You remember the childhood taunt, “Sticks and stones will break my bones, but names will never hurt me.” And therefore you should be able to put up with a little name-calling, right? Your partner sometimes says cruel things, but at least he’s not physically hurting you. But the trouble is, being called names will, in fact, hurt you.
When your partner’s emotionally abusive, you know one thing—all he wants is control. Of you. Of your life. Of the way you think and the things you do. How does he get it? By bullying you. By demanding you say and do what he wants. By unrelenting attacks on your very essence.
The Road to Depression
When you stand up for yourself against your abuser, that’s when he goes into overdrive. He will put you down to the point that you are completely insecure about yourself. He will berate you and insist black is white until you’re not sure what is true. He will manipulate you with the silent treatment or dramatic blow-ups. If you continue to try and thwart him, he will outlast you and exhaust you with a relentless assault on your sense of self. Finally, you give up.
The result? You feel powerless. Your self-esteem is as low as it can go. You question what is true—you question your own sanity. And you acquiesce to everything he wants to avoid being screamed at. No wonder you’re depressed.
Climbing Out from Despair
It is particularly difficult to recover when your depression is caused by emotional abuse. Often abusers ooze charm around others. They can be funny and delightful in social situations. They often choose to dish out their abuse when there’s no one else around to witness it. A friend says her husband woke her up at four in the morning to yell at her. Even her children didn’t understand the extent to which she was being abused.
Finally, this woman was so depressed she found it difficult to get out of bed, and was sometimes still there when her children came home from school. She found solace in thoughts of suicide. She was drained of energy, and worst of all, drained of hope. But she did realize she had to recover, if only for her children’s sake.
Recovering from Depression
The key to recovery is taking baby steps. Because it is so hard to take action when you’re depressed, it is particularly difficult to take any steps at all. You need to get outside for a walk or spend time with friends, but you’re feeling so spent that it’s hard. But you must do the hard thing. One at a time. Just take a short walk to the mailbox. Or pick up the phone and call a friend. Give yourself a pat on the back for every small step you take toward recovery.
Most important, seek help. Yes, there are many things you can do to help yourself—eat a healthy diet, get exercise, ban negative thoughts. But if you are in the depths of depression, it is very difficult to get better by yourself. So get help from a trained counselor who can be your partner in recovery.
Challenging Your Emotional Abuser
At some point you are going to have to find a way to repair or end the relationship with your abuser. When you confront him, he will likely continue with his abusive behavior since it’s worked so well thus far. But now you will stand up to him, dispassionately, without rancor. When he says, “What’s the matter, can’t you take a joke?” you will say, yes you can, but emotional abuse isn’t funny. When he says, “You’re so sensitive, you’re overreacting,” you will say, no, you are not. Your hurt is real.
You now know how injurious this person’s behavior is. How utterly terrible it is for your mental and physical health. You must stand strong and often it is helpful to have the support of a therapist so you can. You must tell your abuser he can no longer treat you so badly. That you will no longer tolerate his destructive behavior. And if he continues it, you will leave the room, leave the house, leave his life.
And then do it.
Nancy Travers is an Orange County Counseling professional. If you need safe, effective counseling services, please get in touch. You can reach her here: http://www.nancyscounselingcorner.com/contact-us.