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"But We Took You To Stately Homes!" - Survivors of Dysfunctional Families.

(1000 Posts)
singingprincess Sat 28-Jan-12 13:25:06

There is a word document with all the relevant links which I will try and find, but in the meantime...Post away.

garlicfrother Sun 12-Feb-12 11:57:18

Hi, Lily. Yes, of course smile

Fragilistic, I've PMed you.

(((((( fortoday ))))))

It is horrible to lose a mother, even when that mother was an imaginary one symbolised by a mean-minded old witch!! Please, please don't be afraid to seek support. You've bravely shouldered so much responsibility. It's all right to let some of that go, you know.

Yikes, Disney, sounds like a nightmare weekend shock I hope you and DP have managed to make an enjoyable (entertaining?!) trip out of, despite family weirdness. Let us know, won't you?

CailinDana Sun 12-Feb-12 13:13:36

I've been working up to posting on here for a while. I've read some other people's stories and while some things do resonate with me, others are far far worse than what I've experienced. I know it's not right to minimise your own feelings and I suppose in a way I've tried to convince myself that things aren't really that bad, but lately everything has been bubbling up and I think now I have to deal with it in some way once and for all.

Like a lot of people have mentioned here, my real examination of my relationship with my parents started after a period of bad depression, died down for a while and then flared up again when I had my son the year before last. Basically, my parents were always 100% there for me on practical terms, I had a very very stable childhood. We didn't have a lot of money but we never wanted for anything material. There were a lot of positive things about my childhood, the highlight being the birth of my sister when I was 7. I also have an older sister who is a bitch.

The issue was a complete and total lack of emotional support. I was sexually abused by a family friend when I was about 5 (memories are sketchy - thankfully). My mother was complicit in the sense that she got annoyed with me when I didn't want to be bathed by her friend (a man I hardly knew) and basically forced me to go with him, at which point the abuse began. In subtle ways it affected me when I was growing up but I only started remembering things when I was about 16. Things came to a head when I was 19 when I met my DH. I opened up to him and he was hugely supportive. I then decided to talk to my mother about it. By what she said I knew that she had always had some inkling at least that I had been abused yet she had never done anything about it. When I tried to talk to her about it she completely fobbed me off. A few years later I suffered severe depression. Her response was to scream and cry, to tell me how stressed she was about it, and to eventually stop talking to me about it and to pretend nothing was happening. I got phone calls from bitch sister telling me how I was destroying my mother. The basic response was that I had no right to be ill and that by not pretending to be ok I was being selfish.

It was at that point I realised that this was a theme that ran through my whole childhood - any negative emotion must be completely hidden. I was never hugged or given encouragement or praise. I wasn't particularly criticised either as far as I can remember although people have commented that I have a very thick skin and that I can take a huge amount of negativity without flinching, so perhaps she was critical and I just found a way to cope. Even if I was ill I was always dealt with reluctantly. My mother in particular would never go out of her way to help me - anything that deviated from the routine was greeted with huffs and puffs and "I suppose I'll have to do it." I always felt like an inconvenience and that any extra help or support I needed beyond the basics was a massive effort.

Shortly after my bout of depression DH and I moved from Ireland to England. It was a great move, I feel so much freer being physically far away from my family (apart from my lovely sister, who I hope is moving over soon). I didn't realise how oppressive I found being near them until I got here. I just feel relaxed without them. My parents took little interest in me until DS was born at the end of 2010 and suddenly they wanted to start visiting. I've had them over a couple of times and it's been fine, friendly, but underneath I feel angry towards them. I do feel like cutting contact completely but I know that would make things hard for my sister and the last thing I want is for her to suffer. Also, I don't want to deprive them of their grandson, with whom they are kind and almost loving. I honestly feel though that my life would be simpler if I pretended they didn't exist.

As it stands they don't ring me, ever. My mother texts now and again, that's it. I suppose I'm carrying so much unvented anger that even talking to them feels like too much of a chore. I just can't understand how they could be so cold, when I feel what I feel for my wonderful DS. I could never behave towards him the way they behaved towards me - his tears just break my heart and I want to cuddle him forever, not run away like they do.

I'm not sure where to go from here.

Fragilistic Sun 12-Feb-12 13:30:32

Thank you, &garlic*. All hugs gratefully received smile

Sorry I am not in the right frame of mind to advise other people at the moment. But I am reading.

Callin I do understand about all the anger. I don't feel actively angry with my parents any more really - I'm further along in this process than you and have taken steps to have a relationship (or rather non-relationship) where i am in control. I know that there are parts of their behaviour I will never understand (or forgive) but I have made peace with that.

But I do feel I am still left with anger and sensitivity to unfairness towards me, which I am now unhealthily bringing to my current life.

baskingseals Sun 12-Feb-12 14:06:57

callin my hand is here if you need to hold it.

what makes me so angry is the shadow of my childhood still looming large over my life now.

i think if you feel ready, then the next step is counselling. i would focus on what you have got, rather than what you haven't, think about your dh, ds and sweet sister, and try not to give the others any kind of thought or emotion at all, because even negative emotion is still linking you to them.

ideally you get to the point where whatever they do or say to you or your family is pretty much irrelevant to you. this does take bloody ages though, but haven't they had their pound of flesh of you already?


CailinDana Sun 12-Feb-12 14:14:19

Thank you so much baskingseals.

I feel the same about the fact that my childhood is making things difficult for me now - it pisses me off that even though I have so much going for me now, I'm still mourning and angry about the things I didn't have as a child. I feel so incredibly jealous of people who have warm, loving parents. It is so petty to feel that way but I can't help it. I need to let go of that anger and jealousy as it does me no good whatsoever and uses up so much energy that I could put into positive things in my life.

I would like to go to counselling. I've had counselling before and it was very helpful. The problem is money. I did seek counselling on the NHS in the last city I lived in but nothing came of it at all. Is there a way of getting cheap counselling?

I think I'm some way down the road towards putting it all to bed, I just have a few final hurdles to get over. Posting here does help, a lot.

CailinDana Sun 12-Feb-12 14:16:59

Thank you also for your message Fragilistic. I also find it hard to advise other people on this kind of issue. I have advised people in the past to cut contact but when it comes to my own family I realise it's not that easy.

I do need to let go of the anger, it's totally pointless. I feel like maintaining contact with them only refreshes the anger, but at the same time cutting contact would be a huge effort that I'm not sure I'm able for. Plus the guilt of cutting them off from their grandchild would be too much I think. It's hard to know what to do for the best.

baskingseals Sun 12-Feb-12 14:46:11

it really is okay to feel angry. the only problem is that it hurts you and the people who should feel bad and guilty are thinking about what to have for tea tonight.

have you thought about writing a truthful letter? you don't have to send it.
i read something brilliant on here the other day, you imagine the person you want to vent at in a lake - you say everything you've got to say, they can't say anything and then the lake slowly closes over the top of their heads. that might work a little bit.

i do believe that you have to acknowledge feelings, however painful, before you can begin to leave them behind. even naming them is helpful, rather than a writhing morass of nastiness that you daren't look at.

jealousy is okay too. i used to be pitifully jealous of happy families. but, i do think that there is a huge gap between what is perceived and reality.

and for the truly happy? there are enough chocolates in the box for everyone.

focus on YOU cailin. not them or others, what you feel, what you want, what you think, the mother you want to be. that's what is important. it is okay to be you.

CailinDana Sun 12-Feb-12 15:11:36

That's exactly what bothers me about being angry basking - the fact that I feel so down and upset and my parents just carry on happy as larry. The thing is, if you asked my mother I'm sure she'd tell you she was a fantastic parent. I'm not sure my dad would say the same to be honest, when I was depressed we had quite a frank talk which was helpful to some extent. The downside is that even though we had quite a good heart to heart and I told him I needed more support and he appeared to listen, he didn't follow it up at all. I can chat to him quite easily but he never asks how I am or shows any concern about my emotional health.

My anger is scuppered by the fact that I know both my mother and father had extremely difficult upbringings. I think they are both emotionally very immature and that their failings are genuine rather than any real attempt to be nasty or neglectful. In some ways knowing this makes things a bit easier as I know that they haven't been deliberately cold, but at the same time it doesn't really make things better. I know they will never be the parents I want them to be, which makes me very sad.

I suppose my real sticking point is knowing how to deal with them in future. I saw my parents at Christmas and since then we haven't spoken on the phone at all. My mother has texted me a couple of times just with brief messages asking about DS. I feel compelled to ring them but at the same time I feel "why the fuck should I?" I am fucking shit sick of always being the one looking after the relationship, making the effort while they do nothing. They are the parents, they are the ones who should be looking out for me, but they have never ever done that. In many ways I've often felt like I was the parent, having to advise them about how to deal with my sister, coaching my mother through her application for promotion, helping my dad with housework. It's all backwards. I just don't feel like putting in the effort any more as I don't get anything back. I feel sorry for them, but that's not enough for me to bother really.

Lynnlost Sun 12-Feb-12 15:23:09

I too was abused by my father throughout my childhood, to the point where I'd dread my mother leaving the house. He controlled me through fear, which was why I never felt able to tell anyone else - because he'd have taken it out on me even more. Fear of "what might happen" became a major part of my life, which still affects everything I do to this day

Anyway, this all finally came out years later when my mother criticised my parenting skills - it wasn't anything much, but I had severe PND at the time and just blew up, telling her the lot. Result? She chose not to believe me

We lost her 11 years ago now, and I'll never find out if she really did know or whether she believed I'd lied until the very end. Bearing in mind that back in the sixties child protection was hardly heard of, I can only be glad that I didn't tell a teacher or something ... what might have been done to me doesn't bear thinking about

Wailywailywaily Mon 13-Feb-12 21:41:26

For as long as I can remember my parents have hated each other, they separated when I was six and my dad left with my now step mother. But they seem to be unanimous on the fact that they think I am ungrateful and unreasonable. Before they separated I remember them having horrendous rows that always seemed to be about what a horrible child I was (my mum shouting that I was so irritating my dad defending me on the grounds that I was only 5 or 6 and it wasn't my fault).

I have spent my whole life up to last summer adoring my dad despite the fact that my SM has always been very cold towards me and my dad always insisting that her behaviour was my fault because I'm so difficult or that I'm imagining it and really I should be grateful that she has been gracious enough to be my SM.

Last summer was my sisters (daughter of my dad and SM) wedding. I love my sister, even though SM has systematically excluded me from their family, and was thrilled about the wedding. All offers of help from me were politely declined before the big day that was to be held at my dads and SM house despite the fact that they were working frantically round the clock to get the place ready. On the day SM totally blanked me. I, DH and DCs were not included in any family photos and we were given a table at the back of the room, the behaviour from SM was so extreme that several people commented on it. I was very upset but tried not to make a scene.

The next day I did bring it up with my dad who said "ah, well she will forgive you but it will take time" I said excuse me but she will forgive me? what have I done? "ah, well, your behaviour was noticed and how could you behave like this and try to ruin your sisters big day?". I spelt out that I was extremely upset at the way I had been treated, that I was made to feel very unwelcome.

Since then I have not spoken to my dad, this is still really upsetting me. SM wrote to me spelling out what I had done to upset her, but her conclusions are incredibly self-centred and completely unfounded in fact. She has basically chosen to misconstrue something I have said to my brother (full brother) into a personal attack on her, the thing I said was to my brother and had absolutely nothing to do with her which is why I just had no idea why she was angry with me. She has behaved like this several times in the past.

What is really pissing me off is that my dad totally validates her right to be angry with me but will not allow me any such right to be angry back. Again this is a pattern that has happened in the past and I have always been the one to back down for the sake of family harmony ( I do desperately want to be included in family events as I love all my brothers and sisters) but this time she is so way out of order and so is he that I just cannot bring myself to forgive her and forget about it. I feel that I deserve an apology.

My dad and SM have shown no interest in my DSs. I feel so bitter that the second family have everything that me and my brothers never had - love, security, safety and, yes I'll admit it, money. Why do I have to keep reminding myself that I'm an adult? I'm not that child any longer but both my parents still seem to think I am. Neither of them has any interest in getting to know me as an adult. The problem is that the way they treat me seems to make me revert back to being that sullen child. Is this really my fault?

I'm sorry its a bit of a rant, but it does help to get it out there. No solutions though, as not speaking to them is not getting me anywhere.

crestico Tue 14-Feb-12 08:03:41

i've posted a few times, came to one of the original threads, and read the toxic parents book as suggested. opened my eyes to everything that's been going on so thank you for that. i feel like I should share my backstory -- I am a guy if that makes any difference, I hope you can relate to my story (warning : very very long):

my mum is one of those narc ppl who always has to have someone they hate, someone as an outlet for all her rage and anger. she cannot function without that one person to make herself feel superior by making them feel absolutely tiny and worthless. unfortunately, for the majority of my life, it has been me.

growing up my mum made no secret that i was a mistake and that she never wanted me. she said she never weanted a son, and said if she'd known i was going to be male, she wouldn't have had me. she had a miscarriage before me, a girl, so my arrival just made things worse. in the end i was born by c-section and she blames me for ruining her figure and the scar. she even went as far as to tell her friends, my fake-Aunts, that she hated me and wished I was never born. they asked me on occasions whether it bothered me, but I didn't know any better so just tried to ignore it.

Up till my teens I was a quiet kid, never got into trouble, quite intelligent and a completely different person at school where I felt safe from her, and could be me. My younger sisters were the golden children growing up and could do no wrong, and my mum made a point of lavishing gifts on them and spending time with them, putting their wants before my needs and supporting them in their choices and hobbies. i was frowned on or verbally abused if i asked for anything.

i should mention my dad is an extremely weak man and will barely feature in this tale. she has him wrapped around her little finger and will essentially do whatever he can to keep the peace and keep her happy. he was also a work-a-holic and i would probably only see him a few hours a week. i started to hate him for this.

when i got to my teens I started to realise things weren't right and rebelled. I stopped being a good pupil at school, neglected homework, shut myself away, got into fights with other schoolboys, but generally tried to avoid contact with my family as much as possible. I liked it, and I was happier without them, and they were seemingly happier without me, but it was very destructive

I broke my arm over one summer and they left me home alone at 14 for a week to go on holiday becasue "there was no point me coming because i couldn't swim with a cast on" and they didn't want to cancel because "your mum needs a break." They left me with £20 and that was that. One of the best weeks of my life. After this I was not invited on family holidays, as it was decided it was better for everyone if I stayed at home. (honeslty, I was not a horrible kid, rude or bad company, I was just very unhappy and quiet)

When I was 14 we got our first computer and I LOVED it. I was learning how to use it, and spent a lot of time on it. Not playing -- because back then all we had was solitaire -- just learning and experimenting. Despite never breaking it apparently that was not allowed, and she put the computer room under lock and key. Fair enough - sometimes I'd be on it for hours learning how windows worked etc -- but my mum irrationally hated me for it and made a big deal about how I should be outside playing, not inside learning. the word freak and no-son-of-mine was used a lot. (just to mention I was very tall and skinny and loved sports at school, so I'm unsure what her probalem was)

One day I found out where the key was hidden and would sneak in there whenever I was alone in the afternoons/evenings, which at this point was very often. On a typical day I would clean out the chickens (we had some land) at 6am and leave for school in the morning alone and there would be nobody home when I came back until gone 8-9pm so I'd have to make my own tea. My Mum had decided to take college courses while my sisters were at dance classes, horse riding, gymnastics, whatever they wanted, so I probably only saw her on weekends at this point. I'd set an alarm every night for when she was due in, and I'd be sure to either be in my room, or in the garden when she got back. Thankfully she never caught me on the computer, but there were a few very close calls.

I enjoyed the arrangement, but if I ever had the cheek to ask for a lift to football practise or some money for a school trip, I was made to feel like I was asking for the world. The answer was always no.

Tall and skinny for my age I went to my local football club, lied about being 16, and got a job cash in hand on match-days doing this and that. Instead of being praised, I was ridiculed. My Mum realised I had money, maybe £50 a week, and decided to cut me off at 14yo. I was to use my money for bus passes, lunches, and apparently all my food. Not satisfied with locking the kitchen, she also put locks on the cupboard doors, and refused to let me eat with the family. I was relegated to my room most nights, which was probably the safest place for me. It did mean though, that dinner for me was mostly crisps based.

Somehow I continued on - and at the age of 16 I got a second job at a local supermarket just to supplement my income. It was only 17hrs a week, but combined with my paper round and the football club, I was getting a nice bundle of money together so I could start to afford proper meals in the evenings. My mum despised me for this, and petitioned my Dad to throw me out of the home. She literally said to him "it's me or him" and I remember vividly a terrible conversation with my Dad where he told me "I love you, but I love your mother more. Please make things work or ..." ... yeah...

Thing is I was never openly abusive, phsyically or verbally to her, I just tried to keep out of her way. My dad didnt care though. I ran away to my grandparents a few times but was told to go home, school was too important to miss.

When I was 17 my Dad got offered a job overseas... and the plan was to leave me in England, and the 4 of them would start a new life without me. Their reasoning was that I earnt enough money to look after myself, was part way through my A-Levels and it'd be better for everyone if I stayed. I made one of the best and worst decisions of my life -- to go with them. I knew if I stayed I'd flunk out of school and probably end up on the dole through lack of motivation -- so one week before they were due to go... I had the cheek to ask them if I could come with them.

They made a very big deal about it, my Mum protested a lot, but thankfully I think they realised the law was on my side or something, and I was allowed to go with them. I hated it. It was unbearable with them because I didn't know anyone in the new country, and I had no source of income for almost a year, but I just about got through it despite a few moments where I seriously contemplated suicide.

Long and short of it, I completed my studies, worked and paid my own wasy through university, did my BSc, did my MSc, and the rest is history.

There's more, but I'm tired of writing now. Maybe for another time?
Thanks (and grats) for reading if you made it this far.

ThePinkPussycat Tue 14-Feb-12 11:01:42

Someone said, either upthread or on a partner abuse thread, that an abused childhood makes you strong. Time and again people post their stories and it bears this out. And yours is a particularly admirable story to add to all those smile It sounds like there is a happy ever after type ending as well, all down to you.

Bear1984 Tue 14-Feb-12 11:16:40

Hi all, sorry I've been a bit MIA lately.

Well I found out I'm 5 weeks pregnant! It's crazy but we're so happy and excited. I currently have no wish to tell my mother or any of my family. I know once DD knows she'll say something when she sees them next, but that won't be for a while.

My first mediation with mother is on 27th. Not looking forward to it, but we'll see what happens. I have no interest in talking to her. She came to see DD a couple of weekends ago and was trying to be friendly and make small talk with me and DP. I know her game.

But as to what ThePinkPussycat said, I do believe an abused childhood makes you stronger. I certainly am a strong person because of it and although it still affects me now, I know I've been able to overcome a lot of things in my life because I wouldn't let myself be treated badly again.

Wailywailywaily Tue 14-Feb-12 12:21:06

Crestico I read all of your story and this bit: (honeslty, I was not a horrible kid, rude or bad company, I was just very unhappy and quiet) is the bit that stood out to me, I try to believe the same of myself.

I don't think that my childhood has made me stronger. The result of having an over bearing and verbally abusive mother and a neglectful father is that I'm unable to express myself without becoming tearful. I have to avoid any social situation where the may be confrontation (even a very mild exchange of views) as I know that I will brake down. It effects my relationship with DH as I tend to be very defensive and find it extremely difficult to express any feelings. It effects my relationship with my children who I love dearly but I even find myself apologising to them. It effects my work - I run a small business, try being taken seriously by a bank manager when your in tears.

I'm not an unhappy adult and, academically, I did eventually succeed, but I think that I do have some big issues to work out yet.

ThePinkPussycat Tue 14-Feb-12 13:32:43

I hope my post did not hurt you waily I suffered a weird childhood, not sure at the time whether I was loved or not, but know now I was and am. I cried, and still cry, quite easily. You have said yourself, you did succeed, despite all you have a family that you love and love you, and I am impressed that you run a small business - this is no mean feat.

CailinDana Tue 14-Feb-12 13:52:56

Crestico - your story is so sad, I can't believe your parents treated you that way sad Do you still see them?

Wailywailywaily Tue 14-Feb-12 14:34:45

No, it didn't hurt Pussycat I'm just not very happy today. The small business is only just getting off the ground and I'm finding it hard to be optimistic in this financial climate, but I have such an eclectic career history that I'm basically unemployable so it this or nothing.
I am proud of my degree though, thanks smile

LadyClarissaArseQuack Tue 14-Feb-12 14:58:44

May I join and may I post ?

crestico Tue 14-Feb-12 15:13:38

i have tried to forgive them so many times, and i have stupidly tried to invite them back into my life for big and small events to see if they've changed, but every time i do, I get seriously burnt. After reading this initial thread I decided to read the toxic parents book, and haven't contacted them, or picked up any of their calls for about 2 months now.

The last notable situation when I tried to make it work was when one of my sisters was not only 'not invited' to my wedding, but specifically excluded (due to her being absolutely terrible to my partner for no reason) - this included death threats and we were very close to getting police involved. Looking back I don't even know why I invited my parents, but I guess I bowed to tradition and pressure that they could be there.

Boy what a mistake.

My parents brought the excluded sister anyway, and hijacked the wedding by basically spreading lies about why my sister was not invited. Unfortunately nobody knew the true story, so by the time I realised what had happened they had turned half of my family against us. During the reception they all stayed outside in the lobby, until they decided to crash the party near the end, the excluded sister at the head of the group, rubbing my nose in the fact that I couldn't stop them from being there.

I pulled the plug on the DJ and told them to leave. It was very tense, and awful, and totally ruined my wife's wedding day.

And that's not even the worst thing they've done to us. My wife despairs everytime the phone rings - we are basically living in fear of what they're going to do next. Easiest thing is to let them have their way, but seriously... they destroy everything they touch. And God help you if you don't let them get their way...

waily - i can relate strongly to what you mean. i am the same, but different - in that at times, I can be going through such incredible fear and anxiety due to any confrontation that i cannot speak, and anything that does come out is always defensive and usually the biggest-foot-in-mouth response possible. I am constantly apologising to everyone for everything, even when I have no control over it, and I am constantly thanking everyone for everything, even if there's no need for it.

i think having an abusive childhood has made me stronger in ways, but has crippled (and continues to cripple) me in others.

CailinDana Tue 14-Feb-12 15:26:27

LadyClarissa - I'm new to this thread but I've been reading it for a while and as far as I can tell it's open for everyone to post. It might take some time to get a reply but it might just help to write down what you're thinking anyway.

CailinDana Tue 14-Feb-12 15:27:08

Crestico - have you ever had any counselling?

crestico Tue 14-Feb-12 15:34:16

yes on three occasions. it helps moderately, but it hurts to bring it up over and over again.

the third counsellor (Nov-10 to Mar-11) got in 'deeper' than the others and actually ended up losing her professionalism and essentially telling me there's no way she could help me come to terms with such "impossible and evil" people.

I was kind of taken a-back, but my wife just smiled and said to me "you know what, it's refreshing to see someone external, in a position like her, to actually be as honest and blunt as that"

got to admit, she was right. I can't win or grow any relationship with them, because I am and have always been so totally and desperately focused on trying to win their respect, praise and love -- something which I will never accompish.

these past two months have been hard, very hard, but I think it's the best thing for us.

CailinDana Tue 14-Feb-12 15:44:21

I have to agree that trying to build a relationship with them is probably pointless. I know from experience that the desire to make things better and the longing for parents to turn around and actually be proper parents for once is massive and hard to overcome.

LadyClarissaArseQuack Tue 14-Feb-12 16:34:58

I thought I had already posted ?
Bu tmay I join ?

LadyClarissaArseQuack Tue 14-Feb-12 16:37:31

So sorry. I missed it. Apologies

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