WARNING: There are many feels in this very long post, because it’s written by a real human being, not a robot, and it’s all true. You may need a box of tissues.
I am still trying to make sense of what has happened to me over the last 13 years. I feel like the fog is slowly lifting, even though I have extricated myself from an emotionally abusive situation almost 2 years ago. I started to suffer from anxiety attacks when I was in that situation, and I now suspect I have bouts of depression every now and then. So let me please explain why.
Many people may not realise this but emotional abuse is a form of domestic abuse. It is perhaps a little more insidious because its effects and scars are invisible. As far as I’m aware, it’s only a crime in the UK and France. There are many news articles that have reported on this which you can find in the following links:
So what is emotional abuse and what does that have to do with domestic violence? There is an article that you can read here that has a paragraph that describes extremely well what it feels like (see the section where she starts to talk about a box, a treasure box). According to that article, it is now believed that preceding domestic violence is always the emotional/psychological abuse. However, not all emotional abuse leads to violence. I was lucky enough, I guess, to have not experienced the violence done to me, but the walls and other inanimate objects of my old home have physical scars to show it.
But where are my scars? You can’t see mine. They are hidden deep inside my mind. I struggle to come to terms with it daily since leaving him, but it’s a battle I am slowly winning. That is the sinister part of emotional and psychological abuse. Nobody can see your battered ego, no one can see your battered self esteem, and no one can see the invisible cage you have been forced in to, that seems to shrink more and more each day. It was made worse by the fact that my abuser was also a narcissist, and very, very manipulative. It all started to happen 3 years in to our 11 year relationship – and during those final 8 years, we were engaged to be married.
It’s really hard for me to begin to even describe what I went through. I’ve just written and deleted and written and deleted over and over again for the past couple of hours. But the basic premise was that I was made to feel like everything was my fault ALL THE TIME. No matter how small the thing that was bugging him was. The line fed to me all the time was, “I wouldn’t have gotten angry at you unless you deserved it”, or “I don’t just get angry at you for no reason, it’s always justified, you just don’t think about me do you, you only think about yourself!”. I felt like I was walking on eggshells, afraid to do or say anything in case it triggered his temper. But it made no difference, there was no rhyme nor rhythm to his tirades. I remember one vivid moment when we had an argument over something tiny – probably about how I stacked the dishwasher, or left the dish sponge in the wrong spot. He yelled and cursed at me that I was trying to make his life more difficult, and then went on to blame me for every decision he’d ever made in life – “It’s because of you I’m stuck here in this hell hole; it’s because of you I didn’t finish my education; it’s because of you I’m away from my family; it’s because of you I have to take care of you because no one else can or will, it’s because of me you are so successful but it’s because of you I’m such a failure stuck here supporting you whilst you pursue your dreams.”. It would go on and I would feel like I should say something to defend myself, and at first I did, but that only seemed to make him worse. I ended up most times just standing there in silence, with tears down my face, and nodding, yes he’s right, it’s all my fault. I can’t do anything right. I’ll try better next time so that he doesn’t get angry and I don’t get yelled at. But sometimes, it would infuriate him more when I didn’t say anything. So when the screaming wouldn’t subside, things would get thrown or kicked or punched. This time, he punched the door. I ran into the garage to hide. In the darkness. I knew in the back of my mind, this wasn’t right. But somehow, I just sat there thinking, I wish he would love me the way he used to. It must have been because I did something, something I said, that’s why he’s so angry at me more and more these days. I will try harder next time to be a better fiance. Each time this happened, he would show remorse and apologise whilst simultaneously still telling me that if I hadn’t done what I did, he wouldn’t have gotten so angry, that he wouldn’t have had to hurt me. I would believe him every time.
In my moments of quiet thoughts to myself, without his poisonous words, or when I was surrounded by the handful of friends I managed to find and keep, I would start to think, hang on, this doesn’t seem right. Something is wrong here. It’s not my responsibility to ensure his happiness. He is an adult who is capable of making his own decisions. But when the tirades began again, I would lose all self confidence and resolve, and begin to believe what he was saying all over again. He pretty much invalidated all my thoughts and feelings and dismissed them as me being a jealous, controlling, whiny, selfish, person who only cares about myself. And the cycle would begin again. I felt like I was going crazy, I was so confused about what was true. I couldn’t put a name to what it was I was going through, only that I was unhappy and starting to suffer almost daily panic/anxiety attacks. My skin broke out all over my face, I couldn’t sleep, concentrate, and I withdrew from my friends and family. No one knew what I was suffering, but the signs were all there if you looked hard enough.
And my friends did. They saw I was unhappy and started to reach out. They helped me through it. I finally decided to leave after the umpteenth time of being yelled at for being late to meet him (usually a few minutes). This time, I was 10 minutes late to lunch. I couldn’t call or text because I was in a meeting with my supervisor who I was dying to catch up with to solve a problem I’d been working on for over 2 weeks, which he ended up fixing in 5 minutes. When I arrived to lunch, he blew up at me, threw down the takeaway lunch containers and stormed off, in public, leaving me standing there in the middle of the public courtyard full of people all alone with tears streaming down my face, and lunch all over the pavement. That night, I stayed with one of my friends. And I stayed with her again a few weeks later. And after that, I ended the engagement and the relationship. Our 11 years together was over. That was a little over 2 years ago.
For a more articulate description of the signs of emotional abuse, and what you can do about it see these 2 articles listed below. The first one contains a list of signs you are being emotionally abused. Pretty much all but 4 of those points were true for me.
Ok so I really don’t know if I’ve done justice to make you aware of this type of abuse, and I know it’s a lot of information to process. I should know, because I’m still processing it. But the point of this is to raise awareness. I hope that this gets people thinking and opening their eyes to see the signs before it’s too late. And to help with this, here is part 1 of the nails I did in support of White Ribbon Nails for domestic violence awareness campaign started by Mitty Burns (@mitty_burns) on ig.
Figure 1. I used a base of *Cooktown Orchid* from Two Birds, and Aussie Indie polish. I applied 2 coats and topped it with Sally Hansen *Big Matte Coat* to prep it for stamping. I used Fingerpaints *Gorgeous Graffiti* for the pink on the index and on my pinky. My middle finger has an Essie base in *Ballet Slippers*, then a Sally Hansen crackle coat called *Fractured Foil* over it. I stamped with plates from Bundle Monster, BM-323, BM-208, and BM-321, and one plate from Born Pretty Store, BP-18. I also used Mitty Burn’s angled brush for clean up around the cuticles using polish remover (non-acetone). I topped it all again with Sally Hansen *Big Matte Coat*, except the white face and the ring finger, which was Seche Vite top coat. I can’t actually remember where I got the nail charm from, but the ring is from Born Pretty Store.
Figure 3. This nail signifies the 2 faces I was wearing through that period. I was sad on the inside, at home, when no one was around. But happy to the rest of the world. The ring I’m wearing that you see in the full mani bottle shot and in the next figure symbolises the mask we wear to pretend nothing is wrong.
Figure 4. This nail represents the shattered feelings inside, feelings of not being able to escape, and cracks appearing in the relationship, and starting to be aware of what was going on, hence the white ribbons starting to show.
Figure 5. But somewhere, in all that, I still found my own happiness through the charades. The leopard spots on the white ribbon represents this, and the glittery soft colours represent my own self trying to shine through.
I hope that this helps someone out there. I also hope that you tune in again for part 2 of my nails and my story, where I will tell the next part of the story that is filled with happiness instead of darkness.