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A Painful Story

I wrote this, originally, for my blog but since that is under my real name and is connected with my professional work, I will post my story here instead. It is by no means complete, but I tried to write all that I could.

I was an abused child; my mother's and grandmother's severe mental health issues made my life a living hell. I probably wasn't always easy to deal with, but I was everything a controlling, abandonment-fearing mother and/or grandmother would not want: an independent, attractive, self-confident, intelligent, and gregarious child and adolescent. When my mother was not telling me how I was exactly like her first husband (smug, arrogant, a total *******), or telling me how horrible I was in every way, she was sabotaging all of my efforts to have a life outside of her. I knew then that she was afraid of losing control over me, but I've since realized that a great deal of this fear of losing control had to do with her fears of abandonment. I was an extension of her and not an actual person in my own right; all the nasty negative awful things she felt about herself were projected onto me as the "damaged" or "crazy" or "evil" child. She wanted something to be wrong with me because then she could control me; I watched her try and succeed with my brother, who became the "golden child". I was hated because I was attractive, intelligent, and healthy. He was loved because he needed her.

My mother was intrusively insensitive; she had no respect for boundaries and even told me, point blank, that I had NO RIGHTS. She could do whatever she wanted to me and it did not matter because whereas other people have rights, I, as her teenaged daughter, had none. No one would believe me and no one would care. It was my fault that she beat me, emotionally abused me, and made my life purposefully chaotic. If I was chosen to be the lead in a play for school, she would force me to take on the role of babysitter for my brother and his friends so I could not properly prepare. I would then look like a fool and disappoint my cast members. If I had a talent show she would refuse to buy what I needed for it, drive me, or if she did drive me, she refused to let me stay and made the whole ordeal so unpleasant. How dare I ask for anything? How dare I make demands? Who did I think I was?

She would hit me, and in fact, she once attacked me in a shopping mall. She left me with my brother and cousins while she and my aunt went to Sears but she refused to tell me where we should meet them (the Sears had three stories). So when we could not find her she assumed that I had run off with boys in a car and had left the kids or taken them with me. I never would have done such a thing (and even by then I was secretly dating a female classmate). I was responsible; too responsible. I refused to let her verbally abuse me so I stood up to her and she hit me. I refused to back down and stood my ground and told her I did not do anything wrong and I did not take off with boys, she was wrong. And she hit me again. I did not become physical until I gently pushed her away when she went for my eyes. Construction workers came over to help, and she screamed "help me! help me! my daughter is attacking me!" and she expected people to believe her because she thinks she soooooo small and delicate while I am a giant piece of ****. I ran then, but had no money and no where to go, so I had to get in the car with her where she told me that I had no rights and I would never be free from her because I was incapable of taking care of myself. I don't remember everything that was said (I do remember her insisting that I have no rights) but in that moment I shattered and I was never the same. I put on a good show, but deep down I worry that she was right: I will never be capable of taking care of myself in any real or meaningful way. When we got home, I made the mistake of walking in ahead of her and she shoved me to the ground, grabbed my hair, shoved her knee into my back, and started banging my head into the floor. She shouted out "bring me a pair of scissors. I'm going to cut off all of her precious hair!!!!" And she expected people to bring her a pair of scissors because she truly believed that she was in the right and that I deserved what was coming to me. As an adult, she once told me that she was sick so she wanted me to visit; she was irritable and wanted to take it out on someone and she felt bad if she did that to my step-father or my brother, but she didn't feel bad if she did that to me. Yep, pretty much a direct quote.

Even before then she was insanely jealous of me. It was disturbing to no end. And if I had something nice, like a pair of fawn colored suede cowboy boots from my grandparents, she had to wear them first--and ruin them--even after I asked her not to. How dare I have something nice that should couldn't have? She would storm into my bedroom and read my diary. She and my step father once stormed into my room and ransacked the place looking for condoms, insisting that I was sleeping around (I was a virgin). And my only value as a girl-child was in my virginity. If I lost that then I was evil, worthless, and terrible. I never believed that, but it did not matter what I believed.

My mother alternated between intrusive, demeaning, control and passive devaluing apathy. If she was going to help me with something she had to have total control over it and if I objected she became enraged and then would refuse to help at all. At at least one of the high schools I attended, the teachers begged me not to tell my mother when it was parent-teacher night. I represented myself because no one wanted to deal with her. She loved to publicly humiliate me, and refuse to let me go out to social events, camps, or parties because of perceived slights. I could go on, but I am not sure I am strong enough to remember and record it all. Living with her was hell. I was always the crazy one, and to blame for all of the problems we had. My mother was the poor frustrated mother dealing with a mentally ill child (yet, I was the healthy one who was reacting, perhaps maladaptively, to bearing the brunt of her rage).

Now, on to my grandmother: She treated me as the golden child but only as long as I played the perfect little doll for her. But she purposefully set things up so that I would be hated by her children, other children, and the other grandchildren. She also sabotaged my relationships with other people and with other family members (she helped raise me so I was emotionally attached to her as a child). She needed to be the only person I trusted and loved, and she needed to feel special and desirable and loved by pitting the other children and people against one another because their jealousy towards me proved that she was special and her love was special and a highly sought after commodity. She also used her training as a psychiatric nurse to terrorize people. She was perfect and healthy and above suspicion because she was part of that community and if we disagreed with her, then it was evidence that we were severely disordered. This is a woman who chased my aunt around with a shot gun, and nearly blew her own husbands knee caps off (again with a gun). She would shout at me for thinking things other than what she wanted me to think, she would tell me how I felt and what I thought and how I should feel and what I should think. She shouted at me so much one day that I just shut off. I thought nothing, felt nothing but a dull anger, said nothing, just decided to bide my time until I could escape from that middle of no-where hell hole I was shoved in after being removed from my mother's care as a teenager. Looking back, I should have run away. I would give anything to turn back the clock and run away at 15.

My grandmother tormented her teenagers because she saw independence as a direct threat; she was hostile and provoked fights with people before they would leave because then it would not hurt so much--she was pushing them away. But then she would accuse us of being the ones who did that to her, instead. She was terrified of abandonment, and had it not been for my leaving for university (which she takes credit for, and insists if she had not shoved me on the plane I would still be living with her feeling sorry for myself; this is not true, she's just jealous of my success and wants to take credit for it, as she has always done)--anyway, if it had not been for my leaving for university she may have been successful in keeping me under her thumb where she wanted me, and where she wants my aunt (her eldest daughter). And my grandmother admitted, recently, that she emotionally tormented both myself and my cousin because she found our "drama" by which any normal person would mean "pain" amusing. She caused fights with us, then mocked us for reacting, tried to get further negative responses for us, then mocked us further (and in my case forcibly drugged me with meds provided by my unethical forensic psychiatrist grandfather (her enabler) and locked me in a room) all for her amusement. She gets off on cruelty. I could never use the bathroom at her house--I was always at her beck and call. If I took too long she would shout at me or bang on the door; she once almost cracked my skull open by putting the hammer through the door. I was hiding in there with the lights off praying that her shouting would stop. Of course, she would deny that any of this happened. And speaking of bathrooms, during a trip she refused to let my cousin (the same one mentioned before) use the toilet because it would take away from the time she had to do all of the things she wanted to do, which meant that my cousin accidentally wet her pants. You can imagine how my grandmother handled that one.

My life could have been so much more than what it is; sure, academically I'm fine, professionally I'm fine, but because of all of this and so much more that I can't write, and some of it I never will, I consistently choose to be in romantic relationships and close friendships with seriously disordered people who treat me like ****. And because of my "training" I blame myself and find it so hard to leave because I doubt myself. I always think I was wrong, but now I know that what I did wrong, especially recently (with a seriously disordered roommate/friend), was to ignore my instincts and to not police my boundaries soon enough. I let it go too far, and instead of waiting until I could take no more and lashing out, I should have set limits early on even thought that would have meant the friendship failing (and having to live elsewhere). I was expected to take on the caregiver role again, and that is too much to ask of a friend. I've been doing that my entire life (whether for children, the kids in my family, my mother, or other adults). I need to stop taking that role on, especially since it goes hand in hand with me ignoring my own needs. I feel selfish if I need anything, which leaves me open to borderline personality disordered waifs and depressive narcissistic victims who are always willing to insist and convince that their pain is the only pain that matters; I owe them because they hurt so much worse and what happened to them is so much worse. And I accept the challenge of caring for them because it distracts me from my own needs and pain and because when I "selflessly" cared for others it was the only time I was treated well. I would say that the continuation of my care-giver/co-dependent traits is my fault, but no that's not quite the right phrase--it is my responsibility to change that behavior--enabling, co-dependency, etc . . . I have quite a few really good friends who respect my boundaries as I respect theirs, but I need to stop choosing close friends who look to me to solve all of their problems. I can barely solve my own. I need to stop being afraid and contributing to the type of conflict and drama in my life that I so fear; this comes about because of my hypervigilence and issues with protecting my own boundaries. In my house the slightest comment, wrong glance, tone of voice, could mean a beating or worse. And I was only allowed to think what they wanted me to think and if I showed any signs of thinking anything else heaven help me. And I've carried that--especially the former--forward into my personal and my professional interactions, but it has to stop. I won't do this anymore. I deserve better. The people I care about deserve better. But, you know, for once I'm going to say mostly me--I deserve better and if I treat myself better my interactions with others will be better.
annakarenina28 annakarenina28 26-30, F 2 Responses Jul 24, 2012

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I see you, sister. Your story parallels mine in so many ways. You described it perfectly how I feel - and I learned that I have to keep being aware, because even though I have made huge strides in personal development, I am naturally attracted to those who "need" me...

Oh my, what a story. I can't believe what you have survived. How strong you must be!

Thank you. Things are better now, and I realize that they were both hurting. My mother and I have made strides in our relationship, but I have had to make the decision to limit contact with my grandmother to family events.