The Highs and Lows of Emotional Abuse

| October 7, 2014 | 2 Comments

Trigger warning: this post discusses an abusive relationship.

This is a guest post by Amanda Domuracki. To submit a guest post to Culture Shock, see our ‘Write for Us’ page.


Even before I was old enough to legally gamble, I understood the draw of it, and how easy it would be to slip into an addiction.

Imagine all of your gambling money comes from a loan shark. Any win is due to their generosity in giving you a loan—and of course, you have to pay them back in full. But the more you sink into debt, and the harder it is to climb out of it, the more you begin to fear your loan shark: what will happen when I can’t repay them?

This is what an emotionally abusive relationship is like. And as I was on the cusp of graduating high school and going into college—what was often touted as “the greatest four years of my life”—I understood full well the addiction and the fear of abuse.

I can’t license my experiences in an emotionally abusive relationship as “universal,” but I can certainly find common ground with the experiences of gambling addicts. Your life is loaned to you through an abuser. It is on his or her whim that you thrive, struggle, hope, and fear. In abuse, you can endure a thousand losses for a single, shimmering penny that proves you’ve won something, however temporary that “something” is.

Why didn’t you leave? 

Not everyone is like that. Why don’t you just get over it?

It took a long time to leave,  in short, because I was addicted to a high that only my abuser could give me. Because the lower an abuser puts someone, the higher they can elevate them.

How could I possibly like anything about someone who abused me—during the relationship as well as in hindsight? This is where society fails to understand abuse, brushing off the issue with a single word—“complicated.”

Abuse is complicated. Someone is always willing to ask, “why didn’t you leave?” I try not to ask myself that, because I know—it was that high, that moment after the storm when everything smells fresh, and you have a brief glimpse into what it might be like without the rain.

In reality, your abuser creates the highs and lows of your life. You fall into a rhythm of abuse that not only causes you to sustain however many years of abuse, but it also causes you to become your own worst abuser. Three years have passed and I don’t hear his voice ridiculing me—I hear my own, saying his words: you’re stupid. You’re small. Who would ever want someone as worthless as you? It’s a willing exercise in self-deprecation because the luxury of confidence is one you have been told you can no longer afford.

The worst part of abuse is the one that I don’t want to admit to myself: that the lows of it were worthy of sustaining the highs the abuser creates. Your abuser is the only one capable of fixing what they have broken. You are so low in the gutter that you start believing you belong there—Stupid. Small. Worthless. You find excuses to tell yourself they are right. You’re too weighed down by the trash of what you’ve let yourself become to let it wash it away.

It takes a lot of effort to recuperate in the aftermath of the storm—that’s a dirty secret I hate to admit, and that I feel we survivors do not receive enough credit for: it takes effort to erode the effects of abuse. But after this long effort, I am now in a place that allows me to ask, “What kind of awful person says that—‘you’re small, you’re worthless’?” This is by no means the same as asking myself, “did I deserve it?” (Or, god forbid, asserting, “No, I didn’t. I don’t.”)

I know the answer to the first question: “that awful person who said those awful things is someone who tricked you into loving them.” And as for the second question: did I deserve it? I’m still not quite sure. How much do I owe him for that loan—that moment that I felt great?

I oftentimes have a dream that visualizes how I feel: he is a wave, giant and blue and cold, and I’m swimming hard against the current—and just as I’m swallowed whole by it, I open my eyes, stinging from the salt water… An ocean of lows, and then—a ray of white light pierces through the water … a hand reaches out pull me up, his hand—

It takes years, potentially an entire lifetime, to adjust to coping with the effects of abuse. To not accept that hand and to not need that gasp of fresh air that comes when you’re dragged to the surface.

I wholeheartedly believe that you’re never at peace with abuse, no matter how hard you try—you never get used to living without the high that your abuser afforded you. I know I haven’t.


Amanda Domuracki is a film and television major at BU. She produces for BUTV10 and aspires to be a television producer or screenwriter.


featured image photo credit: Becklarx via photopin cc

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  1. Emily Sheehan Emily Sheehan says:

    This is a very beautiful post and very brave of you to share. You are truly inspiring.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Thank you so much! I experienced a similar situation with a family member for many years. It’s comforting to know that emotional abuse is very real and can leave a strong impression on a life. Thank you for being so brave.

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