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'But We Took You to Stately Homes' Part 2...a thread for adult children of abusive families

(705 Posts)
therealsmithfield Wed 28-Apr-10 21:14:39

Welcome to the Stately Homes Thread.

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

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 parent?s 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 emotional abused and/or physically abused. Some are not sure what category (there doesnt 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 wether 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

Im sure the other posters will be along shortly to add anything they feel I have left out grin. I personally dont claim to be sorted but I will say my head has become a helluva lot straighter since I started posting here. You will recieve 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)

therealsmithfield Wed 28-Apr-10 21:18:47

Sorry got a bit panicky at running out of thread shock
So here is a link for previous thread
here for any newcomers.

therealsmithfield Wed 28-Apr-10 21:28:32

grace Re your writing, dare I say it might be for the best given your dip in mood since beginning to ponder over this?
The other thing that occurred to me was the significance of you 'writing' from you mothers perspective.
We've been talking about not knowing what our own needs are and I do wonder if you ahve blotted your own out in lieu of your mothers. I dont know if that makes sense at all? Its just perhaps that thinking that way has been a bit of a protection from feeling your own feelings and getting your own needs met.
Of course I could be talking a load of old twot confused. Just my thoughts.

Bagofrefreshers Wed 28-Apr-10 22:33:01

Smithfield don't think of it as confrontation because you'll be setting yourself up for a fall. Think of it - and sell it to them - as professionalism. And professionalism to protect THEIR business at that. You are leaving shortly and you feel it will not present well to THEIR clients for you to take part in these meetings only to disappear off the scene in a couple of weeks - this will potentially leave your bosses in a difficult situation (ie, why was Smithfield meeting with us when she was leaving anyway), rather than your bosses being able to control the situation of you leaving and smoothing over any transition themselves. What's more, any such meetings are now going to be very last minute; you did not set anything up in light of your resignation and request to Jellybrain on X date to make alternative arrangements. You know from your previous experience with these clients that their availability is generally limited in the run up to a long weekend. Whilst you could try to set up some meetings, you would feel a duty towards them to explain that you will shortly be leaving.

Just a suggestion, please ignore completely if it's not appropriate to the situation.

Good luck.

ItsGraceAgain Wed 28-Apr-10 23:49:31

Thank you, Smithfield, and you're right. I'd reverted to feeling (quite urgently, in fact) as if understanding my mother is my only route to understanding my self.

I believe that to be true - but the understanding I need is the detached type ... the more detached the better! Not the "how she feels" type, which is what she uses to drag me with her. I have re-read the journal I kept while living with her for the 2 years just gone. I'm horrified at how much clarity I lost over its course. I started with a robust awareness of her toxicity but too little anger. By the end, I was pasting in quotes from articles on the narcissistic mother - desperately trying to remind myself of what I knew the previous year. I was much more angry and far less certain.

Here is a quote from last year. It's about the sparkly old lady who visited me this evening, bringing gifts of GOOD food, photos of flowers and gardening help. Yes, I feel disloyal. Here's the quote:-

"The real Mum (as relates to me, her eldest daughter) is the one who told me, with pantomime and contorted face, how she wanted to shove me back up where I came from when I was born. The real Mum is the one who’s been telling me all my life that I’m fat and undesirable, while simultaneously fearing I’d steal her husband from her(!). The real Mum resents me, is jealous of me and can never, ever love me like I wish my mother would."

The real Mum is the old lady who senses a slight return to independence in me, her carefully-engineered backup plan. The one hoping, with leveraged guilt and gratitude, to ensure care in her dotage. The one who wouldn't let me eat the good food from the fridge, while I was paying her for my keep.

therealsmithfield Thu 29-Apr-10 08:34:32

grace Dont have much time this am, am determined to follow through with your advice today. Will report back later.
Just wish I could give you the biggest hug right now. I really do. You so so so deserve love grace and not the self serving type your mother has dished up all her life. Dont think of it as disloyalty, this is good this IMO is progress for you...think of it as you being entitled to how you feel and how to express how your mother made/makes you feel...just like every other human being on this planet.
Got to go now...much love to you my dear xx

prettylegsgreatbigknockers Thu 29-Apr-10 09:30:29

Grace, that struck a chord.

My mother is jealous of me. In my current therapy, much of it is centred on my mum. I don't think I realised clearly before just how bad she is/was. I kind of knew in that instinctive way.....I always did, even as a very small child.

I found the only two photo's of me as a baby yesterday. I remember her describing the child in the photo as demonic and posessed. Me as a six month old...demonic and posessed.

She has systematically destroyed everything good in my life, quite deliberately. My h is threatening to take the children to see her....laughing at me saying there is nothing I can do about it. My instinct to protect them becomes activated, and I find myself running around like a headless chicken. There is nothing I can do to stop this.

H only started to behave like this when I let her back in our lives.

I will never let her back in my life again and will be relieved and happy when she dies. There I've said it, and now I'm going to cry.

exotictraveller Thu 29-Apr-10 10:02:27

Hi, just marking new thread. x

ItsGraceAgain Thu 29-Apr-10 12:35:39

prettylegs - me, too! I also feel like crying about it: weeping for a mother's love, which all children are born to expect but which we only got with conditions & limitations. I don't know your old nickname but have seen your recent posts to pinemartina & others ... it's no bloody accident we married self-obsessed, withholding wankers, is it? I looked up the freedom programme after reading your posts - none here (rural; no car). I hope you'll continue to post your discoveries, because you're helping me!

Thank you, smithfield. Hugs right back at you! Looking forward to your update grin

ItsGraceAgain Thu 29-Apr-10 12:42:14

prettylegs, about your kids: you must be so frustrated that she's managed to easily manipulate your H into dismissing your feelings angry

With my nephews & nieces - I have discussed with them (in front of their parents) the parallels between their family role and my own. I've made it clear that it's not right, although inescapable during childhood. It's a very small validation, but I hope it has helped them to build a little immunity. Is there something along those lines that you can do, age-appropriately, vis-a-vis your husband & DCs? It might even wake him up a little, you never know ...

prettylegsgreatbigknockers Thu 29-Apr-10 12:45:09

No Grace, nor near me, because the "jailor" likes to move his victim to the middle of nowhere. I found one in the nearest city. I have a car, but also the bus stops right outside the house.

This morning I got that photo of me as a baby, and I wrote a list of all the things I have been told/ accused of etc and clipped it to the photo.

It looks ridiculous. A six month old baby, a demonic ,posessed, cruel creature? No of course not.

I was then moved to write down what I saw in the photo.

A sweet, soft, cuddly thing with bright eyes....yes.

No one told me to do this...but it is quite profound. Their description of that ludicrous.

I am getting so much help here, I am no longer the saddest woman ever. Although after finding someone on facebook posing as my ds this morning...I may not have prettylegs for much longer either! It feels doubly good to know that it is helping others too.

mampam Thu 29-Apr-10 13:18:57

prettylegs - WOW. Maybe I've missed something as I've not been on this thread for a while but why is your H threatening to take your DC to see your mother? He must realise this isn't what you want??

I've been wanting to post again on here for a while but didn't want to interrupt. Now there is a new thread I guess it seems like a better time, however please tell me to butt out if necessary.

I'm now 35 weeks pregnant and all those previously surpressed feeling I had towards my mother are still hanging around at the surface.

All she is interested in is this baby so she can play the doting grandmother role and look good to other people. I feel like screaming at her..."how about you try the good mother role first?". She is vile, maybe I'm being to harsh and critical but she hasn't exactly been a supportive mother during this pregnancy.

Her latest efforts to be seen as the adoring granny are these:

She's got a brand new car but she had to pay extra to get a 5 door so as she could get the baby and my other dc in and out of the car more easily - she rarely ever takes dc out anywhere anyway maybe 3 times a year, they are 7 and 10 so are quite capable of getting in and out of the car themselves.

The new car had to have a big enough boot for a pram!!??? - where does she think she's going to be going with this baby? I'll be breast feeding so baby will be with me whilst it's small and I don't ever go anywhere with my mother.

She's looking for a 2nd hand pram/wants a pram for her house and a car seat too??? - again where does she think she's going with it? If on the off chance I did want her to look after the baby I would take my car seat and my pram hmm plus you aren't supposed to use 2nd hand car seats and they are fitted for your type of car.

She wants to buy us a travel cot???? - I pointed out that this would be a waste of money as we don't go anywhere to warrant having a travel cot. No doubt this would be to leave at her house for the baby - we only live 4 miles away so wouldn't ever need to stay overnight!!

No doubt I'll have to put up with her slips of the tongue again..."come to mummy, er I mean granny!".

As I'm having a C-section she's obsessed with knowing the date I'm having the baby on. I don't know and have only just got the consultant appointment to go and find out. I've potentially got something wrong with my heart but she wasn't interested in this just when was my consultant appointment to find out the date the baby will be born on.

She's also obsessed with trying to make me feel like shit for having a C-Section. "You won't be able to do anything, you won't be able to drive, you won't be able to do any housework, you won't be able to fetch or take the kids to school, you won't be able to lift the car seat into the car" etc etc. Nevermind the fact that I've been told to have a C-Section because I have such large babies that if I tear again like I did last time then there's everychance I'll be incontinent from my back passage.

At the start of this pregnancy I had severe hyperemesis and had a very heightened sense of smell too. To me, the downstairs of our house really stank (the carpets are old and musty smelling but we rent so nothing we can do about it) I couldn't tolerate this and it used to make me violently sick. I was so ill and on the verge of being hospitalised and the anti sickness pills I used to take would make me very drowsy so much so that I stayed in bed for 8 weeks and was signed off work. During this time she phoned me up to tell me that there was "no smell in my house and that I'd have to go downstairs sometime and couldn't spend the whole pregnancy in bed" (like I was just pretending). Not so long ago I went to her place of work, she wasn't there and her boss said to me...." I don't think your marriage would have survived if you had stayed in bed for the whole 9 months" WTF? She'd obviously got this from my mother. Just like the time, 2 weeks after I'd had DD she was going around telling anyone who'd listen (including my Health visitor) that I was "gone in the head".

The other day she phoned 4 times after 8pm, I won't answer the phone after this time as a) I know it's her and b) she's always pissed at this time, her one sided conversation goes on for over an hour and then the evening's nearly over.

At Easter DC's were away with their dad and she invited DH and I over for a roast dinner (we were privilaged as we only get invited over when we've got them) but the times etc all hinged on what time my older brother could make it.

DH and I sat through the dinner where mother and SF were sat gazing adoringly at my brother whilst he bigged himself up as a 'legend on the cabaret scene' (he's a singer). He and his band are playing at our local towns music festival and are playing on the bandstand 'you've got to be good to get on the bandstand' says my SF. I point that all the bands play on the bandstand and am frowned upon.

Brothers son is 9 and has the most appalling table manners. In fact he made me feel quite sick when he was spitting his food out of his mouth into his lap. My mother never uttered a word, had this been my DS, who is 6 nearly 7, who sometimes might pick up a chip with his fingers, my mother would have been down on him like a ton of bricks. This has made me bloody angry actually.

That same day my SF proceeds to interrogate DH about his work and our financial situation (DH's work and our finances have really struggled over the past year) really being quite patronising and does this infront of my brother who earns an awful lot of money. It was as if he was trying to say "well look at brother he's done so well for himself compared to you". DH has virtually refused to go to my parents house now as he is always made to feel like this. In our family you have got to be the best or else it just isn't good enough.

Anyway I've ranted long enough. Feels good though to get it off my chest. I can't help thinking that in some respects I hate my mother but on the otherhand I think when she dies I'll probably wish I hadn't spent so much time disliking/resenting her so much.

Why can't she speak to me nicely instead of speaking to me like I'm a piece of shit on her shoe, and why couldn't she just be a 'normal' mum like so many other people have got?

mampam Thu 29-Apr-10 13:26:43

Grace and PrettyLegs I too weep for a mothers love. I've been made to feel like I owe her something for bringing me into this world, infact everything she has ever done for me has at some point been thrown back in my face. Maybe this is why I'm so reluctant to accept anything from her or want her help?

I've been punched and I've been blamed for many things that haven't been my fault. This among other things is what has made me the shy, unconfident person that I am today. How can I get over this?

prettylegsgreatbigknockers Thu 29-Apr-10 13:41:06

Grace.....she did this with my first husband too. H was with me all through those years...which makes the way he has been sucked into her vortex all the more incomprehensible.

They are saying that they will speak to social services....I told them to " bring it on".

The Freedom programme is proving invaluable as a way of dealing with my mother as well as h. I am not the only one with a similar dynamic going on.

It was suggested to me by a very wise friend that the reason for his turning to her is that he quite literally has no one else. I have been his one true friend for a long time, even before we were partners.

prettylegsgreatbigknockers Thu 29-Apr-10 13:46:31

I'ts almost as though they are rigidly playing the part written in their own script, with no reference to reality. This would concur with Patricia Evans theories. She uses the phrase, "beside themselves". This makes sense...they are so detached from their senses, that reality can't get in...they have no way of experiencing the world. And that's what they teach those around them....if you get too close, it becomes "normal".

If you break away, and therefore challenge their must be terrifying.

exotictraveller Thu 29-Apr-10 13:57:31

Grace, going back to something I think you mentioned a little while back, that book "How to Win Friends and Influence People" is just the book that came to my mind when I was asking about learning how to be assertive without being aggressive/defensive etc. I think I have that book somewhere, bought it years ago, out of curiosity, didn't think I needed it at the time blush. Couldn't have been more wrong.

I have finally realised for myself, somethign DH has been telling me for a long time but which I didn't want to accept. It's so obvious, I feel ridiculous for ever denying it. Because of my dysfunctional relationship with my dad, not only have I been projecting on DH and scapegoating him, I have also been able to conduct our relationship in a normal, healthy, way, because I never learnt the blueprint of how to have a good and positive relationship with a man ie my dad. My relationship with my dad broke down completely when I was about 10. It was a very crucial age as it was just before I became a teenager. If I had had a normal, functional relationship with my dad when I was a teenager, I am sure I would have learnt how to communicate with a man, how to assert myself positively, how to be caring and affectionate. But I never learnt any of those things and that was really my only opportunity, as a young woman, to learn how to have a relationship with a man. That opportunity was completely denied to me and instead I learnt to be defensive, aggressive, hostile, non-communicative, non-affectionate, cold, distant, unloving. And that is the behaviour I am now using with DH. I literally need to learn from scratch almost, at the age of 39, how to be a woman in a relationship with a man.

It's yet another huge loss that I have just realised, one that has caused so many problems in my marriage. I feel a fresh wave of rage and anger at my dad; and he is comfortably obvlivious to the damage he has caused. I really feel his world needs to be blown apart and exploded like mine has because of him. It is so unfair and unjust that his life is simply continuing as normal whilst I deal with the fall out from my childhood every minute of every day. Even calling it a 'childhood' is a misnomer, it was not a childhood at all, it was just an existence, a survival, no more.

My marriage is close to falling apart because of my dad. I honestly feel like killing him. DH has also suffered hugely because of my dad's abuse. And my dad is getting away with it, he's had no punishment, no consequences for what he did. Losing a daughter meant nothing to him, he didn't give a damn about me anyway as he has clearly shown all his life, perhaps losing 2 grandchildren meant a bit more, but hey, he has other grandchildren and so it's not really that bad. I want something really bad to happen to him, i want him to be in pain and suffer for the rest of his life. It's what he deserves. Bastard.

Sorry for the bad language, I feel so angry right now.

exotictraveller Thu 29-Apr-10 14:00:05

....been unable to conduct our relationship in a normal, healthy way........

prettylegsgreatbigknockers Thu 29-Apr-10 14:06:55

It stikes me that all of the posters on this thread are the ones trying to break out of this other worldiness, this disconnection from the senses.

In my therapy, not only am I having to learn to relate, but how to even exist. Hence the baby stuff.

I don't know what it is about us that have chosen to break the pattern, or equally why the rest don't/can't.

In terms of my abusive was the utter horror of being accused of being complicit in the abuse of my own children. That was such a wake up call....and now here I am. This grief, anger, sadness is better than "abusing" my babies. I will not be one of them.

Everyone on this thread is so very brave.

ItsGraceAgain Thu 29-Apr-10 14:20:09

I think it is terrifying, prettylegs - as though their entire identity is the script. Ask them to depart from it, and it's like asking them to stop existing. This is why I do feel sad for my mum. But also why I can't have any 'real' conversations with her now: I don't want to be a bit-part player in her self-scripted play anymore.

I should be glad that she did have The Conversations with me, even though she's now back in denial. It was a big sacrifice for her (being mad) - I had to be fantastically gentle to get her there, and simply can't be arsed with that level of concern any more. Phew! Glad I saved that journal!

mampam, my mum did exactly the same with my sister's kids! She moved close to them, so she could 'help' with the children (she didn't), made her buying decisions based on accommodation for them (which they never use) plus all the stuff you described about the car & so on. Part of her script is Earth Mother so she's driven to act this way. No point in trying to apply common sense.

Can I just point out: it wouldn't matter if you and your H both had jobs twice as good as your brother's? It's not about being "best", it's simply that he is the Golden Child ... and you're not

I have no compunction about looking forward to the end of her life. I went through all that when my Dad died. He didn't do it for me, of course, but I'm grateful to him all the same wink

By the way, I can predict what'll happen when she does: Golden Sis will be in there like a shot, stripping the house of any antiques she hasn't already half-inched. She will argue powerfully for full rights to the house - that's if she hasn't already persuaded Mum to leave it to her/her kids. Golden Bro will turn up for the minimum amount of time, making a fabulous impression on everybody. The rest of us will do all the organising, fetching & carrying, paperwork, cleaning, etc - invisibly. I have already been disinherited because "I owe her".

I'm doing one last, big favour: I'm organising her 80th birthday party this summer: a Princess Day for the little girl she is. It will be great. That's it grin

Wow, this thread's good! I'm recovering (again)!!

exotictraveller Thu 29-Apr-10 14:20:48

prettylegs, I do wonder about this too ..."I don't know what it is about us that have chosen to break the pattern, or equally why the rest don't/can't..." in relation to my sisters. I don't think I will ever find out.

exotictraveller Thu 29-Apr-10 14:22:43

Sorry, meaning that my sisters have chosen or can't break the pattern. They will be continuing the abusive patterns with their children.

Me too :"This grief, anger, sadness is better than "abusing" my babies. I will not be one of them".

exotictraveller Thu 29-Apr-10 14:24:23

Grace, I think you are spot on. If they depart from the script then they don't exist, my parents and sisters included. They do not dare to depart from the script into what they think will be an abyss.

exotictraveller Thu 29-Apr-10 14:28:29

Grace, my parents and sisters think I owe them too. I'm sure that's why my dad offered me the money via my sisters instead of eg just posting me a cheque. He wanted to make sure that my sisters knew how kind and generous he was being by offering me money when they all knew that it was I in fact, who owed my parents.

exotictraveller Thu 29-Apr-10 14:31:11

And I have also been brainwashed into believing that I owe my parents instead of it being the other way around. And this is why I have been feeling so guilty about taking the money and why it has taken me so long to get around to accepting the offer. I can see now that when it was first offered I should have taken it straightaway and asked for more.

exotictraveller Thu 29-Apr-10 14:32:34

This thread helps me get things clear in my head like nothing else. It's brilliant. grin

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