Friday, March 1, 2024

How I'm overcoming toxic shame by looking it in the face

 Hello my friends of this blog on how I lost 100 pounds! I know I promised you some fun diet tips for our March Madness weight loss challenge, and we will return you to that regularly scheduled program. But this blog is also about getting emotionally healthier too. Cuz it's all part of the same, thing, this mind-body-emotions thing. 

Today I need to examine how chronic toxic shame has controlled me and much I'd like to heal from it. And one way to do that is to look it in the face, literally. My computer's camera has been freezing, as I was taking selfies for this blog. This Candid Camera catches me when I'm not posed. And the result was pretty disturbing. 

I have this pinched, grim look on my face. It looks like I'm constipated or something. Awful. And if I look like this most of the time, I feel sorry for you who have to see me. But I got to thinking that this is the face, not of anger or irritation as it appears, but of toxic shame. Constant chronic guilt and shame have etched "scars" into my face. They've distorted my demeanor and behavior. 

My face is frozen in a tense mask because I'm never relaxed. I'm always waiting for the other shoe to drop. I don't feel comfortable in my own skin because I was taught not to be. I learned early on that if there was fault or blame in a situation they were mine. That no matter what I gave it wasn't enough. I learned to be prepared for passive-aggressive anger, aggressive anger, punishment, mocking and shaming. 

I was exploited, neglected, abused, parentified and manipulated. But I was expected to just take this as part of being a "family member." Situations were twisted and made to appear to me as normal. That everyone else was treated the same. I wasn't being singled out or bullied. That is the gaslighting. I was continually breathing the poisonous fumes of gaslighting till I didn't question it any more. 

I just mopped up the toxic shame and guilt and internalized it. But I couldn't quite hide the fear. It seeped out in my expressions and gestures. My anxious, eager-to-please-yet-knowing-I-won't constant vigilance showed and still shows when I'm not consciously covering it. My moves are defensive, sitting crumpled in on myself, trying to stay small and make no sudden moves. Like a terrified animal. 

But I am beginning to pry my hands off my eyes and look these terrible experiences in the face. In my face. I'm beginning to, instead believing the gaslighting and auto-shaming myself, to admit what was really happening. No one else was being treated as I was. I wasn't a family member. I was a scapegoat, surrogate parent, surrogate spouse and servant. 

It's only been within the last month that even dared to call their behavior gaslighting. And that's because I've seen the gas "scars" on my face. For the last 58 years, 7 months, I've been hiding from horrific things that were done and said. I've blotted out the voices, the shaming, the systematic abuse, the nauseating fear. I've cushioned my memories of their appalling behavior with excuses. I've lied and assured myself that they didn't mean it. They were joking. I was exaggerating. I was too sensitive. I was too critical. yada. 

But now I'm beginning to see that as the man who become my father-in-law (God rest his soul) said when he was told about how I was treated. "That's bullshit!!" I am re-experiencing what happened without the toxic cloud of gaslighting to obscure. I am going to write through each experience, to put them in perspective. Every time I do, I find (and am affirmed by those I share with) that I was NOT exaggerating. Neither was I at fault or to blame. Of if I was, it was a mistake or just a kid thing. It did NOT warrant the atrocious consequences I experienced. 

And that brings me to what will need to be another blog post. Nothing a person, especially a child, can do, warrants abuse, neglect, manipulation, exploitation, vicious punishment or shaming. That is just plain toxic behavior. 

How I lost 100 pounds with March Madness weight loss challenge, just for the fun of it!

 Hello and welcome to this blog on how I lost 100 pounds without gastric bypass surgery or weight loss drugs! Today begins a new month and you know what that means here...a new weight loss challenge! This time it's a March Madness Weight loss challenge! And this one's just for fun! Are you ready, my fellow Mad Hatters? Let's go! 

First, let me begin by saying that this isn't a competition. It's just you doing what you in your wisdom know you need to do, whatever that may be. Do you think you need to lose weight? You can! It's simple! And that brings me to the first mad idea about weight loss. 

A common diet myth says weight loss has to be difficult and miserable and complicated. I'm going rogue to say that in fact, it's quite simple.  Just a matter of less and better in, really, whether that's with a 1200 calorie diet, or calorie restricting with intermittent fasting. You can follow keto or some other kind of diet if you want, also. 

Now you might be thinking, okay, simple, yes, but easy? It can't be. It's got to be grueling and unpleasant to lose weight. And you would be partly right that it's not always easy to follow the 1200 calorie diet or intermittent fasting. But it's not as hard as I thought it would be. Part of how I lost 100 pounds was to have fun with weight loss! Seriously! 

And that brings me right up to tomorrow's post on how I lost 100 pounds with fun, yes fun, tips and tricks, like this March Madness Weight loss challenge! I'll post more later on enjoyable ways to keep that 1200 calorie diet on track! 

Thursday, February 29, 2024

How I lost 100 pounds with monthly weight loss challenges


Hello friends of this blog on how I lost 100 pounds without gastric bypass surgery or weight loss drugs. Today ends my Happy Heart February weight loss challenge. This month I've devoted more to emotional wellness. For me, this means overcoming toxic shame and chronic guilt and working to heal CPTSD (complex post-traumatic stress disorder). This stems from parental exploitation, neglect, abuse and parentification and was compounded by gaslighting. 

I worked through this month exposing experiences in which this has happened throughout my life. For the first time in my almost 6 decade life, I've said what happened. I've told secrets. I've said how I felt about it. I've been honest with myself and you my readers instead of covering up and participating in my own gaslighting. It might have seemed that none of this had anything to do with how I got overweight or how I lost 100 pounds. It did in the sense that getting emotionally healthier is crucial to getting physically healthier. 

Beginning tomorrow, I'm issuing a March Madness Weight Loss Challenge that will include some avant garde tips and "mad" ways to lose weight. We'll end this Happy Heart February by sharing that part of how I lost 100 pounds was with weight loss challenges such as these. Even if I had a rough previous month, I can always restart working on my health goals. And a new month provides the perfect time for that fresh start! Love you all, mar

Wednesday, February 28, 2024

How I'm detoxing the poisonous effects of gaslighting by becoming a human being instead of a human doing

Hello friends of this blog on how I lost 100 pounds without gastric bypass or weight loss drugs. What began with this month's  Happy Heart February weight loss challenge has morphed into an Odyssey of emotional exploration.  I heard a call to go down memory lane, to get to the bottom of my persistent nightmares, CPTSD, toxic shame, chronic guilt and constant sense of failure. I've been blogging about my encounters on this "Camino de Santiago of the soul." 

I've faced the neglect, abandonment, exploitation, passive-aggressive guilting, unmerited punishment, parentification, manipulation, abuse and gaslighting I experienced with open eyes instead of the blind refusal to admit that my parents and stepparents were wrong. I'm beginning to put it all into perspective based on my actual impressions, memories and feelings, not the spun narratives I've been indoctrinated with. I'm saying what happened instead of perpetuating the lies and coverups. 

What I am coming to understand is that those experiences and gaslighting by adults about what was really happening, fed my constant toxic shame, chronic guilt, and sense of lose-lose failure. I began from a very young age, to internalize the gaslighting and even to gaslight myself. This is the nature of the gaslighting beast. It feeds on itself and grows bigger and bigger until it is the only reality you know. If you've ever been chronically gaslit, you know just what I mean. 

The lies, smoke and mirrors create a false world that blots out the real one. Gaslighters are SOOO believable with their manipulation. They don't just lie. It's even worse than that. They distort truth, dismiss other versions, exaggerate your faults and mistakes and refuse to acknowledge their own. They sense your weakness (in my case, raging empath, false responsibility, toxic guilt and shame). Even God was twisted to be an implacable tyrant who expected me to serve everyone to the destruction of myself. 

Weirdly, or not, when you are being gaslit, you understand that it does and should only apply to you. You are the one in the wrong. No one else. Your siblings aren't treated this way. Your parents and stepparents don't treat each other that way. That's because you are the problem. You, in your own little self, are responsible for and routinely fail to provide, others happiness. It makes interacting with others outside your tiny dark gaslit world, virtually impossible. 

You see they aren't experiencing this. They don't see the world as you do. They don't feel the fear, terror, horror, shame, guilt and misery you dwell in. Generally, they misunderstand you or think you're really odd. You often end up bullied and exploited on the outside too. If you do give the impression of fitting in, it's only because you're so good at faking and playing a part. 

And fitting into the real world is an oxymoron too. Gaslighting has told you that common rights are for others but not for you. You've been forced to live by a complicated set of rules and expectations that change at a whim, that others haven't. You are expected to somehow make your way in this foreign place where you don't belong, can't fit in and shouldn't believe you deserve to. Yet you can't ask for help because gaslighting has also told you to keep secrets. They say you're making a scene, lying, making a fool of yourself, showing off or being too sensitive. 
You grow up never even thinking to tell anyone. Here's where it gets even more complicated. You've been told that you're treated as you deserve and that they are always right. BUT they also don't want yo to tell anyone and pull out every shaming tactic they can to keep you quiet. If they really knew you, they'd know they didn't need to. You've breathed in the gas and internalized the lies. You're so busy gaslighting yourself. And you don't want to hurt or upset anyone. You have become the perfect daughter, they expected you to be, but you don't know it because you're so stuck in guilt and shame. 

Little ones, if ANY of this resonates, let me breathe some fresh, clean air into you. See, it doesn't matter how much you give, or do, or love or are. You will never satisfy these black holes. They are bottomless. They just go on taking, digesting you and spitting you out, used up. don't have to do or be or give or love any more than you do. In fact, you can back off on the giving because if you're like me, it's become all you know. 

But it's not. You are person. YOU ARE ENOUGH! YOU ARE LOVEABLE! YOU ARE WHOLE and BEAUTIFUL. You are, to quote P!NK "f-cking perfect." 

I am having to breathe this air too. And after 6 decades of the noxious fumes of gaslighting, it's a sweet perfume. I'm coming out of the cloud of despair, shame and misery. I'm learning that I'm NOT a human doing but a human being. 

This is ALL thanks to my higher power and some very lovely people He put in my life, who call me wife, mom, Omi and friend. I'm not to the promised land yet. But I'm on the camino. Please join me? 

Tuesday, February 27, 2024

How I'm overcoming toxic shame and gaslighting by affirming the truth

 Hello friends of this blog on how I lost 100 pounds. Lately I've been working on emotional issues related to gaslighting, toxic shame, chronic guilt and low self-esteem. Just recently, I had an Aha moment that has been very helpful to healing. I realized that all my life, I've affirmed the wrong things. I've believed and trusted people who didn't merit it. I've made excuses for others' exploitation, neglect, abuse and abandonment. I've ignored my own feelings to protect others' mistreatment of me and in so doing participated in my own gaslighting. 

The aha moment came when I recalled an incident of sexual abuse I experienced at the hands of a teenager with past history of aggressive behavior, who was in my mother's and her boyfriend's foster care. When I told mom, I felt at the time that she was passive-aggressively angry with me. It seemed to me that she thought I was lying. She expressed annoyance that now she would have to make the young man leave our home. I felt at the time that she was more concerned with him and her foster care than she was with me. 

Now, bear in mind that this is possibly the most painful thing I've ever had to tell anyone. I was ashamed, disgusted, humiliated and very vulnerable. I didn't want to tell anyone. I remember, after seeing her response, instantly wishing I'd not brought it up. I asked if I was wrong to and she irritably said no I was right to and she'd handle it. And that was that. Later that night, at dinner, much to my chagrin, she praised her boyfriend, whom she'd told about the situation, for "how well" he'd handled it.

I was mortified that she'd shared my private hell with him, of all people. He himself was abusive and mocking, calling me "Blisters" in reference to my breast size. I never understood, till my husband said something, that this was child sexual abuse. I spent that summer in misery. I never went swimming despite loving Lake Michigan. I wouldn't shower and wore the ugliest clothes I could find. Nothing was ever said about it again. 

I spent the rest of my life, not only feeling rotten about the assault, but ashamed of myself. I felt responsible for my mother losing her foster care and hated myself for making her mad. I've had to fight demons telling me I'd exaggerated it or brought it on myself. And worst of all, I believed that I'd imagined that my mother was upset with me about it. My mother, the voices in my head say, is a good caring Christian woman who would never blame and shame her daughter for something like this. I misunderstood or If she did, she had a good reason.

Just two days ago, however, the blinders fell off and I could finally see that yes, she was upset and no, not because of what happened to me but what it would mean for her (loss of foster care income, possible closure, censure). This was the same woman who turned a blind eye to her boyfriend's abuse. Who allowed and even encouraged him to sexually shame me. I felt dismissed because she was dismissive. I felt ashamed because she  implied that I was somehow to blame. I felt humiliated because she shared my private story with my abuser and then was more concerned about bragging him up for telling off a 15-year-old than protecting her 11-year-old from experiencing it in the first place. 

So the abuse shouldn't have happened. The kid shouldn't have been brought into my home. My mom should have showed compassion and love. She should have kept it private and not shared it with her live-in. All these things can't be changed. But at least now I don't have the additional burden of guilt for  believing that my mom did what she did. I don't feel ashamed saying what actually happened. 

Monday, February 26, 2024

How I'm fighting toxic shame and gaslighting by breaking down the wall

Hello my dear friends of this blog on how I lost 100 pounds without gastric bypass or weight loss drugs. This month's Happy Heart February weight loss challenge is revealing to me how important healing the heart and mind is to fixing the body. If you're just tuning in, welcome but also fair warning. I've been sharing a lot of painful memories of parental gaslighting, abandonment, neglect, abuse, endangerment, exploitation, parentification and manipulation. 

I'm uncovering and the roots of CPTSD (complex post-traumatic stress disorder), toxic shame and undeserved, chronic guilt. I'm dismantling my "stinkin thinkin" which has led to lack of self-care, self-harm and a life of misery. It's going to be a long road because I'm only just understanding now, what happened and how wrong it was. I'm now able to put these experiences in proper perspective. I'm learning to trust my narrative, not the version I was gaslit into believing. 

Gaslighting, from a very young age, taught me to believe many dangerous and potentially deadly lies. It undermines everything. Self-confidence, it says, is prideful. Self-esteem is arrogant. Self-care is selfish. Not taking care of others is being a poor servant. Disagreeing is disobedience. Having an opinion is "sassing."  Speaking up is talking back. 

Respect is one way and is owed to anyone your parents decide to put in charge, regardless of whether they have earned it or give you respect in return. Responsibilities and rules are for you. Rights are for them. Anything they do is right even if they tell you it's wrong for others. You owe your parents everything while they owe you nothing. 

These and many other lies built a wall, brick by brick, that imprisoned me in toxic shame. There was no way out. They had every exit barred and an answer for everything. I was being crushed under increasingly more expectation, excessive demands and crazier rules. 

It's only been by kicking down the wall that I've been able to find some freedom and peace. I'm slowly starting to crush every brick, every wrong teaching, every shameful experience, every hurtful demand and reexamine it for what it was, and not the gaslighting lies I've been fed all these years. And it's exhausting. 

If any of this resonates, please stay tuned. We'll kick down these walls together. Love, mar

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

How I am getting healthier by learning to mouth off to toxic blame- shame

Hello friends of this blog on how I lost 100 pounds without gastric bypass or weight loss drugs. This month's Happy Heart February weight loss challenge has been a bit of a departure from the usual focus on how I lost 100 pounds. I'm needing to work on problems of toxic shame and chronic, undeserved guilt which have flawed my self-image, crippled self-esteem and sabotaged self-care. They stem from gaslighting, exploitation, parentification and neglect in early years. 

So today, I'm sharing how I'm getting healthier by mouthing off to toxic blame-shame. According to my father, I was both "too critical" and "too sensitive" to criticism. I'm not sure just who he thought I was too critical of because I literally groveled at his feet for attention and love, which was very transactional, especially when he remarried and had a family. 

It became my job in my tweens to "fix" everything and everyone. I was my dad's wingman before I knew the term. As he saw it, he messed up his first marriage and by golly he wasn't going to mess up the second, not if I could help it. So he sacrificed me, my childhood, mental health, care and love on the altar of wedded bliss. And he and his wife were still miserable.   

Whenever his wife was unhappy (she didn't say she was unhappy she would just pout in a passive aggressive way) he'd say, not "what can I do to help but "maybe Mary could help?" He forgot that he was the one who married her, not me. I was never asked about any of it not even to check and see how I was feeling. But it sure was my place to make their relationship work. He'd then invite her to think up tasks to add to my already long list of responsibilities, to make her feel better. But it never did. And then that temporary "little extra helping out" just became part of my permanent to-do list.  Despite doing most of the work, including sleeping with her babies, I always annoyed her. And Dad was quick to remind me how disappointed and upset she was with me.  Though he never said how or what I could do better. I really worried a lot about that, pleasing people. It's a big part of my constant feeling of failure now.  

Back to sleeping with the babies. It got so bad with the youngest that I was locked in his bedroom. There was a hook so I could get out but I had to tiptoe then hurry back. They could only justify locking him in if someone was in there with him. So I had to get up with him, soothe him, find his blanket, tuck him in, etc.  Just as I did my own kids, later. That's part of the parentification. Neither his father nor mother ever asked how he did at night or whether he kept me up. No one cared as long as they got what they wanted. So not only was I supposed to husband Dad's wife I was supposed to mother his child. Creepy. 

Interestingly, as an adult the boy still complains of how he was locked in "his room." He never mentions how I was there with him because he evidently has forgotten. I say interesting because he calls it his room, which it was. He didn't sleep with  me in my room. I slept with him in his, in a tiny, uncomfortable youth bed. I had no desk, dresser or space of my own. 

During this period I was in college and had a job. But I was also made to sleep with my parents' babies beginning at age 11 and up. At my mom's house, she and her boyfriend slept two floors down and I slept with 4 foster kids under 4 and all with special needs. I say their homes because I never thought of any house as my home. I'd say I "lived with my dad and his wife or mom and her husband." I was not encouraged to think of any as "my home." Being shunted back and forth between parents' homes, without a proper bedroom or space in the family, I have learned, is "hidden homelessness." And is part of my PTSD. 

In college, the childcare and chores, were in lieu of rent. I don't know how they justified it to themselves when I was younger especially considering I really didn't cost them much. Beginning around 11, I was responsible for babysitting, childcare, hanging laundry on the line (even in winter snow), folding clothes, ironing, washing dishes, dusting, mopping, changing beds, making lunches, cleaning the bathroom, fixing supper and cleaning up afterwards and anything else asked. 

It took me till 59 years old to ask myself, besides all that, what else was there for my dad and his wife do? Their kids never did any chores when I was around even though I was doing all this when I was younger than them. They were all boys. My boyfriend (now husband) says I "wiped everyone's asses and waited on them hand and foot." I never realized how much till just recently. 

It also recently occurred to me what a good deal they got in me as live in babysitter, nanny, maid and au pair. I also went to school, had homework, student teaching and a job. Food was pretty sparse and I bought all my own clothing and essentials. So basically I cost them nothing. But what they saved in fees boggles. Rent would have cost me about $200 a month. A nanny/au pair would have cost them at least $200 a week especially with all the nightime care. And they would have been required to provide the nanny with her own room. 

Another interesting thing is that there was a big room beside the garage that could have been mine. Dad said I couldn't use it because it wasn't heated. Fair enough. But when I moved out, he made into a nice (heated) apartment for the son of a friend of theirs (who was younger than me) Now I realize of course why he didn't for me: who would have slept in the baby's room?  

What bothers is that I never questioned it. Of course you would exploit your own daughter while rolling out the red carpet for someone else's kid. That's gaslighting for you. I remember how they worked so hard to make that nice space for him and then bragged about what a good house guest he was. I wonder if he'd been so nice if he'd had to climb icebergs to get frozen diapers off the line or comfort a toddler every night. 

As I write this, the voices of gaslighting and toxic shame are screaming loudly. They say things like don't exaggerate! You're betraying family secrets! You ought to be ashamed (I am)! You're too sensitive! You're too critical! That never happened! 

These aren't imaginary voices, they're memories. If I had questioned or complained, my parents and stepparents would have come unglued. See previous blog post about dad "paddling" 13-y/o me (his word. Mine is beating) because I was ungrateful. Again his words. This was the first forced-to-sleep-with-baby time. 

So I didn't question, out of fear. I believed them when they said I was ungrateful, disrespectful, , a poor family member. There's gaslighting again. I was so worried being a bad daughter that I never saw what shitty parents they were. I was expected to behave like family while being treated like the help. I was a scapegoat, servant, support system, spouse and surrogate parent. I was a "family member" when it came to responsibilities, but not the rights. 

This how successful the gaslighting was. I didn't get that I deserved better. I knew others weren't treated that way. I didn't treat my kids that way. Yet it took my nearly 6 decades to understand that I deserved love and care. It will probably take me the rest of my life to FEEL that I deserve it. That you don't have to earn your home. That it is YOUR home too. That care isn't transactional. It bugs me too because I was a grown-ass adult when some of these things happened yet I was treated like a naughty child. They didn't even care enough to adapt to my being an adult. They just kept shaming and belittling. I'll blog more later on how they were caught doing this at my place of work and made to look very foolish. 

So, this blog post has gotten long and there's more to come. There are so many more experiences like this and virtually no happy ones. I'm sick of the nightly nightmares and chronic PTSD induced pain. I'm going through  a lot of emotional house-cleaning to myself in a better place. And one of the ways I'm doing that is to start mouthing off (something I was often accused of but do not remember once ever doing.)

I'm going to talk back to the crazy talk I had to endure and which has made me the mess I am now. I going to call this shit out for what it was instead of believing their gaslighting. I'm going to explain, in no uncertain terms, how this scapegoating, shaming, parentification, exploiting, transactional life, shutting out and abuse makes me feel. I'm going to rearrange my head until I can get some relief from constant self-hatred, from feeling always in the wrong, of feeling responsible for everyone and then ashamed when I don't get every little thing right, of feeling like a human doing instead of a human being, of feeling like a little girl alone, out on the street looking in at the family inside. 

And when the voices tell me I'm wrong, that I should just keep it hidden, that no one cares or wants to know, that I'm being disrespectful or disloyal, or whatever, I'm going to shut them out. If I feel dismissed as I have so often before, I'm not going to shut up and crawl away. I'm going to keep talking, yelling if I need to. I'm going to get mad and loud. I'm the only one who knows what really happened. I'm the only one suffering. They claim it didn't happen or they don't remember. Up to now I've been too good at pretending it didn't happen and it doesn't hurt. Well, it did and I do.  

Does it sound like I'm talking to someone or a group of someones? I probably do sound a little paranoid. That's another part of gaslighting, how it makes you feel stupid and untruthful and selfish, and so ashamed of yourself. And that is the work of the evil one. He wants me to think no one cares. That I'm just making a fool of myself. 

But I believe, even though I don't feel it yet, some, maybe most care. That to expect ridicule, or scolding or dismissing as I've experienced is a sign that it was real and that it did happen. That I expect it to keep happening is another symptom and also another scare tactic to keep me quiet. 

But I also believe that it will resonate with people who have been hurt like this. Maybe telling my story will help you sort your own. I don't want anyone to suffer like this. If you've experienced childhood abuse or trauma, neglect, abandonment, exploitation or manipulation, keep reading. I think we can find comfort together. If you haven't and you're just here to lend support, thank you!!! 

Love you all

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