My Mental Abuser Didn’t Win
By Shalane Ford
I wake up feeling off balance. The first thing that I hear when I wake up are “voices.” Before I open my eyes, I can hear them. They start off faintly at first and then continue to grow louder and louder throughout the day.
“I wish you were more.” “Why can’t you just be normal?” “You’re nothing.” “I wish you were more like this and less like that.” “You’re a whore.” “Why do you act like such a dummy?” “You think you’re all that.” “What is wrong with you?” “Are you a dumbass or something?” The voices echo in my mind like a terminal brain tumor out to destroy me. The voices are all the things my ex boyfriend said to me over and over again.
It started off so wonderfully. He was my prince charming. He was funny, sweet, kind, patient and caring; and before I could fully comprehend what was going on, I fell in love with him. In the blink of an eye, I saw a part of him that I didn’t know was there. It started off with “suggestions” about how I should change certain things about myself like the way that I dress and the way that I wear my hair. Then, the “suggestions” turned into I want you to act more like this and less like that, which then escalated to comparing me to other women and lecturing me about how awful of a person I was. My intuition was telling me that something didn’t feel right. I was in a verbally abusive relationship and had no idea until the damage was already done.
I try to tune the voices out. The intelligent part of my brain knows that I have no reason to even remotely entertain any of that BS while the “demoralising critic” part of my mind replays those voices over and over again. It was almost as if to enshrine these thoughts as truth. I portray the truth of being a very beautiful, intelligent, kind hearted, caring young woman who is far from perfect. The world would never know that these voices are slowly eroding my spirit. Spiritual erosion is silent, slow and subtle; it can slowly destroy someone’s self-esteem and destroy the very core of who they are as an individual.
Getting out of a mentally and verbally abusive relationship is only half the battle. The recovery process is when the real healing takes place. Unlike a physical wound or scar, healing from mental and verbal abuse is not as easy of a process or as quick of a recovery. A verbal abuser will plant seeds in your mind and subconsciously you will find yourself starting to believe that the things that are being said to you are actually true. It’s as if your sense of self identity is stripped away from you and replaced with the words of your abuser. According to Preston Ni M.S.B.S., the author of How to communicate effectively and handle difficult people & Communication success with four personality types, “gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation that a toxic partner will use in order to gain power over their partner by making them question their own sanity, their own reality and will ultimately distort the perception that they have of themselves.” When you’re dating a verbally abusive partner, every disagreement that you have will ultimately end up being “your fault.” They almost never take accountability for their actions and will have a way of manipulating you to the point where you think that “you’re losing it” or that “something is wrong with you.”
The psychological bullying leaves you feeling like you’re too sensitive, that you’re overreacting, that you can’t do anything right, that you have to constantly apologize all the time for what you do and who you are. A mental abuser will constantly play the victim in front of friends and family to make you appear as though you are crazy. They may do or say something rude, hurtful or disrespectful and when you react they will act as if you are wrong or “overreacting”. Friends and family (mostly their friends and family) will begin to believe that you are the problem and that you are victimizing your partner.
When you’re dating a verbally abusive partner their compliments won’t really feel right. A mental and verbal abuser has a tendency to use a manipulation tactic called “negging”, which means giving someone a backhanded compliment, in order to control and manipulate you. Compliments like “Wow! You’re actually smarter than I thought”. “You’re so beautiful when you have makeup on.” Compliments like these leave you feeling hurt and puzzled instead of beaming with pride and happy. A genuine compliment should never make you feel that way. Verbal and mental abuse is not okay and should never be overlooked or looked at from the perspective of “Well they're not putting their hands on me.”
From personal experience the effects of being in a verbally abusive relationship can last far longer than you may think. While recovery may take years, it doesn’t always have too. The longer you stay in an abusive relationship, the longer recovering from the abuse may take. Losing your sense of self, your sanity, your self worth, your self esteem and your sense of identity is never worth it.