A couple of years ago, I moved to another country and therefore didn’t know anything or anyone around me anymore. Putting myself in such a situation basically forced me to grow up and I just couldn’t do it. I failed over and over. Friends disappeared and therapists couldn’t help me. Why couldn’t I build up relations like anyone else? Why couldn’t I grow like anyone else? Why was I thinking differently than everybody else? What was wrong with me?
However, mainly because of that experience, my perspective changed. I moved to the Netherlands asking myself “what’s wrong with me?” and returned with the question “what happened to me?”. I came back telling myself “I’ve been abused, as a child, by my own family”, but didn’t dare to say that out loud.
I still have trouble saying that out loud, because I’m afraid someone will scream at me that it isn’t true. Not that weird, because that has been the only reaction I’ve ever received when even insinuating I got mistreated at home. I couldn’t even explain it at the time, emotional abuse isn’t that visible, and since I never got to see how another family functioned and therefore never understood what the weird parts were.
However, when I now watch videos or read blogs about ‘emotional abuse’, I recognize all the signs. Let’s Google them together and go through it quickly, shall we?
Humiliation, negating, criticizing
Every day during my childhood, my mother enjoyed criticizing me for everything I did. Literally everything and usually combined with screaming. She humiliated me by calling me worthless.
I got so afraid of the humiliation over time that I stopped talking at home. I got scared to answer questions, even as simple as “how was your day?”. I tried to avoid answering and got stressed just by a question being asked.
I sometimes still do that today. It’s hard for me to answer questions honestly without turning it into a joke and hiding myself like that.
Quite frequently, my mom would tell other people, outside of our family, stories about me that weren’t entirely true. She often would tell people I lacked social capabilities, that I performed horribly at school and that it took a lot of effort to raise me (and my sister).
Control and shame
In our family, everyone had to behave to the ideas and standards of one person; You can probably already guess who. She would lay down on the sofa playing on her laptop while deciding what we should watch on television. She chose what school you would go to.
When we would go to a restaurant, because you were not allowed to stay home, she would ask you what you wanted to eat. If you then answered with a dish she didn’t want you to eat, she would scream and humiliate you that eating that particular dish was not normal behavior. Only the dish she wanted you to eat was considered normal and was the thing you should have answered. Shame on you!
At home there was no place to have your own thoughts or opinion. You had to obey the direct orders of the dictator or face the consequences.
This control could take extreme turns. Everybody in our house was so afraid they would do literally anything to please the dictator. When she was drunk and abusive, she would order my sister to give her more alcohol. Straight out of fear, my sister would drive to the night shop to buy another bottle of wine. Every. Single. Time.
Guilt and blaming you
During my childhood, I got repeatedly blamed for the problems of my mother. It was so hard for her to raise me. Everybody had to feel bad for her. Not for me, I was “taken care of perfectly” and “had everything I needed”. You had to feel bad for HER.
“Think about this little trick I taught you: look at what other children do!”.
I might have mentioned this before, but the lady of the house had quite a problem with me meeting people out of the family. She also quite isolated herself from the world, and therefore also me.
Our family lived a quite isolated life. I didn’t see other people except for school and, later on, work. When she would find out I “complained” to some school psychologist, my grandma, or pretty much anyone about her, she would scream at me and threaten to send me to my biological father.
This last one is interesting. She had been saying awful things about my biological father my entire youth. Therefore, she could also use this as a threat. Every weekend me and my sis had to visit our biological dad, we were completely stressed out.
When I finally got the internet on my computer, I was asked to sit downstairs, in the living room. That way they could look at everything I was doing at all times. My stepdad would pass by me over 70 times behind me over one hour. That’s not an estimation, one night I actually counted it.
When my mother was still working as a teacher, she did that in the same school I went to. She would hear everything I did in class from all her coworkers. If I failed a test, she would know it before I did and criticize me even before I knew what was going on.
My family had to know what I was doing every second of the day, every day. Privacy was not something I deserved. Even not at the time where I already had a job and had gotten 20 years old. After we moved into another apartment, I started locking the door to my bedroom at night. After only a couple of days, ‘the house owner requested me to turn in that key because it was “unsafe to lock any door”.
Months after I finally ran away from home, I received Christmas cards to my new address. However, I never gave any of them my address. Only a very few people knew where I lived, I was very careful with sharing that information.
One day my sister found out my Ghent address and showed up at my doorstep. I surely never invited her and made it quite clear I didn’t want contact. That time I got stressed out and immediately called the police out of fear.
Ever since I still get new friend requests over and over on several social media.
My mother didn’t hug me, comfort me nor give me compliments. Screaming was the only way of communication.
Even when I would cry, she would make me believe it was my own fault and often demand to stop crying.
During my entire lifetime, I can be wrong, but I only can remember one time my mother and I hugged. That was on April 25th, 2012. This was when I was in the hospital due to a suicide attempt. That night we hugged.
Invalidating your struggles
At Home was not a place for me to talk about struggles or problems I had to go through at school. My problems were not considered “real problems”. I would always receive a reply that sounded like “don’t act handicapped”, “it’s your own fault” or in a sarcastic way “oh your life is so hard”.
This is the main reason why I also started to invalidate my own problems. Instead of facing them and learning how to solve them.
Well, this was pretty much there by default. I did depend on her and she would make that very clear, every day.
Munchausen Syndrome By Proxy
According to uofmhealth.org, Munchausen syndrome by proxy is a mental health problem in which a caregiver makes up or causes an illness or injury in a person under his or her care, such as a child, an elderly adult, or a person who has a disability.
I have been diagnosed with autism since I was three years old, although I don’t have any of the most common symptoms. If I am somehow slightly on the spectrum, I wanna leave that in the middle to avoid endless discussions.
It is interesting to understand that I found legal proof that I was diagnosed with a level of autism that would make me “incapacitated for work”, or really really really autistic. Later on, a doctor declared that was incorrect/no longer the case and my mother fought that diagnosis in court. It seems like she wanted me to be “really really really autistic”.
According to the same website, this syndrome is a form of child abuse.
According to some resources, if you were emotionally abused as a child, you might show one or more signs of that in your further life. Signs are things like anxiety, depression, delayed emotional development, low self-esteem, desperately needing attention, attempts to avoid certain situations,…
At this point, it might not come to you as a surprise, but I’m coping with all of those issues today. These are real challenges, it’s why I do therapy.
I listed just some examples of what I went through on a daily basis. Most of these things weren’t even that visible. That’s why it was so hard to find help.
My whole life I’ve been scared of expressing my own thoughts or feelings. I’ve always been scared of not being normal, being different. However, let me tell you that when your child is hiding in a corner, trying to make himself as small as possible, crying, and afraid to say anything. If you, in that situation, still believe screaming and humiliation is the way to go, maybe, perhaps, just maybe, the joke is on you. 🤷♂️
Emotional abuse is something that is not taken seriously enough. I’ve been through years of therapy already, including trauma therapy. Yup, that’s right, I have childhood traumas, even though I’ve never been hit with a brick and by my memories never been sexually abused.
I am a victim, and no one should tell me otherwise.
I am a victim, and I’ll do whatever not to end up like her.
(Although I am a bit scared that by publishing this someone will come after me and criticize me about pretty much everything I wrote).
If you can relate to one or more of the situations described in this write-up, it’s recommended to look for professional help. In cases of domestic violence, it is understandably hard to talk openly about what you’re going through. Try talking to a licensed doctor, professional, or someone you can trust.
Also, don’t blame yourself. To quote someone incredible I met:
Don’t say “I have daddy’s issues”. It’s not your issue, it’s theirs.
(Would mainly be mommy’s issues in my case, but you get the idea)