Why I don’t want to forget

I do not want to forget the abuse that I l have lived through because it is one of the things that shaped who I am.

It is one of the reasons that I able to empathize with the outcasts, the beaten and the down.

It is one of the reasons that I feel deeply. It is one of the reasons that I believe in kindness.

I do not want to forget because having experienced abuse is one of the things that made me who I am today.

I don’t believe that we would have been given the ability to feel emotions if they are sinful and contrary to our nature.

I don’t believe that we are given things to experience unless they aid in our growth.

I don’t believe that the Gods want us to suppress who we are, or what we feel.

I believe that life is for living, and that we should choose to live and feel.

Forgiveness

One of the things that people keep telling me is that any wrong that I did towards my mom has been forgiven on her death. And part of me wants to scream at them: BUT HOW DO I FORGIVE HER?

How do I let go of all of the hurts and wounds that she inflicted on me. And some of the things that my mom did were pretty terrible.

I don’t know how to just let go of that hurt…and it is not exactly something that I am going to discuss with my family at the moment.

My mom was a good woman…she also abused me. People are like that, more than a single thing…more nuanced than we can ever begin to express or understand.

I don’t want to carry around this burden of anger and hurt…but I don’t know how to just let it go.

Soundtrack to this post: Metallica, “The Unforgiven”

 

She can’t love me

At the beginning of 2009 my mother called my husband and asked that we come over. And in the conversation she asked “That I forgive her for all that she has done and all that she has failed to do”.

This is a ritualistic formula in the Catholic church when you ask for forgiveness and to which I gave the customary reply of yes I forgive you.

I have been thinking about it a lot lately, my mother did not change her behavior afterwards and did not even acknowledge what she did wrong.

The truth is I don’t think that I will be ever able to make up with my mother, she will never be the mother that I wanted.

She is incapable of loving me…and that realization hurts. How do you deal with a mother incapable of love…and recognize the losses that you endured…the birthday cakes never baked…kindness never given?

Some facts about my abuse

Since last night I have been trying to piece together facts about my abuse – just to start getting a clear picture in my own mind. The facts are so scarce and I would be hesitant to say that I could give a complete picture. I doubt that I could. They are now mostly memories and hearsay anecdotes.

What makes it even more difficult is theoretically my sister grew up in the same household and should have had the same experiences as me. The reality is miles away.

The fact is my mother did physically abuse me…not continuously…but frequently enough for me to acknowledge that it was actually a systematic pattern. Generally the abuse “was my fault because I made her do it”…Most frequently the assaults were not violent enough to leave visible marks or scars.

Most frequently, the abuse would entail her twisting my wrists and hands in a Chinese bracelet (from what I have been able to piece together it appears that her mother frequently used the same on her). On two occasions however, my mother wrapped her hands around my neck and threatened to choke the life out of me. I can still hear her shouting in my mind “I am going to kill her” at my sister. I remember running terrified into the bathroom and barricading the door with the laundry hamper. My mother barged in regardless, forced me into the corner and wrapped her hands around my neck and banged my head against the wall. I do not remember more than that from that assault. I do not remember how it ended…it was not severe enough to warrant medical attention. I do not know if it left visible marks.

Her main weapon was a campaign of emotional abuse…where she made me believe that I was completely unloveable and unworthy of love.  The thing is all of what happened has been kept so silent for so long, if I ever raised it with anyone who was around I think I would be dismissed…just like I was dismissed when I raised the topic years ago…when I was weak and vulnerable and crying out for help.

I realise now that there is no universe where I am responsible for being abused…in fact it is pretty typical abuser behaviour to blame the victim. I hate that word though…I hate using a word that admits that I might not have had control.

I do not know why mother abused me. I do not know if I confronted her about the abuse now what the reaction would be…but I suspect my mother would raise the defence that I was a difficult child and drove her to it…and drove her to the point of breakdown.

But the truth is no matter how difficult I was there is no justification for child abuse. It hurts to acknowledge that part of my past. It hurts to admit that I have huge self esteem issues because of it. It hurts to  admit that I have issues that I need to work through and I have no idea how to do it.

The thing is I know that I am stronger than my mother, but I have no idea to what extent she remembers abusing me and what took place during psychotic episodes. (If that is what they were…I have to believe that there was some form of psychosis that interfered with my mom’s cognitive abilities…that she did not deliberately set out to inflict that hurt). I believe at the moment with the company she is keeping (with my godmother, Pauline (also an aunt) and her pseudo-mother figure Lenore) she would probably be told that her behavior was justified and the fact that she has approached me when I started withdrawing with a blanket “Forgive me for what I have done and what I have failed to do” should be enough.

But the thing is…words are not enough. Now I need to see action. And I have no idea how much action I would need to see. But on the other hand, I am stronger than her and for so long I just sucked up the abuse that is it not unreasonable of me not to let her in…but at the same time I am tired and I don’t have the energy. I am not convinced that I am willing to take the risks of letting her in.

At some stage shortly asking for that blanket forgiveness my mother phoned me while I was at work (it was on a Sunday but we had a big case and our papers were due in soon…it was actually the end of my first week) and I answered her questions and I had the conversation but I remained reserved…I had finally been bitten too hard to just let down my guard…so later that night I got an SMS from my father saying that I needed to look at my attitude towards my mother…and a couple of months later I received a similar sentiment from my godmother…and yet she has done nothing to change her behavior. In fact she instructed me to delay coming to my sister’s wedding…to risk missing her wedding if weather played out badly …thankfully my father overruled that one.

I think that this post may be completely disjointed and rambling…but in some ways I think it paints an accurate picture because of it. The fact is the abuse is messy. And if I were to describe the incidents in isolation I would be told that they were no big deal. But taken as a whole, the fact that it was repeated systematic conduct…makes it a big deal.

I also know that my mother was called out on the emotional abuse…I don’t think anyone outside of our roof knew about the physical abuse and chose to dismiss those who counselled her and cut them out of her life…that makes me wonder how much hope I should put in reconciling with her. But the true cost of not reconciling or making the effort is seeing my sister used as a pawn and that hurts like hell.
I don’t know what I want to do…but at last I am giving myself permission to admit that. The truth is while people who have never been abused can throw out quotes like

that no one can make you feel inferior without your consent. You have to agree that you are less and that someone else is more to feel inferior. If you don’t agree, you can not possibly feel inferior. You might know something less, or you might be able to do something less, but you ARE unique and hence simply incomparable. Do not buy into being reduced to an object of comparison.

The reality is when it has happened since childhood it is incredibly difficult to break out of that cycle of abuse and believing the lies that your abusers have told you.

I don’t know where I want to head from here…admitting these truths has been painful. Owning up to the fact that I was a victim and am not just a survivor hurts. Admitting that the emotional abuse has not ended hurts. Admitting that I do not know what how to move forward with my mother and that I don’t even know if I want to is painful. But hey, this is a journey and sometimes you get stuck in transit.

Fear and forgiveness

The past couple of days I have been thinking a great deal about my relationship with my mother, and the relationship that I would be willing to let her have with any children that I may have in the future. (I think this was triggered by the fact that I am becoming an aunt).

My greatest fear when it comes to these unborn children is that I will inflict the same damage on them as I had inflicted upon me. That I would make them doubt that they are worthy of unconditional love.

The whole concept of unconditional love is one that I am learning, but I have not yet mastered it.

I do not know if I can honestly say that I love my mother unconditionally at the moment, and this is a statement that distresses me somewhat. I also battle to feel compassion for her when I am close to her or having a conversation with her – I think some of the hurt and wounds are just too raw.

So, that is definitely something that I want to work on.

Because with age and distance comes insight. And I suspect that my mother never developed the coping mechanisms to actually process and move on and leave the abuse of her childhood behind. She was unconsciously recreating the patterns and roles of her own family.

And I feel sorry for her and the experiences that she had growing up.

But I do not know if I am able to forgive her yet, I want to be able to. I will never forget what she did to me, I dare not lest I repeat her mistakes.

I can’t even verbalize a great deal of the pain and I wonder how she sees the same experiences. Does she even remember them?

Does it matter, is it necessary for us to discuss them…do I need to explain to her why I am wary of letting my guard down? Of risking closeness? And if I do try to explain this, will it do more harm than good?

I just don’t know. But that’s okay, I will figure it out as I go along.

Forgiving myself

Adult survivors of emotional child abuse have only two life-choices: learn to self-reference or remain a victim. When your self-concept has been shredded, when you have been deeply injured and made to feel the injury was all your fault, when you look for approval to those who can not or will not provide it—you play the role assigned to you by your abusers.

It’s time to stop playing that role, time to write your own script. Victims of emotional abuse carry the cure in their own hearts and souls. Salvation means learning self-respect, earning the respect of others and making that respect the absolutely irreducible minimum requirement for all intimate relationships. For the emotionally abused child, healing does come down to “forgiveness”—forgiveness of yourself.

~ Andrew Vachss You Carry the Cure In Your Own Heart

I had a revelation yesterday, when I realized that I am still carrying around feelings and guilt and blame for what happened to me as a child.

I was a perceptive person, and I still am…but especially as a child, I had the ability to observe someone and tell you what was most likely going on in their heads…and most of the time, I was right (in a twisted series of events and a particular bout of bullying I ended up telling all of the taunters what was going through their heads, what their insecurities were…and it frightened them into stopping…but that is an entirely different story).

I think, part of the reason I developed this ability was because of the situation with my mother…there was no certainty, I never quite knew what was coming…some days it seemed as though I was going to have the fairy tale, a loving mother, and other days it was as though I had a monster not a mother.

But because I had developed this ability to perceive what was going on psychologically, I began to believe that if anything  happened to bring out the monster, it must have been my fault…that I should just have behaved differently, said something else or not said something, or whatever…

And so it began, that I started creating a garden of guilt…of course, the fact that I was told “you are making me do this to you”, “this is all your fault”, “look, I don’t treat your sister like this and so it must be how you are behaving” encouraged that garden to grow and flourish.

But the truth that I have begun to realize is what happened to me was not my fault. My one therapist once made the remark that I was not responsible for what happened to me when I was a child and a teenager.

But I don’t think I have believed it until now.

And so I am officially forgiving myself. Writing down that I did nothing wrong. That what went down was not my fault.

When I had this revelation yesterday it was as though a physical weight was lifted off my shoulders.

And if someone had told me a couple of days ago that I am carrying around feelings of guilt I don’t know if I would have believed them…it was a truth that I had buried rather deeply.

But it is the truth, and it takes me closer towards being whole again.

Although, I am not convinced that it is correct to say “whole again”, because the truth is I am never going to be that person again. I am moving beyond being a victim…and I don’t know where I will end up.

But the person who was born in the dark cave of despair and desperation and who felt that there was no love in the universe for them…I am not that person any more.

I get to choose my own path, and it’s going to be an amazing journey filled with special people and beautiful views.