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

(1000 Posts)
DontstepontheMomeRaths Fri 23-Aug-13 16:00:41

Thread opener here:
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It's August 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
March 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 your 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 defences 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 behaviour. 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 offences 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 behaviour. 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 realise 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

This final quote is from smithfield posting as therealsmithfield:

"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

AndTheBandPlayedOn Wed 25-Sep-13 21:06:11

Sorry , I did not realize I was creating a link with my IT above.

GoodtoBetter Wed 25-Sep-13 21:17:48

It's hard feeling abandoned by your family Hissy but you are better without them and you are helping DS grow up away from all that shit.

AndTheBandPlayedOn Wed 25-Sep-13 22:09:47

I have a bit of news on my circumstance. My toxic middle sister has declared, to my oldest sister, that she will never speak to me again. My sin was that I returned a gift and declined to accept her non-apology.

This was last January. The gift was DVD copy of our childhood home movies. She said this was the first batch and she would be sending more. That is why I bothered to make the contact and return them...thinking that it would be a courtesy to let her know not to go to the expense on my behalf. I simply wrote that I was not interested in them and to please not send any more. My oldest sister accepted hers as she is in limited contact.

Included with this package was a birthday card with thus: and my oldest sister saw her at Christmas and said middle sister was in tears agonizingover the letter she was writing to me...
"Can't we get beyond this? I sincerely apologize for whatever I did."

Agnozing over two lines? Oldest sister said to middle sister that she had to take culpability for her behavior. [She is my enlightened witness]. I wrote that apologizing for "whatever" is just another exercise in dismissiveness, so that'd be a "no".

Even though my counselor was of the mind that NC was better, she thought this was good in that I did not get sucked back in with middle sister diminishing me back to a child like status, happy families, with her "look what I did" gift. And also for recognizing the non-apology. It was not the first.

The first, hand written btw, said said she was sorry that I was offended, but was scratching her head trying to figure out what it was that she did..really she had no idea. That one, I did ignore.

It took about five years, six months from my liberation day (3/17/08) when I told her I needed a break from our relationship.

AndTheBandPlayedOn Wed 25-Sep-13 22:27:30

Any way, Hissy, I do not do well with the past. That is why I could not watch the DVDs. When my mother passed when I was 18, I remember watching those home movies and df could not bring himself to watch them too. I remember the look on his face but did not understand it until I had counselling and insight from many years here. So it is a boundary for me.

It does hurt, but it also saves me from hurt too. Then the emails from high school reunions start and I read about how successful everyone is and the pictures of people that have kept in touch and those who even vacation together or live near each other. sad Consellor said just don't read the email. Leave the past in the past. I think that is what the phrase "onwards and upwards" is about (is for me anyway).

I am further removed though. Mother died in 1980, so 34 years have passed by. The effects are still there. She was a bipolar alcoholic. I was the invisible one. That does not translate well in a professional office setting. I am (was, more discussion) a licensed architect, but did not hesitate to give it up to be a sahm.

AndTheBandPlayedOn Wed 25-Sep-13 22:37:30

I did not mean to make that post all about me. Reaching the enough is enough point gives an indication that the past is driving the present so create that boundary for the present (and thus future). And hopefull it can be left there, like a freight train leaving the cars of trash on a siding , permanently. They are still there if I need them...but I don't need them. Just like I do not need the clutter/estate stuff/junk in the basement blush which is/has taken years to finally deal with.

I hope this might be abe to help Hissy. Give your darling ds bunches of hugs and attention and the time will go by quick enough.

Hissy Wed 25-Sep-13 22:46:43

I think I remember you posting about thé DVD before Andtheband

It's so clear that all that was all about her, and to maintain the dynamic that is you as a child.

Their choosing to exclude us from adulthood, their excluding us from information an adult'd be told, keeping things from us somehow tick the same boxes. Reminding us we're less than, weaker than, on the outside of, persona non grata.

It's why they conspire to keep us in abusive environments.

Makes them look bigger/better. Only by having us toppled can they be better than us.

Hissy Wed 25-Sep-13 22:57:14

Cogito said today on another thread, that the end of an abusive relationship is rarely as a result of a big thing, so the feeling of resolution/closure is unattainable.

We go through the agony, the fear of confrontation, finding the bravery to dig deep and stand up for ourselves.

And when it's done... we're lost and alone.

AndTheBandPlayedOn Thu 26-Sep-13 01:43:31

Thanks Hissy. I think the "lost and alone" sums it up, tbh. There was no connection in the first place. I coach myself into believing I am cool and content with the social solitude, but then thank God every day for dh and dc so I am not technically alone. No friendships/fellowship though (dh is a workaholic, yep, just like dad).

Toxic sister thrives on superiority. Me subordinate:she inspects (house, children, car, etc); she "compliments" as in giving a gold star; she announces dinner time/place and where everyone will sit; the gift giving to create the I Owe Her dynamic; I am to get in touch with her (made reducing contact easy grin she thought she was punishing me by not calling). When our father was alive, we would call him so she likes to carry on in the parents role...

I just finished reading this thread and some of the things posted about the toxic mothers rang bells for sister. That is a mind fu©< in itself. Not knowing what they are doing that destroys the self esteem of others...grrrr...feigned innocence for Death By Ten Thousand Cuts. Boils my blood.

Sister, (single, no dc) also told my dd1 to come to her first if she ever found herself with an unwanted pregnancy. I had an unplanned, yes, surprise, pregnancy at the age of 45 (birth at 46). This was the catalyst for my enough is enough limit. My thouhts are with you, Little Miss (I am glad your dd is with you).

I could see it coming. She of course accused me of depriving her of a relationship with her niece and nephew (pity party), but I did not have to as they were old enouh to decide for themselves. In addition, I found guidance from Attila and others here who said if I was not being treated well by her why on earth would I turn my dc over to her? That thouht has given me multitudes of comfort, thank you all.

I am doing a mind dump, sorry. I am preparing to study my recovery more and have ordered the Adult Children of Alcoholics "Big Red Book". I feel a little nervous/apprehensive. Digging it up again maybe or discovering some other painful dynamic I have not yet noticed? My youngest is now in school and if I am to return to the workforce, be employable (there I said it), I feel lie I need to revalidate myself iyswim.

Thanks for being here, for reading. I am in the US so that is why my posting times seem late.

SlowlyGoingRoundTheBend Fri 27-Sep-13 16:10:50

I am having EMDR therapy at the moment. Just started the eye moving thing today whilst working through my feelings (that I had disassociated from) about my DD2 who died at birth 12 years ago. I had known 2 weeks prior to her birth that she would not make it and it was an unbelievably traumatic time as I have to decide whether the docs would resuscitate her or just let her die but I didn't know how long she would survive.

A rather profound (to my mind) feeling was brought up which was that 'I don't matter' in how my mother took over the funeral and, up until I broke contact this June, would send me random text pictures of work which she and my stepfather had done at her grave as it 'has to look nice'. They were trying to make jokes while I was labour (utterly terrified) as my younger sister was there (have no idea why but she wanted to come to the hospital) and my mother insisted on a Christian burial despite me being adamant I didn't want a priest there and even chose the flowers etc.

It brought back such a vivid feeling from childhood that I did not matter to them that was why I was left out of holidays, days out etc. It seems odd as they were THERE for me during that time, but it felt more like a sense of duty or just to be involved in the drama. I remember my mother's first words when I rang her and told her my baby was going to die (whilst 8 months pregnant) and they were 'well you have to give that baby a good name, you hear me' hmm, no real interest in how I was coping.

I realise now that the 'I don't matter' has been something that has been with me all my life, probably since my father left when I was 6 or before that come to think about it as I grew up in a very large complicated family. My wedding was a farce as my mother decided I didn't need an evening disco as 'there are not enough people as you don't have any friends'. I really hated that I did'nt have one, all my siblings did. Of course she took over everything to do with the wedding as well except for when I asked her to help me shop for a wedding dress and she 'did not have time' so I have to go to the bridal shop alone as well as look after my screaming 4 month old while getting dressed on my wedding day. No one would take her off me so I could get ready in peace even though I have 7 siblings! My younger sister (bridesmaid) was taken shopping for a dress (I had no say in what she wore) and had her makeup and hair professionally done hmm. I had forgotten how much that hurt sad.

I am fat and eat crap, my feet are cracked and hurt but I can't find time to put cream on them, my hands are dry and bleed but I don't bother putting rubber gloves on when I clean, I wear crap clothes and have no hobbies or friends. All my energy is in my DC and anything else other than me because 'I don't matter'.

I know exactly why I feel like this and it is rather a big thing for me to realise it and start to challenge it. Feels like a major breakthrough for me!

Love and hugs to everyone else going through this xx

HellesBellesThinksSometimes Fri 27-Sep-13 16:17:20

NSV: down a back size. Plus I noticed, in the scary full-height mirror, that my fat is rather droopy so I must focus more on toning exercises and - hopefully - see some waist loss smile

HellesBellesThinksSometimes Fri 27-Sep-13 16:27:40

Wrong post for this thread - sorry!

The link is, of course, that - now that I'm nc - I care enough about myself to lose some weight and improve my health. Previously, I was so anxious and, therefore, depressed that I ate loads of high energy (fattening) foods just to get through the day.

I am proof that counselling can make a huge difference.It has led to me separating myself from my parents but has also given me a sense of myself as an adult and able to manage without the infantalising "support" my parents provided.

Meery Fri 27-Sep-13 17:11:01

And here i am again with a little rant. When we were with dm a few weeks back she said she was planning a trip to the UK and would like to visit for a weekend. Fine we say, the only weekend we cannot do between now and xmas o is the first one in October.
Just got a text "on way to UK. See you next weekend?"

spanky2 Fri 27-Sep-13 17:35:01

I don't matter either slowly . Get some bio oil for your feet . I use it on a scar but rubbed some into my dry heels and it was fantastic. It is absorbed instantly so is much easier and less time consuming . I also got ready on my wedding day alone . I had to wait for parents to show up in my room as I couldn't zip my dress all the way up. We can be better mothers .

spanky2 Fri 27-Sep-13 17:35:05

I don't matter either slowly . Get some bio oil for your feet . I use it on a scar but rubbed some into my dry heels and it was fantastic. It is absorbed instantly so is much easier and less time consuming . I also got ready on my wedding day alone . I had to wait for parents to show up in my room as I couldn't zip my dress all the way up. We can be better mothers .

spanky2 Fri 27-Sep-13 17:35:27

Wow twice !grin

spanky2 Fri 27-Sep-13 17:36:24

Sorry about your dd2 .

Hissy Sat 28-Sep-13 07:49:55

Such sad, sad stories! It's all so pointless this meanness isn't it?

pumpkinsweetie Sat 28-Sep-13 11:23:50

So sorry to hear of all your experiences, it kind off gives me an insight into what dh must be going through.

With atleast a month of quiet, i'm wondering whether things are not what i'm seeing them as iyswim. I can't see il leaving dh alone unharrassed for all this time.
Not only can't i imagine it, but dhs behaviour of late leads me to thinking otherwise.

All his text threads on his phone containing mil, fil & sil have been deleted yet he has everyone elses messages from ages ago. I'm guessing he has deleted them to throw me of the sent they have been in touch. I don't make a habit of checking his phone but he has been acting odd again, wanting to spend money, being withdrawn in himself and unhelpful around the house.
All this normally starts when harrassment has taken place.

I have told him to be honest with me, but i really don't think he is, because when i asked him he didn't say yes but neither did he say no.

I haven't heard from them, i have a feeling mil has finally got the message i will not put up with her shit. But i'm guessing she is now using dh to pester.

HellesBellesThinksSometimes Sat 28-Sep-13 23:05:29

Oh Pumpkin - that's not good. So much pressure on your marriage because he presumably feels he has to see them and yet feels he can't let you know.

Saw cousin and aunt tonight. Aunt fine - she is close with mother and knows that we're not close. She even said that mum had said that we weren't speaking at the moment but cousin completely taken aback. "But she's your mum!"

Meery Sun 29-Sep-13 20:54:32

Pumpkin that's not good. Your mind must be working over time wondering what they are up to now and you must be getting yourself tied in knots trying to second guess. I'd say to ignore but do appreciate that that's easier said than done.

So my DM's visit, Any normal family would be able to agree a date and stick with it but not us. I think it's all about who is in control and is calling the shots and it's all very petty. We invited her to come this weekend just gone, she ignored this and then on Friday texted to suggest next. I replied "no sorry we are away with friends next weekend (as we told you), come the weekend after" Her response "No will have gone home by then, how about Tuesday?"

Now if she really wanted to visit surely she would have planned her trip around when we were free rather than making me feel guilty for not dropping everything to accommodate her. I am not sure how to respond to the latest missive - probably something along the lines of "oh that's a shame, see you next time". I am not happy about the Tuesday suggestion as will be a lot of faff for a couple of hours in the evening and will upset the dc that granny would only see them for an hour or so (thanks to mean mummy not letting her visit)

So ffing predictable...

Hissy Mon 30-Sep-13 06:44:42

I had similar recently. Stick to yer guns, and say Tuesday doesn't work, so you'll see her next time.

Yeah, I know you'll feel guilty, and she'll milk it. Dare say you'll get a 'Disappointed' text like I did, but remember SHE created this mess, not you. She's the one that CHOSE not to contact you until the last second, giving you an ultimatum.

She needs you to drop everything, to 'prove' your love.. well too bad. Hold firm.

She doesn't want to see you, she wants to tick a box.

This is what I felt my mum did, trying to force me to have an hour free for her, on her terms.

She thought that if she did that it'd protect her from any difficult conversations, and if anyone asked, she could say that she saw her DD and GS.

I'm not a box to be ticked. Not when you've fucked off and not told me where to.

Hissy Mon 30-Sep-13 07:15:16

Meant to say pumpkin your H may have deleted those texts because he doesn't want HIMSELF to see them anymore.

This is a hard battle, with fears that are irrational and immense, guilt that is all engulfing and terrifying.

happystory Tue 01-Oct-13 14:02:09

Help me be strong in the face of more nasty emails. The one I got yesterday really got to me and I had a sleepless night going over and over what was said. Feel like cr*p today. It's the endless cycle of contact... we don't speak for a while (me and mother this is) she can't bear the silence so she emails or texts, really nasty stuff under the guise of 'I'm so upset...'. If I reply, she replies, more nasty stuff. If I DON'T reply, she leaves it a while then emails 'Oh more unanswered emails...blah blah.' I have bitten once or twice and said my piece, nothing changes. But god, it's so hard not to answer back...

coffeespoons Tue 01-Oct-13 14:08:02

Well, I feel massively guilty for reading this thread, never mind posting on it. Sometimes my mother is lovely and I love her, other times she is just so unbelievably awful and impossible. All I know right now is that anything that comes across as a criticism to her will result in a total meltdown, that she seems to need to be in control of every tiny detail, and we all have to agree that she is the perfect mother and this is the perfect family. I can't deal with her having to always be right. If things don't go the way she wants there's a massive crying fit and I'm sure she's genuinely sad, but I have to squash my feelings down so I don't upset her, like I have all my life, and it's like walking on eggshells.

She has a big martyr thing going on. Things like 'but I would do anything for you, you kids are my life, you were so lovely when you were babies, I don't know what I did wrong'. Yet she has to be looked after all the time, physically, emotionally, our job is to protect her from the world. A counsellor told me once 'but SHE was supposed to look after YOU'. I can't really grasp that.

We just had the most enormous row again and I feel sick at heart and terrified of becoming her.

She loves me but it's like being smothered, suffocated by expectations and pressures, how I'm 'so clever' or 'could do it easily', my achievements are expected because she has so much "self-belief" in me but actually they were bloody hard won. I think she wants me to still be a baby, I've always been desperate to be independent and I think she hates it.

Something is wrong with the dynamic between me, her, and my sister. They gang up and 'tease' me, but if I joke back, my sister tells me off like a naughty child.

I can't confront any of them about any of it because my mum will start crying and I will be the bad guy again and my dad will want me to apologise.

I want kids but I think she'll be unbearable when I do.

coffeespoons Tue 01-Oct-13 14:27:04

The way she can't let you finish a conversation, instead there'll be a point, usually just a sentence or so in, when she cuts you off to 'agree' with you (usually she has no actual idea of the point you were heading for, as you've barely begun). She will then relate her own vaguely linked experience without stopping for breath for the next 30 minutes until you forget what you were going to say anyway
My mum does exactly this! And the 'child voice' and pretending to be 'only little'.

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