Violence is not always Visible, Henriette Eiby Christensen

How Anger (and education) Saved Me From Suicide

Six years ago, I came out of a 12-year verbally abusive relationship not knowing what had happened. 

First relief, then not understanding why I felt so bad, and kept feeling like the world would be a better place without me in it. Then ANGER.  

No way was I going to let him continue to have that kind of power over me – I had to understand everything, not only for myself, but also for my three children. And so I started writing and observing.

My ex-husband is a very handsome and smart man. I had always been more of a people pleasing person. I was willing to move and turn every single pebble of my body and soul to accommodate his needs. There was always an element of truth to every abusive thing he said about me or others, so I was kept in a state of constant confusion and soul searching.

  • He never hit me.
  • He never came home drunk.
  • But he slowly drew life out of me with his words.

I did everything wrong – the way I kept our house wasn’t how he liked it. I had too much “stuff.” I was too “laid-back.” He used “positive” critique to belittle me. He would cover his verbal abuse up in “I’m only being honest.”  He would withhold sex calling me nymphomaniac because he couldn’t perform. He would call me names and so much more.

My friends and family slowly evaporated from our life.

Here is the part which is very hard to explain… why I stayed.

I understand that this is sometimes difficult to comprehend from an outsider looking in. You see, I was a stay-at-home mom in Denmark and very isolated.

In Denmark, being a stay-at-home mom is frowned upon. Having a job is much more valued.

So I was alone.

Alone in my beliefs that my children were much more important than any job could possibly be.

An easy target you might say. Yes!

  • I no longer had a network.
  • I no longer had an income.
  • We shared a bank account.
  • I had no self-esteem or self-worth.
  • No special skills which might help me create an income.
  • My education was outdated.
  • And I was stuck. Emotionally and financially stuck.

One day, he decided that we needed a second income, so he pushed me to work. I promptly got a job as a substitute teacher while my youngest was in kindergarten.

A couple of years later, I went back to school to get a teaching degree (his idea). It had the unintended side effect that I started socializing.

I discovered I was smart. My classmates would call me for help with homework, and they valued my opinion. As I said – working was HIS idea, and it was he who pushed me into getting a degree so I could earn more money for our family.

But every time I had an exam, he would threaten me with divorce, belittle me, and say phrases like:

“You’re really going to let your studying come before the well being of this family and our children?”

Well, the more of those he came up with, the harder I studied, and along the way my education became my life-raft.

It represented financial freedom and social connection.

And – most importantly – it represented being valued for who I am as a human being.

It saved my life.

We divorced six months before I finished school.

Here are five of the biggest telltale signs you are in a verbally abusive relationship plus five ways you can start helping yourself:

1. You are nervous around him. (Walking on eggshells.)
2. His needs come first. (You drop everything at his call.)
3. Your friends and family disappear. (They aren’t good enough for you – he says.)
4. You suffer from various stress and anxiety symptoms. (Stomach and headaches, insomnia, dizziness, depression etc.)
5. You complain to yourself or other people about him.

a. Take a minute to breathe and do nothing.
b. Do something nice for yourself every day – even if it is just picking a flower, gazing out the window for a few extra minutes or eating an apple really slowly savoring the taste, smell and the beauty.
Plan it a day ahead so you have something to look forward to.
c. Call a long lost friend or family member and go out for coffee or a walk.
d. Talk to a therapist or your family doctor – if that is out of the question – Google PTSD and read about it. You can develop PTSD from being bullied – it doesn’t have to take a war.

And the toughest one:

e. Listen to yourself. Really listen. Are you willing to live like this for the rest of your life?

Why is this, the toughest one?

  • Because you will have to face yourself – honestly – maybe for the first time ever.

When I did this I almost became suicidal – if that happens you’ll know that you’ll need to change something and you will need help.
Henriette Eiby Christensen, author, speaker, counselor.

I am Co-author also of:
The Faces Behind the Pages that Inspire KINDLE EDITION, Published by A Victim No More

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