Please join me in welcoming Carrie H. and her debut article on Emerging from Broken. Carrie writes in a brilliant style filled with emotional honesty and compassion both for herself and for others who understand the grief we feel when we find it necessary to draw a boundary with our own families of origin. I am honored to have Carrie as a guest writer on Emerging from Broken. ~ Darlene
Self-Love and Navigating the Waters of Grief by Carrie H.
When my husband found out that his father was dying I asked him how he would make it through. How would his sister make it? How would his mother make it? “Our love will hold us together”, he answered. Wow, I thought. I watched as he and mom and sister held each other that day. The day they knew one of their family members was dying. In that moment I realized that love was absent from my own family of origin. In my family, love did not tie us together, which was why getting through a dark time seemed so difficult from where I was standing.
When I pointed out the Truth to my parents and sister, that there had been verbal and emotional abuse, I was abandoned. I had visions of us healing together as a family – that’s what loving families do – but I’ve had to let those dreams go over the past few months.
Their reaction to me revealing the dysfunction merely proved the dysfunction. Instead of looking at their own behaviors and their role in our family dynamic, they chose to point their fingers at me and to blame me for their pain. You see, once I stepped out of “The Matrix” – which is what I call their faulty belief system regarding love – they became very uncomfortable. I told them that there was an elephant in the room that needed to be addressed. I held up a mirror and they ran screaming. In regards to the elephant in the room, my sister wants to pretend it’s not there. If we don’t look at it, it can’t be there, right?? My father, always the spiritual bypasser, admits it’s there but says life is “just an illusion” so we are “one” with the elephant. My mother says I’M the elephant.
I realized that the only way my family would accept me was as their scapegoat, as the one who Read More→
Earlier this year my 16 year old daughter hit glare ice, flew off the road and crashed her car. She hit the first tree and took it out which caused her to roll and flip into the air, crashing 5 feet up on the passenger side and wrapped around a second tree. Her face and hands were covered in blood and cuts from the broken glass and she thought her arm was broken. When she was taken to x-rays in the hospital she fainted.
The images of her near death were haunting. I couldn’t stop imagining what she went through, her fear and how much worse it could have been. Even though she walked away, even though I was fairly sure she was going to have a complete recovery, the feelings, emotions and fears that came up for me were overwhelming.
On the third day after her accident my entire body was ‘humming’ with fear, emotion and flashes of the way my mind imagined the accident. I felt nauseous, exhausted and totally stressed out. I couldn’t sit still, I couldn’t concentrate on a book, I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t even escape with mindless television shows. I found myself reaching for weird food, like potato chips and chocolate and I reached for them as though they were a life preserver. I ate mindlessly and in a frenzied manner and as I shoved things in my mouth I became aware of the thought that I somehow believed eating those foods might block the feelings of fear and anxiety out of my mind. I had this crazy belief that eating those foods would squish the fear and flashbacks of her accident and all my feelings of helplessness, down and away from me.
I felt like I couldn’t cope. I felt like there was ‘nowhere’ to go and nothing I could do about it, that I was powerless over the outcome of her accident, that I was helpless and I had been helpless in that moment. And in the case of my daughters car accident I was powerless and helpless but the problem was that I felt like that ‘powerlessness and helplessness’ defined me as ‘useless’ and as a ‘failure’ as a mother, as a woman and even as a person.
Useless and a failure;
And I had this nagging feeling that this feeling I was trying to get away from was very familiar for me. I had this sense that this feeling was something that I had had for most of my life. And while I was in bed that night, half awake, half asleep, it came to me; this is the feeling that Read More→
This week I got an amazing comment on the post “The Grooming Process of Discrediting Children and the Cycle of Abuse” that caused my mouth to drop open. I said to my husband Jim “listen to this!!” and I read the comment out loud to him. As I read it, I looked up and saw his eyes open wider and I knew that he heard exactly what I had heard and that he was having the same reaction to it that I had had. This comment is so typical of the types of verbal abuse that children hear that it could have been from the verbally abusive parents play book. It was almost painful to read it. When I was finished, Jim said “holy shit… I can HEAR it, I have heard it…I have been there.”
I read it over again and I knew that I wanted to share it with a larger audience so I have asked Tim for his permission to share it as a main article. I am thrilled that he has given me his permission along with his blessing! So many adult children of abusive parents don’t realize how common this type of ‘lecture’ is and don’t realize how many others have experienced so much of the same type of tearing down. This verbal battering goes on and on and the reader who has been there or has ever witnessed it can HEAR it in the writing.
I had the urge to highlight certain parts, make other parts bold and do a little editing, however (aside from adding a few periods and questions marks) I decided to let the reader have their own interpretation and reaction to it without my emphasis. I am really looking forward to the comments on this one. ~ Darlene
Here is what Tim wrote;
“Here is the sort of verbal theatre dis-played by my parents showing a mark getting made;
“Don’t do that, it’s horrible, you don’t do that, why did you do that? don’t pretend you don’t know, excuse me, how dare you I won’t let you try to begin telling me you don’t even know what you’ve done, because you do, don’t you, of course you do we’ve all told you about this before, haven’t we, in fact too many times, isn’t that right? How many times do I have to tell you people don’t do that, do they, how many people have you seen, none, that’s right so why do you keep doing it ~ other peoples children wouldn’t they would never do anything like it would they, no, so why do you why do you always do it you’re the only one at school like this they tell me they do, your school unless, that friend of yours…. maybe that’s where you pick it all this up from is it, it is, is it? why do you hang around people like that you know other people have been asking me why you decide to behave like this, you know that right so what are we meant to do say what do we tell them, when you won’t tell us that’s a horrible thing to do there concerned, were all concerned about you and we don’t know what to do if you won’t tell us what the problem is are you going to say something now, well, we’re waiting you know Read More→
For me the whole month of December and lead up to Christmas and then celebrating a new year is an amazing time of year for me and for many reasons. As a young adult I dreaded Christmas as it was a reminder of my lacking and longing for love. Christmas was lonely. Some years it was scary.
Since I began my journey to wholeness, Christmas and the few weeks following New Year’s has become a time to validate and acknowledge the wonder of life, the changes I’ve made and the things that I have accomplished. The holiday season has become about real love and real relationships and celebrating that love. January and the weeks following New Years are also about coming home to me and the journey of life. Christmas marks the end of one year and New Years marks the beginning of another and during this time of year I also celebrate and validate all accomplishments of the previous year and get ready for a new year welcoming the many more accomplishments and victories to come.
And some times when I am pondering all of this wonder in my life, I have a healing dream;
A few nights ago I dreamed a very vivid healing dream. I dreamt that I was a professional basketball player. I was playing a very intense game and the crowd was cheering wildly. I saw myself from the outside of my body and I was also aware of myself from the inside where my thoughts and feelings were. I was dreaming, but I was experiencing myself as the dreamer as well.
The lights were bright almost too bright. I was out of breath and very aware of how much I was perspiring and how warm I felt. I noticed a faint sheen of perspiration on my arms and on my upper lip. My hair felt damp. I felt good! I felt healthy and strong. Everything was loud; the crowd, the announcer, my coach, the other teams coach; there was this feeling of intense excitement. And I noticed the brightly lit score board; the game was tied!
In a flurry of activity, a lot of dribbling and passing and what seemed like organized confusion, I scored the winning basket!
For those of you who don’t know, I am in my Read More→
I get nasty emails from upset mothers who think I am a spoiled trouble maker whining about some fictional terrible upbringing and discounting my right to tell my own story. The truth about what I am really doing is all right here in writing. I started Emerging from Broken because I wanted to heal the world. That may have been a lofty goal but I sincerely wanted to make a difference in the lives of other hurting adult children of dysfunctional, controlling and manipulating families. I wanted to bust through the false messages about ourselves that so many of us were struggling to accept instead of to reject.
I remember my mother saying to me that she didn’t know what she did to ‘deserve’ a daughter like me. (She may have used different words like “I don’t know what I did to deserve ‘this’ but the message was the same and it’s the message that does the damage. ) She said it as a judgment; she said it with exhaustion, despair and frustration as though she was at the end of her rope, exasperated by my actions and my attitudes; exasperated with me. And I felt so bad that I was such a disappointment to her. In the past I never questioned that it was me, I just tried harder to be the daughter that she ‘deserved’ and the daughter that would make her proud and maybe the daughter that would be good enough for her to finally love. Really I just wanted her to love and approve of me.
But when I came out of the fog I had been groomed to be in for most of my life, and started to question my beliefs about myself and the blame I placed on myself, I looked at her statement through new eyes. I started looking into just what she/they did to deserve the trouble she had in her relationship with me. I started to look at the details of the message her actions communicated to me about me.
Emerging from Broken (this website) isn’t about blaming blameless parents for the mistakes that they made. It isn’t about being mad because when I was a teenager my mom didn’t let me go to the school dance or because I got grounded for smoking. It isn’t about not getting my own way and not being allowed to use her car when I was learning to drive, it’s about being told in all kinds of verbal and non-verbal ways that Read More→
This time of year is particularly difficult for survivors of dysfunctional family dynamics and abusive relationships. When the world appears to be celebrating the joys of warm family love and the longing to be together, it’s hard not to feel the pain of not being loved unconditionally especially if that includes the members of your own family of origin.
A commenter on the emerging from broken blog said something this week that struck me as one of the hardest things about having lived in a dysfunctional family where relationship and love were taught and modeled the wrong way. When love and acceptance is communicated in a false way, the resulting damage can inhibit our self-esteem from growing in a healthy and positive way and cause us to feel responsible for the failure in the relationship. Her comment was about her new realizations since the passing of her mother. I could deeply relate to her realization that she wanted to be missed. It was particularly devastating to me when I realized that I wasn’t missed. The truth was that if I wasn’t going to comply and function in the relationships in the way that I was taught and groomed to, then I was dis-missed. A huge part of the healing process for me was in the process of understanding how this ‘dismissal’ was not my fault but rather it was related to my strength and a sign of healing and taking my life back from those who believed that they owned me.
Here is the comment from this precious reader:
“I was estranged from my mother for 15 years or so and she died last month. It is sad knowing she is gone, but it has allowed the passing of a deep rooted sense of hope of reconciliation from her that was never going to happen, and the realization that I wanted to be missed. It is hard to shake the shame of rejection by those from whom we expect unconditional love and that parental bond that can find superhuman strength when needed! If our family won’t love us, how do we convince others that we are worthy without the need to justify ourselves at deeper levels than words?”
It remember feeling this same way and having those same questions. That if my own family didn’t ‘love me’ how could anyone love me? I wondered who would or could love me. I remembered that I thought it was up to me to convince others, including my own family that I was worth loving. But the truth is that Read More→
“They say “But she is your Mother!” and I respond “Yes, and I am her Daughter”. Darlene Ouimet
I have found so much freedom in realizing that I don’t have to explain or justify my decision to draw boundaries with my parents or with anyone else, to anyone. I don’t have to help people ‘understand it’. I don’t have to defend myself or prove myself. There is a reason that some people don’t accept my decision to disengage from my parents and family. There is a reason that this offends certain people but the reason may not be what you think it is. It certainly isn’t what I originally thought it was.
Throughout the comments in this website, and on the Emerging from Broken Facebook page, people often share the belief that people who haven’t ‘been there’ or haven’t walked a mile in these shoes don’t understand what we are talking about when it comes to having parents who are unsupportive, disrespectful abusive or dysfunctional. For a long time I agreed but I have come to realize that this conclusion isn’t as accurate as I used to think it was.
I have discovered that people who have or have had loving parents actually do understand what I am talking about; it is the people still stuck in defending their own abusive /discounting parents that fight the hardest against what I am saying. It’s actually makes sense that it is that way too; People who KNOW what love really is don’t think my mother and her actions regarding me were very loving; they don’t think that the way she treated me had any foundation in her love for me. People who had parents who modeled real love, recognize the truth about what love is. And they don’t stand up for neglect, disrespectful actions, discounting actions, corporal punishment, emotional abuse, verbal abuse or any other type of communication from parents that is less than love.
People who know what love really is and experienced that love from their parents, don’t think my father’s neglect and disinterest in me was loving OR normal. They don’t think he did the best he could. The reaction that I get from people who actually WERE loved by their parents is understanding and empathy rather than the judgment and criticism that we so often hear. Statements such as “but they are your parents” or “I’m sure your parents did the best they could” are not flung in my face by people who know what loving parents really are. Since I have come out of the fog about the whole dysfunctional family system I have met people who have a whole different reaction to my story; I have met people who say things like Read More→
“Putting up with abuse or abusive treatment is not love for the abuser. It is not love for the self. It has nothing to do with love at all. Finding out what LOVE really is went miles towards my recovery” ~ Darlene Ouimet
Long before I ever ‘emerged from broken’ I had this burning question about the obligation involved in loving my parents. I had been told/warned that it was a sin if I didn’t honor them, and I had honor and love all mixed up. I didn’t really understand what either word actually meant since I had never been taught the true meaning of those words. My real question was more about my right to ‘stand up to them’ and since I believed that standing up to them was not a loving action, that standing up to them was going against them which meant “noncompliance” I believed that love was putting up with unacceptable treatment.
Each year around Mother’s Day, I re-visit my belief system and the longings that I had in the past, the judgments that I made on myself and the roots of where they came from; In order to find out what love really is, I had to realize what it was not. I had to realize how I had been taught what love was and realize that that teaching was false and not based on truth or the true definition of love at all.
I had been told that love was the answer but I had not been taught what LOVE actually was. So I took my false belief about love and what I ‘thought’ it was, and I applied that false definition of ‘love’ to everyone in my life.
I believed that loving abusive people like my mother, until they could love themselves was equal to having a higher purpose. I believed that I was ‘the better person’ because I could take the abuse, mistreatment or disrespect and that would communicate that I could love unconditionally. I believed that accepting devaluing treatment in some way ‘proved’ my value; even if it only proved it to God.
The truth is that putting up with the abuse, disrespect and devaluing treatment only served to validate the way they treated me. It communicated my permission for them to treat me like dirt. How can that be love? Sometimes I wonder if deep down they were laughing at me. I wonder if they ever thought “What an idiot this girl is! No matter how nasty I am to her she keeps coming back for more; no matter how I treat her she ‘LOVES’ me!”
I don’t think my acceptance of abuse did anything to serve any kind of higher purpose once I entered into adulthood; I think it served to communicate that these people (like my mother) had rights that I didn’t have which is really what abuse is; compliance to abusive treatment communicates to the abuser that Read More→