NOTE: I added a quote at the start of my post as well as more pictures in between my writting. I also added a paragraph at the end on how this will help in futrue with patients or colleagues in similar situations.
“Emotional abuse is just as bad as physical abuse. Worse! You can heal broken bones; you can’t heal a broken mind.” – Dia Reeves.
It started off as me thinking they just haven’t been raised with good manners like I was, anything to justify their actions, and for some reason that made it okay. It wasn’t until an incident caused for my mom to be called into the principals office at my primary school that I realized the severity of the situation and that it wasn’t okay. For 5 years I suffered from emotional abuse by my fellow school students, whom i thought were my friends. Being told over and over you are pathetic, a looser, a tomboy and you will never achieve anything in life starts to become your way of life and shaping how you see yourself.
There comes a point when enough is enough. I am not a believer of ‘giving someone some of their own medicine’ because it is not my job to hand out revenge. Through my primary school years I always wondered if this was it, if this is how I am supposed to feel about myself, because if it was I would hate my life. I was so unhappy and bitter and cold. What kind of a childhood is that?
I remember the day like it was yesterday when I decided NO MORE. With the next incident I opened my mouth, stood up for myself and it never happened again. When someone is being abused or has suffered from abuse, their whole life is changed in one moment; whether it is deciding to commit suicide or making a 3600 turn for the good. I made the decision to turn 3600 and never look back. I was going be okay. That was a big mistake, I thought I could fight the battle alone but I was wrong. Subconsciously I carried that hurt with me for years; it has affected my every relationship since then to this day. Getting professional help does not mean you weak and is nothing to be ashamed of.
During my 4th year clinical rotation I came across to abusive cases. Firstly, during my 2nd block at the Western Cape Sports School, I treated a patient with bruises on his trunk and arms that did not go with his sporting code (which was basketball). This patient also happened to have a decreased BMI and suffering from muscle spasms indicating his diet was faulty. As the physiotherapist treating this patient I made a decision to report my suspicions and after a few weeks it came out the patient was abused at home over the weekends. When it comes to children they need someone to be a voice for them and fight for them. Confidentiality is important, but when someone’s life is in danger a superior needs to be brought on the case to handle a situation professionally and ethically keeping the patient’s best interests at heart.
I have experienced indirect emotional abuse from a clinician. The moment it happened it felt as if I was pulled out of my 22 year old body and placed back into my 8 year old body. It took me a split second to not allow the critic to break me down but build me up and be part of my character building. It took me a split second to determine the rest of my life, again. Words are never forgotten, they stick and you have a choice whether they will make or break you.
Secondly, during my 4th block at Tygerberg Hospital, I was treating a patient who suffered emotional abuse from her husband at home and then the staff at the hospital. Due to the patient being feeling worthless at home, she expected the hospital staff to be more accepting and caring. The patient was an amputee with many emotional issues. Due to my personal experience I was able to pick up the emotional abuse symptoms from the patient and give the patient the support and ear that I needed many years ago. Sometimes our patients just need an ear and a heart that is willing to be there for them and treat them in more than one way. Because of my experience I was able to help someone else know they worth of love, acceptance and affection. My story isn’t an embarrassment but an inspiration to myself and others to remember you not alone and that there is always someone out there having it worse than you.
During these personal experiences I learnt how to pick up on the signs and symptoms of emotional abuse. This allowed me to use my story with patients who open up and talk to me about their personal lives, it allows me to have empathy with the patient and prevents me from being a robot. Having had gone through this experience makes it easier for me to listen to others and support them through their hurt. Anyone who goes through any kind of abuse should know they deserve better as well as they are not alone.
The following are youtube video links discussing this topic nicely