What is abuse? 

For a long time, I didn’t identify with being abused. Not even because I thought what I’d experienced wasn’t abuse, because I suppose I did. But rather I didn’t think what I’d experienced was bad enough, because it wasn’t the worst you could imagine. I felt like I’d gotten off lightly in comparison to others, my story could have been much worse. 

A friend recently asked me “do you not feel worthy of the title abused?”. It was a strange question, because I’d associate the word ‘worthy’ with a positive achievement… and sure enough, being abused doesn’t quite make my top 10. But she was right on the money. I did not feel worthy of that title, abused. 

In my mind, abuse was a word reserved for the most harrowing ordeals – being physically beaten, raped, drugged, starved, enslaved and the like. I have not experienced abuse to this level and I dread the thought. How could I call myself abused and put myself alongside victims of these crimes and not feel like a fraud? 

In times like this, I find that delving into the dictionary to understand the proper definition of a word helps bring clarity, and a greater depth of understanding. Even when I think I already know what a word means, I always learn something new. I looked at the definition for abuse, as well as what the words used to describe abuse meant…

Abuse – to misuse something. To treat with cruelty or violence, especially repeatedly or regularly 

Cruelty – intentionally causing pain or suffering to others, or feeling no concern about it 

Suffering – undergoing pain, distress or hardship

Distress – extreme anxiety, sorrow or pain

These words hit home, and I am becoming more accepting of the title. Even moreso for the emotional abuse I’ve suffered. Emotional abuse still seems to be a tough one to crack, as it’s not as obvious as physical abuse. 

This article explains it well:

“Emotional abuse is a painful pattern of serious abuse of which the primary effort is to control someone by playing with their emotions.  We dumb down the implications of emotional abuse by mislabeling minor interactional issues as emotional abuse.” 

The ‘minor interactional issues’ the article talks about can still be described as abusive behaviour in my opinion, but as they tend to be one off interactions (e.g snapping at your partner after a hard stressful day, swearing at a careless driver) they aren’t abuse as there isn’t an ongoing focused effort to control the other person, rather, they are just unable to regulate their own emotions in that moment. These definitions back me up:

Abusive – extremely offensive and insulting 

Offensive – causing someone to feel resentful, upset or annoyed. Actively aggressive, attacking

Insulting – to speak to or treat with a lack of respect or scornful abuse 

Respect – to consider for the feelings, wishes or rights of others

Consider – to think carefully about something, typically before making a decision

Emotional abuse has been a large part of my life. The more I understand it, the angrier I become. Not just at the individuals, but at the never ending cycle. Those that abused me only did so because of what they experienced growing up, so I’m mad at whoever crushed their spirits, and all those before them, that ultimately led them to crush mine. I’m angry that the whole world of emotions isnt better understood, and so the victims become the perpetrators because they don’t know how to stop it and behave any differently. I long to see emotional intelligence acknowledged, understood, nurtured and protected in school, for all those that will never get it at home, but despair at how far away the UK is from realising how vital that is. 

So yeah, I’ve been abused. Thats still a strange thing to write. But it’s true. It was horrible and it’s stolen a lot of my life. I know I have many years left ahead of me, but I find myself grieving for the years that have been devoured by it, and the time spent now to recover from it. 

I don’t mean to sound ungrateful for what I do have, and my story indeed could have been much worse. But do you know what? It also should have been much better, and for that, I feel entitled to my anger, disappointment and grief. 

5 comments

  1. You are entitled to feel that way of course. I remember the work of admitting that what I went through was abuse. I swung from “yes” to”no” so much. Doesn’t matter your story, denial will be a part of it I think!

    Like

  2. “So yeah, I’ve been abused. Thats still a strange thing to write. But it’s true. It was horrible and it’s stolen a lot of my life. I know I have many years left ahead of me, but I find myself grieving for the years that have been devoured by it, and the time spent now to recover from it.

    I don’t mean to sound ungrateful for what I do have, and my story indeed could have been much worse. But do you know what? It also should have been much better, and for that, I feel entitled to my anger, disappointment and grief”

    10000000000000000000% love.

    I have found myself having the same problem with accepting it was abuse and putting myself in the “abused” category because of the same reasons as you.

    But yes, sadly we were both abused and it is not fair. And it sucks and we need to grieve all of our losses and that in itself sucks too!!!

    I think saying the story could have been much worse is invalidating ourselves. We would never say that to another person.

    I still remember waking up one day about 5/6 months ago and realising I had had in fact been abused and I couldn’t quite believe it!! but it is our truth and like the person says above, I think it is the denial that we swing in and out of that keeps us in disbelief. xx

    Liked by 2 people

    • It does suck!! And you’re right it does invalidate, which is what I’ve always done, but I’m moving towards having that acceptance and kindness to myself, hence the admission that do you know what, it still should have been better dammit! And we get to take the time we need to get over it!

      It’s an uncomfortable transition but a necessary one that I know we’ll be so much better for once we get through that grieving process, but it’s definitely a process that cannot be rushed. If only it was available to purchase in a can eh?

      Xxx

      Liked by 1 person

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