Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Explanatory Style

In the comments of my Disinfecting a Poisoned Well post, blogger jessie asked me if I still had the lists of questions that my counselor asked me to ask and answer before, during and after conversations with my Crazymakers when I was in the long process of disentangling from the web of obligation of my NFOO.

It's been awhile now, and that period of time was so chaotic due to the stress and complications that I had to go through to come out the other side into NC that I've largely forgotten details.  New day, new tools.  I went looking, though, and found some very interesting notes and writing.  I even found the fourteen page, handwritten missive of condemnation that NSis sent to me about three months after I declared that I would not speak with NM outside of a counselor's office (which, of course, in CLASSIC Clan style, meant that I had also declared the same boundary with everyone else in the family.)  That'll be a post for another day, though.

I didn't find all of the lists - I'm not a saver for a lot of reasons, but the main one is that when I reached the point of doneness, I was well done.  Blackened, sooty and smoking.  Burnt to a crisp AND bloody as hell (a l'il bit o' Pulp Fiction for ya there, racefans.)  When I hit the point of being done with the Bad Uns, I was done baby done, and I got rid of most of the shit that reminded me of them, including the letters that I didn't ever want to read again.  Some of these I burned, page by bloody page.  It felt good, it was a ritual to mark the passing of an era, the hope of a new start.  I felt cleaner when the nasty baubles were gone.

I kept some things; pictures, mostly, of the family in falsely happier seeming times, that live in a picture box in a deep, dark closet and that I haven't even thought of in ages.  I kept the letter from NSis because I'd thought that at some point I would want to respond to it, not necessarily to her but to myself.  Who knows, maybe I still will.

What I did find of my notes, though, was my scribbled explanation of explanatory style.  This was a massively helpful tool to me in beginning to separate my thoughts from my training, so I'll outline my version of it here.  It was a bit of a revelation to me at the time, I'll admit.  Looking back on it, it seems so simple, so logical, but at the time it was an epiphany.  Which says a lot, I think, about how ever loving hard it is to break out of a destructive way of life that's been so ingrained from such an early age.  I mean, this stuff just all makes sense, right?  But I'd believed differently under the influence and pressure of the Narcs, so I needed for someone else to explain it to me.
Here's what I understand this concept to be.

Explanatory style is simply the manner in which I explain something to myself, my way of thinking about an event and understanding it.

An example of two different types of explanatory style:
DH and I buy a new car.  It's shiny.  He says to me, "Vanci, when you go to the store, make sure that you park far away from everyone else.  That way, no one will park too close and scratch the paint on the new car."  I go to the store and park a reasonable distance away from everyone else, say two parking spaces from the nearest car.  Tralalalala I do my shopping.  I come back to the car and see that my car is now surrounded by cars AND there's a dent in the door of my shiny new car.

Style 1:
I am so stupid, I can't believe that I didn't park farther away.  DH is going to be mad at me.  I shouldn't have done this, I never do anything right.  He told me to park far away, why did I think that I was far enough, I was lazy.  This is all my fault.
Style 2:
Who the hell parks that close to another person's car?  I can't believe that somebody dented my car, what an awful thing for someone else to do.  I am within the boundaries of my parking space and this person in this other car has edged up close to me and obviously dented my car.  I have a right to be compensated for this and I will take action to make sure that I am.  I will take action to protect my asset.

This particular example is about fault.  Whose fault is it that the car is dented?

I was raised to believe that I was responsible for ... well, everything.  Especially bad things.  I don't recall any specific examples of the Nparents blaming me for bad weather, but I would not have been surprised if they did.  Whatever went wrong, regardless of what it was, I was at fault.  And if a child is told something about themselves enough, they will begin to believe it.  So naturally, I believed that I was at fault.

My explanatory style, my way of interpreting and understanding the world around me, was all sorts of screwed up, you see?
The person who perpetrates a crime or an offense is always the person who is at fault, never the victim.  I know this now, but I didn't then.  I had to stop and consciously go through every single step of an incident or a thought and learn how to explain it to myself in order to stop believing that I was at fault by default.

For years I would say, "I was sexually abused as a child."  Think about the structure of that sentence for a second.  Who and what are contained in that sentence?  Me, crime, me.  Victim, abuse, victim.  Who's missing from that sentence?  Only the person responsible.  After years of re-thinking, I changed that sentence in my vocabulary.  Now, I say this: "My father sexually abused me when I was a child."  Offender, crime, victim of said offender and crime.  It's a little thing, just a few words, but it was definitely a change in identification of fault for me.  Why was I leaving the offender out in the first place?  For me, it's indicative of how I thought about myself; responsible in some way for the crime itself.  It feels better to put the person responsible for it there, in his proper place; it's more true.

So, thinking of my explanatory style, prior to a scheduled phone call or meeting with any of the N's, I would ask myself these types of questions:
What specific action am I trying to accomplish?
And I'd write it down in simple words like this; do not call me.
(I was always tempted to elaborate, to put my reasons down in writing, but I discovered that this was counterproductive as I began to realize that it didn't matter what my reasons were because they'd only twist them anyway.  Much later in the process, I learned that I didn't have to give a reason, that I had a right to ask for what I was asking for, but like I said, that was much later.)

What response am I expecting?
Again, simple words, write it down:  agreement.
(Aaaaaannnnnnnddddd, this is the point in the process where I began to learn, again, later on, to stop and rethink.  Because I eventually learned that my expectations  - of sane, normal, civil responses were the point at which I might as well throw in the towel.  But early in the process, before I truly understood that I was sticking my hand into a den of scorpions and expecting them to invite me in for high tea rather than sting me, I really did expect such things as agreement, discourse, to be listened to.)

How will I know that I have accomplished what I am expecting?
Simple words, write it down: NM will say, "Yes, I will not call you anymore."
(Two guesses how that always went, but I can guarantee you that you'll only need one.)

I'd go through this process and I'd feel good about going into a conversation; grounded, centered, well prepared.

Of course, I was dealing with Narcissists, so the conversation almost always took a turn for a bad neighborhood around the time that I had the audacity, the sheer nerve, to let the Nfamily member know that I had a boundary or an expectation.  As DH said early and often, "How long are you going to keep expecting sane responses from insane people?"  But it was a process that I had to go through in order to even see the insanity.

After the conversation, I would ask and answer things like this:

Why didn't you accomplish what you'd set out to?
Simple words, write it down: She refused and told me that she'd call me whenever she wanted to and that I had no right to tell her not to as I was her child and "mothers never give up on their children."
(See how that works?  I was wrong for asking for space, I had no right to ask for space and the end result of my asking for space was two-fold; I would be given less space and it would be known that I was making her chase me, which she would translate to anyone willing to listen as - Oh my, look at what my daughter is doing to me and look at how hard I have to work... Woe is me, woe is me.)

How did the response you received differ from what you'd expected?
Simple words, write it down: It was the complete opposite.  She made it my fault for asking.
(Because that, in my opinion is the strongest weapon in most Narc's arsenal; they make any sane or healthy thing that we ask for appear to be wrong, wrong, wrong and hurtful of them.  They turn it around on us in a heartbeat, and they have the advantage because they are, after all, the people who set us up to fail by giving us a faulty explanatory style circuit board in the first place, so we are almost hard-wired to believe that it's our fault anyway.  All they have to do is hint and we fall in line to shoulder the blame.)

What would you do differently?
Simple words, write it down: ________________.
(I'm leaving this blank because I can't stand the thought of what I would have written down here.  The reality of the question is so clear to me know, looking back.  I couldn't have done anything differently. It wouldn't have mattered.  I'm sure at the time, I wrote something like "Don't get emotionally upset."  Or, "Have a third party on the phone with me."  Or some other futile thought or tool that I hoped beyond hope at the time would have kept the conversation on the right track.  But I know now that NOTHING would have changed these conversations.)

So I'd go through the process, usually repeatedly, and I'd take my little Q and A sheets to my counselor's office and we'd go through it.  I'd expected, of course, like the well-trained little monkey I still was in some ways (and I say that as endearingly as it is possible to say,) that these questions would help me to focus the conversation, to stay on the high road, to respond rather than react.  I'd expected that my approach and actions would have any effect on the conversation whatsoever.

What I learned is that the only way to have a nice, civil conversation with a Narcissist is to not have one at all, or possibly to draw a resemblance of the N's face on a sock, slip it over my hand and have a nice, civil conversation with the sock puppet while pretending that it was NM or ENF or NSis or GCYB.  (Ok, so I didn't really do that, but I'm confident that you understand my point.)

I did, however, learn some very valuable things about ME.
I learned that I am responsible for my end of the conversation, regardless of the other person's reaction.
I learned how to identify what it is that I need and will be asking for.
I learned what my limits are and how to set them with other people.
I learned that the importance of my setting boundaries was not contingent upon others honoring them.
I learned that I would never get anywhere talking to the N's in my life using reasonable tools.

Eventually, I learned that it was pointless to have these or any other conversations with the N's in my life, and MOST importantly, I learned that the deterioration of those conversations and relationships was not my fault, even though I'd always thought it was before.

That's made the biggest difference for me.  It's only one tool, but understanding and changing my explanatory style was helpful to me in beginning to understand that 'it' wasn't always my fault by default.  And led me to wondering why I thought that in the first place.  And that led me to understanding that this was just one more area in which I'd been abused.  And that led to the imperfect, flawed person that's writing this today, but also to my freedom in understanding that I can change the way I see the world at any time, and that I don't necessarily have to understand the why of a thing in order to know that I don't want it in my life.


Sunday, October 28, 2012

Disinfecting a Poisoned Well

This is what DH and I have spent the entire weekend doing.  Literally.
The apt metaphor of healing from a NFOO did not escape me.

The well
About a month ago, we started to notice a distinct... ah... odor in our water supply.  Yeah, let's just stick with 'distinct odor' as a description.  Ahem.
We live in a rural area and have a well, so I've had some experience with troubles of this kind before.  Typically, what I've come across are various mineral deposits or issues with rusty pipes, etc.  There are various treatments - like water softeners - to remove the minerals.  I thought this is the type of problem we were dealing with.  I assumed that DH would tell me we needed to look into getting a water softener.  Given what I knew, this was not an unreasonable assumption.
I remember realizing that there were significant problems in my NFOO.  I thought that I would be able to draw boundaries, have honest conversations, state what my needs and desires were and that we would fix the problem together.  I assumed that the members of my NFOO were reasonable people and that we would find a way to improve communication and fix it.

The well
About a week after the distinct odor appeared and did not go away, I asked DH what we needed to do. I thought it was odd that he hadn't said anything, but figured that he hadn't smelled it.  He often comments that his "sniffer's broke," then pretends to be a redneck and hee-haws while sniffing around comically.  (He worked with a lot of chemicals when he was younger and doesn't seem to be able to smell much.)  He said that we needed to have our well-water tested.  I went to our local health department, got the materials and learned when I could drop off a sample of our water, which as it turns out is only once a week.  We waited for the appropriate day and then turned in the water sample and were told that we would be mailed results.  I assumed that we'd get a test back telling us that we had excess of mineral X and that we'd figure out how to treat that excess of mineral X.
After spending some time trying to improve communication between the members of the NFOO and myself, nothing had improved.  I began to seek different tools to work on the problem.  I sought counseling, and when I talked to my therapist for the first time about what was happening in my NFOO and how it was beginning to effect me, he began by suggesting some simple tests.  for one, he asked me to identify a boundary that I needed to set with the NFOO and to go through the process that I would take in setting that boundary.  We decided that I would talk to my mother and father alone and I would ask them to respect boundary X.   I assumed that I would have a civil conversation with them and we would identify a plan for implementing boundary X.

The well
About three weeks after we identified the distinct odor, last Monday, in fact, which was just not the best damn day, we received the test results back.  The results were not good.  Our well had a bacterial problem.  This is not what I'd expected, this was a horse of an entirely different color.  I wasn't sure what I was dealing with anymore.  I was afraid.
My talk with my mother and father did not go as planned.  The were not receptive to my new boundary.  They interrupted me while I was speaking, and then changed my words and threw them back at me.  The accused me of things.  They said that I was being unreasonable.  They ignored my husband and told me that I had always been 'difficult.'  They completely discounted my boundary.  And after they left, I received a nasty, screaming phone call from my sister, accusing me of trying to hurt all of 'them.'  I was suddenly on the outside of 'them.'  This is not what I'd expected, this was an entirely different animal than I'd thought it was.  I wasn't sure what I was dealing with anymore.  I was afraid.

The well
I asked DH if he knew what we needed to do, how we identified what kind of bacteria this was, where it came from, how to stop it, how to fix it.  He said that we needed to disinfect the well.  He said that this would require chemicals, like bleach.  He asked me to research online (something he's not good at,) and see if I could find specifications for how much would be required and any kind of instructions to accomplish this.  I said that I would.
I went back to my counselor, emotionally battered and bruised.  I asked him how I could fix the problem with my family, how I could get them to respect my (by now plural) boundaries that I'd had to draw.  I asked him how I could feel safe again, and how I could not be afraid.  He asked me to keep doing the work and stay in the process.  I said that I would.

The well
In doing the research, I found that I would need to know the depth of the well in order to determine how much bleach to use to disinfect it.  At this point in my mind, this was still a fairly simple process, mind you.  DH happened to be home and I wasn't, so I called him and asked him how deep the well was.  He told me that he'd have to open the well casing and drop a tape measure to be sure, but that he thought it was about twenty-five feet.  I thought that this was odd, because I was looking at a graph that showed depths up to five hundred feet.  Still, I figured that he knows more about wells, has more experience with wells than I do, so I waited for him to call me back.  Surely, I thought, it can't be only twenty-five feet.
In asking these questions of my counselor and going through the process of identifying specific issues that needed to be addressed in my relationship with my NFOO, I began to discover that there were some connections weren't what they'd seemed.  I started to redefine actions that I'd previously seen as 'love' or 'family' and I began to wonder if I really knew what I was dealing with.  My counselor gave me specific lists of questions that I should ask myself about my relationships with all the members of the NFOO while I was interacting with them and after I'd interacted with them.  He asked me to take ten minutes after any phone call with any of them to write down five words that described how I felt.  I thought this was odd, because I didn't see how identifying how I felt after I talked to them would help me to get them to stop violating my boundaries.  Still, I figured that he knows more about family systems, has more experience with family systems than I do, so I agreed to follow the instructions. Surely, I thought, this won't tell me what I need to know.

The well
I'd always thought that we had a drilled well, which was the only type of well I knew about.  This is a hole drilled into the ground a long way, several hundred feet I thought, with a pipe jammed all that way down into the water table.  There's a pump at the top to pull all that cool, clear, mother nature filtered water to the surface and pump it into our home, right?
I'd always thought that my family made me feel good about myself.  Sure, they were a little demanding sometimes, but they couldn't help that.  It's just they came off like that sometimes.  They were basically good and loyal and loved me, they just weren't very good at giving me the space I needed.  They depended on me too much because I was too dependable, but I'd had depend on them before too.  These people were my family and that meant that they loved me, right?

The well
This was not the case, I learned.  Our well is not a drilled well.  Our well is in our basement, well, below our basement, technically.  Our well was dug using a backhoe.  Our well is accessed via a giant, four foot tall concrete box with a lid on it that opens onto a twenty-five foot deep hole in the ground with concrete cylindrical forms for walls.  There's mud twenty five feet down there.  This was not the mythical crystal clear water flowing from under the earth to nourish my family's health.  This was a hole in the ground in our basement.  My illusions were shattered.
The way I felt after those phone calls was not the way I had thought I would feel.  My family did not make me feel what I anticipated; loved, happy, safe.  My family made me feel: dark, angry, frustrated, cold, helpless, powerless, stupid, confused, sick, bad.  This was not the cherished bosom of the family crest that I'd been sold on.  This was hurtful, this was abuse.  My hopes were shattered.

The well
I bought bleach on my way home from work.  I assumed that we would pour bleach into the well in the correct amount, run the bleach water through all the taps and wait the prescribed 12-24 hours.  I was upset that I would have to go a day without a shower, but willing to make the sacrifice.
I learned that I did not want to feel the way that my family made me feel after those calls.  I resolved that I would not let them treat me that way, that I would not let them make me feel that way anymore. I decided that I'd had enough and that I wouldn't be letting them talk to me in such a manner the next time.  I knew that I would probably take some heat, maybe even be hung up on a couple of times, but I was willing to do so in order to hold my ground.

The well
DH laughed when I brought the bleach home after work on Tuesday and asked him if he was ready to do this disinfecting thing.  "No, babe," he said, "we have to get more tools and we'll need more time."  We had to obtain pumps, I was told, to get all of the water out of the well and remove whatever might be causing the problem.  "What could be causing it?" I asked, thinking that we were talking about a rusty pipe or a crack with mold in it or something like that.  I was a little dumbfounded wondering what could be causing the problem.
All of my efforts to safeguard myself were summarily shut down.  I was being a spoiled brat, I was told, and I had no right to ask for what I was asking for.  I would NOT be granted what I was asking for.  The phone began to ring constantly.  Instead of backing off on demands and honoring my boundaries, there were new demands, more demands and now the demands began to be accompanied by snide remarks and rude comments that I hadn't heard before.  I was dumbfounded by how I was being treated and couldn't understand why.

The well
Yesterday, DH began the process to pump out the well.  He soon realized that he would need a particular kind of ladder, and that the only way to get said ladder would be to ask for help from my father-in-law.  FIL can't pass up a project without joining in, so he brought the ladder and came to help.  I asked him in passing if he thought they'd have to pump it completely dry for us to clean it up.
He told me that we'd certainly have to get it all the way down to the ground in order to clear up the problem, or, in his words, "To get whatever critter is in there out, you know."
There was a dead animal in our well.  Holy hell.  Holy carp.  Holy fuck.  Our water was full of rotting carcass.  Fuck me, that's a nightmare.
The longer the situation deteriorated with the NFOO, the more crazy calls I had, the farther we/they tumbled down the rabbit hole, the more I reached out to the obviously sane people around me.  They let me know that they were there to help and they would do anything they could for me.  I asked them if they thought I would be okay, if it would be okay, if I'd 'get my family back.'  They began to tell me that from what they'd seen, I was being abused.  I began to realize that the issues were lifelong and deep.  My family was, indeed, out to get me.  They would never, ever, ever stop pushing and hurting and shaming me.  And they were hurting (in some ways already) or going to hurt my DDs in exactly the ways they had and were hurting me.  Holy hell.  Holy carp.  Holy fuck.  My family was full of dysfunction and narcissism and the chosen perpetration of that on other people.  Fuck me, that's a nightmare.

The well
We worked to remove the... ah... atrocity.  We pumped in new water and added bleach.  We ran the clean water and the disinfectant through every linear foot of pipe, faucet or fixture in the house.  We allowed it to sit and work away at the germs.
This atrocity as well has - after much work - been removed.  I've spent years cleaning house and getting rid of the parasites, germs and other rank shit they left behind.

The well
The water is now clean.  I'm glad it's clean.  I like the idea that it's clean and free of poison.  That's great.  But now that I know what was wrong in the first place, we're never exposing our family to the risk of such contamination again.  The filtration system will be installed by the end of next month.
This well too is now clean, at least on my end.  There is no more poison allowed to enter my system through that portal, because I installed a shutoff valve and locked it shut a while ago.  I won't be exposed to that risk of contamination again.

The moral of these true stories?
If you're not absolutely, positively 100% sure that it's good for you, don't drink the water.
Take it from someone who knows, now.


Friday, October 26, 2012

Who You Let Treat You Like That

Today's earlier post and all of the comments and back and forth got me thinking.  Uh oh.  No, really, it's a good thing.  I felt that it was necessary to delete some ill intended comments from an anonymous commenter; particularly I found these comments offensive because she/he was calling other commenters names.  I see no reason to call the people who've taken the time to put their precious energy into speaking here in blogland names.  It's rude, it's unproductive and I don't like it.

So I deleted and I'd do it again.  I've posted a comment policy that summarizes that I will delete commenters who choose to abuse or attack other commenters on this blog.  I feel strongly about this.  Thanks to Q's Sis, vicariousrising, Jonsi and Upsi for discussing this with me in comments.

Most of the other bloggers that I know moderate their comments and I think that could help to avoid the kind of speed attack that was happening today, but I don't want to moderate.  I'm not interested in being tethered to a comment moderation role and it's generally been my experience that those who want to comment do so primarily in helpful, compassionate, empathetic and interesting input.  I'd rather not have those comments sitting in an inbox until I finally remember to check it while in the middle of dinner or on the phone or happily driving home from work. Maybe I'm idealistic, too, and really want to give people the benefit of the doubt.

Most of the other bloggers I know wouldn't have deleted some of the comments that I did today, and I think that's just fine for them.  I respect that decision to let it ride.

What I thought about today though, was something that DH said to me while I was embroiled in the pre-fight warm up round to my extracting myself from the NFOO.  I see a lot of talk about taking the Red Pill, and I think that's an apt metaphor to discovering the truth about our narcissistic families of origin.  My experience was a gradual Wake Up, and that's what I've always identified it as.

The beginning of my realizations that something was very, very wrong with my 'family' happened in September 2006.  I still played my role and did what was expected, you know just giving up all of my time, money, self, like that.  But I was developing this sneaking suspicion that I wasn't quite as invested as I had been.  I started to question things, first to myself, then out loud.  Just little things, like why everyone in my family assumed that all of my nicer-than-theirs (and harder earned) possessions were always to be available to them.  Why it was okay for ENF to borrow my truck and bring it back dirty and with the fuel gauge on E.  Why I not only was expected to make the holiday dinner, but to do it outside of my own home AND pay for the entire thing.  Why, when I asked for partial reimbursement for the food, I was suddenly the bad guy.  Just a few mini rebellions, a few ground tremors... but they were building.

I made my Stand in January 2007, and that's when it all blew the fuck up.  I've written reams about that period of time and what came after, the brief incidents that I've had with flirting at contact and the couple of points of actual contact.

But today I am thinking about that period of time between my first realizations of the Crazymaker Clan's true nature and the solidification of their role as such in my mind and heart.

DH was with me through all of my questioning and all of my bumbling through the horror of finally beginning to understand who they really were, what they were really like and how I was really being treated.  It was rough.  Hot asphalt on bare feet rough.  Needles under fingernails rough.  They fucking launched an all out full scale war against me.  And I didn't know how to react, I wasn't sure what to do with this new attack or with my new feelings.  For awhile, I just stood there and took it.

I got help and started picking up tools, but I was outgunned and outnumbered.  I started to draw boundaries, super broad and weak ones, but they'd violate them right away, and I'd just stand there too caught up in wondering why they'd do that to be able to defend myself while they violated more and more, hit me harder and harder.  I'd draw another one and the cycle would start over.

NSis got into the habit of calling me to berate me and scream at me about what I was doing to her by making myself more unavailable, how I was killing our mother, that I was ruining my daughters' lives, that I was cuckolding my husband (they NEVER would admit that he was anything but controlled by me, that he could possibly have had a say in any of the decisions to limit and eventually end contact, cause, you know, blame is best heaped on the scapegoat and all.)  We're talking about me listening to her rant and rave over the phone for such long periods of time that I'd have plug in my cell phone at the wall charger and stand there leashed to the wall while she laid into me for huge chunks of time, hours even.

I look back at that now and I think, what the fuck?  Why did I answer the phone?  I knew what was coming; the song never changed except that it got longer and meaner.

And DH would get so mad at me for that, he'd be just livid when that phone rang and I answered it.  DH is a nice guy.  When I say that he was livid, I mean that he would turn red in the face and leave the room.  But that's LIVID for DH.  And I, so well trained to be the peacekeeper, soul giver, make everything better for everyone girl, I'd find him eventually (once I'd been released from NSis or NM's or ENF's or GCYB's rage, because eventually they took turns making these calls,) I'd go find DH and say, "I'm sorry, I just have to answer or they'll keep calling.  What if something was wrong and I didn't answer.  Blah, blah, blah..."
And DH finally said to me, "Vanci, you don't let anyone else in the entire world treat you like that.  If I treated you like that, we'd be divorced in a minute.  If your boss treated you like that, you'd walk out on your job.  If a stranger on the street treated you like that, you'd take them OUT.  Why do you let those horrible people treat you like this?"

That was a big part of my wake up process, a significant piece of the manner of the dysfunction clicked into place for me.  I wish I could say that I immediately took his words to heart and got the hell away, but it took awhile still.  Sigh.  I did get away, though, and that's what counts, and I have carried DH's wisdom in my pocket ever since.

I won't be berated for being myself, for having an idea, for having an opinion, for telling the truth, for speaking up or speaking out, for liking or disliking something or someone, for wondering about something or questioning something, for having a heart or for being cold, for my eye color or my word choice or my thoughts.  I just will not allow it for myself or for the people who are visiting my online 'home' here.

Question me?  Yes.  Challenge my thoughts or intentions?  Yes.  Make a suggestion? Yes.  Differ in your view?  Absofreekinlutely.  Argue a point?  I'm game.

Berate or shame or call me names?  Well, if we were face to face I'd tell you that those are gravel-kickin' words.  Or I'd walk away.  I will defend myself, one way or another.  I'm working on the expression of anger thing, so I'll choose to delete and end it rather than to engage.

And that's what my comment policy's about.  Be a human bean and remember that the rest of us are too; act accordingly and appropriately to that fact.  Or... buh-bye.


Thursday, October 25, 2012

Un-Follow Me

I have a two-fold desire that drives me to visit and hang out in blogland.
First, I want to tell my story and talk about who I am, what I've been through and what I go through now.  I want to write about recovery from Narcs and all of the steps I have taken, do take and will take on my path of healing.

Second, I want to read what you have to say about your recovery and your experiences, to learn from you and to give you an audience and to be part of something that I think is a wonderful healing tool.

I sort of think of it like a two way street, with traffic headed in both directions. I try to go to every post by readers on my reading list, I try to follow back the URLs that refer to me in my stats and I click through on my 'followers' icons to get to your posts and look at what you have to say because I am interested in what you have to say.  I value your voices.

I keep my blog public because I'm an open and giving person and I don't have anything to hide.  If you choose to keep yours private, that's fine with me.  But if you've followed me and I've followed you and you happen to be one or two of the people embroiled in the recent argument that has just been talked to fucking death, and the end result or decision that you've made is to make your blog private and NOT invite me to it, great.  I'm fine with your decision to do so, and I wish you all the best, truly, I hope that you find what you need to, learn what you need to and heal how you need to.  I'm not so pompous as to think that I need to be a part of your life if you have chosen not to have me in it.  I'm happy for you that you're making decisions based on what you need.

I'd like to make a small point, though.  I don't really care if you see my shit posted here - that's why it's public and that's why I don't moderate comments, even to protect my anonymity.  Anybody can see what I put out here.  If you're going to act like this, though, if you're going to decide that I am somehow the enemy or on the other side of an argument that you've created, to the point that you're privatizing your blog and not inviting me, then un-fucking follow me.  I find it creepy that your icons are still there.

I'm posting this here because I have no other way to get through to you unless you invite me to, and frankly, homey don't play that.


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Taking What's Good

Oh, my heart broke a little bit today.

I was all sorts of wrapped up yesterday in my real world life and its little quirks.  I was dealing with a lot of anger at the NFOO working up inside of me to a nearly unbearable level.  So I stayed up late and I came here and I wrote it out.  I told the truth about what was happening and what I was feeling and I did it with no fear of judgment or reprisal because I don't have fear that any of you are going to stop me in the grocery store when I am unprepared to face the reality of the abuses that I've overcome and ask me about it.

Really, that's why I blog.  I need to say this stuff to people who can understand and empathize but who are not so close to my life that they're going to make the concert I'll be attending to hear my DD's sing about my survival of the NFOO when I need for it to be about listening to my daughters sing.  I tell it on a more personal level to the people in my chosen real world family and circle of friends, but there are some things that I need to talk about that I can't or don't have the opportunity to say face to face.

Does it help other people, my writing it out here?  I don't know.  I hope so, because I hope that my writing these experiences doesn't create indifference and I can't stomach the thought that my writing would hurt anyone looking for help .  If it does help, I'm glad.  If it doesn't, I'm sorry.  But really, I'm here for me.  I'm here because I have words to use and it's been a big lesson in my experience that Shrek was right; "Better out than in."

I operate - as I think all mothers and fathers and those responsible for children should - within a web of responsibilities.  My oldest DD came home today and told me about a discussion that her sociology class had concerning the role of mothers and how they came to the conclusion that mothers seem to always end up with at least two full time jobs; work at work and more work at home.  It was cute and funny that she and her classmates felt as if they'd discovered an absolute truth all on their own.  (Cause, yeah, I wasn't aware of that. LOL.)  So, I'm busy and I spend a relatively tiny fraction of my life online.  An hour a day, basically, tops.

I miss a lot.  And I totally missed all of the hash slinging, divisive shit going down on some of the blogs on my reading list and some of the other blogs I visit until just a few hours ago.
Can I just tell you that so much of what I saw, well, it just hurt my heart.  I've stayed as far out of the fight as I can, and here's why.  I have no quarrel with anyone looking to heal from abuse, unless they become an abuser themselves, which is in turn, proof that someone's not really looking to heal from abuse at this very moment.  We're all in different places in recovery and our own experiences before and during our journeys determine how we act, react, respond, behave and speak.  That's cool by me.  I believe that we all get to a jumping off point of healing by different paths, and it doesn't matter to me how we get there: it matters to me that we DO get there.  That's the place that I dig, that waking up to a healing path place and the paths that we choose after that moment.  That's what charges my batteries, the story of how we heal.

 As part of my path, this blog is the place that I come to work it out and speak unhindered, this is my spitballing arena, ladies and gentlemen, where I get to just... fucking... spit it out.  And then I see what I learn.

That's how I approach your blogs, too.  I observe, contribute if I think I can, and I gauge my reactions and responses and determine what I like about them, what I don't and then I come up with a plan as to how I'm going to move forward.  In my writing, in my recovery, in my life.  I come here to bounce myself off of your ideas and experience and to put mine out there if you'd like to do the same, and then I take it all down to my heart and I use all that power of introspection and character I've developed to work on me.  Or I don't, if I don't like what you have to say then I pass or I stop and I examine why it's making me uncomfortable and I determine if I need to change myself. If I start thinking that I need to change you, then I'm taking myself off of the path of recovery and healing and I stop.  Turn myself around.  Back to the beginning of the hokey pokey.

Cause I want to be better than I am, you know?
I've become a much, much better person than I was ever allowed by the evil people in my life to believe that I could be.  And I've done it by spending hours of my life looking into my own soul and deciding to shore up this support or patch up that crack in the interior drywall.  You've helped me to do that.  If I've helped you too, I'm honored that voicing my experience could do that for you.  If it hasn't and you've read my blog and said, "Meh, not for me," and moved on along, I'm cool with that, too.  I'm not perfect and I wouldn't want to be, nor do I think that such a thing even exists.  But I'm making progress, and that - for me - is the attainment of a goal.

I've made friends here, and I like that.  I've been a friend here and I like that too.  It's nice to talk to people who've had similar experiences and to hear their take.  I've even avoided a couple of mistakes regarding the N's in my life because I've listened to you talk about yours and I've been able to learn from you.  I believe that knowledge is ALWAYS a good thing.  Bottom line; if you've walked down any part of a path that's similar to mine and have something to say about it, I'll listen.

Whether you're in the middle, LC, NC, medium chill with the N in your life, I'll listen and hope to learn or to speak up and say, "Hey that happened to me, too, and here's what worked for me."  Whether you were abused by your N on an hourly or daily or monthly or semi-monthly or yearly basis and whether your N was a lone ranger or one of a Clan of Crazymakers, I'll listen.  Whether you're new here or you were the first blogger to arrive on the scene, I'll listen to what you have to say.

And I will take what's good and applicable in your story and try to learn from it, to take it to heart and to put it through my process and see if it applies to me still and maybe ask a question or two and then I will find a use for it in my life and pass it on to someone else when they maybe need it the most.  That's how we win against the army of the Narcs.  We learn how to heal and then we pass on our knowledge right down the chain of ACoNs and we build the numbers of people who were hurt by Narcs and no longer have to be.

Sometimes knowledge isn't just power, it's everything.  With knowledge, our minds, souls, hearts, brains and our voices all get stronger.  We get louder.  We tell the truth and we become steadfast in our resolve that we will continue to TELL and we will TELL over and over again and we will TELL louder and louder still the truth of what it was like, what happened, what it's like now and how we will NEVER let it happen again.  And maybe, hey, here's a thought, maybe you deserve to not let it happen either.  That's what's good here, to me.

Abraham Lincoln said (and forgive me if I get it slightly wrong because I am too damn worn out and tired to go looking for an attribution, so this is from memory,)
"America is great because she is good.  If she ceases to be good, she will also cease to be great."

I'm not talking about good in the sense of behavioral constructs and boundaries, I'm not talking about being good because we pick up our dirty laundry or abide by the rules of a family system or we always show up to appointments fifteen minutes early.

I'm talking about good in the sense of honor and justice and kindness and empathy.  Maybe a little sympathy, too, but also a call to action a la Alice Miller.  Good means, to me, putting the truth in the middle of the conversation and redirecting the conversation to it over and over again.  What's the truth of ACoNs?
Simple: we were all abused as children.
What's the solution to that?
Simple: people who abuse children should not be allowed to.

Because all of this pain we lay out, that's the result of parents (or caretakers) who hurt and of societies who allow those parents (or caretakers) to hurt.  The rest, I think, is semantics.

And that's what breaking my heart about the talk of different communities and different branches of cliques or governments in ACoN blogland.  We're all in the same boat.  Maybe we got here different ways and maybe some of us are booked into steerage and some of are working the dining room, but none of us are riding in style in the first class Penthouse, even if we did have to pay that passage.  Because the cruise line director probably put the sneaky damn Narcs in there.  They're the ones hanging out over at the dailystrength forums watching this shit go down.  (I wonder what they're doing with all that information?)

The only result that I have seen so far in this entire seemingly forever-long battle of the blogs is this;
your voices don't seem as true to me as they used to, it's harder to follow you on the path that you're on because I keep getting confused about what you're saying.  I'm hearing mean.  I'm hearing spite.  I'm hearing unbreakable vows and absolutes of correctness.  I'm hearing forced authoritarianism and retaliation.  I'm hearing moral superiority.  I'm hearing revisionism.  I'm hearing gaslighting.  I'm hearing "I know you are but what am I's" and "Nee ner nee ner nee ners."  I'm hearing justifications.  I'm hearing attacks.  I'm hearing accusations.  I'm hearing blindsiding and traps being set.  I'm hearing teams being picked by order of loyalty and conceived popularity for a game that, to my knowledge, isn't even scheduled to be played.

What I'm not hearing is a whole lot of people talking about the pain of being raised by Narcs and the freedom in learning about how to overcome that.

And that is breaking my fucking heart.

I'll end my post with the same word I've ended every post and comment that I've ever put out here with: love.  I do love you all.  I want you all to know that you're lovable, and I want to know that I am capable of love.  Love is the antithesis to the hell of my life that the Narcs created.  And the opposite of that hell, man, that's where I want to stay.


PS - I didn't name names for lots of reasons, but this is the primary one:  It's been my experience that if I think someone is talking about or to me, it's likely that they are.  And it's been a huge part of my path of recovery to take that as a reason that I should look at my own actions.

Fine and Angry

I wasn't going to write tonight.  I had other obligations and other things on my mind; some of it the normal grind of busy modern-ish life in a rural area and the daily life of a family household full of people lurching along on various tracks, some of it the types of activity that my overactive brain always allocates to the Life's Monkey Wrenches column of my daily compartmentalization.

I used to worry about that function, you know.  That absolute need to categorize certain things that I've just never been able to shake.  A place for everything and everything in it's place, as it were.  Spoons go in the spoon slot.  Socks go in the sock drawer.  Keys go on the hook.  Serial abuse by NFOO members goes in the isolation room at the center of my heart which used to have a much bigger padlock on it.  Or maybe the padlock's the same size and I just carry industrial strength lock cutters in my back pocket these days.

At any rate, I worried that dividing up my thoughts and feelings into little cubbie holes like so many shoe slots in a day care was bad for me, could even cause splintered memories and confusion.  One day my counselor said to me: "Vanci, a certain amount of compartmentalization can be a healthy thing, particularly when it comes to living your life while overcoming trauma."  So, you know, I've got a hall pass.

I was just sorting through the day, which included such new and dramatic turns as having a thermos full of coffee just freakin' explode for no reason as I stood next to it first thing this morning.  That took a bit to process - the space age glass inside the thing just went kerblooey and ended up looking like M.C. Escher had a fistfight with that mercury future cop from that terminator movie inside a plastic coffee thermos.  Trippy.  There was the power outage to deal with, no big deal as we have plenty of candles except that the well pump runs on electricity so no power also equals no water in the casa a la the People Who Are Crazy and/or Kind Enough to Live With Vanci.  Which, hey, as it turns it wasn't that big of a deal anyway as we found out that the well water test we ordered last week came back in and identified some potentially harmful bacteria in the well.  So, yay!  We shouldn't have been drinking the water anyway.  Oh yeah, and my car wouldn't start after work.  I married a mechanic, thank you powers that be because I am a car problem magnet on an evil X-Man scale, so that's no biggie.  Make the call, wait for the cavalry.  Just one more thing.

But you know, there's this full, lively, come what may rock star part of me that knows that I, we, will be fine. It's all going to be okay.  This is life.  Good shit happens to bad people, bad shit happens to good people, etcetera, etcetera and vice versa.  It's nothing personal.  Karma?  Maybe.  Kismet?  Maybe.  Stephen King-ish Dark Tower-esque life is a wheel speak?   Hells yeah.  It'll even out eventually.  And I dig that about me.  Bad day, yep, that sucks, but it's okay.  Some good things happened too.  I am the queen of the flip side, the ultimate silver lining seeker and finder.  I used to have to be, but there's a part of my personality that just goes there automatically - not as a dismissal of reality, I'm not babbling about some 'change reality through magical thinking' BS here, but I tend to see at least most sides to a thing naturally.  And there's always some good going on at the same time as the bad, and I like to acknowledge it.  Nothing about my life experience has ever been one dimensional.  So, like Bill Murray talking about the Dalai Lama in Caddyshack, I've got that going for me.

A haiku I wrote a while back for my daughters.  They call them momkus, fyi.

Make this idea truth;
You will always be okay,
Even when it isn't.

Cheesy and corny as it is, I believe that.  Not that it won't hurt in the middle of whatever 'it' is, but I believe in surviving, healing, working through and even if it takes awhile, eventually getting to okay and sometimes even all the way into the end zone of kick-ass awesomeness.

There's this thing that I realized today, as I said it, that I've said for a long time and it's true.  When the proverbial bacteria laced well-water hits the fan, I say,

"I've faced bigger demons."
Which is my way of verbalizing how it's easy, seemingly, for me to shrug the day to day crap that just happens off my shoulders.

For some reason, though, today, the truth of that phrase struck a nerve for me.  I've probably said it hundreds of times, and I have always known that it's true.  I really have stared into the abyss and walked away.  Not even remotely unscathed and unscarred, but damn it, I have walked away and that fucking counts.

Today I realized in a very concrete, visual way that when I say that, I am thinking of the demons that I have faced and often conquered; at the very least, all of those demons that I've faced are monsters that I have survived and lived to the tell the tale of the journey away from.  And those demons have names; they are my mother and my father and the creatures that they pieced together from rotten carcasses and spare parts in their lab of crazy; my sister and my brother, who eventually became their willing assistants.  And do you know what that mental picture means right now?

Make.  Vanci.  Angry.
That's why I'm writing tonight, because I am angry.  Why am I angry, you ask?
Well, I'm so glad you did!  Pull up a chair, I'll tell you.

I am angry because ANGER is the normal reaction of the healthy (ish, okay, ish!) psyche to being repeatedly and intentionally:
Character assassinatd
Stomped on
And every other dirty stinking rotten horrible and awful thing that the monsters I was 'raised by' did (and would gleefully still be doing if I let them) to me.

Every story has two sides, they say and that is so true.  But what are we talking about when we say it has sides?  We're talking about perspective, feeling, inference, angles.  Hell, a story can have infinite sides when you look at it that way.  But what do those angles have in common?  Well, the story, of course.

And guess what the story that has all those different versions of telling really is?
Right here in the middle of the page, like a damn boulder:

And there is only one truth to a story.  There is only ever one set of facts that actually happened, no matter how it comes out of the spin cycle.  One truth to rule them all, on truth to bind them... no, sorry, got a little LOTR there.  Ahem.  Gollum.

My mother is a monster, straight from the forge of whatever greater overlord of dark places makes them.  She's a lying, narcissistic, child sacrificing, self-centered, master manipulating beast who refuses to acknowledge that she's ever, ever, done even a single thing hurtful to me, though she's likely sorry if I feel like I might have ever felt like it was possible that I misunderstandingly sort of thought that I felt hurt, though not because she hurt me, though, because she doesn't recall and she can't really think of when that might have happened, though it certainly couldn't have been that bad.

My father is a monster, also courtesy of the Demons R' Us customize-able order form.
He's a yelling, hitting, molesting, lying, self-centered child-hurting slimeball who hides behind titles and wives and other children and has always found a way to slip the noose and come out smelling as rosy as a two-bit shyster can smell and who's never apologized for hurting me at all because after all wasn't that a long time ago, like yesterday, and wouldn't Jesus want us to forgive the transgressions of the past after all and pave our way into a better, -
(sorry, just threw up a little in my mouth)

All of those things ^ there, what are they?  They're the truth.

And what am I?  I'm the little girl who lived through that and grew up to get out, get better, be better.  I broke that mold and doing so broke me for awhile just like the inside of that thermos shattered into a million pieces this morning and all of the shit they fed me poured out all over the place.  And I cleaned it up and I bleached the hell out of it and I started over again.  I've done it different.  I've rebuilt it, better, stronger.  Like a mobster with a new name, I'm out, and they couldn't drag me back in to their den of horrors for all the saltwater in the seven seas.

But I'm angry, yes I am.  Because when I have a bad day and I remind myself of the truth that I, we, will be okay, I have to also remember all the times that I haven't been, for awhile, because they tried so hard to take the ability to be okay away from me.

I'm angry as hell and I have a right to be.
I won't apologize for my anger any more than I would apologize for my happiness or my insane sense of humor.  It's an emotion, a perception, a feeling.
My anger doesn't rule me, it's an emotion and I am ruled by one thing, baby.
The truth.  Cold hard facts.  Just me and every detective Elmore Leonard ever made me love.

But I am also going to be okay, I am going to be fine, fine, possibly even finer than frog's hair.

I accept that I can be both.  After all, I've faced down bigger demons.


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Narc Flavored Malnutrition

Jonsi's got a fantastic post up about the role of food as a weapon and control tactic in the Narc Parent's arsenal, specifically relating to her NMIL and how she's used food and body image related to weight to hurt and abuse her children, both as children and now as adults.  It's a good read and I highly recommend it (and Jonsi's always in-depth non-ACoN point of view) to anyone who is an ACoN or a parent.  Hell, I'd recommend Jonsi to anyone just looking for a good read!

I responded to her post that I don't have a lot of of the issues that I hear other ACoN's talking about when it concerns food, and I was referring to some of these more common problems that I've heard about:
Using food as a comfort/replacement for affection.
Overeating as a compensatory indulgence in order to feel full in at least some way.
Undereating or dieting unhealthily in order to gain the approval of others (especially N's.)

(And please, please, please don't infer that by my saying that I don't have these particular issues that I am somehow judging people who do or that I think I'm in some way better than or less than people who do struggle with these very real issues.  It would break my heart if you thought that, cause it's just not true.  I have puh-lenty other issues, trust me.)

In that comment on her post, I went in to some detail about how I have a DH who does feel love most easily through acts of service, and that my cooking for him has been a good part of our loving relationship.  He has food issues from childhood, mostly along the lines that his mother is a terrible, horrible cook.  I'm sorry, but there's just no other way to describe the alleged food that she makes.  Everything starts with a can of generic cream of something soup and ends with mayonnaise; everything.  Here's a good example:  When DH and I had been living together for about six months, he got home from work as I was making dinner.  He's drawn like a magnet to pots and pans on the stove, and he lifted the pot on some potatoes I was boiling to make mashed potatoes.

"What's this?" he said.
"Potatoes," said I, "What's it look like, silly?"
"But these are starting to get mushy," he said.
"Duh," I said, "they're supposed to.  They'd be kind of hard to mash if they didn't!"
"These are for mashed potatoes?" he asked, seriously confused.
At this point, I was starting to get pissed.  He was taking up far too much space and time in my little kitchen with his silly questions.  "How the hell else would you make mashed potatoes?" I asked, tersely, I'm sure.
And this was his answer, "Well, they come in a box and then you add water."
"Have you ever had mashed potatoes made with real potatoes?"  I asked.
"I don't know," he said.

So... the moral of the story is that DH likes him some Vanci home cooking, the kind that starts with real food and includes all the major food groups and ways of preparing dishes and is informed by a knowledge of spices and seasonings and doesn't involve a whole bunch of processed junk thrown into a casserole dish and covered in potato chips.  Or mayonnaise.

I shop and cook and he does laundry and handles maintenance.  It's an act of love for me to put healthy meals on the table and it's an act of love for him to make sure that there's oil in my car or that my pants aren't wrinkled on the hanger.  It's part of a good relationship, not the manipulation tool that Narcs seem to like to make it.
As I said in my comment over in Jonsi-land (which is a rather nice place to hang out, btw,) one of my DD's has a serious disease that involves a food allergy, and most of what she's reactionary to can be avoided by avoiding processed foods.  It's not easy, especially on a budget, to cater to her needs, but it's necessary.  So, every meal that she - and therefore we - eat has to be cooked at home from scratch in order to keep her healthy.  Food in this context takes on a different meaning as an act of love.  I prepare food for her (not separately, we all eat the same things but our meals are designed around what she can have,) as an act of service and love to keep her healthy and to provide something that is not easily gotten anywhere else.

It took me a long time, though, to see food preparation for my family in this light, because one the ways that the Narcs screwed me up with food was to make the kitchen my 'job.'  Indefinitely.
I believe in the value of involving children in the household as a means of teaching both responsibility and self-care, and my DD's have had age appropriate chores from toddler-hood.  When they were three the chores were simple things like picking up their own toys (with help, of course,) and putting them away.  Now that they're older, they do their own laundry and have one household chore a day.  Dishes or vacuum, those are the chores now, and they rotate back and forth on a daily basis.  Then we all pitch in for the weekend deep clean.  No big deal, right?

But I, as a child from about eight on to the best of my memory, I was responsible for dishes and the kitchen. Every single day.  NSis mowed the lawn and worked on her tan in the Summer and her chores switched around in the winter among various things - sweeping or maybe vacuuming.  I can't remember what she did, but I know that it wasn't dishes.  Cause, you know, I was doing those.  GCYB usually had physical chores, being a boy and all.  I, though, I did the dishes.  Eventually it became my job to cook, first for myself and YB, then for the family.  So, obviously after years of being forced to cook for everyone and forced to clean up after everyone, I saw this as a tedious chore.  It took a long time for me to understand that love really can the secret ingredient, and what turned the corner for me on that was DH's absolute JOY in my meals.  He'd get so excited - "Are these real green beans!?!" he'd ask, "they're not mushy!" having never really tasted anything but green beans from a freezer bag or a can before.  My personal favorite: "Wow, I didn't even know there was a spice called marg-oh-ram!"

And the gratitude that he displayed and modeled for the DD's, man, that was my first experience with being appreciated for my giving of my time, talent and food.  It was a change from the, "Maybe you should try cooking it longer" comments and the, "I guess I just don't like chicken anymore."  So ingrained was my 'job' of feeding my family that for the last five years prior to NC that on both Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve, I packed up my entire kitchen and hauled all the food (that I'd paid for) to my NParent's house and prepared all of the dishes apart from one or two for the entire family and anyone they'd seen fit to invite.  They live fifteen miles out of town in the middle of nowhere, and we have serious winter and bad roads here, but it was my job to bring the feast to them.  And my kids were 9 and 11 when I got away.   I usually ended up helping with the dishes, too.  Who does that?  More importantly, who expects that?

I'm so glad that I didn't let them permanently ruin cooking for others for me, because I am a good cook and I've found that cooking for others is something that I really enjoy doing.  It's always an act of love for me.  In fact, if I could, I'd invite you all over right now to a dinner party and I'd go all out to make you a nice, healthy, loving meal which we'd all enjoy together.  Doesn't that sound like fun?

I thought about Jonsi's post throughout the day, though, and I came across something else that it brought up for me, and this is a bit uncomfortable as I'm going to talk a little about sexual abuse, so I can understand if you need to check out now.

I have a lot of blank spots and shady memories from my childhood, and some of them have cleared up in the last five years of LC/NC.  A lot have had to do with the sexual abuse I endured from my father and the fact that my mother had knowledge of it and allowed (encouraged?) it to happen or at the very least refused to compromise her lifestyle to protect me from it.

At around nine or ten years old, in the fourth grade, I started gaining weight.  Some of this I think can be attributed to the onset of puberty, which was pretty early for me.  Some of it though, I can now see was a defense mechanism.  My four years older NSis was shaped like a woman at that point and I remember talk in the NFOO about how our bodies were changing.  Not nice talk.  Weird, weird comments about how shapely my legs were becoming or how full her chest was.  Weird, weird, gross, nasty stuff.  I remember becoming distinctly aware of attractiveness in a new (to me) way.  Attractiveness would make me more of a target.

I also remember gaining weight and thinking, "Good.  Now I'm not attractive."  What I couldn't really voice and haven't really acknowledged until now is that the unspoken next part of that conversation went something like, "Maybe now he'll stop touching me."  I distinctly remember discovering my curves over the next few years and hiding them to the best of my ability - not out of fear of being made fun of at school, but so that ENF wouldn't see them.
Ugh.  That's fucked up.  Sooooooo fucked up.

I also remember that when I did become uncomfortable with my weight - around 12 - I expressed a desire to lose weight to NM.  And she put me on Slim Fast, quite possibly one of the worst nutritionally deficient starvation diets that anybody could be on, especially a 12 year old.  My gawd, I can't even imagine.

I'm sure it was a punishment of some sort, a manipulation of my fragile psyche and body.  I don't know what she got out of it, but I sure didn't lose any weight.  (That happened when I got out of their house at 17.)  I do remember, though, that we suddenly started going out to dinner at restaurants a lot, something that we'd previously not done, and that when the waitress came to take our orders, ENF took great pleasure in informing the server when it came to my turn to order that, "She won't have anything, she's on Slim Fast."  What a horrible thing to do, what a horrible embarrassment to feel (for me and the server.)

I look at this now and I wonder how I have ever had a healthy relationship with food or my body.  But a big part of my healing journey has been to accept that I am lovable and I am good.  My body is only the vessel, and I take care of the vessel as best I can.  What's really helped on the body health side of things has been taking care of the internal beauty.  Once I started getting that dialed in, the physical part seemed to follow and I fit my own standards for what I want to be physically.  All in all, I wouldn't change a thing.

And that's a bona-fide miracle.
Thanks again to Jonsi for bringing it up.


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Standing Ground (with tired feet)

I had a busy comment day; not something that I can normally keep up to pace on, but I had a little break today and spent more time hanging out here in the ACoN Healing Garden than I'd normally be able to.  In that back and forth, my dialogue with the lovely mulderfan reminded me of a situation - an 'incident' if you like - that occurred about two months ago.

I took my youngest DD to her high school orientation; a poorly planned and abso-freekin'-lutely excruciating event that the school thought would best be held on a Monday night.  After work.  Two hundred fourteen year olds plus their parents, all tired, all hungry, all ready to just get this shit over with already, packed into half a gym.  The smell alone would make an NFL player want to cry.  There's only one reason to go to these things: to get the child's schedule for the upcoming school year.  And the administrator's know this and are completely willing to use that as the carrot on the stick to allow them to keep you as a captive audience to force you to listen to why the upcoming levy vote is so important and to reassure you that they care about your child's test scores almost as much as your vote.  (Also to let you know that should you vote no, your child's favorite extra-curricular activity or elective class or sport, whatever that may be, will likely be cut, just saying.)  But it's the only window they'll allow for your child to get their schedule before school starts, and who's in what class is a terribly important thing for fourteen year olds to know.

After enduring the torturous, long, boring, inane speeches from everyone who apparently means something in the land of middle-of-the-road academia, we were released from the sardine-packed bleachers.  We had high hopes, yes we did, of getting through with this thing at a decent hour.  We were op-to-mis-tic.  We were naive.

After standing in the world's longest line outside of DisneyLand, we were given the schedule.  Then we had to stand in line to pay fees for classes on the schedule.  Then we had to stand in line to be let into the hallways so that the children could find the classrooms on the schedule.  Then we had to stand in line to find out why the child had a blank period on her schedule.  Then we had to stand in line to have a photo taken for the ASB card, which we'd already paid for after standing in line at the ASB table.  Then we had to stand in line in order for the child to get a locker.

I mean, it was my version of hell; the only thing missing was the Kenny G muzak.  Chaotic, foot and hormone smelling hell.  And that's before we even stood in line to go to the damn bathroom.

One of the longest lines was the line for photos, who knows why.  We kept walking by it between standing in this line and that, and I thought that surely if we waited, that line would have to grow shorter, right?  Simple mathematics.

TWO HOURS LATER, after we'd make it through every other line and jumped through ever other hoop, the photo line was just as long, but it was the only one that we had left.  C'est la vie, thought me.  We got in line.

My DD happened to know the two girls who came to the line right behind us, so we turned and began to chat, keeping always an eye on the movement of the line ahead of us so as to keep shuffling forward like so many tired, sweaty cattle.

You know when you're standing in a line or stuck in a lane of traffic, and you're just inching forward one painful millimeter at a time and you've all but resigned yourself to the snail's pace that you're moving at, and then someone up ahead makes a sudden exit?  Suddenly you can move forward inches at a time, feet even, sometimes - gasp! - yards and meters!  Hooray!  It's sad to be reduced to that level of exultation, but I was there.

The group of people in front of us suddenly gave up and left.  We could move forward to the tune of  a space previously occupied by six bodies!  And there he was.

I haven't seen my Golden Child Younger Brother in a long time, but he looks just the same.  And there he suddenly was, six inches in front of me with a child that I assume is is stepson.  I know he was married a couple of years ago, to a woman that I've never met.  Needless to say, I didn't receive an invitation to the event.  But this place that I live is a small town, and I do keep my ear close to the ground in order to have the earliest notice possible of approaching Narc stampedes and ambushes.  So I knew about his new ready made family, without really knowing anything about them.

And here's the meat of this post - or the main veggie course if you swing that way.

I used to be terrified of running into my Former Family Members.  Seriously, I'd be in the grocery store and see someone who looked like one of them and I'd turn on a dime to head a different direction.  I reacted to even the thought of running into them viscerally.  Nausea, headache, cold chills, hot flashes, muscle weakness, shakes; basically all of the terror reactions rolled up nice and neat into a gut bomb and dropped on me.

Then I had a couple of close calls, fast moving brushes of the shoulder type of deals.  I'd get out of the public place I was and slide in my car and then think, "Hey, wasn't that....?"  I wasn't given time to react until after the fact in those situations, and I noticed that I did feel the horror reaction, but to a lesser extent.  Then I realized one day that GCYB and my nephew were right behind me in line at the convenience store of all places and I just didn't give a crap.  You can read about that here.

I saw the progression of my evolving reaction and interpretation of these events as a plus, a sign of healing, and I was grateful for that.  To feel nothing, to detach, is really the only option I have when it comes to these people.  There won't ever be any relationships there, and my acceptance of that fact as a matter of small steps has been crucial to my journey to get well.

But this was different.  It felt a bit like the brass ring.  My 'reaction' wasn't really that at all.  I didn't get nauseous or scared.  I didn't have to ponder or contemplate what I should do.  I didn't have to run away.

My thoughts went something like this: "I'm not going anywhere.  I've been waiting in lines for two hours, this is the last one and I'm not wasting one more damn minute in this place than I have to.  I haven't done anything wrong, I shouldn't have to leave, and I won't.  If I make him uncomfortable, he can leave and go to the back of the line."

I didn't doubt this course of action for a second, even when he - in a grand show of the maturity level of fledgling Narcs and Golden Children - kept turning around to make sad "oh-I-miss-you-so-much-and-if-your-mom-wasn't-such-a-bitch/devil-we-could-all-be-together" googly eyes at DD.  I just made sure to look straight at him when he tried this and he broke off contact every single time.  Gawd forbid we have a conversation.  It's better to just try to make the child feel guilty, right?

The last time I spoke to him, five-ish years ago, he told me that he "couldn't forgive me" and "couldn't talk to me without feeling too much rage to handle."  This kid held a knife at my throat when I was 16 and he was 14 because he thought my boyfriend at the time (whom we'd known for years as a family friend,) should be only his friend.  Threaten much?

Eventually, millenia later, as we began to approach the halfway point of the line, he went off to sit in some of the auditorium seats far away from us, where I could see him furiously texting away on his cell phone.  Hmmmm, I wonder what he was talking about?  I actually did laugh out loud when I saw that.  "Quick, send flying monkeys!  I need backup!"

DD and I talked about it later, and she was saddened by it, "He looked so sad!" she said.  And I calmly explained that if he were a good person, he wouldn't have cut us out of his life and then expected that she, as a child, should bare the burden of that absence by making sad faces at her, as if she had any control over it.  If he was a good person, he would have tried - as I did with him, to no avail - to build a relationship outside of the Crazymaker Clan.  (A small note:  he and his new wife and her two sons - 14 and 18- all ALSO live at the NParent's house.  It's like a fucking commune of crazy out there.)

But my point is this.  I used to be terrified of them.  Then I was scared.  Then I was sort of indifferent.  And now, as I was reminded earlier today of my favorite Kurt Vonnegut line ever, "You (they) can take a flying fuck at a rolling doughnut!  You (they) can take a flying fuck at the MOOOOOOOON!"

I think it applies, and I hope they have a pleasant journey.  I'm not going anywhere.


Monday, October 15, 2012

Alone Isn't Always Lonely

I always knew that when the I finally decided to make my Stand against the NFOO, I would 'lose' them in my life.  I can't even type that word in the same sentence as my label for them without putting it in hashmarks; if we were talking face to face I'd make air quotes a la Chris Farley as I said that word in connection to the abusive members of my family of origin.  That's how distasteful the thought of fearing my 'loss' of then seems to me now that I can reminisce about the amount of time that I flat out wasted trying to make sure that they stayed in my life.

I'm just going to say it as it needs to be said; 'losing' my evil, narcissistic (and enabling) mother, my abusive, enabling, narcissistic father, my narcissistic (and sadistic) older sister and my golden child, enabling, younger brother as participants in my life is the BEST THING THAT HAS EVER HAPPENED TO ME.  Please note that the underlined, bolded, italicized and capitalized nature of the last part of that run on sentence is entirely intentional.

If only I could have shaken them sooner, I often think.  If only they'd been easier to lose.  Like single socks from a pair in the dryer, why couldn't it have been like that?  One minute here, one minute gone.  Such is life.

Oh, but I spent scads of time completely convinced that I simply wouldn't be able to continue living if I didn't have them in my life.  I convinced myself and everyone around me that No Contact simply wouldn't, couldn't happen.  It was unthinkable.

A big part of that deep seated, ingrained belief that I must not, ever, be cast out from the Crazymaker Clan was simply learned.  They had, after all, pounded this absolute truth of theirs into my head and heart from a pre-verbal stage on.  I was convinced before I could speak that I must never, at any cost, leave them or - more scary - do something that would give them a reason to kick me out.  I rebelled, sure, but I got burned enough times to come crawling back with my tail between my legs like the family dog.  I acted out only far enough to prove their point that I couldn't survive without them to myself, never realizing that they'd set me up to fail in just that way.

I graduated from high school with a 3.47 in honors classes drunk, literally drunk at my graduation, which always makes me wonder what I could have done with a little support.  But do you know that even though I had a four years older sister (who was only two years ahead of me in school as I moved up and she moved down, go figure,) who was IN COLLEGE at the time, neither of my 'parents' ever once even talked to me about what my post-graduate plans would be?  Wait, I take that back.  NM did tell me once, with that half-disappointed, half-gleeful smirk that N's manufacture so well, that they were sorry, but there wouldn't be any college money for Vanci, just not a single red cent.  They didn't have it.  NSis's college bills were just mounting up to too much.  And when I asked what I was supposed to do?

She told me that she was certain I was smart enough to figure it out.  I turned 17 less than a month before my graduation.  I didn't really have the tools to figure it out.

Nevertheless, they'd had me where they wanted me for some time, ever since I'd broken ranks and been yoked with the burden of keeping my father out of jail (for molesting me) and maintaining the family sanctity (at great cost to me.)

These people abused me in every way that a person can abuse another.
Worse, they made me believe that the abuse they heaped on me was my fault, and that I was deserving of it, They made me believe that my life would be worthless if I ever left them and eventually from the man they picked for me to marry.  (And when he abused me, it was my fault, too.)
They broke me down to the basest of levels and then pushed me further still into the muck when I tried to get out.

And I was terrified, horrified, absolutely pants-shitting scared to 'lose' them.

Getting away from my family of origin was like dying in inches.  It felt like I was ripping my heart to shreds on a daily basis.  It hurt like motherfucking hell.  But I did it.

Even though I was so convinced that I was unlovable, I did it.
Even though I believed that I would end up completely alone - for awhile I believed that DH (who is my second husband, for clarity's sake,) would leave me because it was so chaotic and nightmarish in my world- I did it.  (Please note, I found out later that he'd contemplated leaving me because of them, and stayed because I left them.)
Even though I was tearing apart every road I'd ever walked without yet having built any new ones, I did it.

And guess what?
I did feel lonely for awhile.  I'd gotten rid of or given up on everything that I'd ever thought I'd known.

There were no more phone calls (usually letting me know what next obligation I'd be fulfilling for them, but still, it was weird that the phone stopped ringing.)  No one showed up unannounced to borrow my vehicle and bring it back with less fuel in it than they'd taken it with.  No one needed me to run interference for them with someone in the real world anymore.  No one demanded that I drop whatever menial thing I was doing, like, oh, working, in order to take care of whatever that day's problem was.  No one randomly decided to pick my kids up or drop my kids off early or late from the agreed time.

And for awhile, the void left by these shitty contacts and violations felt like just that, a void.
It's like any other type of recovery; there's a period of time after we've taken the 'substance' out, be that alcohol or candy or drugs or abusive relationships, and it's gone.  But what's left is a gaping hole in our soul that the wind sort of just whistles through for awhile.  Eventually, we find something else - something new!  healthy! better! shiny! - to fill it up again.  But for awhile, we're just empty and hurting and feeling very alone.

And that, friends, that sucks ass.

It gets better.  It really does.  Here's how it worked for me.

After the looming, evil, all-encompassing presence of the NFOO was no longer front and center in my life, I could see more of the landscape - both within and around me.  I started to discover something I wouldn't have expected.
I had hidden talents and interests that my time of indentured servitude to the NFOO hadn't allowed me the energy for.  I began, slowly, tentatively to explore those.  I started writing again.  I started cooking new things for special occasions; things that I'd always wanted to try but that hadn't been on the prescribed menu when I'd packed up my entire kitchen to go to the N's house to prepare meals for holidays previously.  (Really, that happened five years in a row.  No shit.)  I got sober, something that never would have been allowed with the N's in my life.

Eventually, I started to feel something more than sadness or anger.  I started connecting with the people around me - DH, the DD's, coworkers, long absent friends - again.  I was raw and probably talked to all of these people WAY too much about that, but most of them stuck around - weird, like they liked me or something! - anyway.  I started caring for myself: mentally, emotionally, physically.

Most days now, I am as happy and often happier, as I could possibly be.  I have a life.  I have my soul back in my possession; a little bruised and battered and I think there are some claw marks that will always be evident, but it's mine, and that's worth the world.

I have friends and I have fun and I have hope and I have joy and I have love in my life every single day.

I am not lonely, though I sometimes do feel alone.  But do you know what?  Alone isn't always a bad thing.  Alone is so much better that having belonged to a group of people whose 'care' for me was contingent upon my constant and repeated sacrifice of myself.

What was I afraid to 'lose' again?


UPDATE and a PS:
I'm pretty sure that a post over at Ms. Door Mat's blog got me thinking about this.  Credit where it's due and all... Love, Vanci

Friday, October 12, 2012

I Own My Experience, You Own Yours

I'm not very good at being quiet.
I spent an enitre childhood, adolescence and young adulthood being quiet and nice and covering everybody elses' ass.  That silence hurt me.  That silence damn near killed me.

So now, in the real world, I have a teeeeensy bit of a reputation, and here's what it is:  Only ask Vanci if you want the truth. Hopefully, that comes through in my writing here and you can take a look at my past posts and get a fairly good idea of the platform of honesty on which I stand (and sometimes fall flat on my face on.) 

I've also survived tremendously horrific events and attacks in my life; almost exclusively these attacks have been executed by the abusive members of the NFOO or the abusive people just like the NFOO that I've at times invited into my life.  They kept me bound and gagged about this for a long time, preventing me from seeking help.  Yet I survived, and I started healing when I determined that I would never be muzzled again.  I try to be diplomatic - Q and Jonsi, how'm I doin'? - but I will say what I need to say.  My mental health depends on it.

I know how it helps me to tell the truth, to speak up about my life.  I hope that my voice can help you, too.  I try to follow the 12-step model in communicating about my ACoN-ness (is that right?  Should it be my ACoN Essence maybe?  We could bulid an ACoN brand to be marketed by shiny happy ladies in smart skirt suits, going from door to door and ringing the bell to say... "ACoN calling!"  Maybe?  Although, the Essence d'ACoN might not be such an attractive smell, now that I think about it.  We'd have to have Eau d'Fear, Essence of Shame, Come-Uppance Cologne, Invisibility Spray.  Hmmm.  I might have to rethink that.)  But I digress.

My point is this: when speaking here in ACoN land, I try to, in AA speak, share my experience, strength and hope.  Sometimes, in order to share those moments of what happened, what it was like and how it is now, I have to hang out some dirty undies on the line.  I don't like it, you might not like it but it's real and I've found that, for me, in order to heal, I have to speak the truth out loud.  I talk to counselors and real world friends and family of choice about this stuff, but let's face it, the only people who can truly understand that terror of growing up in a Narc family are... well, us.  You.  So I talk to you about it and I try to put a little flag at the top of a post if I know that I'm talking about a specific common trigger, but I assume that you, on your journey to heal, will make choices about what you can and can't take in at that moment in time.

I know that I selectively edit when I read your blogs.  I've had to stop reading mid-blog post many times because something you had to say was making me uncomfortable or was bringing up old, awful feelings for me.  Sometimes I am enlightened enough to realize that your trigger triggered me because I have some more cleaning to do in my heart-house.  Sometimes I just have to move past that issue on that day full of the knowledge that it will come up again and hopeful that I'll be ready to tackle it next time.  Sometimes when I'm reading your truths, as much as I appreciate what you're saying, I just can't process it right then and there.  And do you know what?  That's okay here.  It's fine by me and it should be fine by all of the other 'members' of this community, because any of us interested in healing knows that we all have to walk our own paths in our own time.

Your experience, strength and hope has helped me in many, many ways, and I hope that mine helps you.  It's so valuable to us all to have different perspectives, different takes on things; it's how we learn, you know?

Now, on the flip side of the coin.  You've been through what you've been through and I've been through what I've been through and we have to accept that as fact, or we don't; we're welcome to leave here anytime, after all.  I have no right to bash your experience and you have no right to target and shoot down mine. 

That, for me, is the line that cannot be crossed.  I can say what I think and you can say what you think, but I have no right to judge you and you have no right to judge me.  If I do that or if you do that, we make this community unsafe, and that's the problem with the Kerfuffle over on Upsi's blog. 

Charity didn't speak her truth, she didn't have something uncomfortable to say, she didn't have an idea that was unpopular.  All of these things, in my sometimes not so humble opinion, would have been accepted and just fine.  I've seen it happen before, had it happen on my own blog that someone disagrees with the prevailing sentiment and we have a nice conversation about differing views.  ACoNs in recovery are, if anything, overly polite.  After all, we are nothing if not mannerly.  We had to be, right?

But that is not what Charity did.  Charity pulled out a heat seeking missle and targeted Upsi with the intention to wound.  And that is not okay, should never be acceptable.  Lest you think I'm a self-righteous, unyielding, hard ass, here's the comment that I made on the original post before we all knew it was Charity.

upsi dear,
I think I'm healed, because this letter made me laugh out loud before I made it through the first paragraph. All I could think was, Nee ner nee ner nee ner. Can that phrase actually be a literary tone, I wonder? Such tripe, such bull, can only be written by one of two types: Your mother's type or a truly victimized person who's lashing out at you because her own refusal to heal keeps her from lashing out at the true perpetrators of abuse.

On the small, small possiblity that the writer is the latter, I'd say this: Skip on over to my dormant blog for some 'true' abuse stories, writer, if you need abuse street creds and then hear me when I say this: Your pain will never,ever be diminished even slightly by your act of diminishing somone else's. Fix yourself, start your own blog and then say what you think you have to say. Showing up here anonymously is either proof that you're damaged beyond repair (i.e. a narc thyself) or that you're just out for more of the same type of negative attention that you were taught to think of as love (and this, in turn, is a cry for help.)

The problem with acting that out is that you're only vilifying yourself.
Abuse is abuse, after all - just as you've just abused upsi.

Seek help, anon, save yourself or remain unsaved.

Upsi, as always,

So, yes, I have compassion for anyone twisted enough to attack in the way that Anon/Charity did.  Absolutely, I know that this letter writer is not a well person.  And that's okay in this community so long as your intention in being here is to get better, feel better, be better or to help others.

Anything else, in my opinion, is a sick person looking to make the people around her sicker so that she can feel better about not being well herself.  And that, dear friends, is sick and deserves to be quieted.  It's not productive, it's not condusive to healing and it scares people.  It's like showing up at a barn dance with a torch.  You're going to get a strong reaction.

My advice to new bloggers who are hesitant to hang it all out after watching Charity be shot down is this: Blog about yourself and focus on your story, not someone elses'.  No true ACoN in this community will hurt you, no true ACoN will kick you out for having a different opinion.  If Charity had stuck around and talked about who she really was, why she really cared and what she really did, she would have been well supported on her path to recovery.  But she chose to go, so we all send out pixie dust and happy thoughts in hope that she will get help, because she's obviously a hurtin' unit.  We empathize because we know what it is to hurt, but that empathy doesn't mean that she gets to paint targets on anyone else's back in this community and we will defend ourselves against attacks.  We have to.  Our mental health depends on it.

I try to take all this with a grain of salt, because we are, after all, all trying to get well.  That doesn't mean we are all well.  So we should have some levity and (to use my AA platitudes again,) take what's good and leave the rest.

We're here to and for help, not to and for hurt.  If we wanted more painful attacks in our lives, we could just call up our NParents or siblings, after all. 


Thursday, October 11, 2012

A little haiku, just for you

Yes, you. 

Give yourself these gifts;
See kindness in the mirror,
Be gentle with you.

From me to you,
Yes, you,

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

On Forgiveness

Ah, the F word.

I've noticed that it's one of those words that gets bandied about like a hot potato, especially among groups of victims, survivors, ACoNs, Narcs, users, abusers, the abused, the scorned, the hurt, the hurters.  Basically, in any group of people who've perpetrated a crime against another human being or who've been victimized by other human beings, you can count on the F word coming up at some point on either or both sides of the conversation.

The Bad Uns want your forgiveness.  More on this a little further in.

The Good People who are trying to help you heal want you to give forgiveness, and this just bothers the ever loving hell out of me.

The kinder amongst that last group say things like this:
Forgiveness is the gift you give yourself.
Forgiveness is just the tool you use to move on.

The more self-righteous amongst them might say:
You holding on to your anger is keeping you from healing.
You won't be able to get better until you forgive them (it/him/her.)

And my personal favorite:
By not forgiving, you're letting them (it/him/her) live rent free in your head.

I'm certain that they mean well, really, and it's been my experience that for non-ACoNs, those who haven't had to survive the types of intentionally inflicted horrific abuse that most of us have had to live through, it's just a pop-culture fall back position.  Like something that they heard on Dr. Phil that seemed to make a lot of sense at the time, and it's the only thing that they can think of.  When faced with the fact of only a fraction of the pure evil that my NFOO has hit me with, I'm convinced that most normies go into shock.

I was once in a car wreck in the middle of nowhere - I was by myself and ended up driving off the road, rolling the car I was in twice and landing several yards down a very steep embankment in the middle of the woods.  I wasn't wearing a seat belt, like a freaking idiot, so I got the full effect of the spin cycle.  It was dark and I had a concussion and several scrapes, so I was bloodied up a bit and seriously confused.  After I finally figured out how to get out of the car, I got tangled up in a barbed wire fence while climbing - crawling really - back up toward the road.  I fell - in shorts - on my knees on the asphalt when I finally got back to the road, scraping the hell out of them, too.  After a few more minutes of bumbling around in the dark, screaming to the empty woods and fields around me, I saw headlights coming.  I couldn't think what to do, but I was terrified that they'd drive right past me.  I sat down in the middle of the road, determined that they were going to stop and help me or just run me the fuck over.  (As I re-read this, I can't help but notice that this true story - which happened when I was 16, by the way - is a fairly apt metaphor for what my childhood in the NFOO felt like.)

At any rate, they did stop and helped by getting me back to my friend's house, who then called the NParents after I convinced them not to call 911, and somehow I ended up cleaned up and in serious trouble.  I don't remember the exact course of events after I gave up and planted my ass in the middle of the country road, but I do remember this.
The nice couple who stopped to pick me up saw me bloody and bruised and crying and knocked for a loop in the middle of nowhere took one look at me and said,
"Oh my god, are you okay?"

The friend's parent who answered the door screamed at the sight of me and then said through her fingers covering her mouth,
"Oh my god, are you okay?"

The people who saw me with my bandages and bruises over the next week all looked at me and said,
"Oh my god, are you okay?"

Honestly, did I look very fucking okay?
But I think it's a reflex, a thing we say when we don't know what else to say, like, "I'm sorry for your loss," when we talk to someone who's recently had a person close to them die.  It's a place holder, really, because we don't know what else to say, but we know we should say something.

I'm sorry for your loss?  Is the dead person really lost?  Cause that could be a serious public health hazard if all those bodies are missing.

Are you okay?  What, you mean apart from the blood and the fact that my brain might be swelling right up to the edge of my skull right now?  No, not really.

And all those canned sayings about forgiveness... well, I think they're just the same type of thing.  What those phrases are meant to imply is the idea that we, as the wronged party, will feel better is we can let the wrong, the slight against us, go.  If we can give it up to the great higher power of the universe, we won't have to carry that burden around with us anymore.  Is there truth to this?  Sure, I think so.  Drop the rock, so to speak, ha ha.  But I don't think that letting something go, choosing not to dwell on it, moving on - I don't think that any of those things require forgiveness, at least they don't for me.

So I think that the Good People trying to help are basically misinformed as to what forgiveness is to an ACoN and what is required in order for forgiveness to be given and it is this, for me:

A person has to stop repeating their hurtful actions toward me in order for me to consider forgiveness of them for those actions.
A person has to take responsibility - complete and total responsibility with no excuses - for their actions in order for me to consider forgiveness of those actions or of them.
A person has to show me, through repeated actions that are the exact opposite of their hurtful action that they are walking the talk of their alleged character change in order for me to consider forgiveness of them or their actions.
Essentially, it goes like this: Admittance, Accountability, Repentance, Atonement.
Then we talk can talk about the F word.
*And, honestly, I'd just love to hear from anyone with a Narc in their life who's followed through on all four of those criteria long term, so let's say... oh, five years, without reverting back to the old ways.  In the words of one of my favorite movies (bonus points if you know it,) "I would pay a million pesos to see the look on those guys' faces when they see this baby coming through..."  Seriously, anyone have a Narc follow through on this?  Anyone? Anyone?

Considering forgiveness of an abuser or their abusive actions at any point prior to those actions of change being fully played out, well that's just insanity as the definition of doing the same thing over and over again while expecting different results.  How do I know?  Read on.

I want to tell you a story about forgiveness and action.  My father sexually abused me.  I believed the lies that he was sorry, that my mother who knew about it and manipulated me into recanting my statement to the police was sorry and would protect me from further abuse.  I forgave him, and I forgave her because they asked me to and because I wanted to believe that they were deserving of forgiveness and that I was deserving of giving myself that 'gift of forgiveness.'  Weren't we all just evolved creatures?  Wouldn't the Good People who want to help have been proud?

And guess what?  He didn't sexually abuse me again.  Hooray for the healing power of forgiveness!  Oh, wait, that's right, he just waited until one of my DD's was old enough to hit his pedo-radar and abused her instead!  And guess what?  NM knew about that too and manipulated my DD into not telling me!

Fuck forgiveness.

As to what the Bad Uns want forgiveness for?  Well, that's simple, don't you think?
They just want your permission to hurt you again, and to sweeten the sadistic pot by being able to remind you later on that you can't bring up how they hurt you because didn't you, after all, say that you forgave them?  With no take-backs!

Hurting a person like my NFOO hurt me is a conscientious, planned action - series of actions, really, and we call that a pattern.  Mr. Newton taught us that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.  Forgiveness is an action, too, and I think we sometimes get confused in thinking that it's the only action we can take when we're LC or NC or still trying to get away.  We think it will help us heal.  But I think it's often the wrong action where Narcs are concerned.  I think that the appropriate action to facilitate healing is to push the abusers out and deny them access, to make is so that they can't hurt us anymore.  Then we can heal.  They're just scab-pickers, and they had to go before my wounds could close.

Trust is now earned with me.
Forgiveness is earned with me too.  You want free forgiveness?  Get religion.
I'm not going to feel bad for protecting myself, and I don't need to forgive my oppressors in order to feel free.  Staying No Contact with them is really all I need for that.

So, that's the gift I'm giving myself: safety.
I use the tools of growth (honoring my self, detachment from those who hurt me, honesty, introspection, cognitive therapy) to get over the six different ways from Sunday that they screwed me up,and so far forgiveness hasn't been necessary for that growth (if anything, approaching it has been detrimental to me.)
I let go of my anger by feeling safe enough to let it go, not by absolving those who caused it.
I am better, because they're not able to reach me to hurt me anymore, not because I've forgiven them.

And that rent-free thing?  Hoo boy, Narcs are tape worms.  They crawled in when I was just a baby and set up shop in my head.  They built condos there and lived in style.  I cut as much out as I could by booting them out of my life, not by forgiving them.  Do they still live in my head?  Of course they do, they're my Family Of Origin.  But I've got 'em locked down in SuperMax with all the rest of the creeps and criminals, and I'm quite certain that I won't be commuting their life sentences.

Forgiveness or not, that's where they're staying, and I could give a shit what Dr. Phil or anyone else has to say about it.