Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Leaving Isolation Behind

Isolation of the victim is one of the primary tools of all abusers.
Whether an abuser is of the pathologically personality disordered or the garden variety asshole vein, the removal of their chosen victim's external support will always rank high on the abuser's to-do list.  In the middle of a fire, a person with an exit plan behaves in an entirely different manner than a person who believes that they are hopelessly trapped.

In this respect, the goal of an abuser is to force their victim to be cut-off from outside help, or if that is not possible to force the victim to at least believe that if there is a way out, it's unreachable or undeserved.

When I was a child, I was held hostage as a member of the NFOO, both physically and emotionally.  The NParents couldn't hold up the shiny-happy mask that covered their absolute insanity for very long, so our family packed up and moved every single year.  Sometimes we'd make it for 18 months or so, but that was a stretch.  In retrospect, I think of them as locusts: show up, suck the life out every available resource, move on and leave the land dead.  In having any tenuous roots and branches of relationships to other people that I was able to establish as a little one yanked out every year - literally, I did not go to the same school two years in a row until my freshman and sophomore years of high school - I was being groomed to believe that the only people I was allowed to have long term relationships with were NM, ENF, NSis and GCYB.  Functionally, they were the only people in my childhood world.  And that meant that I had no way out.

There were no teachers who were able to know me well enough to step in, no counselors who knew me long enough to detect a pattern, no mothers or fathers of friends who heard or saw changes in my affect and worried about it.  No one was allowed to know me long enough to fight for me.  Any perceptive adult in my life who might have picked up on eccentricities, (if they caught me in a rare moment when I stepped out of line and peeked out from behind the iron mask of the Clan at all,) would have had to chase down the moving van to inquire after my well-being.  What a lonely, sad, isolated childhood that was.  It taught me that the few relationships that I did have - with the NFOO - were something very precious indeed and that I must preserve them at all costs.  Which is just what the NParents needed to keep me hauling on that party line.

Later in life, I discovered that I had difficulty maintaining relationships with outside parties for more than a couple of years.  I had trouble staying in the same job for more than a couple of years.  Small wonder, eh?

Even when they were no longer able to physically separate me from external parties, the Crazymakers still held sway over my relationships with others.  My friends became their friends, and then they'd drive in their wedges at every available opportunity.  When DH and I tried to establish our own holiday traditions, we were being selfish and cruel, so they showed up at our house anyway, uninvited, and stayed for dinner.  Shit, I'm 95% certain that NSis slept with my first husband the night before our wedding.

No wonder, I discovered that I had a hard time trusting people.  That I had a polite conversational voice that I'd use with people and that was it, I never would allow any truth to pass my lips that wasn't about the weather.  That when I hit it off with someone from 'outside,' I threw up walls to make sure that they wouldn't get any closer to me.  I felt toxic.  I gave up on ever having any close girlfriends at all.  I shut down. I stopped sharing myself with people at all.  I hid a lot.  I just knew that there was something wrong with me; that I just couldn't be a good friend.  I'd tell myself that a potential relationship wasn't worth the effort.  I only figured out later that what I'd really believed was that I wasn't worth the effort.

I was NC with the Crazymakers for a good while - I think about a year and half - before I began to let anyone in past the gate of politeness and into my real life, and even then I was more careful than Elmer Fudd hunting wabbits, which is to say verwy, verwy.  I spent entire relationships waiting to find out that I was being used, again, that I was fucking it up, again, that I didn't deserve a friend, again.  Some of those relationships made it through that painful and constant vetting process.  Some didn't.  For a long time I felt like I'd failed in those relationships that didn't spark or flamed out.  It just didn't occur to me at the time that I didn't HAVE to make it work.  After all, weren't my choices thus: take what you can get for as long as it's there, but don't get too attached, because it'll be taken away at any moment - or - don't get attached in the first place and pretend to be okay alone (or better yet, "Vanci, remember that your 'family' are the ONLY ones who will always be here for you.")

The Crazymakers even tried to destroy some of my fledgling relationships after I'd gone NC.  How crazy is that?  I refused to talk to them, but they sought out people with whom the N's had never had a relationship prior for the specific purpose of destroying new relationships that I had with those people by cornering those new friends of mine and listing of litanies of the Sins of Vanci.  Gawd, can you even imagine what some of those poor souls thought?  No wonder they mostly ran for the hills.

I kept trying to bring new people into my life, though, by conscientiously and carefully reminding myself  to leave one or two doors to my soul open - just a crack - because I didn't want to be alone in the world anymore.  And because the longer I stayed away from the Narcs and their legion of psycho-pets, the more I became aware of the fact that isolation from the external world was one of the ways in which they'd kept me under the Clan thumb.  Slowly, painfully, awkwardly... I made friends.

I found people with whom I shared similar interests - like sobriety, hardy har har.  As I got better, I found that people approached me with invitations - not just to Drink Wine and Buy Pricey Kitchen Stuff parties, either - but real, genuine, Hey We Think You Might Like This Movie Too kinds of outings.  Apparently, I'm a lot of fun to be around.  Who knew?

It was, for a very long time, uncomfortable to be vulnerable enough to get to know people and to let them get to know me too.  Uncomfortable is a mild word for it; it was often excruciating.  I discovered that I visit the bathrooms in public places quite often as a means to have a moment of composure alone.  And somewhere, somehow, I became okay with that, accepting it as just another of my many, many quirks.

Because as hard as they tried to keep me alone and without ties to those around me, without support from people whose goal is not to hurt me, I know their secret now and I have for awhile.

They don't know how to form meaningful relationships with anyone; they only know how to use and be used, hurt and be hurt.  They can't fucking stand it that I am absolutely surrounded by people who love me and whom I love back, because that's something that they will never, ever have for real.  The closest they ever came was when they had me all scapegoated and slavishly in their service, and that's never going to happen again.

My oldest DD is turning 17 within the next couple of weeks, and what she's decided to do for her birthday is to go to a nearby town with a group of her girlfriends for an outing.  She's known some of these girls since kindergarten, and she's close with a couple of the girls' moms, which is something that I am entirely grateful for.  The more people she has that love her in her life, the better off she is, in my opinion.  She said to me, "You don't mind that I won't be spending my whole birthday with you, do you?"

To which I laughed and smiled and told her that I love her but that spending your 17th birthday with your life-long girlfriends is the healthiest thing in the world.  Youngest DD had her 15th birthday a few weeks ago, and our house was filled with seven 14-15 year old girls, some of which have been friends since kindergarten as well.  I cooked for them and cleaned up after them and other than that, I stayed out of their way and let them have their night, which they took full advantage of until they crashed out at four in the morning.

Man, it's fucking awesome to see my girls living in that sea of friends, held up by the joy of their relationships that have nothing whatsoever to do with me.  Cycle: broken.



  1. Never really considered why we moved so often! WOW!

    My NGC continues to try and destroy the close relationship between my cousin and I. The idiot doesn't realize that his attacks on me are what drove the final nail in the coffin of HIS relationship with our cousin!

    AA has been weird. I'm still kinda uncomfortable with people wanting to hug and be friends with me outside the rooms. My cousin was at the meeting last year for my third birthday and remarked on how many people there loved me! I found all the attention unnerving!

    When I read about the things your NFOO pulled after NC it makes me grateful I live an hour's drive away from mine!

    I've only been full NC for a little over six months. This post gives me hope! Thanks!

    1. mulderfan,
      Yep, they just can't stand the thought of us finding out the truth: that we are lovable just the way we are. How sick.

      I have a few close lady friends in AA, but I'm not that much of a hugger and I don't spend a lot of time at AA functions other than meetings. I'm better one on one, but it was still a stretch for me to go do a one on one coffee with another sober drunk in the beginning. I know what you mean. :)

      It's been my experience that the longer I am NC, the better EVERYTHING is.


  2. They want to snuff out any thing that gives you joy. They want to keep you like the guy in The Matrix. Soon feed you your reality. That bad enough as a kid. But they feel entitled to do this your whole life through.
    That's why I started drinking so much so soon.
    I got shoved out and into a new setting at 15 and the only way I could fit in was to have a few snorts off a bottle.
    These people have kids for every reason but the right ones.
    We are props for their parent show case.
    We are scapegoats for their failures.
    We are therapists on call 24/7
    But we were never children allowed to be a child.

    1. Q,
      Spot on. They must kill our joy or, better yet, steal it for themselves - gobbling it all up like Augustus Gloop in Willie Wonka.

      No wonder we had to find anything we could get our hands on to escape with - or take the edge off at least.

      That's one of the saddest things to me about my childhood, that I was never allowed to just... play, secure in the knowledge that I was safe.

      Allowing my children to be children is one of the things that I can be proud of myself for as a parent: that my DD's are allowed to run around the house in their footie pajamas and crazy hairdos with their friends playing hide and go seek in the dark with flashlights and I would never take away the pure joy of that from them. It's enough to know that they have it.

      And I know just how much that piss off the N's to see. (Insert mental picture of me sticking my thumbs in my ears and wiggling my fingers, shaking my butt back and forth and screaming Nee Ner Nee Nee Ner!)


  3. So much of this is familiar, except we never moved. The internet has been a huge blessing. I could make friends without any influence from the FOO. I flew to visit my friends. None have come here. When I finally found a friend here, she admits that if she hadn't known the truth and believed me, she would have been sucked into believing the Ns were wonderful and I was mistaken somehow. Because she and I became friends before she met my Ns, she recognized the manipulations.

    It is such a joy to hear about your DDs. Congratulations on breaking the cycle. That is worth celebrating!

    1. Judy,
      Yeah, Nparents don't have to physically move to isolate their children; it's just easier, I think, than having to excercise their manipulations and terror while staying in the same place. So basically, my Nparents can add LAZY to their resume of f'd-up-ness!

      I'm so glad that you've found a way to make real friends without the influence of the crazymakers. It's been a great joy to me in my adult life to realize that there are certain people I can connect with and be fulfilled with.

      Watching DD's live their lives outside of the cycle of dysfunction I've chosen not to perpetuate is... well, it's just everything to me. I'm happy as a clam, for them and for me.


  4. "Don't get too attached, it'll be taken away at any moment." Vanci, I about lost my coffee when I read those words as they are the *exact* same words/feelings I had as well. That was so cruel: "Now ya see it, now ya don't" and I had no idea when or why I'd be jerked from other people with whom I was forming bonds or activities I loved. I felt like my life was a series of "planes, trains and automobiles" which led to very itchy feet in my younger adult years. I became so essentially rootless, I could have just as well ended up on the other side of the planet as here. Even the simplest question, "Where are you from?" had no real answer.
    Since blind obedience was de rigor, I was never allowed to ask, "Why?" Or, "For how long?" I was that 8 yr. old kid trudging through another metro airport traveling alone with a ticket somewhere to stay with people I didn't know. At some point in the future, I'd be trudging back through another airport to another "home." It was confusing, arbitrary and heart-breaking: Far too many "Good-byes" to people who could have helped me if I had the courage to open my mouth.
    But I didn't. If you're not planted, if you have no roots, how can you bloom?

    1. TW,
      Ah, it's just heartbreaking to look back and see the ways they found to torture us.

      You're right, it is impossible to grow without nourishment, and I'm pretty sure that was part of their plan all along, ya know?

      Re: having the courage to speak up - When I did find it, (at 13,) it was my experience that they manipulated me into swallowing it again, recanting my pleas for help and turning me into the Big Badun in the first place. Man did I ever pay for speaking up.

      It took so many more years for me to try again. Again, another injustice they committed of which I am certain that they knew exactly what they were doing.


  5. Vanci, Thanks for writing this. I really needed some hope today and this post gave me some. I am in that really, really uncomfortable stage of having to leave my doors open a little. And it sucks, and hurts, and is a bit depressing. I'm so glad you've moved past it. Maybe I will too someday.

  6. "The internet has been a huge blessing."

    Wow, this rang a bell! Our mother was always making fun of our being on the internet. No wonder, we might actually make some friends or enjoy something.

    Q's Sis

  7. We moved around too, but not like you did or because of any damage left in their wake. However, my mother became increasingly paranoid about "other people" and how they lived their lives. She wouldn't let my sister or I do sleepovers or after school clubs. This severely limited our outside socialization as well as prevented us from seeing how other parents behaved.

    Whenever my mother got mad at me, it wasn't video games or TV or no telephone she threatened to cut me off from. It was my piano lessons, which I loved.

  8. You know how you feel at the end of an amazing movie, when the credits are rolling and no one at the theater is leaving? Everyone is just sitting there quietly, absorbing, thinking, remembering, not wanting to move for fear of breaking the spell of a well told story. That's how I feel after reading your account of life. Your beautifully written words resonate deeply with me and I thank you for so eloquently voicing what so many of us have been through. You have broken the cycle; I have too, and that is a very fine accomplishment to claim for life.

  9. "the longer I stayed away from the Narcs and their legion of psycho-pets, the more I became aware of the fact that isolation from the external world was one of the ways in which they'd kept me under the Clan thumb."

    Thank you for saying this! Psycho-pets is the perfect term, too (a cousin comes to mind)! I'm also trying to branch out in my life to find solid ground with those who have no connection to the Family Cult, people who know me by knowing me, rather than "knowing" me according to the Cult's gossip chain. I didn't move around growing up, but I was isolated all the same. I had no hero, no one who could see behind the family's iron curtain and my mother's saintly victorian presentation.

  10. My parents never moved but became friends with my friends. I would want to throw up when they would tell me how lucky I was to have wonderful parents. I kept my friends separate from my parents. We moved around a lot after I was married and I finally put a stop to it when the kids hit high school. I am thrilled by the friendships my kids develop and do my best to stay out of them. Breaking the cycle is hard but not impossible. Thank you for sharing this Vanci. I sure recognize the feelings.

  11. Wow. Thanks for writing this. So much rings true. My Nsis has done everything in her twisted power to isolate me from the rest of the FOO, even the normal ones. But that has always been her goal, to be on top of the shit pile.
    Isolation, silent treatments have always been the mode of punishment in our family. They LOVE excluding. It's so cruel. So it fits.
    My NM has moved so many times, I have lost count. It's always because someone else is doing something she doesn't like. It's never her, always others.
    My NM and Nsis always take the other persons side in situations I have been in. Someone could be beating me to death, spreading lies, stealing from me, etc. and it was always my fault and they stuck up for the other person. I finally realized that I didn't need enemies, I had my family! And then I left.