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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)

forgetmenots Mon 13-May-13 22:36:21

Welcome callmedaughter - definitely have a look at the opening post and the links there, you'll find it helpful. Not sure if I've read your thread so I'm off for a nosey...

paintyourbox Tue 14-May-13 12:41:04

Sorry everyone I need a rant-

My dad isn't talking to me now. All because he refuses to take his diabetes medication and change his lifestyle.

It's driving me mad, he's my dad. I don't want him to get ill, if he doesn't sort this he could die.

I talk to him and he lies about what he's doing- "oh my diet is perfect" ( had 3 portions of cake and a chocolate bar yesterday!) and that "he was always fine before he had all these tablets" (no, you weren't! And these tablets are meant to stop your condition getting worse!)

It's exactly the same as it was when I was a child only instead of my mum being on the receiving end of the sulking and blackmail its me.

I can't describe how I feel- I'm torn between anger that he doesn't consider the impact of his decisions on his family but I am also sad that he could become very ill.

themidwife Tue 14-May-13 12:51:20

Ugggh been low/no contact with parents for a year now. Been pressured by them the whole time to see me & the kids. So reluctantly agreed by text on sunday they could come to a meal for 2 of my DC's special birthdays at the end of July. So Monday morning missed calls start from mother & voicemails asking me to contact her urgently to tell her if DS wants deodorant (?!!!) for his birthday & what (the wrong DD) wants for hers? Wrong child mother. And no DS won't want a can of deodorant for his 21st birthday!!!
Oh and it's over 2 months away! angry

Lottapianos Tue 14-May-13 13:01:02

Loads of sympathy paintyourbox sad My dad is supposed to be on low-sugar and low-fat diet but is in total denial about the state of his diet. Thinks he eats really healthily and talks about this at length but has the sweetest tooth known to man and indulges it regularly.

He is highly toxic so I have been working on disengaging emotionally and rarely see him. My advice would be to leave your dad to manage his own diet as well or as badly as he wants to. I know that's really hurtful because you don't want him to get ill but it's his decision and he's not listening to you anyway! Sympathies though - it's so frustrating.

SimLondon Wed 15-May-13 00:18:57

If there's any spare sympathy going my mother is off her MH meds, not in crisis - but a marked difference

forgetmenots Mon 20-May-13 09:12:43

Bumping this thread as there have been a lot of new toxic parent threads in relationships recently where posters have been pointed here.

SimLondon - how is your mother behaving now she is of the meds? Is she still off them?

Midwife - are you sure about having your parents for the tea? Sounds like nothing had changed, how self-absorbed sad

I'm now due dc1 any day. ILs still don't know as far as I am aware - we have also moved house without sharing those details so there can't be any unpleasant doorstep scenes. DH is still NC and since we moved has been a different person, completely bursting with energy and excitement about the baby (before there was always the MIL shaped cloud)...

I feel pity towards her and her miserable, angry life. But I am also determined my child will not be drawn into it and used as an emotional punchbag like DH was.

forgetmenots Mon 20-May-13 09:14:06

PS I do like it when this thread drops off as I hope it means no one is having an awful time, but just want anyone who needs it to find it smile

themidwife Mon 20-May-13 09:16:24

It's going to be out, my DH there as well as adult children so there can be no sobbing or woe is me hopefully. However, it will be about their ill health & hot flushes & huffing & puffing!

forgetmenots Mon 20-May-13 09:21:15

Good to hear midwife - get your stock responses planned smile

jessjessjess Mon 20-May-13 09:56:42

Paintyourbox - my toxics are a nightmare with medical stuff so I really sympathise.

Hugs to everyone else.

Those threads about having a good relationship with your mum/dad almost pushed me over the edge, stupidly read one and ended up calling a crisis line.

forgetmenots Mon 20-May-13 10:11:40

completely relate to that jess - it's one of the problems DH and I had - in another life I would be posting exclusively on those threads and he would be here. Actually, though, over time I think seeing a positive functioning family almost helped him see the dysfunction in his own (I really don't mean that to sound smug or patronising at all, but he was very much trapped in the FOG and didn't see an alternative way of being).

I'm so sorry for you it's led to a crisis moment. Can you use it somehow to think about how it might affect your relationships? What was it that really pressed the button? I hope you're feeling much better now and I hope it wasn't my post that did the damage flowers

jessjessjess Mon 20-May-13 10:38:54

Forgetmenots, it wasn't any one post - it all just brought home to me what I have never had and will never have. It IS good to see what a more functional family is like and you don't sound smug at all!

themidwife Mon 20-May-13 10:50:59

Good luck forgetmenots! I'm sure it wi be so lovely to just be in your little love nest with your family & new baby! thanks

Oopla Mon 20-May-13 10:59:33

Hi to everyone old and new smile

I've been away for a bit doing ok, 3 months NC with family. Been exercising more to try help with the panic attacks. Seems to be working smile

Rang helpline for families of offenders this morning and it really really helped.

It's really disorientating when families normalise bad even evil behaviour.

Keep your chins up stately homers, and keep talking you're not mad, they are xx

kayfish Mon 20-May-13 11:31:36

Been drawn to this thread from another thread on relationships, hello everyone, thank you for pointing me here!

I just read through some of the stock responses above and think they're very useful. One that is missed out in my case is my parents always tell me that i am "making it up to get attention."

What is the answer you use in response to that?

forgetmenots Mon 20-May-13 11:32:47

Jess - that's so hard, we are all in our families through accidents of birth and nothing else. Took a while for my DH certainly to understand he didn't deserve this, just as I didn't deserve my family, it is just one of those things. It sounds like you were pretty decisive though in getting a bit of help when you felt crap - good on you smile

Midwife - thanks smile can't wait to meet dc1, and the move has felt like a weight lifted - no more scanning the mail, checking the street for cars that aren't normally there, keeping blinds closed... Hadn't realised quite how deeply the siege mentality had taken hold, but now feel really free. There are guilt issues for DH of course, but his focus on DC is overriding that.

Oopla - what a positive post smile I found exercise the best tonic for panic, I suffered quite intensely during a period of illness and a bit of power walking at first did me wonders.

forgetmenots Mon 20-May-13 11:34:29

Hi kayfish. What are they accusing you of making up (with apologies as I may have already read your thread and not made the link)?

Sorry you've had to come here, but I'm sure you'll find it useful smile

Oopla Mon 20-May-13 18:16:13

Hi forgetmenots I've been walking too yes, evening time so by the time I hit bed I'm too tired to start worrying. Great stuff.

Kayfish- maybe the best thing could be to let go of the need for them to believe you. Some people just never change. It's very freeing to end the wrangles by stepping back altogether.

Oopla Mon 20-May-13 18:16:57

But by the way, we believe you x

MillyMollyMandy78 Mon 20-May-13 18:44:44

Just popped in to say hi. It's been one and a half weeks since I went no contact with my mum. It was not an easy decision and it has been on my mind a lot, but I know it will get easier and fully believev it is the right thingng for me in the long run.

forgetmenots Mon 20-May-13 19:33:09

Hi millymollymandy, I think i remember your thread. It isn't easy, you're right. Take a bit of time if you can bear it, read some of the stuff and links in the OP here, and some of the other stories - you are not alone, this is much more common than anyone lets on.

Kayfish we will definitely believe you here, I'm sorry if my question sounded harsh, just trying to give better advice smile

FairyFi Tue 21-May-13 12:31:10

what if I wasn't making it up! Would you now be capable of empathy, or acknowledgement at least?

I bet they wouldn't shift from the position of you 'making it up'! Kayfish At which point how can a relationship continue if you are judged on 'its all lies'???

strength to you MMM it is tough, bet then so much better too! Why isn't life just straightforward hmmph!

flowers FMN for your amazing little bundle of [secret] joy, and huge hurrahs for DH transformation, life better all round... how wonderful when baby comes to have your nest so well feathered smile

I just recently experienced high levels of panic, which caused my brain to do this weird 'life flashing in front of my eyes' thing. It was like a roll of film, or comic strips racing past my eyes, and every now and then it would pause on an image (representative of particular episodes/ppl in my life past and present) - I thought for a moment, am I dying?

forgetmenots Tue 21-May-13 12:42:48

Thanks fairyfi. The transformation all round has been pretty amazing and can't wait now to start a new family story that isn't the nightmarish one DH thought was normal. This little one has such a determined dad because of the toxicity, I try to see that as the only positive from the whole sorry tale. I'm sure for everyone here they will be wonderful partners and parents as a result.

AF said something very profound on another thread I'm sure she wouldn't mind me paraphrasing here: often those with functioning families stay in bad relationships or develop unhealthy dependencies on people as they are used to having their needs met - there can in some cases be a strength in those who have no expectation of this thanks to a to it family, in that they will always be able to take care of their own needs.

I thought this was pretty profound and when people do manage to tap into this strength it could be pretty powerful for them. Very, very difficult to break those thought patterns so deeply held though.

FairyFi I used to have that as part of panic attacks, along with the palpitations and hyperventilation. Have you had cbt or similar? Also would second Oopla's comments above, it sounds trite but exercise helps - an I found best of all being able to put headphones in and imagine I was somewhere else entirely was lovely smile

forgetmenots Tue 21-May-13 12:43:25

'Thanks to a toxic family' - damn phone

FairyFi Tue 21-May-13 13:22:56

very interesting point FMN as I have heard many say that they had happy family lives as children, and found themselves deeply entrenched in toxic relationships as adults. Seems to work both ways, it really does. Its commonly linked abusive c'hoods with abusive adult relations/victim, etc. which muddies the responsibility of the abuser/survivor.

I don't know if I have panic attacks, maybe I am then? I have been diagnosed with PTSD and awaiting referral for EDMR which I have heard it highly effective. I think the exercise comment is a very valid one and I have truly done and doing, certainly plenty of power(ish) walking. I am going to get some music q'd up for another time, that 'sounds' just perfect wink.. thanks

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