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!

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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.

 

Even When Abusive Parents Apologize, They Don’t

sorry-not-sorry

photo credit: Isabelle

Every adult survivor of emotional child abuse would love to hear the following apology in some version or other: “Child, I’m so deeply sorry for all the pain and suffering and neglect that you endured through my actions or inactions. If I could go back in time, I’d right those wrongs, treat you with the love and respect that you are owed as a human being… You are loved and cherished, and I am profoundly sorry that I overlooked who you are and tried instead to make you what I thought was better. It wasn’t. You’re someone I would have liked to have loved better and known more. I am so very, very sorry. How can I make amends or try to repair this rift between us?

But when the apologies don’t come, the adult survivor thinks maybe the following would be, though not ideal, something to grasp onto: “Child, I’m sorry I was a big fat jerk. I didn’t know! I’m so, so sorry. How can I fix this? How can I do better?”

And then the adult survivor thinks s/he will settle for: “I’m sorry for being a jerk.”

Then downgrades the expectations to: “I’m sorry.”

Then: “Sorry.”

The Apology That Blames You

What most adult survivors of emotional child abuse will receive in terms of apologies is this: [Cue silence.]

But if the apologies do come, they often are in the format of non-apologies. The phrasing after the “sorry” are filled with passive-aggressive additions that let the abused child know that the abusive parent is not sorrowful or regretful or willing to change.

Those pseudo-apologies sound like:

  • I’m sorry that you feel you had a bad childhood.
  • I’m sorry you think that I hurt your feelings.
  • Sorry you don’t think I was a good parent.
  • Sorry that you misunderstood me.
  • Sorry that you thought I meant [this] when I meant [that].
  • Sorry but let’s just agree to disagree about what happened when you were a kid.

Those apologies place the whole issue on the adult survivor. They place the blame for the rift between the adult child and parent on the child. “If the survivor hadn’t taken things incorrectly or been such a candy-ass pansy, everything would be grand! You suck, adult survivor, for having the audacity to have hurt feelings and not see the truth of what was.”

So. No. Those aren’t apologies that you should ever accept.

Apologies That Excuse the Abuser

A little sneakier than the blaming apology is the excusing one. Your abusive parent didn’t mean any harm. He or she had a shitty childhood; who knew what good parenting was? They didn’t want to be neglectful and emotionally damaging to you… so you should “just forgive them and let bygones be bygone.”

Those excuses sound like this:

  • Sorry but I didn’t know any better.
  • Sorry but I didn’t realize that I was an abused child, too, growing up!
  • Sorry but that was a long time ago.
  • Sorry but I was a young parent.
  • Sorry but I was an old parent.
  • Sorry but we did parenting differently in those days.

All those apologies are tiny little pitty parties for the abuser that invite the adult survivor to feel a sense of compassion and sorrow for the abusive parent and assume that the parent would have been amazing! wonderful! loving! if only this or that…

No. Just… no.

Those apologies don’t express true regret for what happened, they don’t show any concern for the abused child, they cushion an excuse, and they lack a desire or willingness to change.

In the Catholic Church, true repentance comprises of acknowledging one’s sin, deeply regret having committed it, resolving not to commit it again, and making penance for it.

Those components are akin to the true apology that should be given by the abuser. So, for example, instead of saying, “Sorry, but I didn’t know any better,” a true apology would be something like “Sorry… I didn’t know any better, but that doesn’t excuse me for how I acted. I’m so sorry for how I behaved. I promise to be more kind and loving from this day forward.”

And then the changed behavior needs to last… The abusive parent needs to have a long, sustained change of behavior before (and if) the adult survivor decides to continue in their relationship.

Why the Abuser’s Past Doesn’t Excuse the Present

Some abusers had horrific childhoods and truly never learned how to be loving, good parents. And so, they carried on and emotionally abused their own children.

That the abuser was abused is terrible. It’s awful that anyone should ever abuse anyone, child or not.

But, that said, the abuser must acknowledge that s/he was an abusive parent. Whether the abusive parent had a horrific childhood or a pampered one, the abusive parent needs to “own” his or her behavior. He or she must acknowledge what was done and be sorry and truly change the behavior for a long, sustained period of time.

To Wait (or Not Wait) for an Apology

Adult survivors of emotional child abuse do not need to wait for an apology from their abusive parents in order to heal.

You have awakened to the truth of a difficult and brutal childhood. Now, take care of yourself! Go to therapy, say your prayers, find a loving and nurturing friend or two to hear you. Read books about what has happened if that helps you make sense of it all. Know you’re not alone in what happened. Know you are strong and can survive it. You can thrive, even.

But do not put your healing on hold for the magic words that you think will fix everything.

Repeat: You must focus on yourself and your own understanding of the past and healing of the present. You focus on YOU now.

The Invisible Scar mailbox is packed with emails from people who write and say such things like “My parents are horrible, abusive monsters and they want their parents to say they’re sorry and change and then they’ll go get help!” or “I’m just waiting for my parents to see what they’ve done! And then, we can work on healing this family!” or “I’m just hoping my parents apologize and then.”

Waiting for that apology is only hurting you.

Waiting for that apology puts all the power on the abusive parents. You are making their words the ones that will free you from the past and heal your pain. You are giving them entirely too. much. control.

Don’t give them that power.

Don’t wait for that apology.

What You Should Be Doing Instead of Waiting

Live your life.

Seriously.

Focus on:

  • Getting a clear understanding of the past by going to therapy
  • Getting a solid bearing of your present by assessing your life (again, through therapy, prayer, and community)
  • Taking care of yourself by eating healthy clean food, exercising regularly, and sleeping enough
  • Spending time with good, kind people who you love and love you back
  • Discovering new aspects of you (such as what you like to do as a hobby or to learn about or sing, paint, act, draw, build dollhouses, whatever’s good and makes you happy)
  • Nurturing good relationships with people you’ve always meant to befriend but had too many demands from your abusive parents
  • Creating a safe home environment (be it a tiny apartment in a big city, a fixer-upper in the ‘burbs, or a trailer) for yourself
  • Giving yourself some emotional distance from your parents

There’s much work, joy, peace, and healing to start on!

What Happens if the Abuser DOES Apologize

If the extremely rare apology is made to you, and it’s a contrite one, we suggest that you do not immediately pounce on it but do all that was mentioned in the previous section. Just… wait.

Here’s why…

You still need to heal, grow, and learn to be you, not the embodiment of your parent’s warped sense of you. You need to focus on being a child of God, on being the you that is, not the you they wanted.

And, as sorry as your parent may truly be, you need time and space to breathe and discover who that it.

If your abuser is really contrite, he or she will understand and quietly work on himself or herself so that, when/if you are ready to resume a relationship, he or she will have grown as people, too.

Because abusers are people. They’re not monsters or devils or pieces of shit. They seem so, they feel that way. They are toxic, so you don’t want to be around them. You don’t want to expose  yourself to all that venom and poison and filth.

But… if one is truly repentant, you can tell your abusive mother or father that you need to continue on your break from the relationship as you work on healing and you suggest strongly that your mother or father go to therapy, too.

If the abuser is sorry, he or she will understand and seek healing, too.

Meanwhile

Continue on your path. Stay awake, stay informed, stay in prayer and therapy.

Onward and upward.


 

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.

photo credit: flickr user Isabelle

Embrace the Quiet Joy of the Christmas Season

christmas-mangerJudging from the surge of pageviews and long emotional emails in my inbox, I know you’re hurting and wanting the hurting to stop. You’re tired of the unrelenting emotional abuse and mind games that you’ve endured. Even if you’ve taken the step to create space between you and your abusers, you may still feel out in the cold and hurt, especially during the Christmas season.

You see the stream of jolly Christmas scenes and bountiful tables with beaming relatives surrounding them, and you feel like every person in the world is celebrating Christmas in a huge, elaborate way. And it hurts so badly that you can hardly breathe.

But breathe, you should.

Deep breaths.

In. Out. In. Out.

The Miracle of You

As an adult survivor of emotional child abuse, you’re a miracle in that you’re here right now, acknowledging what has happened to you and hoping and working toward a healthier emotional life. You’re a miracle in that, despite your parents’ campaign to create you in their own image or to eradicate who God intended you to be, you’re here. You’re you.

What a huge, lovely gift your uniqueness is to the world. What a miracle it is that you’ve survived such difficulties and emotional hardship to get to this point where you’ve said, “My life matters! My emotional health matters!”

Because it really does.

Don’t despair, dear readers. My inbox teems right now with emails from people who say they are crying as they write to me, who struggle to make sense of their stories. I want to hug every single person and let you know that I understand how deeply it hurts, I understand that longing for a loving, healthy relationship with parents, I understand that sense of gloom and sadness that threatens to overwhelm you.

The almost indescribable sorrow and pain of an emotionally abusive childhood is shared by far more many people than you can imagine—but know that many of them have emerged from the darkness to create kind, good, loving lives for themselves.

In this season of hope, peace, joy, and love, let me tell you that through therapy, reflection, prayer, and quiet moments, you will find healing. The sorrow will be reduced to a rock in your knapsack in your journey through life rather than a boulder that presses down upon you. The sadness will come less frequently into your life. The gaping hole inside your heart will feel less like a mortal wound and become a smaller, more manageable pain. Your abusive years will be part of your backstory, not part of your present story. You’re so much more than what they told you.

To all those despairing readers, please know that your life matters. Find help in reaching out to good friends. Confide in them. Don’t let pride prevent you from grasping for help. Your life is a gift from God to the world. Remember this.

During this Christmas season, focus on the small, beauty of your life. So much of an emotionally abusive childhood is marked by misplaced urgency, a lack of reflection or quiet. This Christmas, pull yourself out of despair by celebrating the small hidden beauty. That advice may sound cheesy, but there’s a quiet beauty and joy amid the glitzy, chaotic mayhem. Spend time looking for it.

To all who write me and say they want to return to their abusive parents because it’s better to be with them than alone, I’d recommend thinking it through. Imagine the scenario. What have other Christmases been like? What would be said to you? What will the experience feel like? How will you feel during this time? How will you feel afterwards?

If returning to your family’s house for Christmas means returning to an abusive situation, don’t do it. Better to be alone in peace. Better to find friends to celebrate the holiday with you. Or if friends are far from you or hard to make, spend the season taking care of others at a shelter or nursery home. Your world is far bigger than you know. Needs are far greater than you think. Go beyond the relentless, exhausting yet familiar cycle of emotional abuse… You’ll experience a greater joy and peace.

Christmas is not about how many people are gathered around the table, how plentiful the Christmas cards received, the decor of one’s home, the abundance of gifts beneath a tree, how perfect everyone looks in a Christmas family photo. Christmas is deeper, more joyful, more intimate than that.

The first Christmas was a miracle, an intimate scene shining in the glory of God.

To find some peace and joy during the Christmas season, take time to contemplate that miracle.

  • Go to church for Christmas, and focus on the miracle of the season.
  • Reach out to good friends.
  • Comfort the afflicted, whether the forgotten in nursing homes or homeless shelters or hospitals.
  • Find joy in the small beauty of the season—Christmas lights, music, favorite dishes, movies, evergreen trees, peppermint.

And if you’re truly struggling to breathe during this Christmas season, please seek help. Take care of yourself, friend.


 

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.

photo credit: murkmad

Finding Something to Be Grateful for on Thanksgiving

[via Adrian Valenzuela]

Whether you’re estranged from your family, limiting contact with them, or processing the truth about your childhood, Thanksgiving can be one very difficult holiday.

Images of delighted, happy-to-be-together families gathered around the dining room table or playing football in someone’s gorgeous leaf-filled lawn are everywhere, not just on commercials but on social media accounts, too. And while a majority of those images come from ad agencies, some families do genuinely love to get together and bow their heads in Thanksgiving for what they have been blessed to receive.

But what if your family isn’t one of those?

I’ve written before about having a peaceful Thanksgiving when you’re an adult survivor of emotional child abuse. But I also want to reiterate a theme here at The Invisible Scar:  Despite what an emotionally abusive childhood may have tried to pound in your head, you DO matter.

And amid all the extraneous displays of gratitude—the Thanksgiving feast, football games, and autumnal decorations—the heart of the holiday is giving thanks.

The first Thanksgiving wasn’t about an inner circle of family and relatives—the holiday was about much more than that. The first folks to celebrate this holiday were grateful for their lives, for making it through some seriously rough patches, for growing in their understanding of what to do to survive, their relationships.

If you’ve found your way to The Invisible Scar this Thanksgiving holiday, know that secret blessings exist. Those blessings perhaps don’t shine so brightly amid the darkness of the past, but they’re there.

Here are a few things to be grateful for during this holiday season…

Be grateful that you are alive

I’m not being sarcastic or flippant. The percentage of abusive survivors who suffer depression is staggering. The abused have endured the attempted murder of their souls, of who they are, of what they are, of their personalities… and it’s exhausting to fight for one’s being. But you’re here! You are fighting the good fight.

You’re alive and here, and we’re so glad you are.

Be grateful that you know the truth about your childhood

So many emotional child abuse survivors do not awaken until much, much, much later in life…. and many end up repeating the behaviors of abuse because they do not see the abuse for what it was.

Survivors who acknowledge their childhood abuse often can end the abuse in their generation and have healthy relationships with their children.

Be grateful that you don’t have to endure the nonsense of “making an appearance”

Thanksgiving can be difficult for people who have contentious relationships with their kin, and a lot of people endure painful holiday feasts, even when they don’t like the people, for fear of being alone, for being perceived as odd if they don’t see relatives, etc.

Embrace the fact that you don’t have to endure this kind of bull. You don’t have to plaster on a fake smile, pretend that everything is hunky-dory, stress about who might say what to whom… You are fortunate indeed.

Get together with a friend or two that you actually like, have a Thanksgiving meal (if you want, you can get one at a restaurant or take-out place) and celebrate your own low-key Thanksgiving.

Be grateful that you are moving to a healthier emotional life

At The Invisible Scar, we recommend therapy (everyone needs a little help!), books, prayer, and the company of a good friend or two to keep you tethered to reality. If you’re doing all that or even just one or two things, you’re in the process of getting better. You’re unearthing truths and not shaking in fear of them. You’re seeking to live a life in the truth. And that’s one big amazing miracle. Be grateful for it.

* * *

Remember, friends: You are braver and stronger than you think.

Onward and upward.


 

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.

photo credit: Adrian Valenzuela

Party of One: How to Stand Strong in the Truth When No One Believes You

150915-stand-strong-in-the-truthAfter you’ve awakened to the truth that you were emotionally abused as a child (and perhaps continue to be as an adult child), you will definitely encounter some hard-core resistance from some disbelieving people. These people either have known you as a child and believe the image of a happy family that your parents propagated; are enmeshed in relationships, whether as relatives or friends, with your parents; are in denial of their own abusive pasts or are in similar abusive relationships; or are not sufficiently emotionally mature or loving to be a good friend during your awakening and subsequent healing journey.

Those people will often try to coax you back into a state of slumber. Your emotional awakening is too messy for them to handle. They want you to stay in your box, under your label, not bustling out in passion and growth, but confined to the definitions of others.

In wanting you to stay in your designated area, your disbelievers will try to make you disbelieve yourself. “Were you really abused? Are you sure you weren’t being too sensitive? Oh, but you know your parents love you…. You didn’t take any of that seriously, did you? Oh, emotional abuse, really? That never happened to you.”

And because you really wish you weren’t emotionally abused as a child (because, honestly, that realization hurts like hell), you may try to talk yourself out of your awakening. Like the character Cypher in the movie The Matrix said after taking the red pill that showed him the truth instead of the blue one that kept him believing lies, you may think, “Why, oh, why, didn’t I take the blue pill?”

I already addressed the disbelievers’ and doubters’ arguments in another article, so let’s tackle the most important person in the awakening: you. You have to stay awake and remember your story. You are the one who needs to speak the truth, to be honest with yourself, to live in the truth.

Here are some tips for staying awake in the truth, especially in the face of heavy opposition.

Keep a journal of the facts

As you awaken, you’ll have so many memories running through your mind. Write them down. That time when your mother insulted you in front of all your friends? Write it down. That time when you could have sworn your father promised to help you do something and then he gaslit you and went back on his word? Put it on paper. What about the time that you got your hopes all up about spending some quality time with your parent and then s/he ditched you and made fun of you for having your feelings hurt by it? Record it.

Being the adult survivor of emotional child abuse, you’ll feel strange about recording those moments. You’ve been conditioned to let the abuse pass over you, to not flinch at all the slings and arrows thrown your way. You’ve been taught that it’s really not a freaking big deal, hello, don’t be so sensitive.

And though it’s true that sometimes people hurt each other’s feelings—and yes, people can be mean sometimes—the abused child’s experiences are so much more than just a few rare times. Emotional abuse is systematic.

By writing down what happened to you as the memories arise, you’ll have documentation of what happened, and you’ll have proof for yourself that you did not “imagine” your parents to be abusive; they really are abusive.

For example, reading one random diary entry of someone calling you a fat, horrendous pig may not deeply affect you; reading countless entries of being insulted will show you how devastating and long-term the abuse was. 

If you’re not the “writing it down” type, you can record yourself on video, sketch scenes from our childhood, or even do audio recordings of your memories.

Please note that this journal can be an enormously helpful tool to take to your therapist and make sense of the emotional minefield of your childhood. You’re not writing this all down to perpetually re-live the past or get caught up in obsessive thinking. No, this journal is to help you navigate through the early stages of your awakening.

Bonus: When you have the urge to run back to your abusive parents and accept them in your life without even seeing any significant and lost-lasting change in your life, you’ll have something to read that’ll smack (figuratively) some sense into you.

Find a support group—online or offline—that works for you

Feeling alone in your story? Consider finding online support. Make sure the forum or website is moderated and positive rather than a morass of bitterness, hate, and revenge.

A good place to start for adult children of narcissists (ACoNs) is the Web of Narcissism. The über-helpful Out of the FOG website also has a forum to help its readers. Also, Psych Central has online support groups that can offer understanding and comfort amid the chaos.

Talk to a trusted friend who believes you

You may have a friend who always has your back and who isn’t emotionally bound to your abusive parent(s). Make time to spend time with this friend. You won’t necessarily want to place all our burdens on this friend (that’s what a therapist is for), but you can share some of your thoughts and just rest in the comfort of a friend who has your back

If you want to take a practical approach to finding out who to talk to (or who you’d like to talk to), check out this Support System worksheet (PDF) from psychotherapist and Psychology Today therapist Will Baum.

(A reminder: If you’ve not a friend who you can count on, do not despair. You can share your story on the aforementioned support groups or forums. Perhaps you can also find some comfort here at The Invisible Scar in knowing you are not alone.)

Revisit past documentation

You remember being 10 years old and knowing your parents took your pet and dropped it off in the woods as a punishment for your low grade… but now, as an adult, you mention the incident to your parents, and they deny it. Or you recall being 13 and having your parents forget it was your birthday… and again, they deny it. Maybe you remember your father calling you a piece-of-shit-ingrate because you didn’t clean your room…. and your father denies it.

Are you going crazy? Are you erroneously remembering everything?

Here’s what you can do to get your bearings:

  • Ask an old friend whether s/he remembers the incident. Sometimes, the incident was so strange or your reaction was so sad or emotional that your friend will remember the incident just as you shared it years ago
  • Bring it up to your parent(s) again… but don’t try to convince the abusive parent that it happened. Instead, listen to how the parent replies. Are they diverting your attention from true incident? Projecting blame on you? Belittling you? A truly loving and caring parent will either apologize for hurting his/her child or try to really get the details of what happened rather than sweep it under the rug.
  • Check your old diaries and journals. If you kept journals or diaries, you will find a goldmine of evidence that you did not imagine all the shit that happened to you. The details will be there for you to look at. Because you were abused, you may have written the entries with excuses for your parents’ behavior or berating yourself for being sensitive, but the incident will be recorded.

Attend therapy regularly

Yes, I do go on about the importance of good therapy a lot on The Invisible Scar. That’s because I’ve seen the enormous strides that adult children of emotional abuse have made in their healing process when they attend therapy—especially when compared to those adult survivors who do not.

Therapy is not the solution to everything, but it is a critical and essential component to one’s healing from emotional child abuse.

Some readers have written me emails telling me about just how grateful and life-changing attending therapy regularly was. (Hooray!) One or two readers have written telling me that they didn’t get much out of it. To them, I suggest finding a new therapist or a new approach. Sometimes, the fit isn’t the right one, whether conscious (you cannot feel comfortable with the therapist) or subconscious (the therapist’s pointy nose reminds you of your mother). But if therapy isn’t working, find a way to make it work for you. Don’t be afraid to get a new therapist.

Onward and upward.

(photo credit: flickr user aya padrón)


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, Loyola Press, MarketingProfs, and Ragan.