There are lots of ways and reasons people get trapped in painful relationships or situations.
It’s often not as easy as “just walk away if it’s so bad.”
Sometimes, walking away from a complicated, painful situation is dangerous.
Sometimes trying to escape a painful situation invites overwhelming questions or problems that we simply don’t have the resources to handle at the moment.
So we stay.
Not because we like it. Not because we want to. But because the alternatives just aren’t realistic or safe at the moment.
There are people reading this who have significantly struggled with the question of why they didn’t try harder to get out of a painful situation.
There are people reading this who have literally been told that the fact they stayed in, or in some cases returned to, a painful situation means that it couldn’t have been THAT bad.
Sometimes people are told that the reason they’re NOW saying that the situation was “abusive” is because they want attention or sympathy…whereas if the situation was “really” abusive, they would have spoken up or left it much earlier.
I wish this was an uncommon thing.
But all too many people reading this know all too well how often it happens.
Many people reflexively disbelieve accounts of abuse— especially abuse that isn’t physical.
Many people believe that emotional or verbal abuse exists in a “grey area” that can be hard to define and may vary from person to person— whereas physical abuse is “objectively” violent.
This often results in victims of verbal or emotional abuse doubting their experiences and being reluctant to seek support for them.
Working to cope with and reduce the frequency and intensity of trauma responses is REALLY hard when we’re reluctant to acknowledge how bad a situation was, or how seriously it impacted us.
And it’s REALLY hard to acknowledge those things if we’re constantly bombarded with questions and doubts about whether the verbal or emotional abuse we endured was “really” as bad as the “objectively violent” physical abuse others experienced.
In the end, it doesn’t matter if your trauma measures up to someone else’s idea of “trauma.”
It doesn’t matter if you had it “better” or “worse” than anybody else.
It doesn’t matter if someone else thinks your verbal or emotional abuse was as bad or violent as someone else’s physical abuse.
What matters is how these experiences impacted you.
What you have to go through every day to stay alive and functional.
What you need to recover and create a life worth living.
Be prepared for some people to mess with your head with questions like “why didn’t you leave?” or “why did you go back?”
Be prepared for some people to tell you “at least you weren’t hit.”
Be prepared for some people to tell you that “words can’t hurt you unless you let them.”
These are all VERY common things for abuse survivors to hear— and they all reflect the attitudes and beliefs of the person saying them. NOT reality.
The reality of abuse and neglect is that they are very often woven into our closest relationships, in which we are the most vulnerable, dependent, and isolated.
There are many types of violence, and they can affect human beings very differently depending upon their personal history and current situation.
Keep coming back to what YOU need, now, in YOUR recovery.
Don’t sweat definitions of words like “trauma” and “violence.”
Don’t sweat stupid questions like “why didn’t you leave?”
You stay focused on what YOU need to create safety and stability in YOUR day, today.