Mar
31

Walking Out On Dysfunction by Christina Enevoldsen

By

I am excited to have my good friend and guest blogger Christina Enevoldsen from “Overcoming Sexual Abuse” writing once again for Emerging from Broken today while I am enjoying a vacation in Mexico.  As always please feel free to add your comments, share your experiences and post your feedback in the comments section following Christina’s article. Darlene Ouimet; founder of emerging from broken

 Walking Out On Dysfunction by Christina Enevoldsen

In the movie, The Truman Show, Jim Carrey plays a man whose life is televised from birth. Truman Burbank’s family, friends and entire community are actors and the world he lives in is a Hollywood set. He’s the only one who isn’t aware that he’s the star of a reality show and that his life and everything that surrounds him is fake. 

One day, the facade begins to slip when part of the lighting equipment falls from the sky.  He begins to notice other things that don’t make sense. His attempts to discover the truth and to escape his confinement are thwarted, but he eventually discovers a door leading to the real world….. continued…

As Truman attempts to go through, a loud booming voice is heard overhead.  It’s the producer of the show, his father who gave him up, “Truman, I’ve watched you your whole life. I saw you take your first step, your first word, your first kiss. I know you better than you know yourself. You’re not going to walk out that door—Truman, there’s no more truth out there than in the world I created for you—the same lies and deceit. But in my world, you have nothing to fear…Say something, damn it! You’re still on camera, live to the world!

Truman responds with his signature line: “In case I don’t see ya— good afternoon, good evening and good night.” Then, bowing, he steps through the door, and into a new life.

I tried to find that exit door for years. Like Truman, I lived in a fabricated world. It was partially fabricated by my parents through the family secrets and lies and partially by my own mind out of a need to believe I was safe and loved. In the reality I knew, my mom and dad were ideal parents and my childhood was untainted and uneventful. As long as I believed that I lived in the normal world, I followed the script that was written for me.

I had glimpses of the truth, but I didn’t recognize them. Like Truman’s light falling from the sky, I saw and felt things that weren’t consistent with the childhood I remembered.  When I was in my early twenties, I remembered that my dad sexually abused me.  I easily put that knowledge in a box since it didn’t fit the life I knew. The truth tried to break through in other ways, but I explained it away.  Whenever someone who admired my mom told me I was so lucky to have her, I felt a churning in my gut.  I wanted to say, “If you only knew her.” I berated myself and concluded that I must be jealous or an ungrateful daughter. I maintained that lie for most of my adulthood.

When my constructed world began to be demolished, it took me by surprise.  My mother told a lie in an effort to manipulate my husband.  It was hard to believe that my mom would use deception.  She was a community leader, well respected and loved. Yet the facts were undeniable.  And something about her lie felt familiar.  It was astonishing to remember many, many other times when she lied to me, beginning in childhood.  In a letter, I wrote her a very vulnerable and heartfelt invitation to become closer by changing the way she treated me.

I’d always wanted to be closer to my mother and I thought she wanted that too.  I never questioned why I always had to do things for her to earn a relationship.  I never wondered why I thought she was more important than me and I just had to settle for what I could get.

When I wrote to her, I never expected anything other than an apology and some changes.  I was so deluded by the fantasy I created that I never expected that she would walk away.  Her response was a series of letters.  One angrily accused me of not honoring her. In another one, she reminded me that I wasn’t perfect and that she, “never remembered any wrongs against me.”  In her last one, she bribed me with a request for me to help her with her will.

As shocking as my mom’s response was, I didn’t feel much of anything except relief over her rejection. I was overwhelmed with a sense of peace that I no longer had to perform or suffer the confinement of such a dysfunctional relationship.

I expected to feel some kind of loss.  I didn’t have a mom anymore.  Shouldn’t that mean something?  Shouldn’t that hurt?  I started to see that my relationship with my mom was a lie; I pursued her love, approval and attention, while she tolerated me. Why would I crave a relationship like that?

Soon, anger replaced the relief.  I raged at her for fooling me all those years and fooling the people around her into thinking she was the good one and I must have done something extremely wrong for her to walk away from me. Believing the facade caused me to turn against myself for most of my life. I blamed me for failure rather than seeing her for what she was. For months, I pushed away any good memories and rehearsed the hurtful ones over and over.  I was afraid of going back to believing the lies if I didn’t remind myself that my recent discoveries were true.

As long as I saw her as all bad, there was nothing to grieve. I’d only seen her goodness when I was a child and I was seeing only her badness now.  I was terrified that if I allowed myself to see her good side, I’d want a relationship with her and I would be exposed to more rejection.

Even if I wanted to see her again, she was disgusted with me. Not only was she indignant that I stood up to her, but I had begun to talk about my sexual abuse by my father and she was furious about that. I knew there was no going back, but I was afraid of wanting to go back and of compromising my boundaries.

Eventually, I ran out of anger. I was tired of being mad at her. I remembered the good things she did for me—the dresses she sewed and the meals she cooked. With the anger-shield gone, I felt the force of the hurt and loss. I remembered something about myself as a child and I wanted to ask my mom about it.  All at once, I was desperate for my mommy.  Maybe this was all a misunderstanding.  Could I try one more time?  Was I blowing everything out of proportion?  Was it really such a big deal that she had lied?  Maybe we could renegotiate.

I felt weak and pathetic for wanting someone who didn’t want me. I felt like a dirty, scrawny child standing outside the window while she was inside laughing at me. I knew it was useless to hope for reconciliation since her abuse escalated, but the desire was alive and the pain hit me hard. It was only when I stopped judging my feelings and allowed myself to feel them and express them that I saw the truth. The truth is that my mother doesn’t love me.  I’d never seen that before. I grieved the loss as though I was freshly cut off—as though the separation had just occurred. 

I thought I was finished grieving and then the wound was reopened.  My mom had been silent for a year and a half when I got a series of letters and emails from her accusing me of lying and living in a fantasy land.  Her denial of my sexual abuse felt like a denial of my life. Until then, I’d been so rational about her lack of support. I reasoned, “Who cares what SHE thinks, anyway?” But the violence of her words were a blow.

She insisted that I remember that she’s my mother.  It hit me afresh that I didn’t have a mother. The final rejection and betrayal was just the most recent in a lifetime of rejections and betrayals. I never had a mom who supported me or loved me. She hadn’t suddenly changed into a mean person.  She didn’t recently turn her back on me.  She was treating me the way she always had.

I’d been grieving the loss of my mother as an adult child, but I wasn’t an adult all my life.  I used to be a little girl and I didn’t have a mom then, either.  The pain seemed to crush me.  I was a young girl again, alone and abandoned. As long as I viewed the rejection as a result of some event, I had hope of being accepted again. But my mother was never a mother to me and she never would be.

Every new revelation brings another layer of pain.  But as I acknowledge the pain and give myself the nurturing attention that I never got, I distance myself from the world of lies.

The last layer was bittersweet. I’d achieved some breakthroughs in my personal and professional life and finally knew there was nothing that would stop me from my dreams.  I had worked most of my life to earn my mom’s attention and love and now that I was well on my way, she wouldn’t a part of that. I felt sad, but I felt sad for her, not for me. I didn’t need her love or approval and there wasn’t anything to hold me within her world anymore.  I felt like Truman did when he stood at the exit door. I was finally ready to leave.

There would be no resolution between my mom and me.

But my future isn’t dependent on her. I’ve resolved things within my own heart. My mom walked away from me a long time ago and now I’m finally able to walk away from her. 

 Christina Enevoldsen is cofounder of “Overcoming Sexual Abuse”, an online resource for male and female abuse survivors looking for practical answers and tools for healing. Christina’s passions are writing and speaking about her own journey of healing from abuse and inspiring people toward wholeness. She and her husband live in Los Angeles and share three children and three grandchildren.

Categories : Mother Daughter

43 Comments

1

Sad and empowering at the same time. I was lucky my Mom has accepted me being abused by a older step cousin. Yet while reading that post I kept thinking this could be my story if I were to only substitute me instead of MOM. My acceptance of loving me took the same kind of battle within. Your Mom could not face your being abused not only by her but also her Husband, your father. The beautiful thing I see here is you have accepted the limitations in what she is willing to give. By not falling prey to her bribes you let you back into your life in a way , becoming fuller and more complete. Great to see.

2

There will be no resolution between my mother and me, either. The best we can do is me listening to her talk about herself and her complaints and being totally emotionally indifferent while making sympathetic noises.

Yes, I’d like a real relationship with my mother. But that is something along the order of peace in the Middle East: something to be devoutly wished for and entirely possible if people change their minds and behavior, but not gonna happen.

And I looked at myself through her eyes for decades: stupid, crazy, worthless. Now I’m seeing myself differently and healing my own relationships and having some successes in my life through a little self-confidence. Not really self-confidence, but confidence that God has given me gifts that have been suppressed.

3

“I never had a mom who supported me or loved me. She hadn’t suddenly changed into a mean person. She didn’t recently turn her back on me. She was treating me the way she always had.” Those words are what I learned as truth also, Christina.I denied them most of my life. Thanks for sharing your hard learned truths. Some really hurt but they help heal too.

4

Edward,
I’m glad you pointed out that this process isn’t just for grieving the loss of a parent or any other person–that it’s also the things we feel about ourselves. Thanks for sharing from your experience.

MZC,
I can relate to what you said about seeing yourself through your mother’s eyes. I hated myself for most of my life until I dealt with my inner child. I couldn’t stand my inner child and thought she was ugly and disgusting. It wasn’t until I realized that I was mirroring what my mother felt about me that I finally had compassion for that abandoned child. By re-parenting myself, I’m able to provide the nurturing I never got so I don’t feel like the orphan that I used to be.

Christina

5

Linda,
It’s hard to face the truth, isn’t it? There’s sometimes I wish I could see the whole truth at one time so I wouldn’t be deceived anymore, but when I consider how painful the little snippets are when they come, I’m grateful for the gradual process. A little truth at a time is fine with me! lol.
Hugs, Christina

6

Any time that we are abandoned physically or emotionally by our parents, we usually do the same to ourselves. We have to emotionally abandon ourselves in order to take on the shame and blame that our abusive parents heap onto us as children. In order to believe in and keep the fairy tale going, we have to abandon ourselves and our inner children that inially stopped growing because of the abuse and neglect of our parents.

If we believe the lies of abuse, we can’t believe the inner child that the abuse happened to so we abandon them and put them into some corner of our mind to wait and wait some more until hopefully that day that we wake up to the lies of the abusers and reclaim not only ourselves but also our inner children.

7

Christina,

I relate so strongly to your post – thank you for writing it. I am at the beginning of this journey and I haven’t yet decided what to do with my parents.

Until an intense therapy session recently, I, like you, thought I had been raised in the perfect family. Once I took off the blinders, I determined that I was really unwanted. Not unwanted in the sense of “an accident”, but unwanted in the sense of not the ideal they expected. They wanted a son, just not me as their son. That’s tough – broke my heart. And I want to ask them about it, confront them, but I just don’t know (think) it will help.

So I am trying to decide: Do I dare wade in and try to address what happened in my past with them?

The best thing that has happened is that I can view them differently, almost as an outsider and understand their actions for what they really mean.

I appreciate your putting this out here. It helps those of us at the start of that part of our journey weigh our move forward strategy.

8

Hugs to you Christina <3

It is though to have to make the desistion to part from someone who are suposed to love you, but through actions and words really don't.

I've myself have cut my own mother off from me after I reported my abuser,(6 yr older brother) to the police in 2009. They both sat and laughed at a rape in a movie and that was the drop of point of no return. He has a restraint order from the police, while she got one through my lawyer. … I have only contact with my youngest brother who wasn't even born when the abuse first started. The rest of the family is gone out of my life for good. I don't want them there. I have to look after myself.

I am happy you have mananged to walk away. It is the only right thing to do to take care of oneself <3

Janne Helen from Norway

9

Christina … I could so relate. Our mothers were one and the same! I will never understand how a woman cannot love her daughter and I’ve given up trying. It is what it is – and with that I’ve been able to move on. My blinders started coming off when I was about 17 years old … but its when I became a Christian at 26 years of age that I knew something was terribly wrong in the way she treated me. When I became a mom is when the lies were exposed in the raw … much like the light falling from the sky for Truman. Even though I am in therapy now (finally) so many lies are being uprooted and real truths revealed. I will always miss never having a ‘mother.’ Although she clothed me and fed me – she was unable to offer or give me anything more than that. And like you, Christine, I have gotten to a point now where I genuinely feel sorry for her. She is demolishing her own life by her own hand. As for me, healing into wholeness is a wonderful thing!!

10

My story with my mom is very similar. I had to walk away from her because she causes too much harm in my life and I don’t need her acceptance anymore plus I will never get it but that is ok. I want to not have the same relationship with my children and make them feel the way she has always made me feel. Thanks for your post today.

11

Tammy – this is one of the reasons I broke ties with my mother – I didn’t want my kids exposed to her and I was dying inside taking her abuse. It’s been a journey, learning how to be a healthy mother!!

12

Patricia,
Insightful comment: “If we believe the lies of abuse, we can’t believe the inner child that the abuse happened to so we abandon them and put them into some corner of our mind to wait and wait some more until hopefully that day that we wake up to the lies of the abusers and reclaim not only ourselves but also our inner children.” Sad, but true. Thanks for sharing that.

Dbrannem,
That’s so heartbreaking that your parents wanted a son, but just not you. I hope you know that’s a reflection of their brokenness, not yours. I’ve written a lot on rejection from family. Truth isn’t very popular with my parents, so I’ve had to sort through a lot in my struggle to become whole. You might like reading: “My Parents Are Dead (To Me) http://overcomingsexualabuse.com/2010/12/12/my-parents-are-dead-to-me/ or a three part series called, “What If My Family Rejects Me?” Here’s a link to the first one. Darlene and I co-authored the last in the series. http://overcomingsexualabuse.com/2010/08/22/what-if-my-family-rejects-me/

13

Paulette,
I’m so glad you’re getting healthier in spite of your mother. For a long time, I wanted to rescue my mom from her denial. She’d have moments when she’d recogize the truth and then by the next time I’d talk to her, she’d be right back believing the lie. I finally realized that it wasn’t my responsiblity to convince her. She loved the lies more than the truth so that’s what she chose. But her choices aren’t my choices and I’m glad to be free!

Tammy,
I’m so delighted to hear you say that about your children. It’s so sad when mothers work so hard to have a healthy relationship with their children, yet model unhealthy behavior through their relationship with their own parents. We can’t teach our children boundaries unless with show them through our own example. People have asked me how I would like it if my children walked away from me like I walked away from my parents. If I treated my children the way my parents treated me, I would sure hope my children would get away from me fast! Thanks for commenting!
Christina

14

Christina – I so agree with your comment to Tammy. I have got that too … “But, that’s your mom!!” And I reply, “Yeah, so what does that say to you?” I would say the same – if I treated my kids like crap – I’d expect them to run too!! Blood is not thicker than water and my family has proven to me that their motto of, ‘family means everything’ means absolutely nothing to me … except for when it comes to my husband and MY children. Family only means everything if that family is loving, accepting, forgiving … you get the gist. :o)

15

Janne,
I’m sorry for your situation. I’m glad you did what’s best for you. It’s not easy and it’s not popular to do what’s healthy. I wish you well in your healing!
Hugs, Christina

16

Christina,

Great post! I share several similarities. I was sexually abused, also, but thankfully not inside my own family. I walked — was jettisoned — away from my mom just a few months ago. And, like you, my mother told a vicious lie about me to make sure she maintained the support of key people we then shared. I was shocked! But, I realized that my mom had always been a liar — was in fact conceived and raised under a set of deceitful circumstances. She has always been an expert at deceit. Why was I so surprised that, when she felt threatened, she turned on me as well. I have not missed her at all, which is strange to my mind, but my heart just appreciates the peace that I now have in my life — where I no longer labor under a strict set of unspoken rules of engagement, and where I and my husband and children are finally free to truly be ourselves and continue to bond together in honest love and respect for one another.

It is unconventional, I know, but so worth it!

Bless You,
Kellie

17

Kellie,
Yes, I understand that peace. I’m glad you’ve found that for yourself and for your own family. Thanks for sharing your experience!
Christina

18

The peace catches me by surprize I did not know what peace was to even know what I was missing.

19

After reading this post and the comments, I feel so sad right now. I don’t know why, really, but that’s how it hit me. Just… sad.

I remember feeling that recognition when I saw the movie, The Truman Show. The recognition of slowly starting to realize that my whole life was unreal.

I also relate to the black and white thinking. Thinking ONLY about the good times, in order to tolerate having the abusers in my life. Then having to think ONLY about the abusive times, in order to have the strength to stand my ground and maintain healthy boundaries.

Now, I allow myself to remember both the good and the bad. It is more painful in some ways, but it feels healthier too, and the good memories no longer make me want to run back to the family that never really was.

I think it’s ok that this post made me feel sad. It’s really the right reaction to something that is… so sad. But I don’t mean by that, that I wish I hadn’t read this post. On the contrary, it is helpful and validating to know that we are not alone.

Hugs,
Lynda

20

gosh most of what you wrote resonated through me as if it was me you was talking about. yet unlike you i havent yet been able to unlock the emotions that my early childhood held for me. i have found the the biggest jumps in my healing were the yrs i spent away from my mothers influence and able to try and be my own person. then i let her back into my life and for a while all things go smoothly as she doesnt push and i dont react, then i start saying that she cannot behave like that and start to condritict her version of my childhood, and that wasnt allowed either. i found you and darlene about the time of ou last falling out, bacuase she wouldnt accept ,e as i am and not how she wants me to be. we still not in contact tho i have added her back on f/b. but havent interacted with her but she can look if she pleases i dont care anymore. not ready for anything else though at the mo because i know she carnt change and i have

21
Renee/A Resurrected Spirit
April 1st, 2011 at 7:58 pm

Hi,
I drinking am new here, So my comments are made with apprehension. I know Patricia. Familiy I have found with my experience is that when there is abuses in our past it is a monster under the bed. When you get together it is only on a surface relationship. Something you would do with associates drinking coffee. Just recently I mentioned to a brother about our familiy being broken. His comment was “oh it’s all about you”. Wrong it is about parents that had babies they really didn’t want and allowing one monster, practice his sadistic abuse on us. They couldn’t admit failure, they couldn’t admit their own abusive treatment towards us. It was their lies and we were forced to except them as our truths.
We had one rule that my familiy lived by and that was “never get caught” Other than that everything including us defenseless children were fair game.
My mother loved only 1-2 of her 11 children. The rest of us were hated and she made sure we knew it. That was the only truth I grew up with. At 17 I realized I was broken. I realized it was going to take a long time and I knew it was going to be painfull. I am now 54 and I just realized I had more work to do. Is it worth it? All the pain, the unfairness, can I get to a place where I feel normal? Yes It is worth the fight to save my life. It is worth it because I am worth it. I am a person that has learned to respect and love myself like the first steps I had to learn in order to walk. I am broken in three places and we function as normal as we possibly can. I am normal in my world, that is all I need to know for right now. My mom who past was very involved with herself and only her needs. I thought I forgave her until one day the monster reared his ugly head and I saw the familiy structure for the first time, and it looks bad. I will over come and learn to deal with it. When you are abused the inner strenght that you truely have is monumental, your here, your seeking help or you are thinking about it. Make your life the truth. They are your memories they may be different than a sibilings none the less they are your truth.
Renee

22

Hi Renee,

Thank you for what you said: “Make your life the truth. They are your memories they may be different than a sibilings none the less they are your truth.”

Yes, you are so right.

Lynda

23

Renee, it is good to see you here. Visit as you can. Take care of yourself.

24

Lynda,
I think being comfortable enough with sadness (I don’t mean liking it, but being okay with it as part of the process) is such a helpful attitude in healing, so I appreciate you bringing that up. I think it’s one of the key things that determines if someone will continue to recover. I recognize feelings of sadness frequently. They don’t usually last long, but as I recognize the feeling and express it, whether I know where it comes from or not, I quickly pass through that and come back to joy. I just had that experience this morning. My husband, a friend and I went out for breakfast and a little boy and his mom and grandma sat at the table next to us. The mom was so attentive to her son’s needs and seemed to take a lot of delight in him. I was really glad to see such loving interaction between a mother and child, but then I felt sad that I didn’t have that with my mom. It wasn’t a strong feeling, but just enough to recognize it for what it was. I just talked to myself for a few seconds to comfort my inner child and then I passed right back into gladness to see that all the world isn’t abuse, abuse, abuse.
Hugs to you, Christina

26

Carol,
It took me a long time to unlock my feelings related to my mom and childhood. It was one step at a time. Setting boundaries with my mom was actually the first step. I think that gave me the sense of protection that I needed to feel safe opening that door. Plus, setting boundaries was affirming to me. It was a declaration that I love myself. That told ME that I was safe with me and could trust myself to take care of me once those emotions surfaced.

Renee,
Welcome to the Emerging From Broken community! A lot of what you wrote resonated with me. Your family’s rule, “Don’t get caught” made me think of my own family’s rule, “Don’t tell”. Abuse was perfectly fine, but talking about it was evil. So backwards! I’m glad we’re both recognizing and living in our own truth! I’m glad you joined us here!
Christina

27
Renee/A Resurrested Spirit
April 2nd, 2011 at 6:54 pm

Hello everyone!
Thank you for your kind words. We are back but just a pop in pop out until we can get into group and counseling. A little update, We spiraled down. I was explaining to my sister how our family worked and we saw for the first time the magnitude of distruction. I and my doctor are at odds (he perscribed meds for me but didn’t give them to me. By law he can not rewrite a perscription)No Idea where it went, we beleive he sat it down some where and it got misfiled somewhere. We can’t get into therapy without the meds. We won’t take the chance because we’ve done this before. We have to have all our ducks in a row before we start any sessions. It is just the safest way for us.

28

My mother died in Nov 2010 aged 78. Id been in counselling for childhood sexual abuse by my father and had hardly seen her for the last year. Im in my 50s now and Id tried to get through my mothers barricades of denial in earlier years and ID always ended up depressed etc. The only way I coud be in a relatioship with her was to collude with the denial and take meds. In the last 2 years before her death tho Id stood up to her and 2 weeks before her death she spoke to me and aknowledged the abuse and said she respected me and believed in meand what I was doing to get well . When I visited her in hospital though she greeted me with Oh here comes the lovely Layla and she sounded angry and sarcastic. Shes gone back into denial and I realised all along she had anger at me and blamed me for the abuse and a lot of the conflict between my Dad and her over his sexuality. I realised as a child ID been caught in a sexual triangle and my only way to survive and later to have an adult relationship with them was to , yes, abondon my inner child. I find it so sad that somewhere inside her my mother knew this and along the way she denied that her heart too had been broken. So much blocked grief in any one family. Im grieving my mothers death but mostly because Im grieving I had never got the chance to have an honest relationship with her . Im trying to meet my own unmet needs for the last 50 odd years and releasing the pain is exhausting.Its hard to deal with the contradictions as their were some good memories and values in my family so there is sadness and guilt too.On the one hand IM trying to forgive them and have compassion for their own traumas and accept that they were flawed and did their best. On the other hand I struggle with anger, rage and resentment and at mostly still feel powerless and trapped in the past. In some ways I feel more ‘real’ than ever though and hope I reach a point where Im more at peace and have come to terms with it all as Id like to be able to work and have a partner again. However The hardest bit is probably getting over the anger at the lost years and the confusion about my identity and experience.At times Im scared that some grief just cant be resolved and that not all conflict can be released and I will be in the wilderness for ever. Sorry if IVe rambled but writing this has helped me to understand myself a bit and I would appreciate any guidance from anyone who has been where I am now

29

Today on mother’s day I realized I have a biological mother
That is she has conceived and given birth to me
The emotional aspects were non existant
Today it’s mother’s day and it’s been over a year since speaking to my father

Today on mothers day I realized how the problems are with her and not me
For too long I made myself responsible for things I shouldn’t have to bare at such a young age
I am the child, not the parent – I never asked for the roles to be reversed
Today it’s mother’s day I’ve decided to let go and be free

Today on mother’s day I know I can get over the trauma
I need to forgive, stop being angry and focus on me
You can’t change the past but you can always make a better future
Today it’s mother day and I can’t wait for the day when I’ll be a mama

=)

30
Renee/A Resurrected Spirit
April 3rd, 2011 at 5:41 pm

Hi Layla,
I can’t tell you what to do but I can tell you some of the things that helped me. First I had to be selfish and save my energy and sympathy for myself. Hard to do because you are trained not to take care of yourself. You have to be a voice for yourself. That also means standing up for all the broken peices within yourself. Family may or will turn they’re backs on you or call you a liar. They are your memories, this is your journey, not theirs. It is your truth, your life. I still have anger, shoot I thought I was all done with my journey of healing and just recently realized that Im not. I have excepted the Why me,I had no hero in my life EVER. You do have to except a lot, and it is a shame, none of us asked for this, it just is and we have to do the healing. we have to do the forgiving and we have to do the loving ourselves. We are strong, though we feel weak and lost. We learn to comfort ourselves and we learn to make our world normal as best we can. You are doing the best you can and if that is all you can do then you’ve done well. Safe journey, we are here if you need us.

31

Dear Layla,

I reread your comment over and over again, because I can relate to so much of what you have written. I, too, am in my 50s. My mother is still alive, but she is 76 and in poor health. The last time I saw her was in 2003, and the last time I spoke with her on the telephone was I 2006. I do not expect to ever see her or talk with her again, because every time I’ve let her back into my life, since I left home at the age of 16, sooner or later she always hurts me again with her hateful words and her lies.

I have conflicted emotions about that, though. A part of me thinks that I should make a huge last effort to clear the air with her, before she is gone and it is forever too late. She was widowed a year ago, so now she is alone and may be more receptive…. but I just don’t feel like I have the energy or the strength to try again with her. Just the thought of it, exhausts me. It strikes me that trying to sort things out with my mother would be as difficult as trying to climb the highest mountain on my own strength.

I don’t have any words of wisdom for you ~ I wish I did, then I would apply them to myself, too. All I know that works is what you already seem to be doing…. be real, telling yourself, and pertinent others, the truth, validating yourself, and meeting your own needs. Those are the things that I am doing, and it’s helped me quite a lot so far. Although, like you, I still have a ways to go to finding perfect peace and wellness.

I have copied several of your sentences that resonated the most with me. Here they are:

‘The only way I could be in a relationship with her was to collude with the denial and take meds.’

‘I’m trying to meet my own unmet needs for the last 50 odd years, and releasing the pain is exhausting. It’s hard to deal with the contradictions as there were some good memories and values in my family, so there is sadness, and guilt too.’

‘On the one hand, I am trying to forgive them and have compassion for their own traumas, and accept that they were flawed and did their best. On the other hand, I struggle with anger, rage, and resentment, and mostly at still feeling powerless and trapped in the past.’

‘In some ways I feel more ‘real’ than ever, though I hope I reach a point where I’m more at peace and have come to terms with it all’

‘the hardest bit is probably getting over the anger at the lost years, and the confusion about my identity and experience’

In my childhood home, the sexual abuse was much more covert, yet it was still a part of the whole sick dynamic, the sexual triangle you describe, and it contributed to all the other craziness and abuse, both verbal and physcial. Sometimes, when I try to look back and the whole picture of my childhood home, I believe that the sexual stuff may have been the root cause of everything else, that all the insanity, the verbal abuse, the physical violence, the threat of being killed by my mother… maybe all of it came from the heartbreak, the insanity, the jealousy, of that triangle. And of course, it was ALL MY FAULT that my father was sexually attracted to his little daughter…… I’m shaking my head now.

Even before the sexual tension got so bad, though, my mother was always so jealous of me. My hair was blonde and curly, my mother’s hair was dark brown, almost black, and straight…. when we were out in public, when I was a tiny toddler, strangers would comment on my “pretty blonde curls.” Afterward, when no one but me was there to hear, my mother would say, “I don’t like blonde hair, it looks so washed out.” In so many petty ways my mother let me know that she was jealous of me and saw me as competition, first for my father, and then with her second husband, my stepfather, who was always a perfect gentleman around me and never once gave me the impression that he had ever so much as thought of me in a sexual way… but my mother was so insanely jealous of me, of my youth, my appearance, my sexuality, that she threw me out of the house at age 14, telling me that “no house is big enough for two women,” and warning me to “stay away” from her new husband. Then she lied and told people that she had to get rid of me, because I was trying to steal my stepfather away from her!

My dad’s second wife, aware of my dad’s inappropriate interest in me, told me, when I was 13, that I was not ever welcome in their house. Then she told me that if I told my dad what she had said, that she would deny it, and he would believe I was a liar. This woman was the head nurse of the psychiatric ward where my dad had been committed for several months after he had almost killed my mother when I was 12… he did that, tried to kill mother, a few days after he had grabbed me, kissed me very hard and long on the lips, and then told me, “I don’t care if it’s wrong, I love you anyway. Don’t tell your mother….” I was confused. At 12, I didn’t understand about sex. I didn’t understand the long kiss, we grew up without a tv or movies, my dad, a strict preacher, didn’t allow that, so I didn’t know about romantic man-woman kissing. Why was is “wrong” for my dad to love me? Why was I not supposed to tell my mother? I was confused, and I felt creepy and scared. Then, a few weeks later, maybe sooner than that, my dad and mom got into such a bad fight, and he came so close to killing her that I thought she was dead.

Then he met his second wife on the psych ward, and apparently he was using her as his own personal therapist, he must have told her about his sexual feelings for me, otherwise why would she have told me, immediately after they married, that I was never to step foot inside their house? I was 12, I was still very much a little girl at heart, I loved to play outside, I loved to play with my dolls, I didn’t even have any sexual feelings yet, I always dressed very modestly, I was shy, how was it MY FAULT, according to both my mother and then my stepmother, that my dad had sexual feelings for me????????

Not long after my dad almost killed my mother, and then got involved with the head nurse in the psychiatric hospital, my mother became so depressed that she tried to gas us all to death. She tried it several times, but could not figure out how to override the safety shut-off on the gas furnace. So then she was going to drive us all off a cliff. “I brought you all into the world, so I have the right to take you out of it,” she told me. OH how I HATE when people make a “joke” about that. “I would be doing you all a favor, too, by killing you, because life is so hard.”

Those were the things that broke me… my dad’s coming so close to killing my mother that I thought she was dead, until I saw that she was still alive… my mother trying to kill me and my 4 younger brothers and sisters while we slept in our beds…. and my mother’s jealous, hateful putdowns of me, which she did all my life, telling me, “I love you, of course, because you are my daughter, but I just don’t LIKE you.” Always saying those terribly hurtful words with a big smile on her face, like she was proud of the fact that she could manage to “love” someone as “unlikable” as me.

I was always always ALWAYS meek and quiet and obedient, trying to win my parents’ love, trying to please them, trying not to rock the boat and cause another terrifying eruption of insanity.

Layla, I, too, am angry most of all because of all the lost years. I am angry that most of my life was stolen from me, angry that what could have been a very good life, with my talents and abilities and intelligence, was a very painfully miserable wasted life, instead.

But I don’t worry anymore about trying to forgive them. I believe that’s God’s job, to decide whether to forgive them or not. My job, today, is taking care of me, and doing whatever I can to continue to heal, so that I can make the best out of what is left of my life. I will be 58 on May 2. On the inside, I still feel like that 12-year-old little girl.

Lynda
PS~ My middle name is Lee, and I sometimes think of myself as ‘Leela.’ Leela, and Layla, we could be sisters. 😉

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Layla,
A lot about what you wrote resonated with me. Your comment, “my only way to survive and later to have an adult relationship with them was to, yes, abondon my inner child.”

It breaks my heart to think about the big and small ways I’ve done that to my inner child. Thanks for sharing your story and feelings.

Kimberly,
That’s the conclusion that I came to as well, “I am the child, not the parent – I never asked for the roles to be reversed”. I used to think there was something wrong with me since I wasn’t protected and nurtured, but it was never an indication of something wrong with ME– it was all them. Thanks for sharing those words of truth!
Christina

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Hi Christina..thank you for sharing that story. I too have an abusive mother. I have decided that i need to walk away from her b/c she adds so much pain and suffering to my life and I don’t want to pass those traits to my children. I have tried and tried to reach out to her in letters and in words with no avail….she doesn’t listen…actually she is worse. she ignores me for months on end and then tries to get back in my life like nothing has happened. I am considering cutting her off and trying to move on with my life….thanks for sharing…

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Samantha,
You bring up such great point about our relationship with our parents affecting our relationship with our children. For so many years, I’ve heard people make the connection between the generations, but it was always used as a warning like, “Be careful how you treat your parents or your kids might treat you that way”. But I’m not mistreating my parents by separating from them. I’m separating from them because they mistreated ME. I hope my children follow my example and separate from anyone who mistreats them and refuses to stop, even if that person is me. (I would never intentionally hurt them). My healthy boundaries affect my kids because I’m modeling treating myself with respect and love, which is the same way I want them to treat themselves and me. So I’m a better mother for getting away from my mother.

Thanks for your comment!
Christina

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I think I can relate to a lot of what you said, Christina. But, my mom has Borderline Personality Disorder and I’m only now beginning to see how that affects me and how it has affected my childhood. It also explains her behavior…most of it. But, it does not negate my pain. My dad sexually abused me when I was 3, and in my adult years, I’ve felt like I have an obligation to my mother because she always comes back with the argument, “I was there for you when you were in counseling…when you had nightmares…” Yes, in some sense she was there for me. I don’t really think she was there for me emotionally and physically. I don’t ever remember cuddling with her or her helping me to get back to joy when I was upset. Now that I’m an adult, if I don’t talk to her, I get the silent treatment. Last night she and I were texting and she asked if I keep in contact with my best friend. I’ve been away from home since July 1 and I know she misses me, but only in her selfish way. I texted back and said that I talk to my friend every once in a while. I never heard back from her. I suspected she either got busy and didn’t text me back, or was throwing a tantrum and giving me the silent treatment to make me feel bad for keeping in touch with my best friend, but not her. Where does the loyalty/obligation to her end? Do I have to take into consideration all she’s done for me? Is that a rule of being a daughter? Or is she just being manipulative again? When is it okay for me to walk out? I’ve taken care of her my entire life and now I need to take care of myself. So, when can I walk out?

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Hi Mindy,
Welcome to EFB! The quickest way to answer all your questions is to invite you to read all the posts in the “mother daughter category” (button at the top) and the the ones in the “family category” might help too.
There is NO obligation in love. I have written tons about what you are commenting about here. You found the right website!
Hugs, Darlene

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Hi Mindy,
I agree with Darlene that you found the right website. Darlene writes about this topic a LOT and you’ll find some very helpful information and tons of validation.

I used to wonder why having a relationship with my parents felt like such a burden. I know I’m a loving person, so why was it so hard to show my parents love? But I didn’t realize at that time that I was always the one who kept the relationship “loving”. From the time I was a child, I had the responsibility of performing a certain way for them to love me. In my adult life, I had the responsibility to perform for them too. This time, I had to prove I loved them. But all of it was based on lies. That isn’t what love is.

The thing I’ve learned about abusers is that whatever I do, it’s NEVER enough. So they will never give permission to take care of myself and my obligations to them are never met. In their eyes, my purpose in life is to serve them and I’m never released from that service. So in answer to your question, “When can I walk out?”, I had to give myself permission to walk out since that would never come from my parents.

Christina

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Thanks for your comments…. The thing I’m wrestling with is the ‘loyalty’ to my mom for being there for me when I was a little girl and the sexual abuse came out. I mean, she was there when I had nightmares and took me to counseling…so I feel like I have a loyalty to her because of all she did. Does that make sense? But, I don’t really think she was there for me emotionally…. As far back as I can remember I’ve been the one to take care of her emotionally. There was one time when I was in middle school, I think, and I had been dealing with stuff from my dad (I think I was having dreams) and she found out that I was talking to someone else about it and not her. She was upset and crying, saying, “I was the one who was there for you, not them…I was there in the night when you had nightmares and when you had counseling…” So…I mean, do I have a loyalty to her? Do I ‘owe’ her anything because of that?

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Hi Mindy,
This was one of the hardest struggles that I had… that whole “do I own her” question. The fact that my mother fed and clothed me has nothing to do with what she didn’t do… She did somethings right but that doesn’t negate the damage caused by the rest of it. One had nothing to do with the other. For me I had to heal from the damage. I was stuck most of my life on “am I allowed to feel discounted by her when she tried… and she did better than her mother did with her” stuff. I had to look at ALL of it. I had to validate myself where I had never been validated. My mother was rarely there for me, but she does not agree. That is not my problem anymore.
I really encourage you to read some of the mother daughter posts, and comments in this website. I think you will find a lot of comfort and encouragement in them.
Hugs, Darlene

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Mindy,
The whole loyalty issue was so hard to break away from because that’s how I was controlled. It was communicated in so many ways like, “You have to honor me since I’m your mother”. But now I see it as a major red flag in ANY relationship when I feel compelled to get away from someone. I’ve found that there is always a reason (and a very good reason when I really look at it) for wanting to get away.

There are so many pieces to look at when it comes to parents, so I hope you read what Darlene has written on the topic. It’s far too much to explain here.
Christina

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I will def. go back and read what has been written on this topic here on this blog, but I just wanted to make sure that there was no loyalty to my mom because she took care of me when I was dealing with the stuff from what my dad did. It’s like a person being your best friend and then you get married but don’t choose them to be your maid of honor or something like that.

Put yourself in my shoes, and maybe you have worn them: you were sexually abused by your dad as a young child and your mom took care of you after it came out. She took you to counseling and was there to listen when you had nightmares, but as you got older, you realized things weren’t the way they were supposed to be. You realized that some of your mom’s behavior was considered abuse. Your mom also is mentally ill with borderline personality disorder. Now that you are much older, 22, to be exact, you realize her game, her illness, and you wonder if you really have a loyalty to her because of all she did for you when you were a little girl. Is there a loyalty or obligation to her?

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Hi Mindy
I totally understand what you are saying and what you are asking and I understand how conflicting that it is to have been taken care of about something and devalued somewhere else. Only you can decide if you have loyalty to her… to me, there is NO SHOULD involved in it. My mother / father have no more rights then anyone else over me just because they gave me life. That does not obligate me to anything. I had to look at the real definition of love. I had to separate the issues. I have written a lot about this.
Hugs, Darlene

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Hey Layla, I enjoyed reading this so very much. You do an excellent job of describing the process of ‘awakening’ that each of us most go through. I identify with every thing you say. – My mother had the capacity for compassion, for warmth, for caring. Most people would describe my mother as kind and giving. But she was rarely, if ever, loving or warm with me. I seemed to represent a kind of negative lightning rod – the thing upon which she projected her poison, her anger, her resentment, her unhappiness. Mothers like mine psychologically fuse with their daughters, then use them as toxic dump sites.

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