After my parents split up a couple of months before my 13th birthday, my mother started to get even more impatient. She got even more blunt about stating where I “stood” as a member of the family and communicated my value to me in some new ways; She started saying “If you don’t like it, leave”. Just like that. If I didn’t like the way things were, then I was free to just “go”.
This is not a rare expression; many kids have heard it lots but have you ever thought about what that communicates to a child?
These statements are really hurtful;
If you don’t agree with the way that I do things ~ get out.
If you don’t like the way that your life is here ~ go away.
If you don’t approve of the way that I treat you ~ leave.
If you don’t like MY rules, then you can just go find your own place to live; find your own way.
Some kids did; they left home and lived on the streets. They got picked up by pimps and put on the street selling themselves to strangers, just so that they could eat. Drugs and alcohol were “normal” coping methods in those situations too and often “forced addiction” is a great way to control a teenager. Some parents remind children that this could happen to them if they don’t comply with the rules of the psychologically abusive environment at home.
It is common for a teenager to trade an abusive home life for life with another abuser, this time having a new person in charge of their lives and responsible for their survival. At first it looks a lot better than life with parents; there is usually the illusion of independence. But when it all goes wrong, the child gets blamed for the results because they “chose” to run away, or leave. Other kids who left or ran away may find an older person to give them shelter, but rarely without a huge price to pay.
If you did manage to get out, what lesson was learned? For me it was the same lesson that I had already learned; that if I want to survive, I better do things the way the “chief” wants them done, and I better accept it because I don’t have a say. Since this was the message that I had always known it was an easy transition for me to fall into the same rules in every relationship I had. I never considered that these relationships were one sided and psychologically abusive because I was so used to it. It was all I knew.
My mother used to say “like it or lump it”. I have no idea what that means but I accepted that it meant I had NO say and No choice.
Another favourite expression my mother used was; “if you don’t like it, go and live with your father”. This sounds like a viable option but it was more psychological abuse. One day when I was around 14 and didn’t think I could take it with her anymore, I asked my father if I could live with him. I was so sure that would be an option and I didn’t even feel nervous asking him. But he said no. He was remarried by then and had a new child, and there was no room for me in his life. Looking back, he had made that rather clear to me already, but being accustomed to not being valued, I didn’t catch on that quickly.
So now I had a mother who told me to leave, (communicating that she didn’t care about me) and a father who told me that he didn’t want me either.
I felt such a panic over the depth of what this meant. I was not wanted or needed for anything more than the chores I could do and the meals that I cooked. My value was defined by those things. I had to comply or lose what little security I had ~ a place to live and food to eat. That is what was communicated to me. If I didn’t “like it” then I could just leave. Find a better way. Find somewhere where I could have some say, some value, and find some acceptance. I can still see her sneer, because at 14 years old, where was I going to go? My father didn’t want me. I don’t remember telling my mother that he said no; I doubt that I would have given her that satisfaction but I bet she knew.
These truths defined me. Saying these types of things to a child is psychological abuse and it works; I believed the implications. I took them to heart. I believed that because I wasn’t wanted I wasn’t loved. The sayings and actions of my parents defined me as not worthy. I couldn’t blame that on them; I had been convinced from so young that it was me. It was easier to believe it was me. If it was my fault, I could try harder to change it. I thought that I could prove my worth somehow in order to be loved and wanted.
The truth was that I could never get the desire to leave off my mind! But I didn’t know how to escape. I had been convinced that leaving was the answer but also convinced that I would not “survive”. A child knows that he or she won’t survive without food, shelter, and clothing.
“If you don’t like it then let’s see if you can do better on your own.” More psychologically abusive sneering. Or “I suppose you think you could do better on your own”. And “you think it is so easy to live in the “real world”. I wonder what she meant by the “real world”.
And you know, about that saying “if you don’t like it” well I didn’t like it ~ there was nothing about it to like so eventually I started to look for a way out. Since I was not raised to believe in myself and believed my survival depended on someone else, I tried to find “someone” who would want me. I had also been raised to believe that my value was sexual so I put that power to work. I wasn’t sexual and flirting wasn’t sexual to me, it was just survival. It was all I thought I had and all I had ever been told that I had. Men were my mother’s answer for everything, and surely they would be my answer too.
One night I fell asleep and didn’t come home till the wee hours of the morning. She made all the typical accusations about what a tramp I was telling me that was my last chance; that the next time I decided to do something like that I would have to get out. A few weeks later I stayed out all night on purpose. When I came home she asked me when I was leaving, I told her that I just “came to get my things” At first I wouldn’t tell her where I was going. It was an attempt to try and make her prove that she cared. I secretly hoped that she would worry. She was the one that taught me how to “prove” love after all. She taught me these psychologically abusive tactics. I don’t think she was worried at all, she was just mad because I found a way out.
And that was how at the tender age of 17, I ended up starting my “adult life” living common law with a man who turned out to have a drinking problem and a violent temper.
I went from one frying pan into another fire; I was “rescued” by another captor.
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