When we hear the word burnout, most of us think of the workplace and a high workload which causes unmanageable stress, consequently leading to this dreaded condition. However, burnout at work is not only caused by insurmountable workloads and high expectations, but also by mistreatment of co-workers (bullying, abuse, …) as I mentioned in my previous article. Additionally, it can also be caused by abuse at home or by a partner. This can have lasting repercussions, making an emotional burnout recovery a lot of heartbreaking work.
When that happens, the recovery process is harder, and it often takes longer. Damage caused by loved ones is not easy to get over. Long term consequences of child abuse can remain with the victim for decades.
Who Can You Talk to?
When you suffer abuse at home, it is not easy to talk to someone. People – even your friends – may not believe you. They know your father (or mother) as a happy guy, always the life of the party. “No way, he can’t be abusive. You’re lying.”
So, in most cases, victims of domestic abuse end up dealing with it on their own – for years … – which is a tough burden to carry.
Who is Responsible?
Suffering abuse at home during youth ALWAYS has consequences on the victim’s adult life, one way or another. I often see those memes on social media, claiming that “you are 100% responsible for what happens to you in life, so take responsibility.” Sure, I agree, up to a point …
Nonetheless, just like those T.V. commercials for medications, those memes should state a disclaimer “not applicable for people who suffered emotional, physical, sexual, or psychological abuse during their childhood and adolescence.”
Those people had a lot more to handle than the usual teenage hormones, angst, and other teen issues. On top of that they had to deal with fear of coming home, worry about another upcoming angry outburst, dreading the weekend when they would spend two full days with their volatile parents, and anxiously looking forward to Mondays when school would give them several hours of reprieve.
You’re always dreading Christmas or any other holiday, fearing to upset mommy or daddy in any way, and just trying to get through your adolescence safely, waiting for the day you turn 18, so you can finally leave home and no longer live in fear, just be yourself.
Try to tell those kids that they are “100% responsible for what happens to them in life”, and see if you can get away with it. Tell the adult who struggled to throw his painful past of him/her that he is “100% responsible” for all the times he/she was too afraid to say no due to the way he or she was raised.
As much as that meme applies and is true, it should definitely come with a disclaimer.
Here’s my disclaimer: I am not making any attempt at excusing bad behavior. For example, someone who robs a store because “he had a bad childhood”, sorry, I draw the line there. Robbing a store is a choice he or she made.
They could have made a better choice. There are millions of people who suffered abuse and many of them did not turn to crime, but still ended up living good lives. It all depends on the will you have within you to leave your past behind.
What if you Choose your Abusive Partner?
It is a sad truth that people who were raised in abusive homes sometimes – subconsciously – pick an abusive partner. Once more, they end up putting up with verbal and/or physical violence and sometimes even more … The lucky ones make an early break for it and they get out of there as fast as they can, not wanting a repetition of their childhood. The majority, though, remain locked in that marriage for years, and even decades.
But Why Would You Stay with an Abusive Partner?
Why would you? That is a common – and understandable – question. Why indeed?
During my years at university, I was partnered with a girl in my group; we had to research domestic violence and then present a presentation in Spanish (I was studying Hispanic Studies). For this project, we visited a center for abused women and listened to several heartbreaking stories.
Many women had remained stuck in their marriages, because they had children. Others had lost contact or support from their families (mostly because of their partner) and were too ashamed to ask for help. Then there were others who had no financial means to escape their hell, since the boyfriend or husband controlled the money at home.
Nowadays, I also see unhappy – and also abusive – marriages where the wife chooses to stay, because she is afraid of being alone.
I am not making this up, these are all facts.
Back to the Brain
How does this lead to burnout? I think, you have a pretty good idea. Let’s recap. Violence at home and/or with your partner can include insults, threats, humiliations, bullying, belittling, hitting, beating up, rape, and worse. It can even lead to murder.
Imagine living with this for years on end, taking this day by day, 365 days a year … Your brain is an organ, and putting up with so much abuse and so many terrible memories is too much. Eventually, the brain breaks down, no longer able to handle it all.
You lose the will to function properly; you are numb to the world; you believe that “everyone is bad”; you don’t want to go on, you just can’t; you can’t do anything; you are depressed, some even lose the will to live; every day is a day you don’t know how to tackle; you drink more than usual, and so on … That’s burnout. And help is urgently needed.
For most, that help never comes.
Not everyone can afford a psychologist. Their sessions aren’t exactly cheap … So, what can you do?
Drop Your Past Like a Sack of Potatoes
To heal from burnout, you should look at my recommendations from my previous articles How to Heal from Burnout and How to Deal with a Burnout – Symptoms and Solutions.
To deal with your past, I recommend the following:
- Cut your ties with anyone who has ever abused you (and while you’re at it, get rid of any toxic people in your life too). If the abuser(s) was (or were) a relative(s), that’s another matter, but for your own mental health, keep family visits to a minimum if things can’t be solved.
I once saw this Mexican series on Netflix (La Casa de Las Flores) which I absolutely loved (I binge-watched each season, always eager to find out what would happen next), and in the last season, one of the main characters (who has a terribly mean and awful grandmother) states: “Just because some people are called family doesn’t mean we have to put up with them.”
That statement struck a chord with me. It is true. It may be hard to understand for someone who didn’t suffer abuse. If you are lucky enough to have been raised in a loving family, then you are truly very fortunate, for many children do not have that privilege.
- Good, point nr.2: Find a new home, a house, studio, room, apartment, anything apt for living, as long as it bears no memories of what you suffered. A new home equals a new beginning. A new beginning brings hope. Hope gives you the energy to work for a better present and future.
- Number 3. If psychological help is way over your budget, then get some self-help books, books that help you achieve inner happiness, books that help you enjoy life again. In my previous post, I recommended two books by Gabrielle Bernstein which have been of great help to me, but there are also many others. If a book speaks to you or is calling to you, that’s the one you should get.
- Here’s 4. If a holiday is financially not possible, then go for a few day trips here and there, perhaps a walk around a nearby lake or by a river. Visit a friend you have not seen in a long time. Do what makes you feel happy again. Buy that chocolate cake if it is tempting you in the window. The main thing is that you have to start living your life for YOU again, for yourself, and not for others.
- Let’s move on to number 5. If you need to talk to someone, but – again – weekly appointments with a psychologist are just too expensive, then find someone to talk to. Perhaps a friend or even an acquaintance who is willing to listen. It doesn’t always have to be a friend. It could be a stranger who just happens to be there at the right time.
Let me give you an example. A few years ago, when I went through burnout, my neighbor decided to bully me. Yep, I know, what a “man”. He knew that I was suffering burnout, but he seemed to need a punching bag for his frustrations, and I was “available”.
That went on for weeks, and after he left (he has land here, but has not built on it) his “dear auntie” – who lives here permanently – continued the bullying campaign.
I met a lady who knew that auntie from years back and who had always had a good relationship with her. That lady and I really hit it off and in time we became friends. When she found out what her friend was doing, she broke off all contact with her, and she sent me an email, telling me that if I ever needed to talk, that she was there for me.
See, I had only just met her. Sometimes we find a listening ear where we don’t expect it. I never forgot that. That lady doesn’t live here anymore, but we are staying in touch.
- So, here comes my sixth point. Have faith. Just like that lady who offered to listen to me, there is someone out there who will listen to you, who will help you, or who will just be there for you, or bring you a plate of chocolate chip cookies.
- Have faith and believe in yourself. You got this! You can do this. After a storm, the sun always comes out.
- Forgive. I know, that one is hard. How can you forgive someone who bullied you or even beat you? It may take a while to reach the state of forgiveness, but one thing I have learned is that forgiveness releases you.
When you forgive, you not only relieve your aggressor from his/her burden, but you also shed your own cross that you bore for so long. Anger and resentment poison your soul, but forgiveness sets you free.
Burnout is a consequence of many factors that bear a weight on the brain: stress at work, stress at home, with loved ones, stress outside the home with frustrating procedures, companies, events, life situations, you name it.
Our brains work harder than we think. We do not only use them to write shopping lists and turn them on full performance during office hours. They also work full time at home (even when we sleep), and when constant abuse is thrown at this wonderful organ it eventually breaks down and stops functioning properly.
I hope that this article and my previous ones can help bring some relief. Let me know in the comments if you have any questions, and if you are looking for a listening ear and haven’t found it yet, use my comments sections for that too. I will read it and give you an answer within a day.
14 thoughts on “Emotional Burnout Recovery – Long Term Consequences of Child Abuse”
yeah I also though burnout was limited to the workplace. It’s so sad that each one of us as adults have the capacity of making our decisions. And over and over, so many adults when having the power to harm others, will do it, just to obtain their own personal goals. Not caring how much hurt they cause to those that love them and to even children.
There seems to be a force bigger than adults own will that makes them seek their own benefit even if it causes harm to others. I learnt I can call it burnout. It’s sad.
It is sad, and it happens everywhere; but at the same time, we have the opportunity to kick the past to the curb and grow from it, regardless how long it takes. What doesn’t kill us only makes us stronger – and hopefully wiser.
Thank you for comment, Paolo!
This is a very serious matter and has led to a lot of suicide attempts. Those that have not been in the situation can never understand. Opening up to someone is no easy task. Even a trusted friend can really not be that reliable although this does not happen to some people but the fact is that it really happens. The best option would be to talk to a psychologist but like you said that can be really expensive. I think the other options you listed should not be ignored as they are very important and anyone looking to break out from an emotional burnout can pick up a thing or two from that.
Very true, those that have not been in the situation cannot understand, and opening up to someone is not easy … Thank you for your valuable input!
I agree with you that finding help from our tormenters is simple for some. Often when you live in an abusive situation it is because getting out seems impossible. And it is hard to change things for sure. Watching others deal with this condition, through the years, I know that it is a difficult thing to do. The abuse sinks into your self-talk and then you think it is all true. Of your suggestions, I would think that finding and reading self-help books and articles would help. Talking to non-professional people who often want to help, but don’t know how so they do nothing.
Until people can get the help they have to take care of themselves, and keeping some positive information going in is important. I would like to share what my friend did when she found herself feeling trapped. She started journaling on the backs of her kids’ school papers that she took off the fridge when putting up the most recent. She read some positive articles and soon has a couple of sentences she repeated over and over till they took hold. Didn’t happen overnight, but in time she realized there were some choices. She made them and now has a great life. The burnout just had her immobilized for a time. We need to be sounding boards for those we can help.
I am glad that your friend had the strength to do what she did. It takes time and lots of strenght and willpower. It is certainly not easy.
I agree that talking to a friend is not the same as speaking to a psychologist, but I would not approach that chat as a talk that can provide answers or solutions, but rather having someone who listens to you. Having someone listening to you is more help than one can imagine.
God bless you for writing this article, Christine. Unfortunately, physical, mental, emotional, and sexual abuse run in my family (full disclosure-I was conceived through a rape), and although we don’t “ask for” or “deserve” to have such terrible things happen to us, we can decide to let it ruin our lives or grow from it (I choose the latter). Thinking about my own mother (who is developmentally delayed), I always make sure to talk to her, listen to her, take her places that she enjoys going/do things that she enjoys doing, let her know how much I love her, and pray for her, among many other things. While she has suffered some emotional burnout during her lifetime, I find that giving her this undivided attention has made a HUGE difference-she is much happier, enthusiastic about life, and looking forward to the future (thank you, Jesus! God is good! That warms my heart.). We can change our futures for the better! Emotional burnout, be gone! Great read. God bless you!
You are right when you say that we can decide to let it ruin our lives or grow from it. What you do for your mother must help her greatly, and I’m so glad that it is making a difference in her life 🙂 We can indeed change our future for the better and it looks like you are doing just that 🙂
Thank you for reading and for your heartfelt comment.
Have a beautiful day!
I got a little emotional reading this post. I have seen and heard of quite a few of similar stories but the only difference is the last part, where they either end up killing themselves or never get out of that kind of situation. And if they do, they end up repeating the same mistakes again meaning they end up attracting similar kind of partner. So the cycle of abuse continues….
Please seek help!
That’s the sad part. Many find no help or do not seek help and they end up committing suicide or repeating the same mistakes with their own children. It takes a strong mind to admit that you need help. Not everyone is ready to understand that seeking help is not weakness, but on the contrary, it shows strenght and a will to get out of this vicious circle.
Thank you for your comment!
It’s a big problem that a lot of people who were abused in any way keep it to themselves and never talk about it with anyone. That makes the pain even greater with time and it’s very dangerous because they can become the same as their abuser. Talking to family, friends, or even getting professional help is imperative for recovery to happen. It’s not our own guilt, it’s theirs.
Very true, so many victims of abuse never talk about it, and as time goes by they cannot heal, and – as you state – they can indeed repeat such abusive behavior with their own children … It is a vicious circle …
If only more people would seek help …
Thanks so much. Your article about child abuse is real. It happens to so many girls now our days. Especially in Africa. There is a problem. When this happens most of the victims don’t know how to report the issue. It’s like there is no law in place for that. They turn out to keep it to them selves. Your article is really true
Yes, it is sadly true, so many victims don’t speak up and carry the abuse within them for years and years …
Thank you for your comment!