When you first hear the word "abuse," you probably think of physical abuse; the punching, kicking, slapping, throw-you-against-a-wall kind of abuse. But there are other forms that often aren't discussed, and they can be just as damaging as the physical kind.
I wasn't familiar with emotional abuse until a concerned adult provided me with a list of red flags, and even then, I ignored all the signs, convinced that she was the crazy one. It wasn't until months after I escaped an emotionally torturous relationship that I actually used the term "abuse" to describe it. When you're in the midst of a toxic relationship, it's hard to see and understand just how poorly you're being treated. That's because it starts out completely normal; almost too good to be true.
But as the months pass by, things slowly start to go downhill. I always think of abuse as a hot shower: you start out with the water at a comfortable temperature, and then as you get used to it, you slowly turn it up. After a while, you realize that you can't see through all the steam, and your body is red and itchy from the scalding water. Everything starts out like a fairy tale, and you have no idea what's coming. Nobody tells you about that part. There are a lot of things that nobody will tell you.
Nobody tells you that even though emotional abuse isn't physical, it can have physical effects on your body. You might lose a scary amount of weight and your bones might stick out. You might develop deep purple circles under your eyes from either the constant crying or the lack of sleep... or both. Your hands might shake a lot from the adrenaline that comes with the constant anxiety of always having to walk on eggshells around the abuser. You become a sad, mistreated zombie.
Nobody tells you about the huge amount of strength and courage you'll need to gather up before you finally have the guts to leave. They don't tell you about the begging and pleading. They don't tell you about the abuser's threats to commit suicide if you leave them. They don't tell you that it's going to take everything you've got and more to think about yourself and your own well-being for once.
Nobody tells you about the aftermath. Even though he never laid a finger on me, I am now stuck with the emotional scarring that comes along with nearly three years of abuse. I am stuck with the anxiety, the nightmares, and the constant self-doubt. Every day is a struggle to get past that. Abuse isn't something you can just "get over," it will haunt you years after you thought you've finally escaped.
And finally: nobody tells you that surviving the ordeal of an emotionally abusive relationship will make you a better person. You have to learn how to rebuild yourself in the aftermath, and the strength you will gain from that experience makes you nearly unbreakable. You learn to appreciate the good relationships in your life, and you value them more than you ever have before. You learn how you should not be treated, and you make sure that your next relationship is the best one yet. But most importantly, you learn that you are more than someone's words. Nobody, no matter how much they mean to you, can ever tell you your worth; only you can do that.