Defined as the Problem by the Age of Four by Carrie H.


Broken Bottle 2

Carrie H. first guest posted here on Emerging from Broken in March and her post “Self Love and Navigating the Waters of Grief” was a big hit. Carrie writes with passion and beautiful emotional imagery and I am excited to publish her second post. Please help me welcome Carrie back with her second contribution here as we light the path to emotional healing by shedding light on the empowering truth. ~ Darlene Ouimet

Defined as the Problem by the Age of Four  by Carrie H.

Bottle Breaker

When I was very young, maybe three or four, my mom asked me to carry some glass bottles up the concrete steps leading up to a neighbor’s house.  On the first trip I dropped a bottle and it shattered.  My mother was very upset with me, but she let me try again.  This time, I was so nervous that I would drop the bottle that it slipped through my fingers and broke.   She was furious.  She yelled at me.  I don’t remember exactly what she said but it made me feel like she thought I had intentionally broken the bottle just to upset her.  There was no way to prove that wasn’t true.  It was the first time I felt trapped behind a lie about myself that I couldn’t prove wrong.  

It was the first time I felt like I was screaming into the wind and my words were carried away.  It was the first time I felt like I was placed into a box; a box with glass walls that gave the illusion of freedom.  A box I couldn’t escape, yet couldn’t prove was there.  No matter how hard I tried (and still try), I couldn’t escape that box.  How could I possibly prove that dropping the bottle was an accident???  How could I possibly prove I wasn’t unkind?  Eventually I adapted to being trapped in that glass box labeled “unkind” and “selfish” and I became comfortable.  So comfortable that even I stopped seeing the walls.  

Until one day I stumbled upon them.

 I realize that I’ve been trying to prove that wasn’t me my whole life.  The little girl who broke a bottle on purpose.  The selfish person who would intentionally hurt another.  But it turns out that my family won’t see me any other way.  I’ve left the box but they won’t see me unless I climb back in.  I’ve tried so hard to shout but once again I am yelling in the wind.  

I took my whole family to therapy to figure out which steps everyone was taking to create the destructive dance we have been moving to our whole lives.  I was called “unforgiving.”

I asked my mom one thing she would change about herself so that I would know for sure that she was capable of dancing a new, healthy step.  I was called a “brooding teenager.”

I sent my father an email asking why he hadn’t spoken to me for two months and hadn’t even tried to see his grandchild in that time.  I was called “critical.”

My husband sent my parents an email trying to explain why things are as they are now, how we never got an apology after we were told time and time again (falsely) that something was wrong with our child.  He ended the email wishing them love and light and courage.  We were called “disrespectful.”  

There is nothing I can do to convince them that I am a nice person who is trying to help them not out of malice but out of love.  There is nothing I can show them to prove to them that love is about growth and becoming healthy in how we relate to one another.  There is nothing I can say to communicate that I want them in my life but I want us all to treat each other with genuine love.  

To them I will always be selfish, critical, judgmental, and unforgiving. I will always be the little girl who shattered a glass bottle on purpose. And I don’t want to be treated that way anymore.  Because as many times as they convince themselves its true, as many stories they construct so that I’m the villain, it will never be the truth. It is not the truth about me.  And I want to live in truth.  I want my child to see me living in truth.  The little girl inside me is tired of shouting out to her family that they’ve got her wrong! I am tired of trying to show them and prove to them that they have falsely defined me

I am not a bottle breaker, I am a truth teller.  

Carrie H.

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151 response to "Defined as the Problem by the Age of Four by Carrie H."

  1. By: Carlos Posted: 11th February

    When I was hit on the face by my father for not being able to open an EU adapter’s packaging in 2014, the following things were playing in my mind:

    (I) That I am not trustworthy and stupid

    I understood why my Dad hit me, but he could have just talked to me about it. Him hitting me showed that he doesn’t trust me. He chose to believe that I can’t act accordingly had he just told me: “Son you’ll get it eventually, there’s a trick to it, but if you don’t feel like doing it now, then I won’t take it against you.” Instead he took the no pain, no gain approach which in turn has resulted in me realising

    (II) That he’s capable of hurting his own children physically

    It wasn’t a punch on the face or a violent slap. But it need not be a severe hit for me, to come to the realisation that what is done is done. If he could hit me gently over something like that, what more if I did other things. I can recall myself telling him once that I accidentally spilt the tub of rice from the microwave as I was taking it off and I also stressed out: “Dad it wasn’t on purpose okay.” To which: “Of course you didn’t do it on purpose, because if you did I’d punch you on the face.” I fear for my younger sister even if she’s the “golden child” because it’s clear to me now that if you don’t give him what he wants, you’re automatically going to get your “just desserts”

    (III) Our relationship as father and son is “over”

    Well we still live together, until my bank account can finally get me a decent place of my own, but in saying that I am done playing the role of the “handyman”. If this guy managed to happily prance around Europe taking pictures and videos instead of bringing up the subject of his “honorable act”, then there clearly was no point in telling him how I felt. If he couldn’t even remember the first time that he taught me how to use a lawn-mower then he could easily deny all of my “accusations” towards him. Whenever I call him “Dad” it’s more of like a formality situation, rather than a “I’m so blessed to have this person for a father” kind of feeling, if that makes sense. He’s just “Dad” in title to me. If there were times where we had a good laugh over a TV show, then okay, but I haven’t forgotten that behind all that laughter was another side of him that’s on “stand-by” ready to pounce for the “sake of good” apparently. But yeah we’re done.

    I haven’t fully recovered but after seeing the words like “I am not what they thought of me or made me feel” in this site, I am off toma good start. I just really wish there was a way that I would allow me to embrace all of those words naturally rather than have second thoughts. But then again I’m only starting and I am not the kind of person who starts something that he doesn’t intend to finish. It is however good to know that I’m not stupid, I can be trusted and that I am not deserving of whatever “love” it is they’re willing to give.

  2. By: Hobie Posted: 9th September

    Sara C,

    I’m so sorry that your mother did such an awful thing to you. I would have been so touched if I were your mom.

    This is a great place to help sort out all that stuff – separate the truth from the lies. I’m glad you’re here!


  3. By: Amber Posted: 9th September

    SaraC, my heart aches for you, having made that very loving gesture to your mother only to end up having your motivations completely misinterpreted and on top of it to suffer multiple punishments which continue on. I think you know deep down in your heart that your motivations were pure and loving. You did not deserve how your mother treated you at all!! She sounds abusive as well as a very poor judge of character, and it is HER judgement about that incident that is poor. She did not deserve your loving gesture. I feel bad that she gave that ring to your sister. It seems like a spiteful action on your mothers part. I’ve got to say, I am a bit surprised that your sister would even accept the ring from your mother if she knows the background of what happened. I know I wouldn’t want to accept it under those conditions.
    I hope you have other people in your life who appreciate your kind and loving heart. Hugs, Amber.

  4. By: Carrie H. Posted: 9th September

    Just catching up on all of these comments.
    kelly – I agree that we can choose to surround ourselves with people who are full of love.
    Bronwyn – So glad you escaped that dysfunction and realize the truth – that we are all worthy of love.
    SaraC – I am glad that you are finding this site as helpful as I have. Your story about the ring that you got fixed for your mother brings me to tears! How sad for you to have your loving motivation questioned. I know exactly how you feel.

  5. By: SaraC. Posted: 8th September

    I stumbled across this website tonight and have been crying reading all of these posts. I recently have begun to truly realize that my parents were emotionally abusive or psychologically manipulative. I’ve been making a list of everything I can remember and I plan to confront them (lovingly) soon. They will probably call me crazy, probably say that I deserved it all, blame me for being a “difficult” child, etc. Regardless, I am ready to face this abuse, get it all out and begin the healing process.

    This post in particular brings to mind more than a few incidents, but one in particular took place when I was a teenager. My Mom had a beautiful family heirloom ring, from which the little diamonds had been missing for some time. Occasionally she would mention the ring and how she wished she could wear it but didn’t have the money to get it fixed. I saved my money until I had enough to get it fixed for her birthday one year, and since I was young, not experienced with jewelers, turned to my grandmother. My grandmother took me to her jeweler and we dropped the ring off. I paid to have the best quality diamonds available put in the ring, and I was excited almost to tears. I anticipated the delicious moment when Mom would open the box and see her ring, good as new! Instead of thanks, I got YELLED at, grounded, and lectured on and off for DAYS. Mom said that I had only gotten it fixed because I was somehow expecting her to give it to me for my 16th birthday in a couple of years (the thought never crossed my mind!) and yelled at me that I would NEVER see that ring. She told me I was lucky the jeweler did not ruin the ring and scolded me for “pretending to be all grown-up.” For years she brought up that incident as an example of my alleged poor judgment. She gave the ring to my sister (who actually sneaked the ring from her jewelry box for me in the first place) and said I wasn’t worthy of it. To this day that hurts so bad I wish I could simply forget about it!

  6. By: Bronwyn Posted: 1st September

    I have really been enlightened by reading all of your comments. I appreciate the similarities of so many of us. I notice that we have great empathy, kind hearts, old souls and real feelings. I believe this does make people uncomfortable, the FOO cannot thrive with any of us “rotten apples” not drinking the dysfunctional kool-aid. I was hyper-critiqued by my step-mom and not defended by my dad. She was a psych major and had me clinically coded, by her own non-expert opinion. She implied I was gay in 7th grade and stated why she believed that… all very strange reasons. I recall getting mad and telling her to go lay down by her dish. She talked about me “behind my back” but purposely in ear shot with her evil guests. Then when I got a boyfriend just to prove she was wrong she called me a slut and threw my cat at me in the car while my dad was driving and it clawed my face. Who does this? Blamed for salad dressing spilled all over the inside of the fridge, no getting out of that… her word against mine and by then I had totally given up defending myself- it was pointless. In 4th grade I was told to stir Bernaise sauce, 15 minutes after their “quickie” it was scalded and my arm was killing me. Then I was yelled at for ruining dinner. I was called a spoiled brat because I had a pony that my mom and step-dad gave me. My youngest step-sister 5 years older than me at my moms would drive over to get me at my dads and we’d go ride together. My mom and step-dad felt it was good for us, and we both loved it. My step-mom, one night after riding and being dropped off, and going to bed, I got thirsty went to get a drink and heard her: “B is a spoiled little rich brat, walking around all self-righteous in her riding clothes. She’s also is never going to be an Olympic gymnast- so she needs to get over it!!” I know now she was insecure, jealous and mean, but my dad not defending me really sucked. The truth was my step-sister and I worked hard, did chores, and I was on a junior Olympic training team for gymnastics, nobody would drive me so from 2nd-4th grade I rode my bike two miles to go train. When we moved, because my step-mom didn’t want to live in “my mom’s house” my dad drove me and that was my alone time with my emotionally disconnected PTSD dad- a medic in Vietnam. He had a few screaming, yelling, crying meltdowns about Vietnam, as a kid witnessing that is beyond disturbing. When their first child was born they made me the built-in babysitter, no regard for my life. The baby’s room was next to mine and they were determined to let him cry it out. I couldn’t sleep, couldn’t take what I felt was abuse of the little guy crying in a blacked out room, so I rescued him nightly and had him fall asleep next to me and would put him back to bed, praying I wouldn’t get caught. I had an average of 3-4 hours of sleep and had an eating disorder and severe ulcers by 9th grade. Because I was not doing well grade wise my step-mom thought I had a learning disorder. I was severely depressed and then got yelled at for not applying myself when I tested high in the standardized tests, but a 25 on the depression scale, 24 was deemed severe. I moved full time in 10th grade with my mom and SD, they were great parents but had a lot of work to undo what was done to me. I never rocked the boat, always agreed, did everything they said. My SD grounded me for a month for “being agreeable” and not being assertive, valuing myself, or having options. I tell him now he should have grounded me longer. My mom died 2 1/2 years ago from leukemia, I did her hospice care and my brother, his wife and 3 step-sisters, and step-brother offered me help during the day. It was horrible to watch, they and their children were closer to her than their bio- mom. I promised I would do it and as she said, “B, don’t leave me to be cared for by a stranger, you do it.” I felt more like I was losing my best friend, a child, and a mom all at the same time. She and my SD who is alive and well, always believed in me. But, in my depression from the loss of her, combined with my hormones out of whack (post menopause at 40) I feel horrible about myself. Like a burden, like I’m not good enough.. I always felt like I could earn love- I guess from the years with my dad and SM. If I obliged I was good, if not bad-all love was conditional. My dad is still just some guy, more like an uncle and my SM, matured into a good friend. I used to think she delighted in my personal problems but I don’t anymore. My step-children are being tormented by their mother and we had psych evals done on the kids. Overt incest, detachment disorders, etc.. I think it upsets me because they are hurting. They only see her 6 days a month.. I try to be boringly predictable but sometimes feel like I get blamed or labeled by the kids and my husband for not being good enough, or they think any slight behavior like their moms’ means I’m like that too. But I keep trying to not buy into that, they don’t trust women, my husbands mom was horrific to him, blamed him for all that is wrong in the universe, their mother is the same. I tell them you are mistaking me for someone else, and your powers are useless against me. I hope you all know that you are all so loved. Thanks for reading a little of my history.. Love to all.

  7. By: kelly Posted: 29th July

    Hello Fellow EFB’s,
    “Friends are the Family that You Choose” (don’t know who said this) You Can Choose who your Family is, too. NC is the most beneficial tool we can use to help us through our Journey to the “Bright Side of Life” (never knew there was a Brighter side) and Beyond, to the Land of Happiness and all of the feelings and needs we crave, want, and need! No more hiding, no more coping, no more…
    I have not been living a life of my choice, it was someone elses, doesn’t even matter whos’, it just wasn’t Mine!
    Now I’m finding the Me and Mine and I’m finding this all so Exhilarating and Exciting and Fun!!! I have been choosing “My Family”!

  8. By: Light Posted: 28th July


    I am so sorry that happened to you. Some of what you say resonates with my experiences. I have always felt like I am the lightening rod for the family. The one everyone is exasperated with, the one causing problems and having outbursts, the one who just doesn’t “get along”.

    Yes, I cried a lot when young, stayed all alone in my room, and the outbursts came later – in my 20s. The frustration of the denial, the subtle passive-aggressive bullying, the non-support and emotional neglect, the losses of all my siblings leaving the household one by one leaving me all alone to deal with my parents, my father’s sneaky boundary busting and my mother ?refusing? to see what was going on –why yes, there were outbursts! Only I couldn’t see and articulate clearly what was happening, so my message wasn’t that sophisticated. I didn’t “get along” because the abuse and neglect were not acceptable. Yes, my siblings were on the receiving end of some of that, but they had a level of respect I never had/have. And they received automatic validation that I had to fight for for decades and it still wasn’t very satisfactory. That in itself was and is infuriating.

    So Kaycee, when you mention Munchausen by Proxy I can see what you mean. I was talked about privately behind the scenes, which is hurtful. Your shaming rituals sound horrid. For me there weren’t full-scale productions, it was more like quiet desperation in a roomful of people who didn’t want to talk about it (with me)….as long as the status quo was maintained and the power system was intact, with me at the bottom, there was no need for them to change a thing.

    There really isn’t any healthy solution for me to stay an integral part of my family as long as there are the lies, denial, and power structure of which disrespect is a part.

    Now I want to develop an alternate family and have ongoing healthy and happy interactions with others. Intimacy and closeness. Laughter and fun. Sharing and helping. Fulfilling my dreams.

  9. By: mary Posted: 24th July

    My Mom came out and blamed me for the way I sat in a dress at 6 years old. I felt so betrayed and never trusted her again. They were both mentally ill sick people who raised the siblings who turned out as ruthless and heartless and as self-absorbed as they were. Glad I escaped a torturous marriage and family and finding freedom far way from them!

  10. By: DXS Posted: 1st July

    Yeppers, that is Munchausen by proxy. I hadn’t heard of it until the medical shows made program stories on it. I’m glad they did! Now I know!

  11. By: Kaycee Posted: 1st July

    Sometimes it feels like I have been a victim of maunchausen by proxy syndrome in my mother. In looking up the definition, it includes inducing and exaggerating or fabricating psychological, behavioral or mental health problems. The child learns how to please the parent by playing the role of the “sick one.” Interestingly the cure is to remove the child completely from the parent as even visitation puts the child at risk of further abuse.interestingly too, it is the most lethal form of child abuse and the abuser is often able to seduce others into enabling or unintentionally participating her abuse of the proxy in response to her concerns and demands.

    I was used in my family as a lightening rod, to absorb the shock of of my Mother’s bad choices in men. I was used to shield my Mother and my sister from my Mother’s mentally ill, abusive second husband. I was sentenced to endless punishments that left me alone with him while my Mom and my sister could get away and take cover from his craziness. My mom blamed me, came up with stories that I dug my heels in and that is why he picked on he me.

    But I was terrified of him and the things he did to me. I did everything I could to please him. I didn’t know then the family scapegoat is not allowed to succeed that I had to be labeled bad no matter what, even f I was good. My mom was always disappointed in me, exasperated with me. I shut down inside. I had to white out my colors and douse my fire inside. I had nothing, I was allowed no self worth.

    My mom exaggerated everything I did, I wasn’t allowed to be normal, I was such a burden on her and she would make a full scale production out of dragging my sister and the rest of the family into one of her shaming rituals. She did a “tough love” intervention after she left her second husband and needed to put the spotlight on me and show her ultra religious family she was still the golden girl despite her divorce.

    She tricked me and had my extended family all waiting in house for me to tell me I was out of control and I needed to change my behavior. She always exposed me to humiliations like this, even when I was young “What are we doing about Kaycee?” was often the topic of family dinner table conversations. When the big tough love scene happened I was a teen, doing normal teen things. I never did drugs, I wasn’t sleeping around. Why would she humiliate and shame me like that in front of Grandparents, Aunts, cousins? I cannot ever imagine exposing my child in that way.

    It really feels like it was maunchausen by proxy, that she made up and exaggerated and even induced problems in me so she could look like the martyr devoted to her problem child and everyone would think she was such an incredible mother and stand in awe of her. That way nobody would noticed she married a child abuser and stood in the other room while her husband wrapped the cord to the vacuum cleaner around my 7 year old hands and was shocking me with it while she was ignoring my screams in the next room. I had run over the cord while doing my chores and the vacuum had chewed the rubber off the wires.

    I feel like my mother purposely handicapped me by subjecting me to abusive men and emotionally crippling me so that she could get attention and be seen and worshipped as an all sacrificing Madonna.

  12. By: Kaycee Posted: 30th June

    Hi Spence. I think we have been brainwashed. I think we have flawed thought patterns that keep us from seeing the truth. We are conditioned to feel unlovable, incompetent and afraid. This keeps us dependent on them. It’s the fog everyone talks about. Getting away is kind of like trying to get out of a cult.

    DXS, yes, I know how that feels too. There are so many ways my Mom is different with me, so much that is the way it always was with her. I know now that she never loved me. I think if my stepfather had killed me she would still be telling everyone how it was my fault somehow. I see my moms declaration of love as a great effort on her part to tolerate me. I know without question my mother projected the parts of herself she perceived as bad on me and that she projected the parts of herself she adored on my sister. I think she congratulates herself because she allows me to hang around, but my position in the family is still crystal clear and she is aghast that I’m not more grateful and doesn’t get why this would be intolerable for me. I guess I just want to be around people who see me as equal and wh want me, not the benevolent queens who bestow their gifts upon the undeserving serf like I am some sort of a pet.

  13. By: DXS Posted: 30th June

    When I called my Mother out on ignoring me she said she knows I had a crappy childhood, she is sorry but she has spent the last 30 years making it up to me and she can’t change the past.

    Making it up to me? Yes, my mom said the same thing, but she continues to do the thing of “manipulating a situation to look a certain way.” Why does she have to manipulate a situation to look a certain way if she is “trying to make it up to me?” She is not. She still wants me to be what she wanted me to be. And she denies the “manipulating.” Until I

  14. By: Spence Posted: 30th June

    Oh, Kaycee, I KNOW what you mean! I am living with my “mother” right now, and I am still being terrorized! The old messages are creeping up – will she abandon me, etc. I can’t believe that I am 50 years old and it took me this long to figure out that she is a narcissist. I figured this out only last month and I am still dealing with the grief that she never loved me. The problem that I do not have the courage to leave. I feel that I am not worth it. My confidence is gone – that is, if I ever had any in the first place, Why can’t I just stand up for myself like I used to when I was younger? I have just given up. I don’t feel that I am worth saving anymore. How do I get past these feelings? All I want is one person to reach out to me and tell me that I am a good person. I feel like my life depends on it right now. I have a two choices that don’t seem very good – I have to leave her, or wait for her to abandon me. Either way, I will be alone and that is a life that I am not looking forward to.

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