Abuse is a scary word when used in describing a persons childhood. A room usually goes silent when someone even utters the word in a non joking manner. The few times my schools have shown abuse awareness videos are the only times when a group of thirty rowdy teenagers'/children have not made little jokes at maybe the animation, or the story, or the horrendous acting!
Instead they sit there, watching as each part of the film flickers on the screen. This isn't the problem. Of course people will fall quiet; the thought of anyone enduring such a terrible thing can even mute the most mouthy of people!
The problem is that there are victims themselves that will sit there and shake their head, maybe think “God, how awful!” even though memories of years of abuse plague their minds and don't leave them alone. Usually, these are victims of emotional abuse, who don't have physical bruises and scars to prove to them that what happened was wrong.
Emotional abuse is the 2nd most common reason for children needing protection from abuse, with 1 in 14 children having experienced it by a parent or guardian (according to the NSPCC website). Yet you don't really hear that much about it. And neither have the victims.
So that's why I have slid onto your device's screen to share my own experience and how I discovered that what I did endure was abuse.
Before around August of 2016, my dad had simply been a “bad dad”. That's how I described him in my head and to people for 15 years. Although he basically ticked all the boxes for emotional abuse I wouldn't dare say it.
“People have went through years of abuse and you saying you have would just be disrespectful for them!’ I'd snap at myself.
So my thoughts and feelings remained very deep inside me. The only phrase showing any sort of negativity towards him was: “Ermmm... He was just a bad dad...”
During a therapy session, my therapist told me that my siblings and I had endured years of horrible emotional abuse. My dad wasn’t the way they portrayed it on shows or movies. You know, the whole screaming at a child until they backed into a corner crying hysterically. No. He did it the way a lot of emotional abusers do. He almost spoke it to you, like as if it was a normal conversation. So his statements became normal and they became true. The horrible things he was saying must've been right, how could someone tell a lie so naturally? It was just a bonus to him that the neighbours didn’t hear.
Ever since I was told I could use that label by a professional, was the day I could finally realise why I'd been affected so badly. There's a blurry line between “bad ____” and abuse and people deserve to know what side of that line their experiences lie upon.
My advice would definitely be to seek out a therapist and find out! However, of course, certain things can prevent people from doing so. I am fortunate enough to live in England and have a supportive family. I understand that in other countries health care isn't free and some families just aren't understanding(or the abuser might still be present in the family)! So, if you are don't have the ability to seek out the professional help, skip step 1.
1. Get Help.
If you have feelings that someone was abusive to you, do not hesitate to find out. For the first time, my memories, my pain, and my suffering feels valid to myself. Allowing myself to feel this has helped me overcome suicidal thoughts, depression, and basically everything else!
Hearing those six words for the first time has transformed my life for the better. Sometimes, all you need to hear is: “Yes, they were abusive to you.”
2. A Comfort box.
When I was first told about this technique, I was slightly hesitant. I was, at the time, really depressed and so felt like I had no energy or time to do anything, never mind make a "comfort box".
A comfort box is well.... a box..... for comfort...
Fill this box with things that calm you, taking into consideration the five senses; sight, smell, touch, hearing,and taste.
For example, in mine, I have body gels were the smell reminds me of a woodland full of beautiful smelling berries and roses! I have pictures of animals and forests and family members. I have pieces of wood (that were supposed to be toys for my hamster, shh don't tell her) and velvet from an old purse that I can stroke and touch. I put a chocolate bar in, or a packet of crisps sometimes if I'm feeling a bit wild, to nibble on if to calm myself. And finally, I have a list with songs and sounds on which are compiled on playlists, depending on which mood I'm in (anxious, depressed, emotionless etc).
It was fun to create with me having to find what to put in it and decorating it. By the end, you have an aesthetic box! And, it does help.
3. Write, Speak, or Draw.
Sometimes, there is no one to speak to or you might not feel like explaining your feelings to another person. So something that greatly helped me was to write everything down. Writing things down made them real for me and not just a confusing mess in my head. I'd go back to it a little while later or maybe days later and review what I wrote. It made my thoughts clearer.
Horrible memories were repressed once again, even for only a little while, and instead were a messy rambling of black ink on a page. They weren't in my head, but now a visible thing that I could hide away or shred into a million pieces. I could decide what it was that set me off that day, or if there was anything I might have been a little bit dramatic about (like when my mum gave the last Haribo to my little sister and not me).
Not everyone's a writer, you might be a speaker or an actor. So instead, just start a discussion with yourself and pretend you're a judge, or pretend the victim isn't you, but instead a different child. I have created little scenes in which I pretend to be in a court (playing all the parts) and weighing the argument in my head. Usually it results in a weight being lifted from my chest, and the 'judge' exclaiming "You are a victim and I sentence you to a chocolate bar!"
Maybe you're more of a physical person and words aren't your forte, so the act of creating a drawing, or a statue from just play-doh, or dancing might be you're thing!
I have gone through a couple of tips and advice that my therapist gave to me that can help you accept the emotional abuse and live with it. These three steps can also help with a lot of other things, not just being the victim of abuse. Just stress or depression or anxiety can be calmed or maybe even stopped with these steps.. If you have questions, ask them. You deserve to know the answers.
Teenagers With Experience is an organisation created to provide teenagers worldwide with an online platform to share their own experiences to be able to help, inform and educate others on a variety of different topics. We aim to provide a safe space to all young people. You can contact us via email, social media or our contact form found on our home page.