The Impact

Someone once asked what it felt like to lose yourself. This was my response.

“Can someone please elaborate on what they think that means and how it feels? Once you lose yourself/your spirit can you ever get it back?. Maybe after you leave you find yourself again? I think I’ve lost some of what I once was.”

You lose interest in doing what you once enjoyed, and then start to forget what that even was…
You feel you are possibly/probably unloveable, deficient and unworthy of being loved.
You experience painful things that you would have once tried to fight against, but no longer have the will or energy to do so, and instead you desensitize, disconnect and adapt to it.
You compartmentalize much of your life and start to hide many compartments, meaning that you must isolate yourself and limit even your friendships to keep it hidden.
You no longer go to sleep looking forward to the next day, and you wake up wanting to just ‘get through the day’.
You start to forget that you had dreams and goals because if you dare to remember, it will hurt.
Every time you start to feel ‘happy’, you immediately feel anxiety because you are wondering when the rug will be pulled out from underneath you.
You feel trapped and you don’t ‘see’ your choices.
You wonder what is wrong with you.
You wonder if you are capable of being in a happy and healthy relationship.
You feel you aren’t worth that kind of relationship, and you might as well make the best of it (often for the kids).
You feel unable to make it on your own and you doubt yourself where you once had confidence.
You don’t like looking in the mirror because you see a tired, depressed and defeated person that you don’t recognize looking back at you.
You think if you just try harder, love deeper and stronger and behave better that it will all get fixed and better.
It fails and you feel you are a failure.
Something has gone horribly wrong in your life and you keep trying and trying and trying to fix it.
Then you try to just cope with it.
Then you burn out, get angry, cry, grieve and look for real answers.

Note:  I wrote the above several years ago, and shared it with a few support groups.   One person responded by comparing aspects of the above to depression.   This bothered me.  Too many times I see the impact of abuse get shifted subtly to hold the person being abused as somehow responsible.:  She’s depressed. She needs to deal with her depression.  She needs to focus on getting better. 

There is some truth, but in fact, people need to put that focus on the one behaving wrongly, behaving abusively, and put the responsibility and accountability on him to stop the abuse!

I’m not saying that a person can’t be abused and depressed simultaneously, but I have to wonder how many depressed women would improve if they were free of being abused.  Below is my response regarding the subject of impact of abuse vs. depression:

It’s true that there can be a crossover, but I would differentiate to a great degree when abuse is involved. In that case, ‘situational depression’ is more applicable, but the following bear their own unique stamp that reflects the hallmark of abuse.

You lose interest in doing what you once enjoyed, and then start to forget what that even was…

When you are trying to make a vital relationship work with a partner whose mindset is one of entitlement, you end up giving an inordinate amount of energy to him and to the relationship. This can happen so subtly, that when the fog rolls in, it hides in plain sight. In a way, I consider this sort of partner to be a kind of vampire. This person does not care if your goals slip away, your health erodes, your dreams and hopes dissipate, and you become a faded version of yourself. Energy is finite, and when it’s sucked out of you, you don’t even have the emotional energy to figure out or remember what you enjoyed, much less why it’s not a part of your life anymore.

Thinking about what you enjoy becomes dangerous ground, because what you love has probably been used as a weapon of control against you. If this is depression, it’s more akin to situational depression.

You feel you are possibly/probably unlovable, deficient and unworthy of being loved.

How could this feel otherwise? You’re with someone who has vowed that he loves you, vowed to commit his life to that, and yet his behaviors consistently reflect something else? When you doubt, fight back, question or react, the right buttons are pushed to make you feel guilty, and to divert attention to the needs of your partner.

Family and friends see a different picture, and so often their perception is that of ‘the great guy’. So now your messages include the information that you’re with a great guy, and therefore somehow your pain is either exaggerated (i.e. you’re too sensitive, you’re too needy, you’re too purple etc.) or unwarranted. How do those message typically get processed? When the information you receive conflicts with painful reality, the question often becomes: What is wrong with me? The inner terrifying battle ensues to fight what seems obvious: this must be all I deserve…

Don’t forget the times you engage in reactive behaviors. That always works really well to dig in the message: See? Look at that. Look at me. What makes me think I can or should ‘judge’ him? (notice discernment gets lost here, and reality begins to lose clarity)

You no longer go to sleep looking forward to the next day, and you wake up wanting to just ‘get through the day’.

Again, I see this much as an energy issue. A toxic relationship just sucks your energy and you live mostly in survival mode, approaching each day with a triage mindset as to where you should allot your energy. At the end of the day, there’s nothing left to give to processing, and you sense it, and you also know that tomorrow appears to be a repetition. You try to fall asleep as you stare at the wheel you feel chained to that takes you round and round as you starve and follow the carrot that isn’t enough to sustain you anyway. You know you’ll wake up tired and sad, but that doesn’t mean the day won’t bring its own demands. Soon, the functional things you are able to do can feel like key elements to your right to live, lest you are discarded as being nothing more than a worthless eater. This is the tearing down of the human spirit.

You feel trapped and you don’t ‘see’ your choices.

Along with PTSD and traumatic bonding, there is an interesting and terrible thing called learned helplessness. Experiments observed the effects when the concept or perception of any ‘safe space free from pain and danger’ were systematically messed with and removed altogether, and then eventually offered again. The results showed that often the ‘learning path’ (literally in the brain) would not fire up and work, so that the animal would not be able to understand (learn) that ‘here is safety’. In other words, the lesson of ‘there is no safe space free from pain’ becomes stuck and stalled.

You wonder what is wrong with you.

I’m going to attempt to clarify what I meant here. Sometimes, you can wake up feeling crummy, slightly ‘off’, tired, achy, listless etc. and wonder if something is ‘wrong’. Sometimes, you can walk into a situation and pick up or sense that something is ‘off’, and it may steer a decision. Sometimes, you can get downright frustrated with yourself at doing or not doing something, behaving or not behaving in a certain way, want to kick yourself in the behind, and wonder what is wrong with me? Why did I do or not do that? None of these are what I meant by ‘wrong’ in the original list.

It’s referring to the deep (albeit false) core belief and buried fear of lacking worth. Those who share this will probably instantly know what I’m talking about. At a gathering before my father died, my siblings joked about all the apology notes I wrote as a child, and I replied that I was born with an apology in my mouth. Why this foundational piece is not solid in some of us, I have no stock one fits all answer. I know the ‘probable’ answers in my case, but no matter why, it can have a deep and massive impact on a life. You can grow old enough to question this buried belief as legitimate, but when in your daily life you are a recipient of messages that reinforce that you lack the same value as others somehow, when you are the recipient of behavior that treats you as ‘less’ and ‘tells’ you that there must be something lacking within your very being or something ‘wrong’ in your very being, it becomes nigh impossible to stop that lie from affecting you. Naturally, you apply your energies to rooting out all your faults and weaknesses and becoming a better person. One worthy of living and breathing, and maybe one day…. maybe maybe one day… being loved.

You don’t like looking in the mirror because you see a tired, depressed and defeated person that you don’t recognize looking back at you.

This is the occasional paralyzingly dismal brush with reality when you actually LOOK at yourself. You see the cumulative impact and the evidence of lost time. It can be frightening to the point that you can stand frozen, confused, and somewhat desperate. Then you search and grasp for the energy to figure it out, it isn’t there, so you breathe in the fumes to take care of a chore or give that precious bit of energy to a child that you love. In these moments, you may also be likely to struggle to not feel angry and resentful to your spouse. You might take a fleeting reality glimpse of ‘who’ he is, but will probably not have the energy to hold on to it for long.

24 Responses to The Impact

  1. Pingback: Does he see (part two) | my life in pajamas

  2. chosetobehappy says:

    You are really good. Very well written 🙂 and completely on point again !!

    Like

    • WritesinPJ's says:

      Thank you, chosetobehappy!

      Like

      • BrokenShell says:

        Hi, I am 26 years old. @ 25 years old, I married my long time bf (5 years). Today, after reading a lot of articles, I just found out that I married PA man. I hate myself because I let him blamed me for all our conflicts through the years. I used to read a lot of books just to improve myself thinking I was the problem. If something is wrong, I tried to open up with him but he always ignores me, refuses to be intimate, withdraws and punishes me. It hurts so much because I KNOW HE WILL NOT CHANGE. He makes me crazy. I just can’t fix problems with him. I am frustrated. I always feel so sad and it wasn’t intentional. I wanted to kill myself. I felt unloved. I hate myself for finding out too late that he is PA man. I should have had save myself from pain and miseries.

        Like

  3. Exodus says:

    Yes, this is me. This is where I am now..all of the above. I am now a completely isolated corpse that manages to take a breath every so often. I had to euthanize my beloved dog this week and I wished so much that it could be me. I was once an amateur chef and absolutely loved cooking and now I hate it and resent it. I was once a musician and music was my life but now I can’t even enjoy it because it reminds me of the joy that I can’t feel anymore. I was once a good carpenter and artist and now, I have no tools and no inspiration to build or paint anything. I once had the best friends in the world but I’m too ashamed for them to see me like this and I’m too fearful of what my husband will say or do in their presence. He’s ugly and evil and years ago, my friends quit inviting us to their homes and they quit accepting invites from me.

    I wanted to share a story with you about an experience I had last summer with uncovering remnants of my past and forgotten self.
    My book case needed to be replaced and so I decided to remove all the books and sort them into two piles…the keep and the giveaway piles. As I neared the bottom shelf, I pulled out a three ring binder and began examining the contents. It was full of scientific studies on water quality in the Chesapeake Bay, experiments, data etc.. and I wondered why I kept stuff like that? I figured that there must some reason I kept it all these years so I began looking for an author or someone’s name. I finally stumbled on a page that was thanking several people for their assistance, etc..and I thought, ‘ Oh, I remember that guy..yes, I remember her..wow, what a blast from the past” and at the very end, was my signature. I felt horribly confused. Me, a scientist? Me, actually conducted a study all on my own?

    In that moment of discovery, I felt terrified. I realized that I don’t even know who I am anymore. Maybe I’m nuts..truly pathologically nuts. I felt sick to my stomach and wanted to cry but could not. I felt so ashamed for allowing myself to abandon my passions in life and instead, reduce myself to ‘ his’ level and even worse, become the woman that he needed me to become so that he could feel worthy in life. I wanted to curl up and hide in the closet or under a desk. Then I realized that there was no way for me to hide from my own shame.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. WritesinPJ's says:

    Oh, Exodus, I am so sad to hear you had to say goodbye to your dog. When I had to say goodbye to my dog, I felt like I was losing the one who loved me the most on this earth. I still miss her terribly.

    I felt sad to read about your other losses regarding your own being. I understand how that feels. I used to play an instrument, and that was squeezed out in the early years of the marriage. Whether it was music, my art, personal space, my bike, enjoying athletic activity, looking nice when I tried to dress up, support for a good job or finishing a degree, or not putting the right amount of clothes or detergent in the washer, I eventually lost what I loved and lost confidence in myself to ‘be’ or ‘do’.

    Not all at once. Not so clearly to be understood, and therefore, resisted. My resistance was more like swinging at ghosts. A key to my learning to fight for myself was accepting my loss of self, and being willing to accept losing pretty much every single material thing. That’s where I’m at. I’d rather temporarily live on total charity, the kindness of someone’s heart, a sofa, or welfare, than accept one more time not holding an integral boundary line. I have nothing left to fight with except my unwillingness to tolerate him getting his way passive aggressively in anything that I feel will cause further harm to me. For whatever reason, he accepts this and backs down, but it takes energy to hold the lines.

    I used to be able to attend a free support group that met at the public library until funding for it was cut off. I wonder if there might be something like that in your area?

    Thank you for sharing here on my blog.

    Like

  5. Heidi Street says:

    This is exactly how I feel. I’ve been flicking through your blog after you commented on one of my posts, and I’m horrified that everything you’ve explained on here is what my life with my ex fiancé was like! I hope that one day I can fight through the feelings that have come as a result of this, I’m dealing with depression and eating problems, partially due to the situation that I was in. But it’s looking up a bit now, as my friends have really rallied round in my time of need. Thanks for sharing this vital information, it means a lot.

    Like

    • WritesinPJ's says:

      Heidi, One of the unexpected positives for me of starting this blog was discovering other blogs. In the morning, I sometimes wander through blogs like I’m hopping on a bunny trail. So many interesting people to discover! I saw your smiling face and wanted to read what you had to say. I read some of what you’ve been through, and it made me so sad to think of someone so young, bright, and beautiful having to go through all that, and how it had affected you.

      By the time I became ‘aware’ many years into my marriage, my choices about anything were going to impact others who are (to varying degrees) either dependent or affected by my choices. My mantra became ‘First do no harm’ in my decision making. After that, I’ve been learning the importance of keeping integrity with myself, and most of all, working on learning to love myself in a healthy way. That’s an ongoing lesson for me!

      I hope your feeling of being horrified turns to strength and peace and joy to come. I hope you embrace your beautiful self, breathe your youth in deeply, and discover how sweet the days ahead will be when you can enjoy living authentically in relationship with yourself.

      This is my hope for every woman, but I especially hold a tender kind of hope for the young women who can put abuse behind them.

      I haven’t yet worked on a Resources Section, but I do highly recommend a book called ‘Why Does He Do That?’ by Lundy Bancroft.

      Like

  6. JR says:

    Yup. I live this, also.

    Like

  7. Jane Thorne says:

    Thank you for leaving such a loving and heartfelt message on my blog. I have been reading yours and here’s a hug from me to you. We are not depressed, simply worn out at times. We are not victims, just souls finding our feet again after a long and trying time living to someone else’s tune. These are my thoughts…. when we associate with someone who cannot reflect, assess and adapt their behaviour patterns, then we can assume responsibility for their behaviour. We try to adapt and find the answers that they are not even looking for, in order for us to live, let alone thrive. The journey back to ourselves is threaded with the pressure of self help and responsibility, when all we need to do is learn to love ourselves again. Love flows in different ways from different souls….we loved a soul who flows love in a different way. It is self loving of us to walk away and start our journey back to balance. With love, always with love…and patience, for we are in there. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  8. BrokenShell says:

    Hi, I am 26 years old. @ 25 years old, I married my long time bf (5 years). Today, after reading a lot of articles, I just found out that I married PA man. I hate myself because I let him blamed me for all our conflicts through the years. I used to read a lot of books just to improve myself thinking I was the problem. If something is wrong, I tried to open up with him but he always ignores me, refuses to be intimate, withdraws and punishes me. It hurts so much because I KNOW HE WILL NOT CHANGE. He makes me crazy. I just can’t fix problems with him. I am frustrated. I always feel so sad and it wasn’t intentional. I wanted to kill myself. I felt unloved. I hate myself for finding out too late that he is PA man. I should have had save myself from pain and miseries.

    Like

    • WritesinPJ's says:

      Hi Brokenshell,

      Just this morning, when at the end of a too long and draining conversation with my passive aggressive husband, I heard something come out of my mouth inadvertently aloud… “Oh, Younger Self, if only I had a way to reach you!”

      Now I log into the blog, find your comment, and remember one of the important reasons that I spill my gut here; I hope that someone younger will find the clarity I didn’t have, and find their way to freedom from passive aggressive abuse.

      One thing that’s difficult for outsiders to truly comprehend is how it crushes and demoralizes when the man who is supposed to love you withdraws from you and withholds intimacy.

      It’s definitely not too late! Many of the readers here have shared their amazing stories, so there’s much support and validation.

      Have you ever been able to talk to any kind of decent counselor?

      Like

  9. MJ says:

    I just started the book Should I Stay or Should I Go? by Lundy Bancroft (http://www.amazon.com/Should-Stay-Relationship-Can—Should–be-ebook/dp/B004DI7SSC/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1428166863&sr=8-3&keywords=should+i+stay+or+should+I+go). It is a must read. I am somewhere in the middle in terms of responsibility. Yes, the abuser bears responsibility, but when does a woman (or man) go from being a victim to a volunteer? I’m in the middle of it, too, and I want to change things. This belief that the abuser bears all the responsibility is disempowering. That is the great lie in domestic violence scenarios. That is exactly why victims get entrenched. “He has all the power. I have none. He bears all the responsibility. I have none.” And then we spend all our time focused on him, his behaviors. what he does, why he does what he does, why he is what he is, etc. until we are gone. We are just a shadow of who we once were because the entirety of the relationship and even our world is entirely about him. And we don’t even know when that happened. When did we lose ourselves? Somewhere in there we did make a choice. More likely we made a series of small choices. Little series of choices that don’t even feel that significant until…they do.

    I think that we do bear responsibility but not in the way that people often think. I think that we need to take ownership of our own experiences, our feelings, our thoughts, and our lives and then fight for ourselves. I think that we need to take steps to stop enabling our abusers and start enabling ourselves to succeed. That is our responsibility. If we can’t, then we need to own that, too. We were once people BEFORE we met our abusers. We need to own that. And we need to do what it takes to resurrect who we were so that we can fight for who we want to be particularly if we have children. I think this is what it means to be responsible. As my therapist told me when I said that I would have nothing if I left, he said, “You would have you.”

    That is what we are responsible for. Ourselves.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. mathchick3 says:

    I understand much of what you wrote, for I too have lived it. I would not say this is related to depression per say but more the decent through the stages of grief for the death of one’s self.

    I have since found myself and have known peace but at times find myself returning to some of those learned behaviors. That little voice can scream its opinion of my worth. i wonder if I will always grapple with that part of the journey.

    Like

    • WritesinPJ's says:

      Hi mathchick3, and thanks for sharing here! I found it not only interesting, but resonating to reflect on your comment regarding grief for the death of self.
      I also wonder if I’ll always have this struggle to feel worth, but so far I can only imagine what a more nurturing environment might accomplish.

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s