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.