Abusers will point at minor issues going down trails leading nowhere designed to confuse the situation in order to discredit you along the way enabling them to be right and to defend their actions and position of power and entitlement.” Darlene Ouimet
The final straw is rarely the biggest issue and although the issue that I highlight in the following article may seem like a pretty big one, it was really just another event in a long line of events where I didn’t count.
The final straw for me has been different with different people and depending on the situation but the bottom line of this article can be applied to situations involving almost anyone that has you in a position of less power or value than they see themselves as having.
In the case of my mother the final straw was when she called me one day and said that she needed to talk to me about something. She told me that when I was in Arizona visiting my brother, I had said something to his wife that had caused a bit of a stir.
At this point I had been coming out of the fog for about a year and a half, I had been working with a therapist, I had attended a few workshops about recognizing the abuse of power and control in relationships and I was really catching on to the way that I had been defined by the ways I had been regarded and disregarded by my mother as a child, teenager and adult. So when she said “when you were in Arizona” the first thing that I did was the math and I quickly realized that my mother was talking about something that had happened 8 months prior to this phone call; I immediately recognized that “this incident” which was about me, had been discussed for a very long time behind my back. Here is how it went;
Mom said “I have been wanting to talk to you about something for a long time now” and then she said “WE have been talking about THIS since YOU were in Arizona and we haven’t been sure what to do about it.” And I said “Mom, that was 8 months ago. Are you telling me that you have been discussing this for the past 8 months and nobody has even mentioned it to me?”
The big deal she was referring to was that I had told my sister in law that I was in therapy dealing with some issues and I told her that one of the issues was that I had been sexually assaulted by my mothers boyfriend when I was just shy of 14 years old.
After my Mother told me what they had been discussing for the past 8 months behind my back and I asked hey why she had waited so long to ask me about it (to which there was no response) I said “So what?” I think that shocked her. She didn’t expect me to actually ask a question indicating that I was not doing anything wrong but although I was aware that I was beginning to feel angry, I was also a little stunned and I didn’t understand what the big deal was. So what if I was talking to my sister in law about what happened to me?
My mother ignored my question, and she plowed right ahead with what she wanted to say. She told me that my sister in law had taken notes about what I told her. It was interesting that she told me that; it was as though she was prepared for me to deny that I had said these things to my sister in law. I told my mother that I DID tell my sister in law that, and SO WHAT? What about it? What was the problem?
Part of me couldn’t understand why she was upset because so far she wasn’t repeating anything I supposedly said, that I hadn’t actually said. However another part of me – the part that was ‘waking up’- knew exactly what was going on. She believed that SHE was the real victim here!
I realized that this confrontation was not going the way my mother expected. I told her that it was MY story to tell. I told her that I had not told my sister in law anything that wasn’t true. But the whole time in the back of my mind I was aware that this is how things always went. I was in trouble because I was doing something that she didn’t like. I was causing a problem, for her. I was repeating something that she had always denied, something that made her uncomfortable, something that she refused to believe or to deal with when it had happened TO ME.
A big part of me was screaming at myself ~ “Here we go again! I am in trouble for telling MY story. I am getting hell for talking about my own life, for expressing my feelings and exposing MY wounds. I am getting told off for being me, for being alive and for something that happened to me that someone else decided I shouldn’t talk about. And I was aware that even though I knew what I had told my sister in law was 100% the truth, I didn’t’ know how much of it has been twisted or embellished against me, and it occurred to me that my mother was willing to take my brothers word for everything that I has ‘supposedly said’ without asking me if I had said it. The bottom line is that as usual, my mother didn’t realize that this wasn’t about her.
And for once I heard my own thoughts screaming. I felt ambushed. I was so tired of the way that my family operates. I was exhausted with the realization that this was one of hundreds of examples of the way that they manipulate. My own mother didn’t think to ask me even once in 8 months. But then why would she? My side of the story had never mattered and it was finally dawning on me that this fact wasn’t going to change.
Regarding what I had said to my sister in law; the truth is that I wasn’t doing anything wrong by talking about my life. Even though the old part of me was feeling guilt and shame listening to my mother telling me off on the phone, the new part of me, the part that was beginning to see the truth about the situation, was saying “HEY, why am I getting shamed for talking about MY life?” And so I said it. I told my mother that I wasn’t doing anything wrong and that I had a right to talk about MY life.
And while I was at it, I told her that I was shocked that “they” had all been talking about this for 8 months and nobody ever once thought to ask me about it. This was third party information, but still they had mulled it over for 8 months deciding what they should “do”. Apparently my brother called everyone in our family to see if I had been telling anyone else “anything.” That in itself is a bit of a truth leak.
It didn’t matter to me anymore what she was getting at. I was sick of being treated that way. I was shocked and devastated that even though I was a married woman in my 40’s with three kids of my own, I was still being “told”, that I had to watch myself, that I was still being controlled and that I was still being regarded as the problem and that I didn’t have the right to talk about my own life.
There was a family reunion scheduled for the upcoming summer, which I had agreed to host. In that moment my entire life flashed in front of my eyes; I saw how my role in the family was to be a servant; how I had been called a liar and the perpetrators had been protected and therefore proven to be more important than I was. I saw how I had been consistently disregarded and I felt the pain of continuously being unheard and discounted. It was in that moment that I knew I didn’t want to host that reunion. In a weird kind of “fast forward” flash, I saw what it would be like for me; that it would be just as it had always been.
I didn’t just wake up one day and “boom” I was done with the ways that I had been regarded and disregarded. It was an accumulation of events that communicated to me that I was the last person “they” were concerned about and my courage to stop making excuses for them that eventually allowed me to have the moment that became “the final straw that broke the camels back.”
Remember that the final straw can often be what others would regard as a “little thing” and they will use that to discredit you by pointing out your sensitivities or calling your reaction ‘ridiculous’ or exaggerated; something that really helped me to sort all of that out was looking at the whole picture through the actual truth instead of looking at everything the way that they directed me to look at it. I became very aware that the way they wanted me to see things worked for them. They had no motivation to change because they had the relationship exactly the way they wanted it. I was the one that was struggling.
I finally decided that I was NOT going to be the “last person” in my own life.
How does this impact you? Share some examples of things that have been the “final straw” in your own life that caused you to decide to take your life and your power back from whomever had hijacked it in the first place.
Exposing Truth, one snapshot at a time;
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