The Exhaustion of Psychological Abuse

Christmas will be here in just under 3 weeks time. This will be my 3rd Christmas as a single mom, my first Christmas where I don’t have to feel emotionally pulled into someone else’s mental chaos. But for a minute there, that psychological ridiculousness came close to interrupting my season of joy.

Psychological abuse is so sneaky that you don’t even realize it’s happening…or I don’t.

In this latest incident, I had a completely ridiculous and out of proportion reaction to something that was said. Once I paused and looked deeper, I saw that Code Red used his knowledge of my thought processes, a tiny bit of knowledge he gained from someone, and then created an assumption/lie/guess to make it appear that he was “in the know” of something that I had never, ever communicated with him.

In the past, I would have mentally reviewed my words and assumed that I had slipped up and been “stupid”…again, going so far as to label myself as crazy. But this time, I took a breath and thought rationally, and I saw the lie he was creating. Unfortunately though, for about an hour, I was in a full-on state of panic and fear…and if I am truthful, paranoia.

After successfully figuring this out, and (for the first time since leaving my marriage) I realized why my 16-year-old struggles with so much anxiety when it comes to communicating with his father. I was finally able to recognize that Code Red uses the same tactics on our child. The questions, the condescension, the “knowing” is absolutely crazy making. (I wish he would just be a “dad” or better yet, leave the poor kid alone.)

This latest incident took 3 HOURS of my day to help my child process what was happening and figure out a way to communicate effectively. The mental gymnastics required to process the emotional reaction and come up with a firm response exhaust your whole being! There is no “say what you mean and mean what you say” when you are 16-years-old, at least not without backlash. (During the divorce process, my then-14-year-old was told by the judge that he had to unblock his father on his phone. The judge definitely did not realize that his father does not know when to stop texting.)

My child receives texts beginning at 4am on most days. He receives texts throughout the school day that require thought and interaction…interrupting his education and stirring up unneeded anxiety and stress. He continues to receive texts at random each evening. It is a lot.

The only way I have started to heal my brain from the chaos of the last 28 years is by setting strict boundaries. My child does not have that luxury; and yet, healthy boundaries are what keep us sane. Learning how to protect our mind is incredibly difficult, and it is a struggle to teach children how to set boundaries when they are at the mercy of unhealthy adults in their lives.

I continue to hope and pray that by being present and encouraging my son to process and speak for himself, he will eventually learn to set strong, healthy boundaries with his father.

Psychological abuse is an absolute nightmare, and honestly, I am tired of dealing with it. My brain is weary from being switched “on” so much of the time. Selfishly, I am exhausted observing my child fall apart while trying to make sense of how to best communicate.

If I could, I would simply shout, “Go away!” and be done with it! But we continue to persevere, exercise, and grow the mental muscles we need to remain strong. Thank goodness, we have the privilege of knowledge. And one day…there will be rest.

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