Speaking up against abuse can be especially difficult for anyone who has been a victim of repeated verbal abuse. Although I find it easy to be the voice for others when I see an abusive situation, it's entirely different for me. I have often faced circumstances when I knew I should have said something and defended myself but could not find my voice. I still struggle to have the same strength I give to others vulnerable to abuse.
The holiday season can bring feelings of community and love, but for many estranged verbal abuse victims like myself, it's a reminder that there are family members who are no longer part of their lives. Avoiding a verbally abusive situation benefits the individual but can also bring emotions of loneliness and exile with estrangement.
The ongoing side effects of verbal abuse can be complex and last for years. One exceptionally painful emotion that still resonates with me, even decades after, is guilt. It can be hard to move past it, and it may also invite its close friend, shame, to the party.
There was a time in my life when I was irate and unhappy with my environment and everyone around me. I would lash out at the slightest inconvenience and feel justified in my actions because of my trauma. I continued this behavior until I started therapy. After years of extensive therapy, I've realized those actions were not helpful, and I feel more empathy after verbal abuse than before it.
As a victim of verbal abuse for many years, I am no stranger to feeling like running away. This stress response will typically appear after I've hit the point of burnout and feeling that the only way to escape unfavorable circumstances is to leave physically. As a teenager, multiple times, I left my home and sought refuge with a friend, only to return again and face the consequences of my actions. Unfortunately, this pattern followed me into my adult life.
Verbal abuse can create numerous harmful outcomes during the abuse and for years afterward. Unfortunately, self-isolation is just one verbal abuse side effect. Many victims will keep themselves away from others while in an abusive situation, and some, like me, continue this behavior even after breaking free.
Facing a verbally abusive situation is emotionally and physically draining. In addition, many victims of abuse find that alcohol plays a factor in how their circumstances play out daily. As someone who lived in a relationship of verbal abuse, alcohol, and substance abuse, I found the combination of these outside elements intensified an already negative situation.
My relationships changed after I was abused. I learned this a while ago when I had a chance to sit back and examine the people I have as part of my inner circle. It was then that I realized my friends now significantly differed from those years ago. So naturally, I immediately felt sad, thinking that maybe it was something I did or said to create a rift between me and these others. So naturally, self-blame was my go-to emotion when I felt there was a problem. Thankfully, I have therapists that guide me through different situations, including ones like this, where I feel uncertain.
It is natural to look back and reflect on your life and how you spend your time when you lose someone you love to illness or accident. However, I have realized that because of my recovery from verbal abuse, my journey has aided me in seeking out the life I want. This goal includes surrounding myself with supportive and loving people rather than condescending or abusive. My past abuse has changed my perspective.
Many individuals, including myself, can take notice of subtleties later when they are no longer the object of verbal abuse. It shocks me as I look back and replay many of these instances in my head. There were several reasons why, however, I never recognized it as abusive, which led me to remain in the same situation for years.