A list of truths

I have no idea why I’m writing this down. Maybe seeing it in black and white will help.

1. I was emotionally abused for years. Maybe it’s still happening.

2. This is not my fault. None of it is my fault.

3. I am a resource to my parents, a thing to be used and then tossed when no longer useful.

4. They will never see me. I need to accept that and stop living in denial world about it.

5. I am a good person, no matter what they may have said.

6. I have lots to offer.

7. It’s okay to want good things for myself.

 

Betwixt and Between

Two! Two! Two posts in one (night)! My brain isn’t ready for sleep just yet, so I might as well unload this here instead of allowing it to whirl in my head and keep me awake.

I’m wondering if there is a word to describe a person who is between the “victim” stage of abuse and the “survivor” stage.

Yes, I guess you could say that I’m still technically a victim, as the abuse is still happening and I’m too lazy or stupid or something to find the way out. I’m still not comfortable with the word “abuse”, though; the word “victim” makes me cringe.

Can you even call yourself a victim when some part of your situation is your own fault? My family is the entity that it is because I didn’t stop it. The family treats me as it does because I didn’t stop it.  People tell me that I shouldn’t blame myself for it, but I do. I’ve got eyes; I’ve got instincts. I should have seen what I was allowing to happen and found a way to stop it. But I didn’t, and now I dare call myself a victim. That’s foolishness.

I don’t quite fit the title “survivor” either, since I’m not out of the situation, and I haven’t reached a place where I can speak comfortably about what happened. Maybe I’m still in denial about it all, I don’t know. I don’t feel like I’ve survived anything. In fact, I feel like life is giving me a major beat-down and I’m curled in fetal position on the ground trying to keep from being hurt even more. I haven’t fought life for anything.

And again, can you rightfully say you survived a situation you helped to create? You survive things like tornadoes and other natural disasters. You survive carjackings and other criminal acts. You survive acts of cruelty. But something that you created? No, you don’t survive such a thing.

 

Inadequacy

One of the things I’m trying to work through right now is the feeling of inadequacy. I know that I can’t do all things well; I know that perfection is impossible.  But still, I feel like I will never be enough to accomplish anything I want to do.

I’m contemplating getting a minister’s license. I don’t feel like I qualify for it. I don’t know enough; I’m not such a charismatic person that I can hold forth for hours on any subject. I don’t feel like I have anything to offer anyone. I’m shocked that I’m even considering it. It doesn’t matter that I feel like I need to take this step, or that it might even be a good thing for me. I just feel like there’s not enough here for me to do it.

I read that one of the effects of abuse is this feeling like you can never be enough. But how do you start to combat the feeling? Can you talk yourself out of it? Does it ever really go away?

On the Brain

I guess I’m on a “this is the reality of abuse–get it through your thick skull!” crusade, because I’m making yet another post about it.

I found this on http://www.lilaclane.com, in the section on emotional abuse:

THE PROCESS OF BRAINWASHING
(MIND CONTROL)

1. The brainwasher keeps the victim unaware of what is going on and what changes are taking place.

Your partner might control your finances, make plans for you, or not tell you what his plans are until the last minute.  He may talk about you to others behind your back, to isolate you from them.

2. The brainwasher controls the victim’s time and physical environment, and works to suppress much of the victim’s old behavior.  The victim is slowly, or abruptly, isolated from all supportive persons except the brainwasher.

Your partner might have insisted that you stop certain social, hobby, or work activities.  You might have gotten moved to a new location, farther away from your family and friends.  Or you may have been asked (or told) to reduce or stop contact with specific supportive people in your life.

3. The brainwasher creates in the victim a sense of powerlessness, fear, and dependency.

Verbal and emotional abuse creates these emotions, and they become stronger and stronger over time.

4. The brainwasher works to instill new behavior and attitudes in the victim.

Your partner trains to you behave in ways that he wants you to behave.  He gradually makes you feel differently about yourself, and erodes your confidence in yourself.

5. The brainwasher puts forth a closed system of logic, and allows no real input or criticism.

In other words — What he says, goes.

The site is mainly talking about emotional abuse in romantic relationships, but this is exactly what it’s like to live in my house.

And I found “Lie Abusers tell their Victims” on http://www.hhhh.org . A lot of them are ones I’ve heard all my life.

A few examples:

You’re too sensitive. I’m sick of you being so hypersensitive all the time!

Why are you so negative?

For a smart person, you sure do some dumb things.

You shouldn’t feel that way. You shouldn’t think that way.

I can’t believe how selfish you are.

You’re self-centered, lazy, and irresponsible.

You shouldn’t let it bother you.

That’s just the way your [abuser] is. You shouldn’t let them bother you.

I know you better than you know yourself.

If you talk about your feelings, you’re just whining. That’s all they do in those support groups, anyway. They just sit around wallowing in self-pity.

Friends can’t be trusted. Your friends are evil.

You’re not sensible. You don’t think things through.

You’re ridiculous. Where did you get that crazy idea?!

Did [random suspect person] put you up to this?!

(that’s rather more than a few, huh?)

I know they’re just words. My rational self tells me that they are just words, but here’s the thing: I hear them all the time.  I hear some version of the above things at least every two or three days.

I feel like I just grabbed a hammer and shattered all the good things I wanted to keep believing about my parents. God, I can hear their voices saying those things right now, this very second.

Moreover, I feel like I just took a hammer and beat myself up with it. All these years they’ve said those things to me and I just let them. I stood there and allowed them to say such hurtful things. I didn’t tell them to stop. I didn’t try to argue with them or change their minds.

I must be severely screwed in the head to have allowed it to stand for so long. Even now I don’t say anything when they start in, so what does that mean? I’m ashamed of myself. I can’t find a way to make it stop, even now.

Abuse: the Breakdown

I’m thinking about abuse again. The dictionary (the online Merriam-Webster) defines abuse five ways:

1: a corrupt practice or custom

2: improper or excessive use or treatment

3 obsolete : a deceitful act

4: language that condemns or vilifies usually unjustly, intemperately, and angrily

5: physical maltreatment

Looking at everything again (and again and again, since my mind can’t seem to leave it be), I would have to say that what’s happening to me falls under definitions 2 and 4.

Definition 2:improper or excessive use or treatment. It’s wrong how I’ve been treated. I don’t know if it’s excessive, but it’s definitely improper. I feel badly for saying it, but I need to start seeing things the way they are.

Nobody should have to carry the well-being of non-disabled, perfectly capable adults on their shoulders. I’m not supposed to carry them through the world like they’re children. I don’t know exactly when it became my job to run the house and their affairs, but it has to stop now.

No duh, right? Seems pretty obvious, I know, something I should have noticed way before now. I didn’t see it, though. It was just my life, just the way things are. I’m still trying to see it. Still trying to understand it, and to decide how I should feel about it.

It’s hard to realize that I’ve been getting used for a lot of years. I keep wondering if I’ve bought it on myself somehow. I’m a grown woman, capable of making my own choices; did I somehow choose this? I believe in karma; did I do something so horrible, so utterly unforgivable that this is what I get in return? And if I did, then what kind of monster person am I? Those questions are always in the back of my mind.

Now to definition 4: language that condemns or vilifies usually unjustly, intemperately, and angrily. I have lovely people in my life who tell me I’m a good, loving person, but I find it very hard to really believe it.

My parents have never been keen on approving things I’ve done, as you can see. I’ve always been told that my thoughts were just that tiny bit off, that nobody wanted or cared for my opinion, that the things I’ve put my heart into were wrong or just plain odd.

I’ve never been able to do anything exactly right. I don’t clean right, I don’t care about the right things, I don’t think right. When I was younger my mother’s favorite remark to make about me was that while I had plenty book smarts, I was lacking in common sense, and so would be hopeless out in the adult world. She said that many times to me, my father and siblings, the extended family, even her friends. She held up my siblings as models of common sense and implied that they’d do better in the world because they had it.

As I got older, the common sense remark evolved into her saying that I was too naive to live by myself. Again, my siblings were held up as prime candidates for living alone—even though none of them has ever lived alone before—and again, it was implied that they’d be better at it than I would.

It’s very hurtful to be told at every turn how lazy I am, or how much I don’t care, or how I’m heartless and have no loyalty to the family. It’s very hurtful to have to hear that I don’t have drive or purpose, or how my sister or brother has so much of X quality and why don’t I have that?

I don’t know if my mother even knows just how far in the toilet my sense of self-worth is. It’s so bad that when people tell me that I’m good or loving or anything, my first thought is that they don’t know just how bad I really am and if they did, they’d not want to be around me anymore. After all, my own parents think I’m bad, and why would they lie about something so basic?

People love me and I have no clue why they do. Oh, my mother says that people have good reason to love me, but I can’t believe her. Why should I?

I know I said in an earlier post that parents make mistakes, but how can anybody do this to their child and not know that it’s hurtful? I know that we are prone to do what our parents did, but where does this stop?

I’m sorry. This post isn’t the tight, well-reasoned thing I wanted it to be. I’m going to bid you goodnight and go try to calm down.

How it Began, Part III

This will be the last in the ” How it Began” series (I hope).  It’s the story of how I dropped out of college–and the horror my mother manifested.

So I managed to get through high school with a good GPA. The plan was to go right to college and eventually get a master’s or a Ph.D.

I fell in love with Sigmund Freud and psychology when I was in the 9th grade, so I went into college as a psychology major.  College was a much better atmosphere. Everybody there was there because they wanted to be, not because they were only clocking time until they were old enough to not have to go there anymore.

And there was psychology. I’ve always liked trying to understand why people do what they do, and what makes them the people they are, so this was a great fit for me. I loved every class I took (except statistics–math and I are mortal enemies who circle each other warily with weapons drawn and only engage when we absolutely must).  I was really happy.

The Keeper of the Holograms was happy too; every time I turned around she would be telling people that I was a psychology major who was going to get a Ph. D. and thus “be rich and set for life”. Her exact words. I didn’t like how smug she sounded, but I was happy pursuing the study I wanted and tried not to pay much attention to her.

As my studies stretched into years, though, KotH got fidgety. She told me I was taking too long to finish, and asked me why I was taking so long. I told her that not every class is offered all the time, so I might have to wait a semester or so for a required class to come up. And even if a required class was up, sometimes there was only one being offered, and if you didn’t register for it in time, you were stuck until next time.

I was a full-time student, and so I took required courses as well as “just because” classes–those classes that I took just because they sounded interesting. It was college, and I love learning things, so I figured why not? I took religion classes and philosophy classes, classes on gender studies, mythology classes, even a class solely about the Puritans and the Salem Witch Trials.

KotH didn’t like the just because classes. She said they were unneeded and a waste of time and I should just concentrate on the classes I needed to take so I could graduate and start making money.

There were other ways she let me know she was unhappy. She would tell me about her coworkers kids, how they were graduating from college and they’d only been in for three years. Or she would mention Coworker Kid  #251 who was only 20 and was getting ready to head to graduate school. Or she would mention an ex-boyfriend of the Bestower of Righteous Silliness, who went to Job Core and was working already, “and he’s younger than you, too!”

And then, in my sophomore year of college, came her ultimate salvo: I should change majors, go into nursing. Nurses were in very high demand, she said, and the program was short. I could be out in a couple years and be making money before I could say Jack Robinson. Psychology was good, but what could I really do with it? According to her, I couldn’t make any money with just a B.S. in psychology, and a master’s program would take too long.

I had never been into nursing. I didn’t like like the idea of  dissecting things (in fact when I was in high school, I deliberately took chemistry as my science so I wouldn’t have to deal with biology, where I knew they dissected things). But once again, I thought that maybe she knew more about this than I did, and I thought that if I did become a nurse she would love me and stop pecking at me.

So I did it. I changed majors. It was the biggest mistake of my life.

The classes were boring, full of medical stuff that I didn’t really care about. The anatomy classes were boring, and yes I had to dissect many things, which I hated.

I wasn’t so happy about school anymore. I didn’t like my required classes and so I poured myself into the just because classes which still pleased me–at least for a while.

I gradually found myself wishing that classes got canceled, just so I wouldn’t have to go to them. I began wishing for massive traffic jams or other things that would delay me so much that I couldn’t get to class.  I wished to be involved in a massive car crash just so I would have an excuse to not have to set foot in class.

I started to skip classes. I wasn’t looking too closely at why I was doing this, but I felt better if I wasn’t in class. This general unhappiness began to seep into my just because classes too, and I stopped going to those as well. I would go to school and sit in the university library until it was time to go home.

I would spend a lot of this sitting time talking to myself. “Come on girl,” I would say to myself. “You’re just sitting here. Do you know you’re probably in danger of flunking right now? Don’t you care about flunking?”  Apparently I didn’t because I just sat there all day.

Then came the day I woke up and realized I had a problem. There was a midterm in one of the nursing classes, and I knew about it. Before this day, I would always go to take the tests, as I knew it was the tests that mattered. I would never skip a test day. But that day of the big nursing class midterm, I couldn’t move from that library. I literally could not make myself get up and go to class for the test.

The scary thing is that I couldn’t make myself care about the fact that I’d failed the class by missing the midterm. When I told myself that, I felt nothing. Just nothing.

I went to the counselor’s office the next day, sufficiently rattled to be worried that I was spiraling into a deep depression again.

Going to the counselor was too little too late. If I had woken up earlier, I might have been able to stop the downward spiral–and I might have actually finished college. That was my fault. The counselor helped a little–enough that I realized I was breaking down and had to stop. I withdrew from college. I’m sure that what was left of my sanity by that point thanked me for it.

But the hard part was yet to come: telling the Keeper of the Holograms. You’ve read enough of these by now to know how she reacted.

It was like I had barbequed her sacred cow. “Normal” people didn’t break down over something as small as school. There was really no “breakdown”; I was just using that as an excuse to cover my laziness. I was a disgrace. School was easy for me; why should I break down now, for God’s sake?

It didn’t matter to her that I told her that sitting in the library all day was not the action of a person who was healthy. It didn’t matter to her that I told her I wished for horrible accidents so I wouldn’t have to go to class. No, I was lazy and disgraceful, and what would her friends think about this when she told them?

All this happened some years ago, but I still feel the backlash from it. From that moment on, nothing I have ever done has been good enough in KotH’s eyes. She pushes me to go back to school, even though I don’t have enough money to finance it (and even if I did, I’d go back to finish my psychology degree, not nursing). I run her house for her, and that’s not good enough. I do my absolute best to make her and my father’s lives as stress-free as I can and that’s not good enough.

She dangles other people’s accomplishments in front of me, as if she expects me to be sorry that I haven’t done similar things. She expects me to lie to her bosses and coworkers when I see them.

I have spent my entire life trying to make her happy, trying to fit into the image she has of me. She even denies that, saying that I stopped trying to make her happy at 15. I wasn’t in college at 15, folks.

Maybe I shouldn’t be angry about it. It happened–is still happening–and perhaps I should try to deal with it.

How it Began, Part II

WARNING: This post talks about suicidal feelings, and describes a near-attempt. I don’t want to bring up any bad memories for anyone, so please skip this post if you find it hurtful or triggering in any way.

This isn’t something I mention to very many people, so I am surprised that I’m going to talk about it here. But it is yet another instance where my feelings were invalidated and I was made to feel small and unappreciated by the family.

When I was 14 years old, I almost committed suicide. It was only because I couldn’t bring myself to actually do it that I’m here to talk about it today. There are a lot of days now that I doubt the wisdom of my choice.

By the time I was 14, I had been living in a pressure cooker for many years. My parents had locked me into this role and there was no way I could get out of it. Maybe I had had something to do with it too, I don’t know.

By the time I was 14, KotH had stepped up her campaign to make of me a social success, like BoRS.  She was always on me to be pretty, to be lively, to go to parties and not hide myself. At the same time, if I slipped an iota in my studies (which didn’t happen very often, as school was easy for me) I would be punished.

I still wanted her to love me, so  I threw myself into these things with a will. I didn’t care if it killed me; I was going to make her proud of me, no matter what.

But it began to wear on me. The pressure to preform, to produce, got heavier and heavier. For every social triumph BoRS made, I could feel her comparing us and finding me lacking. But her approval for the one thing that took no effort for me died off and became a demand for more and better grades, as now she was comparing my progress in school to her friends and co-workers’s children.

I began to have trouble sleeping and my appetite dropped off. I didn’t pay attention to these signs. I kept on studying and doing schoolwork like I was expected to, and trying to find a happy medium for the social things KotH wanted.

When I began bursting into tears over small, trivial things (once a cake I was baking fell apart as it was coming out of the pan and I cried for hours over it), I began to think that perhaps something was the matter.

When I went to KotH, she told me that I had no reason to be acting and feeling this way as I “had it pretty good”.

So why, I wondered, was I starting to feel worse and worse every day?

This went on for months, with nothing helping me to feel better. I stopped trying to talk to KotH or anyone, as I felt that they would all tell me I was crazy.

Then, a couple days before Easter in 1995, I decided that I couldn’t handle it anymore. KotH had a big bottle of aspirin in the medicine cabinet and I grabbed it, intending to take a bunch of them and go to sleep.

I got a sheet of paper and started to cry as I wrote a note. In the note, I said that I loved them, but I couldn’t handle the pressure I was under anymore. I couldn’t be more than I was, and I was sorry that I couldn’t be different. I assured them that I wasn’t angry with them, and that this wasn’t a vindictive thing I was doing. I just wanted the pain to stop. I put the note where they would be sure to find it, then took the pill bottle to my bedroom.

I opened the bottle and poured out a handful of pills. I stared at them. There were maybe 15 of them in my hand, and I wondered how long it would take for them to take effect. I debated just downing the entire bottle, so I would be sure to die.  I wondered if it would hurt.

But just before I took that first handful, a small voice piped up and said that killing myself was the coward’s way out. If I killed myself, it would be letting them win, proving to them that I was indeed a weak and spineless person. No, said this small voice, the best way to deal with this would be to live, to live and to fight, and be damned to them for thinking they could crush me.

To this day I don’t know if that was divine intervention or my own stubborn nature. Whatever it was, I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I put the pills back in the bottle and returned the bottle to the medicine cabinet.  Then I went to bed and cursed myself for being a coward.

KotH and Volcano found my note the next morning, and they sat me down, full of shock that I actually considered doing such a thing. They kept asking me why, why did I feel like I had to kill myself? I told them exactly what I wrote in the note, but my explanations fell on deaf ears.

There was no reason to want to kill myself, said KotH. Crazy people did that. All that stuff I said about pressure meant nothing, as what did she ask of me except that I did well in school and was the best I could be? “I just want you to be happy,” I remember she said.

I was sitting in front of her, crying as I tried to explain to her. Obviously I wasn’t happy.

In that whole exchange, not once did they try to actually hear my reasons. They were interested only in shooting me down, telling me that Reason X wasn’t a real reason because of  Defense Y. I felt invalidated. I felt like nothing would change, and I might as well have killed myself anyway, because being dead had to have been better than this constant tearing down.

Up until my booting from the broom closet, this was the most damage they’ve ever done to me.