Lasting harm, with no visible scars

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I first heard the term “psychological abuse” when I started university. That’s when I finally got to put a name to what I had experienced

For weeks I’ve put off writing this story, even though I knew that eventually that I would have to do it. I even found myself pushing past the due date before having anything of considerable value down on paper. It’s not that I don’t want to write about my experience. I do. But I find it hard to write about because it means I need to turn inside and deal with the problems I so forcefully put away and pushed aside.

 Up until I was 18, I lived with a psychologically abusive parent. And yet, I’m often forced to justify this claim, because the abuse I suffered didn’t leave any visible scars. In trying to tell my story I’ve been told that my parents “just want what’s best for me,” or that I’m “being ungrateful.” Which simply reinforces the ideas that were ingrained during the abuse. I get it: there are different parenting techniques, but frequent and re-occurring verbal abuse, manipulation, neglect, and threatening behavior do not constitute good parenting. It’s abusive.

And. You. Don’t. Abuse. Children.

 I first heard the term “psychological abuse” when I started university. That’s when I finally got to put a name to what I had experienced at the hands of my mother, even though, for 17 years, I didn’t have the words to describe what it was. This finally gave me something concrete to hold on to and helped justify everything I had been feeling over those years.

 Being abused is horrible and frustrating, and no child should have to ever experience it. It’s even worse when you feel like there is nothing you can do about it. You know the way you’re being treated is wrong, but at some point, it becomes all you know. One of the worst things about living with a psychologically abusive parent is the concept of “your-word-against-mine,” and if it’s their house, well, you’ve already lost. How do you win a fight against someone you rely upon financially? For food? For shelter? Making the victim feel helpless is a cornerstone of psychological abuse, because it allows the abuser to maintain control over their victim.

 I was never one to take my mother’s abuse lightly and would often try to defend myself. This rarely went in my favour and led to me to getting kicked out of the house several times. I left for good in June of last year. Since then, I’ve cut my mother nearly entirely out of my life. I see her and speak to her as rarely as possible.

Now that I’m an adult and have distanced myself from my abusive parent, I see how toxic and unhealthy an environment like that can be for a child’s development. And while I no longer live with that toxicity, it’s still with me each and every day. I struggle with depression and anxiety as a result of my experiences. Like all abused children, my siblings and I were basically trained to expect the unexpected, because anything at all could cause an onslaught of verbal abuse.

I never wanted to admit I have a problem or need help. Only now, after years of effort, do I finally feel ready to talk about my experiences, despite how much it bothers me. The first time I heard my classmates talk about the Centre for Treatment of Sexual Abuse and Childhood Trauma I realized its services could help me get through the issues I face, as I likely cannot do it alone. I believe strongly in the Hope Heals campaign and hope that our stories will help the Centre expand its services to all those who have suffered trauma in their lives. Because whether you can see them or not, some people have scars that need help healing.

--Submitted by Aaron Brisson