Just Figured It Out!

I am a sobbing wreck.  After an entire lifetime of making horrible choices and bad decisions I am just now coming to the realization of why.  I am my family’s scapegoat.  I just figured it out on my own reading several books on personality disorder, dysfunctional families and similar subjects while trying to figure myself out to become ‘normal.’  Now I know.  I really cannot remember my childhood, just snippets here and there, so it must not have been very happy.  I am the fourth daughter of six.  My sisters are all blue eyed blonds resembling my father’s side of the family.  I look like my mother with green eyes and dark auburn hair.  Just yesterday I talked to my mother about my role in the family and she didn’t disagree.  She said, “Well, you looked like my side of the family so that may have made you a little different.”  I think I was actually made to be different.  I reiterated to her examples of the treatment I’ve had from my sisters over the years – and some of them are really mean.  She said some of the sisters were jealous of my looks and I had a sweetness they didn’t understand.  Oh bull.  They stomped on me for years.  I told her I had been doing some reading and some research and I just figured out I was the scapegoat and it is really painful.  All she could say was that it wasn’t her that did it.  I just didn’t answer.  I think it was her and I think when I was a child she saw something in me that bore a resemblance to her or her family in some way and she took it out on me, whether consciously or unconsciously.  Mom was from a very emotionally distant and dysfunctional family; very successful and highly regarded in this community, but also strange.  I think my mother was her family’s scapegoat and ‘lucky me’ was chosen in mine. 

My sisters are all college graduates.  Not me.  I felt as if I never had guidance or direction.  I think I was basically ignored as a teen.  I have floundered and have drifted through life in a daze.  I dropped out of college at 19 and married a soldier during the Vietnam era.  He was controlling and emotionally abusive and that marriage lasted ten years until I got enough courage to leave right after my son was born.  We had two beautiful children, and I will admit that I was a really great mother and did a good job raising them.  My daughter and son are both grown, live far away and are happy, confident and successful.  They were home this past year for my mother’s 90th birthday (Mom is very sharp, still drives her car and is active in church and groups, lives alone and is very independent and everyone loves her).  They noticed that my mother treats me very differently than she does my sisters.  Nothing I do or say is quite right or quite good enough.  I am constantly ‘corrected’ or just plain scorned if not ignored completely, and my whole life I have tried so hard to do right and be supportive of my family.  I feel as if all I’ve ever done is give, give, give and all they’ve ever done is take, take, take. 

I live in my hometown and the five of them all live away, some out of state.  Four of the five have vacation homes on the local lake and spend time here in the summer and around holidays (which I have dreaded forever).  I have always been very accommodating and good to all my nieces and nephews, though I noticed at Mom’s party some of them in the next generation have begun to treat me like dirt and look their uppity noses down at me now too.

When my children were still small (5 and 9) I married a man who had custody of his two boys, the same age as mine.  We were married for almost twenty years.  I left him and he dragged out the divorce for three years.  It was an awful marriage, but I thought that was just the way it was.  I kept thinking after the kids were gone it would be better, then maybe after he retired.  He treated me as badly – no, even worse - than my family had.  I tried to make us a real family and genuinely treated the kids as siblings, but my two were very intelligent and goal oriented and driven and his were into drugs, no matter how hard I tried to encourage otherwise.  That caused problems.  My husband was from a family of severe alcoholics and even though he tried to hide it, he was too.  I went to counseling for a while just before and about a year after I left and figured out then that he was a text book case of a Narcissist Personality Disorder (as are a few of my sisters).  A genuine street angel, home devil.  I just seem to attract the worse kind of people like flies on you-know-what.  My husband was so emotionally and financially abusive that my ever low self esteem was at rock bottom when I finally left.  I found out that he had squirreled the majority of our assets under his mother or brother’s names.  I was terrified of him and not allowed to ask about investments or property, just told that everything was okay.  I have nothing.  I rent a small apartment.  The counseling helped me to figure out stuff about my marriage, but I never came to the root of my wasted life until just recently.

I feel as if I am just what my family always told me I was.  For many years I wondered if maybe I had learning disabilities because I could never quite reach success or happiness.  I’ve done okay working but my jobs never paid as much since I didn’t have a degree.  I always mastered everything, especially with computers and desktop publishing and creating layouts for brochures, newsletters, etc., but advances never came.   I wanted to start my own business developing brochures and the like using my creative skills and was encouraged by several co-workers, but my husband discouraged me and controlled the funds I would need for start up.  In hindsight I can see where he was terrified of any success and independence I might have acquired.  And I was terrified of him.  I was quite insecure and timid also. 

Several years ago I had a boss that loved to have group team building and games.  She once had a group from the local land grant university come in and we could volunteer to have our IQ’s tested.  Since it was all anonymous I agreed so I could see how stupid I was.  I scored 149…that’s just in ‘genius’ range.  It made me think maybe I wasn’t so dumb after all.  I never dared tell anyone in my family because they would have accused me of fabricating it.  My husband found the printout with the results I had filed under “Household Ideas” (of all things) in the filing cabinet. (He snooped through everything of mine and if he thought I had hid anything he would badger me terribly).  He wasn’t thrilled.  He actually taunted me, “If you are so smart then why do you (blah blah blah) or how come you don’t know (blah, blah, blah).”  Always the put downs!

Well, I don’t mean to ramble, but writing this has been therapeutic just to form everything into words on paper.  Actually I could have gone on and on with instances and examples and feelings.  Bottom line:  with this new realization of being the scapegoat, a lot has been answered about my ‘failed life’.  However, more than that is the hurt, almost shameful, that this could have even happened to me for so long and none of my family ever reached out to help or give a kind word.  They never will, even though they all claim to be devout Christians.  And I never knew any other way of life.  I honestly am suffering.  I know from reading other posts and research that they will never change and that I must distance myself from everyone.  Then I can start to heal.  I think I am headed down the right path, still uncertain of every decision I make, but improving.  I cry a lot and force the “on” switch to put on a front and go to work.  That’s a strain so I have found I isolate myself nights and weekends to grieve, making excuses to my few friends and only going to Mother’s when necessary since I do quite a bit  for her (occasional meals, her hair, etc…still trying to please and be accepted).  Once Mother is gone I will retire and move from this town to be near my kids.  They are looking forward to that.  I am taking it now a day at a time since I still feel the need to privately mourn without being told to quit feeling sorry for myself.  I want to be happy and have a peaceful heart.  I want to gain confidence.  Some days I want to lash out.  I’m gaining ground.  Reading others’ posts has at least shown me that I am not alone.  Thank you for being there!

MamaAnna MamaAnna
56-60, F
2 Responses Feb 15, 2010

Wow, what a great story. I see alot of similarities with you and me. The crazy thing is, how you feel about yourself doesn't really reflect who you really are. I know you probably think low of yourself, but that's what scapegoating is. We are made to feel this way. Alot of what we say to ourselves is actually use repeating what we've been told by others. All the put downs, blaming etc. I can relate so much in your story I can understand the pain, anger, guilt, sadness etc.

I first started to "clue-in" when I had to take a "Family Dynamics" course in university. My prof talked about how common it was for there to be a scapegoat in the family. Around the same time, I mentioned to an old fried that I didn't understand why it was that although I was the quiet, shy one in the family (who also was an A student) - I was the one who got blamed, insulted and hit regularly. Her comment was that I was a "lightning rod" for all the problems in the family. The moment of realization was painful, but now I've moved through the pain. Your story sounds "typical" of us scapegoats. All the family members contribute to the dynamic in a way, even if by omission. In my family one or two members were able to manipulate the family dynamic. (By telling my secrets, by making up things about me that weren't true, by trying to convince others that I was someone other than my real self...) One family member still scares me, even though I haven't had contact with this person for years, because I know she is still capable of manipulating the people around me. I'm still greiving for the family I never had, but I've come a long way in healing. It's so important to consciously construct positive relationships around us (yes, it takes work!)<br />
I realize too, that often if someone comes from an abusive family, they often recreate that situation in a marriage or close relationship. I did that too - i spent years with someone who just chiselled away at my self-esteem. Although there was no physical abuse, I was a mental mess by the time I left that relationship. Now I'm wiser (and lucky to be in a supportive relationship) Thank you for sharing your story. We are the lucky ones, who survive to tell the tales, and who have awareness to do our own work. It's easy for me at times to sink into self-pity, but I recognize a side of me that needs to be joyful, and I've learned that sometimes you have to build happines, practice happiness.<br />
thank you for sharing your story.