The Seemingly Never-Ending Pain of Abuse

The first time my biological father hit me, it was a spank on the legs. The next time he hit me, it was a slap on the face. The next time was a belt. It ended up with my biological father’s hands around my neck, choking me; what haunts me the most was the look on his face as he squeezed harder and harder, the cold, unemotional stare. He would kill me without an ounce of guilt if only he could get away with it, his eyes told me. He is a drug addict, and for many years, I was trapped by his control. I cut off all contact as soon as I could. However, that hasn’t stopped him from trying to get to me, through other relatives. I’m writing this now, because I’m angry, because I can’t handle the memories of the pain he caused right now.

I am still affected by the abuse. The trauma frequently manifests itself in my low self esteem, in my personal relationships. Anyone who knows me knows how often I apologize in conversation. Even those who don’t know my past notice it. I’m told to stop apologizing so much by pretty much everyone, but somehow I can’t stop myself. I’m not sure exactly what causes it,I was so used to apologizing to avoid conflict in my childhood, I think I see it as protecting myself from getting hit. I have trust issues and I find it very hard to feel safe. I have been with my very supportive boyfriend for two years, and I am lucky to have found a healthy relationship, but anytime I see my boyfriend get angry about something, I become scared for my safety. I know logically that he will not hit me, and I know he spends much time trying to help me work through my remaining issues, I know he has an even, in control temper,and even know he’s angry about something unrelated to me, but knowing all of this can’t keep me from being afraid sometimes.

My confidence is low a lot of the time, and I remember all of the things he said to me, and all of the things he called me: bitch, fat, stupid.  He had me convinced that I was worthless, that I would never have anything good in my life. He would tell me I would never be loved by anyone, and this replays in my head at times of stress and I can’t believe in myself, I don’t know how to love myself. I have a difficult time believing I deserve love and happiness.

I have made progress, and I know that I am a lot happier than I ever thought I could be. But, the residual sadness, the anger, the feeling of helplessness can be overwhelming. The memories make me feel like I will explode and I have struggled with ways to deal with my emotions. I can’t afford therapy, and I talk as much as I can to those I trust when I need to, but the feelings always come back eventually. I don’t know if I will ever fully recover, or what it means to fully recover.

Where do I go from here? Where does our society go from here? Many still believe abusing children and women is just necessary discipline, and that abuse towards adult men never happens, these attitudes damage survivors of domestic violence, and discourage  many from getting help. How do we stop abuse with these ideas in our society? How can we change these ideas? I know the pain I have suffered, and I don’t want anyone else to ever feel the way I’ve felt. I have hope sometimes, and other times feel hopeless. I think the first step to progress is honesty and communication, which will lead to more awareness. We must remember the stories of survivors, and we must give support where we can. It’s not an easy battle, but in the end, I believe I can, and we can, win.

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  • nazza

    The question you are raising is how we can raise empathic concern in other people. We have made progress, even though we have a long way to go. I think the problem is that what is considered empathy for one part of the world is not the same for another. With vast discrepancies in education and affluence, for one, even developed civilizations like ours can’t begin to address the issue.

  • Jenny Gonzalez-Blitz

    I wish I had answers for you. I know you said you can’t afford therapy, but is their a city hospital where you live with a mental health center? They may have recommendations of support groups or even have some sort of program there, depending on where you live and what kinds of funds are allotted for this sort of thing. It’s not the best answer, but it may be worth taking a look into.

  • devoted_toucan

    My partner linked me to this, presumably because he knows of my own experiences. It was kind of difficult to read for this reason, but my heart goes out to you.

    Though I still live with my father, we argue less now, and it was his personal rage (rather than any other factors, such as drugs) that resulted in him hitting me. (He’s also on pills now that seem to make him more subdued.) It can be hard to deal with when I remember the incidences, especially when I also know that my mum saw it as the “necessary discipline” you mentioned. (My mother was the one who verbally attacked me on separate occasions to my father’s beatings – my dad couldn’t speak when he was that angry.) I wasn’t a bad kid (in fact, I’ve never really been able to ‘break the rules’ or be misbehaved because I’ve had a chronic illness since I was 9-10). There are two moments (from different times) in particular that come back to me sometimes and cause me to shrink (I won’t mention them here in case they’re triggering for you or others). When I do remember the abusive times that both my parents put me through, I feel such disgust…but, living with them, I have to do my best to ignore it.

    When I first met my partner a few years ago, he noticed how much I apologised as well. I still don’t know if it was a scared “I’m sorry, please don’t hit me” (even though I didn’t think he would) type of apology or a “I think everything I do is wrong because I’ve been made to feel that way through these bad experiences” type of apology. Thankfully, being with him really helped me to stop (we’ve been together almost three years now), but nothing will erase the occasional bad thoughts and feelings completely.

    I also get scared sometimes when my partner’s angry, which could be seen as odd because we have a long distance relationship. But it’s just the raising of his voice (it doesn’t matter what it’s at if he’s mad enough) or (in particular) the look in his eyes or if he’s mad and then he makes a sudden movement – they can remind me. I think I’d probably do what I did with my ex if this relationship wasn’t long distance – with her, I’d instinctively duck or try to cover myself when she was especially mad about something. It could be upsetting for her. My partner now has been great about this aspect as well; calming himself down if he sees that it’s really bothering me.

    I’m glad to read that you are happier than you thought you could be, but saddened (though understanding) of the rest of what you say. Please always try to remember that none of it was your fault and that it doesn’t make you weak or undeserving of love. All kinds of people can be abused, whatever their personality or looks are or were. I really hope you experience more love for yourself one day.