What Emotional Abuse Looks Like From Two Different Perspectives

TW: This piece discusses various forms of abuse and its impact. 

Everyone deserves a safe place to exist. Any abuse impacts a person’s mental, physical, and spiritual well-being. When this abuse happens where one should feel the safest, such as at home, it can be even more burdensome.

Emotional abuse is any abuse involving the continual emotional mistreatment of a child. It’s sometimes called psychological abuse. Emotional abuse can involve deliberately trying to scare, humiliate, isolate, or ignore a child. 

In this article, two Unwritten writers explore their journey as victims of emotional abuse and what they’ve taken from those situations. Please remember: if you or someone you know is a victim of abuse in any form, you are not alone. For 24/7 assistance and support, you can call the following numbers: 1-800-799-7233 (National Domestic Violence Helpline) or 1-888-810-2444.

Larissa’s experience:

My mom grew up in an abusive environment. She said she would never do what her mother did to her, which sadly was physical abuse. While my mom has never physically abused me or my siblings, she has subjected us to emotional abuse.

What did the emotional abuse look like?

For me, it looked like guilt-tripping and invalidating my feelings. For example, when I became a vegetarian four years ago, my mom began to make me separate dinners. When she started doing this, she would say, “You being a vegetarian is ruining my life.” She often followed up by saying this was a joke, but it hurt my feelings nonetheless. 

I plan on moving out for the first time. I’m very excited and nervous, but it’s something I need to do. My mom came into my room one day and said, “You know, wherever you end up, I can’t visit you.” She is disabled and can not drive. I’m disabled myself, but I reassured her that I would visit. But at the same time, we both need our space and have to learn how to live independently.

How have you healed from the experiences of your past? If you haven’t, do you wish to?

I tried to heal the relationship between my mom and me by writing a ten-page letter about my feelings. In response, she told me it was the most hurtful letter she had received. All I was doing was expressing myself and my experience. Moving out and creating some distance will definitely help mend some of our relationship’s wounds. 

What advice do you have for those experiencing trauma right now?

Find support wherever you can: friends, therapists, and family members. Just don’t give up. Things can and will get better. It may not seem like it right now, but they will.

Theresa’s experience:

Though my mom has not divulged any childhood trauma or abuse, she and I have had a combative relationship for years. I am an only child, and she is a single mom. I’m not sure if this trouble with our relationship came from her having to carry the parenthood’s weight alone. But our tense relationship has negatively impacted other parts of my life. 

What did the emotional abuse I endured look like?

When I was a teenager, my mom and I began having a lot of arguments. These varied from minor things to giant blow-up verbal arguments where she would often throw things and threaten to ship me off to Europe to get rid of me. Though we have progressed significantly since then, the occasional spat brings those old feelings back. To this day, I struggle with confrontation with anyone out of fear it will blow out of proportion. (Example: I used to text my ex from across the house when I had something to say because I feared it would lead to an argument.)

How have you healed from the experiences of your past? If you haven’t, do you wish to?

Moving away from home and working on my own healing journey has allowed me to come to terms with my past. Though there are times when I am still “triggered,” I have better coping skills and a stronger support system. I achieved this by working with a therapist, reading self-help books, and prioritizing time for wellness-restoring activities. Everyone has a different healing journey, and there isn’t one cookie-cutter process. But there is power in acknowledging past traumas and hoping for a brighter future.

What advice do you have for those experiencing trauma right now?

Hold on. Don’t give up. You are worthy, you are enough, and you are loved. There is nothing wrong with you. This won’t last forever. Find a safe space. Lean on those you trust. Establish a safe community. You have made it through 100% of your bad days so far. This is not the end of your road. 

Do you have any coping skills you’ve found helpful in your healing journey? Let us know in the comments below!

Written in collaboration with Theresa Faughnan

Featured image via Darina Belonogova on Pexels



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