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

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It's March 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
January 2013

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 up, 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 use 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

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'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)

AnAirOfHope Fri 12-Apr-13 12:29:59

Hi i jump in and out of here a lot. I post when i need advice or things get too much i hope thats ok?

Its my birthday tomoro and i have started having nightmears again. I think its cos my xfamily might contact me/i remember all the bad stuff.

So my nightmare;

Im back home at my parents, my xbrother and sister call me a bad mother. My son is at school and they lock the boors so i cant get out to pick my son up after school leaving him waiting alone. They then tell me this makes me a bad parent for not picking him up even tho its them that locked me in. I get that horrid frustrated desprate feeling and hit my sister and attack her (i got hit by them as a child but i never hit back. Xbrother is 6 y older than me sister is 16 year older than me)

Im fighting to prove im a good mum but i know they will never believe me no matter what i do or say and it makes me feel.bad and frustrated.

Its true and thats why its a nightmare. They all set me up just to knock me down. And i keep letting them.....

AnAirOfHope Fri 12-Apr-13 12:33:00

Its true that this is the way they act not that they have stopped me getting son.

CelticPixie Fri 12-Apr-13 12:34:58

FairyFi, she's not really an attention seeker if that's why you mean? If there's a family gathering like a wedding or something she's quite happy to so in the background, to the outside world she seems like a really wonderful person and in many ways she is. But she absolutely always has to be right and always has to be in control of every situation she's in. I remember years ago ago we went to my cousins hen weekend and she basically took over the whole thing when we got there. It was organised by the chief bridesmaid and there was a lot of us and we all basically wanted to break off into little groups and do our own thing then meet up at night, but she tried to dictate what everyone should do. Of course no one listened to her and then she moaned the whole weekend that she hated the place and wished she'd never come. If there is a group situation she will try and take over because she is always right in her mind.

I don't think my mums childhood was especially happy. She's never ever said that but its based on stories I've heard from her and her siblings. They were always fed and clothed and always clean but I don't think there was much love from my Nan. She wasn't very maternal from what I can remember and was a very difficult woman at the best of times.

AnAirOfHope Fri 12-Apr-13 12:40:45

I stoped calling my mum before easter because they said me and the kids couldnt go there for a few days at easter because they needed a break from kids as they had my xnrothers baby there overnight. They havent seen my kids for five months hmm

I had to explain to my 4 year old why they didnt want to see him and it broke my heart sad

I think im reacting because their shittyness has affected my children and i wanted to protect them and i failed them. I have not talked to any of them after that as the only true way to protect my children is to cut contact.

UseHerName Fri 12-Apr-13 14:19:59

i have a mother like this,but the worst thing is that i recognise myself in some of these postssad

UseHerName Fri 12-Apr-13 14:20:37

particulary CelticPixie's ....

CelticPixie Fri 12-Apr-13 16:19:00

UseHerName, sorry if my posts have brought back bad memories for you. The strange thing is I do have many happy childhood memories, mainly from times when my mum wasn't in "one". She was and still is a good mother in many ways but I also think that she expects everyone to be happy when she is happy and miserable when she is miserable. She still is a moody cow, however I no longer indulge her when she is in "one". Obviously its easier now I no longer live with her but if I go around and she's got a face like smacked arse I don't ask why or whats wrong anymore I just completely ignore it and go and talk to my dad instead. I refuse to be dragged down by her any longer.

I've suffered anxiety my entire life. I had my first panic attack at eight! Eight years old FFS! A kid of that age should NOT be having panic attacks, but I was. Frequently. I had them at night in bed, I had them at school. I was often physically sick with them. Doctors were involved but no one realised that they were panic attacks. This was the early 90's and no one back then realised that kids could suffer with mental health problems as well. It was a mystery for years but now I know these were almost certainly panic attacks.

UseHerName Fri 12-Apr-13 17:06:49

gah! sorry Celtic to single you out - your posts articulated very well what my mother is like, and unfortunately, the way I can be too at times. So sometimes I'm not sure if it's me or her is the narc...

It's great that you feel able to no longer indulge her! I'd call that a result wink

FairyFi Sat 13-Apr-13 13:50:51

Theres a world of difference Use in one who acknowledges they have issues and wants it to be different and seeks help and makes changes, to the one who never sees, refuses to acknowledge, take responsibility, deny, etc.

We all get a skewed view of things growing up with them, but choose to do it differently or look inside ourselves to make things different. No such thing as perfect mum, we get it wrong and we get it right, but its not all about us, that makes it a lot different!

Celtic it is huge that you move on past her sulks, and don't feel drawn into them any more.

Hope repeated dreams means you are 'stuck' yourself in this mindset. It is you that is actually trapped emotionally by their reactions to your mothering. I hope that makes sense?

Soundwave84 Mon 15-Apr-13 07:18:11

I had another thread going about my decision last week to finally break contact with my mum, dad and sister after I was insulted on my birthday for pointing out something utterly insensitive and frankly, weird that they did. Its been coming for a long time and I have finally had enough.

I have been anxious that they would turn up unexpectedly for some kind of show down as although I had planned to just quietly phase myself out of contact, they phoned up and tried to tell me off, I turned it back around and told them off and was then deluged with the usual how dare you upset everyone texts, all of which I have ignored.
They'd stopped messaging and calling by Friday (I was blocking and ignoring all calls from them) and they did not show up at my house this weekend for a shouting match, as I had been dreading and we had a very pleasant sat/sun as a result.

Then late last night I got a text saying we WILL be coming over next sunday at ten, followed by some kisses. hmm
Not sure what this is all about, whether they are expecting an apology from me, because they won't get one or whether they intend to try to humiliate me again in front of my DH and DCs.
Or they may just pretend that nothing has happened.
The problem is that 10am on any day is no good for us (I have an ED and that is my lunch hour!)
I don't want to text them as they will see it as a victory (oh look we got through to her finally!) but at the same time, letting them have their say, however fucking stupid it is, may be the only way to get rid of them.

I've been having nightmares and I don't think I can carry the anxiety of this all week...I was so scared of them turning up on Saturday morning that I spent most of the day with the door locked and the curtains shut and just stayed in the garden where no one could see us.
What do I do? Just pretend to be nice and get rid of them as quickly as possible? I don't care what they think of me anymore, I just want these horrible people out of my life.

Oopla Mon 15-Apr-13 12:28:44

Go out for the day grin

Oopla Mon 15-Apr-13 12:33:09

Write a letter saying that you have made plans for Sunday.

You're a grown woman and don't have to do as you're told by them. I'm not sure what ED means, are you Working that day? If not plan something fun for you and your DC's and try to enjoy the day xx

themidwife Mon 15-Apr-13 12:47:11

Just go out or don't answer the door. The bullying tactics didn't work do now they're doing the denial & carry on as we wish tactic although you can be sure if you let them in they're start sniping soon enough!!

FairyFi Mon 15-Apr-13 13:34:31

Make it obvious you are ignoring them. You stick to your ED routine, its more important than them!

I heartily agree to the going out suggestion, or the staying in if that suits YOU better smile. they can hammer on the doors and windows, none shall pass!

Who in their right mind tells you they are coming over at 10 on Sunday! and expects that to happen/be ok!

I would err on the side of ignoring any and all demands and respond only to reasonable requests, reward the good behaviour smile just like the children they are (sorry, thats an insult to wonderful children).

LittleBairn Mon 15-Apr-13 21:05:51

Room for another?
I'm not sure if my family is bad enough for me to deserve a place here,
Partly because they arent terrible people in fact most outsiders think they are wonderful it's just me the black sheep that can't seem to gel with them. DH recently asked me if I thought they were really good people, because that's what I believe or because that's what they have told me? It was a bit of an eye opener.

The 'old history ' both my parents came from alcoholic families, we were often surrounded by drunks many of whom would become verbally abusive/aggressive.
My father for the first 18 years of my life was a binge drinker, at least 2-3 times of year he would mentally flip into 'bad' daddy he could be seriously scary threatening, basically he never ( that I witnessed) hit mum but would threaten to murder her. Once she came into sleep beside us, in the shadows I could see my dad with a knife. If I hadn't got up I'm certain he would have stabbed her, I was about 10 years old, I got up due to vomitting with anxiety. I realise now I was an anxious kid, I rarely left the house because I knew my dad wouldn't hurt her in front of me.
At about 14 the last major episode my mum ran out of the house leaving me with him, this time he did turn on me but I managed to escape the house too. Ive never reslly got over my mum abandoning me that night but feel selfish she was frightened.
By 16 I had a serious stomach ulcer no one can understand why I developed one so younge. hmm

I know that all sounds very sordid but 90% of my childhood was good, we did lots of fun things and I do believe the loved me.

Fast forward to adulthood I left home at 18 omg the relief of being free and truly able to relax is wonderful.
Over that last few years things have been fine between us, my dad no longer drinks we pretend the bad stuff didn't happen.
A few months back I lost my first DC in the 2nd trimester at the same time cracks started appearing again possibily because I was being assertive and indeendent DH and I need our space to grieve together.
One of the most hurtful comments I got was from my father, telling me to hurry up and make a new baby my niece really wants a baby in the family (my parents WORSHIP my niece and nephew to an unhealthy degree IMO) my DS wasn't even dead yet! We knew that he had no hope but still!
My sister gave it all " family" are so important BS promised to visit even made a date but then never showed up.
My parents came to visit this weekend with Dsister ( the first time since DS died) and her kids they were horrified and launched in a tirade when they realised I wasnt going to visit my cousins newborn son ( my DS due date isn't far off) that it's to painful for me . A family argument erupts, frankly I was no better than them and lost my temper too and kicked them all out the house and told them I no longer wanted anything to do with them.

Oddly I feel calm, less tense but where do I go from here?
I have no family other than DH now and I'm just starting to realise that I really do have issues steaming from my family.
It taken me 12 years to admit my stomach ulcer was born out of stress ad anxiety!

I'm so sorry to hear about the loss of your DS and the insensitivity of your family. Your childhood sounds extremely frightening at times. You absolutely do belong on here. Keep talking if it helps and visit some of the links in the Original Post.

I would try to give yourself space and time to deal with everything as you start to unravel your past. I wouldn't try to initiate contact with your family right now or try and fix things (which you may have no urge to do right now but sometimes the guilt and obligation can make us start to feel we should) and if they do want to see you, you can opt to ask for space or chose to not respond and go no contact entirely, if you feel that's right for you.

I haven't spoken to my Dad in over a year now and I've never felt such peace and calm. For me NC was completely right. Each of us on here has chosen our own path to freedom and we all try and advise when we can x

Soundwave can you go away for the weekend? I wouldn't reply either. How are you feeling tonight?

LittleBairn Mon 15-Apr-13 21:52:37

dontstep thank you. Yes it was frightening, until I posted I don't think I really ever admitted it. Partly because my mum would sometimes cry that she hadn't been the best mother, that was my que to insists that everything was fine I started to believe it.
My sister on the other hand claims to remember nothing ( she did spend every moment she could out of the house) I'd envy her but I suspect she is lying to herself too.

I absolutely will give it time to decide if the relationship can be fixed, DH has told me to view it as an opportunity to re draw boundaries on my own terms.
I did actually a few years ago cut out all my extended family die to their antics (as did my parents and my sister) I have only recently got back in contact with my cousin. So I know how hard it cam be being truly estranged from family.

One of my reasons for space, I have to admit I'm not all that nice a person around them too, I'm probably too defensive and quick to loose my temper. I'm not like this with other people just them so I need to work on myself too.

I deleted them from FB so they could not comment on my profile, I was worried friends would see something and judge me.
I won't change phone numbers if they do call I will ask for space.
I live about 45 mins away so unlikely to bump into the on the street.
I've got a feeling they will leave me alone for a month or so then thy will probably ask of I'm ready to apologise.

Yes the old 'ready to apologise' I've had that.

I think I certainly excused in my head, my upbringing for many years and now I'm reading books and unpicking it all, so much is coming to the surface. I'm reading Children of the Self Absorbed at the moment. It can make me quite tearful.

Have you blocked them on fb as well, so they cannot read anything you type on mutual friends walls?

Haggisfish Mon 15-Apr-13 22:57:53

Hello everyone,
I have read lots of the thread and can only offer sympathy and admiration to those of you who have managed to somehow deal with your toxic families. i'm looking for some guidance on my Dad - I'll try to be brief! He and my Mum married too young, they were wholly unsuited but remained married for twenty years and had me and my brother. Dad was emotionally abusive to my mum and ruined her self esteem and she gave up her career for him. when they divorced, they both handled it badly, drank loads and were really quite unpleasant to be around. Fast forward twenty years, my Mum has sorted herself out and doesn't drink - I get on with her great. my dad remarried and I struggled to accept my step mum at first, and probably said some quite hurtful things to and about her (about ten years ago). I also don't like visiting them because they drink A LOT and I don't like drinking that much. I have, however, apologised repeatedly for that and really went out my way to make her and her family feel included in my wedding.

My dad has become more and more detached from my brother and me, and I have made enormous efforts to stay in touch, see him and bite my tongue about lots of things that have really upset me. He has now taken umbrage at a very minor thing my Mum has done and said he is not coming to my brother's wedding because my step mum isn't invited (reasonably so, IMO because her and my brother have an even worse relationship and she simply doens't like my brother or his fiancee).

I just feel it is the last straw and that he really doesn't give a flying f&*^ about me or my brother. My DD was in hospital recently - didn't even bother to ask about her. He claims the internet is rubbish where they are staying (different country), but my step mum is always on facebook, so clearly untrue.

Those of you who have decided to cut contact with a parent, have you found it easier mentally, or do you wish you still had some contact, however infrequently? I want to just cut him out completely, but am scared and sad to, because I know i will never see him again.

I cut my Dad out completely and I have no wish for any contact at all. I feel so much peace now. But it's not for everyone and everyone reaches a stage of NC at a different time, if it's right for them. I wasn't scared about not seeing him again, I was more scared about how awful he'd be next time I saw him, if I didn't go NC. Seeing him used to make me ill, I'd have horrendous headaches and vomiting after a visit.

I think in your situation, after all the trying you have done to have a decent relationship I'd be hurting and angry. But he doesn't sound at all pleasant, having some space and processing your past may help you to see clearer what is right for you. I'm not sure the relationship with him is rewarding for you in anyway shape or form. Just painful sad

Haggisfish Mon 15-Apr-13 23:21:46

Thank you, don'tstep. you're right, I'm not getting anything positive out of the relationship at the moment. I think it's harder because he was actually quite a good Dad to us when we were little and I am just so sad and angry that it seems to mean so little to him under the influence of my step mother. He is very money oriented, as is she, and I don't think he understands that I don't care about his money, I want some time with him. ideally on his own, but that also seems an impossiblity - they are attached at the hip. I'll have a ponder!

LittleBairn Mon 15-Apr-13 23:37:36

dontstop no I don't block forgot you could do that, will go do now!

haggis I totally get why you hate being around drunk people, I do too can't be around anyone having a drink it puts me right on edge.

Oopla Tue 16-Apr-13 08:18:16

Haggis I think it's definitely easier mentally NC. Everyone's different of course but I think it just frees up energy that's frankly wasted on the wrong people.

My dad cut me out of his life as soon as he could- I've had periods when I've thought I'd be the bigger person and try to reinstate things but it just caused so much pain. I tell myself these days that he's not worth my time and it so much easier to live with.

Your stepmum sounds really childish, I hope you and your brother can move on without them x

Soundwave84 Tue 16-Apr-13 14:12:59

LittleBairn so sorry for your loss.
Momeraths The problem with going out for the weekend is that we don't have enough money to fill up the car this week, or I would just pack up and head for the seaside for the day, as it is money is tight and we have already booked our one day trip for the year (thanks Tesco vouchers!) but it's not until august.

My mum has treated me like scum since I was about 11, and my dad used to stick up for me, but over the last few years she has just worn him away and he obviously finds it easier to believe every lie that she peddles him, and she does lie. They hate my husband, have no time for my kids and 5 years ago when I was desperately ill, they basically told me to go and fuck myself because I was causing them grief.

Its always the same, last month DS1 was in hospital and when my mum found out she started comparing suspected septicaemia and kidney failure to an ear infection she had once and how terrible that had been for her... I mean WHAT? (he is okay now btw it was HSP so he just needs to be watched for a while just in case)

The point is I have waited for them to change or at least to understand since I started to recover and even when they uninvited us halfway through a family bbq because they " didn't have enough food for you and your kids" I still kept going back. I realise that I probably wanted validation for my status as a worthless piece of crap because I didn't know that I deserved to be anything else.

But then this year so far, they forgot DS1s birthday and then tried to convince me I had the wrong date, shouted at me for not getting the brake fluid changed at my DHs car service (eh?) and then allowed my sister to call me bitch on my birthday for no other reason than that she didn't want to talk to me and didn't like it when I innocently asked her why.
So for the first time in years I felt absolutely lifted, light as a feather and not burdened at all when I told them where they could bloody well go.
I am nervous that they will upset my routines mostly. I have an eating disorder although I am at a healthy weight I do get upset over food and have a very rigid diet and exercise plan. I was also diagnosed with depression and OCD and I get very nervous if I think some one is going to come crashing in on my routines. DH and my DCs are all very happy to fit in around me but my family literally do not believe that such conditions exist.
To them I'm doing it on purpose to spite them or because I think I'm special.

I feel a bit calmer today and DH and I have talked and decided that we will let my parents come over on Sunday and have their say and pretend to listen, just be superficial and then get rid of them as we believe if they think everything's all right, they will go away and I can get on with ignoring them, they wouldn't be doing this if I hadn't said anything, they never make an effort to see us, we do all the leg work usually.
I actually think they will pretend nothing happened but the kids will be here so if they do start a shouting match I will ask them to leave, like wise if they expect an apology, they won't get one.

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