We all hear the words – abuse, violence and assault – most of us even experience the pain of these words – but do we pay enough attention to what the abuse really means? This problem is further underscored in the case of mental or emotional abuse. Almost everyone understands the nature of physical abuse since the scars and wounds left in its wake are visible to the eye. The same cannot be said about the intangible and invisible scars of mental or emotional abuse. This piece is my attempt to start a conversation around this, to share my own personal experience and leave you ladies with a list of toxic traits of an emotionally abusive person.
“Emotional abuse is just as bad as physical abuse. Worst! You can heal broken bones, you can’t heal a broken mind.”
— DIA REEVES
Emotional abuse refers to a pattern of behaviours among people around us – friends, family, relatives, partners – which interferes with the cognitive, psychological, emotional or social state of a person. It includes controlling behaviour by one over another through words that render the victim emotionally unstable with feelings of fear and humiliation. It’s part of the violence perpetrated in society, sometimes even in our families and sometimes by the ones we care about the most.
My own story takes me back four years ago when my father passed away. That’s when I first encountered the toxicity of emotional abuse at the hands of my own family. From hearing my relatives questioning and discussing my morality and character – to my grandmother charging at and criticizing me for my “un-conservative” sense of dressing (which by the way did not even include shorts or sleeveless clothes). I was made to shut up on the grounds of being the youngest in the family, every time I raised my voice. The constant fights, their toxicity and all the controlling behaviour triggered my depression. What made matters worse was their audacity to accuse my mother of being a gold digger – who was in it for my father's property from the very beginning. This also pushed my mother into depression.
For the longest time I put up with this ‒ I kept rewinding the past happy memories we had together as a family. I'm sure my mother did this too. But perhaps we forgot that the present is what shapes the future, and not the past, and unless we take the necessary steps now our future could be worse. I realised that the past is gone and that the pasts’ happy memories cannot justify the present toxicity. I was 18 now and my mom, my brother and I had had enough of these energy leeches. Just a week before the lockdown we finally moved out of my father's home.
The reason I decided to share this is to start a genuine conversation around this. Amid the pandemic and all the suffering around us, people continue to suffer with mental, physical and sexual abuse. In just two months following the lockdown a mental health helpline received around 750 calls per day. Even before the lockdown, mental health has been a serious issue. 15% of Indians have a mental health issue and one in 20 Indians suffers or has suffered from depression, according to the 2015-16 National Mental Health Survey.
It’s important that we talk and reach out to people for help. It’s also important that we observe the behaviour of the people we surround ourselves with. Not everyone is toxic, but it’s important that we don't neglect red flags when we come across people who are. Here are some of the traits of a toxic person:
- They insult you indirectly in public places or privately
- It's all about them and how they feel and never about you
- They control your finances or refuse to share money
- They constantly drag up your past mistakes and leave you with feelings of guilt, shame and emptiness
- They are always critical of you
- They are good to your face, but bad behind your back
- You always feel like you're less worthy around them – they can be the closest to you but you still feel uncomfortable
- They are possessive about you, way too much
- They are nosy regarding whatever you do and the way you do it
- They aren't cooperative but demand your cooperation
Ladies, if you experience these behaviours from someone in your life, please don’t hesitate or think it to be selfish to cut them out of your life. If you need legal aid - reach out, if you can move out - move! Trust me it's the best decision you could ever make. Leaving something/someone toxic always creates room for new opportunities – better ones.
Before I sign off, I want to leave you with a reminder that I live by:
“If they are right for you, you will never need to remember old memories with an empty feeling. Your heart will always be joyful and you will look forward to live in the present with them without having to convince yourself “
- 181 : The domestic abuse national helpline number
- 1091 : Women in the police force; provide immediate rescue for distressed women.
- 98330 52684 /91675 35765 : Sneha organisation - Crisis Helpline for women going through any type of abuse
- 9711053706/ 9811390630 : Shakti Shalini, women’s shelter
- (0124) 2562336/ 5018873 : Sakshi ,violence intervention center
- 9423827818 : Abhay helpline - legal and moral support to victims of violence
- 8793088814/15/16 : Aks Foundation - The helpline is a 24-hour crisis line
- 8025251929 : Ashraya - Centre is for women who’ve faced physical as well as mental abuse. They provide support, rehabilitation, and counseling coupled with training and legal help