworthy of respect, unworthy of friendship, unworthy of the natural birthright of all children: love and protection.”

Another definition by the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children is…

“Emotional abuse is the persistent emotional ill-treatment of a child such as to cause severe and persistent adverse effects on the child’s emotional development. It may involve conveying to children that they are worthless or unloved, inadequate, or valued only insofar as they meet the needs of another person. It may feature age or developmentally inappropriate expectations being imposed on children. It may involve causing children frequently to feel frightened or in danger, or the exploitation or corruption of children. Some level of emotional abuse is involved in all types of ill treatment of a child, though it may occur alone.” (Department of Health et al, 1999, p. 5-6)

Emotional Abuse Is Not a One-Time Event

The words persistent and systematic are crucial to the definition of emotional child abuse. Emotional child abuse isn’t a parent telling his child once, “Why did you spill the juice? Don’t do that again!”

Emotional abuse is systematic. It’s a consistent destructive force in a child’s life.

For example, an emotionally abusive parent will tell a child, “Why did you forget to make your bed? Are you stupid? Stupid and forgetful…” and then, at some point in time (close enough to be linked to the first event), “You forgot again? Can’t you ever do something right? You are always disappointing me.” Again, at another point, the abusive parent will say similar words, so that the child ties it together: “You can’t do anything right. You are always disappointing me.”

And so on…

In time, the emotionally abused child adopts the phrase into his or her memory as something that defines them: “I don’t do anything right. I am always disappointing my parents.” He takes the words as a description of who he is… and the phrases will come back to him often.

All the destructive words, whether encased in subtle phrasing or baldly hurtful, will become part of the child’s “self talk.”

The abusive words will become truths to the child.

Types of Emotional Child Abuse

“Psychological abuse of a child is a pattern of intentional verbal or behavioral actions or lack of actions that convey to a child the message that he or she is worthless, flawed, unloved, unwanted, endangered, or only of value to meet someone else’s needs.” (Samantha Gluck, Healthy Place: America’s Mental Health Channel article)

The pattern can take different forms. Here’s a look at types of emotional child abuse:

  • Giving the silent treatment
  • Ranking children unnecessarily
  • Being condescending
  • Bunny boiling (aka destroying something that the child cherishes)
  • Gaslighting children
  • Scapegoating
  • Sabotaging
  • Favoritism
  • Triangulation
  • Pathologic (or compulsive) lying
  • Smearing
  • Ignoring
  • Corrupting
  • Terrorizing
  • Isolating
  • Inappropriately controlling

You can read more about the Types of Emotional Child abuse here.

Affects of Emotionally Abused Children as Adults

“Although the scars may not be visible to the naked eye, emotional abuse wounds the spirit, frequently leaving its marks for a lifetime,” according to the National Council of Child Abuse & Family Violence.

“This form of abuse is destructive to a child’s self-confidence and self-esteem. It can affect a child’s emotional development, resulting in a sense of worthlessness and inadequacy.”

Moreover, the “children who suffer emotional abuse grow into adults who see themselves through the eyes of their abuser,” according to the council. “They carry a sense of inadequacy and worthlessness with them into their jobs and relationships. Frequently, those who have experienced emotional abuse in childhood find it difficult to develop healthy, intimate relationships as adults. They may even develop antisocial behaviors, which isolate them further.”

Health
“If you were emotionally abused in childhood, you will be sicker as an adult than if you had not been emotionally abused,” states Dr. Laurie McKinnon, the director of Insite Therapy and Consulting based in New South Wales, in her report Hurting Without Hitting: Non-Physical Contact Forms of Abuse [PDF]. “It is also likely that you will be sicker than if you had been physically abused.”

Health issues also include…

  • Eating disorders
  • Substance abuse
  • Other self-destructive behaviors

Mental Health
“One of the most frequently documented outcomes of childhood emotional abuse, particularly for women, is a vulnerability to clinical depression and anxiety in adulthood,” says McKinnon. “Internalised criticism, along with a fear of criticism and rejection from others, appears to be at the core of the depressed or anxious symptoms they experience in adulthood.”

Why Isn’t Emotional Child Abuse Identified or Reported More Often?

“Child protective service case workers may have a harder time recognizing and substantiating emotional neglect and abuse because there are no physical wounds,” said Joseph Spinazzola, PhD, of the Trauma Center at Justice Resource Center, and lead author of a new study on psychological trauma. “Also, psychological abuse isn’t considered a serious social taboo like physical and sexual child abuse. We need public awareness initiatives to help people understand just how harmful psychological maltreatment is for children and adolescents.”

Emotional child abuse is difficult to identify because the abuse works on the psyche of a child rather than the body. You cannot see the bruise or cut or wound that an insult or manipulation or the silent treatment has left upon the child. But the wound exists nevertheless.

“Nonphysical contact abuse (NPC) can be difficult to identify because it leaves no visible injury and because victims often do not seek help,” according to McKinnon. “Professionals find overt NPC abuse easiest to identify because it’s openly hostile. Covert NPC abuse on the other hand is more subtle and insidious and often disguised as helpful or inadvertent.

“The abuser may deny hostile intent while ignoring and discounting the target person’s needs, feelings, and opinions,” McKinnon says. “The abuser negatively labels the target person in ways that convey that he or she is worthless, bad, more difficult, less attractive, or less desirable than other people. Onlookers may not identify the behaviour as abusive and instead blame the target person for his or her inadequacies.”

What to Do If… You’re a Parent Who Is Emotionally Abusing His or Her Child

Please get help! Contact Prevent Child Abuse and/or the American Humane Society for help.

What to Do If… You Suspect a Child Is Being Emotionally Abused

Learn how to become a trusted adult in the child’s life.

Also, contact Prevent Child Abuse and/or the American Humane Society for professional advice on what you can do.

What to Do If… You Are an Adult Survivor of Emotional Child Abuse

First, know that you are not alone… and that you can heal. You will bear scars, of course, but you can (in time and through prayer and therapy) still forge a good, emotionally healthy life for yourself.

Reading all the effects of emotional child abuse on an adult survivor can be very overwhelming, difficult, and depressing, but please don’t despair. Think of it this way: By facing the truth of what has happened to you and what the effects are, you can find the help you need and learn skills to grow into a healthier, happier person.

You are not alone. You need not despair. There is hope and healing.

Second, find yourself a good therapist; a fresh notebook for jotting down your feelings, thoughts, and ideas; and a good friend who will listen to you and believe your story.

I recommend reading  this article for more advice.

* * *

This April, we’ll be digging into the various types of emotional child abuse in detail. I’ve already covered gaslighting and the silent treatment in their separate posts.

Next week, let’s tackle bunny boiling. Stay tuned.