I often struggle with having cut off my abusive family. Still I never seriously considered getting back in touch. I know many other people who do have a much harder time sticking to the resolve of walking away from their abuser. It’s already very hard for me. I feel for everyone who struggles with these kinds of things. To the observing eye it has to be next to incomprehensible.
So why do we all have such a hard time? Are we that dense? Devoid of any logic? Blind and deaf? Selectively amnesiac for the bad sides of our relationships?
I do not think we are dense. Humans are creatures of habit. We prefer things we know well, things we can predict and know how they work over the great unknown. This is the reason we have a tendency to reenact our trauma in first place. We are used to this. We know these feelings and situations well and we are attracted to what we know. In a sick way it makes us feel safe. In another way I think our brains have the weird idea that we can find a way to “fix” things by subjecting ourselves to the pain over and over and over again.
I remember the first moment when I was not depressed. I have been walking back from school and for a brief moment, one, two steps the transmitter party in my head was over. It was one of the most horrible moments in my life. I have been depressed for so long, I knew how to deal with not having any energy, with not sleeping at night, with not knowing how to be happy. I knew all this and I knew it well, that’s been all my life. Knowing what it is like to not be depressed even for just two steps was horrible. Knowing what I was missing out on, how it might feel on the other side of the veil.
I have grown up in a warzone. The war largely happened inside my head and I did my damnest to not let anyone know, lest my parent find new ways to tell me what a terrible disappointment I am by not considering how terrible my mental injuries feel to them. I was alone in this and I knew how I worked. I have never let myself down the way other people do. I can not walk out on myself. I’m stuck with me.
Leaving this warzone behind and living like a normal adult is a daunting thing to consider for many abused people. I do not know how to do the dishes, laundry or how to properly grocery shop for healthy meals. Most of all I do not know how to be happy, how to indulge myself. It scares me badly, feeling feelings I have never felt in so many years of existence.
This also is a fundamental challenge to all the things I have known before. I need to question my parents motivation, their moralities, their value system. By realising how much greener the grass is on the other side I begin to truly understand how much I have been neglected. How deep my wounds go and how much my parents have failed me.
Learning how to be happy means abandoning the lonely child within me. It means being a child anew, now tossing my parents aside for real and learning everything from scratch. I know the demons in my head will leave me in peace if I do what they say. This peace is rather comforting in a way. Predictable. Nothing new and disturbing awaiting me. Confronting these demons, seeing what they do to me, how they incarcerate me is truly terrifying.
Now I realise in a way I HAVE let myself down by continuing the abusive self talk that has been instilled in me. I did not only split off from my core self like many abused people do in order to endure extreme psychological pain, I became one with the abusers. I myself have assaulted my core self. Knowing this does not mean the battle in my head is won. On the contrary it means another battlefield is opened. Here I am too little energy to cook a meal and I am taking up yet another energy draining battle. How’s that for insanity?
I do think prolonged exposure to abuse does make us blind and deaf to it. This is the go to mechanism how we humans survive this. I do remember how my father has patiently built a shelf for my new room. How he drove over that one day with medicine for my cough. I have not talked to him in half a year. That day I did pick up the phone. He came and he provided much needed material care. People forget that abusers rarely ever abuse all the time. Most abusive relationships have very fond memories and it’s hard to let this go.
There is this back and forth in my head. Pushing one’s own parents away is already looked down upon by society, after all they have done for you. You remember how you got to sit on daddys shoulders as a kid and how one night mummy has tucked you in and you cherished it so much more because it was so rare, so precious. Walking away seems to soil the good memories.
My parents did care for me. They never learnt any tools how to deal with emotions themselves and they passed this trauma on. But they did not seek to destroy me. They truthfully did what they thought was best. Walking away from someone who tried their best seems rather cruel. I also do not think it is completely insane that I want that phantom of nostalgy back, the people who care for me in their broken ways. This is how our brains work. It’s incredibly hard to move past that.
If I stop wanting to go back it means I need to be more real about grieving the childhood I never had. I need to let go of the notion that the relationship with my parents will ever be loving and caring. It means becoming an orphan in a very weird way. A secretary has been giving me the advent chocolate of the calendar one day last months. She said they normally wait for children to come in but they rarely have young visitors “and you have a mother as well”.
It was meant as a kind joke. I could not bring myself to laugh, normally I am a polite person and I try not to take it personally when people do not know some unusual thing about me. But this stung badly. In a way I did not have the luxury of having a mother. And I will never know when I will be painfully reminded of lack of emotional care i received as a child. A lack that keeps on lacking all through my life.
I still do not know what to do with my parents. I know what happened was dysfunctional in many ways. I know I need to change, to become able to develop functioning bonds. And I probably can not change my parents. It’s hard for me to make all these changes. You may be surprised to read my parents are older than I am (I have been keeping this secret for a good post to drop on all of you 😛 ) and thus much more stuck in their ways.