Welcome to Invisible Scars of Emotional Abuse
By Gabriela

I spent 6 years of my life kissing the ass of a manipulative coach. Someone who I looked up to. Someone who became my mentor, someone who became my friend.

I’ve danced away 11 beautiful years of my life. Dance was my outlet. It made me feel a calm that I never felt otherwise, and my way of expressing what I could not put into words. It was.

Emotional Abuse can be defined as “any act including confinement, isolation, verbal assault, humiliation, intimidation, infantilization, or any other treatment which may diminish the sense of identity, dignity, and self-worth.” I was emotionally abused.

I was emotionally abused by someone that I trusted, and when I started to fall into this tumbling hole of misery and self-hate, I was even more blind to the damage that he was causing to my mental health. He treated me as a friend and took me under his wing in hopes that I would succeed. He was happy with this until I began to succeed on my own, rather than under his name.

Then he began to shut me out. It was as if one day he just decided I wasn’t going to be a part of his life anymore – despite the fact that he was my coach. He no longer talked to me as if I were a friend, but instead, I got only a simple hello – maybe. He didn’t lift my confidence in class the way he used to and I was no longer given the opportunities that I was once given. It became evident that I had some sort of imaginary target on my back and he was trying to shoot me down.

Emotional abuse is exhausting

I don’t know what it was that made me feel like I needed to impress him. It had nothing to do with being the best dancer I could be anymore, but this infatuation with meeting his standards as the dancer HE wanted me to be. For so long, he made me feel as if I wasn’t improving. As hard as I practised and however many hours I put in to perfecting my craft, he never failed to say something – or not say anything – that made me feel a sense of worthlessness.

I danced 15-20 hours a week. 15-20 hours of my every single week were spent in the presence of this man, dedicated to recreating his artistic visions. I pushed myself to the point where I made myself physically ill and injured multiple parts of my body. We were training for a competition that took place in Montreal – only 2 weeks away – when I was in the hospital after tearing the cartilage in my ribs from over-exertion and excessive training.

Knowing this, he made it clear to me that if I didn’t show up to practice that day, I wouldn’t be performing in the set. That asshole. I was so brainwashed that I DID show up to practice that night drugged up on T3 and wrapped in an ice pack. And of course, despite being told that I needed at least 6 weeks to heal, I continued my training after 1 week and put myself on a plane to Montreal.

I was dizzy and nauseous all the time

In Montreal, I was in so much pain that I made myself sick. I was dizzy and nauseous all the time, and found myself running away during late hotel practices trying to catch my breath and crying in a corner from the stabbing pain in my ribs. And it was as if I didn’t even exist to him.

He told me that I wasn’t good enough. Saying things like, “You’re not as good as everyone thinks you are”.  “You almost didn’t make the cut,” or “You didn’t deserve a spot in that dance”. He would tell me to try harder. One day he told me that I “was good at one time” but that I had “stopped getting better”. Knowing that dance was all that mattered to me at this point in my life, he made me feel worthless. He made me feel self-conscious. He set me on this path to self-hate.

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I suffered from depression and anxiety in silence

I suffered from depression and anxiety disorder for months in silence, and rearranged my life so that my therapy sessions wouldn’t interfere with his practices (even though he could never make a damn schedule if his life depended on it). I’d go home at night and cry for hours, exhausted and crumbling.

One day, something clicked inside of me. I had had enough. In a split second, I decided that I wasn’t going to take this bullshit anymore, and I lost it on him. A 16 year old girl having to lose it on a 32 year old man. I rambled for over an hour and I wept and I yelled. I made every part of my anger and frustration known. “I’m suffering from Depression and Anxiety disorder because of YOU,” came spitting out of my mouth. For a moment it felt like the world stopped spinning. I had never come to that realization until that moment. He was blindsided, though he felt no sympathy: “Ya, I think I’ve been depressed before.” That asshole.

It took me years to come to terms with it

That night, I quit. I dropped out of all of his classes and deleted his name off of every social media account I had. I wanted to make him go away in hopes that the hurt he caused me would go away too.

It took me years to come to terms with this rollercoaster of emotions I felt during my time as his student. It took years of finding the right medication and CBT for me to love myself again. To accept what had happened and put it in the past. It took years to turn my anger into forgiveness… And although I have closed the chapter of that book, any time I see his face or hear his name, I still – for a second – feel like I am reliving that miserable past. Unfortunately, that is the damage emotional abuse can do to a person.

But

You just keep moving forward and you acknowledge the things you have learned from your past.

There are no regrets, just lessons that God needed me to learn.

“The scars from mental cruelty can be as deep and long-lasting as wounds from punches or slaps.”
― Lundy Bancroft

Reproduced with permission, originally published here


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