I have been verbally abused by the same person since I was a child. At 27, I’m still being verbally abused by this person.
This morning, I sat down to write my daily morning pages and I couldn’t get past the first paragraph without getting lost inside my head. I don’t want this to be something that just lives in my diary for my eyes only anymore. I want people to know because this is part of who I am as a person and as a writer.
Verbal abuse is the excessive use of language to undermine someone’s dignity and security through insults or humiliation, in a sudden or repeated manner.
The particular incident that broke the camel’s back happened this past Saturday. My mother was taking me and my sibling to the library and to the grocery store. My sibling and I were having a conversation and my mother joined in and there was some light banter about coffee. For our family, good-natured ribbing is something we do all the time.
My mother was laughing at first as me and her bantered about a misunderstanding in the conversation on her part. My sibling was laughing, everything was fine and then
a switch flipped.
One of my abuser’s triggers is being criticized or told she’s wrong, regardless of whether she is or not. My mother suddenly starts crying and screaming and yells at me to stop talking to her because she says I’m trying to humiliate her.
So I’m sitting there, confused as hell because we were just laughing a second ago! and it was about coffee. It was not that serious of a conversation for anyone to be yelling or screaming and I was not trying to hurt or humiliate anyone.
I say, “I’m not doing anything to you, I’m just explaining what was said. What’s wrong with you?”
She slams on the brakes in traffic, THANK GOD, she checks behind her at the last second before swerving over to the side of the road. At this point, the car is silent besides her. I’m freaking the hell out in the front seat, like is she about to kick me out of this car? Who am I going to call to come get me? Where can I walk to from here?
My mother raises her hand back like she’s going to backhand me and she screams “YOU’RE WHAT’S WRONG WITH ME! YOU’RE FUCKING UP MY LIFE! NOW LEAVE ME THE FUCK ALONE!”
I don’t say anything else.
She pulls off and we’re back on the road.
I’m ignored for the rest of the ride as she talks and jokes with my sibling and I try not to cry. And fail.
The History of it All
This isn’t the first time something like this has happened. Far from it. Growing up, insults/humiliation/threats of physical harm were the go-to method of parenting.
I battled with clinical depression for a very long time and still deal with it to this day. I’d always contributed it to genetics and bullying I experienced in school. I didn’t really consider that the verbal abuse I experienced on nearly a daily basis at home was a factor in my mental health or why I was acting out in school.
I don’t think my mother did either. She took me to many therapists and psychologists but never once did we talk about how my mother was talking to me. She didn’t have the best relationship with her mother growing up so it’s likely she considers what she does to be normal behavior.
I don’t want to spend time detailing every single incident because we’d be here forever but she fostered an unhealthy environment where I couldn’t develop any self esteem or respect for myself. I spent the first 19 or 20 years of my life thinking I was worthless.
A big reason i thought it was normal is because in the black community, parents are known to talk shit to their kids. Getting a whooping or threatened with one is not out of the norm. Being cussed out isn’t abnormal. I knew kids who were treated a lot worse than I was. Or so I thought.
The rationale here is that physical and tangible things represent a parent’s love for their child. My mother felt/feels she can talk to me how she wants because she kept a roof over my head, fed me, clothed me, etc. Because she’s my mother, in her mind, this means she has the right to talk to me however she wants to and I still need to respect her.
I believed that rationale growing up. Don’t bite the hand that feeds you right? But when the hand that feeds you has another hand poised to smack the shit out of you literally and/or metaphorically, things become a lot less black and white.
So what are my current options now, as an adult? There are two. Fight or flight. I can address the behavior with the abuser or I can move out.
I’ve tried to address my mother’s behavior several times over the years. Sometimes in person, sometimes in writing. The response to criticism is always the same, she feels attacked and needs to defend herself. It really doesn’t matter how calmly or politely it’s worded, if she’s told she has done something wrong, she will NOT admit to it. She will not apologize but rather, she will bring up counterpoints to explain why I deserved to be talked to that way.
From what I’ve read, this is a very typical response from an abuser. If they had the ability to think critically about their own behavior, they probably wouldn’t be abusing people. That lack of accountability is why they keep doing it.
They may even try to make points or claims that are bizarre, all of which center around the victim being the catalyst for their explosions. Not too long ago my mother claimed I was “bullying” her because I made dinner and put it in the fridge and didn’t tell her I had cooked before she got home.
Of course, there was no malice in my actions but she had convinced herself otherwise and nothing I said could change her mind on the matter. That situation also ended in another round of verbal abuse in the car.
I’m broke. After my master’s, I planned to move home and find a job. Not the ideal situation, but I was sick of the manipulation and fuckery I’d experienced in my grad school program.
I’m currently in the process or starting work but I’d still have to save up for a little bit before I could even consider getting my own place.
I’m 27 years old with a master’s degree and still being verbally abused by my mother. I can’t stop it and I can’t leave so I’m trying my best to come up with ways to cope and preserve my sanity.
Anyone can be abused at any point in their lives by anyone in their lives. You can’t tell by looking and a lot of people are either too afraid to talk about it or they don’t even realize they’re being abused.
I’m not afraid to share my story anymore because it’s part of me. It has impacted the way I viewed myself as a child, the way I learned, the way I treated myself. I definitely wish it had not happened but I’ve grown into a strong and driven individual because of the things I’ve experienced. Outside of this situation, I don’t put up with people’s BS. I have ZERO tolerance. I refuse to be manipulated, talked down to or silenced.
This situation has taken an emotional toll on me but it’s no longer shaping how I perceive myself because I don’t let it. I’m very confident and secure in myself and the type of person I am. Nobody can make me view myself as being unworthy of love, respect or dignity.
But if you haven’t reached that point, which as a teenager, I had not, verbal abuse can rip your heart out and kill you on the inside. And that’s a terrible feeling, to walk around feeling numb and not caring about yourself. Nobody deserves to live like that.
What I see in my future, and what I’ve already experienced, is happiness, success, surrounding myself with even more people who love and support me. Staying away from those who don’t. Things might not be good now, but I’m working to get myself out.
And if you’re in a situation like mine, I implore you to do the same. To take care of yourself however you can. You deserve it.
Please feel free to share your thoughts or even your own experiences with verbal abuse down below.