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Relationships with my parents after realising I was abused as a child - how to move on?

(11 Posts)
ScaredyKnickers Fri 01-Mar-13 20:37:00

Through therapy to address my extreme anxiety issues and after a massive amount of denial, I have started to accept that my childhood was very abusive.

I had believed I was 'mentally ill' due to some adverse events in my adult life but I can see now that I have found it difficult to cope due to being emotionally, physically and sexually abused when I was a child although tbh I can see that even if I had not been, anyone would have found it hard to deal with what I have been through and I am in fact pretty, bloody strong!

I have intense rage towards both my mother (the main instigator of the emotional and physical abuse) and my father for abandoning me at the age of 7 and for being an alcoholic and violent to my mother which I witnessed on many occasions - I must have been bloody terrified as a little girl sad.

I now have email contact with my father after 32 years of nothing at all and he has been sending me emails about his stepdaughters wedding, his job and the horses he breeds. I want to scream at him that I don't give a shit, I want to talk about why he fucked up my childhood but he 'has closed that book', was never violent and it was all my mother's fault hmm.

I 'confronted' my mother and stepfather a few years ago about how I was treated differently to everyone else and how I have carried shame, guilt, self disgust and hatred ever since due to that. I am sure I reminded my mother of my father as she often said I was like him and looked at her like he did. The emotional abuse was pretty extreme and I was looked upon as the 'family nutter' by siblings, extended family and my mother's friends. Only my stepfather's mum saw it for what it was and used to have me stay on occasion and spoil me but could'nt do much else.

Of course after the confrontation, I was told that it was utter rubbish, I was difficult etc and my siblings agreed with that and cut me off completely. I maintained a relationship with my mother (she said 'sorry but I did the best I could') as I did not want to completely lose my family and I think I still did not believe if fully at that point, poor deluded fool that I was! Other toxic stuff has happened with her since then and I don't know how to continue with her as I just want to explode at her and it feels like I am carrying an open wound around inside of me.

I really want them both out of my life completely but my siblings cutting me off has really hurt and my mother is the only link to them. They will never accept that my mother treated me so badly because then they would have to accept what a nasty, abusive witch she has been (she has mellowed now) and I know she has told them that I'm unstable sad which I most certainly am not. My therapist has said that I'm going sane NOT mad which is a comfort!

I have no idea how to progress. I am spending every waking moment thinking about this atm, as well as working and bringing up 4 DC and it is exhausting. Anyone been through similar?

CognitiveOverload Fri 01-Mar-13 20:43:24

I havent any similar experience but wanted to respond to bump your thread up. Hope it works out for you.

ScaredyKnickers Fri 01-Mar-13 20:48:06

Thanks Cognitive.

HoneyandRum Fri 01-Mar-13 20:51:04

SK just wanted to encourage you in your embrace of sanity! Unfortunately in some dysfunctional family systems the one person who tells the truth (by their words or actions) can be scapegoated by the rest and encouraged to think of themselves as "crazy" or mentally ill. This often happens when the family has an alcoholic at the head so Al-anon (for family members of alcoholics) might also be another place to embrace some sanity.

ScaredyKnickers Fri 01-Mar-13 21:03:19

Thanks Honey. I was a bit hmm when my therapist first said it as I was convinced I was mad but things are much clearer now. I think I always was the sanest that was why I have been in so much mental 'distress'.

cats22 Fri 01-Mar-13 21:44:08

So sorry for what you have been through. My brother confronted our parents about his childhood after years of major depression and they tried to make out he was mad - and wanted to get me and other siblings to side with them. I think they wanted him sectioned. It was dreadful for him at the time, but he stuck with it, refused to back down, demonstrated his sanity by not losing it in the face of a lot of pressure from our mother in particular. My brother did have me very much on his side though, despite how he hurt me as a child and teenager (I blame our parents for his behaviour). I remember our childhood much more vividly than I would like to.

His relationship with them is better now, good boundaries, they didn't openly acknowledge anything, but certainly respect him more now.

I haven't confronted them about anything, and don't intend to, because we have a functional (but chilly) relationship and because I know they would deny all the really awful things, and I am still afraid of them

Could you try to reopen communication with your siblings, assuming they are reasonable? Maybe without talking about the abuse directly, just say you don't want to lose them. If you can build a relationship with them independently of your mum, they may be more prepared to listen. They may have had a very different childhood from you after all, and might have trouble seeing how it was for you.

The unwritten family rules in dysfunctional families state never to talk about abuse. Very tricky to break the rules. Very brave of you to do so and to break free. Do you think you need to accept they may never agree with the reality of what happened? I struggle with this.

Keepyourknickerson Fri 01-Mar-13 21:55:07

Have you had a look at the 'stately homes' thread? (Sorry I don't know how to link). I'm going through something similar atm. I'm 45, I left home 30 years ago and mostly put it to the back of my mind, I also looked like my father and mum hated him. I was labelled 'difficult' and suffered baad pyhysical and emotional abuse. Dad also left when I was 7, I have a fairly good relationship with him now (although barely saw him while growing up). Infuriatingly he wont hear a bad word against mum. Superficially I have a good relationship with mum and also thought she had mellowed, however she was very angry with my 19yr old dd last week and the rage she demonstrated has given me flashbacks to the terrified child I was. My sister described it as 'the mask slipping'. I think she is narcissistic, but dsis thinks sociopath/psychotic. Whatever the label, it's not pretty. I'm thinking of having counselling, dsis (2yrs older) has had counselling and it helped, but took many years. You would never know any of this from the outside looking in, dm is a fantastic actress who had a very respectable career, with many friends and good relationships with her family. Sometimes while she kisses me hello/goodbye in our superficial fantasy relationship I have to swallow my anger, but it has worked up until now.

Could you tell her about the therapy, that you appreciate she 'did her best' but you'd like to talk about a few things? Or would she see it as critisism? If she won't even discuss it, you may have to accept a relationship like mine with my mum, or try to detach while you're having counselling.

Good luck

Hissy Fri 01-Mar-13 22:03:13

Keep up the therapy.

Ultimately it's not you, it was (and still is) THEM.

You have to evaluate what's in it for you to keep these hurtful, cruel people in your life.

You have to focus on YOU.

Know that you were groomed for abuse by them, and everything you have suffered was caused by that.

You are so strong, mentally, morally and physically. Please believe it.

It will get easier. The truth shall set you free, and you won't believe how wonderful your life will be once all the negativity is neutralised.

These are early days in your recovery, you have far to go, but with every step, you'll be closer to a happiness you've never felt before!

Hissy Fri 01-Mar-13 22:06:45

Oh and it's perfectly normal, rational and understandable to be utterly raging angry with the lot of them, you have that right.

It's a required part of your recovery. You have to feel it, and work through it.

ScaredyKnickers Fri 01-Mar-13 22:51:39

Cats22 I think that is the crux of it, my siblings have had a very different childhood than me. I was the scapegoat, there were different fathers, the older ones were at boarding school, the younger ones were brought up with their own father and none of them are aware that my mother withheld birthday/xmas cards etc from my real father, drunken ass that he was, as a little girl he was still my father who I loved and did not understand why he 'disappeared' and was never, ever to be mentioned again. I do find it hard to accept that they are willing to go along with my mother's assertion that I am 'unstable' when I have never displayed any behaviour of the sort inspite of a major trauma when an adult (neonatal death of a DD) except to 'confront' her!

Keepyourknickerson I have been reading the 'Stately Homes' thread and a lot rings true! I can't remember my mother ever kissing/hugging me (not even after I lost my 2nd DD) until I was about 37 when they came for Xmas and it felt so weird. It never occurred to me until much later that it should'nt have. My DD1 is now 16 and all through her teenage years (my hardest time), I have felt angry about all that I missed out on with not having a mother like I am with her. I love her so much and so want her to be happy and tell her she is beautiful everyday, she comes to me for hugs etc. I don't think discussing the therapy will help. They think I am being brainwashed - major irony there grin.

Hissy You post made me cry. Thank you!

Restart Sat 02-Mar-13 00:50:55

I had a similar family background Scaredy. My overbearing dad left when I was 6, leaving us with an unpredictable emotionally and physically abusive mother. I had some contact with him until I was about 11 but then nothing until I tracked him down and contacted him when I was 21. My siblings say he was physically abusive towards my mother, I don't remember, I only have a handful of memories of him from my childhood, and then it's just scenarios not detail ie I remember going to his office one time, I remember being on a Sunday drive, I remember going out for a first communion lunch - no detail at all other than that those events happened. He was a charming man to the outward world, but a controlling know- it-all to those who knew him better. My mother was completely erratic, and often insisted that we live in squalor, refusing to let us clean the house as we wouldn't "do it properly". My siblings were older and left to get married or in my brothers case move overseas and then get married too young and too fast. We all pretended life was normal. I was often hit, sometimes with objects. All the doors in our house would be locked when I got home from school except if I was lucky the toilet and my bedroom. My mum would often leave me locked out of the house entirely until it suited her to come home from wherever she was, she would never rush on my account. She would also lock me in my room, and if she felt like it get me out of bed at 2am to walk the dog with her, and then tell my older sister that I was a devil child for not getting up for school in the morning. I lived with fear and uncertainty. My siblings seemed to side with my mother at all times. I was told I was a spoilt brat, and called 'precious' if I ever stood up for myself. I was teased mercilessly, and developed nervous ticks. I moved overseas. I had some good school friends that were supportive. What I didn’t realise was that I had no understanding of healthy relationship’s so I allowed more abusive people in to my life, not physically but emotionally. I didn’t' pick up on it as being abnormal; I just assumed it was my fault as I'd been taught to. I tried to comply to avoid being abandoned. I felt worse and worse about myself, and my partner would tell me I was like my mother if I reacted unfavourably to his never ending demands and criticisms. My dad never acknowledged he did anything wrong, it was all my mother - she was crazy. him leaving us with a crazy woman was never seen as poor parenting by him! He was hard to take at times, playing the father role and telling me what to do, I was never at ease with it. He did try in his last few years, but because he never acknowledged the truth it just didn't truly repair and gel. He died last year, and I shed a few tears, but in honesty I think it was more of self-pity than in the loss of him, because I felt he I never really had him. My mum hardly responds to communication from me, I occasionally try to contact her because she's alone, and didn’t choose to be mentally ill. She remains toxic when I do speak to her, and triggers me in many ways; I'm getting better at dealing with it. At 46 I feel as though I'm becoming comfortable with myself for the first time. I went through a rough patch with my sister a couple of years after my split with my husband, because I realised her role in the abuse, she was a controller too and I realised her love for me had become conditional on me allowing her free reign in my life, I realised the impact her taunting and teasing had always had on me and I saw how her control had stripped me of confidence in my own ability, I realised how she undermined me whenever I did something outside her instruction. We’ve worked through that now, control was her coping mechanism and compliance was mine. Our relationship was strained for a while, but we’ve come through and I’ve moved outside my comfort zone and become independent and she’s learned to pull back. My other sister passed away when she was 43, my mother caused her so much stress and anxiety, she was like me compliant , trying to comply to someone that changes the rules every 2 seconds will kill you. I moved to Australia, so the distance saved me. My brother is dealing with it in his own way. Our fathers death hit him much harder than he expected, the regrets for what you hoped could be can be surprisingly overwhelming. Distance and detachment are often the only way. If the others are part of the abuse ie telling you there is something wrong with you, and they are not open to your approaches to them, it may be that life for you will be better without them. If they are prepared to meet you on equal terms, you can begin to rebuild. I was painted as the difficult child, the problem . Everything I did was wrong. I managed to rehabilitate my image to my siblings, they always knew deep down that my mother was a deeply troubled human being, but they didn’t want to lose the fantasy of her as their mother so I was sacrificed instead. You’re not alone x

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