No longer a victim!
In this video I talk about taking responsibility for my life after a childhood of neglect, abuse and years of severe depression.
No longer a victim!
Society’s protection of parents damages children.
If the commonly held belief is “honor thy mother and father”, if you don’t, there must be something wrong with you right?
And PS: ever wonder why there are no commandments that you must enjoy the taste of chocolate? Or that you must think Brad Pitt is a babe? (sorry, I don’t know who the hot celebrities are these days)
If people need to be commanded to feel a certain way, there is a reason why. A bad reason.
Growing up (and even now, in the comments section of my videos), people were quick to anxiously remind me that my mother loved me.
This of course, following a video where I explicitly stated how abusive and cruel she was to me as a child.
People who had no idea what was going on inside the home where I lived with her, people who would not believe what she said to my ten year old self, after surgery in the hospital after the nurses left the room (“You’re faking”), people who had no idea that she would get us excited that “one of” our dads was coming to visit, insinuate that we would finally have a father for a few hours (YAY!! YAY! CLEAN UP! YAY!), and take off to her bedroom while we worked, only to come down in lingerie with no pants on when the doorbell rang.
This actually happened.
She also once decided to tell us that when we were kids, she wanted to drown us and kill herself.
These people were DESPERATE that I know that my mother loved me. Teaching a child that that was love is how these cycles perpetuate.
My mother tolerated me. Sometimes. Felt obligated towards me and guilty about me. She had concern over my immediate corporeal safety…sometimes. She sometimes was proud of me when she felt it publicly reflected well on her parenting skills (right).
But no, my mother did not love me.
Or appreciate me. Express interest in my inner world or in developing a personal relationship with me. She didn’t see me as a unique and worthy individual independent of her selfish desires and wishes. She didn’t see me as a new human being who had to learn how to be a woman and person from the one who brought me here.
Her eyes never lit up when I entered the room. She was never happy to see me.
In fact, she regularly neglected, ignored or emotionally and physically abused me because of her own issues and because she never sought treatment for her mental and emotional illnesses.
My mother did not love me.
If that makes you uncomfortable, you might want to ask yourself why.
Another thing people are quick to tell me is to forgive, forgive, forgive. The best therapy I have had, that is helping connect me to my real self, the self that got erased by the indignity of my childhood, has encouraged me to finally be me. To respect my emotions, my feelings, my truths. For once.
If I had met therapists who shut that down by cowardly encouraging me to “forgive”, I would not be where I am today.
Do I think you should wallow in anger and grief and think about how much you hate your parents every day instead?
Yes. If it’s part of your healing process.
You will know when it’s time to let go. And being pressured to “forgive” by people who would rather not have to deal with witnessing your pain or considering what your revelations might mean about their life, is not helpful at all. In fact, it’s quite cruel.
Daniel Mackler explains:
“When therapists are quick to forgive parents their errors, and are quick to preach forgiveness, I am quick to say that I don’t trust them and I don’t want to refer clients to them.
To me, forgiving parents is not part of the healing process, no matter what the Dalai Lama or Eckhart Tolle or Mother Teresa might have said. Yet so many therapists preach forgiveness. Why? Because they haven’t done much to heal their traumas and instead took on the mindset of their traumatizers.
Those who preach forgiving parents are really just preaching dissociation. No one who has really gone into the depths of his or her childhood despair and rejection — that ubiquitous childhood experience — would expect or encourage forgiveness.
Instead they would respect the anger and sorrow and even rage that comes with breaking dissociation, moving through depression, and following the trail of grief.
Healing is hell, and there’s no way around it.
Often it entails breaking, and breaking deeply, from those who set up or even directly caused the trauma.
To touch upon an earlier subject, this is another reason why I tend to mistrust therapists who have children of their own. So often when people have a child they are quick to realize how imperfect they themselves are as parents, and in so doing are quick to forgive the imperfections of their own parents. This might sound healthy on the surface, but I have observed that it’s a lot easier for parents to forgive those who traumatized them than to look at the ways they are culpable of replicating those traumas on an innocent other whom they created. To me, preaching forgiveness is a sign of a stymied healing process, and why would I want to go to, much less pay, such a person for my own healing?”
MAIN TAKEAWAYS FROM THIS ARTICLE:
- Not all parents love or even like their children. This is a fact of life.
- Would you tell someone getting beaten and abused by their spouse that they should forgive them and that that person loves them? No? Then please do not tell this to children. Big or small ones. If there is a need for someone outside the family to convince a child that their parent loves them, there is something majorly wrong.
- Forgiveness should not be your main concern when doing deep healing. So often, the victim takes on the mentality of their traumatizer. Believing they “deserved it” is one. And automatically jumping to forgiveness is another. Who is it so important to that you forgive your parents? Probably your parents and other people who are made uncomfortable by your decision to be so brave. Don’t worry about that. It will come in time when you have healed yourself. Maybe.
excerpt from Is My Therapist Good or Not? by Daniel Mackler
Written by a feminist, but still a very good, emotionally raw article: I can’t forgive my mother
The Canadian Olympian opens up about her dark childhood: anorexia, cutting and her troubled abusive mother
An Excerpt from Unsinkable by Silken Laumann
One scene from my childhood remains indelibly etched in my mind. I am standing, age six, at the top of the stairs in our house on Narva Court in Mississauga, Ont., carrying a beautiful pale blue dress with a navy sash that cascades to the floor. My dad gave the dress to me for my uncle Rolf’s wedding, and I utterly love it.
My mom looks angry. I feel confused. I’m so excited about this fairy-tale dress, but my mom’s face frightens me. Later, when we’re alone, she slaps me. “You’re always trying to get your dad to spoil you,” she scolds.
I’m ashamed. I know I must have done something wrong, but I don’t know what. I want Mom to know what she’s saying isn’t true, but now doubt has crept in. Maybe I am bad. Maybe I am trying to steal Dad’s attention, like she always says.
I remember another scene, this time on the day of Uncle Rolf’s wedding. My mom poses with one hand on a birdbath and the other on her hip. She is wearing a lovely white, flower-embossed gown with a long, light blue train draped around her. On her blond head she wears a sheer blue veil. Today, not even Uncle Rolf’s bride can escape my mom’s need to be in the spotlight.
My mom smacked me many times while simultaneously pummelling me with her words. Her attacks left me convinced that I was a devious, bad person. Her special weapon was a wooden spoon, but the scariest part of her attacks was their randomness. Since her rules felt arbitrary, she was always catching us off-guard. If I dared say something to her that was unpleasant but true, she would give me a puppy-dog expression of, “I am so hurt.” If I didn’t back down, she would tell me how mean and selfish and ridiculous I was, then taunt me about my hairstyle, or my friends, or my teachers—anything she knew I was sensitive about—until I was in tears. Then she would either become sympathetic or accuse me of being hysterical. I had nowhere to turn to legitimize my feelings, and no one to tell me this wasn’t okay.
When I was 10, [my older sister] Daniele was given permission to ride the city bus to the mall with a friend. Desperately wanting to go with her, I made a huge fuss about how unfair it was to have to stay behind. After shouting at me to smarten up, my mom dragged me inside, then beat me with a boot. I was crying and she was screaming. I don’t remember how badly it hurt, but I do remember the shame I felt about my behaviour, and how afraid I was that my sister was now old enough to leave the house on her own—she was becoming independent and I was left behind. When Daniele was gone, my mom’s focus was on me—and I didn’t want any more of her negative attention.
My [younger] brother, Joerg, was a cute, mischievous kid who could do no wrong in my parents’ eyes—at least when he was little. My mom used to take him in her arms, stroke his hair and call him her little liebchen, but I came to believe his upbringing might have been the most confusing of all, caught as he was between my mom’s mercurial moods and my dad’s great expectations. When Joerg was eight, he started sleeping with a knife under his pillow. He never needed to use it, but it lay close as he slept. Years later, when I asked him why, he said, “I didn’t trust Mom.”
I believe my mom loved us in her own way, but in her darkest hours, she would say things like, “I could kill you and then kill myself.” What seemed to transform her words into a frightening possibility was the fact that a distraught mother in a nearby neighbourhood had shot her kids, then herself. Another mother had gassed her family while they were sleeping. My mom would get worked into a frenzy—screaming and sobbing and throwing dishes. She would howl that she was going to gas us all. Her threat was that she would kill herself and take us with her. She never did anything to show that she’d go through with it, but I slept with my window open.
My mom later insisted her threats hadn’t been serious, yet I felt that we lived in an unsafe house. It’s hard to convey just how volatile the situation felt. I remember one day, when my father was out trimming the hedges. There was a woman suntanning in a bikini in the yard next door, and my mother was consumed by jealousy—she felt my dad was staring. To punish him, she went into the basement and pulled out the plug from his power cord so that my dad would have to head down to the basement and plug it in again. This was repeated a few times before my father raced to catch my mother on her way into the basement and lock her in there. Up to this point, it was almost silly—the plotline for an episode of I Love Lucy—but my mom’s rage bubbled over. She grabbed an axe from the basement and hacked her way out through the door. For me, every day felt like it could take that kind of unpredictably scary turn. Perhaps Daniele and Joerg felt the same way, as we schemed together about an escape, for which we created a kit with bandages and a flashlight. We also saved getaway cash and planned whose doorstep we would land on if we needed to make a run for it.
* * *
I was 16 the first time I cut myself with a razor. It was a Friday night and I wanted to go out on a date. So did my dad. If we both went out, Joerg would be left home alone. My dad, Daniele and I had already been butting heads over my desire for independence. They thought I was being too bold, attending events in Toronto and sometimes coming home on the midnight GO train. Since I was focused on training for the Olympics and excelling at school, I didn’t think I was being irresponsible, but this one night, it came to a head.
Furious that I was insisting on leaving, my dad demanded, “You can’t leave Joerg alone all the time. You’re being selfish.”
I was angry, but my dad’s approval was still desperately important to me, and I crumpled in shame. I did feel the need to take care of Joerg, and I worried that my wanting to leave made me a bad person. Everything was falling apart. My mom [had moved out] and my dad was out of the house a lot. The pressure on me felt unbearable. Shaking with conflicting emotions, I went out into the yard and sat under a tree with a razor blade I’d grabbed from the bathroom. I had been playing with this razor for quite some time; whenever self-doubt broke through my fragile facade of confidence, I’d fantasized about slitting a vein, just to end my anguish and confusion and self-hate. I would put its edge to my wrist, and its sharpness would feel so good that I wanted to go deeper to release the pressure building inside me so hard and fast that I felt I might explode. Now, with anger boiling through me, I was both desperate enough and ready enough. I didn’t want to slash my wrist in order to kill myself, nor did I want to injure myself so badly that I would have to go to a hospital—that part of my mind was still working. Instead, I cut lightly but deliberately and repeatedly to release some of my anguish so I could survive. It felt good to bleed, providing temporary relief. It also terrified me that I could do this to myself, and that someday I might possibly be tempted to go further.
Razors continued to attract me, and I would arrive at this place again a few more times after this episode. I’d toy with the razor, drawing it across my wrist in order to nick the skin. Even the thought of being able to do this served as a safety valve, making the pressure I felt more bearable. It became my secret, my private shame, never to be revealed to anyone.
Excerpt from Unsinkable by Silken Laumann ©2014. Published by HarperCollins Canada. Reprinted with permission
“Children with a depressed parent are, on average, less socially competent, have lower self-esteem, are more likely to have behavioral and academic problems (even lower IQs!), and they are two to five times more likely to develop a psychological disorder.”
“How did you get contact and attunement as a kid? What tactic did you use?”
I had just finished roasting a popular YouTuber, in her 30s, who makes baby faces and noises at the camera in a childlike attempt at attention. It triggered me big time.
“I didn’t. I didn’t do anything. I didn’t get connection…….oh wait, I got sick. That was how I got attention. Oh wait, no. That just made my mom hate me even more, so that can’t be it.”
“Hate. That’s connection and attention. To a child, it’s better than being ignored or neglected.”
I am currently working on a book about my life as a child having had a mother with borderline personality disorder: what it was like, how it affects my adult life to this day and my continuing journey through therapy to overcome it. Here is an excerpt:
“Growing up, my relationship with my brothers mirrored exactly the relationship my mother had with me:
I’m glad that you are here so that I am not so alone and hey, we have fun together sometimes. But being responsible for you is very overwhelming and I will do whatever I have to to keep your needs from causing me too much inconvenience. I don’t want to hit you or yell at you but I feel I have no other choice: I didn’t sign up for this.
The difference being, I was an innocent, vulnerable child who my mother turned into a frustrated, overwhelmed, 8 year old co-parent whose stress level would later be diagnosed by a doctor as the cause of what was almost an early death. I didn’t have a choice. She did. And she chose to sleep around with multiple, delinquent, incapable black men, milk the government for free money and hide us away from her family like a dirty little secret.
The feelings of shame and abandonment her behavior induced was so real at times it felt like the fourth illegitimate child.
I remember the three of us sitting on the couch, dark skin covered in cracking calamine lotion and chicken pox, unable to move. It was the most sick I’d ever felt, before my illness hit two years later.
And it was just the three of us together, watching her walk out with a guilty shrug of a smile on her face as she locked the door, off to visit her alcoholic boyfriend. I had begged her to stay earlier, a nuisance in her ear as she giddily packed a bag and rearranged her hair in the mirror multiple times. She had argued back heartlessly.
You have fevers and skin rashes, you just have to wait it out, there’s nothing more I can do anyway!
I remember just our eyes locking, looking around at each other, the only body parts that didn’t hurt to move as the smell of her cheap perfume began to fade from the silent living room. The horror of just how alone the three of us really were began to set in with her joyful slamming of the door.
Not just in this house, alone in life.
Pepto pink streaked tears.
We were so embarrassed for each other.”
My brothers were both pretty special kids and I miss the laughs we had together. The guilt I have over my abuse of them is in my mind every day. I wish we had had an opportunity to truly get to know each other as siblings, not with me forced into the role of a mini version of my mother. We’ve been estranged for years now. I don’t know how much time will have to pass before we do not trigger each other. Lots, I’m assuming.
Some days, I am still so angry and so sad.
I didn’t want to be someone whose overwhelming feeling upon her mother’s death was relief. Yes, she was suffering and suffered greatly her whole life. But I am talking about that sense that “Hey… I can breathe now. I never have to deal with one of her alcoholic boyfriends ever again. I’ll never again be manipulated for money or stolen from or guilted into anything or yelled at by someone screaming so violently that their head rattles and my ears ring with an instant headache.”
I never wanted to have to fight back. She once physically attacked me, grappling me with her full weight (over two hundred pounds), slowly pressing all breath out of me. Her teeth were bared and spittle flew out between them as she heaved her straining smoker’s breaths like a beast.
She desperately wanted to escape the hurt and anger of her childhood and thought she could wring it out of my body by force, losing her humanity in the process.
I never wanted to be a part of that.
I never wanted to carry this hate in my heart.
I didn’t want to be the kind of person who would take a certain satisfaction in knowing that her ashes were sitting unceremoniously on a shelf gathering dust in the basement of a funeral home.
Forgotten, abandoned, forsaken yet again, even in death.
Her sister had wanted to take the ashes back to the island YES I said yes please do but my brother had said no. I was disappointed but did not press the issue. I had a history of being annoyed over his expression of any kind of a preference. And I learned not to question someone who is grieving.
However, even now, I feel a twinge of annoyance at his insistence and lack of further action resulting in them still being here. It’s something I feel sort of obligated to deal with somehow. Although this will never happen. I have washed my hands of her.
My heart is another story.
There is a part of me that is suspicious anytime a therapist tells me your mother was ________ or your mother always _________ or your mother didn’t _________.
I think, how do they know?
I mean, I give them whatever I can. And I tell them the good and the bad. But not everything. There isn’t time for everything or I would tell everything because I have carried all of it for much too long.
I start to feel the way I do when I take eye exams. I hate that they are trusting my subjective opinion to make medical decisions about me.
Which is clearer, the top or the bottom row?
Is it better or worse when I do this?
Can I really be trusted to give them an accurate picture of the truth through my eyes?
Then I remember how we learned about soils in forestry.
When you are learned, you can look at the bark, the tilt, the way the leaves of a tree grow and know exactly what kind of soil it grew in and what conditions it endured.
You can look at it and know what it’s first winter was like.
How far into the ground it was planted.
If I had walked in there and told them that I had a wonderful childhood (I actually thought I had at first, the majority of people with childhood trauma have mental blocks in place to make them feel this way as well), it would not have made a difference. They would have known the truth.
Part of what came along with my childhood was a well programmed guilt-o-meter to prevent me from talking about it. I still feel it. But I do it anyway.
It’s not I who should be ashamed of my childhood or any of the ways that I responded to it.
And it’s still so hard for me accept that.
Looking back and while growing up, I was often torn apart inside trying to make sense of how what my mother was saying about her parenting abilities (stellar!) and who she told me I was (a vain, lazy, spoiled, ungrateful child. ahem) just never matched up for me. Everything she said and did was lacking in logic and rationality and if I were ever to question it, she would turn it back on me. I was the one who was wrong for observing it in the first place. I was critical and mean for speaking up and trying to divide the family.
I knew that I came from a childhood of abuse and neglect. But it was only recently that a professional with 30+ years in this field suggested to me that she might have had Borderline Personality Disorder. Everything that I have read on it so far has been blowing me away.
“Unresolved trauma, which is associated with BPD, often obstructs a mother’s ability to parent effectively. Parents who are unable to reflect back on their childhood history and integrate their experiences have a limited capacity for emotional availability to their children (Crandell & Hobson, 1999). Specifically, a mother with BPD may lack the capacity to respond appropriately to her children by projecting past material into the mother-child interaction (Crandell et al., 1997). For example, defensive splitting may interfere with the parent-child relationship via the mother with BPD’s perception of the child as either “all good,” who needs to be saved, or “all bad,” who needs to be reprimanded (Newman & Stevenson, 2005, Glickhauf-Hughes & Mehlman, 1998). Even the act of care giving itself may trigger painful memories from the mother’s history of trauma, making it very difficult for the mother with BPD to cope with the daily challenges of parenting (Main, 1995). These triggers often causes her to engage in maladaptive, “frightened/frightening” behaviors, whereby the she is both frightening to the child and frightened herself at the same time (Holmes, 2005; Hobson, et al, 2005). In this way, mothers with BPD are often classified as “high risk” parents (Newman & Stevenson, 2005), at risk of child abuse and/or drastically overprotective behaviors.”
“The following are commonalities in parenting behaviors that typify mothers with Borderline Personality Disorder:
(1) they use insensitive forms of communication;
(2) are critical and intrusive;
(3) use frightening comments and behavioral displays (Hobson et al., 2009);
(4) demonstrate role confusion with offspring (Feldman et al., 1995);
(5) inappropriately encourage offspring to adopt the parental role (Feldman et al., 1995);
(6) put offspring in the role of “friend” or “confidant” (Feldman et al., 1995);
(7) report high levels of distress as parents; (Macfie, Fitzpatrick, Rivas, & Cox, 2008); and
(8) may turn abusive out of frustration and become despondent (Hobson et al., 2009; Stepp et al., 2012).”