Friday, April 11, 2008

Survival, Awareness & Breaking Free - Part 3

This is the third installment of a series. You can read the first one here and the second one here.

I will pick the thread up as though you have read the previous posts. 

The box that I had put in the cellar of my mind still needed to be dealt with. But I did not know that - at least not consciously. I thought I had dealt with, you see. I still didn't realize I was a victim - not really - not consciously. I thought the repentance had swept it all away.

But, since I had not dealt with it, all the emotions and fears and self-loathing and pain were still locked in there. Worse than that, the little girl that all these things had happened to was locked down there with the memories. I had to because she would not be quiet about what had happened. I effectively cut her off from my conscious mind. The emotions would not stay locked up, though. They began to come out in other ways. 

When I was 16, my parents decided to go back to college. They moved to the town where the college was and let me stay with my grandparents to finish high school. I began to retreat more and more into my self. The social aspects of high school (junior high, for that matter) were not fun. Sometimes, I would put my headphones on my portable 8-track player (I know, I am severely dating myself) and go outside and lie in the snow for hours or just walk around the neighborhood, escaping into the music. No one ever noticed - or if they did, they never showed it.

My senior year, a girl I sat next to in school befriended me. We started to hang out. We started to play pranks on one of the teachers. He did not take it well and made (in my opinion) a bad call. He told me I should stay away from her because she was a bad influence on me. He didn't realize it was probably the other way around. We both got ticked off and ended up vandalizing his house (eggs, paint...). That landed us in the police station and on probation. She had become emancipated from her parents. She never told me why, but the idea started a stirring in the cellar of my mind.

I began drinking. I almost got expelled from high school 2 weeks before graduation for coming to school drunk. This severed the one friendship I had. She didn't want to risk being expelled. I had good grades, I just was beginning to go out of control. My parents talked the principal out of expulsion by pointing out that if that happened, I would be back next year. Gee, thanks guys! Through this whole thing, no one - NO ONE - except the teacher whose house I vandalized - ever asked me what was going on with me (of course, I didn't tell him). Annoyance? Yes. Shaking of the head? Yes. Genuine concern? Not that I ever saw. There wasn't even any punishment (actually, I think they grounded me for a week and wouldn't let me go to the senior party - I wasn't planning to do that, anyway). Contrast this to a year or so later when I didn't come straight home from work and didn't call them. My dad showed up at my friend's house and physically dragged me out - took me home and tried to ground me. I was 19. The sickest part of this is that I was so well trained to be afraid of them that at 19, I let him do this.

The pain and anger were building and I didn't know why. Throughout my life, any time someone I knew died, I got ZERO concern or sympathy from my family. In a previous post, I mentioned the response I got when my grandmother died. When I was in 8th grade, my homeroom teacher committed suicide. When I was a junior in high school, a friend was killed in a motorcycle accident. About 7 months after graduation, my friend in 'crime' committed suicide. This hit me hard. This kind of thing was something I had already learned to deal with on my own, though. It also got the idea of suicide up to the surface of my mind. It was something that was already there - introduced to me by a movie & some pictures when I was 3 - but now, it really began to look attractive. It was there in my mind.

The first tentative steps to being aware that I was being abused came when I was 19. I went straight into college out of high school - the same one my parents had been going to for 2 years. If you have a narcissistic parent do not, I repeat DO NOT go to college with them. Really bad idea. I thought of it as making a new start, though. In this setting, none of my friends could be 'just MY friends.' They had to be friends with my mom, too. No matter that they didn't see it that way. If they were my friends, they were her friends, too. This made for some very embarrassing situations. Since she had been going for 2 years in the same department, making friends that she didn't already know was nearly impossible. It wasn't a very big school. In addition to that, she spent that 2 years winning friends and influencing people with her typical self-absorbed behavior and, in the midst of impressing the hell out of them (note my sarcasm), she went around telling them all how wonderful, and talented, and smart I was. I didn't realize what she had been doing. No wonder they resented me  and gave me a hard time from the start. Thanks, mom.

During this time, one of the departments I had classes in was taking a class trip to London in the spring. I wanted to go and tried to raise the money, but couldn't. The chair of the department took me aside about a month before the trip and and asked me if I wanted to go. I told him I did, but I didn't have enough money. He smiled and offered to pay my way. I was ecstatic. I went home and told my parents. My dad said, "No. Absolutely not." And that was it. He did the same thing when my best friend got married. The wedding was about 400 miles away in her fiancee's home town. I had a ride and expenses and and a place to stay all lined up. "No," was all he said. 

Every car I owned, my dad insisted on putting in his name - right up until 5 years ago. I guess he decided when I hit 40, I was old enough to have a car in my own name. The first 2, he sold out from under me with no consultation or warning. They still had some of my things in them. It is an indication of how enmeshed with them I was that I even allowed this. Any protestation of this treatment was met by him with a blank look of incomprehension or indifference - I was never sure which. By now, I really didn't think my dad liked me and the feeling was mutual. I think this was a reasonable conclusion on my part. He never expressed any concern for how or what I was doing unless it was interfering with what he was doing. He was always, either ignoring me or mad at me. I didn't yet realize the subtle games my mom was playing.

Back to my mom and the 'shared' friends - if my friends would invite me out without inviting her, she would have a mini-tantrum - guilt, guilt, GUILT - trying to get me to make them invite her, too. Usually, I would just not go to prevent further embarrassment.

It was in the middle of this milieu that I actually articulated to a couple of friends that my parents were emotionally abusive. Imagine my shock when, instead of telling me I was not being fair. . . , they believed me - agreed with me. Even then, I felt guilty - like I was betraying my parents, somehow - being an ungrateful, whiny brat. The little girl in the cellar was not going to be quiet, though.

I began partying hard. At 19 going on 20, I was getting falling-down, black-out, embarrass-the-hell-out-of-myself drunk - as often as I could. I recently reconnected with an old friend from that time and she brought up an incident that I remember well - mostly - but saw differently, then. She was having a party at her house. There were a ton of people there. I was on the edge of being black-out drunk, so I don't remember saying this, but apparently, I held up the bottle I was drinking out of and declared, "Maybe I'll just kill myself with this." My friend scrambled and started hiding the remaining alcohol. I remember this part and thought they just didn't want to share. No, they were afraid that I was serious (good call) and didn't really know what else to do. Actually, it is only the grace and mercy of God that I did not succeed, on a couple of occasions.

It was about this time that my dad decided to leave. Now, I wonder what took him so long. At the time, however, I was relieved. Mom always told me that she tried to talk him out of it - that she offered to get marriage counseling - she believed they could make it work. I recently asked my dad about this. He said that he went and sat on the chair and she sat there filing her nails while he tearfully told her he couldn't take it anymore and was leaving. He said she never fought him and made no offer for counseling, etc. Just another in a long list of lies that are beginning to come to light. Before he made this decision, though, he confronted me and asked me if mom was having an affair. I was shocked at the idea - thought he was nuts. And he was way out of bounds to confront me - their daughter - about it.

He walked away and left my sister and me with her. I was 19 and my sister was 13 when he left. I never missed him (just being honest), but my sister was hit hard. He had been closer to her - done things with her. Now, my sister started going out of control, too. She had no supervision. I would go into details, but. . . well, this one thing, she was dating a 32 year old man at the age of 14. And mom allowed it. She ended up getting expelled from high school and was sent to live with dad. That was the best thing for her at the time - considering the choices. This, however, left me living with mom alone. This is when the heavy guilt tripping began. This is when she began using suicide as a threat to get sympathy. This is when I would sometimes almost run to get away from the darkness inside that house. 

A few months before my sister left, I was in an accident in which I broke my back - lots of bills, hospital stay - rehab. The night it happened, my mom was at work and decided to finish her shift before coming to the hospital. Before you think that she didn't realize what had happened, know that she was informed in detail. She unleashed a reign of terror on the hospital staff, but that's another story. ;-)

About a year after this, she lost the house - couldn't keep up the payments (why that happened is a whole other post). She moved in with her parents and I saw an opportunity to get away. A friend offered to rent me a room in the house he just bought. I jumped at it. At 24 years old, for the first time I was not living with family.

This guy had some serious mental issues of his own. Living there was an interesting adventure, to say the least. Fighting with our other roommate, etc. During this time, my mom became seriously depressed - think what it would do to a narcissist's image of themselves to have to move back in with their parents, whom they do not like (and the feeling was mutual, I have since discovered). She lived an hour's drive away and would come up often and began telling me how much she needed me - no one else understood her. That winter, my own mental state deteriorated drastically. I was not doing well. Along came Christmas, and something happened that I only recently realized (duh) was connected to what happened shortly after. 

The relative that had molested me came home for Christmas. He had moved thousands of miles away about 10 years prior to this. I had not seen him nor spoken to him since I was 15. This stirred up some anger and some fear and a lot of pain. I still didn't connect the dots. (Hey, hindsight is great - living it is another thing!) Two weeks later, I couldn't take the pain anymore and took a bottle of pills and went to bed. Again, God's mercy. He was there. In the midst of slipping into the darkness, I told Him I was sorry and He was right there with peace. I woke up 24 hours later, scared and a little disappointed.

This pushed me into getting counseling - the best friend I had at the time said, "Get some help or quit coming over. You're scaring my kids." I called and got a counselor. She wasn't great - but I saw her for 2 years. The first session, I finally spoke the words. I was molested. The box in the cellar was open - it wasn't up out of the cellar, but it was open. Awareness was surfacing.


krl said...

What I relate to is what I call 'randomness of the fallout'. Was it possible to 'connect the dots'....? What I read is as jumbled a life as I have lived. When I was depressed, I couldn't pin it...oh, I could focus on any one thing....but it was like the Tsunami would hit me...and I knew it was more than just any one thing. My life wasn't wasn't connected. The 'bad' things I did just didn't add up. Nothing unfolded in a 'normal' way. My life seemed to go from shit to shit....always a drama...or a series of dramas....and I was trying to 'do the right thing'! Wondering how 'muddled' it seemed to you. It seems I was too emotional about one thing....and surprisingly numb over something else. Never could make heads or tails of it.

BTW. I was a 'late bloomer' to the world of alcohol. Never partied until my kids left home. Married a drinker and partied for about 8 years. I've been sober for two years this month......and actually, my sobriety had more to do with committing to Truth than it did to not drinking. After beginning a 12 step program, it became evident to me that I could not face the Truth about my life unless I quit drinking. From there, a renewed spirituality, divorcing an abusive man, going NC with my Nmom etc.

Lots to think about. Thank you for your courage to share. Please continue.

Katherine Gunn said...


"Wondering how 'muddled' it seemed to you. It seems I was too emotional about one thing....and surprisingly numb over something else. Never could make heads or tails of it."

I spent a lot of time feeling confused and guilty about getting angry of 'some little thing,' then not seeming to have any emotion at all over something that should have been emotional. Too emotional one minute, numb the next. I think the anger trying to come out - anger at the injustice is the 'too emotional' part. Then the reaction to emotion that we get causes us to shut the emotions down - go numb. By the way . . . who got to decide if we were being 'too emotional?' ;-)

This has made me think a lot, too - look at things more honestly. Ugh. :-)

You're welcome. I'm glad my story is helping.