The Side Effects of Abuse with Yvette Gagnon
At the age of 45, I’m still overcoming the side effects that being abused has left behind. Certain words slam into me like a Mac truck. The hatred behind negative words can be more painful than being hit by a person’s fists. I know, I’ve been the recipient of both verbal and physical abuse.
I grew up in a violent home. My dad would beat my mom when she didn’t do what he wanted her to do. He broke her nose once because she didn’t want to make his brother dinner. He gave her no notice, just showed up with him, and expected her to cook. My mom had spent the day taking care of my two sisters and me. He punched her in the face and told her that he promised his brother a home-cooked meal and he was going to get one.
I remember growing up thinking, “There’s no way I’m ever going to let a guy hit me!” And, none of my boyfriends ever did. However, when I was 16 years old, one of my girlfriends did. This was hard for my ego to take. I was 5’9” and extremely athletic. I lifted weights constantly. I never wanted to be a victim like my mom. This girl, we’ll call her Julie, was 5’7” and feminine. Julie wore mini skirts, heels, makeup, etc. The total opposite of me. She expressed her feelings with her fists. I never hit her back. I was convinced that the beatings would be worse if I did. Also, I’ve never been into hitting girls.
I believed this was love. The sex was amazing and Julie and I shared a lot in common. Being raised in a house full of anger and hatred, I had no idea what love was. I’m still learning about love even today.
At 17 years old, I moved out of my parents’ house after my mom told me that if I came home with one more bruise, I wouldn’t be allowed to see Julie again. I wasn’t having any of that. I moved out and continued the relationship. I lived five hours away from my parents and on most weekends, I would drive home, pick up Julie, then take her back to my place for the weekend. She never hit me while at my place.
A few years ago, an ex-girlfriend of mine punched me several times in the arm. I was shocked. I happened to be driving her car when it happened. I pulled over, I told her that I wasn’t 16 anymore and won’t tolerate being hit. I was able to see the role I played in being hit as well. While I don’t believe in anyone putting hands on another, I do understand that that is how some people protect themselves against being disrespected. Words can hit just as hard if not harder than physical blows. I had told her to shut the f@#* up! She didn’t appreciate that at all. She felt completely disrespected and hit me.
Shame is the worst side effect to me.
I am no longer in an abusive relationship, yet the residue from constantly being yelled at and told I could do nothing right is still with me. I can identify the differences in my reactions to certain situations now. Whereas before, I would feel attacked if someone pointed out a flaw of mine. God forbid if I actually made a mistake and someone brought it to my attention. My whole system would seem to shut down. Almost like my body and mind were folding in on themselves to protect and hide from the abuse that was sure to follow. I recognize this as feeling shame. Shame for being less than. Shame for not living up to another person’s expectations and paying the consequences for falling short.
Recognizing the side effects of abuse allows one to identify his or her brokenness and empowers him or her to work through the pain, finally empowering oneself over the damage caused.
I have overcome the lying aspect of being a victim. Most victims of abuse will lie to avoid paying the intense consequences of their mistakes. When most often, the infraction made was minor. I would constantly deny the mistake made was by me. I am happy to say that I own my mistakes now and grow from them. My character is more important to me than someone’s anger over something that is usually insignificant.
Abuse often robs a victim of something. Mine is knowing what it feels like to be loved. Growing up, I would base being loved by my friends being there for me if I were sick or in the hospital. As an adult, I can see that my friends love me. The emotion is in their eyes and their actions.
I am able to feel love towards others. I did not have this ability when I was younger. I was full of hate and would “love” someone if he or she did what I wanted him or her to. I would take my friendship away if scorned.
I have learned to love and respect people as well as myself. By being able to feel love towards others, I have hope that one day I’ll be able to feel love by others.
Perhaps, this will happen when I am able to love myself.