Anxiety Society: Dealing With Emotional Abuse(This is the seventeenth post in a series called “Anxiety Society”, in which I interview everyday anxiety sufferers from all walks of life about their struggles, their triumphs, their coping methods, and more. I believe that the more we openly talk about our mental health, the less of a “thing” it becomes. Conversation can reduce stigma, and my interviewees want to be a part of that.)

Earlier this week, we met Sveta, a twenty-year-old blind woman with complex PTSD and dysthymia. Today, Sveta shares the story of her emotionally abusive childhood.

SB: I’m so sorry to hear about the abuse. What was the abuse like and how did it affect you as a person? What did you do, if anything, to cope?

S: My parents didn’t like me because I was blind. My mother was the main abuser, though Dad ranks a close second. He once told me he doesn’t think emotional abuse is real. I assure you it is.

SB: Wow.

S: I was alienated from my brothers because my mother claimed I was a liar. I was home schooled by my mother who would punish me severely if I got anything wrong, stating it was a “reflection of her teaching skills”. I was sent away to a boarding school, where the abuse from the students and restrictions by the staff only made things worse, and then Mom left and didn’t even say goodbye to me. Heaven forbid if she was angry with me.

SB: What happened if she was angry with you?

S: She would run my head under the faucet, kick me, grab me by my hair and shake me, take things from me, throw away my things, forbid me to come upstairs from the basement, call me names, fling me in a cold shower with my clothes on, and manipulate me all the while by hurting me and then claiming to be more hurt by me than I was by her. She’d tell people how awful I was, and when SS [Social Services] came she lied to them too and locked me in my room for a day. Other times, she used to take the door off of the doorway to my room.

SB: Wow. I’m honestly not sure what to say in response.

S: I also had to copy and hide my music for 2 years because she thought it was “depressing, and makes you depressed”. So, she took it and prescribed a load of pop nonsense that was on the radio at the time that she didn’t even listen to. She told the dorm staff at the school to raid my room and take all my music that I had hidden. People did whatever she wanted. They were charmed by her. Until they got to know her, that is.

SB: Did you ever trust her?

S: She would regain my trust, and I would tell her a lot. I would like to think I wouldn’t tell her everything, but “everything” and “a lot” are only slight variants of one another. She used to go into counseling appointments with me, and I would have to alter what I wanted to tell the therapist because she was there.  Also, if anyone asked her to do something, she would throw a huge attention-seeking fit like a child. She bought me things after she punished me, and claimed she loved me and “wouldn’t ever let me fall”.

SB: I could easily see how your sense of trust with your mom would be shattered. What about other people, though? Do you trust others?

I don’t trust people. I don’t like most people. I don’t go in the basement without my soothing things and a friend on the phone. I think people are almost always out to gain something by another’s pain, or that they have another motive than the one they state.

SB: How long did the abuse last?

S: It lasted for 15 years, and started before I could talk. I remember parts of it randomly. For example, I woke up this morning thinking I was still at the school.

SB: Do you think any of the abuse is related to the fact that you can’t see?

S: My mom and dad used to (and still do) try to force me to be sighted. They can see, therefore, they expect me to see too. Dad and my 2 brothers used to come in and refuse to make any noise and see if I could tell which of them it was by looking at them, and then mom would punish me if I got it wrong, which I pretty much always did until I realized that each person breathes differently.

SB: Wow.

S: I get angry if someone sighted is talking about how much they can do or see…because they can see, and I went through all this because I can’t. And my parents felt guilty about it. My father leaves me home alone, and then when he is here, he does one thing and then says another, flipping from emotional states from minute to minute. If I ask him a question one minute, he will say yes and then the next time I need help with that same thing, he will say no.

SB: That sounds frustrating. Can you share an example?

S: A great example of this is driving. If I ask him to drive me somewhere he will say yes sometimes and no others, sometimes in the same day. Sometimes he changes his mind and says he won’t do what I want after he said he would. He gets upset if I do anything by accident. He gets upset if I break something, spill something, don’t clean something up right. Mom used to do all of these things to the point that I don’t like asking anyone for things unless I know them very well and can see consistency in what they do. If there isn’t, I drop that person. Hard.

Stay tuned for the final part of our interview where Sveta explains how the Russian language once saved her from a suicide attempt.

Previously: Coping, But Without the Luxury of Sight

Creative Commons License photo credit: Pink Sherbet Photography