Monday, September 16, 2013

You's and We's

We've got teenage girls going sideways all over the place here in the Casa de Vanci.  Sometimes the ride is so fast and steep that I feel like I should be popping dramamine.  Mostly it's what I would consider 'normal' teenage drama.  Some of it's long delayed reaction to abuse stuff.  Some of it I can't even quantify yet.

We're dealing.  We're coping.  We're working through it and we're talking, talking, talking (so much that I find myself fantasizing about afternoons spent in quiet libraries and silent museums.)  I know that the talking is what's keeping our various heads above water, and that keeping communication channels open is the best thing in the whole wide world for helping these young ladies to find their paths out of the different issues they're mired in, but lordy is it tiring.

Tonight I had an in depth conversation with one of the DD's, and we made a lot of progress.  Many words were used.  Many tissues were used.  Many issues were brought to light.  Good, we're developing a plan.  This is good.

In reflecting on the conversation after the fact, I had one of those weird connections to my own youth in the form of opposites regarding the language that I use with my children as opposed to the language that was used with me by the Abusers when I was a child (and adolescent.)

I say:
"We're going to figure this out."
"We're going to find a way to make this work."
"We're going to keep thinking about this and talking about this until we can come up with a plan."
"We're going to find a way to help."
"We're going to be okay."
"We're going to reestablish the trust that was lost."
"We're going to keep trying."
"We'll always be here for you."
"We'll always love you for exactly who you are."

They said:
"You're not doing it right."
"You're making bad choices."
"You're being selfish."
"You're not carrying your weight."
"You've messed this up for all of us."
"You're hurting us by being _______ (insert Vanci's current state of being here.)"
"Look at what you're putting us through."
"You're being vindictive."
"You've always been difficult."

It's interesting to me that the Abusers of my NFOO spend so much time and energy making sure that everyone in their lives knows that Family Is Important To Them.  They should wear sandwich boards for all the ruckus they make about it.  "We're a Happy Family!" they'd declare, or "Look at How Perfect We Are!" Of course, it's all sham, a con game, a ruse, a false front.  But it's very important to them that people who aren't in their family know how very family-centric they are.

It was particularly important when ENF was still slamming the holy book into those pulpits on Sunday, while NM pounded out all the hymns about forgiveness on the piano.  The sham was at Von Trapp Family levels at that point in time.  We could have had a freeking production team.

What a lot of wasted energy.

But when I was young and hurting (who doesn't?  Hormones suck.  School often sucks.  Other kids and teenagers are MEAN!  A lot of teachers (no offense intended, mulderfan,) are deeply unhappy people looking to exert control over those 'lesser' than them in order to feel better about their own shortcomings, and that truly sucks for those under their pretense of power, throw a lifetime of abuse in there and you've got one hurtin' unit of a teenager!) when I was fragile and vulnerable and self conscious, well, there was never any of that energy put into helping me to feel like I was a part of a family.  They never told me that we'd work through it.
They told me that they were sure I'd figure out a way.
Or, they'd say you've made your own bed, missy.
Maybe you should hit your knees.
I don't understand why you make things so difficult for yourself.

They never spoke to me in the inclusive, we're all in this together, we're all pulling for you, we're going to work it out and we love you, love you, love you language that is my natural way of conversing with my daughters.  I know why they didn't speak to me this way - because none of that support existed, yet another abuse they perpetrated.  When the goal is to get as much out of you as they can and to make themselves feel/look/sound/act/be perceived as "good," regardless of what it does to you, well, I was never more than a supporting role, a day player, maybe the chick who pulls the curtain open or moves the sets around between acts.  I wasn't invited into the Union.

I'm struck, though, that this is one more area where they didn't and never will get a piece of me.  I grew up with the Family Finger of Blame pointed permanently at my forehead.  My daughters are growing up with the constant input that they're part of, included in, supported by and accepted as wonderful by this little family unit around them. That they'll always have a home in our hearts and our heads and our home.  That they are never, ever, ever alone and that we will always be just that: We.

When I do speak to them in direct address; You, it sounds like this:
"You are so special/smart/kind/beautiful."
"You are so loved."
"You are so funny."
"You can always come to me."
"You are wonderful, exactly the way that you are."

I'm so glad that I can see this for what it is; one more piece of the legacy of abuse that I was handed that I've chosen not to pass on.


Sunday, September 15, 2013

For the Jonsies

(Those of you who follow me know that I've been out of the blogland loop for awhile.  I've been trying to reacquaint myself over the last few days, and I've been doing a lot of reading. Over at Jonsi's blog, she posted a month ago that she won't be blogging for awhile.  Although I'm very delinquent in my response, I have to write it. It has to be said.)

So, this one's for Jonsi and all the Jonsies of our world.  Those kind, loving and brave, brave, brave souls who reach out, care for, love and hold on to we grown children of abuse.  I identify here as an ACoN, Adult Child of Narcissists because it's an easy little acronym to type.  But what I really was when I started trying to crawl out of the hell that my 'parents' caged me in could be described in so many more words.

If you've ever read or seen the last Harry Potter book/movie, I wonder if you identified as I did with the last piece of Voldemort's soul - that horrifyingly maimed and disgusting infant-like creature on the edge of death that Harry and Dumbledore find in the King's Cross train station of the last act?  That's what I felt like when I crawled down into the cannon that would slingshot me out of the Crazymaker Clan.  I was convinced that I didn't deserve happiness, peace, serenity - that the sky would come crashing down around me ears and that I would be to blame.  I was convinced that I was worthless.  I felt worthless.  I looked worthless.

There was no help for me, as far as I was concerned.  I knew that I wanted out because it was so, so, so painful, but I was pretty sure that I would never feel... good again.  I was willing to settle for a lack of pain, but I thought that was a best case scenario.

These feelings of worthlessness and all their attendant horrors; these are what my allegedly loving, supposedly close, practically perfect in every way (except for that pesky Vanci who refuses to stay in line) family had spent my entire lifetime teaching me to feel.  This is what they wanted me to feel.  A well trained in willing victim; that's what they made me.

People often ask me how.  How?  How did I get away?  How is it even possible?  (And those cynical souls among us, who often soon enough reveal themselves to be Minions to Narcs or themselves Undercover Narcs, this is where they always ask, "Well, if you were able to remove yourself from it, could it really have been that bad?")  Some people, normies themselves or other children of Abuse who are looking for a roadmap out, though, they really want to know.

The answer to that is complicated and highly individualized for each of us, I think.  Some of us don't really even have an answer.  That's okay.  As we say in AA, it doesn't matter how you get here - it matters THAT you get here.  For me, though, a big part of my answer is this:

I had someone who convinced me to let him love me.

My DH doesn't blog.  He doesn't type, Facebook, email.  After 14 years, I've finally gotten him to text.  He can google search when absolutely necessary, but that's it.  Which is fine, we all have our strengths.  But it's meant that he's not out in this blogland with me, reading your posts and giving me perspective on them.

But Jonsi's been here since before I got here, and that, my friend, has been a huge help in my journey.  Seeing a non-ACoN's reaction to some of the things that we've talked about, reading the absolute certainty with which you've been able to drill straight through to the core issue of the problem that most of us out here share - that are parent(s) abused us!  Well, Jonsi, let's just say that if you and my DH met, you'd find that you're two peas in a normal person pod.

For me, when I got out of crazyland, and as I've stayed out it's been vital to my growth, to my healing to know that even when the deeply-implanted-in-my-head voice of the Narcs, the Abusers, the Minions starts its constant loop of putting me down, telling me I'm worthless and unlovable, I can turn to the other voice that's there: the person and people who love me.  My DH.  The Jonsi's.  Even when I knew, absolutely knew that it was impossible for me to be loved, for me to be lovable, DH, like Jonsi (and I'm sure others have different people in their lives like them, at least I hope so,) these are the people who did their damnest to convince me otherwise.  To show me that I was good enough.  Even that I deserved love.

So, to Jonsi and all the others out there who love people like me, thank you.  From the bottom of my formerly shriveled and now-full heart, thank you for being you.  Thank you for fighting for me when I wasn't able to, and for telling me that I had an absolute right to defend myself.  Thank you for re-teaching me what love really is.


Thursday, September 12, 2013

Shame is a Weapon

Hola, cyberfriends.
It's been a bit, please forgive my absence; life gets busy.  There's been a lot shakin' in Vanciland; mostly good, some bad and some indifferent but shakin' nonetheless.  I hope to get time to post about recent events, but it might have to wait a bit.
The Sun's been tracking lower in the sky, though, and the days have been getting shorter so I can see the hibernation (and therefore time to write,) season peeking around the corner.  I hope you're all happy, healthy and free of fear.

I've been reminded lately about shame.
How it festers, where it's hatched, what nourishes it and how it destroys.
You know about shame, too, right?

If you have a Abuser in your life - past or present - you know about shame.
I had a whole bushel of Abusers in my life.  Hell, Abusers were my life for most of it.  I know about shame.

I've carried it, eaten it, drunk it, watched it, heard it, felt it, slept with it, split a piece of bacon with it.  (Shame took the larger piece, too, the greedy bitch.)
I've also shaken it off, buried it, turned a blind eye to it, ignored it, acted it out and - at times - beaten it.

But I think it's one of those feelings, one of those gifts from the Abusers, that's... well, it's sticky.  Hard to walk away from.  It follows me, damn it.  And sometimes I inadvertently pick it back up and carry it around with me for awhile.  Shame is a shadow.  Always just there... right in the corner of my sight... but I can't quite grasp it.

I know where it came from.  It was given to me.  The Nparents always were shitty gift-givers; I'm not surprised that this was one of their most generous and graciously given gifts.  They sewed it into the very essence of my being early on, like infancy, and they made sure it stuck with me.

They used shame throughout my childhood - when I was abused, whether it was physical, mental, emotional, verbal, sexual, they knew they could get away with it.  They knew I wouldn't tell.  Of course I wasn't going to tell, and here's how they made sure of it - they made me believe that it was my fault.  If I told, wouldn't I really just be telling whomever I told that I was bad, I was wrong?  Furthermore, they made me believed that all the bad feelings I had, all of the pain and hurt that they caused me - that I deserved it.

This continued to work when I was an adolescent, but not as well.  I revolted, I told.  I felt momentary freedom.  But I was outgunned, because they responded with increased shame, monumental amounts of shame.  They used it to break me so thoroughly that it was actually easier for me to lie, to recant, to swallow my hurt and pride and future and protect my Abusers than it would have been to stand by what I'd told and continue to live (with them, under pressure, in the special hell that they created for me.)  They made their dirty, nasty, stinking rotten treatment of me my fault yet again, and they made me pay for ever telling in the first place.  They made me pay for years.  And eventually they worked me back around to believing what they told me - that I deserved the shame that they intentionally made me feel.

So, I did the only thing within my power to do.  I hurt the only person that I was allowed to hurt.

My self destructive behavior was on a Titan scale.  I almost didn't make it.  So they blamed me for that too.  As recently as three years ago, in my very last meeting with my Abusive Mother and Abusive, sick, twisted fuck of a pervert Father (and my counselor,) Abusive Mother threw out that I was "such a difficult teenager."  Ha fucking ha.  Who wouldn't be, carrying around all that shame?  But she was still trying to make it my fault, my burden, my cross to carry well into my thirties.

I pulled out of my death spiral when I had my oldest daughter, as much as I could anyway.
I think back to the amount of responsibility that rested squarely on my shoulders when I was eighteen years old, and I can't even fathom how I took even a single step toward wellness.  And were they there to help me?  In some ways, yes.  I had no idea at the time just how costly their 'help' would be.  I stumbled along the best I could, though, and I just kept trying to move forward.  One. Painful. Step. At. A. Time.

I'll never forget how hard my Abusive Mother worked to get me to marry my first husband.  He didn't even propose to me - she simply hijacked a conversation one day and asked him when we were going to get married.  She pressed until he threw out a date.  He of the crack pipe, who would leave me with bruises and scars of all kinds, with debts and with fatherless children.  He was my Abusive Mother's choice for me.  She even made me feel ashamed that I hadn't been with him for a while before (when he'd broken up with me,) and used to talk to any other guy who showed interest in me - some of them actually nice - about this other guy who was the 'love of my life.'  At 18.  Who fucking has a love of their life at 18?  Isn't every one of them the love of your life at 18?  What kind of mother does that?  But she shamed me into getting back together with him, and then she shamed us both into getting married.

When it went bad, as it was bound to do, she blamed me for staying with him.  She discounted the fact that I live in a joint custody state, and that if I'd filed for divorce at the time, he would have automatically been granted half-time with my girls.  It took ten months for him to finally be caught by the police - aggravated assault against me, which I testified against him for, which he then spent four years in prison for - and then, and only then would the state grant me sole custody.  But that wasn't good enough, I hadn't left soon enough, I wasn't good enough, according to dear old Abusive Mother.  (Note that this was also the time frame that I needed the most help.  I've found out now that this was also the time frame in which my daughters were being abused by my dear old Abusive Dad, and dear old Abusive Mother knew about it and covered it up.)
When I did leave, when I finally got it worked out, Abusive Mother had a heyday with trying to make me feel ashamed for the way that I raised my kids.  They'd help, sure, on their terms.  Never when I needed it most.  And then I was made to feel guilty, awful, shamed for not spending enough time with my children.  Here was my schedule for a year and half:
6 am - work first job.  Work second job.  Change diapers.  Feed the kids dinner (none for me, though, I didn't have enough money for that.) Put them to bed.  Go BACK to work at third job.  Home at 2 am.  Sleep until 4- 4:30.  Lather, rinse, repeat.  I made about, oh, $13,000 per year.
But according to Abusive Mother, I was making 'bad parenting choices.'
Choices?  What fucking choices?

When I finally found a full time job, when I (out of the blue) met a decent guy who wanted me and wanted to be a part of my daughters' lives, according to Abusive Mother, I was being selfish.  I wasn't putting my children first.  And when decent guy stuck by me, when he adopted my daughters, when we bought our first house, when I was promoted at work... when I was successful, Abusive Mother said nothing.  Abusive Father showed up and asked to borrow money, or my truck.  The money wasn't usually repaid.  The truck was always returned with the gas gauge on E.

When I spent all of my time ignoring that decent guy (I'll never know why he stuck it out the way he did, but I'm grateful,) and allowing the bad influences of the Abusers to affect my daughters, I was supposed to be ashamed then too.  Because I had at least some happiness in my life, or at least I thought I did.  And they didn't like that at all.  I'll never forget the day before my wedding to decent guy (who actually proposed to me, who then spent the next six years telling me that my family was awful to me,) and I was at the Clan Compound trying to get things ready.  Abusive Mother said, at one point when I was trying to dig through my check register and find the last couple of necessary dollars to pull off the wedding, "Gee, Vanci, I wish we had something to give you!  It just always seems like when it comes to you there's nothing left!"
NSis had been married the year before, an event that I took a full week off of work to help pull off and that my Nparents sent me to her house with a $2,000 check to give her for wedding expenses.  Why send me with that check when they were en route the following day?  Shame, methinks.

And when I finally took a stand, Abusive Father said to me, "I just want you to know that I will NEVER forget the way that you have hurt us all, but I'm going to work on forgiving you."
At least at that point I was able to reply, "I'm not looking for your forgiveness.  Forgiveness is only necessary when a person has done something wrong, which I haven't."

Shame is a weapon.  Shame kills.

So, how to counteract it?
I know of only one way.
Tell the truth, always.
Tell it loudly and stick by it.
Drag the dirty secrets out into the light, kicking and screaming, and blast them with the brightest sun you can stand.
Ever notice how you don't have a shadow at noon?

And now, they've popped back up again.  They think they'll be able to use their Weapons of Shame to sway the DD's to their 'side.'  I'm ready, you abusive fucks.  Bring it on.