Just starting to write this post is bringing up a physiological reaction- residual PTSD: elevated blood pressure, elevated heart rate, tensed body, sometimes an electric shock hits the lower abdomen- adrenaline being released from the adrenal glands.
When PTSD victims recall traumatic events, they re-live them. The body and the primitive area of the brain are re-living the experiences and they’re telling the victims to get the hell out of the situation- whatever it is that’s causing the stress.
The abused almost need to be viewed as addicts going through withdrawal. Emotional abuse is more addictive than any drug- that’s why they go back to their abusers and that’s why they develop Stockholm Syndrome. If you don’t know what Stockholm Syndrome is, just think of it as what Belle experienced from Beauty and the Beast– an unsuspecting girl is taken captive and held prisoner- she remained constantly in fear and started to view even the smallest of kindnesses (or just decencies) from the beast as loving and eventually, she did fall in love with him. Despite Disney’s attempt to brainwash young girls to believe that you can change bad men, it’s not what happens in real life.
*Deep inhale* *Deep exhale* Okay, see below for some of the most humiliating parts of my own path through an abusive relationship.
We used to workout together. I actually got too anxious when he went to the gym without me. I didn’t know at the time, but it was because I knew deep down that he is a man who wanted to cheat because nothing was good enough for him- especially me. He had some knee problems and asthma. I wanted to squat one day, which he couldn’t do, so I told him that we would meet after I finished and continue our workout together. When we met up, he was cold and distant. I kept asking why, extremely concerned. He told me in a low voice that it was not okay that I had done that. It wasn’t okay that I wanted to do something that he couldn’t do. I wasn’t allowed to run- I had to do his favorite cardio machines with him. I wasn’t allowed to squat because he couldn’t. We had already passed the point in the relationship where he would yell at me and guilt me into things. If I even looked like I wanted to go run without him or hinted at me maybe doing that, he would either be angry and full of rage or cold. I would go and hide in the stairwell and cry. Eventually, I began to follow him around the gym. Literally, I was like a pet. He joked about it sometimes and made gestures as if calling to a dog or a horse to come follow him. And I did follow him. I hated his favorite cardio machine, so I stood next to him while he did it. I physically couldn’t do more sets when we lifted so I sat next to him while he did, like an obedient dog. This became our relationship. He had control of me and no matter how humiliated I was, I complied and followed him around. Even though he was too embarrassed to show anyone that we were a couple- if I tried to show any affection or hold his hand, I was pushed away. When he was drunk, I was allowed to take his arm.
We lived together for a few months. I loved decorating and I wanted him to be happy, so I got him a coffee table and some decorations- I was controlling and manipulative because I was taking control of HIS space, not ours.
I met a neighbor one day, while we moved stuff into the apartment. He lived next door. The neighbor was someone who I had worked with briefly. I knew that he wasn’t interested in women, which is what saved me from a verbal beat-down from my ex for talking to a man. I was just excited to know someone and told him we should have a dinner sometime- like an apartment-warming. The walls between our apartments weren’t thick enough though. We never heard from him again and when we saw him, he avoided eye contact and spoke minimally- probably because he had to debate whether or not to call police every night when he heard the yelling and the sobbing and pleading.
After we’d lived together for a bit, and after he asked me to elope (for the record, that was extremely close to happening), he changed his mind about both and kicked me out but wanted to be together still. At least he helped me paint my new apartment- Why, you might ask? I had been trying to paint and he came to see me and grabbed the paint rollers from me, told me how much I sucked at this and how much better he was, and took over.
We had matching keys to each others’ apartments. The number of times he took back his keys when he was angry and then gave them to me again is unknown. Whenever he took them back, I would be panicking. He knew this, of course, which is why he did it in the first place. I was his pet, his captive, his victim. I would be too panicked to function (if you’ve never felt that, it feels like your feet weigh 200 lbs and you just physically can’t move them). I would stand outside of his door and cry. I would call him. I would knock. I would beg him to let me in and not do this anymore. His neighbors heard and saw all of it. This was a regular routine.
The more things he did that scared me or made me panic, the more sensitized to it I became. Most people don’t experience hyper-sensitization, but rather experience the opposite phenomenon, desensitization- an example of this is a youth playing a video game that normalizes killing or murder, and subsequently, the youth is not affected nearly as much when this happens in real life and the more he sees it, the less it affects him- he’s desensitized. The converse is hyper-sensitization. Each time the stimulus, my narcissist’s yelling or doing something to torture me, was presented, my panic increased in magnitude. The more the panic increased, the more often I would find myself holding myself in a corner of the room or curled up in the shower letting the water run over me. I would freeze more often in public (freeze response is a thing I addressed in my PTSD post). The more these occurred, the more my narcissist got angry and accused me of being emotionally abusive, controlling and manipulative. I believed him. I apologized incessantly.
At this point in my life, I had a full-time job. I had been supposed to take the MCAT (test to get into med school), but obviously if I’m working one full-time job and another full-time crying from the time I got home till 3 or 4 AM every night, there wasn’t much time to study- I had a packed schedule between these two things (that was supposed to be a dark joke, you can laugh, it’s okay). Somehow, I kept my job during this time period. I hid my breakdowns at work for a time. Even though I could barely concentrate because my brain was constantly on edge from what would turn into PTSD, I kept my job- barely.
There was a turning point. As I said in my post “You never see it coming.”, there are steps that abusers take and these steps always hold true.
Step 1 was love-bombing.
Step 2 was losing control of your life through humiliation and guilt or just control.
Step 3 is crazy-making.
Step 4 is move on to the next victim.
I didn’t mention that there is a transition from step 2 to step 3- the loss of interest. He had sucked out my soul and had me as an empty shell of a human. My narcissist started to care less. Maybe he was getting bored of my panic, my unending loyalty, my ability to be controlled, degraded and humiliated and the constant attention and reverence that he got from his pet. He just cared less. If I accidentally talked to a male that I didn’t already know, he wouldn’t care. If I wanted to go run, he didn’t care. If I accidentally hugged another male, he didn’t care. I noticed the lack of angry reactions, the lack of yelling, the lack of humiliating or threatening and I panicked. The less he cared, the more I panicked. My world was about to crumble and I knew it. I begged him to care again.
Let me just repeat that- I. begged. him. to. care. again. His only form of caring had been abuse and I loved him and he told me he loved me and wanted to marry me. His abuse must be love then, right? That’s what love is?
I BEGGED HIM TO YELL AT ME. I BEGGED HIM TO GET ANGRY. I BEGGED HIM TO SHOW THAT HE CARED AT ALL.
I WAS BEGGING TO BE ABUSED BECAUSE THAT WAS THE THING THAT I HAD COME TO KNOW AS LOVE.
This, ladies and gentlemen, is why the abused go back to their abusers- as well as fear and loss of identity. If he’s my whole world, who the hell am I without him? I’m his shadow. I’m his pet. Without him, what is there? Why live?
Stay tuned for Step 3: crazy making.
*Disclaimer* I am not writing this blog for myself- I don’t need to vent, I don’t need to express emotions and I don’t need to whine about some boy- writing these things triggers me and brings back PTSD symptoms- it doesn’t benefit me at all other than letting me help other survivors relate to someone and bring awareness to those who can’t relate. I am writing this blog solely to help others and raise awareness about mental health.
Pictured: belle after she’s developed Stockholm Syndrome- viewing her captor as a victim (aka what happens to every poor girl who has Stockholm Syndrome)