The effects of verbal abuse can cause physical symptoms that can become emotional scars that can last a lifetime if they are not dealt with. It can be very difficult to figure out that you are in a verbally abusive relationship and even more difficult to prove in the court of law. That is not entirely true, let me rephrase, there was no evidence that the courts could use to label this man an abuser. During several years of my marriage I remember seeing one doctor after another trying to figure out what was wrong with me. There was something wrong with my physically and it seemed I was getting sicker and sicker as the years went on. There were times I wondered if it was all in my head and of course my abuser certainly tried to make me believe that lie. There was no way I was simply being a hypochondriac.
It took several years of doctor’s visits to uncover why my symptoms really were. First, it seems like it very difficult to diagnose symptoms when they are chronic. These symptoms gradually became worse over a period of 10 years of being with the abuser. Some of the effects have lasted 8 years after being divorced although they have gradually lessened over time with various treatments. Over the past several years many things have helped me lessen the symptoms, including; Domestic Abuse counseling, domestic abuse books, self-help books, self-help programs, Alanon, therapy, talking with friends & family, writing in journals (blogging). The biggest part of healing through realizing that the emotional abuse is real and that I am not crazy.
Life Before Divorce
I had chronic anxiety and I didn’t know it because it never went away. I always felt like someone was sitting on my chest. Plus, many times I had heart palpitations which made me wonder if had heart problems. My doctor ran all the appropriate tests and ruled that concern out.
I do not recall when the stomach aches first started but I remember gastrointestinal problems were constant. At one point the doctors diagnosed me with stress and gave me anti-depressants but that really didn’t do much for long. The stomach problems continued to get worse and eventually they diagnosed me with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and again they gave me pills to deal with the symptoms. Two years after we were married I decided to send myself to a specialist and they actually found a huge polyp in my colon that they removed. Even after this issue was found and taken care of my stomach problems continued. I would feel gassy, bloated causing excessive burping. Sometimes the pains were so strong they were bring me to my knees. This problem was only resolved after I left him and was no longer exposed to him daily. The stomach problems did return often when dealing with him because the encounters were so stressful. Even today the stomach problems can start up if we have an argument.
The migraines were yet another symptom that was pretty chronic. These migraines caused light sensitivity and I would see black floaters. Towards the very end when we were really having problems, the migraines were so bad I could barely look at the computer because it made my eyes hurt. Looking back I realize my shoulders were so tense that it may have been contributing to my migraines. A year before I left him for good I had filed temporary divorce orders. I had many months where I was not exposed to him and my migraines certainly were not as bad. We did get back together for a short time after that and when I spoke to him I could actually feel the blood rushing into my head. That was when I realized dealing with him was the reason my head was hurting.
Breaking my Teeth
The stress was so great it often caused me to clench my teeth when I was sleeping. I had no idea but my teeth were actually getting fractured while I was sleeping. At one point I woke up one morning and one of my teeth was broken. I had to go to the dentist and get it it repaired. At that time I had no idea why it was broken or that I was actually causing it with teeth clenching. I am not sure if this was because of my shoulders being so tense but this also went up through my neck and affected my jaw. I am not sure if the teeth clenching caused my jaw to hurt or if being so tense caused me to clench my teeth so often.
At some point I remember my jaw really began to hurt and it clicked whenever I opened my mouth. I remember going to my allergist first because it felt like I had water in my ears which I thought was caused by allergies. The allergies doctor was the one who noticed my jaw shifting and mentioned the term TMJ. At this point I had to go to a TMJ doctor and get a mouth guard made to help protect my teeth and jaw. This issue was not covered by insurance and cost a lot of money out of pocket. Of course my husband was hiding money and spending money like crazy an we were often too broke to keep paying for it so I stopped going.
Life After Divorce
Okay, so that is my list of health problems that occurred while I was married to the verbal abuser. So is there really no proof that he was verbally abusive? It sure seems like there is by looking at this long list. After I left I had new symptoms that developed.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Whenever I dealt with him it caused excessive sweating, anxiety returned, heart palpitations, difficulty sleeping and it was impossible to just relax. When I first left him I went through a period of what I believe was PTSD. I remember feeling afraid all the time. This sense of fear made sure I kept the doors and windows locked at all times. I also made sure the blinds were always closed and the garage door. It took me several months until I found some posts about PTSD that sent me to my doctor to discuss the symptoms. It was then he prescribed me with an anti-anxiety pill that helped me relieve the symptoms. As I continued to get educated about domestic abuse and put up some boundaries these symptoms lessened. They did not ever really go away completely until I really distanced myself from my ex-husband. Even today it can caused my entire family stress when we have to deal with my abusive ex-husband.
Today I am resolving some hormone imbalances that may have been going on much longer than I thought. It turns out my stress levels are way too high and since we have been addressing these symptoms I have noticed my anxiety have really lessened. In fact I could not recall a time when I was not living with that anxious feeling. Today I cannot believe how much better I feel. I am really not sure how much of this is related to that stress but I think my body living under these levels of stress for so long they actually became normal.
Today, stress is still something I have to deal often with and I continue to learn to manage the causes of stress. This blog is on way I deal with the memories which help me release them so they do not torment me in my mind. My marriage to a verbally abusive person was very traumatic. Actually, even being divorced from him has had some extreme traumatic events. The best way I have learned to deal with my abusive ex-husband is to just not deal with him at all. We still have a child together but that does not mean I have to talk to him. For my own personal health and well-being I have had to really limit my exposure to my ex-husband. This was actually the healthiest choice for my daughter as well.
Some of the things I have done to distance myself include:
- Going by the Decree – if we go by what the decree says then we have less to talk about. He knows when to pick her up and we do not have to communicate at all. Any flexibility or communications would simply allow him to use that as a way to control.
- Physical Distance – moving as far away as I could also seems to have helped a lot. Honestly an attorney once recommended I move 90 miles away from him and rent a place so if he moved closer I could move 90 miles away again. Legally speaking, there is very little I could do to prove or prevent him from harassing me, I understand why she made that suggestion. Living too close just made it too easy for him to harass me.
- Zero Communication – or nearly zero communication has really helped. Going by the decree gave us a lot less to discuss and less contact means less conflicts which not only helps me but it helped our daughter too. Also, trying to refrain from any communication about him in our house has also helped.
- Keep Records – just in case, I would always recommend keeping documents on everything. Any communication sent I have kept records, printed them out and put them my huge Divorce binder. Should there ever come a time where I have to prove he is harassing me I certainly could have.