Judgementalism: A Cloud of Disapproval and Condemnation by Pam Witzemann


healing from child abuseI am excited to welcome my friend and fellow truth seeker, Pam Witzemann back to Emerging from Broken.  Pam busts through the fog with this two part article about living under constant judgment and disapproval. Pam is a regular participant in almost all the discussions here in EFB and has her own blog; “Boomer Back-beat ~ Talking bout our generation”. Please help me welcome Pam by leaving your comments or by clicking the ‘like button’. As always I am looking forward to the conversation! ~ Darlene Ouimet

Judgementalism: A Cloud of Disapproval and Condemnation by Pam Witzemann

I could never please my mother, who was very judgmental of me. I grew up within a cloud of disapproval and condemnation that robbed me of self-confidence, healthy self-esteem, and the ability to self-validate.

“You’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t.” That expression summed up my daily life in childhood. No matter what I did, I couldn’t please my mother. If I did something right, any praise I received was coupled with a reminder of how I’d messed up in the past. There were also, constant questions as to whether I would repeat any past wrong doing in the future. My mom viewed everything I did or didn’t do as a personal attack. She didn’t like me and I was pretty sure that she thought I was out to get her. I was my mother’s evil daughter destined to live a life that a mother could only, disapprove of. That was the life my mother chose for me and as a child, I was unable to see an alternative. I believed that I was a bad child, the black sheep, and I fulfilled what my mother expected from me.

If you have the name, you might as well play the game.” This was the logic that guided me during my teenage years. When I was 13, my math teacher told me that I worked awfully hard at being bad. He was right because inside, I wasn’t a bad child but no matter what I did, my mother saw me as her evil daughter. Everything she accused me of, I eventually, tried on for size. She accused me of using drugs, so I did. She never accepted what I told her as the truth so, I learned to lie. The only good thing she ever told me about myself was that I was pretty. My self-value was centered around my looks and the attention I received from boys was my only source of self-esteem. What I really wanted was my mother’s approval but I never earned that approval. My mother’s judgment of me was harsh and the cloud of disapproval she hung over my head, so dense that I don’t think she ever saw me for who I really am. When I’m around her, I forget who I am too. I tense up and protective walls are raised because the only way to protect myself from the condemnation that is sure to come, is to never let her get close enough to  see what I really think or feel. I don’t trust my mother and she doesn’t trust me. I speak of our relationship in the past tense, not because she is dead, but because our relationship died from a basic lack of trust. The truth is my mother never knew me and because she refuses to respect me and accept the truth about my life and our relationship, she probably, never will.

“Well, kick yourself in the butt and get over it! You’ve made your bed now, lay in it!” Judgmental people are miserable comforters. They love to be present during a crisis and offer their help in the form of pronouncing judgments on everything the injured party has done to bring misfortune upon themselves. In the cloud of disapproval that judgmental people cast around their target, perpetrators become reasonable and victims are to blame. Whenever someone hurt me, my mother would take their side and explain what I did wrong that caused them treat me poorly. My mother never had my back and I knew from an early age that it was me against the world. People get what they deserve“. When people hurt me, I knew that somehow, it was my fault and there was no one to go to for sympathy, in my house. For a long time, I believed what my mother believed about me and I was unable to make a simple decision without questioning my motives and ability. Just as my mother never trusted me, I learned not to trust myself. When someone hurt me, I immediately, turned my thoughts inward, and searched for what I did to invite mistreatment. The cloud of disapproval I grew up under caused me to think others always knew better than I did, as to what was good for me. I was incapable of making good decisions for myself. I needed a second opinion on everything. I became a follower and lived my life in hopes of pleasing others and gaining approval. I would do whatever someone asked if they showed me the slightest approval.

Girls get raped because they dress too sexy, or behave in a way that asks for it“. When I was raped at 14, it didn’t matter if I had said ‘no’ and didn’t want it to happen. I hadn’t fought hard enough. It was my fault. I knew it was because I was bad. The skirt I’d worn that day was too short and my girlfriend and I had been playing with makeup, when her dad and older brother came in. It was the way I was dressed that caused her dad to make remarks about how beautiful I was, as he told me to turn my face from side to side, so that he and his son could admire me. I knew it was my fault because of the humiliation I felt when he told me to stand up and turn completely around. It was confusing when my girlfriend’s dad wouldn’t let my girlfriend and I stay in the same room. Instead, I was to sleep in her older brother’s room and he was supposed to sleep with his little brother. When my friend’s older brother came into his room in the middle of the night, what happened was my fault because I was afraid her dad would hear.  I was intimidated, afraid that if I fought him and made too much noise, his dad would come in. I was sure all of it was my fault. I’d been taught that good girls didn’t ever let boys do those things. I hadn’t been able to stop him. I was a bad girl and I could never tell my mother what had happened to me. I did tell my sister but I described what happened the way I understood it. I was bad and it was my fault. The inevitable happened because I was a bad girl. My mother was right. I asked for it by wearing a short skirt (when my mother told me not to) and wearing makeup. The cloud of disapproval thickened and I hated myself. I couldn’t stand myself and a few weeks later, was the first time that I ran away from home; but I couldn’t run away from me. Since I was so bad, I gave myself over to being bad and ran away from myself by using drugs. For over thirty years, I never told anyone, besides my sister about what happened to me and for over thirty years, I understood being raped as my fault.

“You can’t outrun the past. God forgives you but you still have to pay the consequences for your sins”. “Your life lies before you, like drifts of pure white snow; be careful how you tread it, for every step will show.”  From the time I was raped at 14 until I was 19, I lived my life fully, under the cloud of my mother’s disapproval. I was a condemned child, a ‘bad girl’. At almost 16, a hebephile told me that I was a beautiful woman and he loved me. I didn’t know he was a hebephile or that it was wrong for grown men to like teenagers. I didn’t even know what a pedophile was or know the word. I thought there was nothing wrong with a man more than ten years older than me asking me to move in with him. After all, my mom was only 18 and my dad 28 when they were married. My mother told me that it was better to go with older men because girls mature faster than boys. I saw his invitation as a way to get out from under my mother’s disapproval, which was becoming heavier every day. Of course, I already saw myself as being bad so it didn’t matter if this man wanted to marry me or not. I didn’t expect him to marry me. As a bad girl, I had to settle for what I got. It made me sick to have sex with him but he had lots of drugs and there wasn’t much I couldn’t do if I were stoned enough. My parents did nothing to save me and I’m sure they thought I was “getting what I asked for”. They waited for me to get enough and come crawling home. I never once questioned them for doing so. For over three years, my life spiraled downward, as I fulfilled what my mother prophesied for me. I never thought of myself as having been sexually abused. I accepted it all as my fault, as what I deserved because I was bad.

To be continued…. (you can read part 2 here: “How Judgmental People define Other People”

Pam Witzemann

Please share your thoughts with Pam and I about living with judgment, condemnation and disapproval and the effects of that. Remember that you are free to use any name you wish in the comment form. Only the name you use will be seen by the public. Although EFB has a facebook page, your comments here will not be published there or linked to you in anyway. ~ Darlene

Pam Witzemann was born in Santa Fe, NM and is married, has raised two boys and has two grandsons. Pam and her husband have had their own business for over twenty years. Pam is a painter and a writer and hopes to make these pursuits more than a hobby in her later years. Pam authors the blog Boomer Back-Beat; a place where baby boomers find inspiration in the process of aging.

Related Posts ~ Pam writes about “the mind of a child predator” at boomer back-beat ( Pam’s blog is no longer available)

143 response to "Judgementalism: A Cloud of Disapproval and Condemnation by Pam Witzemann"

  1. By: Catherine Todd Posted: 4th December

    Aurele in #61 wrote:

    “We need a mirror (our parents) to know who we are when are teenagers and if the mirror is abusive, it’s a nightmare.
    I didn’t who I was, if I was as bad as my father told me.”

    That’s it. That’s the gem and the jewel. That’s the key that unlocks the mirror that still is inside of me. I DON’T KNOW WHO I AM.

    I am currently, once again, being told how “bad” I am, and I don’t know! I can’t tell if I am as bad as my family is telling me.”

    The worst of it is that I cannot see any “badness” in me. I can see irritation, impatience, anger, conflict, but none of it “bad enough” to call me a “bad person.” I am intense, yes, but no one has to be around me if they don’t want to be. If they don’t want me around, I will go away. I don’t torture people or talk about them behind their back. I don’t gossip, tell lies, slander or defame people. I tell the truth at all times, regardless of the cost, for I see no cost when it comes to truth and beauty. And justice is both of those.

    So I never know what to do when it comes to “family” holding up a warped and distorted mirror. I believe every bad thing ANYONE says about me, if it mirrors what my family said to me. And family is doing it again right now, after my not having contact for 25 years. But this time around I am determined to drive them out of the shadows and out of their hiding places, bushwacking me from behind. I want to see their statements out in the open and bring them out into the light, where they can be seen clearly and judged for themselves. Not by people who are willing to find someone else to scapegoat; someone else to blame.

    For when I stand up to them and say “Sorry, these are YOUR opinions, these are YOUR words, and they are more a reflection of YOU and NOT ME. Your opinion has nothing to do with me. Let’s stick to the facts, m’aam.”

    I am my OWN POLICEMAN and I am a good detective and a good lawyer. I can and will prepare a good defense. I will ask for facts to be presented and I will take them to task. I will enforce the laws which are designed to protect people, regardless of whether they are “family members.” Just because I am related to them, does not give them immunity under the law.

    I will prosecute these wrong-doers to protect and defend my self. I am the best witness for the Plaintiff, because the Plaintiff is me. My life can speak for itself. I have nothing to hide.

    Dear God protect me and defend me as I go into battle. This battle is all in my mind. It is to protect my emotions and to save my soul. I deserve good treatment and the same justice as any individual living in the United States. Women and Children are now protected under the law, unlike when I was young and growing up under the Man is King of His Castle and the police did not intervene. “Stay out of family matters” was the watchword of the day, as people stood there and watched a man beat his wife to death in the driveway by his car. Surrounded by policemen who did not lift a finger to protect this woman.

    Same goes for rape and child molestation. No one lifted a finger to protect females in that day and age. Freud said that any child who reported incest was “having sexual fantasies about their father and behaving in a seductive manner.”

    I can’t go on with this right now; it is making me sick. But I will resume tomorrow and one of these days, sooner rather than later, I will file a case on behalf of the Plaintiffs. All the children who have grown up into adults who deserve recognition and resitution for the crimes these evil-doers have committed, and those family members who aided and abetted those criminals by silence and collusion.

    Dear God protect us and defend us, and please show me The Way. Amen.

  2. By: Catherine Todd Posted: 3rd December

    Thanks for your more detailed response, Pam. I know I get very irritated when people are constantly telling me how I should be feeling, thinking, behaving or whatever.

    Anyone that wants to write to me can at CatherineTodd2 at gmail dot com.

    Thanks Marla… you made me laugh! And considering how hopeless I have been feeling for two straight days and nights, that’s quite a feat. “Let them go down with the Titanic!” Still makes me smile!

    Pam, I am so happy you had a good Birthday. Mine is in Feb. and it would be such a blessing if I was in good shape and could enjoy the same. I will be doing all my “homework” relentlessly and physical, mental and spiritual exercises for the next three months while I am here. I am DETERMINED to get into GOOD SHAPE in all areas of my life. ALL AREAS, including those areas where I have to let go. I will keep that which is positive and productive and let the rest go to… well, how about “dust into the ozone?” LOL…

    Better yet, let grief be transformed into joy and let us return to whence we came. The Omega / Swan Nebula is one of my favorite star factories in the universe. I’d settle for that. (You can find a gorgeous photo on the NASA website). Gracias, Amen.

  3. By: Catherine Todd Posted: 3rd December

    Here is what my psychologist cousin wrote and then denied saying it when it was in writing in the email:

    “Like she herself said, she’s 62, and should have been able to move beyond such drama long ago. But Katie is Katie, and she seems compelled to be intense with everyone she meets.”

    My response was “perhaps I misunderstood your words” and I copied and pasted the above.

    His response:

    “Instead of seeing the gestalt of my comments and my optimism, caring, and love, you chose to focus on those few words that might help you to think of yourself in a negative light.”

    My response:

    “I don’t think of myself in a negative light, and that is why I found this to be so shocking. I am proud of myself for the progress I have made, and no one but no one can take that away. Again, your judgment and interpretation of me is way off. But I understand what you are trying to say and I understand that you are perhaps trying to “help.” For that, I thank you and I mostly have to thank everyone for stating their real feelings and getting their hostility out. Honest to God, I had no idea these grudges were going on. I don’t think I have judged you in any way regardless of the situations you have been in, but if I have, please accept my sincere apologies. I know what it feels like!”

    * * * * *

    And that was the end of that. He kept the ball going back and forth across the net a little while longer, until I said there was nothing more to talk about, but the interesting thing was that I WASN’T ANGRY OR DEFENSIVE. Not once! I was in shock and yes, I was very, very hurt and confused… but I was able to realize that after reading 4 attacks on me, I could see this sort of sick game emerging, from people who have not seen me in YEARS.

    This cousin has not seen me in 35 years, but he is apparently “diagnosing me” by email! When I looked at the family as a whole, and the incredible hostility and ongoing grudges going on within this family, I realized MY MOTHER DID NOT CREATE THE SYSTEM WE GREW UP IN. SHE BROUGHT IT WITH HER FROM ALL OF THEM.

    That has hit me like a bombshell in the night. Yes, it’s painful beyond belief, but it’s a FAMILY SYSTEM in operation, and not something any of them even seem to be aware of. They really do seem to be blind! Just like my cousin’s defending his statement about me and trying to twist it around onto me, as “cherry picking” and accusing me of:

    “you chose to focus on those few words that might help you to think of yourself in a negative light.”

    This was the most telling of all. And then for me to be able to sincerely and immediately say:

    “I don’t think of myself in a negative light, and that is why I found this to be so shocking.”


    This is a miraculous statement for me to say. NEVER in my wildest dreams would I think I would be able to make a statement like this automatically and immediately because it is the truth and what I truly BELIEVE. I don’t think of myself in a negative light at all. I believe I am a good person and worthy of respect. And I believe that if these people are not going to treat me with courtesy and respect, then I will respectfully and gracefully bow out. I don’t need to be there and they obviously don’t need or want me to be there, so there is no argument.

    But did I see this exchange clearly? I keep thinking still that “there must be something so wrong with me for so many to hate me, and not want me around. It’s something so bad about myself that I can’t SEE what these people can see about me, and it’s so black and dark and dirty that I can’t tell what it is. It must be something so evil at my very core that they can see it and I can’t even feel it, much less recognize it, since everyone else goes on and on about how wonderful I am, how interesting, how accomplished, how generous, intelligent, productive, etc. etc. etc.

    For these four people to create a list of my crimes and find me in contempt of court and guilty on all counts and “off with her head,” well no one would do that around Christmas time if they hadn’t seen me in 25 to 35 years, or had only seen me once! And had written me previous emails where I thought everything went fine. Or if it didn’t, we had exchanged phone calls or emails where I thought things were straightened out a few years ago. Boy, was I wrong.

    * * * *

    My difficulties came later (now) after the shock wore off, when I see that once again I have been blamed, tried and convicted with a jury trial, and the defendant (me) was never informed of exactly what was my crime (saying I was hurt being called a “black sheep” by someone who hadn’t seen me for 30 years when I was 60 years old) and daring to say this out loud? And this meant I was “bringing my drama” and “should have gotten over it by now?”

    * * * * *

    It seems to me that these people were the ones creating “drama.” If it were me, even if I were upset with someone, I would probably have contacted them and tried to work it out beforehand or at least I would have figured I could get through a Christmas visit after so many years. I certainly don’t hate any of them, even if I wouldn’t spend a lot of extra time with most of them. How hard could it be to “pass the potatoes, please?” When it was once in 25 years, and their father (my uncle) had just visited me in Guatemala? Wouldn’t you want to hear about the trip first-hand?

    I, of course am only guessing as to what was a severe enough crime to have so many “severe issues that I should have gotten over by now” and on and on and on, but there’s something so wrong with these people to treat anyone this way.

    We are in our 50’s and 60’s and 80’s, and surely people could get along for enough time to sit down and have Christmas dinner and let all this hostility and grudges go. My telling my uncle I was nervous about coming to dinner because I didn’t want to be called names again didn’t deserve this complete and total rejection by four people, and for me to be dis-invited in such a harsh way. And then have my entire history and personality dumped on because I “should have gotten over it (what is it?) by now. This makes absolutely no sense at all. But that’s the Merrick family.

    They may have quit drinking but it seems that the constant conflict and cacophny of the group reminds me of what AA calls the “dry drunk.” Many of them espouse Buddhist vows, but I’ve never met any Buddhists who behave this way.

    The judgments that were passed on me fell right into the description of the abuse listed in the article about Judgmental People, Part 2. Parts of the lengthy email I received were practically word-for-word. But why so much hostility?

    That’s the million dollar question. I could not possibly have caused so much anguish and anger by simply saying my feelings were hurt by being called a black sheep by one family member the last time I visited. This set off a whole page of name calling and accusations that were simply incredible. They were so ugly I can’t bring myself to even reprint them on a page. But my uncle and cousins had nothing to say about any of that: just that “I am 62 years old and JUST GET OVER IT.”

    Well, I have done that and the best part is that after writing a very nice, forgiving letter offering my sincerest apologies for any unintended offense which I may have committed, assuring them all that I would not attend Christmas with the family, I went straight to the online Family Tree and removed my name and all photos and comments I had made with the group.

    If I could change my name and remove all traces of both sides of the family I would do that, too. I have considered doing this for quite some time, but the expenses and difficulties of living in a foreign country and the United States means it would be a LOT of extra paperwork, time and money, but I might do this anyway. Angelina Jolie did!

    But the most important thing is to be able to remove any hold these people have over me. It’s a mental prison I am in, and one that doesn’t cost a dime to be set free. All I have to do is piece it together, bit by bit, to see exactly how these people operate and how the damage is done. I’ve been away from all of them for so many years and around such good people for the last seven years, that I finally have some equal and positive balance.

    But it took so many good people coming into my life for me to begin to see how we are supposed to treat each other. It took me being away without the opportunity for re-injury for me to find out what it is like to be able to live in real peace and harmony. I always thought people HAD to be “lying” when they talked about this, because I had never known it. I couldn’t imagine that this could be real. But it is, and we are all capable of peace and harmony once we learn how.

    It’s only by being outside of an abusive dysfunctional system and living within the peaceful productive one that allow us to see how these different family systems operate. Just like living in different cultures in different countries in the world, people are raised to respond in certain ways to certain events and occurrences, and cultures can vary widely.

    I thank God every day I have been lucky enough to experience different cultures to really see and feel and experience the difference. If I had stayed (or been allowed to stay) in the culture of my family of origin, I would never have been able to learn. So as painful as it was, these devils did me a FAVOR. For that I have to thank them. I guess rejection does have a price and in this case, it was “on sale.” Who would have thought it?

    Now that I live “among the faithful” in Guatemala, Central America, we live by the three P’s: Patience, Pardon and Prayer. I have added one more for myself, bringing the number to 4:

    “Patience, Practice, Pardon and Prayer.”

    With these simple rules, all will be well. And all will be well. All manner of things will be well.

    Dear God please show us The Way. Gracias, Amen.

    PS: This is a long comment again. I sincerely apologize. If these are too long don’t post them and I’ll post them on my blog. There is so much insight here, that I get going and going and going and I’m trying to hold back the floodgates but they keep on breaking free. I am apologizing in advance for the length and perhaps I could start another discussion where I could post these things without bothering or interfering with others? Or not post at all? The last thing I want to do is mess up here, this wonderful forum, which is such a saving grace for us all. Thank you in advance. Whatever you decide is fine by me. I hope this all subsides quickly, and soon. Gracias, amen.

  4. By: Pam Posted: 3rd December

    Catherine, You and Marla can have any kind of personal exchange you choose. That’s between you guys. When we’re here lots of people read the comments so, we have to be careful. We can’t say things like, “You need to such and such” or “You should do such and such” or “You tell them this and that”. Does that help? We share our experiences but we can’t give one another advice. Besides, we’ve all had lots of people constantly, telling us what we should or shouldn’t do. We don’t want to do that to each other.:0)

    I do know what a breath of fresh air it is when visiting this site for the first time. I had the same experience.:0)

    Thanks for the birthday wish. I had a wonderful day!


  5. By: Catherine Todd Posted: 3rd December

    Happy (late) Birthday, Pam – November 29! Hope you had a very good one!

  6. By: Catherine Todd Posted: 3rd December

    Thank you both… Pam and Marla, and especially Marla for saying “let them go down with the Titanic!” First time I’ve smiled all day!

    Pam wrote: “However, it did make my problems seem more manageable when I discovered that so many people deal with the same kinds of issues.”

    Pam, that’s exactly why I am “hanging on” and still have some kind of semblance of sanity! Reading the same story over and over again… I told my husband it’s as if we are all reading from the same script, acting in some kind of theater play! It’s just the most bizarre but “truthful” thing. Before I found this site I think I must have really thought I was crazy, since that’s what I have been told by this bunch (both sides of the family now) ever since I was young. Honestly, I thought I must be SICK since that’s what they kept (keep) telling me.

    But once I hit this place it was as if I struck gold! Everyone here was saying exactly the opposite, with REAL EXAMPLES of abusive behavior; words and deeds and it all started to fall into place. Honestly, you have no idea what a breath of fresh air this is. It is literally saving my life.

    As far as Marla giving advice, I understand that people are only supposed to talk about their own experiences, but I loved reading what Marla had to say. Finally, someone in my corner, saying what I could not form into words. I know what you mean about “finding your own answers” to, as advice can end up being quite patronizing or dependent-making, but whatever she said was wonderful to hear. Made me feel stronger in my weakest moments – as has everyone’s comments here each and every day.

    Thank you Marla so much. You really made me laugh. And believe me, I haven’t been “laughing” the last couple of days. I’ve been standing on the edge of the cliff trying to not jump off. This has brought up everything, and I mean everything, from the “bad old days” that I thought were long gone. Apparently not. I guess some things just take YEARS. But I won’t give up.

    I don’t know what was said in this conversation that was “off limits” but I would love to be able to talk freely, so is it alright if we exchange email addresses if something shouldn’t be posted on this public site? If so, I will gladly post my personal email.

    While we are at it, is it alright to friend on Facebook?

  7. By: Pam Posted: 3rd December

    Hi Marla, I appreciate your reaching out to Catherine and I know you just care and want to help. That’s a good thing.:0)We have to be careful how we express things on this website. We can’t tell anyone what to do, for leagal reasons and also, because it’s all about eachof us finding our answers, not about adopting someone elses. We can share experiences or insights from our own lives that we think might help someone else make their own choices. It’s kind of a subtle difference, but an important one. I hope you understand and if you don’t, please, feel free to ask me any questions you may have. There’s no wish to shut anyone down here but we do have to walk a kind of thin line.


  8. By: Marla Posted: 3rd December

    Ah Catherine….just because this cousin of yours has a degree in psychology (so called intelligence) doesn’t keep him from drinking the “poisoned Koolaid” offered by your family. One thing I have learned is that you cannot fix stupid or crazy. As far as he goes, I’d never want a shrink who thinks anyone should just let the past go…that’s a terrible thing for him to say. Shame on him! That’s a load of manure!

    The only person who seems to be having a hard time with your family’s dysfunction is you (not at all a bad thing either!). You see, they have a role designated especially for you, which the rest of them are all desperate for you to fulfill. It’s also why they are coming out of the woodwork to attack you. Since you refuse & would rather be healthy, they’re pulling out all the stops to “fix you”…to return you to your former state of being the scape goat/door mat. Don’t walk into their traps! They only know one way to be happy….dysfunctional/blaming/judgmental/hurtful. Now that you know them for what/who they really are, you can avoid the snares they set for you. Don’t allow them to tell you how or what to feel. How you feel is genuine…there is no such thing as a wrong feeling. I don’t care if one of your cousins has a psych degree…it doesn’t matter. A truly good shrink (one with ethics) would never stoop to evaluating a relative anyway, especially when he/she doesn’t have permission to do so. As for all the little digs this person has thrown to you…let those go. You’re only hurting yourself (he knows what he’s doing when he writes/says those things) to take his words to heart. You’ll never be able to change his mind on how he views you…even if you have done generous/kind things for him without passing judgment. Only you can work on your mental health, same goes for him. It’s his choice to be mired in that family…if you choose to be free of the roles they insist you play, then that’s your choice! They choose to be unhealthy, & continue the cycle from generation to generation…that is their right, until someone decides to step out of the required role (becoming emotionally healthy).

    I have been sexually abused too as a child. Both my parents deny it ever happened, calling me a liar. Well I know what I remember (every detail plus the details of being neglected, used, physically/verbally abused for years), & it wasn’t my parents protecting me from dangerous situations, in fact they often put me in the middle of them & left it up to me to take care of myself. They can believe or think what they want, but I know what really happened. There’s one circumstance that I don’t know…why I had a partial hysterectomy at 11 months of age. That was covered up, & only known to me at the age of 46 when my gynecologist told me. Mom has passed away & dad won’t talk about it…protecting himself or the perpetrator since that’s more important (sick way of thinking if you ask me!). You don’t just get over abuse…doesn’t matter if it’s verbal, physical, sexual, or what…abuse is abuse is abuse. It leaves lasting wounds that often never truly heal (triggers can happen anywhere at anytime & it brings back all the horrible memories all over again)…they certainly won’t heal when others act like the abuse never happened or say something insensitive & stupid like “get over it.”

    As far as loaning out money to any of them ever again…the best answer to them is “no.” They only want things to go one way, & that’s against you. You are only there to act how they expect & do what they want you to do…you are not supposed to think your own thoughts or decide what is best for you.

    I’d let them all go down with the Titanic…cut them loose & let them go (but that’s just me!).



  9. By: Pam Posted: 3rd December

    Catherine, I understand needing to be heard. It’s frustrating to try and work things out with people when you can’t be heard. I know the feeling of needing to get it out, somewhere. One thing that helped me here at EFB, is reading Darlene’s story and the stories of others and realizing how common the things that happened to me are. I don’t want to minimize what you’ve been through, I know you’ve had enough of that. However, it did make my problems seem more manageable when I discovered that so many people deal with the same kinds of issues. It helps to see how Darlene overcame her problems and taught me that I too have the answers for my problems in me. I just had to find my way to trusting what I knew to be true and then act on it to protect myself.


  10. By: Catherine Todd Posted: 3rd December

    Thank you Janie, and the others, who have made personal comments in response. I know I am writing too much and taking up far too much space, and I will try to cut back. But I get started and it just “flows” and I’m afraid to stop for fear I will back and be paralyzed. I need a piano! I can “let it all out” on a beautiful wooden acoustic instrument for an hour or an hour and a half and it has kept me alive for many years. I hope I can find one now, even if it’s just an old upright from the Salvation Army. I’m going to look around now. Thanks to everyone for being here. THANK YOU MUCH.

  11. By: Catherine Todd Posted: 3rd December

    Pam wrote in #90: “analyze you or your situation and add to the confusion! When I read what you’ve written, I see that you are giving yourself some pretty good sounding advice(you know more about you and your situation than I ever could)to yourself.”

    Thank you! This really helped “bring me back into balance,” as I feel like I was (and am) “spinning out of control.” I feel like one of those wobbly-tops that you can get going with a string, and it stays upright-upright-upright for the longest time, but then slows down and eventually just falls.

    I start out fine and then BOOM something happens and knocks me out of orbit. What happened with the other side of my family, out of the blue, has really knocked my socks off. I feel like I’ve been hit by a two-ton truck when I was crossing on the GREEN LIGHT. I was doing everything right and it came out of the blue. And my “nice uncle” set the whole thing in motion and then it was 3 against one, and he chimed in too… and I don’t know why. His final statement to me was something about “see how many people don’t like you and don’t want you to come, and “you are the only one that can change you.”

    I didn’t know I needed changing!

    I thought I was just fine the way I was. These others have a great deal of hostility and anger towards me over the slightest things that happened quite some time ago (years, really) and they attacked me so viciously it just makes no sense at all. I had discussed the small issues with them, and it was a disagreement over a nasty email response one of them had made to an 80 year old woman on the group email response and I objected to it.

    The other issue was that I brought up that I was still in therapy for what I had gone through as a child, and perhaps it would help this other person who had also possibly been molested, and he became enraged. Plus the first thing out of his mouth when I saw him after 25 years was “So the black sheep returns” when I was 58 years old! He was the one that was (one of) the family drunk for years, not me. I told him this really hurt my feelings and Lord it was “off with her head” and all the abusive statements word-for-word above.

    The other was my favorite cousin, a professional licensed psychologist, who said I “should have gotten over this years ago” and obviously I have “severe issues.” What? I have seen NONE OF THEM but once or never in 25 – 30 years and this is what they are saying about me? And why?

    I don’t bring any of this up, they do. But when I answer their questions, I am immediately met with “what’s my problem that I’m not over it, why am I bringing up the past, what is wrong with me, me and my drama,” and on and on and on. It’s just unbelievable.

    I don’t think any of them realize in the least just how much hostility is constantly simmering in this group, how they hang on to grudges for so long, and how much cacophony they constantly live in. It’s constant and it’s cruel and I can’t believe that they all seem to think that somehow it’s alright. There seems to be no way to ever resolve any conflict in either side of the family and I DON’T LIVE THAT WAY.

    I don’t have relationships like this with ANYONE in my life, outside of the tiny extremely toxic contact I have had with any of them. But I “did this to myself,” in a way, by testing the waters after so many years. I had no idea this is what these people had developed into. I had no idea that these systems were so firmly in place.

    My uncle, who is the instigator of all this, is a “practicing Budhhist” and constantly spouts Buddhist sayings. He is generous and donates to many causes. He is attentive and he does not hold a grudge. But why he contributes to or lights the fire of the chaos that ensues I will never know. He used to drink and his wife was addicted to prescription drugs, but they both did “good works” and did a lot of good. I always looked up to them, even though I never felt comfortable and stayed away.

    But I always wanted to have “family” just like everyone in the world does. I had hoped that I could find some connections on the other side of my family, my mother’s side. But it’s just as bad as my own family of origin, or even worse (sans the physical violence my father added to the stew).

    So I am left here lost and alone “wondering what did I do.” How a licensed psychologist who knows NOTHING about what I really went through (as I don’t talk much to anyone but my closest friends about details and even then I can’t face much of it, even now) – how he could tell EVERYONE IN THE FAMILY by email that I ‘HAVE SERIOUS ISSUES” and that I should “be over it by now” – well, this is simply beyond the pale. I never talked about any of this to anyone else on that side of the family and he announced it by email, along with my uncle.

    And the only reason they knew was, fool that I was, I answered their questions truthfully. I guess I should never have done that. Never in a million years did I think this would get thrown back in my face. Never in a zillion trillion years! I have never bothered any of them and have lived my life and many people admire me. Even them. But then their overwhelming need to trash me comes to the fore. It just makes absolutely no sense at all.

    When my psychologist cousin who said the most hurtful things actually denied writing those things, I copied and pasted the sentences he wrote. He then said something to the effect that “I cherry picked the few sentences he wrote that might have been hurtful, so as to be able to think negatively about myself.”

    I wrote back and said I did not think negatively about myself at all, but I was shocked to find out that apparently he did.

    He then said “And what part of “I love you” do you not understand?

    That was his closing salutation. And this was a cousin that I hadn’t seen in thirty five years, that I loaned money to, to bail out his house, and he recently loaned me a couple of thousand dollars which I repaid in two weeks. I got a long judgmental letter along with the loan about how I “obviously didn’t know how to manage my money etc etc etc” when I did none of this when I sent him $7,000.00 to keep him temporarily from bankruptcy. He ultimately lost the house and I loaned him money to fly for job interviews. I didn’t say a word about his “management” of money at the time.

    So I don’t understand these people at all. Apparently it’s alright for them to harbor grudges and display the worse kind of hostility and rejection towards me, but God forbid I have said ONE THING they didn’t like! And then they try to use psychology on me to say I “want to think negatively about myself” when they were writing the most horrendous things about me!

    It’s all beyond me. I feel like throwing myself off a cliff, it all seems so impossible, and I don’t know how to fly. It’s like being thrown to the wolves in the dungeons of hell, with NO WAY OUT.

    I keep telling myself this is all a HUGE TRIGGER and throwing me back into PTSD and traumas from my childhood, when I was in prison and couldn’t get away… so I am deep breathing and staying still and reading and writing and reading and writing anything to keep myself staying alive. But it’s hard, oh it’s hard. I wish I could die just to get away from all this. And I know this is exactly how I felt as a child.

    Being around these people from my childhood has to be the LAST LEVEL of self-cleansing and discovery. But I’ve spent my entire life trying to clean up the mess. When will it all end? I’m on an archaeological dig and I feel like I can’t hold out much longer. I’ve been sleeping so much and having the strangest dreams of being lost and alone.

    Dear God please help me and protect me in my hour of need. Amen.

  12. By: Janie Posted: 2nd December

    Catherine, I don’t believe we can make a fool of ourselves on here. I was glad you shared the email tree, it allowed us to see what you were going through. I identified with many portions of it. It is less crazy making when we realize we are not alone! That this is an unfortunately not an uncommon experience in families of dysfunction. The spirit of Christmas, perverted to the nth degree,in my opinion!

    We had a pediatric code at work the other night. I opened the curtain to the room, just in time to see the new tech, who was giving chest compressions to an infant, crumble. I got her out of there, and listened when she verbaized the impact of what she had just been a part of her, had on her. And that was one of her worries, that she had made a fool out of herself. At that point, a few other seasoned veterans stepped in, and we explained to her, that it was never okay, that pedi codes were different, and you never knew how you would react. It just proves we are human, that we have a heart, that we value the sanctity of life and of the possibilites that could be. I think it is the same, dealing with family emotional trauma!! The unexpected occurred in both cases. You were sidelined by a tsunami, and she was sidetracked by the unexpected death of that child. She had been cruising along as well, enjoying her work of helping others, and it sounds like you help many as well! We are emotional beings, thank God!
    Maybe that is a poor analogy, but it was the seciond time I had heard somebody worry about that, after a traumatic event, and I just wanted to share………

  13. By: Catherine Todd Posted: 2nd December

    Pam #90 wrote: “Catherine, It seems to me that you are getting quite enough advice from your family, I wouldn’t dare try to analyze you or your situation and add to the confusion! When I read what you’ve written, I see that you are giving yourself some pretty good sounding advice(you know more about you and your situation than I ever could) to yourself.”


  14. By: Catherine Todd Posted: 2nd December

    Thank you Janie for your response! No problem “giving advice.” I had asked for it and you were kind enough to respond.

    Something told me as I was writing it “asking for advice” that I wasn’t supposed to be doing that. Darlene caught it in time. I tell you, I felt like I had been on an ocean liner standing at the railing on a comfortable cruise and then a tsunami wave came out of nowhere and washed me overboard! I yelled for help and the life preservers came and the life boat was lowered onto the waves and I have been able to clamber in somehow and here I am, safe and sound. Now to dry off and re-read the posts and hope and pray I didn’t make a fool of myself.

    Dear Janie, I am looking forward to reading about your experience which I will do right now. I can breath again. Thank you!

  15. By: Catherine Todd Posted: 2nd December

    thank you Darlene for deleting the post. I don’t think it has to be resubmitted, as you said it all and so did I. You wrote:

    “I also, have nothing to prove to them so, it doesn’t matter what they think of me. I am my number one responsibility and when I nurture and protect myself, everything works out more smoothly and I actually have more to give to the people who actually, do love and support me.”

    RIGHT. And I am in the tunnel, standing upright, with the darkness behind me and moving towards the light. Even after being “mobbed” by the last shred of hope I had for a “happy family reunion.” I do have other members of my “extended family” and that is all that I require. It’s ridiculous for me to hang on to an outdated image of “family” that never was and never will be.

    It’s time to live in the PRESENT and that is the best PRESENT I could ever give: I could give My Self to me. So that is what I will do, all wrapped up in ribbons and bows. It’s a good present, really. At least I think so. And as Darlene said, “The truth does not require a majority vote.”


  16. By: Janie Posted: 2nd December

    Arghhh! I apologize for giving advice! Maybe I can reframe that as to what works for me? Thanksgiving, I spent with my S.O.’s FOO, then took my mother and father out for lunch,the next day, thereby cutting the puppet masters strings and getting to watch her sulk when I got any positive attention. I would be ying, if I said I didnt enjoy that a little bit, for all the years I have taking crap from her, and had my sisters “accomplishments” shoved down my throat.
    Christmas Eve, we will have no kids, they will be with their mother (unless something more enjoyable comes along for her). I like the tradition of cooking a meal with my guy, attending mass, my friend has a party we might attend. I’m not sure what Christmas day holds. Maybe witn S.O.’s FOO. I may do something on my own. In the past, I would work at the hospital, and give a young mother the day off. I found performing that act of kindness to be personally fulfiling and in spirit with the holiday. Now, working seems like I am punishing myself. It worked for me before, but now I want to do something for myself. To find a way to remember my reason for the holiday.
    So, there is what worked for me!


    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 2nd December

      No worries; I saw your comment more like ‘feedback’. For the most part you shared your own thoughts. It is directives like “don’t see them ever again” or “you must do this or that” that cause the most problems.
      Thanks for sharing your situation. It is sad that so many thousands (millions) can relate to this stuff!
      Hugs, Darlene

  17. By: Catherine Todd Posted: 2nd December

    Darlene, #89: What you wrote about “it’s risky to look at this in the way that if we are criticizing others, (as in the people who abused us) that we are not ready to make our sight clear.”

    That makes so much sense. When I read the “spiritual stuff” about not judging and I am told this, I don’t know how to apply that to what happened to me.

    You wrote: “how I healed my broken self esteem and overcame depressions etc. by looking at the damage done to me by other people. Some would call that judgement or criticizing. I call it the truth and the only real thing that led me to healing. I had to make a few judgements so that I could validate ME for the first time.”

    I agree completely, and I don’t think that “looking at the facts” is judging or criticizing. It’s just a statement of interactions, like a chemical combustion:

    This happened, that happened, then that happened, and this is the chain reaction. And then we have the result.”

    It’s like mixing chemicals in a lab, and certain combinations have different reactions. Some give off toxic fumes, and can cause severe damage or even death. Ammonia and chlorine bleach, both used for cleaning, but highly toxic, combustible and dangerous when combined together. Separate they are very valuable as cleaning agents.

    Perhaps personalities and family systems are much the same. Obviously I am highly toxic for my family of origin. Best that we are “never combined.” No contact is the only way to go, spiritually, emotionally and factually.

    Darlene, I am very glad you have posted “the other side of the coin.” Thank you so much.

    It’s so obvious that I have much to learn. I hope I can do it SOON. I hope I can make it through this one last time. I feel like I’ve been trapped in a very long, dark tunnel and there is a BRIGHT LIGHT at the other end. Isn’t that strange? In the midst of the morass of the mess this family I come from is in. But I’m making my own way out of it and into the LIGHT.

    Thanks be to God. Please keep me safe and sound. Love to you all, Amen.

  18. By: Pam Posted: 2nd December

    Catherine, It seems to me that you are getting quite enough advice from your family, I wouldn’t dare try to analyze you or your situation and add to the confusion! When I read what you’ve written, I see that you are giving yourself some pretty good sounding advice(you know more about you and your situation than I ever could)to yourself. It was really hard for me to listen to me and trust me because I’d been taught that I wasn’t capable of making sound decisions or doing the right thing. However, I am very capable and I was able to use that capability for my benefit when I trusted what deep inside I knew was true and right. I can never know all the whys of what other people do or say but I can recognize when what they are doing isn’t in my best interest and take necessary measures to protect myself. I also, have nothing to prove to them so, it doesn’t matter what they think of me. I am my number one responsibility and when I nurture and protect myself, everything works out more smoothly and I actually have more to give to the people who actually, do love and support me.

    Hang in there.


  19. By: Catherine Todd Posted: 2nd December

    Darlene, can you remove the email addresses and actual names from my posts? If not, could you delete them? (I could edit the post and resubmit it if necessary, if it’s even important to do so. But it’s just “my mess” so it doesn’t even need to be here).

    I would hate for the individuals named to be offended or humiliated as I was when I received these emails. I would not wish this on anyone. I usually don’t post anything online without permission from the person if I am using their name, but as I said “in the heat of the moment” I just copied and pasted. THANK YOU.

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 2nd December

      I will delete the post and you may re-submit the edited version if you wish.
      Hugs, Darlene

  20. By: Janie Posted: 2nd December

    Wow, Catherine! My heart goes out to you, that is certainly alot to handle! I would not even know where to start. Is it your niece that refers to what happened to you as “what she says happened”? Really? The one who has never met you?
    Maybe you could plan a separate visit, with those family members you do love and care for, maybe New Years? I know we are not supposed to give advice , but there must be some way to visit with those who truly matter, and by pass the dysfunctional bunch.
    I guess “Bill” has lost his empathy, maybe burnt out, as a psychologist? I’m glad he is not in individual practice. I wonder if he has more empathy for a common criminal, in court? It is interesting how he tries to intellectualize emotion. Perhaps that is what got him through?
    They obviously dont want to look at their own stuff, which would ruin their illusion of the perfect family.
    The family email tree reminds me of a witch trial!
    think this post brings us back to part of Pam’s original post. We are bombarded with messages and images of having “Happy Holidays” with our families of origin, and are conditioned by the media and other organizations to believe this is the only way to a happy holiday. Pam created a group of like minded, truly loving individuals to spend her holidays with, which was such a kind and healthy thing to do for herself, and her family.
    I hope that you do something kind and wonderful for yourself this holiday.
    Myself, I wont be stepping foot near my FOO. Remembering all the cruel and mean things they did and said, watching my nephew languish in my sisters dysfunction, my mother, the crazy puppet master, I’m not doing it. To me, it doesnt make any sense to continue with the whack jobs on my family tree. Let them pretend alcoholism, drug abuse, collecting govt money illegally, ignoring a child’s disabilities, and viciously attacking anyone who is different is okay. I can’t do it!
    Let us know what you decide! I am sorry you are going through this! But sometimes all we can do is extend a hand, and see what returns to us. You extended a hand, and were met with judgement and hostility from some. You reached out, which is healthy! Now you know the situation. As painful as it is, I would strike a line through those names on my Christmas list, and keep moving forward. But that is just me.

    Big hug,

  21. By: Catherine Todd Posted: 2nd December

    Thank you Darlene… you are right about “giving advice” and I learned that going to the Alanon 12 step program. I forgot in the shock of the moment. And the email address: Oh Lord I thought of that right after I had submitted my comment but couldn’t edit it. So glad you caught it for me. I will be careful in the future.

    I know I have posted “too much” but it felt so much like that response you received from that woman who told you how you should be acting regarding your own parental situation, and when I got “mobbed” by family members that I have not seen but one time or never in the past 25 – 30 years, I panicked. I am sitting here still in shock but practicing deep breathing, and the best part was I was able to respond as an ADULT, secure in my position that only I can know how much time I need and what I need to “heal.”

    Until these people came along, I didn’t know that I needed “permission” from them as to what “rules I should be following” or what “results” I should have already achieved. It’s really quite incredible. But thank God I can delete my connections to them, and I never have to see them again as I never saw them to begin with, except when we were very young children. It’s so sad and it’s too bad but that’s the way it is, and really, when I look at the facts, it doesn’t effect my life at all. Except in the “Dream” that never was and never will be.

    Better to focus on The Dream I am actually living right now, here and now. I have lots of support all around me and if I don’t fall into that sink hole of “they must be right” and “I’m no good” then all will be well.

    Dear God please give me the strength to survive. This was a direct hit from where I least expected it. I hope I’m not ruining this website and Darlene, please feel free to delete any of my posts. I won’t be upset in the least, unlike the other person who was highly offended. I am just so grateful that I have “somewhere to go” where I can LEARN whatever it is that I need to know.

    Gracias, Amen.

  22. By: Catherine Todd Posted: 2nd December

    Look at what came in right after, from one of my “spiritual” sites. It’s just what I’ve been experiencing (being judged) and what I need to do (look at MY SELF). Darlene, and the others, and Dear God, please show me The Way.

    * * * * *

    Justice can never be developed while we judge others; the only way is by constantly judging ourselves.

    Bowl of Saki, December 2, by Hazrat Inayat Khan

    Commentary by Pir-o-Murshid Inayat Khan:

    Spiritual progress is the changing of the point of view. There is only one way to recognize this progress, and that is to see the progress in one’s own outlook on life, to ask oneself the question, ‘How do I look at life?’ This one can do by not judging others, but by being only concerned with one’s own outlook. As long as a person is concerned with the faults of others, as long as he criticizes others, he is not yet ready to make his sight clear enough to see if his outlook on life is right.

    from http://wahiduddin.net/mv2/X/X_2_5.htm

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 2nd December

      I don’t mind the quote on spiritual progress, but it’s risky to look at this in the way that if we are criticizing others, (as in the people who abused us) that we are not ready to make our sight clear. What I share in this website is HOW I changed my outlook and everything about my life and how I did relationship, how I healed my broken self esteem and overcame depressions etc. by looking at the damage done to me by other people. Some would call that judgement or criticising. I call it the truth and the only real thing that led me to healing. I had to make a few judgements so that I could validate ME for the first time.
      I just wanted to share the other side of this coin.
      Hugs, Darlene

  23. By: Catherine Todd Posted: 2nd December

    And I did. I hope this helps.

  24. By: Catherine Todd Posted: 2nd December


    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 2nd December

      Hi Catherine and ALL reading this thread
      About asking for help or advice: I request that we don’t give each other advice on this site but rather share our own experience in similar situations if we can. When people start telling or advising other people what to do and it is rarely helpful and almost always leads down the wrong path. It is empowering when we come up with our own solutions.
      Catherine ~ in the future please edit email addresses out of your copy and pasted comments.
      Thank you ! Hugs, Darlene

  25. By: Catherine Todd Posted: 2nd December

    Here is my response, and as much as I am still in shock, I am relieved because I GAVE IT MY VERY BEST. I can now close that chapter for good. I am free. Here goes:

    Dear Bill and all the others:

    All I can say is that my dealing with my past has ensured that I am still alive. I am not a drug addict, an alcoholic or a suicide. Why? Because I did not “bury the past” but brought it out into the light where I could finally begin to heal, no matter how long it took. I am very grateful to all the people who have worked together to protect men, women and children and to “make this world a better place,” no matter how trite that may sound.

    I had no idea that anyone outside of my parents and you, Bill, even knew about what I went through growing up as a child. Buzz knew and brought it up a few years ago – I was very shocked when he did. Apparently everyone in the Scheffelin side of the family knows as well, and I have received a great deal of emails about this as well.

    It’s easy to pass judgment on someone when you haven’t been in their shoes. But it doesn’t really help anyone when this happens. In fact, it makes things worse. But that is not the purpose of this email.

    I have now written to Ginger apologizing for any unintended offense, as I had no idea that this had occurred. I had already written to another young person on Uncle John’s email list after I responded to someone who attacked Judith. This may be Ginger’s daughter that is referred to in the email, but I never knew who this person was. At the time, I had no idea that the attacker was this young person’s father and I apologized for my response, and asked to be removed from the list so that this wouldn’t happen again.

    I have now called Phil and Phyllis and was told that Uncle Phil has not had any problems with me, outside of the stress surrounding the fact that my sisters did not want me to visit my mother on her deathbed. So I don’t know what Buzz is referring to in his statement about this, unless it’s this one incident. Both Phil & Phyllis said there was no problem with this, which I was very relieved to find out.

    Everyone gets upset when there’s a lot of stress going on and I certainly didn’t hold anything against Uncle Phil for “losing his cool” one time on the phone. He has always been very good to all of us, as has your father, my Uncle John. I appreciate them all so very much and they have added greatly to all of our lives.

    So all I can say is I am very sorry for any unintended hurt I have caused, and until this moment, I had no idea that this had occurred. Please accept my apologies and I hope everyone has a good Holidays. I am sure that they will. And thanks to David for helping me with the dog leashes for the Panajachel street dog program. They are still being used and the program sends their thanks as well.

    Sincerely, Catherine Todd (Katie)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.