Category Archives: self-worth

How psychological abuse affects your body

*Warning: While any form of abuse will absolutely affect your physical body, this post focuses mainly on domestic abuse. The following information may be triggering if you are recovering from abuse, dealing with PTSD resulting from abuse, or are currently experiencing abuse. Please please take care of yourself, which could mean anything from not reading this post to connecting with your mental health professional. There are resources at the end of this post for getting help.*

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No woman should ever have to suffer the wrath of her spouse or partner or loved one. I’ve experienced abuse in my own life, from both a family member and an ex-boyfriend. Also, a dear family member was murdered this year in an act of domestic violence. To say I am familiar with the topic is an understatement. Since entering anorexia recovery in 2014, I’ve had to face and heal from the psychological effects of abuse and understand how it affected my physical body and contributed to my eating disorder.

When we talk about domestic abuse, we usually think of the violent, physical assault that leaves obvious marks to the body. Another kind of abuse that is just as devastating because the damage is so insidious and cruelly clever is psychological abuse. This includes both mental and emotional abuse. It’s not nearly as obvious on the outside because there are no bruises, but both the mind and body are experiencing trauma and responding internally.

Psychological abuse is the same as physical abuse except instead of hitting, punching, throwing, or kicking, the abuser wields control using emotions, criticism, insulting words and threats, blame, belittling, tracking, and name calling. Over time, without even realizing it’s happening, you are living in a constant and heightened state of anxiety, low self esteem, doubt, and fear of wrong-doing. Yet you feel “normal.” Especially in the times your abuser is loving and kind. If you’ve ever heard yourself say “He’s great sometimes and even fun when he isn’t mad or upset. So it isn’t always bad,” then there is a good chance you are in a “normalized” abusive relationship.

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It’s exhausting and stressful to tend to life, (children, housework, career work, school and school work, social connections, financial responsibilities, volunteering, errands, etc.) while also trying to maintain the expectations of an abuser. Living with an abuser requires constant management and tempering of the environment so as to not upset the abuser OR in reaction to your abuser when he is upset (and likely blaming you for whatever is upsetting him). Constantly walking on eggshells to appease an abuser distracts and disconnects you from your own body and emotions.

Psychological abuse causes a plethora of physical and mental ailments, including but not limited to, post traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, adrenal fatigue , over/under eating, sleep deprivation, gastrointestinal upset, and depression.  You may not understand why you have aches and pains all the time, trouble with your skin (dry skin, acne breakouts, rashes), constant tiredness, weight gain or weight loss, or repeated illness. It’s easy to blame yourself, that maybe you need to eat better, exercise more, go on a diet or a cleanse. What’s really happening, though, is your body is trying to tell you that you’re stressed, there are emotions that need processing, and it needs rest. Taking care of yourself is not an option in an abusive relationship because all your effort is pored into taking care of the abuser and what he expects of you. Depending on how damaged your self-esteem is, you may even feel like you don’t deserve to take care of yourself or you aren’t even worth that precious care.

For the record, and whether you believe me or not, you do deserve self-love and you are worth the investment of time and care.

The first step to getting healthy is not a diet but getting help. It’s easy for people around you to say “Just leave. Why do you stay?” But I know from experience, it’s not that easy. Where are you going to go if your abuser has tabs on you? You can’t do it by yourself. Here are some suggestions to get you moving toward healing:

For immediate help and counsel:

OR

Seek counsel from a local domestic abuse therapist.

Seek refuge in a local woman’s shelter.

Reach out to a pastor at a local church.

Your body is talking to you, warning you, and trying to protect you as you endure abuse and the psychological effects it’s having on your mind and heart. Not because you are doing anything wrong, but because someone else is doing wrong to you.

Much love,

Leanne

What is self-love?

I am a hypocrite. In last week’s post I said the following:

Exercising compassion and love and grace for yourself is far more effective in achieving the body-love you want.

I meant what I said and still advocate for my point. However, the next day I sat in my therapy session in tears struggling to articulate how I could show grace and compassion to myself. How can I possibly invite you to engage grace and compassion (both elements of self-love) for yourself if I don’t do it in my own life. *sigh*

I’m sorry.

We’ve got to do this together, okay? I am going wrestle with it in this space and you can ponder for yourself as I’m breaking it all down.

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First I have to figure out what these words truly mean; I often use them instinctively and purposely without connecting to my understanding of what they mean. In other words, I know what the words mean, but do I truly understand them and their differences when put into action? I don’t think so.

Grace: both a regard and act of undeserved favor; kindness, courtesy, clemency, protection, provision even though undeserved.

Compassion: “suffering with”; feeling the emotions of another (as in empathy) but with a desire to help.

Mercy: withholding harm or punishment (even though you have power or merit to cause harm or punishment). I threw in mercy because I need to understand how grace is the same or different than mercy.

I’ve had no mercy with my body–starving it, insulting it, punishing it, depriving it, abusing it, controlling it.  I’ve thrown ungracious insults at myself, labeling me as lame, ugly, fat, impatient, lazy, stupid, nerdy, dorky, slow, uncreative, undependable, unworthy, a bad friend, a bad mom, a bad wife… In all of this there is no room for compassion–the desire to actively show love to myself.

Are you with me still? Have you ever labeled yourself any of these things?

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When I view from the outside how I’ve treated myself … as if I were to see someone treat another person the same way I treat myself, I would consider it abhorrent. I would also be (and have been) devastated seeing someone treating themselves in the same manner.

Ugh. Now the understanding is sinking in. And it’s really uncomfortable.

Okay, just like I’d want to step in and help someone who’s hurting because I feel their pain as I try to imagine how they might be feeling, then I need to feel the same for myself. Weird, but true.

I don’t have the power to do this on my own. So often the world–everything from subtle (and repeated) messages in the media, to underlying implications or expectations in Christian culture, to body language from acquaintances, to direct words or actions from colleagues, family and friends (often unknowingly), feeds the abhorrent lies and subsequent behaviors I place upon myself.

However, I remember that I am in this world, but not of the world. I belong to God. Never does He view me as the world or the people in this world view me, or how I view myself for that matter.  When I am a mess, God shows me grace, compassion, mercy and Love–usually through seemingly random happenings that leave me going “Whoa. That was a God thing.” So how do I show myself the same Love God shows me?

    1. I stay connected to Him. He reminds me that I am not “a bad” anything. Imperfect? Absolutely and beautifully, yes. But not bad.
    2. I acknowledge my emotions rather than judge them. If I am mad, sad, joyful, scared, goofy… then okay. No need to avoid, hide, chastise, justify or be ashamed of how I feel. I can just be in the feels.
    3. I rest. For me, resting involves clearing the calendar (maybe for the day, maybe for the month) and avoiding social media so I can eliminate both real and perceived expectations of what, who, and how I am “supposed” to be to the outside world.
    4. I figure out what I want or need and do it. Sometimes I just want to lie down; paint my nails with my daughter; experiment with new recipes in the kitchen; watch cat videos online; write a blog post; sit on the couch holding my husband’s hand; cry; pray; eat a cupcake; read my book; play Wii; have coffee with a friend… whatever it is. I connect with myself and oblige what I need with zero judgement, justification, or expectation to either “deserve” it or punish myself later for having done it (also known as “making up for it later”).

Self-love is fluid movement of grace, compassion, and mercy working together that derives and thrives from a deep understanding of yourself–of who you are are what you need–with zero judgement. Body-love is rooted in self-love. So my message last week still stands only this week it stands firmer!

How do you or could you show self-love in your own life, friends? I’d love to know in your comments.

I am valuable

Breaktime

 

From the time I was four years old, I was led to believe that I must earn my worth. Who I was was not automatically desirable or valuable. By the time I hit eighth grade, I was tired of the shame I felt about who I was–the annoying, dumb girl who never gets it right. Before I realized what I was doing, I began to build a shield around myself to hide what was obviously so repulsive to the world. This shield was perfect because it was perfectionism.

And it worked. In college, I was getting praised, winning awards, and was sought after for my hard work. I was the one who had good ideas, got things done, and surpassed expectations. As pressure mounted to keep pleasing, the shield became a burden and who I really was, that person I was trying so desperately to hide, was long forgotten. I developed an eating disorder to cope with the confusion and pressure; the disorder nearly killed me.

Nearly 15 months into recovery from the eating disorder and less than a year into de-constructing the shield of perfectionism, I am starting to see who I was hiding. Though I’ve aged over 25 years, I’m still the same person at my core:

I am a child of God living in this world but being not of this world. I have the spirit and preciousness of a four-year-old girl with the growing wisdom, knowledge, and understanding of the Kingdom of God.

In other words:

I wear orange shoes and speak in unexpected metaphors. I have diddle-songs about random daily things, like waking up, brushing your teeth, and dinnertime. I’m an intellectual but you won’t know it by talking with me. I’m quirky and simple but you’d never know it by reading my writing. I find deep meaning in everything, including the color orange. If you’re having a bad day, I can find something in you to expose you as good regardless of what your day told you.

I oversimplify most things; I overthink when I’m scared. I don’t understand why we make life so complicated–love God, love your neighbor, the end. Yet, I find the complexity of love and God and truth and human nature alluring–fascinating. I get confused easily, but give me a little time to think and you’ll be surprised by my introspection.

Faithandculture1My face doesn’t lie about how I’m feeling, but I do. When I am passionate about how I feel, my hands and arms fly through the air, dancing and spinning with my words as they pour out from my heart.

My heart is the best thing about me. It hosts the Spirit of the God. So I hurt for the brokenness and evil that infects this world, yet I have confidence and hope and belief in restoration and healing. I take seriously the hurt others endure, and as the Spirit calls me to love, I pour that love into those around me–whether I know them or not, whether I want to or not.

Am I perfect? Nope. I am human, which means I can be selfish, lazy, and self-centered at times. A lot.  But these are just symptoms of my humanness and not who I am.

As I lay in bed last night I thought about all of this. My husband turned to me and looked into my eyes. Then he kissed me. With sudden realization I said, “I am valuable.”

“Yes, you are.”

The simple fact that I am who I am living in this world makes me valuable. Automatically. Culture and people make me feel like I must earn my worth. But God says I am valuable because of who He made me–as is.

I am valuable.

I fell asleep in silent tears because for the first time since I was four years old, I actually believe it.