Emotional abuse takes toll, leaves lasting impression

I remember the first time my high school boyfriend told me I wasn’t good for anything. It was right in the middle of an argument, and though I was taken aback, I brushed it off. Everyone says things they don’t mean during an argument, right?

From there, the hateful words only escalated. I could be doing nothing and he would remind me how worthless I was and how I would never amount to anything.

I also remember the first time he hit me. Until then I hadn’t really considered my relationship unhealthy, but then I began to contemplate leaving him. It had been an on-again, off-again dance in the past; it should have been easy to walk away.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t. I was scared. I stayed until he cheated on me and blamed it on me for not being good enough for him. At that point, though, I actually believed him, along with everything else he had said to me for almost three years.

My second serious relationship was going to be better. I swore to myself it would be. It was a college relationship, and we were both older and more mature. Although the relationship lasted a shorter amount of time than the first, it has come to impact my life just as much, if not more.

I found a good majority of our relationship to be perfect, despite it being long-distance. He was my best friend, and I can honestly say I loved him.

And that, I believe, is why it took me so long to recognize the same patterns I’d seen before.

He was much better at the mind games and emotional manipulation than my former boyfriend. I ended up feeling ashamed of who I was. I believed I was worthless. I would constantly beat myself up for making him unhappy, even at the expense of my own happiness.

If he had a bad day at work, he took it out on me. If I couldn’t spend as much time as usual with him because of work or school, he told me I didn’t love him enough. Little things like that added up, and I eventually realized I was right back where I had been before.

The constant flip between loving me and making me feel worthless will always haunt me. I feel forever bound by words that may or may not be true, despite having people who truly love me in my life.

I’m not telling my story to gain sympathy from others; I’m choosing now to tell because I know some of you out there struggle with this, too.

I know what it’s like to cry to sleep at night. I know how difficult it is to want over and over to leave some people, but you love them so much that you stay. I know how scary it is to try to leave but be bullied into staying.

I also know how badly words can hurt. I know how it feels to be lied to so much you eventually believe it all. I live with the haunting words of past relationships—words that easily influence every area of my life, including work and friendships.  

Emotional abuse is abuse, all the same. It’s as equally important to be aware of as physical abuse, and the manifestations are just as real. If you find yourself in either situation, seek help. Talk to someone. The process of recovery won’t start until you do.

It’s definitely not the easy thing to do, but I promise it’s worth it.