The Process of Escaping Emotional Abuse

by midlifecrisisqueen on August 9, 2008

Once you start changing things in your life, how do you know if you’re headed in the right direction?  How do you even begin to change when you know your life is not working?

My advice is to start anywhere you can if you feel hopeless, alone, and like a gigantic failure.

I parlayed my post-divorce depression into a warm, vibrant sun room and then a new career as a writer, but not before I read a life changing book: I Closed My Eyes, by Michele Weldon.

Michele gave the world a great gift when she wrote down her experiences as a strong, highly successful, well-educated victim of domestic abuse.

Up until the time I read this book, I blamed myself for staying too long in an emotionally abusive marriage. I felt I had no excuse for my behavior. I was educated. I had a career. I had options. Why did I stay so long in such a hopeless situation?

Michele also had options, but she realized much later how insidious emotional abuse can be.  It wears down your self-esteem bit by bit, until you feel complete despair and hopelessness, craving any simple sign of acceptance or love.

At one point in her book, Michele broke through her despair long enough to paint the walls of her dining room the mellow shades of cantaloupe.  This change cheered her up immensely!

This gave me an idea. I had a nasty rundown screened-in porch attached to the south side of my 1960’s ranch.  I found it smelly and depressing.  What if I slowly transformed it into a bright, sunny space just for me.  I didn’t have much money, but I had lots of dedication to this project.  It somehow represented my weakened spirit, which so sorely needed a remodel.

At this point, Michele’s words spoke to me like none ever before:

“Deep down in the transmission of my soul, I needed to make a change you could see, something that would last for years, if necessary, and be a reminder of who I really was: a woman who was not always and permanently afraid, a woman who could change.  I needed to see for myself something positive that I had done, a move that was not born out of hurt but strength and creativity.”

I remember sitting at lunch with a friend crying as I told her about how revealing this book was to me.  It was like holding a mirror up to my soul, and not liking what I saw.

Perhaps if I could transform my physical environment first, that process would help me believe that I could also change my internal beliefs about myself and where I belong in this world. It was worth a try!  I knew I needed to change, and I saw no other way out at the time.

Sunroom afterSo I dug in, and out of sheer stubbornness and determination I made it happen. I created a warm, safe place for me to sit and plan my ultimate escape from my overwhelmingly negative feelings about myself.

This new room in my house gave me a strong, solid foundation where I could look around and see my own power to create something positive, and then begin to build a better future for my damaged soul.  It was my  temple to create my own alchemy through soul surgery.

All of the exciting changes that came into my life after that: finding true love, discovering right livelihood and a powerful, new sense of self-respect, germinated and came to fruition in that warm, self-generated sun room.

“Rock bottom became the solid foundation I built my future success upon.”  – J.K. Rowling

Books by Laura Lee:  Midlife Magic: Becoming The Person You Are Inside, The Midife Change Workbook, How To Believe In Love Again: Opening to Forgiveness, Trust and Your Own Inner Wisdom and Find Your Reason To Be Here: The Search For Meaning in Midlife.


{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

smilin' brad August 13, 2008 at 3:46 pm

Accepting the death of my dreams and escaping the insidous effects of emotional abuse has been the greatest challenge of my divorce. I also stayed in close proximity to my ex (we have two children) and my family (the source of much of my confusion) for years after and had great diffculty separating myself from all the ongoing drama. Once the kids were off to university I packed it in and moved 2,000 mile away to start afresh. I now understand my expectations were the expectations of my family, not mine alone and that I subjected myself to the abuse in an attempt to satisfy those expectations. I have developed a far clearer understanding of myself and my values and have established stronger (though flexible) boundries to support those values. I found my own strength and have the sense of self that allows me to open up to others again. This process has taken all of 10 years to complete but I now feel open to Life again!
Hang in there, it gets better! It’s only temporary. Life is temporary!

midlifecrisisqueen August 13, 2008 at 5:11 pm

Thanks Brad, for sharing your experiences with us!
Yes, sometimes it seems like it takes forever to change, but it’s sooooooo worth it!

crista June 5, 2010 at 3:53 pm

I did escape once, but fell back into it. I feel there is no way out when I have no helpful resource like a job, my own place, and friends/family nearby to be supportive. I feel so alone.

Janies November 27, 2010 at 10:01 am

This comment is specifically for Crista:

I once believed that there was no way for me to escape emotional abuse as well, as I had a well-paying job, yet I resided with the person who performed the emotional abuse. It was through constant prayer, conversations with family and friends, and pure courage from God that I was able to move out on a Monday night.

Before I had the same thought process as you. I thought that there was no way to escape, but it was this thought in my mind that held me captive. I challenge you to seek the face of the Lord, allow him to change your thought process, provide you with people to share your experience with, and provide you with strength to get out the situation both mentally and physically…especially mentally.

Currently, I am in a safe place with my real family and friends and getting my mind back, the most powerful tool of my being.

I hope this helps.

Jodie August 24, 2014 at 8:40 am

My husband has literally little by little torn me down and has secretly created with psychiatrists and psychologists a fantasy world in which I am an emotionally abusive wife and mother. We have “sort of” been separated for almost 2 years he does nothing for or with our three children except when it may make him appear to be socially acceptable. He constantly let’s the three boys down and withholds money and demands I pay for half if not more than half of everything when he makes 10 times more than I do. He screams in my face, comes and goes as he pleases to the family home, wakes me up in the middle of the night by slapping me and the tells me if I try to get child support, alimony , 1/2 of the funds from our home or any money from his 401k that I am a loser and nothing but a welfare recipient and I should kill myself because it would make everyone’s lives better and he would be rid of me and not have to go to jail. I am afraid to leave him with my children. I am terrified of him and what he will start to do to them . My attorney has never done anything for me and spent all of my money. I do not know what to do.

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