If you have never experienced abuse, victims of abuse can look like pathetic, screwed up people who make stupid decisions and wallow in self-pity.
If you live in a black and white world that’s fine. I’m not trying to change your mind and you don’t need to read this.
I live in a smeared up, smudged up world where things are never so simplistic. If the edges of your black and white world are blurry or you’re willing to accept that the world isn’t neat and tidy, I’d like to share some fucked up fun facts about abuse that might help you understand the complexity of being a victim.
If you are a victim, it might just save your sanity.
Fucked up fun fact #1
Yep! There's more than one fun fact.
Abusers masterfully, and repeatedly, put victims between a rock and a hard place and make them choose. So on the surface, it looks like the victim is in fact, ‘choosing’ to stay, or to do unhealthy things, or to accept bad behaviour.
In reality, a victim is often being brainwashed, coerced, and forced to do things by someone who is in a position of power over them.
The really sad part is that a victim will look back with guilt and believe they really did chose it… that they are the fucked up ones. This, of course, keeps self-respect nice and low and keeps the abuser in the power seat.
Fucked up fun fact #2
This one is a doozy.
Being with an abuser sometimes feels like the safer place.
Living with abuse puts victims into survival mode. Survival mode leaves zero room for much beyond getting through each day. It is exhausting and debilitating…so you’d imagine that escaping an abuser is relaxing, right?
It’s not. When the abuser is out of the picture, survival mode drops away and now there is space to feel, to face, to deal, to see, to re-live, to process. For someone who does not have a lot of belief or faith in themselves, coming to terms with the reality of their abuse can be more terrifying than the abuse itself.
Fucked up fun fact #3
Abuse is like a drug. Abusers manipulate and groom their victims in ways that create dependency.
They gaslight until the victim doesn’t know how to interpret their own reality without the abuser telling them.
They strip self-worth until the victim feels damaged beyond repair and then tell them how lucky they are to have someone who is willing to be in their life.
They drip feed tiny rewards that are earned by near impossible hoop jumping and create a victim who would do anything for a dribble of positivity thrown their way.
When a victim leaves an abuser, they suffer withdrawal the same way a heroin addict would. They have no internal resources left for creating happiness.
Fucked up fun fact #4
Abusers are finely tuned hunters walking among us all. They search for their prey and vet them before setting a trap and striking. It’s called a shark bump.
Sharks will bump things as a way to determine what it is and if it’s worth attacking. Abusers do the same thing. They set up little tests to see where someone’s boundaries are and then try to break through those lines.
They are skilled at knowing who has a chink in their armour that will make them vulnerable and even more skilled at exploiting the tiniest chinks.
Fucked up fun fact #5
Abusers have beards… not literal facial hair beards… they have people who unwittingly serve as references for their ‘good character’. Abusers will align themselves with truly wonderful people and only show those people the generous, caring side of themselves.
If a victim does manage to break free and point a finger, they look like a ‘crazy ex’ and no-one believes that the abuser could possibly do such horrible things.
The sad thing is that the truly wonderful people, (the beards), often never know the role they’ve played in the abusive situation and will defend the abuser whom they believe to be a stand up friend.
Fucked up side effect of abuse #1
I have lived with anxiety most of my life. What I didn’t realize, until recently, was that not everyone does!
I didn’t even know that what I was feeling was anxiety. I thought everyone else was experiencing life the same way as me but doing a much better job of handling it.
I thought everyone stressed over all the horrible things that could potentially happen from a trip to the grocery store?
I thought everyone second guessed each decision they made (life altering decisions like which brand of milk to buy).
I didn’t consciously realize that every interaction I had with other human beings made me feel slightly panicked or that securing the quickest exit route in my mind wasn’t part of life
I thought this was just a normal human experience.
Fucked up side effect of abuse #2
This is how it looks for me.
A steady stream of negative self-talk that I put effort into countering every day.
When someone does something nice for me, I instantly wonder what their hidden motive is and put up walls so I don’t get fooled. I’m always on guard.
I sometimes feel like the world is working against me and I resent that. I go through phases where I feel helpless and I cry.
Extra fuckedupness of depression…did you know that once you’ve experienced depression your brain has learned how it goes and your odds of experiencing it again at some point in life go up by about 40%. If you’ve experienced it more than once already, your odds of dealing with it again go up to a whopping 90%.
Don’t feel bad though. There’s good news on the way
Fucked up side effect of abuse #3
In or out of abuse, there are consequences and costs the victim must pay. Abuse hurts on every level. It is one of the most damaging things one human can do to another and it usually ripples down through generations.
If you have a headache, do you take a Tylenol? If you have a cramp, do you try to massage or stretch it out? If you are on the verge of sobbing, do you try to hold it back or distract yourself?
We all try to numb pain. If you are a victim of abuse, you might try to numb that pain in unhealthy ways. Sometimes it is a part of surviving.
Fucked up side effect of abuse #4
Abuse usually comes from someone who should have been a person we could trust. In order to come to terms with the discrepancy of this person who should love and care for us doing bad things to us, victims, (especially children), have to create a new belief system where the abuse is their fault.
They can’t live in a reality where someone they need for survival is hurting them so they invest in the belief that they themselves are to blame.
Plus, if you believe you are the cause, you maintain some sense of control over your own fate. If you can do better, the abuse won’t happen.
Of course, when the abuse does continue there is the nifty side effect of blaming yourself more… nice little fucked up vicious circle huh?
Fucked up side effect of abuse #5
Denying the abuse.
Or at the very least, minimizing it.
You know what’s really interesting about this one? No matter where someone is on the scale of abuse, they will almost always place themselves lower down than others would.
For example, if being catcalled while walking down the sidewalk was a level one of abuse and repeated rape at the hands of multiple captors was a level ten, asking an abuse victim to place their experience on the scale will result in them downplaying it… even if they are at a level ten!
“It could have been worse.” “Other people went through more so I shouldn’t complain.”
The truth is nobody can create a universal scale because two people could experience the same abuse and have it affect them at different levels. No-one else can judge the impact abuse has had on a person but the abused person isn’t very good at judging it either.
The good news
tools that can make dealing with fucked up side effects easier.
There are ways to recognize abusers before they get hold.
No-one has to live with the side effects forever.
There are constantly more and more ways to access support.
If you’d like support, join my Kickass Life Counselling waitlist for a zero obligation key to open the door. Plus I’ll send helpful shit your way.
Before counselling, I didn’t know any of this stuff.
I didn’t know I didn’t have to be strong; that I could fall apart in order to put myself back together. I didn’t know I didn’t have to be happy all the time; I could feel depressed and survive it. I didn’t know I didn’t have to be a zen master; I could have anxiety and navigate it.
Counselling taught me it was ok to be wherever I was in the healing journey because these are normal things to feel and think when you are a victim and it doesn’t mean you’re always going to be that way.