The Invisible Scars That Emotional and Verbal Abuse Leaves Behind

I have these tendencies. I call them quirks, but they’re more accurately scars. You can’t see them because I spend every waking minute trying to hide them. I try so hard to push them away, far off to the side, praying that I can get them out of my sight and out of my mind. But even if I don’t push them far enough away and even if they’re very much in my sight and in my mind, you still can’t see them. Not physically at least.

Because I have these tendencies. I call them quirks, but they’re more accurately scars. They’re scars left on my behavior, scars left on my metaphorical heart and my philosophical soul, scars left on the humanness I use to connect, to relate, to interact, to feel things for people and with people. Behavioural and personality scars left on the parts of my brain responsible for feeling emotions, building relationships, and having connections. Scars marking the parts of my brain responsible for love and trust and intimacy and every feeling needed for friendships, family, and romance.

And I have these tendencies, I call them quirks, but they’re more accurately scars because he projected his emotional issues onto me, using me as the dart board for his emotional complexities that he wasn’t willing to deal with himself. So he used me, and countless others before and after me, as his bulls-eye for target practice, warping his problems into words and treatments that he sent my way over and over again until I was so filled with holes that you could see right through me and I wasn’t useful to him anymore. I crippled under his use and fell to the ground. He kicked me aside and found his next victim.

So here I am. I have these tendencies, I call them quirks, but they’re more accurately scars. And you can’t see them in the flesh. But they show themselves in other ways.

You can see the scars in my constant apologies, the weekly, daily, hourly “sorries” that come out of my mouth, that follow every message, that preface every statement. You can see them in my belief that I’m always at fault, constantly to blame, for anything, for everything, whether real or imagined. You can see them in the fact that I convince myself to be making one hundred mistakes a day while everyone else makes zero.

Because he was always angry or annoyed, frustrated or upset. And he was always angry or annoyed, frustrated or upset at me. At anything I did or didn’t do, at anything I said or didn’t say, at anything I felt or didn’t feel.  Because he blamed me for everything and anything, found things to fault me for. Because he was always right and I was always wrong. Because if I did, said, or felt anything that contradicted him, he made sure I knew it.

You can see the scars in my increasing anxiousness as each minute goes by without a response, as I stare at the blank screen of my phone, waiting for a text that I increasingly believe will never come.

Because he would disappear for days on end, ignoring every text and every social media notification. Because he would ignore me as punishment for not behaving like he wanted me to. Because he would pretend like I didn’t exist for days at a time because the longer he ignored me, the more power he had over me.

You can see the scars in my never-ending self-consciousness and in my immensely low self-esteem. They appear in the words that I use to describe myself when no when else is listening: ugly, fat, boring, stupid, unfunny, needy, bad in bed, whore, cunt, bitch. You can see them in the fact that I believe I hold no worth and no value, in the fact that I believe that I add only negativity to anyone’s life. You can see them in the fact that I am constantly, without a break, stop-at-nothing criticizing myself, comparing myself to everyone else around me, and never even coming close to being as good.

Because he used these words to my face. Because he called me ugly, fat, boring, stupid, unfunny, needy, bad in bed, whore, cunt, bitch. Because he never had one good thing to say about me. Because he was critical about every part of me. Because he compared me to everyone else, making sure to tell me that I was uglier, fatter, less interesting, and less funny than any girl he’d ever been with. And because he made sure to tell me that I was worse in bed than every single one of them, making sure I knew that I was constantly disappointing him. Because he used these terrible words and phrases to make sure I knew how worthless I was.

You can see the scars in the fact that it’s hard for me to trust anyone, hard for me to have faith in anyone. You can see them in the fact that I’m terrified of everything I say or do because I’m convinced it will be wrong. You can see them in my fear of emotions and feelings because they’ve always been punished. You can see them in my need to please. You can see them in the detachment I feel from my own body. You can see them in the immense amounts of anxiety I feel in every social and intimate relationship of my life.

Because he manipulated me, my thoughts and my feelings. Because he took who I was and told me that everything about me was wrong. Because he shattered every ounce of self-confidence I had. Because he made me believe that everything was my fault. Because he took my body as his own. Because he ignored me. Because he told me things and said things to me that I’m still trying to drown out. Because he constantly flashed the fear of cheating in my face. Because he always lied to me. Because he never once gave me a reason to trust him, his words, or his actions. Because I gave in to him for too long. Because I was manipulated more than I should have been. Because I didn’t know how to get out.

So I have these tendencies. I call them quirks, but they’re more accurately scars. And I have them because of him.

Some days they feel fresh as if they’re rubbed raw and bleeding and made only yesterday. Some days they feel older, as though they’re covering themselves over and starting to heal. Some days my mind gets away from me. Some days it’s hard to tell what my anxiety has created in my head and what it’s kept untouched. Some days it’s hard for me to decipher fact from fiction. Some days I can’t tell what’s real and what he’s made me believe. Some days are better than others. Some hours are better than others. And I have to take each one as it comes. And although there are days or hours or minutes when the scars feel freshly opened, I know that as each day passes that separates me from him, I gain a little more control. I develop strategies and coping mechanisms, I come up with distractions and support systems. I work on grounding myself in reality. I look forward, not backward. I work every day to stop him from touching my present and my future. And I try every day to be a little bit stronger.

Because no, these scars do not define who I am as a person. No, they are not indicative of how everyone will treat me. No, they do not determine how much love and happiness I deserve. No, these scars do not diminish my worth. No, these scars are not unattractive, deal-breaking pieces of baggage. No, these scars do not make me a bad partner. No, these scars do not make me incapable of building relationships and connections and love and happiness. No, these scars are not a reason to stay away. No, these scars do not make me any less of a person.

Because I refuse to let these scars keep me from finding love and happiness. I refuse to let him, and the scars that he caused, ruin every good thing in the future. Because of these scars, I know how important kindness and respect, trust and honesty are. Because of them, I know how vital it is to be compassionate and caring. Because of them, I know how important positive validation and affirmation is. Because of these scars, I know how to communicate. Because of them, I treat every single person in my life the way that I would want to be treated myself. Because of them, I don’t take things for granted. Because of these scars, I am actually a much better partner. Because of them, I know what I deserve and I know not to settle for anything less. Because of them, I know never to stop fighting for love and happiness. Because of these scars, I’ve been forced to look within myself to find self-worth and I’ve re-discovered who I am. Because of them, I am more understanding of myself and of others. Because of them, I have a better grasp on my needs and my desires.

Because of these scars, I have had to build myself up from the very bottom. Because of these scars, I have had to fight through what felt like endless days and nights of constant anxiety, depression, haunting, and self-loathing. Because of these scars, I have become more independent. Because of these scars, I have become more resilient. Because of these scars, I have been forced to walk through the flames and build my own armor along the way. Because of these scars, I have become more introspective. Because of these scars, I will never take kindness, respect, trust, or honesty for granted. Because I have seen the opposite. I have seen the dark side and I refuse to let my scars cause darkness on anyone else.

So yes, I do have these tendencies, or as I call them quirks, but they’re more accurately scars. And yes, they are awful. They have caused me an unmentionable amount of pain. And while I do not, for one fleeting second, wish these scars on anyone else and while I wish I never had to experience them in the first place, I know that in the long-run, I’m becoming stronger and more resilient, kinder and more compassionate, wiser and more independent than ever before. I still have these scars, they’re still very much there, and I think a part of them always will be, but what’s important is that I am fighting the battle, I am walking through the flames, I am challenging each and every one of them. I am refusing to let them defeat me. I am fighting for power and control over them. And as painful as they continue to be, the only way I can come to peace with their presence is knowing that I’m becoming a better, stronger person because of my determination to kick them in the ass.

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