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Childhood Verbal Abuse

By January 7, 2010 - 7:40pm
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I can remember as far back as 10 years old or so when my Mom would verbally abuse my brother and I daily. Although it felt like I got the brunt of her rage most of the time because we shared a room. I remember her calling me a fat cow and stupid constantly. She was also extremely controling and it got worse over the years, especially in high school. She never taught me anything valuble during those most important times of growth and vulnerability. She would expect me to already know things with out teaching me and get angry and abusive when I would not know.

When I recall these memories, I noticed that it started around the time she divorced my father. She clearly was angry with the situation she was in because she had to go out into the work force and she wasn't used to holding down a full time job. My father didn't pay much child support if any. Anyhow, I'm 28 years old now and I pretty much thought that I was over the years of phsycological abuse becasue now the relationship between my Mom and I is a lot more healthy then in the past. She never talked about the abuse or even acknowledged that it happened. I feel so helpless sometimes because I can't seem to move on from the trauma it caused. I suffered from very low self esteem because of this. I was never sure of myself and that resulted in a string of bad choices and relationships. I've come a long way since. Through self counceling , mantras, inspirational articles etc and sharing my experiences with my husband which before I met him I had never shared this with anyone, I was able to improve my self confidence. I just still feel angry at her, some days I still feel like that helpless child with low self esteem. I feel like it's nagging at me all the time in the back of my mind and I don't know how to get rid of these feelings. Sometimes it's so bad that I can't focus for the whole day and I just watch tv or do nothing at all. This is the first time I've shared this other than with my husband because I feel like I have no choice but to seek help this way. I have so many issues because of the abuse and because my father dropped out of my life after the divorce around age 9. All these issues have affected me to the point that I don't trust people and I have a hard time keeping friends because I can't open up on a real level. My Mom and family are not good at verbally expressing their feelings and if I didn't feel so weird opening up to her I would have talked to her about how much I am bothered by this already. I think I know that one of the first steps is getting my feelings out there like I'm doing now and also seeking out some professional counseling. I have always pushed the thought of counseling away off to the side but I really think I should consider it. Thanks for reading and allowing me to vent through this amazing website. I know I need to be free of this heavy burden so that I can become healthy. Comments or advice are more than welcome. Thank you.

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EmpowHER Guest

Two other books to consider:

"Stop walking on eggshells ... " by Paul Mason and Randi Kreger - and -
"Surviving a Borderline Parent: how to heal your childhood wounds & build trust, boundaries and self-esteem" - by Kimberlee Roth & Freda Friedman.

January 14, 2010 - 8:22pm

Thank you both for your wonderful feedback. It comforts me so much to know that there are many out there who understand what I'm going through. After my revelation of what happened in my past and finally owning it and not denying that I still felt pain, I felt a huge amount of relief but also a weird sense of guilt for coming out and letting things off of my chest. I felt as though I was betraying my Mom, which I know rationally, that's furthest from what I'm doing by talking about everything. I think because my Mom and my relationship has come very far in a good way, even though she's still manipulative in ways, I felt a sense that I shouldn't "complain" about my childhood because others had it a lot worse. I realized though and will continue to realize through therapy that I can't compare my situation to others and what they experienced. I have to focus on what happened to me and work on healing. Thanks again.

January 11, 2010 - 10:14pm
(reply to StephStyle)


I identify with what you're saying about somehow feeling a little like you're "betraying" your Mom, even though you know rationally that it's not the case. I think it's smart that you realize that this is a sensitive area, because it will continue to be so during therapy, especially if and when you choose to talk to your mom about the past.

Yes, others had it a lot worse during childhood. That's absolutely true. I often fall into this thinking trap. I had a very loving, but dominant father who would say "I'll give you something to cry about!" and I fall into the trap sometimes of thinking that the universe is out there saying that too. But the universe only wants good for us, and healing. But we only heal when we pay attention to it. If we ignore it, it doesn't get better, whether it's a broken leg or a broken psyche.

It may help you to always remember what you are grateful for, even while you are working through the things that caused you pain. It's all about keeping perspective. If you become a whole, complete person without this pain, you will live a happier life and you will extend that happiness to others you love -- including your mom. You will behave differently toward your own husband and children, if you have them. Most of all, you will be able to take some of the burdens you carry and set them down. The first time this happens, you will be amazed at how it actually feels as though you have set something down physically. You will feel pounds lighter when you can set something to the side with understanding and compassion.

You're in such a good place for this work, Steph. Thanks for writing back.

January 13, 2010 - 8:26am
EmpowHER Guest

Hi Steph. I, too, was verbally abused during my childhood. I made a of bad choices in my life to try and fix things, but I finally got on a better path. A good therapist is the best suggestion. It is amazing how many things stay with you and still impact how you deal with things on a day to day basis. You will be shocked at what you realize in therapy & it will help you tremendously.

January 11, 2010 - 1:58pm
HERWriter Guide

Dear Steph

Thanks for your post and welcome!

Verbal (which is also emotional) abuse of children is not only rampant but can be very long-lasting. And you are right - it IS abuse.

The expression "sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me" is one I really don't like. Words can be terrible weapons that are used against children to hurt, dominate and manipulate. Most children will tell you that sometimes they'd rather a smack than the cruel words that are used to inflict pain. The pain of being hit will eventually fade (that certainly doesn't make hitting ok) but the emotional scars are very hard to heal. And those words can ring in our ears forever.

"Having it out" with your mother probably won't work. If she was going to acknowledge her misdeeds she probably would have by now. She may also get very defensive, tell you that you're exaggerating things or make excuses for her past behavior by telling you that you don't know how hard she had it and someday you'll understand it when you have children of your own. All of these are excuses, incidentally, but likely she'll use them as explanations. As a mom myself, I think her life and work (supporting kids as a single mom) was probably very difficult for her once she divorced. But her job was to protect you, not use you as a verbal and emotional punching bag for her problems. You had nothing to do with her divorce from her husband and should not have had to pay such a price. Most likely is that she'll deny it all or tell you that you are blowing things out of proportion. She may even turn the tables and tell you what a difficult child you were. Essentially, you made her do what she did.

You can't fix her or make her better. Only she can do that. So forget about anything along those lines. You need to fix YOU and make YOU better.

You said you did self-counseling but perhaps you can get into professional therapy that specializes in adult survivors of childhood abuse. I can help locate somewhere for you (you can let me know where you live or PM it, or find it through your own resources) and you can begin there. One on one therapy may help and you can graduate to group therapy with people who share similar experiences.

There are also some books you can read. One is Bad Childhood---Good Life: How to Blossom and Thrive in Spite of an Unhappy Childhood by Laura Schlessinger. She's pretty controversial but putting that aside, the reviews are pretty good.

Another book is Toxic Parents: Overcoming Their Hurtful Legacy and Reclaiming Your Life by Dr. Susan Forward. Also gets some great reviews.

These may be able to help you.

One thing you have to do is accept your abuse. Don't play "what if's". It happened. It was wrong, very wrong. But it happened. You have to let that sink in. Then you have to work through it. What happened, when it happened and how it made you feel.

Don't go crazy asking "why" it happened because that is not for you to find out. Only your mom knows that and she may never tell you. Don't depend on finding that question to be able to move ahead.

Some things to remember:

1. You are not alone. There are many, many survivors of childhood abuse.
2. It was not your fault in any way, shape or form.
3. Don't expect your mom to admit fault or apologize.
4. Learn to stop reliving it in your mind
5. Stop talking about it so much to yourself in your head (because you do, right?)
6. You're an adult now; you get to make the choices and decisions.
7. Your happiness depends on you, not your mom or anyone else.
8. Don't let your childhood dominate your adulthood.
9. You are not your mom and you won't do what she did to your own children
10. Your childhood was horrible - but it's over now.

Let me know what you think. And please review those books and let me know if professional counseling might be right for you.
Thanks for talking to us about this; I promise you that as toxic as your childhood was, there IS a cure. We'll help you find it.

We hope to hear from you soon,


January 8, 2010 - 1:40pm
(reply to Susan Cody)

I can't thank you enough for your most helpful response. It's as if you stepped into my mind and you know exactly what I'm going through. What I went through is abuse and even though I felt that my Mom also hit me more than she should have for things like losing one of her shoes (she never was an organized person and would lose things in our room all the time and wanted me to find it and when I couldn't all hell broke loose) , the emotional abuse stood with me so much more. You're right about my Mom too, I know that if I ever confronted her that she would react like most if not all of the examples you gave.

After posting my story last night, I confessed to my husband that I was sill very angry and bothered about my childhood. I have always told him for six years now that I'm over it and that I'm okay. It was such a huge relief to not only tell my story on here but to also be honest with myself and my husband about what I was feeling.

I am defenately going to research those books at the library this weekend and I would like to see if there is a counselor that you can recommend in my area. I'll message you. I appreciate your advice so much. It's a big deal to know that people genuinely care.
Thank you.

January 8, 2010 - 2:36pm
(reply to StephStyle)


Susan gave you wonderful advice and I'm so very glad you're going to think about counseling. I just wanted to chime in here and tell you how proud I am that you would speak up for yourself about something that is so deep inside.

Emotional abuse DOES leave wounds. We just don't realize it for a while, and when we do realize it, we aren't sure what to do about them. They need so much more than a physical wound does. There isn't a box of Band-Aids or a tube of Neosporin around for emotional wounds. (Though wouldn't it be wonderful if there was?)

At 28, you are at a very important stage in your life. As we move from our 20s to our 30s, we really, truly become the adults we are meant to be. We examine the things that happened to us as children and we have a little distance from them. We look at how our parents did in parenting us -- and it often causes hurt or anger. Ultimately, we reconcile all of that and are able to move on to be ourselves.

You are doing really important work right now. Thinking and talking about these issues is huge, and healthy. They may be difficult -- if you go to counseling, there will be many tears. But that's completely appropriate. To move past what happened to you, you have to look at it and try to understand it today in a different way. You are reaching out to your childhood self and being her supporter and her advocate.

Your mom and dad let you down. They were supposed to be your protectors, first and foremost. One left you and the other was abusive. But still, you have grown into a thoughtful, loving woman with an inquisitive nature and a desire to make things better. That's very impressive.

Best of luck to you, Steph. I know the future holds fabulous things for you.

January 11, 2010 - 9:43am
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