Emotional Coma, or Vegetative Depression
[August 3, 2022: There have been some changes made to this post. For more information, read the Editors’ notes at the bottom of the post. Editors.]
It was very difficult for me to admit to anyone that I had experienced an “emotional coma” (that’s what I was calling it). It happened twice that I can remember, possibly three times in my first (highly dysfunctional) marriage. My emotions would become overloaded and they would shut down. I went to bed and stayed there for over 24 hours. I could not move, could not eat, could not cry. I just laid there as the hours went by. I was particularly ashamed of what happened because it must have scared the children. The two oldest remember and we have talked about it several times. I remember one time my ex was following me around the house saying something that he wanted me to believe. I knew they were lies. I could not shut him out and I could not break free. I cannot remember very clearly but it seemed he wanted me to admit something that was not true. It was crazy-making, for sure. But I could not cope….and so I shut down.
A darkness settled over me.
Friends called and tried to “get me going” again….told me to snap out of it. I am not sure what motivated me to function again. I truly believe that my mind and emotions simply needed rest. There was always a fight going on. I needed to gather my forces.
I only told one or two people about this because it was used, in my life, to show me how sinful and crazy I was. Incidentally, I have not had any such darkness since I left him two years ago. I have been able to cowboy up in the bleakest of circumstances. But, I never shut down again.
In my crisis and trauma certification training a few days ago, I was taught that there is actually a name for what happened to me. It is called “Vegetative Depression”. Goodness. I cannot tell you dear readers how validated I felt when I understood that this is actually a thing. And, it is not only a thing but it is considered a “red flag symptom” of a person who is in the midst of a massive crisis response. It signals a total emotional break-down — or the fact that emotions are debilitating. I was not crazy! My mind and emotions were only trying to survive! It is considered a “normal response” to trauma and I had no idea. The Psy. D who was teaching the course said that if a person begins to go into a vegetative depression, that it is our job (as crisis counselors) to recognize that they need help right away.
What a relief to know that I was not sinking into the depths of hell (for that is how it felt). It was, indeed, a hopeless place to be in such an emotional coma….it was guilt-ridden for I was unable to care for those who needed me….and it only added to a growing belief that I was crazy.
If you have experienced this type of depression, please do not feel ashamed. Sometimes, our very souls cannot handle what is happening to us. We hide, we ball up, we wither. Our bodies and minds understand, subconsciously, what must happen in order to preserve our own sanity.
[August 3, 2022: Editors’ notes:
—For some comments made prior to August 3, 2022 that quoted from the post, the text in the comment that was quoted from the post might no longer be an exact match.
—For some comments made prior to August 3, 2022 that quoted from the post, the text in the comment that was quoted from the post might no longer be found in the post.
If you would like to compare the text in the comments made prior to August 3, 2022 that quoted from the post to the post as it is now (August 3, 2022), click here [Internet Archive link] for the most recent Internet Archive copy of the post.]
- Posted in: Victims
- Tagged: emotional abuse, false guilt, Megan C, mind control, PTSD, recovery, survivors' stories, verbal abuse, vindication
Thank you, Megan, for sharing this. Depression and PTSD are sufficently difficult to battle without adding more unnecessary guilt on top of an already overloaded emotional system.
I spent a few days there myself. It is a horrid place and I really frightened my children when I did.
I was facing an escalating cancer scare and a pending surgery, something my husband was fully aware of. The day before I had to go to have blood work done to test for Ovarian Cancer tumor markers (I have a family history of this awful disease) my husband calmly walked into our room without provocation and asked me for a divorce. He was upset because I wouldn’t be intimate with him the night before. An act that could have ruptured the mass on my ovary which would have caused me tremendous pain (similar to being shot in the abdomen) or I could have experienced the pain as well as having cancer cells spread throughout my abdomen. But this did not matter to him these were risks he was willing to take with me. To put the icing on that cake when I asked him why he couldn’t have at least waited until we knew whether or not I had cancer to ask me for the divorce he told me that it wouldn’t have made a difference to him. So, he was willing to leave me to battle through cancer treatments and raise our children on my own. Something in me literally snapped. I spent that week waiting for my test results and trying to deal with the abuse dolled out by my husband. He started to gaslight me halfway through the week. Spinning reality because he started to change his mind and he was trying to redefine what he did. I couldn’t function. I just stopped. My psyche was overwhelmed. The only time I managed to get out of bed was when the anxiety attacks started to ramp up. I would go for a quick run to settle my heart rate and breathing then crawl right back into bed. I appreciated the numb moments they were preferable to the anxiety attacks. If I didn’t have a background in health sciences that helped me recognize my symptoms for what they were (anxiety attack) I would have absolutely needed medical help. It is nice to also learn that my shut down was natural as well. I am thankful that I woke up after surgery with a clean pathology report. I truly think I would have fractured mentally if I had to face cancer as well as the abuse in my marriage.
This man is now wanting me to reconcile with him. He is wanting to rebuild a level of trust with me. God has removed the scales from my eyes and is using my husbands sin for my good. I am breaking free of this relationship. I will never be able to trust that man again.
What he did is absolutely horrible.
Yes — I agree with BIT. I am sorry for what he did to you . . . it was sin-sick.
“But this did not matter to him these were risks he was willing to take with me.” — I know this feeling. 😦 And it is plainly awful.
Oh gosh this is a relief to read. This happened to me several times too. I thought I was going crazy. It felt like I was paralyzed and it always happened right after really bad sessions of abuse. Sometimes it started in the middle of them. Once I lay on the bed, unable to move or open my eyes. I could hear everything and was sort of aware, but my body felt numb and unable to move. Thank you for this post. It helps give me clarity on what happened…
Megan, I think you may be amazed at how many of us have experienced “vegetative depression” and not been aware that anyone else has ever had the same thing happen to them. Mine came after an adultery was uncovered…
Oh my goodness!!! Thank you for sharing about the vegetative coma. That was me for the majority of the last years of my 37 1/2 year marriage. I don’t even recall some of the memories of my last few children’s childhoods!! That made me feel terrible! But at least now I know others have the same reaction. Your comment about him following you everywhere being right at your ears. I felt like that was similar to Chinese Water Torture – simply no escape!!!! It is so validating to find out that others know what I was going through!
My husband died almost two years ago. After one year of trying to deal with the part of me that was still living, I am now finally happy with being me! I am enjoying life, laughing more, building a fantastic new career (in psychology!), and looking forward to making my last years my best years!!!!
I wish for all victims to become happy, fulfilled survivors!!!!!!!!!
37.5 years is a long long time, friend! Rejoicing with you that you have so much joy to look forward to!
I just want to say that you are amazing for surviving what that evil warthog tried to do to you and those precious kids. To God be the glory for ending that torture. ((hugs))
Thanks, Katy. You are such a sweet sister to me. xo
For me, I didn’t even realize this was what it was. I just thought something was wrong with me. I just wanted to sleep… I would sleep all day…. it would keep my mind from dwelling on how miserable I was. Then, my ex husband would come home and complain about how I hadn’t done my chores around the house properly. (I always managed to do these “chores,” yet they were never done right or good enough. He would ask for me to give an account for what I’d done all day. I also just plain didn’t feel good much of the time (stomach was upset, headaches, back hurt, etc.) and I’m pretty sure that the depression brought on by the abuse was the root cause of it all. Yet, I wasn’t allowed to rest due to a stomach ache or whatever else was going on – he would then compare me to his mother and say that she could get so many things done around the house and was in her 60’s, so why couldn’t I, in my 20’s, do the same? A stomach ache wasn’t a good enough excuse not to do my wifely duties. Any attempt to rest instead of clean would be met with a look of pure disgust and hours of the silent treatment, followed by a fatherly lecture which usually escalated into cursing and yelling on his part.
Marianne — I understand sickness stemming from depression. Our bodies/souls/minds are so connected and when one is being abused or damaged, it can cause symptoms like stomach aches, headaches and the like. I got SO MANY headaches before I left my ex — massive migraines. I really believe it was due to extreme stress.
Even when we are ‘free’ from an abusive relationship, things like court battles, family functions, and social events can still trigger this protective reaction. This is a good reminder that we are not crazy or lazy, but incapacitated for a time. I’ll bet abusers know this and they know how and when to get this response from victims so that they can move in and target us again. Knowing that this happens and why is a great defence!
Wow. I spent a lot of time in that state. Amazing to have a word for it! Thank you.
I have never experienced such a state but I relate to your joy in discovering that what you had experienced was real. I attended an assertiveness course not long ago that mentioned passive-aggressive methods of communication – the examples given could have come straight from my life! That feeling that it was real, that it wasn’t just me and how I felt – so liberating!
Hi BrOnz18, thanks for your comment. You might be interested to read about covert aggression. We have learned a lot from Dr George Simon Jr, and he explains that passive aggression is an often misused and misunderstood term, and ‘covert aggression’ is a more accurate term for what domestic abusers do. Here is a post to whet your appetite, but if you want to explore it deeper I’d suggest Simon’s book Character Disturbance [*Affiliate link].
*Amazon affiliate link — ACFJ gets a small percentage if you purchase via this link.
This happened to me. I just could not take what he was doing. I was so overwhelmed. Days of abuse without relenting left me reeling and I froze up unable to move or speak. Thank you for sharing Meg
When my abusive, long term marriage came to a screeching halt, my emotions just shut down after a few weeks of intense grief and panic. I still did what I needed to, with the exception of eating, but my emotions just flat lined. I went emotionally numb. I don’t know that I will ever feel things the same again, but after three years, I am starting to feel again! Nice to know I am not alone!
Thanks for this post. I experienced this many times in my marriage. I would call it going comatose because that is how I felt-paralyzed and unable to move sometimes for days. What brought it on was always a “discussion” where he would gaslight, obfuscate, twist words, blame shift, etc. and I would always end up being blamed for everything. He is mentally a genius and there was no keeping up with his psychological abuse. I would shut down totally and then he would use it as proof that all our problems were just my unresolved problems from my childhood.
I am so glad that is over!!
And I am struck by how very strong we all are to have survived all the abuse we went through and to still be going on. Good for us!!!!
I can relate, H.B. My absuer also ranks high on the IQ scale and he uses it to gain mastery over people and to take advantage of them. I found that I could not think like an abuser, so I could not anticipate his next move. Even though the lies have been exposed, it’s never over–he continues to try to be the ruler (his name means ‘ruler’, go figure). I think it angers him that the little tricks don’t work anymore, but I don’t believe for one minute that he will give up and go away. I’m just more of an intellectual challenge now.
Yeah, I can’t even begin to think like an abuser. I am way too naive and trusting. I am sorry you have to still have contact with him. I have very little contact and it is wonderful!
Here’s an article that I really like- it made me laugh so hard when I first read it. It is about becoming a “gray rock” and being uninteresting to a sociopath so they leave you alone.
The Gray Rock method of dealing with psychopaths [Internet Archive link]
It is NOT Christian so keep that in mind!
My X’s name means “to live next to a dung-heap.” I’m not joking! When a friend (who knows him well) found that out and told me we were amazed!
ACFJ discusses this article at this post.
His beloved, I can so relate to what you’re saying. I wouldn’t call my H a mental genius but the part of his brain that lacks empathy he fills with knowledge of what hurts me and what’s important to me…then he goes to work. He too used my childhood issues as an excuse for my pain at his abusive behavior. It is just sick. A godly man would take into consideration any sensitivity his wife had over childhood issues and BE MORE SENSITIVE, not use it against her!!
I just wanted to clarify something in relation to your story. I was specifically wondering if you could speak or not when you were in the vegetative coma? When I was in this kind of state I couldn’t until things got a little better and then I could say a few words. I knew there was nothing wrong with me physically so I didn’t know what was happening or why. I felt like I was watching myself. Also my mind was slipping a bit as I went off into imagining the future etc. Did anything like that happen to you? I understand if this is too hurtful or hard to explain oxox
Also, did anyone else on this blog have trouble speaking when they were in that state?
Anna — I could not speak — at least, not that I remember (I don’t remember a lot!). I know that I did not want to eat (and I don’t think I did). I just completely shut down! And, yes, my mind slipped, as well. It went into dark places. It was a real hopelessness, I think, because I could not see my life getting better until Heaven. 😦
Thank you Meg
It makes such a difference to know that. I hated what happened up me and I like you feel it was held up as evidence of not being sane and reacting in a way that was disproportionate to the abuse that happened to me. I couldn’t understand what was happening to me at all. I knew I wasn’t sick or physically unwell so it made such little sense at the time. Why no one helped me I don’t know
Anna, I was the same as you. I could not speak for a long while. Eventually I was able to say a few words, painfully and forced. I felt emotional pain when talking. Felt like my voice sounded weak and dumb. Gradually I could speak again, but it took several days for that.
I read again what happened to you Deborah. I’m so sorry that you went through that. It sounds just like my experience. I felt sort of paralyzed too. My H tried to move me and I managed a few steps but I could barely move or do anything. You must have found it so frightening. I did. I hope things are better for you now – and for anyone else who has had this horrid experience
Anna, I actually remember not feeling much. Just numb, except when I tried to speak. Then it hurt badly. I know I lost track of time. My abuser did walk into the room and walk around me, I think. I’m not really sure, but I don’t remember him trying to touch me. I do remember thinking I just didn’t care anymore of he did try to do anything. My body had a feeling of floating too. That was really weird, but again, I didn’t really care. Just so numb. Snapping back into reality was the painful part.
Also in my situation my H just kept screaming at me and being cruel when I was frozen. That made me worse. I didn’t come right until he either started to be nice or I got left alone. Did you guys have the experience of being further abused when you were frozen up?
Yes mine yelled “why aren’t you talking to me?? Talk to me!” in my face during one of my freezing episodes. I just stared out the window and didn’t care. I remember my son asking my abuser what was wrong with me. My abuser told him I was sick and that he would take care of him. He then looked at me smiling an evil smile and took my son into the other room and played with him.
Wow Deborah, Anna and Meg and others who went through vegetative depression, this has been such a good conversation to witness between you.I have learned a lot. Thank you for sharing.
Oh Deborah that sounds so horrible. My experience was very similar with being yelled at to speak – but of course I could not. It was horrific. I’m so sorry you went through that. Thank you so much for sharing. I have felt so alone in what I went through. It is hard to share about these things because of the fear they will be held up as evidence that our perception of the abuse was somehow in error or tainted by the “freezing”. What is neglected however is the fact that the freezing followed the abuse and not the other way around. Horrid indeed
Yes, my X would sometimes play the nice guy all sympathetic knowing that since he had badgered into that catatonic place his being nice would further torment me, other times he would just leave me alone for days while implying to our son that I was mentally unbalanced, and one time he had sex with me when I was like that and unable to move. He later “apologized” for raping me.
Dear His Beloved
That is disgusting. An “apology” was it??? I’m appalled. You are very strong. I’m intrigued as to how a trauma response suddenly becomes mental illness – we are normal human beings – not built to take intense and prolonged cruelty trapped in our homes at the one who promised to love and cherish us. I’m so sorry for your experience but grateful you shared – it helps me feel a bit more normal. There can be no consent in a situation like that – or really after it either… It is disgusting and my heart goes out to you
You have such a good point in how a trauma response becomes a mental illness. That is gas lighting at it’s best. In my house there was no “trauma” according to my X. He was “perfectly reasonable” and I was the one with all the problems. Because he never used violence and the trauma was emotional and psychological it was easy for him to say “I didn’t do anything- she’s the one with the problem.” Classic covert abuse. So crazy-making.
Thanks for the link to that discussion. Very good thoughts and advice about the potential dangers of being a gray rock.
Oh wow! I’m not alone!!! Thank you Deborah. I also had the strange experience of drifting off mentally too. I stared at a speck of dust on the floor or a dot on the ceiling for hours. Or I thought of how heaven would be. Or I ran through lists of things in my head. This made me think I might have been like a child being sexually abused who invents a safe fantasy world while the abuse is happening. Did anyone else have a similar experience of not thinking clearly or thinking in ways that seem to represent the mind’s attend to escape abuse??? Thank you so much for writing Meg and Deborah
After reading some of these responses I am thinking that this is not exactly what happened to me. I was able to move and talk (not much ) I was able to sort of painfully drag myself through the motions. I wonder if there are varying degrees to this state? I was mentally shut down but I was still able to go to my doctors appointments. When I was there though, I can’t even explain it, I was not really emotionally there. I was very detached. I simply could not function if I allowed myself to feel anything. The tiniest tug at that thread and I fell into an anxiety attack.
My heart breaks for the women on this thread. I will pray for all of you. I pray that God uses these experiences to build awareness and strength in all of us. I pray that he gives us the opportunities to minister to other women and young girls so that they may be able to avoid some of this soul crushing pain.
Much Love in Him ❤
The saddest part of all of this is we are not all alone. There are many more out there going through it and not knowing what to do. I am thankful for those who have been through it and are on the healing path.
Thank you so much for writing about this. To know there is a word for what I’ve struggled to describe and that its real and not just something weird that happens to me.
Is it normal for it to come in varying degrees? Sometimes it’s no more than fuzzy thinking and I can’t concentrate. It can go all the way to curling up and trying not to move so I don’t kill myself.
Struggling to open my mouth and talk or to move seems to take superhuman strength. At times everything is fine, but then…it’s not.
I don’t describe it well, but I see it in your post and in so many of the comments. I’m not alone and I’m not crazy. Thank you.
Dear SJR and His Beloved
I did a fair bit of research into this area and I believe it does happen in varying degrees. The research I did suggested it can range from a mild sense of disconnection to reality and perhaps some forgetfulness, right up to very significant problems such loss of identity, amnesia and psychosis – all of which can also occur in varying degrees. So from what I can see it is on a spectrum but is still a common and normal response to severe suffering in which the mind tries to cope the best way it can.
I went in and out of the milder expressions of this type of thing, and at my worst did actually lose touch with reality briefly when the abuse became unrelenting. Once I was in a safe place the symptoms entirely abated. This has been a source of intense shame for me and was certainly a reason why I got little help from friends who were all too ready to dismiss any possibility of abuse. My mental state before this all happened was entirely normal and has been so since I got away. I don’t think I am crazy but it is further debilitating to have to defend oneself from accusations of mental instability while trying to articulate the need for help as an abuse survivor. I doubted myself and felt that perhaps I didn’t deserve help because of how I had “failed to cope” in that I was not able to withstand unrelenting terror and abuse.
SJR – I don’t think you are crazy and you certainly aren’t alone. Unfortunately I think it is possible to break down further beyond freezing and struggling to speak when a person remains in abuse – this is what happened to me when the warning signs of this state were ignored.
Anna, if you think any of that research would be especially helpful for our readers and it’s available on the internet, could you provide our readers with the links? Maybe not to every article you found, but to the ones you thought were best, most helpful and informative for the kinds of readers we have. Thanks.
It was a little while back that I did this research but I have had a look back at some of the key links. Hidden hurt is a UK based domestic violence based service and their writing on dissociation was very helpful to me:
Dissociation [Internet Archive link] – please note the spectrum and relationship of this type of trauma response with PTSD. Please also note the danger of labelling a trauma victim as having a condition such as bipolar, anxiety disorder etc etc etc – instead of actually identifying the person as experiencing a normal trauma response to abuse. Finally please note that this page is related to child abuse (as are some of the other resources by Hidden Hurt) however that dissociation etc are also normal for adult domestic abuse victims
Dissociation Diagnosis [Internet Archive link] – please note catatonia, ie freezing
PTSD – Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder [Internet Archive link] – note reference to numbness, emotional blunting, being detached from surroundings, unresponsiveness to stimuli
These resources infer a range of different responses from mild detachment right up to split personality – all as trauma responses and not pre-existing mental illness
This pdf is written particularly in relation to rape:3rd International Conference on Survivors of Rape (ICSoR) [Internet Archive link] [Scroll down the linked page until you reach the title Abstract and Powerpoint Presentations. Under this title is a link to a PDF of Andrew Moskowitz’ Powerpoint presentation Psychotic Symptoms in Rape Survivors: Signs of Trauma, not Psychosis. If you click on that link, you can download the PDF. Editors.] – however as sexual abuse of various kinds can occur in an abusive marriage this resource was of interest to me. It shows that even psychosis can occur in association with dissociation and freezing when a victim is trapped in particularly traumatic abuse. Here, even psychosis, is not associated with pre-existing mental illness or evidence of mental illness – again it is considered along a continuum of normal trauma response
I personally had a range of responses to abuse along this continuum all without pre-existing mental illness and all of which subsided entirely once I was safely away from the abuse. Even when the abuse was still happening I showed substantial improvement at any time my H was better and when the abuse eased for short periods.
I hope this helps others – this is truly a horrific side to abuse. I hope the links work and show others that they are not crazy, just traumatized
Another thing I want to say here, also to reiterate what Meg said regarding how an emotional coma indicates the need to provide immediate help, is that when symptoms like freezing, detachment etc emerge this is a strong indicator that abuse is starting to significantly break a person down and destroy them. I think it’s a clear sign abuse has caused significant damage and that the victim needs help to get away. I didn’t know this and lacked words to describe what happened to me and so stayed on. This was partly the case because I knew there wasn’t any “physical” reason for me being unable to move. However I have since come to a place where I think that freezing etc are actually physical responses to abuse in that the brain does actually have changes that cause a victim to freeze etc. PTSD apparently produces real structural changes in the brain too and this seems to me to be an actual physical injury caused by abuse and as real as a bruise or a broken arm
Just one other point regarding this type of trauma response – this is the idea that perhaps God in His mercy designed our brains to allow us to freeze and feel detached from reality when abuse is happening. I felt so guilty for my response as though I had fallen short. It certainly helped me to consider that perhaps my brain functioning in this way for a short time was in fact one of the ways God spared me from experiencing the full brunt of abuse without any sort of filter
I just read this article. I’ve been there and have made it to a functioning sort of neutral, feeling disconnected most days. It’s good to know that feeling normal can happen again after i shake loose of him. Thank you Megan for sharing your story and I’m glad you and your children are away from that abuser.
I am so concerned that im going to end up like this soon. I have been thinking of commenting here for a few days.
I forget things my husband has told me alot of the time. ..trivial things such as where something is put. I forget hes told me..I ask later and he says ‘ dont you remember me telling you that’ … this question always has a subtle annoyance about its.
Im so exhausted at the moment. I feel numb. My husband is being syrupy nice to me after an abusive epidode a few days ago. I dont love him anymore. I dont lke the affectionate touch of a hug or a rub on the back.
I suffer from depresdion, anxiety and PTSD. I cry out to God to help me and I tell him how I need his strength.
I start to wonder sometimes if its not that bad. Its verbal and emotional abuse but others are worse off. I think maybe im being dramatic. Maybe ive just read too many books but the feelings of ‘I don’t like my husband’ are real’. Ive tried so hard for year’s to love my husband as I felt I should but I cannot be that perfect Christian wife. I feel some days like a cannot be a Christian anymore.
Loves6 — I wept when I read what you posted. I understand how difficult things are for you right now. And I know that day to day struggle you face right now. I am so sorry for what you have to deal with. You are NOT being dramatic — abuse is abuse. I talk to a lot of women who say, “Well, it is not as bad as others” or “Well, he doesn’t leave any physical marks” or “Well, he has never hurt me PHYSICALLY” . . . but there is really no way to minimize abuse.
Whenever we have a critical incident (abusive incident), often a crisis of faith follows and it sounds like that is what you are dealing with. That is completely understandable for what you have had to go through. It is traumatic. And to live in a constant cycle of trauma is near unbearable. How could you love a man who is abusive? It is impossible. My prayers with for you today, friend.
Thank you so much
My husband is being so intense at the moment. I get asked 100 questions about trivia all the time. Did I know that my strap was twisted? Where is my sock? Im worried you’re eating too much how can I encourage you? Etc… its driving me nuts!
Loves6, I want to tell you that you are not alone or crazy or making things bigger than they are. What you are feeling is real, what you are going through is real. As Megan has said, abuse is abuse and there is no hierarchy on what is worse abuse and what is not as bad abuse. Mine was the same as yours, very little physical and I often felt and still sometimes feel like I was not as bad off as some, but abuse is wrong and damaging, no matter what kind is happening to you. It is ok to feel like you do and you need to know that we all understand, believe you and are praying for you. It took a lot of courage for you to write what you did, for you to share your story. Please know I am praying alongside Megan right now, for you. You are not alone.
Thank you so much Deborah… I sometimes feel like im the abuser… I dont answer his questions…I get frustrated…I get overwhelmed… im making plans after the holiday season to possibly move out…
“…Its verbal and emotional abuse but others are worse off.”
As others have said verbal and emotional abuse is just that – abuse. Unfortunately many, including victims, think that abuse is only physical and that verbal and emotional abuse are only “issues”. I’m currently rereading Lundy Bancroft’s book “Why Does He DO That”. Listen to what Lundy, the leading expert of abusive men, says about the effects of emotional abuse:
“…among women who have experienced violence from a partner, half or more report that the man’s emotional abuse is what is causing them the greatest harm.”
My ex-husband was never physical, but the effects of the emotional blows he delivered go deep. I know what it feels like to be exhausted and so numb that nothing registers. But, you will get through this. It’s not easy, but it’s not impossible. We are all standing with you! (((hugs)))
Discovered this post and I’m sure I’ve read it before but did not comment. For some reason it is all making sense … Just when I thought I was coming out of ‘the fog’ it seems like it has enveloped me again; only this fog is thick, very thick … and yes, my emotions reached a peak and now I fight my way to be productive and feel so defeated as I just can’t … What makes it worse is the spouse knowing my struggles is content to carry on as if they have not contributed to my demise. Even entering this comment has taken much mental energy.
I am so sorry you are going through this. All I can say is that I think non-verbal abuse is actually the worst. There were times when my H was so hateful to me it would have been a relief if he had just hit me and got his anger and hate out at once rather than leaving me on the end of his wrath. Also I was so unclear about what was going on while I was there. At times I knew it was abuse (and it so clearly was) but yet I doubted…mostly because there were good times and also because I didn’t have either perspective or the vocabulary necessary to see the magnitude of the abuse. I am so sorry you are going through this right at Christmas. I pray you can get some clarity and direction. Time out certainly helped me see what was really going on. The mental impact of the abuse was also a factor and made it hard to be sure of my convictions – when really it was evidence of how seriously I was being affected. Certainly the kind of emotional disconnect from reality protected me – but I still had to face the fact my dreams had been shattered and the home I longed for was not a safe place for me. Another thing that helped me that might help you too, is calling a domestic violence crisis line… I am not sure what country you are in but I think this blog would recommend some lines in the UK, USA, and Australia. I am not sure about other countries though. Some services also have an online advice service which you might be able to use if there isn’t a support line near you. Their websites also have good resources. Being able to speak with one of the workers there helped me a lot and it might help you too. It is impossible to remain emotionally healthy in an abusive situation. I will pray for you
Oh my gosh, the crushing grief as I read this…I’ve struggled with this for years. Years. Years of having no anti-depressant work, surviving a spiritually abusive counselor, losing an awesome counselor to early retirement, finally just deciding I was hopelessly broken. Feeling like a complete failure every time I couldn’t get out of bed, sometimes as often as several times a month.
Reading this, the tears and sobs just heaved up from deep. I am still trying to sort out what has and hasn’t been abusive in my marriage; it’s very confusing, and it is by no means all bad. But as I read this article, something deep down inside, something I stuffed down, ignored, and finally silenced over the last 21 years, pushed its way to the surface. I’ve experienced intense fear and anxiety, a little anger, much confusion since I discovered my husband had been drinking again a couple of months ago. But very little grief. This? Pure, unadulterated, passionate grief.
Something inside me knows what’s true.
Hi Marah, welcome to the blog.
Yes, we understand what you mean, almost all of us here have been through a ‘waking up out of the fog’ process. Blessing and hugs to you.
Also, if you haven’t already done so, I suggest you check out the “New Users’ Information” tab in the top menu. 🙂
Thank you for the kind words. I’ve read through a LOT on the site in the last 36 hours. I’m trying to balance the need for understanding with the risk of overwhelm, and that’s not easy. I don’t even know why, of everything I’ve read so far, this article was the one that opened the floodgates for a few minutes.
I’ll be reading a lot here, for certain.
blessings to you, Marah. I understand that risk of being overwhelmed by the inflow of recognition and lightbulb moments, especially those lightbulbs bring up buried memories as well. I encourage you to listen to your inner sense of when your may be getting flooded. Staying grounded in the present, with little ordinary tasks, can help, as can using distraction techniques. I flip through glossy magazines when I’m verging on burnout, that’s my little technique, and I go for walks in the park to de-stress.
Marah, your honesty brought tears to my eyes. I too have had this crash far too often, I have had lots of mini ones, where I would just go to bed a few hours. Especially after my husband would come home from work. The guilt and sense of failure are overwhelming. Yes, it was the abuse, and some childhood abuse issues in my life, that lead me to these breakdowns. But I felt the church had let me down, also the Baptist counselors were terrible to me. So I felt unsaved unworthy. It is so hard to feel so alone. I don’t know what deep secret is pushing up to the surface, whether it is childhood memories or something your husband did. Find a good counselor to talk to about it or a friend. I visited many counselors, stayed with ones I connected with. Stayed away from pastors. It is great to find a confidant, but over the years and many people latter I realize it was my time with God and prayer and tears, that would be the best comforter, The comfort was not there when I was praying it would come later, hours latter, or a day later. The comfort was deep and penetrating. I’ll pray for you and that your husband will quit drinking.
Thank you for this! I don’t feel so crazy….. I think my first one was around 10 years in the marriage, then as the years went by they would average once a month to once every few months. It was so hard. I don’t get them as often now. thanks for sharing and being honest! It helps others
Wow Lynn I’ve never had those comas myself but I would think that one every month or few months would be pretty often! That suggest you must have been severely abused!
Barbara, I really regret sharing what I shared on how often I crashed. kinda hard to admit that I was so messed up … but I spent years, [decades] putting the pieces of my childhood sexual abuse together, my many memories came, the worst ones came last. When I confronted my Dad and Mom, it didn’t go well, and I lost all my families support for a long while. While this was going on I was married (still am) and dealing with an abusive husband. I ..almost lost my mind, I guess those crashes, sleeping and not eating, got me through, and got me to fast and pray.. BUT I know I could of coped better without the abuse of my husband. Even though he believed and supported me through it all, he did some very hurtful things for years. I know I read in one of your posts you were abused as a child to. I praise God that you didn’t have the severe dark nights of the soul like I did. I praise God that I made it … and I’m alive today….. so many others didn’t make it.
Lynn, I was sexually abused for 10 years as a young child. Severely abused by a close relative. I started on a healing process for this 15 years ago. I am also in an abusive marriage. I only discovered this about 18 months ago.
I just want to encourage you today. You are not alone. I understand what you are saying. I have been there and if I wasn’t on antidepressants I would be there a lot more.
I just reread my comments above, this was when I first found this blog. I can see I have come along way since coming here. I see things with more clarity and my low days are less because I understand things so much more.
My husband supported me through dealing with my family over my sexual abuse too, at the same time loving I was weak and having total control of me. He loved my codependency I could not live life without him back then. During this time he said and did many hurtful things to me. I have been recounting the last 30 years of our relationship. I can recall times he has thrown bowls of water over me in anger, shoved a frypan in my stomach, thrown phones and smashed them, punched things, screamed in my face with clinched fists. Yelled at me in a public place about my triggers, picked up a knife to stab the chopping board because he was angry with my parents about my sexual abuse, tearing his shirt while buttons are flying in an incredible rage …. The list goes on and on. I am now in the last few days processing some of this, some of what I’m saying as happened in recent times.
I would crash and not eat when I was in the midst off a breakdown, which I have had three, these have been my dark nights of the soul. I’ve been suicidal and at the end of myself.
It’s a miracle I am alive too.
My heart goes out to you and I really want to encourage you today. I’m praying for you xx
About breakdowns– I’ve heard some people describe it as their spiritual breakthrough, a turning point in fact. The grace of it is that our bodies and souls tell our minds “this is too much” “you need some rest child”. Its an undeniable sign that something has to give and in fact something has.
My abusers and narcissistic family used the stories of my breakdowns (there were a couple) to heap on shame, shore up their positions of entitled abusers and invalidate my voice for many years. Since my battering husband was in the therapy profession he knew how to use it to dam me to my own personal holocaust. Mental health is not a science, there are no blood test to determine a diagnoses and believe me, a narcissistic predator can hide extremely well in this profession. He can use it to exploit and silence his victims too, its highly effective safe place for an abuser to hide but very dangerous for his wife.
My first breakdown came after about 15 years of stuffing the pain of abuse from my first husband. Over and over, year after year, carrying on, soldiering forward as if nothing happened. I was a worship pianist and one Sunday got up off the floor where I’d been pushed down and viciously kicked repeatedly, put on my dress, pasted on my smile and did the worship with a radiant smile. A church member raised their hand in testimony time and said “Our pianist is so full of the joy of the Lord its a real witness”. While that touched me, it came at a price. Maybe I was smiling because when I played the piano I was in another world….
One day 2 years later, I was standing in the kitchen, feeling overwhelmed with enormous pressure which I had no name for. I didn’t call what I was living in domestic violence I was hiding it from myself. I opened my mouth, and began to scream. I couldn’t stop, I screamed and screamed and screamed terrifying my children, and I remember thinking if I stopped screaming I would die. An ambulance was called, I was sedated in a hospital and held there for 30 days. It was Christian treatment center, they told me I had PTSD and they sent me right back home without any recommendation of support, other housing, or information about domestic violence. I think it was criminal negligence and that hospital was shut down in time.
I finally got free at that abuser to marry the second husband that was what I call now Mr Mental Health. Respected in the profession with a lot of authority he made my first abuser look like a saint. Its too long to repeat the stories of what happened to my mental health under his expert gaslighting except to say death looked highly attractive after marriage to him.
While I’m late to this conversation I’m relieved here to find I can share those things I’ve sanitized and put away to protect myself. I’m finding a goldmine here and a sort of a tribe among survivors. The truth does set us free I will never have to hear myself scream uncontrollably to understand that something is wrong.
Thank you for this post. I know it’s not me, but in desperation this morning, I plugged “depression” into ACFJ search, hoping to find some words of comfort and wisdom.
I have been besieged both inside the home and outside between husband and nasty neighbor using similar tactics. Husband could have stepped in months ago and said something, nipping it in the bud, but decided to use it as a way to show me how selfish, unchristian and awful I am. As a result, it’s escalated and they lose no opportunity to push issue further. Police have been called. There have been threats from them and husband sits back and calls it all my fault. We had a “mediation.” Issue supposedly over. But it won’t be.
So why did I feel like I’d been beaten and victimized again? I ended up curled up in a ball crying for hours in our attic (my safe space) and all the rest of yesterday, I could barely move. I wanted to do things, forget what happened, but all I could do was lie there for hours. I finally dragged myself downstairs and ever since I feel so full of blackness and negative emotions I can barely move. It’s too much. I can’t handle much more of this. I keep telling myself I feel like I’m shutting down. This isn’t the first time, but it’s the most severe and the dark emotions and feelings inside me hurt and are scary. I’m not a vindictive person, but I wished lightening would strike the neighbor’s house and blow the whole thing up in a ball of flames, or a car crash into their cars and take them all out or a giant sinkhole swallow their property up entirely so I never had to deal with them again.
And then I cry some more and feel maybe husband is right. I’m an awful person. How do I free myself of these awful negative feelings? I’m so overloaded emotionally, I can’t even say how many times I’ve been tempted to jump in the car, drive away and never come back. But today, I just want to lie here in bed and never move again, pull the covers up and shut the world out for … I don’t know how long. A long, long time. It hurts to move, it hurts to think, it hurts to feel.
(Editors’ note: The details of this situation have been removed to protect the identity of the commenter.)
Lying in bed with the covers up sounds like a very good way of dealing with it at the moment. I used to have that feeling quite a lot, back in the day.
You are not an awful person. You are most certainly not an awful person. Your husband claims you are but he is a liar. He is trying to needle and oppress you. He is trying to retaliate against you for the truth and courage you have been showing in standing up for righteousness, justice and truth. He wants to snuff out or at least dim your light because he can’t bear the light — it exposes his evil heart. And your neighbour is much the same. You have two very dedicated abusers targetting you and you are resisting their emotional violence by giving yourself time in bed under the covers. Good for you!
Thank you Barbara. I stayed in bed until dinnertime, pleading migraine. I still feel overwhelmed, but better. Thank you for saying I’m not awful. I just don’t know what to do with all the negative, dark feelings I’ve been fighting. I’ve always been a positive, upbeat and forgiving person and I seem to have lost that part of me in the last few years.
I was proud of myself for recognizing the controlling ways of my neighbors quickly and did my best to stand up to them over the last year, but sometimes it just feels like evil wins … I think one of them fits sociopath descriptions perfectly. To watch this person lie to policemen while I had photographic evidence of truth was surreal. It’s just been too much recently to be attacked inside and outside of home.
I thank God for this site and the wonderful people on it. I think I’d be hospitalized by now if it weren’t for ACFJ helping me keep my sanity.
THANK YOU for this topic and for the comments. I suffered this various times while with the abuser and now experiencing it frequently after having left the abuser for some time now.
Thanks for this post… I think right now I’m going through this. I feel so uneasy and I can’t believe myself what I am up to. It’s 3rd time in a row I’m having sudden sadness for a long term. I become happy for a day and sad for a week or two. I’m not even able to understand why I’m sad instead I’m looking for all possible reasons to be sad. If you have solution please help me out….
Welcome to the blog.
I don’t know what your circumstances are, but if you are being abused your sadness is probably related to the fact that you are not content to be abused.
You might find it helpful to read the pdf Honouring Resistance. You can find a link to it here: Honouring Resistance – a wonderful resource for understanding abuse
I changed your screen name to Sad, as a precaution, because you’d given your real name. If you want us to change it to something else, just email The woman behind the curtain: email@example.com — she will be more than happy to assist. 🙂
We always like to encourage new readers to check out our New Users’ Info page as it gives tips for how to guard your safety while commenting on the blog.
Depression would happen to me too.
I would realise all the lies I was living under that my abuser created and it was very hard to go on.
At night (I slept alone) I had to reconcile what happened to me durring the day and how wrong it was and how no one stood in the gap for me.
Although sleep became a type of escape, it also was the time to realise that I was also being abused, which was a depressing thought.
It didnt help that my abuser / husband told people that I was crazy, menopausal, unstable, and irrational to get them to question my soundness of mind.
I found a secluded place to go that I could break down and pray to God and cry regularly. This was self validation.
I also discovered that coffee really helped to snap me out of depression and there are many supporting articles about this..
So I would either go out and buy some, or I would make some… And it did help.
And sometimes just getting out of the house helped.
Surely your circumstances are creating this for you.
But these are a few things that helped me cope with the abuse until I finally devised a stradegy plan to start to get myself out of it..
Once I had that plan quietly in motion the depression seemed to fade away.
I have read and re-read the original post and comments generated a few times over the last several months and thought, “Yep. Been there…”.
Thought I was done with them….until today.
I have reached a point in this episode where I can at least write. And edit after the fact, but before posting. 🙂 If I remember correctly, most of the comments are written after the fact. Writing my way publicly through the rest of the episode might help someone.
What I find so odd…entering this state, rather than dissociating.
FWIW, and the term may be incorrect, I call it “going catatonic.”
The first time I went catatonic, I was in a shot-term, post-divorce relationship. It was triggered by a single phrase, said when I was most vulnerable. I could not move for over twelve hours. Dark. No thought. No movement. No bodily sensation. Nothing. A small pinpoint of consciousness in my mind. I was completely shut down. And alone. I clung, metaphorically speaking, to that pinpoint of consciousness.
At the time, I wasn’t sure what brought me out of the state. Maybe it was just a matter of time.
I encountered the same catatonic state a few more times, but of shorter duration. Each time was triggered by a particular – but different – phrase. (Apologies for omitting many identifying, but important details. I am doing so for my own protection.) I would recover from the catatonic state once I had processed / neutralized the phrase.
No further occurrences since I terminated the relationship.
Until later this morning.
A minute ago, I read in MeganC’s comment,
The triggering phrase for the first catatonic state, said when I was very vulnerable, questioned my image of God, implying a demonic image. While I had not forgotten either the words or the state, I had not connected it to a crisis of faith.
I was drawn to something I wrote in a reply to Jamie in another post this morning….
The Barbershoppers’ theme song.
Crisis of faith…God wants me to speak. And to speak louder.
The past short-term relationship included some deadly spiritual warfare. I survived only by the grace of God and being absolutely obedient to the leading of the Holy Spirit.
I need to trust Him to lead me through this again…
Adding on to my own comment….
From my own comment:
(Strikethrough / addition of the word “one” done by me.)
The first time I went catatonic was the day I was born, the day my “dad” sexually violated me. My experiences of the catatonic state since then have been memories from the day I was born.
The trigger comes when someone questions my relationship to – and connection with – God.
(Omitting MANY details for my protection.)
Since my walls crumbled, so many changes in such a short time.
I change. I learn. I heal.
Sometimes I get overwhelmed by needing to (re)learn, to work through ongoing triggers, to process all the new / incoming information. And sometimes I am torn in two, part of me wanting to do things I know need doing / help me cope / display demonstrable progress, and the other part following the leading of the Holy Spirit.
I am obedient to the Holy Spirit, but the distress caused by the choice remains.
(Omitting MANY details for my protection.)
Sometimes I get SO tired of focusing on myself in order to heal.
It’s hard to believe I will ever be able to have a normal (for me) day.
Finding Answers, you said:
I’m so sorry.
But I’m glad you are slowly finding answers. And since the Holy Spirit is leading you in this, it’s obvious that He knows that slow is good.
I am glad I read this post as I have found myself in this emotional coma many, many times and quite recently, I might add. Glad that I am not alone in this based on all the comments.
Right now, I switch between this emotional coma and anger / bitterness for coming to the realization of how I have been abused most of my life and from those closest to me. I’ve been told many times that good will come out of this….that GOD will use my pain for good to help others. Forgive me for saying what I say next but I know it is my pain “talking.” I feel absolutely no comfort whatsoever in people telling me that my pain will be used for good or that I can help others in the future.
I have been the one to extend myself to others to help those going through crises / bad times, usually to my own detriment and draining of my own energy / health. And now when I’m going through my own version of hell, where are those to help me? What happens if I don’t want to help others and what happens if I’m done doing so because it has only caused me a lot of pain / suffering and to not have it reciprocated when I needed help the most? I want someone to actually help me for once – not have someone tell me that “oh your pain will be used for good one day.”
At this point in time, there is nothing left of myself to help anyone else. I NEED to conserve my energy at this point. Why is it that it seems those who purposely hurt others seem to get off “scot free” and never have to feel the depth of pain as good-natured people who don’t purposely cause harm to others? I feel really bitter about my situation at this point.
Normally, I would feel guilty and ashamed for stating what I did above, but I’m getting to the point of “it is what it is” because I have been silenced for so long. This is my truth, this is how I am feeling at this point. My feelings are valid (though I have been told many many times that they aren’t valid or that I’m too sensitive). I can tell I am going to have a very difficult time trusting anyone in the future.
Broken And Defeated,
You commented (15TH FEBRUARY 2021 – 4:03 PM):
For me, your statement sums up one of the many “Christian” “Pious Platitudes” (paraphrasing here): “Beauty for Ashes”.
I have encountered variations on these “Pious Platitudes” so many times it makes me want to do the mental equivalent of “vomit and run”.
In the same comment, you commented:
For me, it can be so hard to tell the difference between my pain and my anger, as sometimes they remain silent, sometimes they “yell at the top of their lungs”, and sometimes all I can do is find a way to express my pain.
People who suggest that your “pain will be used for good” or that you “can help others in the future” frequently spout off other “Pious Platitudes”.
For what it is worth, I could relate to much of your comment, especially your words about your own version of hell.
(My own of hell version still continues….and I am getting so very tired of all the pain.)
Dear B & D, I have read your comment and am going to reply but I’m in some physical pain at the moment so I need to put my feet up and rest. The pain is due to a change I made in my exercise routine.
Those who purposely hurt others often seem to get of scot free in this life, but God promises they will reap what they have sowed in the next life….eternally.
I am glad you are not feeling guilty and ashamed, Broken And Defeated, for stating what you did in your comment. Stating your truth is the right thing to do. I honour you for sensing and obeying the promptings of the Spirit that you need to conserve your energy at this point.
I honour you for fighting back against (mentally rebutting) the pious platitudinisers who tell you that your pain will be used for good and you will be able to help others in the future. How do these self-styled prophets know what will happen in the future? The Lord might return today or tomorrow. In my experience, tin-pot prophets usually say things like that to make themselves feel good, while giving little thought to how it might make the recipient of their ‘prophecy’ feel.
In replying to you Finding Answers said some good things about pious platitudes. You may like to check out Pious Platitudes and their Paraphrases. It is one of the items in our Insights tab. The Insights tab is one of the things in our menu.
Here is another post (originally an article) you may find helpful, Broken And Defeated. It relates to the topic of pious platitudes.
The post discusses unhelpful comments (including pious platitudes) which are thrust at victims by well-meaning bystanders.
Unhelpful Comments by Well-Meaning People: A coaching clinic for victims of domestic abuse and their supporters