The victim of a verbally abusive person slowly loses her Self. The side effects of verbal abuse (and emotional or mental abuse) eat you from the inside out; you become hollow before you realize how awful life became.
I doubt my ability to mother my children and how to clean the floor (as if the two were of the same importance). I live in a constant state of uncertainty. The world seems unsafe – the rules spontaneously change. I suffer stress headaches, irritability, and fatigue.
I am super-critical of myself to the point of decision-making paralysis. I would rather ask my husband and let him decide. The abuse I experience from my incompetence seems preferable to that from a wrong decision. I weigh my actions against what I suspect his reaction will be. I try to read his mind but ignore my own.
My abuser’s preferences have replaced my morality, thinking and way of doing things. I am more him than me. I wasn’t always like this. The abuse is bad, but the things I’ve allowed to change in my mind and heart are horrid.
It’s a disgusting and soul-killing way to live.
Effects of Verbal Abuse List
(List written by Patricia Evans, comments mine)
A verbal abuse victim often…
… distrusts her spontaneity
One time when we were dating, I turned the space heater on in my barracks room, put on my bikini, and painted an ocean scene on my midsection. I had a picnic basket and two beach towels laid out on the floor. He loved it! I concocted a similar scheme a month after we married and he told me to stop being silly and act like a married woman.
… suffers a loss of enthusiasm
The last time I got excited about something I’d done for the Woman’s Club (which preserves three historical buildings), he said something like, “I don’t see why you’re so excited – it’s just a club full of old women.” This after his complaints that “You do nothing at all! You have no life!”
… lives in a perpetually in a ready, on-guard state
When I hear his ring-tone or see his white truck enter the drive, my stomach sinks and I brace myself. Is he in a good mood? Can I talk to him about xyz tonight? Should I tell him about what his son did or wait until another night? Will he be nice or not?! I wonder if he’ll tell me why he’s late or if I should ask…
… wonders about how she is coming across
I constantly search for the “right” word. Right now, the “wrong” words are “extra money.” My vocabulary is always off in some way. “You didn’t SAY that,” is one of his favorite phrases. This uncertainty also extends to my habit of over-explaining things to him or saying the same thing three different ways in hope of getting my message across.
… thinks and feels that something is wrong with her
I used to think I was the problem. Whether it was because of the rapes, or harbored some unrecognized issue from childhood, or became “warped in the head” (his words), I was ready to blame myself, find the problem, and fix it once and for all. I’ve spent years searching for “the problem.” [see Are You A Great Candidate for Brainwashing?]
Today, I know I am not perfect, but I also realize that there are no buried issues within me causing me to act and react in relationship-killing ways. My main problem is one I cannot fix because it lies within HIM, not me. I have choices on how I can deal with the problem, but I cannot FIX it.
… soul-searches and reviews incidents in hope of determining “what went wrong”
I spend a lot of time trying to figure out exactly what I did or said to trigger an abusive outbreak. For example, “extra money” is a phrase I avoid because at some point I decided that those words were the trigger to an outbreak.
What I’m learning is that “it is the perpetrator – not substance abuse, not the victim, not the relationship – that causes domestic violence.” I can attempt to decipher what I did or said THIS TIME to “cause” the outbreak, but I’m learning that the exact same actions or words next time around may have no effect.
No amount of changing MYSELF is going to solve this problem. I’m wasting my time trying to fix something I cannot repair.
… experiences a loss of self-confidence
Right now, as of January 2009, I am rebuilding my confidence. My latest concern is if I could repay student loans or not. I’m going to have to stop the negative self-talk and worry about “what-ifs” that plague me.
There was a time where I felt my gifts and abilities were worth more than the cost of college. I was under no self-doubt or worry. I KNEW I was capable. My goal is to return to THAT way of thinking. To do so, I will have to redefine my abilities for what they are – God-given talents that will successfully lead me to a life of abundance.
… harbors a growing self-doubt
When I met my husband, there was nothing I couldn’t do. Over the years, I have doubted everything from my artistic ability to my ability to cook toasted cheese sandwiches. It was really serious the day I couldn’t make a toasted cheese sandwich! I felt like that was it – if I couldn’t do that, then what kind of mother could I really be?!
… hears only her internalized “critical voice”
In part, I think this is why my angels came to me. I couldn’t say something nice about myself, I couldn’t be my own best counselor, so they came. Some of you might say that my angels were the subconscious bit of me I needed to hear. You can say that if you choose. However, I believe in miracles. I believe in angels. And I believe they rescued me.
… wonders why she isn’t happier and feels that she should be
Constantly. I have and had a “good life”. Shoot, Will told me so all the time. I simply don’t appreciate anyone or anything in my life. I am ungrateful. I am selfish. Well, that’s what he said anyway.
I thought I was “missing” something – I didn’t realize that I was under his control, manipulated, and surviving constant anxiety.
… suffers from anxiety or fear of being crazy
Holy crap. The day I had my first panic attack I called my sister and begged her to come get the boys. I wanted to call Will at work so he could take me to the hospital and put me away. Fortunately (?) most of the time depression gripped me, not panic. I didn’t say I felt crazy because when I wanted to talk about it, Will got angry with me for being unappreciative of what he did for our family.
… senses that time is passing and she is missing something
I am so happy that I do not feel this way anymore. I was anxious that I “should” be doing more or just BE more. I was missing out on life. I felt imprisoned. Now I realize my prison was one of words and ideas. Writing helps break the chains.
… wishes she was not the way she is – “too sensitive”, etc.
Yep. I’ve worshipped at the feet of Will, thinking that if I could be like him, then I wouldn’t have emotional issues. I told him he was my hero. I’m glad that I never turned into him. He lacks empathy and has appears to have no emotional issues at all. But what would I have to sacrifice to be that way?
… is hesitant to accept her perceptions
My insights and intuition are strong and usually right on the money. (Was that me who just wrote that?! YAY!) Will has spent a lot of time convincing me that I could not and do not function in the “real world” effectively.
… sometimes or usually has a wish to escape or run away
Not physically run away until recently. But I have spent A LOT of time in my own head, reworking my perceptions and thoughts to fit the life I wanted instead of the life I have.
… believes that what she does best may be what she does worst
What do I do best? I’m not sure.
… tends to live in the future – “Everything will be great when/after”, etc.
I did believe that when Will stopped drinking that all of our problems would disappear. That did not happen, so I started blaming myself. I figured that he overcame his flaw, so whatever problems we had leftover were because of me.
… has a distrust of future relationships
I distrust my ability to be a worthy friend. I’ve never really considered having a relationship with another man, but I’ve avoided potential friends because I was afraid I would let them down. I suppose I distrust myself more than anyone else.
But then, if I do leave Will, I can’t see myself getting involved with anyone else. Too much trouble.
*Note: I divorced my abusive husband in 2011 and I am now involved with a loving man! Love after abuse happens! The side effects of verbal abuse recur less often now, but I combat them with the abundant energy I have now that Will isn’t sucking it out of me. You should sign up for our newsletter to find out how I did it!