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

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It's January 2013, and the Stately Home is still open to visitors.

Forerunning threads:
December 2007
March 2008
August 2008
February 2009
May 2009
January 2010
April 2010
August 2010
March 2011
November 2011
January 2012
November 2012

Please check later posts in this thread for links & quotes. The main thing is: "they did do it to you" - and you can recover.


Welcome to the Stately Homes Thread.

This is a long running thread which was originally started up by 'pages' see original thread here (December 2007)

So this thread originates from that thread and has become a safe haven for Adult children of abusive families.

One thing you will never hear on this thread is that your abuse or experience was not that bad. You will never have your feelings minimised the way they were when you were a child, or now that you are an adult. To coin the phrase of a much respected past poster Ally90;

'Nobody can judge how sad your childhood made you, even if you wrote a novel on it, only you know that. I can well imagine any of us saying some of the seemingly trivial things our parents/siblings did to us to many of our real life acquaintances and them not understanding why we were upset/angry/hurt etc. And that is why this thread is here. It's a safe place to vent our true feelings, validate our childhood/lifetime experiences of being hurt/angry etc by our parents? behaviour and to get support for dealing with family in the here and now.'

Most new posters generally start off their posts by saying; but it wasn't that bad for me or my experience wasn't as awful as x,y or z's.

Some on here have been emotionally abused and/or physically abused. Some are not sure what category (there doesn?t have to be any) they fall into.

NONE of that matters. What matters is how 'YOU' felt growing how 'YOU' feel now and a chance to talk about how and why those childhood experiences and/or current parental contact has left you feeling damaged falling apart from the inside out and stumbling around trying to find your sense of self-worth.

You might also find the following links and information useful if you have come this far and are still not sure whether you belong here or not.

'Toxic Parents' by Susan Forward.

I started with this book and found it really useful.

Here are some excerpts:

"Once you get going, most toxic parents will counterattack. After all, if they had the capacity to listen, to hear, to be reasonable, to respect you feelings, and to promote your independence, they wouldn't be toxic parents. They will probably perceive your words as treacherous personal assaults. They will tend to fall back on the same tactics and defenses that they have always used, only more so.

Remember, the important thing is not their reaction but your response. If you can stand fast in the face of your parents' fury, accusations, threats and guilt-peddling, you will experience your finest hour.

Here are some typical parental reactions to confrontation:

"It never happened". Parents who have used denial to avoid their own feelings of inadequacy or anxiety will undoubtedly us it during confrontation to promote their version of reality. They'll insist that your allegations never happened, or that you're exaggerating. They won't remember, or they will accuse you of lying.

YOUR RESPONSE: Just because you don't remember, doesn't mean it didn't happen".

"It was your fault." Toxic parents are almost never willing to accept responsibility for their destructive behavior. Instead, they will blame you. They will say that you were bad, or that you were difficult. They will claim that they did the best that they could but that you always created problems for them. They will say that you drove them crazy. They will offer as proof the fact that everybody in the family knew what a problem you were. They will offer up a laundry list of your alleged offenses against them.

YOUR RESPONSE: "You can keep trying to make this my fault, but I'm not going to accept the responsibility for what you did to me when I was a child".

"I said I was sorry what more do you want?" Some parents may acknowledge a few of the things that you say but be unwilling to do anything about it.

YOUR RESPONSE: "I appreciate your apology, but that is just a beginning. If you're truly sorry, you'll work through this with me to make a better relationship."

"We did the best we could." Some parents will remind you of how tough they had it while you were growing up and how hard they struggled. They will say such things as "You'll never understand what I was going through," or "I did the best I could". This particular style of response will often stir up a lot of sympathy and compassion for your parents. This is understandable, but it makes it difficult for you to remain focused on what you need to say in your confrontation. The temptation is for you once again to put their needs ahead of your own. It is important that you be able to acknowledge their difficulties without invalidating your own.

YOUR RESPONSE: "I understand that you had a hard time, and I'm sure that you didn't hurt me on purpose, but I need you to understand that the way you dealt with your problems really did hurt me"

"Look what we did for you." Many parents will attempt to counter your assertions by recalling the wonderful times you had as a child and the loving moments you and they shared. By focusing on the good things, they can avoid looking at the darker side of their behavior. Parents will typically remind you of gifts they gave you, places they took you, sacrifices they made for you, and thoughtful things they did. They will say things like, "this is the thanks we get," or "nothing was ever enough for you."

YOUR RESPONSE: I appreciate those things very much, but they didn't make up for ....

"How can you do this to me?" Some parents act like martyrs. They'll collapse into tears, wring their hands, and express shock and disbelief at your "cruelty". They will act as if your confrontation has victimized them. They will accuse you of hurting them, or disappointing them. They will complain that they don't need this, they have enough problems. They will tell you that they are not strong enough or healthy enough to take this, that the heartache will kill them. Some of their sadness will, of course, be genuine. It is sad for parents to face their own shortcomings, to realize that they have caused their children significant pain. But their sadness can also be manipulative and controlling. It is their way of using guilt to try to make you back down from the confrontation.

YOUR RESPONSE: I'm sorry you're upset. I'm sorry you're hurt. But I'm not willing to give up on this. I've been hurting for a long time, too."

Helpful Websites

Alice Miller

Personality Disorders definition

Follow up to pages first thread:

I?m sure the other posters will be along shortly to add anything they feel I have left out. I personally don?t claim to be sorted but I will say my head has become a helluva lot straighter since I started posting here. You will receive a lot of wisdom but above all else the insights and advice given will 'always' be delivered with warmth and support.

Happy Posting (smithfield posting as therealsmithfield)

I have cut and pasted this because I think it is fab. Just in case anyone misses the link.

More helpful links:

Daughters of narcissistic mothers
Out of the FOG
You carry the cure in your own heart
Help for adult children of child abuse
Pete Walker

Some books:

Will I ever be good enough?
If you had controlling parents
When you and your mother can't be friends
Children of the self-absorbed
Recovery of your inner child

I look at old family photos and it hurts. I look so unhappy in them and I was. It hurts seeing those pictures.

I need to buy that book mentioned below. I'm so scared of repeating things with my own DD.

GoodtoBetter Sun 24-Feb-13 21:56:33

so sorry you're hurting Hissy, you were a tower of strength to me during my escape journey of discovery with my toxic mother.
And to answer the other poster's question...I always knew my mother was a bit clingy and "difficult" and that we had a bit of a weird relationship (too close iyswim) but it wasn't until mn and a row over nonsense that I started seeing it for what it was..and then you can't "unsee" it.

Please don't 'shut up' hissy. Talk as much as you need to on here.

I would say I only started to grasp that I didn't have to fix things and apologise, or accept it was all my fault until after children. That was when it all begun to click into place that their parenting wasn't normal, they aren't always right and especially after divorce, when instead of support, I got nothing but criticism about my parenting and my children, in their ear shot.

But yes I knew I was deeply unhappy as a teen but the deeper revelations came much later iyswim?

Sunnywithshowers Sun 24-Feb-13 22:24:42

Hello all

Momeraths I'm in my early 40's and it's only now I'm starting to understand how very bad things were when I was a child / teen.

I'm sorry you had so little support from your family. sad

I am going abroad to visit DM with my sister's children. However, she's coming over here to work before then, and I will tell her how I feel. I will not tolerate her belittling decisions I made as a kid in a totally fucked up household. To her credit she does listen when I say stuff like that, I don't think she's a narc. Just in denial of the harm that was done to our family by DV / EA.

I've been rowing on FB with my father's wife tonight (about feminist issues - she thinks men cheerleading will lead to the world going to hell in a handbasket). He hasn't called me for 2 years, at least now he's on FB he knows I'm alive.

unschoolmum which Alice Miller book did you find most helpful?

Hissy Sun 24-Feb-13 22:49:43

Momeraths, the Ex wasn't at the hotel, I'm not even sure he was actually invited! I know I'd already moved out by the time of the wedding, and it took 9m to buy the flat... He was never ever going to go to the wedding. Everyone know that, and I'd RSVPed myself and everything.

I flew in straight from a business trip in Europe.

all of this was the reason why I was so surprised,

Hissy Sun 24-Feb-13 23:19:27

I still struggle to see why others find what happened to me so shocking.

Is that the same minimisation, denial and blame thing?

GoodtoBetter, thanks. I'm so glad you are out of that situation and I hope you continue to go from strength to strength.

I find it easier to look at someone elses situation with clarity. Sometimes it helps solidify our thinking of our own situation.

The situation with my mother has been on the cards for the last year or so, I thought i'd wait it out until she moved to make a break, but I don't think that will happen now.

I find it hard to confront, so I wait til they go. But I do defend myself now. grin

FairyFi Sun 24-Feb-13 23:22:33

I always felt deeply lonely and unwanted, but being a child with nothing to measure these behaviours against, meant that I must be the difficult and unlovable child they told me I was. I remember returning from the far east to backpacking, with a friend. I don't know why I went there even, I still expected some kind of flicker of recognition of being homeness. However the FWF just sat reading his paper and completely ignored me, the NarcM said a couple of things whilst we tried to yatter about our exploits whilst away, but then just found ourselves outside, just being ignored really so left. I didn't take any notice of it, just thought I must have been at fault somehow, made themannoyed iwth me, but my friend said as soon as we got outside how very upset she was for me, and I totally didn't know what she was talking about! So no, I didn't know, until other's reactions showed me what others expect for themselves. I always felt inside a wrongness, but never had validation until long after I left home and ran into an abusive relationship. There were only a couple of occasions where people made comment when I was growing up, and those ocasions stayed with me and I have never forgotten them because they caused such confusion by challenging everything I had learnt to the contrary, they were almost bizarre things to get my head around.

Its great to hear of your work Hissy and that you speak of DV to the people with the strings to make change, god I pray things change drastically to protect vulnerable women and children more than now.

I'm sorry to hear you feel so isolated still tho sad. Im not sure I still feel isolated from them, I would probably say not now, but I do feel isolated for not having any family (just don't miss what they offered completely didn't offer! )

Hissy Sun 24-Feb-13 23:42:37

I never felt good enough, always lonely, found superficial friendships hard, couldn't roll with the bitchy ins and outs so sometimes even at school was totally alone.

I always thought my little sister was supportive of me. Turns out my pain was somehow pleasing to her. I see that now.

My family all said things to me about the abusive relationship in some ways, but whenever I actually tried to make nuances about getting out, they pushed me back down and withdrew support.

They wanted me to stay in it for some reason.

I think they were always scared of me, scared that I would be better than them. Whenever I succeeded in anything, they would criticise it, demean it and cause me to doubt myself. The only thing they couldn't do this with was languages. grin No-one can take that away from me, and certainly not them, since none of them speaks anything other than english, where as I learned 4 languages, 2 of them self taught... ok, ok, the other 2 are rusty, but still

I may be a little down, but I am not out. Oh no. Not by a long chalk. I will dig deep, work hard and see if I can dig myself out of this hole i'm in at the moment, get myself back on track and then flap my wings and SOAR once more.

Before all this, i used to be quite something don't ya know...

Hissy Sun 24-Feb-13 23:45:13

Fairy, have you understood that the reason we ended up in abusive situations was that it was already our normal, that it felt familiar?

They caused that.

How could we have known any different?

Sunnywithshowers Sun 24-Feb-13 23:54:19

Sorry Hissy I addressed my last comment to Mome, it should have been to you. I am sorry your family have failed you so badly.

YY to 'this is why we ended up in abusive situations'. Damn right. How could we have known any different?

You are quite something you know - you're just having a shit time. It doesn't stop you being worthwhile.

FairyFi Mon 25-Feb-13 00:11:49

My relationships were distant for my part, but passionate! blush I always felt uncomfortable with bfs being emotionally sharing, to the point of sick feeling! but not abusive, I hadn't had abusive relationships, I just hadn't been close to any of them, which I do see is the result of emotionally detached parenting.

It wasn't until I had been married for a while that my exH started baiting me, etc.. Now actually I'd say I recognised that from my FWF! but I think it would be harder, much harder to spot, if I hadn't come across it before. I think I was very unlucky, but still very shocked!

but no, I don't take responsibility for him being abusive, or me choosing him for his abuse or taking an active part in his abuse, I was unlucky, he was abusive. I don't think it follows that every abusive bloke only 'finds' abused women to hook up with, or that only previously abused women find themselves in abusive relationships, all the stories I have come across show that both enter abusive relationships unknowingly, and actually shown that those with good parenting experiences are less protected from them?

I married someone the polar opposite of Dad. He was weak, effeminate, passive etc. But he treated me like dirt, was a man child in our marriage, I ended up mothering him and then he left me for a friend.

At School I was isolated and bullied. I couldn't make friends or retain them easily. I still struggle.

I think as I dislike myself so much it's feeding into all my other relationships.

Hissy to echo others; you really ARE something x

unschoolmum Mon 25-Feb-13 09:15:54

DontStep, all Alice Millers books were great but the Body Never Lies (esp. last part) because it let me know that it is okay not to love my parents. I am not a monster for feeling this.

This forum is so amazing, the pain we have all suffered is so significant but the support and empathy here is astounding. I read it every morning. Thank you everyone x

Salbertina Mon 25-Feb-13 09:40:01

What you're all saying about relationships really resonates with me too. I can default to deferential/passive with v confident women friends despite having a strong mind of my own/opinions... I now understand this is my default setting from years of my dm's domineering style coupled with my dsis passive-aggressive envy/treatment of me

I actually couldn't handle The Drama of the Gifted Child. Either as a child or a parent. Just.. Too much. I also found much solace in Children of the Self absorbed tho accidentally bought the audio version so her long lists quite tricky when you cant read them <stupid emotcion!>

Bedtime1 Mon 25-Feb-13 11:37:38

Don't step - I have found friendships difficult too and was bullied at school. I think I find friendships difficult because of the lack of confidence in myself. Maybe some of this is the need to please. Being a people pleaser and Questioning myself too much wether they like me or not. Worried I'll upset people all the time and feeling guilty.

Bedtime1 Mon 25-Feb-13 11:39:43

I think I find it hard to relax around people although I can be very very chatty, I think this might be more of a nervous thing. It's like I'm hyper vigilant or something and always worry if I have said something wrong. I then over think things.

Bedtime1 Mon 25-Feb-13 11:41:44

I didn't know how to handle bullies. My mums answer was to just be myself and " smile" at them. Smile at them and people will like me. Well the smiling thing never worked.

Bedtime1 Mon 25-Feb-13 11:45:05

Oh and I always felt lonely as a child too and in many ways I do now. I was depressed to be honest. Still have depression now.

CaptChaos Mon 25-Feb-13 14:11:13

I was bullied at school. It's easy to bully children like us, we must be so satisfying to bully, we're immediately submissive and we don't fight back, because we've learned that fighting back is either physically or psychologically dangerous. My mother bought my clothes, and, because in her mind, I was fat, she bought them too big or far too small so they looked ridiculous. I never went out anywhere because of this, the embarrassment factor was too high, until I learned to sew and could adjust things to better fit me. I was a people-pleaser and would mould myself into whatever my friendship group at the time wanted me to be, but you can't be someone else for long, so friendships didn't last.

I knew that my upbringing was different when I tried to kill myself for the first time aged 12. Every adult who knew what had happened apart from my mother was appalled at what I had done and concerned about me. She just didn't care. She told the school that I was being self indulgent, that I shouldn't be mollycoddled blah blah blah, so the school cancelled the counselling they had arranged for me on her say so.

It wasn't until I had my major breakdown 10 years ago that I worked out just how weird my childhood had been, and even now, I am learning that things I thought were normal, aren't.

YellowOtter Mon 25-Feb-13 14:32:54

Hi, I hope I can join this thread. I'm a regular lurker and occasional poster, although I have namechanged for this.

I feel a bit of a fraud being here really, and sometimes worry that I am a horrible person and my problems with my family are all in my head! Perhaps you can let me know if the following are normal or not?

I feel like I hate my Dad, and I have felt like this for a long time. I feel completely awful about it. sad I remember as a young child I idolised him but this changed as I got older.

He would be violent towards me at times - one time I remember he dragged me up the stairs by my hair. I was probably about 15 at the time. This is probably the most extreme example, but he used to smack me and my sister very hard when we were children. It was very infrequent, but he would suddenly snap and hit us, which meant that I always felt on edge. I'm still scared of him now. He also used to say things like, "if you don't stop that I'll bang your heads together."

To be honest, it was the fear of violence which was worse than the violence itself iyswim? I was always nervous that something might throw him into one of his brooding dark moods, which meant that we all would tiptoe around him.

He has a terrible relationship with his mother (she is pretty awful and he had a v unstable childhood) and used to tell me that he could see aspects of her in me, and that I should do everything I could to avoid being like her. It felt like he was telling me that he didn't like me.

I just don't really feel good enough. Whenever there was a parent's evening, he would always point out all the negative feedback when we got home. I don't think he has ever said he was proud of me, apart from at my wedding, and I can't help but feel that he said it because it was expected of him.

He is very superior and considers himself to be very ethical and moral in his choices, yet he is so very selfish and still treats my Mum horribly. I remember the last time her best friend stayed (many years ago now). Her friend lived abroad, and my mum missed her a lot, so was very excited to see her. While she was staying, my Dad told my mum that he didn't like her best friend. My mum was distraught and her best friend has never stayed with them again. My Dad on the other hand, has lots of people to stay, and has always expected my mum to cook/clean bedding etc. One in particular is a dreadful misogynist and my Mum hates having to do all this but I don't think it would even occur to my Dad that he should no longer invite him to stay. When my Mum travelled abroad to see her best friend, he bought a new car without telling her.

My Grandmother (Mum's Mum) died fairly recently. He was away on business at the time, and didn't bother to make contact with me or my sister when he heard. He didn't come home for the funeral, despite it being logistically possible, and despite the fact that my Mum was desperate for him to be there to support her.

He used to work away sometimes when I was a child and I used to really enjoy it. I would really look forward to it and feel increasingly despairing when his return approached. That isn't normal I think.

I'm also angry with my Mum. She witnessed the violence and the bad tempers, threats etc, and never did or said anything. Sadly, I feel like I am losing my relationship with her over this. I just can't feel the same way about her now that I have started to realise that my Dad is probably abusive and she did nothing to protect us.

I'm so early on in all this. I don't know how I didn't see it for so long, and beat myself up for a long time about hating my Dad. It is so complicated. Even though I hate him I still want to please him. Urgh.

I suppose I want to know if this all seems like I am overreacting or not? Do you think I should see a counsellor or something? The anxiety and distress about this is spilling into the rest of my life at the moment, which is making things quite difficult.

YellowOtter Mon 25-Feb-13 14:34:01

Sorry my post was so long! blush

FairyFi Mon 25-Feb-13 14:43:45

Having worked in classes of kids, and knowing the characters and their parents, I hear of a lot of 'bullying'. there is vast amounts of manipulations and acting outs and abusive behaviours going on. I say this to help that feeling of being alone. Many kids in a class will be bullied by the class bully (of which there are many in lots of different ways). the teachers spend much time dealing with relationship issues that they didn't really in classes going back I imagine more than 10 years. I have discussed these issues at length with teachers, that are friends, and it goes on a lot by differing degrees, with girls until nearly out of school, and boys are much more direct and will just hit each other!

Again, kids from abusive AND non-ab families will be picked on, most kids (the vast majority) won't know how to handle it, there are very few, if any, that can do anything about a really insistent bully. There is a lot of the luck of the draw when it comes to who is friends with who, and who gets 'left out'. There are all types of bullies too, the physical to the emotional, excluding, recruitment of others to their campaign who all then join in.

FairyFi Mon 25-Feb-13 15:20:01

hello Otter not too long! no apologies please.

Good you found your way here. Go with your feelings, your mum let you down, your dad sounds unpredictable, scary and domineering with his life over your mothers or anyone else's. Like noone else has a voice. It does say a lot that he has such an appalling 'friend' to come stay!

Go with what feels right for you interms of help.. maybe having a look through the links above would be helpful. I think you should find the validation that you seek here, amongst the various posts on this thread aswell as looking into some of the links.

I'm sure others will be along to welcome you. Keep posting. xx

unschoolmum Mon 25-Feb-13 16:00:26

Sorry to hear about all those that have been bullied. It must be so horrible.

YellowOtter, your parents sound toxic. You are not over reacting. It is real and hurtful.

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