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Emotional Abuse – and the Brain.


It’s such a roller coaster ride. What is? Coming to terms with the emotional abuse that brought me to my knees ripping my life apart, leaving me isolated from my world. I go from feeling good and feeling safe and loved to being racked with guilt, feeling vulnerable again and that no one loves me; it’s all just a game. I feel trapped. Probably the most difficult aspect of the abuse to deal with is people not understanding, or believing that emotional abuse is real. Dismissing me as possibly nuts rather than a victim of abuse, and this is the final nail in the psychopathic coffin. The Trap. No one believes you; after all you looked so happy together. You said it yourself, why did you go on ‘loving’ that person, why did you stay. Instead of being the victim, you sound crazy, bitter and unable to handle rejection. I made the mistake of fighting my corner, confronting some ‘friends’ on their judgment. It got me no where; I just isolated myself even further. What I shockingly discovered is those people want to stay out of anything they don’t understand, they don’t like the threat of it to their lives. To avoid this, do not try to defend or explain yourself to anyone. Yes, you need to share your story, but you need to share it with people who know what you’ve been through. You don’t need someone telling you to “get over it” or “breakups are part of life”. You need someone (and we all have someone) who will help you unravel this hell and set you on a path to peace and not judge you.

I have to dig deep and hard to understand how someone in just a year could slash a wound so deep into my soul that two years on it continues to seep. I have days of wonderment and happiness, feeling good and decent. But still now after two years I have days of despair, feeling guilty and indecent. That feeling of being violated, I simply can’t banish from my thoughts. Once a trusting person I now constantly question motives. So many of you kindly commended me for being so strong, so brave and honest. My psychiatrist told me that I was quite exceptional in my recovery. This evening I will let you into a secret. I still struggle to cope. I still have weeks when I hit a wall, when I am bashing against a wall. I feel despair that I can’t shift the feeling of abuse, that at this stage it’s not a distant memory. So when you feel anger or fear or annoyance at your difficulty in recovery from abuse, remember it is a common setback, and we just have to keep pushing through that black hole. I find it inconceivable how profoundly the abuse has stayed with me. However if you apply logic to your struggle from emotional abuse, it’s not that inconceivable.

Emotional abuse doesn’t stop the day you walk away from an emotionally abusive partner. Why? Let me get a little technical here. The hippocampus a major part of the brain is part of the limbic system–also known as the ‘emotional brain.’BrainWordless

It supports a variety of functions including adrenaline flow, emotion, behavior, motivation, long-term memory. Emotional life is largely housed in the limbic system, and it has a great deal to do with the formation of memories. It controls most of the involuntary aspects of emotional behavior that relate to survival.

If you are living in a toxic environment filled with your partner’s narcissism, addictions, and abuse your ‘emotional brain’ is being harmed. I didn’t realize at the time that I was living in an environment that was resulting in the death of neurons, (These highly specialized nerve cells are responsible for communicating information in both chemical and electrical forms throughout the body.) And, of course, ensuring that new ones weren’t developed through the process of neurogenesis, either. Fortunately, I did hold onto a tiny bit of cognitive functioning to realize that life with my partner was toxic, and things were probably going to continue to grow worse rather than better. The relationship was destroying my spirit and strangling my soul. I did not realize that the abuse was harming my ‘emotional brain.’ I was not concerned about my brain; I did not know about all of this at that time.

So now I am starting to understand why the recovery is so hard, why and how the abuse has impacted so deeply. Emotional abuse leaves an indelible scar. The scar can manifest in depression, and extreme or dulled emotional responsiveness, it interferes with subsequent healthy sensation and experience. Abuse leaves a trace in the brain. Investigating the Neurological Consequences of Abuse has helped me to stop feeling so angry at myself for taking so long to recovery and for, not recovering fully. It is also helps understand that the impact of the abuse might always linger in my brain. But that doesn’t mean that recovery is impossible. Many abuse victims do not develop symptoms, (unfortunately I developed severe PTSD), and research shows increasingly that the brain can dramatically change when provided with the right type of support and emotional nourishment. I am lucky that I have such support. Understanding what went wrong during and after abuse, I believe, will help me figure it all out and relieve the despondency.  At least that’s my long-term hope.

So armed with that knowledge I now have I remember, and I want you to remember: You are not crazy. You’re not bipolar, insane, hypersensitive, jealous, or needy. You’re a victim of emotional abuse. Share your story with people who get it and can help and support you towards healing the scar. The psychopath does not matter. It’s the subsequent recovery journey that changes everything. I for one intend to keep that hope at the front of my mind as I continue the tug-of-war with the seeping wound of emotional abuse.

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