The words we choose to use make a difference. In this journey a few seemingly small changes have made a huge difference for me.
First, I stopped separating “child” from “teenager” or “young adult”. If a fifteen year old came up to me today and shared their domestic abuse situation I would immediately think “why would someone hurt this child”, not “this teenager is having a hard time”. So, why in my mind do I default to this separation between arbitrary ages? It’s because it affirms my own self blame regarding the abuse I endured. Calling myself a young adult instead of a child has a way of affirming that I should have been able to control the situation better. That I should have known better to trigger his anger or I should have responded differently because I was mature enough to understand. Simply put, its bullshit. I was a child. Even at 15 or 16 I was a child, just like we all are. I didn’t have any power over the situation and I couldn’t control any of the outcomes. Today, choosing to use the word child when working through these memories is allowing me to release more of the self blame I carry.
Second, I now choose to refer to abuse as abuse. I do not qualify emotional abuse, psychological abuse, verbal abuse, and physical abuse. It is all abuse and I find that in my mind when I put the qualifiers on it I’m doing so to diminish the damage it caused. When I say I was verbally abused it’s because I’m saying “I had it bad, but not as bad as people that are physically abused all the time”. Learning not to rate my level of abuse has been therapeutic for me. Learning to say “I was abused throughout my childhood” instead of saying “I was verbally and psychologically abused and it got physical a few times” has made a big difference. Accepting the damage that has been done instead of trying to minimize it and make it less than is a healthy change.
These simple changes in the words I use to refer to my experience has helped me to accept the pain that I feel. It has helped me to stop judging myself for my own damage. It has helped me to be more compassionate to me. Learning to love myself the way I naturally love others has been a hard road, but I finally feel like I’m making progress.