[cw emotional abuse, bullying]
As some of you know I’ve recently found myself out of an emotionally abusive situation with someone who I considered to be:
– a supportive fellow student
– a considerate roommate
– a generous best friend
– a loving zucchini
It’s hard for me to admit that not for the first time in my life I have tolerated, accepted, and enabled emotionally abusive behaviour against myself. In fact it wasn’t until I reached out to a former mutual friend of mine and theirs that I discovered the behaviour which I wrote off as one-off things and bullying I was deserving of/one-off situations between this person and others spurned on by their maladaptive coping mechanisms were actually parts of a LONG pattern of abusive behaviour. In looking back our near-2 year friendship I can say that every moment and situation I can recall only served to either further ingratiate themself into my life, or to elsewise further/exert their control over myself or someone else.
I honestly don’t know if or how I could ever share all of the small incidences which built this pattern of abuse, but I’d like to share an email I sent to this person near the end of our relationship in hopes that it showcases my own experiences of the last few weeks particularly:
While things have been becoming difficult in our home for a few weeks, this last week has been especially so. I am writing this letter to you not because I am angry, but because I am truly scared and deeply saddened by the events of this past week. While I understand that you are currently struggling with your symptoms of mental illness, due to my own experience of mental illness I am not able to support your actions any further. In such a short time I have exhausted all of my energy and patience due to the way in which events have transpired, and I am writing this to you now as a last-ditch effort to save our roommate arrangement. As such I’m pleading with you to please read this entire letter and take it into consideration.
I am sorry for belittling your pain and your experiences with [personal information redacted]. It was never my intention to do so, but I understand and appreciate that my actions have affected you nonetheless. Moving forward I will not be speaking to you regarding my experiences with chronic pain or PTSD. I will remove my assistive devices (canes, walker) from shared spaces as soon as is possible, and will keep my therapy reminders in my room only. I will additionally not share or comment on any posts, Tweets, etc you make on social media regarding your symptoms or experiences of mental or physical illness.
I do not trust that Sushi [my dog] is safe in your care, and as such will continue to keep him in my room at night, and whenever I leave the house and anticipate strangers (to him) will be here. I will additionally be installing a lock on my door. That said: dogs are not meant to remain kenneled for longer than 4-5 hours at a time, and because of that I have missed out multiple times on spending time with my friends and family. This is unacceptable. Moving forward I need at least 24 hours notice if people are coming to the house so that I can make appropriate arrangements for him, and subsequently plan my own life accordingly. I will additionally provide that information to you in kind.
When we moved in together we shared with one another that being yelled at was a mutual major trigger. While I dissociate when I’m being yelled at and appear to be passive and calm, in the aftermath I have experienced panic attacks and nightmares–as well as increased episodes and severity of dissociation–as a direct result. The dissociation specifically is difficult for me to deal with, as currently it is rendering me uncommunicative whenever you’re in a room with me. There is absolutely no reason I should feel this scared (or scared at all) to live in my own home, and thus this kind of behavior is unacceptable. If you ever, under any circumstance, yell at me again I will be giving you 48 hours to pack and move your things.
To summarize my feelings of the past week into bullet points:
- I have lost any and all trust in our relationship.
- I feel lied to and disrespected.
- I feel unsafe and trapped in my own home.
- I am experiencing increased symptoms of my own mental illness.
I genuinely hope we are able to find a way to make our roommate arrangement work out, and that you take my words into consideration.
Not everything was bad with this person, and in fact so much of it was actually fantastic and supportive that it made it that much easier to ignore/explain the red flags, and is also the reason I gave this person the benefit of the doubt in my email. In speaking with my therapist I now know that this is a common tactic in emotional abuse: by making things seem good on the whole it becomes easier to control others. Never before have I been scared by the adage, “You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.”
I’m so sorry for everyone who has been affected by this person’s behaviour. Especially, however, I am so sorry to anyone who was also affected by this person’s behaviour in my time as their friend, because I now realize I enabled this abuse toward you by believing their lies and excusing their behaviour. I can only hope that you eventually find healing.
No one deserves this.
Note: I don’t really know where to go from here in order to have myself feel safe again. With that said I want to stress that I don’t believe punitive justice helps anyone, and that in order to make actual change transformative justice is necessary. I am absolutely not sharing my experience in the hope that this person is punished for what they have done to me and others, but rather I am sharing in the hope that this person gets the help they need. This is in order to aid them in not repeating this pattern of abusive behaviour moving forward, and to thus not abuse others in the future.
If you’d like to learn more about what transformative justice is/looks like please read the Transformative Justice Handbook. While the focus of the handbook is on childhood sexual abuse, in my opinion as a victim of CSA as well as other forms of interpersonal and systemic abuses it’s laterally relevant to most–if not all–situations of abuse.
Edit: Also I cannot thank the people in my life enough for their reactions over the last few days. Especially though I’d like to thank my parents, my therapist, my suppotters, and my professors/mentors for their kindness and tact. My gratitude knows no bounds.