Surviving Emotional Child Abuse: You Are So Much Stronger Than You Think You Are

surviving emotional child abuse

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You have made your way to this website about emotional child abuse. Despite all the naysayers and flying monkeys wanting you to remain in the same swampland you’ve lived by forever, you’re here.

You’ve chopped through the choking entanglements around you. You’ve navigated through the dense darkness of denial. And now, taking a breath in this light clearing, you look forward and think, “I haven’t made any progress. I’m going nowhere. I should be farther in.”

Stop.

Stop badgering yourself right now.

Take a slow deep breath, release it, and reflect …

You are so much braver than you think you are. You’re strong for beginning this journey to discover the truth of your upbringing, to stop living with someone else’s road map in  your hands, and to begin seeking the heart of who God knows you to be.

Yes, you’re tired and scared and unsure of your way through the murkiness. Sometimes, you question yourself and cry. You want emotional healing immediately. All those feelings are totally normal.

But be patient with yourself. You’re getting stronger with each step deeper into your journey about the truth of all the emotional abuse you endured and growing one step closer every day toward emotional healing.

Greater strength and patience with yourself will come in time. Steady on. Be kind to yourself. But remember: Do not compare yourself to other people.

Survivors of emotional child abuse didn’t start at the same place other people did. Unabused people begin life with selfless love, support, and kindness from good parents. They receive so much more in their upbringing, and so their journey is far more different from an adult survivor knows. You can’t understand their path because yours is nothing like that.

Your parents chose to deprive or neglect you of the basics. God didn’t want you to be emotionally abused, but because He allows free will, your parents chose to put a manacle on you and keep you in the swampland of emotional child abuse.

But you haven’t stayed there! You’re here now, reading and thinking and reflecting about what you endured and trying to move toward a healthier present and far better future.

How amazing you are to get out of that deplorable swampland. How brave to fight for your authentic self.

Adult survivors of emotional child abuse have a tough road. We struggle with so many issues of trust, boundaries, self-esteem, and so much more. We’re all a bit broken and wounded. So why compare yourself to others who haven’t been broken so badly?

Instead, compare yourself today with who you were just a little while ago. Realize that you have courage. You’re standing here, despite your parents’ flat-out war on your personhood.

That is a HUGE accomplishment, my friends.

To survive an emotionally abusive childhood is to survive a war. Scarred, battered, hurt, and a little jittery? Sure. But that can be understood and helped through therapy and prayer.

You can get better. You will get better.

Keep moving forward and head out of the swampland.

You got this.

 


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.

Questions From the Mailbox: Allegedly Ruining Your Future, Deciding to Blog, and Wondering Whether to Tell Your Abusive Parents How You Feel

photo credit: flickr user

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

The Invisible Scar receives many emails every month. Some have questions or comments best shared with our readers in this “From the Editor’s Mailbox” column. Though our main advice is for the reader to seek therapy from a professional, we also invite helpful insight or support. (Names have been changed and questions edited for brevity.)

1.) “I live with my abusive mother. I want to leave home, but she’s turned my whole family against me. I work for the family business, they’re telling me that if I leave I’ll ruin my entire future.”—Hannah, age 18

The desire to get out of an emotionally abusive home is reasonable. Once your eyes are opened to the reality of your abuse, you have every right to get in a safe place away from your abuser.

That shift in the emotional landscape often freaks out abusive parents. They want the abused adult child to remain exactly where they have kept the adult child for years. They do not want any changes in the systematic cycle of abuse they perpetuate. So, when the adult child awakens to the fact that he or she is emotionally abused, abusive parents will absolutely freak out. They sometimes will probe your weaknesses and exploit them. In this case, they know you worry about the future, so they say you will ruin it.

Know that you have dignity and worth as a child of God. “Human life is sacred and that the dignity of the human person is the foundation of a moral vision for society.” 

You do not deserve the abuse. No one deserves abuse.

If you can live with a friend, rent out a room, or stay at a dorm, do so. If you can’t, come up with a plan to live in an emotionally healthy place, and start working toward the fulfillment of that plan. Start becoming more self-sufficient in your finances.

Give yourself some space to think. You are not ruining your entire future by separating yourself from an abusive situation. Instead, you are changing the game plan your mother had for you, the plan that kept you in captivity.

Please, seriously consider a future in an emotionally better workplace and home.


2.) “I am an adult survivor of the silent treatment. For years, I have tried to find a book written on this subject. There is nothing. Even books recommended to me by counselors and social workers do not address, the silent treatment. It’s like it never happened and it doesn’t exist?” —Allen

The silent treatment is very real.

Most of the information gathered for my article about the silent treatment comes from online research rather than books. I’ve not found very much about this horrific type of abuse covered in books. Dr. Gregory Jantz does discuss the silent treament in his book, Healing the Scars of Emotional Abuse.  You can read an excerpt. Also, Elyn Tromey’s blog post at Life & Therapy is also a thoughtful post.

Readers, if you have any recommendations about books that mention the silent treatment, please mention it in the comments.


3.) “I was emotionally abused as a child and adult and made the decision to cut my parents off and heal myself which is what I did. I feel so much better. I am thinking of starting a blog to help others using WordPress. If you have any thoughts on this, I would love to hear them.”—Emma

Let’s talk writing first … Can you write well? Do you know basic grammar rules—and which ones to break for clearer, more engaging writing? Can you write, not with yourself in mind, but with a sense of respect for your readers’ time?

Your writing must be well-crafted to draw in readers. Most importantly, you need to honor their time by providing the best content you can produce.

Unfortunately, myriad online writers believe they can get away with sloppier writing because, hey, the Internet.

However, writing for an online audience means crafting clear, focused content—whether for personal or public audiences. (If you don’t know much about writing skills, pacing, or narratives, I highly recommend Everybody Writes by Ann Handley.)

Now, let’s discuss the type of blog …

Do you want to start a personal blog that discusses your own journey through emotional child abuse and shares current experiences? If so, I highly suggest you take time to pray about this project, reflect on your reasons for the blog then discuss its purpose with a trusted friend or therapist.

Know that a personal blog that is public (as opposed to being a private blog that requires your permission) often can be very triggering and exhausting for adult survivors on the road to healing. 

Though you may begin your blog with the desire to help, you may find rancorous parents (and their flying-monkey friends) filling up your comment box with their vituperation. Even if you change your comments to be moderated, you’ll have to sift through those abusive tirades from those trolls. (What a waste of your time.) Plus, you need very thick skin to not take the ignorant comments personally or abandon blogging immediately or fan the fire with your own retorts.

Or perhaps you want to have a blog only for specific friends to read with your permission.

Or you may want to write in a journal or on your laptop and share printed copies of your experiences with friends.

Do you want to start a regular website that discusses emotional abuse but doesn’t delve into your own personal experiences? As the editor and writer of The Invisible Scarwhich is exactly thatI say go for it. The more awareness of emotional child abuse and its effects on adult survivors, the better.


4.) “You may be educated, but show no wisdom. Instead of correcting a problem (if there truly is one), the narcissism and abuse you speak of I see originating from you. So go ahead and be cold-hearted, cruel and show no empathy or compassion for those who raised, loved and sacrificed for you.”—Frank

I’m publishing that snippet of a wordy, pejorative email to prove my point in the previous answer: Abusive parents sometimes read blogs and websites about emotional child abuse, and feel compelled to send hate mail. (You have been warned.)

Does that mean you should keep quiet? No, just make sure you’re in a very emotionally healthy place before you decide to start your blog. Most importantly, talk to your therapist about your intention and make sure you’re in the right head space to handle the rigors of your project.


5.) “Hi, just a quick one: If you’re an adult unable to escape a psychologically abusive parent’s influence, should you acknowledge their continuing abusive subtly, or just ignore it?”—Maya

You can escape the influence. Doing so is not easy. But it can be done.

A psychologist who knows your situation and all the details surround it is better equipped than I am to give advice. But I’ll give my opinion because you did ask whether to acknowledge their abuse or ignore it.

If you aren’t in danger of being physically harmed, I would most definitely tell your abusive parent how you view your relationship with him/her, how you feel, and how you will need some space to think and get therapy.

Here’s why I believe you should tell your abusive parents (if they are not a threat to your physical well-being) how you feel…

  • You have a voice. Though it’s shaking from fear and nerves, you have the right to use it. Speaking up for yourself is a right you have. As an adult survivor of emotional child abuse, you have not used this voice very much, but it’s yours. Reclaim it. Use it. Speak up for yourself.
  • Your abusers need to hear it. You cannot change your abusers; only they can change themselves. But they need to know this truth about themselves. They’re not going to want to face the horrible fact that they are emotionally abusive parents. However, they need to be told. Don’t perpetuate the lie, don’t feed into their delusions. Be who you are meant to bean adult with dignity and worth living in the truth.
  • Your abusive parents may change. In some cases, the abusive parents may not be deliberately abusing their child. In their ignorance, the abusers continue the behavior they learned from their parents and do not really understand that it’s abusive. Or the abusive parent may see the light and realize they need to change. That possibility exists. (Unless your abusive parent was a narcissist.) The change will not be immediateit will require lots of work and therapy for them, and a proven change of behavior sustained over a long period of time.

Onward, friends.

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.

Grateful for the Good in Your Life

thanksgiving-post

[photo credit: flickr user Keri Logan]

Thanksgiving is not about the turkey or the football game or the parade. It’s not about just how many family members you’ve gathered around your table or how close your celebration can come to looking like the front of a Thanksgiving card. It’s not even about the mouth-watering meal and all its delicious sides.

It’s a holiday that has its purpose built into its name: thanks giving.

But how can you give thanks when you’re bearing such a weighty sorrow about your family situation?

Or be grateful when you feel so out of sorts with how “everyone else” is celebrating Thanksgiving?

How can you even feel grateful when you scroll through your social media feeds and see that “everyone you know” is sharing bright, beautiful photos of happy families and delightful memory-making moments?

The truth is that it’s difficult … but not impossible to foster gratitude amid the difficulties.

I’ve already written about finding something to be grateful for on Thanksgiving (and beyond) and five ideas for a peaceful Thanksgiving. So, today, I want to focus specifically on you.

If you’re reading this on Thanksgiving, you’re most likely not in the best family situation. Because this is a website dedicated to adult survivors of emotional child abuse and you’re reading this, you probably have a toxic situation with your parents. And maybe today, the hurt of that emotional wound is aggravating you more than usual.

The pain’s a little sharper, the hole feels a little deeper, the sorrow bites more coldly into you.

Know that you’re not alone in this hurt. And know that this pain will, in time, hurt you less. As more time rolls along and you grow in your healing through therapy and prayer and boundary-setting, you’ll find yourself more and more able to foster gratitude in your life …

In time, you may become grateful for the fact that your eyes were opened to the abuse you suffered and now you can tackle the issues that have plagued you from the shadows.

What you suffered is terrible and horrific, no one is glad for abuse, but you can be glad that you see the abuse for what it is: a hidden, invisible monster terrorizing you. Be grateful that you now can see it and avoid it.

You may find a sense of gratitude for the person who you are becoming, the person who God wants you to be (not who your parents tried to force you into becoming). You may, in time, be grateful that, despite all the sorrow and pain, you are here, alive and functioning and creating a new, emotionally healthier life.

But that gratitude, my friends, doesn’t come swiftly nor automatically.

Gratitude takes time and a readjustment of your emotional lens. It’s not belittling who you were or mocking people who have good families. Nor hiding your pain or burying all your grief and hurts, which is unhealthy and leads to greater grief and hurt. It’s not ignoring what happened. It’s not automatic forgiveness for those who hurt you because you want to get to the “feeling better” part of the healing journey. Nor always picking at your wounds and seeing only the darkness around you.

No, gratitude is finding yourself still standing, despite it all, and being glad that you are. It’s that sense that you have survived emotional brutality against you … and are alive and seek help and have hope for better days ahead.

Grief, sorrow, hurt, pain, regret, anger … all these have not extinguished your desire to be here, to seek help, to want to be an emotionally healthier you.

Gratitude is looking at your life and finding joy there, even if it is in the tiniest of glimmers.

Not the “I won the lottery, I’m so grateful” attitude. But the small, quiet joys that make up a day. A good conversation with friend, a perfect cup of coffee, a favorite song on the radio, a nature walk, a moment of quiet prayer …

Some adult survivors find it almost impossible to find this joy. They feel they are composed only of their past, that everyone’s out to get them, that nothing—not one tiny thing—in their life is good. Having that viewpoint keeps them in constant loop, so they do not go forward in the journey towards healing. They find it easier (and more comfortable) to remain in a constant state of resentment and hurt and anger than to find ways to cope with those emotions and work through them to an emotionally healthier life.

You don’t want to be like that.

Even if you can only be grateful for just a minute a day, if you find that the only thing to be grateful for is that you aren’t dead, that’s a huge thing to be grateful for. Being alive is a tremendous gift to be grateful for.

Your gratitude doesn’t need to be for the showy, enormous, money-raining moments of life. Being grateful is a mindset of happiness for the small, lovely things in an ordinary day.

Doing that may sound hokey or cheesy. “Really? Grateful for such a small, insignificant thing?”

But the truth is that the smaller things are what make up a day. After all, it was the small yet constant, unyielding barrage of damaging comments and neglect and silent treatment and belittling through your childhood that led to the deep gash on your heart.

“If all small things can cause so much sorrow,” a friend recently told me, “then can’t it mean that many small things can cause so much joy?”

She makes an excellent point.

On this Thanksgiving Day, you are in my thoughts and prayers. Know you’re not alone in your sorrow … and that you’re not alone in your desire to become more emotionally healthy and steady.

Onward, friend. Onward.


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.

From the Editor’s Mailbox: Smear Campaigns, Spreading Awareness, Maintaining Relationships With Abusive Parents, and More

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[photo credit: Kat]

As managing editor of The Invisible Scar, I’m always open to receiving your emails and comments. Sometimes, I get a flurry of emails on a theme or that have answers that benefit more than one person. I tackle those questions in a monthly post called From the Mailbox.

Here’s a look at the emails that hit my inbox and questions that led folks to The Invisible Scar this month. I’m jotting my thoughts regarding those questions, but do keep in mind that this site is not a substitute for professional advice. (For that, please find a good therapist you can trust.)

Here’s what’s on readers’ minds this month:

“How can I spread awareness about emotional child abuse?”

Dispel the silence. Let people know that emotional child abuse is real. It exists.

To paraphrase the writer Baudelaire, the greatest trick of the devil is to convince you that he doesn’t exist. That lack of belief in its existence allows evil to flourish. Evil flourishes when no one speaks against it.

You can spread awareness in many ways:

  • Write about emotional child abuse and share those articles online.
  • Write about your personal story in a blog. Many people do this under pseudonyms to protect their private lives. Be aware that writing a personal blog does open you up to receive negative comments because trolls exist on the Web.
  • Use your social media platforms to share information about emotional child abuse. Are you on Facebook? Share articles about emotional child abuse there. On Twitter? Tweet about it. You need not be the Debbie Downer of your social network, though; share articles about emotional child abuse and good parenting, tips for parental time-outs, how to speak to one’s children, etc. At The Invisible Scar, we focus solely on emotional child abuse because that’s why we’re all gathering here. But on your social networks, vary the content for your audience.
  • Be honest about your childhood when discussing it with friends and family. You don’t have to corner people at parties and go painstakingly through every detail, but be honest and brief in discussing it.
  • Reach out to people who are hurting. One of the greatest pains of suffering emotional child abuse is the feeling of being isolated, unwanted, and not understood. When possible, reach out in love and kindness and listening to those hurting. Just listening to someone who hurts makes an enormous difference in a person’s life.
  • Mindfully step in when you hear someone being mistreated.  You can speak up for others without attacking the parent; just be kind and subtle. A true story: Years ago, I was in line at the grocery store and minding my baby girl when a lady and her preteen daughter stood behind me. The lady looked at my baby girl and said, “Oh, she’s so cute! They’re adorable at that age. And then, they become THIS.” And she pointed to the preteen. I replied, “Every age is a good one. And how awesome that you have a girl who you can chat with and do fun things with.” And the lady said, “Hm, I guess” and grew quiet, and the preteen gave me the loveliest big smile.
  • Pray for survivors of emotional child abuse. People always use prayer as a last resort. “It’s the least we can do.” No, it’s the most. Prayer is lifting our hearts to God, and we can lift survivors of emotional child abuse in our prayers. The prayers may not change the abusers—God gave everyone free will—but the prayers can help those who hurt. Know that I keep all readers of The Invisible Scar in my prayers. Please keep me in yours.
“How can I maintain a relationship with an abusive parent?”

You can’t.

Adult survivors of emotional child abuse want to be able to have healthy, loving relationships with their parents… but their parents are toxic people.

That longing is a scar that adult survivors of emotional child abuse bear. It exists. The scar shows that the adult survivor was wounded. But it cannot be undone.

However, an adult survivor can make sure not to put himself or herself in a situation to receive yet even more scars from the toxic parent.

Of course, only you can decide whether to remain in a relationship with abusive parents. But at The Invisible Scar, we encourage No Contact with abusers. (The author of Cutting Ties: Knowing When It’s Time to Walk Away at Luke 17:3 Ministries has questions to help you make that decision.)

“Why is my mother emotionally abusive?”

The short answer is that no one knows for sure.

Some psychologists talk about a cycle of emotional abuse. A child was emotionally abused by a parent who was once emotionally abused by a parent who was once emotionally abused by a parent, etc. But if that cycle cannot be broken, then why is it? Why do some adult survivors end up not emotionally abusing their children?

Some scientists mention that it could be genetics. But then that doesn’t quite make sense either. Alcoholism makes sense due to the physical component of alcoholism. But how can there be a gene for being a horrific parent?

You can look at the specifics of your own family tree and perhaps get to a mild understanding of how this abuse has emerged.

But for the sake of healing, it’s best to not focus on the why.

“What can I do about smear campaigns against me?”

A smear campaign is more than someone just saying something rude about you. It’s the systematic shredding of someone’s reputation by spreading lies, accusations, and insinuations.

“False Accusations, Distortion Campaigns and Smear Campaigns can all be used with or without a grain of truth, and have the potential to cause enormous emotional hurt to the victim or even impact their professional or personal reputation and character,” states Out of the FOG.

“[Smear campaigners] hide behind a cloak of upstanding heroism and feigned innocence in an attempt to make as many people as possible think their efforts are based not on their vindictiveness, but on upstanding concern,” writes Light on her blog.

So, what can you do about it?

You may feel inclined to do some or all of the following:

  1. Defend yourself  by confronting the smear campaigner
  2. Defend yourself to every person who has heard the smear campaigner’s accusations
  3. Take the smear campaigner to court for slander
  4. Launch a smear campaign against your abuser in retaliation
  5. Ignore the smear campaigns
  6. Talk to your closest friends about the smear campaigns, the truth regarding them, and ignore the smear campaigner

Every situation is different. Only you can decide whether to do 1 or 2; that may depend on your relationship with other people who know your abuser. In a family situation, you may have some relatives who you still want a relationship with, and you may want to discuss the reality of the situation with them.

Option 3 requires that you talk to a family lawyer about the situation. As I am not a lawyer, I can’t offer an expert advice on this matter. Option 4 sounds like a terrible idea, which will only escalate the situation. I strongly urge you not to retaliate. Options 5 and 6 seem to be the best options.

As painful and terrible as a smear campaign is, it will weed out the false friends and lukewarm relatives from your life. Anyone who knows you and loves you will not listen to the reputation-shredding gossip. You will be presented with a very clear view of the battlefield, of who is on your side and who is on the side of the abusive parent.

Your army of friends and relatives who stand beside you may be very small. You may even find yourself alone on the battlefield, with the corpses of old relationships all around you. But you will not be shredded. You will still be standing, you will be alive in the truth. You will be stronger than you ever thought possible because you didn’t let fear or other people’s opinions of you determine who you are.

* * *

Living in the truth and light can be so hard at first for adult survivors of emotional child abuse. They’re used to live in a hazy, nebulous reality created by their abusers. Adult survivors are accustomed to trying to find value in who they are by seeking the approval of others and adapting who they are to others expectations.

But in awakening to the reality of the emotional child abuse, adult survivors can start moving towards a life in the light and truth. They can start extracting themselves from the entanglements of abusive relationships. They can begin to understand that it’s better to be seemingly alone in the truth than to be surrounded by liars.

Why did I say “seemingly”? Because you are not alone. You’re here among others who share similar experiences. And you matter.

[via Sarah Joy]

[via Sarah Joy]