Learning the term ’emotional abuse’ has been a revelation. I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to understand why I am the way I am. I’m anxious around people, I put on an act in public, I have a hard time letting people get close to me, and I’m always so angry. Anger is my natural state. I’ve been that way for so long I don’t know how else to be. Because anger was my sword and my shield. It stopped me from breaking, stopped me from getting hurt as badly as I possibly could have been. Realizing why may be the key to me finally becoming a little less angry. Still, it gets me so mad when the same people who emotionally abused me as a child still try to do the same thing by telling me what a horrible child I was — to justify their own behaviour — and how I’m a horrible, selfish person now for “expecting perfection from everyone except myself”. Her words.
To be honest, I don’t even know where to start with this. Some of my earliest memories as a kid involve being stuck down a toilet, feet first, and being absolutely terrified. My feelings about all of this is so messed up, such a jumble, and to add to that, my abuser accuses me of abuse when I confront her about all the times she threatened physical violence or manipulated me.
It’s not okay to threaten an eight year old child with breaking her arm.
It’s not okay to slap a five year old who’s complaining about her little brother taking her colour pencil until the five year old’s lip is split.
It’s not okay to try and destroy your daughter’s dreams and passions by denying her the opportunity to ride, trying to tear down the pictures she drew of horses — because who has time or money for posters, right? Let’s ship half a ton of maths textbooks over from Hong Kong to New Zealand instead.
It’s not okay to threaten to burn your teenager’s novel manuscript.
It’s not okay to take away the pictures she cut out from newspapers of her favourite actor, the only person who ever inspired her.
It’s not okay to expect your kid to be three years ahead of all her peers in mathematics.
It’s not okay to call your kid stupid and lazy every time she can’t do a maths problem.
It’s not okay to deprive her of sleep until she redoes them until she gets them right.
It’s not okay to always belittle and denigrate your kid, comparing her unfavourably to anyone and everyone.
It’s not okay to try and gaslight that kid when she’s grown up and confronting you about your behaviour.
It’s not okay to attribute your obsessive compulsive over-cleaning of everything everyone in the house owns to ‘love’ and trying to manipulate everyone into feeling guilty when they point out that you should probably stop because nobody likes living to your cleaning schedule.
That’s not parenting. That’s not love. That’s emotional abuse. And it’s no excuse to say that you did it out of love because you didn’t love me. You thought you did. What you really wanted to do was possess me, saddle me, put a bit in my mouth and yank on the reins to have me dance to your tune.
Some days are better. Some days are worse. I’m 28 now, and I still feel like that kid sometimes. I’m riddled with self-doubt, suffering from imposter syndrome, checking OCD, and a paranoid fear that I might have hurt somebody. And I’m angry that I feel that way because I now know why I have these feelings, but I can’t seem to rid myself of them.