"A reason is an explanation given to an event or series of events. An excuse is intended to lessen liability, accountability, or responsibility. Choose which one of these is acceptable in your life." Kelly Rudolph
There is NEVER an excuse for abuse. Ever. Abuse is abuse is abuse.
I recently posted a link to the Scary Mommy website that talks about the long term effects of verbal abuse. With the holidays upon us, all the family togetherness can be a significant source of stress and upset for people who grew up in stressful or abusive homes. Suck it up and deal? Forgive and move forward? Cut ties? It's not easy to decide. How could it be?
I have had several personal and professional conversations with people about how difficult it can be to forgive and love people who have hurt us. It IS hard to forgive! Forgiveness happens when there is no longer a threat of harm. An abused person CAN forgive their abuser as long as there is at least a modicum of remorse and intention and effort to end the abusive behavior. And accountability. Genuine accountability as in, "I was wrong and there is NO excuse for what I did and I will do everything I need to do to change the way I think and act because I am thinking and acting WRONG. I AM SORRY."
I haven't blogged much these last two years. I've been busy working as a clinical therapist and gerontologist. I am so lucky to have the trust and privilege of patients who are brave enough to admit they can't do it alone, that they need support and guidance to heal and grow so they can be the best version of themselves. I provide safe space for them to talk, cry, learn, and grieve. This is my first love and I've been doing it for many, many more years than I've been blogging and I've heard many, MANY stories from people of all ages about abuse of all kinds, past, present, and future, from abusers and the people they abuse.
If you are interested in learning more, there's no shortage of information about the topic of abuse. I'm going to leave it to you to explore this in your own time, however, I did want to share this most excellent quote from an article in Psychology Today...
The impact of verbal aggression and abuse tends to be discounted and marginalized in our culture; there seems to be an unspoken agreement that such abuse is “only words,” as people cite the children's rhyme: “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words shall never hurt me.” Peg Streep
Words shall never hurt me? Bullshit. Hurtful words HURT. Isn't that the point?
Feeling hurt is a normal human thing and it's a healthy human reaction to be hurt by harmful, threatening, ugly, cruel words. Can we get over it? OF COURSE! But first we FEEL. Feelings change, but we can't un-feel. Go ahead and feel and then feel the next feeling and the feeling after that!
FEEL ALL THE FEELINGS!
The most common thing I hear people say about feelings in personal and professional settings:
"I'm trying not to feel X,Y,Z."
Um...no. Trying isn't the outcome. Trying is part of the process that gets us to the outcome. Not an event - A PROCESS. I like to point out to everyone that says the trying thing, that they already felt the feeling, which makes the act of trying not to feel that feeling a completely separate and different outcome, because the feeling has been felt!
Trying not to feel actually keeps us stuck in the feeling we don't want to feel.
I KNOW. Confusing, but re-read that a few times and you will get it. The feeling stuff is another blog. I'll write it. Eventually. But back to the topic at hand - VERBAL ABUSE. As the Psychology Today article indicated, when people talk about abuse, their words are often minimized, the behavior of the abuser rationalized or justified. Here are just a few of my favorites...
"At least he/she didn't hit you."
"You made me do it/say it!"
"If you didn't X,Y,Z, then I wouldn't NEED to say those things. It's your fault."
Minimize, blame, rationalize. It's like lions and tigers and bears, OH MY, except it's NOT. Lions and tigers and bears are less dangerous than the mind of an abuser.
Whether they know it or not, the abuser is miserable and insecure and hurting and needs to keep you down so they have someone to prop them up. There are many reasons why abusers abuse but those reasons are not excuses. Reasons are NOT excuses. There is NO excuse for abuse. NONE.
Here is the caption I wrote to go with the link I posted...
"Recent conversations got me thinking about this. Verbal abuse IS abuse. Chronic bullying affects the brain in the same way that physical abuse does. Minimizing this stuff is common. Humans do this. But our brains can't tell the difference between a hundred punches to the face and a hundred punches to the soul.
In the coming year, I will be integrating a LOT more mental health stuff into my posts because I fucking feel like it. I am sharing this piece today because maybe you need to read it. Maybe someone you know needs to read it. Either way, read it. Knowledge is power." ME
And, of course, a Facebook "expert" felt the need to minimize and dismiss the idea that anyone could possibly experience or process abuse in any way that isn't HIS way. Really, Dude? REALLY? There are billions of people in the world and you can't comprehend the idea that all those billions aren't exactly like YOU? As if anyone be an expert in everyone. Ri-fucking-diculous. This fella demonstrates a complete lack of perspective taking for all to see, which is another blog post, but for now, enjoy this example of expert level, dismissive, self-involved lack of perspective.
"Silly post, only thing it's doing a driving the self fulfilling prophecy that " words hurt forever". They don't. If someone would curse you out in an unknown language, how can it "hurt". Stop being little babies and take the responsibility that you are actively perceiving the world. When someone curses you out or demeans you, stop echoing it in your mind, stop the madness. Learn mindful meditations, use devices to still the mind like mantras etc. Don't expect years of habitual tendencies to plague yourself with bad thoughts just to go away on their own. You've made those thought habits almost reflexes, it's time to take your life back and create newer, healthier, thought habits." Dismissive know it all on the internet
AS IF IT WAS THAT EASY...* bangs head into the wall repeatedly *
Is this person abusive? NO. But they are dismissive and missing the point because they are making it all about them. I replied. I felt compelled to!
"You are incorrect. Words can hurt forever. They don't have to and people can heal, but they do hurt. Not everyone has the ability to be mindful and calm. Trauma affects the brain and the body in a significant way. Until people recognize and address trauma, it's hard to be mindful or self reflective. Not everyone is traumatized either, but some ARE. People who have anxiety to begin with tend to struggle the most. PTSD isn't a made up thing, (Name of dismissive person). I realize you are trying to be helpful, but saying that this is "silly" is demeaning and dismissive. YOU may think it's silly but YOU aren't everyone. You can't speak for everyone and expect that they will absorb your truth. There is a difference between a self fulfilling prophecy and trauma. And that is NOT subjective." ME
People have asked why, if I want so much to write and share more about mental health, I am not doing so on the regular. Several reasons, however the most important ones are...
Reason #1) I'm working full time as a clinical therapist, speaker, volunteer, and am also mothering, wifeing, friending, and caregiving. I'm busy and happy and have prioritized these things over writing because...
Reason #2) It is a lot of time and effort to write a post about mental health that is objective and evidence based and I have less time than I'd like to do so. There is so much incomplete, incorrect, dangerous opinions based, perspective-less drivel floating around and it's being perceived as fact based and valid and this frustrates me to exhaustion. I refuse to share anything that isn't well-researched, fact based, and easy to read and understand.
Sometimes I fear that no matter how hard I and others work to pursue the cause of eliminating stigma, normalizing the experience of mental illness, and encouraging people to reach out for help, that it might very well be a lost one due to all the "do it yourself with essential oils," bullshit floating around the internet. (BTW, I'm a big fan of essential oils, but you know...)
And then... I remember that it if I only help ONE person, that is enough! Maybe that person will share and another person might be helped. Aaaaaannnnd I remind myself that one expert level, dismissive, perspective-less poop fart spewing opinions on the internet can be challenged or simply ignored and that most people don't buy into ignorance!
I still have hope and because of that, I intend to write more in the coming year and write more of what I want to write - mental health stuff - even if I get emails that say...
"You used to be funny, stop writing serious stuff."
"If I wanted therapy, I'd see a therapist. Be funny again!"
"I am offended by X,Y,Z and I want you to X,Y,Z."
I won't reply to this stuff and I'll do what I want because this is MY blog and people can choose not to read it AND because I say on my "about page, "I am far too busy being objective about your subjective sense of harm to find time to respond." I love me. I'm salty!
If you are being abused, ANY KIND OF ABUSE, please seek help. Talk so someone you trust, your doctor, dentist, a teacher, co-worker, family member, friend, or professional. Get your thoughts out, express your feelings - they are not wrong -, and make a plan to get the information and support you need to get yourself safe, whatever that means for you.
For the Illinois Department of Human Services Abuse Website click HERE