I spotted a post by Rainbow Gryphon’s blog the other day, mostly due to the fact that she linked to this blog as an example of how men can suffer emotional abuse. As I read her post, I realized that for all the years I’ve been writing here, I haven’t really gotten into the details of how emotional abuse affected me, or men in general. Obviously, when you’re talking about having been physically, and sexually, abused the fact that there was emotional abuse sort of goes without saying. In fact, in terms of my own writing, it pretty much has gone without saying. But it is interesting to consider that the emotional abuse is part of the overall impacts that we deal with as adults.
It may also be impossible to separate out the effects of the emotional abuse too. I grew up without learning how to make decisions for myself, too busy surviving what was happening to me to pick up normal adult behaviors that other kids learned. Is that an effect of emotional, physical, or sexual abuse? Really, it’s an effect of all of it.
The depression I lived with in my twenties was also an after-effect of all of it, but I think that’s where you can really see how emotional abuse plays it’s part. It’s not the fear of people hurting me, or the issues I had with relationships, especially with males, which were obvious signs of being beaten and molested. It’s looking at yourself at the age of 27 and seeing nothing worthwhile. It’s growing up without any sense of self, with no concept of the value of your own life. It occurs to me now that those were not a result, directly, of what happened to the physical me, those were the result of not having any unconditional acceptance as a child, of never being “good enough”, of having no underlying sense of being of value to anyone.
It also occurs to me that, as an adult, it may be unlikely that I will ever have to deal with being physically harmed, even less likely that I will have to deal with being raped, but even if it did happen to me now, I’d have a core sense of myself, and my position in the world, to help me deal with it. I have enough emotional health in myself, and enough sources of support, that it wouldn’t be as catastrophic as it was when I was a child. If I had been a child with a stronger sense of self, a strong sense of belonging and love, I would have stood a better chance of protecting myself, possibly even being strong enough to tell someone what was happening. The emotional abuse left me without any of those things. I had to learn them myself, as an adult, and I continue to struggle to see myself in a more positive light. I’m not sure that you ever can completely recover that sense of self worth later, but I try my best to get a more realistic sense of myself little bit by little bit.