Monday, March 26, 2012

Facing Fear

Some of my earliest memories involve fear.  I was, as a child, and still am, as an adult, afraid of all sorts of things.  Some of my monsters are real and rational, some are the stuff of vapor.  Some have a chance of coming to life in the light of day, some only have a chance of taking form if I wake up tomorrow and discover that there's a Statue of Liberty half buried on the beach, that kid from the Twilight Zone who turns his dad into a jack in the box has moved into my town and H.P. Lovecraft was a sci-fi Nostradamus.  

Regardless of the likelihood of my fears, though, what exists on every plane through every possible or impossible scenario of terror, what resonates in every cell of my being is this single truth in relation to those fears; the fear itself is real.  That physical, visceral response when I'm scared that sets all my internal alarm bells ringing, that's tangible.  When I am scared, my pulse shoots through the roof, my breath quickens, my muscles tighten and ready for a flight or fight response.  Adrenaline courses through me and my senses become hyper-aware.  My fists clench and my jaw tightens, the fine hairs on my neck and arms stand on end.  I can hear the faintest sounds, feel the slightest touch, see the tiniest movement.  I'm ready, I'm switched on - because that fear is real.  It's telling me that there's danger.  It's telling me that I will have to take action.  It's telling me that I am afraid because there is something to be afraid of. 

I was terrorized.  
Let me state this again in more detail for the sake of clarity.
My mother and father terrorized me throughout my childhood, and my mother and father allowed each other to terrorize me.  When I realized that they were hurting me and stood up for myself, they terrorized me further still by convincing me that I was either deserving of the terror, OR (just to make sure they had a back door,) that the terror didn't really exist.  

They did this because they are sick, twisted, mean, evil, abusers.
They terrorized my sister and brother too, and I have empathy for those childhood siblings of mine.  But NSis and GCYB dealt with the terror by becoming terrorizers, too.  So they no longer have my empathy, sympathy or any other -athy. 

My childhood of torture at the hands of the master manipulator Crazymakers left me with pain, scars and fear.  Facing fear all the way through to resolution as a child, particularly as a child with no external support, is almost impossible.  So a child, this child, me, I, used the only tool at my disposal; I made it ok.  I pretended.  I  pretended, specifically, that it wasn't as bad as it truly was, and this is how I survived.  

So I grew up.  Allow me to be clear, again, about how the torture and terror of my childhood ended.  It became the torture and terror of my adolescence, and I was so ingrained with the imaginary storybook family that I'd created in order to survive that I just kept pretending.  So they just kept torturing and terrorizing me.  Childhood terrorization became adolescent terrorization became adult child terrorization.  

Bang up job on being consistent, mom and dad.

And then I changed.  It didn't happen overnight - it was a process to get to the jumping off point, but one day I made a stand.  I decided that I wasn't going to allow them to terrorize and torture me anymore, no matter the cost to me, real or imagined.

I had to run the worst case scenarios in my head and in my conversations with the real and true people in my life who loved me in order to get to this point, because I had to find a way to actualize the fear on my own before I faced the real fear of the Crazymaker affront.  I ran the cost/benefit models over and over while asking the questions that I needed answers to before I could make a stand and keep it.

Some of the first ask and answer sessions with myself went like this: 
"Is it really that bad?" I asked. 
"Well, maybe not, but it hurts..." 
"Could it be you?" I asked. 
"Well, maybe, but not all of it..." 

This segued into something like: 
"Don't you have a right to an opinion?" I asked. 
"Well, I think I should, but I never really have..."
"Shouldn't you be able to have space?" I asked.
"Well,  I think I should, but they might not like it..."

And eventually (this is where it would be helpful for you to think of one of those old cut-scenes in a movie where the shot is of the calendar pages being ripped off one by one in quick succession,) the Q and A became something like: 

"You have a right to be treated with respect, right?" I asked. 
"Yes, I do." 
"If you lose them in your life like they're promising, is that the end of the world?" I asked. 
"No, it's not." 
"Are you ready to stand?"

And the answer was yes, you know.  I was ready to stand even though I was afraid because I'd finally come to understand that my fear of the outcome (losing my 'family') was more manageable than my reality of the pain of having them in my life.  

They're crazymakers, pain dealers, emotional terrorists.  And they're so good at it that they made me believe - with their primary tool of fear - that leaving them would be even more painful than continuing to let them hurt me.  Once I understood that fear was the thumb they kept me under, I could face it.  I could own it and look it in the eye and say, "Yep, I'm scared.  Terrified in fact, but I've faced bigger, stronger demons than this fear." 
And that's when I knew I'd survive, at the very least.  I hoped - only a little bit, just a little tiny bit - that I would find a way to be ok, even.  I never thought I'd be me the way I am now; 
Free of motherfuckin' fear.

But I'm glad I am, and I'm glad I had that little bit of courage that it took to face my fear, because what follows is one of the most important lesson that I've learned in life, and I wouldn't have learned it without the very real fear that the Narcs taught me: 

When we've been raised, instructed and taught by evil people, we've been taught to fear that which will set us free.

That's a lesson they didn't mean to teach me, you know, because it set me free.  And that was the last thing in the world that they wanted. 

So, here I am, and I still have my residual fears; heights, talking apes, spiders, the smell of Old Spice, dark, clowns with pointy teeth, deep water, man-sized wind up toys, aliens that look like giant ice cream cones with sixty-two eyes and telepathic powers.  You know, the run of the mill stuff.  I work through them as they come up.

But I no longer fear myself.  And I no longer fear doing what it takes to protect myself.  
I'll take that trade. 


Friday, March 23, 2012

And They Came

Late last night I posted about the monsters of memory that I've been feeling bubbling under the surface of my soul.  My intent in writing the post was to call out the monsters.
It worked.

I didn't dream last night, and I had the only full night of restful sleep that I've had in a couple of weeks, since I first started noticing this restlessness.  But I woke up with a clear picture of a connection that I haven't made before.

My oldest daughter is a sophomore in high school.  She's oh-so-smart and driven to succeed and has incredibly high standards for herself.  I support this as well as I can and I'm very proud of her for setting her own goals and working to achieve them.  She applies a lot of pressure to herself and I find increasingly that my role is to support her through helping her to manage her anxiety and stress by providing perspective and humor and occasionally technical support. 
Last week she decided that she wanted to apply for acceptance into the National Honor Society and I've been helping her to fill out her various forms, gain recommendation letters and get her essay together.  Last night I was crawling around on the floor trying to figure out what had happened to the computer printer so that she could print out her final essay.

This is a stark contrast from how I was supported in high school.  I was very smart, too.  I actually skipped the eighth grade entirely and still signed up for and scored high marks in honors classes my freshman year of high school.  Then, I made my revelations about ENF's sexual abuse of me mid-year.  That didn't go well.  ENF and NM's outright blame the victim game pushed me further over the precipitous edge of my teenage sanity.  I started seeking fulfillment in other, more destructive and scary - even life-threatening - areas.  I started drinking, smoking and promiscuously having sex.  I sought out relationships with people who I knew wouldn't treat me well, in fact, I knew that these bad boys and girls would treat me just like the trash that it had been proven to me that I was.  I shot my middle finger in the air to NM and ENF with the only tools I had, effectively - I'll destroy my self, then, thank you very much.

And what did my parents do?  They let go of the reins.  I ran rampant and they largely didn't say a damned thing.  Why?  Because I wasn't worth it to them, that's why.  In fact, it worked to their advantage that I went on a single-purposed spree of vengeance against the only person I could damage; me.  Cause later in life they were certainly able to (and did, frequently,) point to my destructive behavior and say, "See!  Look!  She wasn't a good kid!  It was her fault!"

Now, keep in mind that I skipped a grade, and my birthday is late in the school year.  So, coming up on the end of my freshman year, I was just barely 14 years old.  Awfully young to carry the weight of the world.

There was never any talk of NHS applications or college planning in my house, well, at least not with me.  Narc Older Sister had been given assistance, and in fact later in life I remember driving the nine hours to visit her (when she was actually capable of living away from the Clan for a few years) with a check from NM and ENF to her for $10,000 to help pay for her college education.   I'm horrified in retrospect that they had the gall to ask me, the child they NEVER helped with schooling, to transport this blood money.  They did the same thing a few years later when she got married; having me take her a check for $2,000, and when I got married a year later having nothing to give me.  NM actually said, "Gee, Vanci, it just seems like when it comes to you there's nothing left." 

This is one of the monsters that's been peeking out.  These are firm, clear memories that I've never lost hold of, but here's the difference and the reason that I think they've been wiggling.  My oldest daughter is a fantastic person, but she's a sixteen year old.  By definition, she sees the world as an extension of herself. What matters most to a sixteen year old is herself, and that's fine, that's normal.  That's teenage-dom.  They're incredibly self centered because their world is absolutely wrapped up in their own skin and maybe about six inches of space around themselves.  It's temporary and neccesary for growth, even if it is extremely annoying. 

In other words, while I've been crawling around on the floor trying to find the damn dusty printer cord, she's standing there sighing and making noise that it's late and she really needs to get this essay printed and why does this always happen to her and nothing's ever right and blah, blah, blah. 

And I just want to scream at her, "You think your life's hard?!?"
But I don't.  Because I don't want her to live in the hell that I did. 

So I'll help her with her essay and I'll take her to the college power hours and I won't let her teenagery selfish attitude push me too far, because I need to recognize that one of the reasons I'm having a hard time is because I'm seeing this beautiful young lady receive all the help and tools she needs to be succesful, and these are tools that I never received.  I won't resent my child for asking of me what I wasn't given.

And now that I've made the connection and put it in black and white, I feel ever so much better and here's what I take away from this whole thing:
I'm a better parent than either of mine were, by miles. 
My daughter won't have to fight the battles that I did because I've kept her safe from harm to the best of my ability.

Both of these incredible milestones are possible only because I cut the NFOO off from us.  If those aren't the biggest fuck you's to the Nparents I can think of, I don't know what is. 

Cause you know what?  They couldn't destroy me in high school, where I still graduated with a 3.5GPA while drunk (literally, I was drunk at my graduation,) and I won't allow the memory of their horrible parenting and abuse to destroy me now or effect my children. 


Thursday, March 22, 2012

Calling Out the Monsters

I'm struggling with shadow memories right now.

It's been five years since I made my Stand with the NFOO, and almost as long since I declared NC.  I've had two brief interactions in this time, once when NM was in ICU and once in a follow-up counseling appointment.  I left those interactions reaffirmed in my decision to sever all ties.  Any niggling doubt as to whether or not I would ever reestablish contact under any terms was blasted away by the revelations of ENF and NM's direct abuse of one of my DDs.  NSis and GCYB stand with them, just as they have from the beginning, and I'm not interested in knowing what they know or hearing their side of the story.  They were abused just as I was, they're aware of who and what they stand with.  They're adults and can make their own decisions about the degrees of evil they're willing to live with and absorb and further pass on.  Their silence and guilt by association leaves them in the same category of abusers that NM and ENF are in.  When you throw your lot with thieves, you're complicit.  Period.

I'm fucking done with these people.  Done.  Like wouldn't piss on them to put them out if they were on fire done.  If they call me, I won't answer and won't listen to the voicemail done.  Emails will be deleted unread done.  Letters will be returned unopened done.  If they show up on this blog they'll be deleted done.  If I see them anywhere, I'll walk the other way done.  We're talking a turning of the back without even a fart in their general direction done.  There is no conceivable circumstance that could occur in my life that will change this.  Done.

And I think that this absolute and crystal clear internal knowledge that I will never have a relationship with any of them has begun to open some previously locked (chained, deadbolted, barred and guarded,) door within me.  I've remembered a lot over the last few years, and I've been in the fortunate position to accept these memories and to see them clearly for what they are and to analyze how they've affected me.  This, more than anything, has been a key to my healing.

Clear, concrete memories are tangible.  I can wrap my hands and my heart and my head around them, and I can process them.  Ugly as they are at times, I can haul them out of the shadow world of doubt and insecurity and put them on the kitchen counter in the bright light of day and make them show themselves.  I can chop them up and slice them and dice them and dissect them and see them for what they truly are at their core.  Without that clarity, well, it's like fighting steam.

I have certain tangible memories that have surfaced over the last few years that are, simply put, horrors.  They're not repressed memories so much as things that I just had to put in a box and lock away in some part of my soul until I was ready to see it for what it was.  I always remembered them, but I didn't always have the strength to let them out of the box.  They're the stuff of nightmares, and they've come bubbling up at appropriate times, usually triggered by something that's happened in some other, safer area of my life.  I've done what we all have to do when the monster peeks out of the closet; I've made a decision to face the demon du jour.  The other option, of course, is to flee, but I've found that the fight response is more effective.  And I've become better each time I've battled it.

I can feel something bubbling up now, and I'm trying to be ready for it.  I just hate this part.  Hate it, hate it!
I'm stuck here in this limbo of restlessness; not sleeping very well, fighting off invisible monsters in a semi-conscious state, snapping at things that I'd normally take in stride, feeling sensitive for not a whole hell of a lot of reason, generally just weirding myself out for no obvious reason.

What I've learned in the last few years is two-fold, though.
First, it'll come.  I have to relax, do the day-to-day, keep myself in what we in AA recovery call 'a fit spiritual condition,' and it will come.  The locks will turn, the chains will fall off and the door will open.  The monster can't, won't or doesn't want to stay hidden away in the closet.  It'll peek out eventually, I know.  Although some part of me dreads its appearance, another - stronger - part of me knows that the confrontation will be anti-climactic - memories are only shadow monsters after all - and I will be better, feel better when it's done.
Second, I know that I'm going to be fine, no matter what comes out of that door.  I know because it's happened before and I've been fine, even better for dealing with it.  I know because you've done the same and look how well you are! :)  And I know, most importantly, that I'll be fine because the only possible monsters are memories and I'll only have to deal with what was done to me from behind the safe boundary that they can't ever do these things to me again.

Still, I wish it would just come out and let's kick some gravel, already.  I'm too busy doing things like living my happy and healthy life with people I love to sit on my ass waiting for the nasty to surface.

Patience may very well be a virtue, but I'm not sure it's one of mine!

So I'm doing what I know to do, which is something very, very odd that I think most normal, non-ACoN, non-abused people don't have to do; I'm seeking triggers.  And one that sort of wiggled in tonight came from the strangest place.  Ever seen the movie Kung Fu Panda 2?  (I cringe as I even type it; really?  I watched this movie? This is what I did with my evening?)  There's a scene where the baby panda's mother is essentially about to sacrifice herself to protect her child, and I started tearing up.  Visible/tangible evidence of a mother's protection of her child is a pretty obvious trigger, i.e., something that my farcically pathetic excuse for a madre didn't provide, but really?  An animated movie with kung fu and panda in the title.  Wow.  What's next?  Talking dog movies?  LOL.

Laugh or cry, we'll see what dreamland brings tonight.  Whatever it is, I'm ready.


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Heartbreak and Freedom

In my Help a Sister Out post, KFL5 asked some pertinent and difficult questions, and you wonderful readers really stepped up to the plate to share your experience and hope with her.  Thank you, thank you, thank you. My finger's all healed now and I can type again, yay!, so I wanted to add a few of my minimal cents.

The question, "Anyone else deal with the heartbreaking feeling of abandonment when you are finally able to set some emotional boundaries?" was the one that really resonated with me; the one I keep going back to.

Oh, ouchie, I remember this feeling.  I had to dredge a bit to get back to it, combing through memories that feel like ancient history but are really just a few short years ago.  I want to start by saying that I don't feel this anymore.  Feeling abandoned required that I had ever felt like I belonged in the first place.  For some time, I DID feel this.  I'd always had the NFOO in my life and they did an excellent job of filling up my every waking moment with their demands and needs and convincing me that my worth was directly related to their happiness, so at first, absolutely, I was stranded on a metaphorical deserted island all by myself, or at least that's how it seemed.

Circumstances and force of will kept me in that lonely place, even when I was tempted to just give in and jump back into my previously allotted role within the fucked up painful system that was all I'd known as 'family.'  It felt, a lot of the time, like the wind was just whistling through the gaping hole in the middle of my soul.  Even the horrible something that we've known can be more comfortable to have than the emptiness of uncertainty.  I feared the void, but not quite enough to want to fill it back up with the awfulness that was the NFOO.  Almost, but not quite.

Still, I was shocked and wounded that these people who'd claimed to 'love' me could turn on me so easily, so quickly, so thoroughly.  Even worse, their abandonment was made worse in that it proved to me that the feeling I'd always had that I would be dropped like a hot rock if I didn't do exactly what they told me to do was fact.  I couldn't chalk up my insecurities to my own overactive imagination anymore (and after all they'd trained me so well to do so.)  Their abandonment of me made me realize what was true; they really didn't love me and I was just their scapegoat, object, pawn - not even a person, just something to be used at their convenience and to their ends.

The isolation that they imposed after my stand was nothing short of what they'd always threatened.  They refused to speak to me rationally, they refused to be civil, they made it a point to reach out to every single person that we knew mutually and rally as many of those people as they could against me.  Effectively, I said, "This is what I need to feel safe, this is the space that's acceptable to me, this is the way I'd like to communicate."
And they replied with attacks on my character, attacks on my mental health, attacks by proxy through my children, attacks on me behind my back and to my face and to anyone with half a minute and the ability to hear the attacks they manufactured against me.  Attack, attack, attack.  I asked for space and they launched the armada.

It was awful.  It was heartbreaking.

But, the last thing that I had in common with the NFOO was this: we both underestimated my strength of character.
I'm certain that they are still, five years later, baffled that I haven't come crawling back to them.  When I met with NM in my counselor's office in June, she let her expectations of my behavior slip out between the lines of her carefully crafted speech when she stated (talking about NSis) that "some people in our family are more willing to forgive than others."  She - and therefore they, let's not forget that the NFOO follows the whimsy of NM, always - can't understand a Vanci outside of her own framework.  In her mind, I am wrong and it's only a matter of time before I seek her absolution for my sins.  The twisted logic and warped mind behind that particular curtain is fucking mind boggling.  Incidentally, when I called her on this bullshit, the conversation went South FAST.

I underestimated myself, too.  In truth, it was their actions that pushed me further and further in my resolve to stop the abuse and break the cycle.  The crazier they got in their need to control me, attack me, win at all cost, the clearer I became in my boundaries.  Every time they crossed a line, I drew a firmer, bolder, tighter circle around myself and the FOC.  Bet they never saw that coming!  (And I didn't really either until I did it!)

So, that deserted and abandoned feeling abated in direct proportion to what became my choice to live a life apart from them.  It is, after all, impossible to feel abandoned by something that one's chosen to leave.  And the longer I stayed away, the more difficult it's become for me to see how the hell I ever stayed there in the first place.  There's truth to the saying, "Once known, a thing cannot be unknown."  Sometimes I think they're like a black hole; get too close to the vortex and it'll suck you in; try to get away and you'll discover that it takes an awful lot of power to get out of proximity.  The best plan once you've got a little distance is to lay on the warp drive and never look back.

And that's what I feel now.  Not abandonment, not heartbreak, not even sadness most of the time.  I feel... free.  I feel like I took a lot of bullets but somehow managed to dodge the widow maker that had my name on it.  I feel like a hungry shark swam into my legs and then got distracted by something in the opposite direction.  I feel like I missed the launch of the Titanic and got left on the dock with my ticket in hand.  I feel like I somehow, someway, got a pass and a chance at a whole new life, one that is only possible without the Crazymakers in it.

Cause this life I've lived without them?  It's so, so, so much better than it ever was with them.  I had to get some road behind me to see that, to feel that, to be able to embrace that, but it's the truth.  I had to go through those awful feelings of loneliness and heartbreak and abandonment to come out the other side with the innate, deep-seated knowledge that people who love me don't seek to make me feel those things.

And once I had that under my belt, it became easy to look around and see the large group of people that were by my side all along rooting for me and holding their arms out to me in genuine concern and care and love for me just the way I am.  Now that's freedom, baby.

I'll close with this:
It gets better.
It gets so much better.


Thursday, March 15, 2012

What Changes?

I've had a couple of people ask me lately the same basic question, though phrased differently and in different contexts from each other.  I'm open about my background and as transparent as I can appropriately be about what I've experienced in my life, how I've overcome abuses I've suffered and how I think/feel/live, so I get a lot of these types of questions.  I have a fairly large capacity for self-inspection, which is certainly not something that I try to hide, and my openness about my emotional journey attracts all sorts of folks who are seeking something in their own lives.  

The question I've been getting is something along the lines of: How do you decide to change?  
How do we get away from abusive people?  Declare boundaries and hold them firm?  Determine what is appropriate treatment and what is abuse?  How do we decide that or when enough is enough and most importantly, how do we know when and that we can take definitive action? 

We talk a lot in these communities about the steps that we take once action is determined to be necessary, and that is of IMMENSE value.  In leaving an abusive family system or relationship(s), we're sailing off blind into uncharted (at least by us so far in life) waters.  Thar be monsters thar, matey.  The experience of others who've been before us or are journeying with us is incredibly important to have.  But, before we rig up the sails and leave port, we've made a decision to do so.  What dictates that timing, I wonder?

It's different for everyone, I'm sure.  I read a lot of our stories that seem to have a jumping off point that's the result of cumulative abuse over years, lifetimes.  We've been fed, as DH puts it, little spoonfuls of shit for long enough to be tired of eating shit.  (Bless that man for his colorful descriptions!)
Often there's no MAJOR ORDEAL that is the final atrocious act that pushes us into action, it's just yet another Everyday Abuse or Narc Attack or Crazymaker Tactic.  Often it's no different from the way that we've been treated daily... forever.  But it's the last time, it's the metaphorical straw across our backs and we snap, we've had enough, we spit the shit out of our mouths, we create a wall or a boundary and this time we stick by it, we fortify our defense and we take a stand.

Sometimes there is a major event that pushes us over the line from passive Scapegoat to Defender of Self (or FOC.)  But, for ACoNs, I can almost guarantee that whatever that big final event is, we've dealt with it or something like it before.  So why do we finally wake up and choose to act or react differently than we always have before? 

The Narcs don't change, the abusers don't change, I honestly believe that they are only as capable of change as they are willing to look within and that they are as a whole, completely unwilling to do so.  So, they keep trying to destroy us in the same what that they always have.
Therefore, it's logical to conclude that WE are what changes.  Something in us changes at the end and we become capable and willing to change the game, even if it means - as it almost always does - turning our entire worlds upside down and dealing with the full-blown rage and power of the Narc and Minion Crazymaking Machine.

It was a long time coming, for me, and I don't remember having an Aha moment where everything suddenly became clear.  It was a process to get to the point of willingness, and the fear of loss I had in stepping out of the NFOO's expectations of me was very real.  They'd always been able to express to me clearly that if I stopped towing the company line, I'd be exiled, ostracized, thrown out, worthless to them.  For most of my life, they had the power to erase me as I believed that without them I wouldn't be worthy of existence.  

But, there was some thin wire of steel that found its way into my heart and mind, and I finally had the strength to make a stand.  I wasn't expecting the World War III that my stand cracked open.  It took me by surprise and I was seriously shell-shocked... but.  Something new happened after that final confrontation.  I continued to stand.  That was a first.  

I don't know, still, why I knew that I could remain standing, take it, move on, grow, learn and be better without them that time.  But, I do know for a fact that the final stand was the first time that I reacted to their assault with further resistance.  I made mistakes, sure, and allowed too much discourse, false conversation and wish I'd known how to shut the door completely and immediately.  But, even with my occasional back-sliding and mis-stepping, I still kept moving forward, away from them and their (increasingly easy to spot and avoid) craziness.  

And I know this, too; the longer I stood, the clearer it became that I was making the best possible choice.  

Now, with the perfect clarity of retrospect, I can see it exactly as it progressed.  I know what I did right and I know what I did wrong and I know that I am better off without them than I ever even could have had the possibility of being with them.  

I still don't remember everything; some abuses still lay dormant in me and occasionally one will bubble up as further proof of my rightness in defending myself and discontinuing my relationship with these awful people who called themselves my family.  But, I remember enough to know that the source of my strength in breaking the cycle came from within me.  I'm the one who changed, and I'm ever so glad that I did. 


Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Help a Sister Out

Hi all!  It's been a roller coaster of a couple weeks involving a business trip and an injury that's kept me from posting - who knew that an index finger could cause such excrutiating pain while typing? ;)  Although I'm becoming fairly good at this whole hunt and peck style of typing, I'm having trouble reconciling that I simply cannot type as fast as I can think!  I'll be healed up in a few days and will return in force - lots of thoughts cookin' in the old brain - but until then I wanted to re-post this comment I received from KFL5 on my The Big Picture post with a request that anyone with ideas for her respond with their own wisdom and experience.

She asks:
Thank you for this post! Glad I'm not the only one with thoughts like these. I sent my mother an email in Dec. saying that I'd like to communicate via email for a while because phone conversations have not been constructive, and that I think everyone of us should be accountable for what we say to each other (in my mind, verbal abuse from her and my 2 siblings; gaslighting and denial of horrible things said to me, etc.). She has completely ignored the letter's content, but sent a cordial email on Christmas and another for my birthday. That's it. Anyone else deal with the heartbreaking feeling of abandonment when you are finally able to set some emotional boundaries? How silly of me to think that my NM would actually have a heart and try to work through our relationship. Nah, easier to just ignore the elephant and keep up your Emily Post facade. Do I wait until eternity for a response? If I give in first and acknowledge that she ignored my email, am I feeding her N supply??? Please help, experienced folks! Your blogs are keeping my head above water. Thank you for your courage and honesty! K.

I, of course, have many thoughts in answer to your questions, K, but I'm going to have to save them until I can articulate without having to backspace every two characters.  (Grrrr!!!)  I will say, though, that in my opinion you opened up a conversation that you feel you need to have honestly with your mother regarding the non-constuctive and hurtful conversations, and her response is at the very least, dismissive.  By following the 'letter of the law' while refusing to acknowledge the actual core issues, she's either denying - yet again - that those issues exist or she's making it a game to try to ensure that you break your own tentative boundary BEFORE she does, thereby making you - yet again - the 'bad guy' while absolving herself.  (I can hear my own NM here, "Well, I followed all of Vanci's silly little rules and she still isn't happy!")

I won't tell you what to do, but I will tell you that I think you are asking yourself - and all of us - the absolutely right questions and I acknowledge the difficulty of your doing so while admiring you for your courage.  Keep asking!