Tuesday, May 28, 2024

To heal my CPTSD, here's how I do birthdays and holidays differently

 Hello. If you're new to the blog, you know that I'm excavating deep into my CPTSD from a lifetime of malignant narcissistic abuse and family scapegoating from four parents (two step) and their kids. Mother's Day this year was hard and I realized that it's in part because holidays and birthdays were always traumatic for me. To heal my CPTSD, here's how I do birthdays and holidays differently from my "family" of origin. 

What made birthdays and holidays so hard are the same reasons that made every day in family scapegoating and malignant narc abuse so hard only magnified. It was a big poisonous cake of toxic shame, shame dumping, manipulation, exploitation, emotional bashing about the head, physical abuse, sexual abuse, neglect, abandonment, endangerment, parentification and being left out and not celebrated, myself but still being expected to celebrate others at holidays and birthdays (aka bring expensive gifts I couldn't afford). It was frosted over with gaslighting that none of that happened and I was one of the family when I was actually just staff with endless expectations. 

My dad would scream at me and shame me randomly for some perceived wrong. His wife would randomly get mad at me when she was feeling fat or pissed off with someone else. They both felt no qualms ignoring me at holidays and birthdays but yet expecting me to attend and bring big gifts. It wasn't an invitation, but a command. And if I came late, whoa to me. I'd have to spend days fawning to get back in their fucking good graces. Not attending was unthinkable. (Then they all moved away and completely ignored me and my family. Go figure.)

 At the time I felt so bad that I'd cry and apologize. It makes me sick now and sometimes, I  have to rage back at the empty chair. They're dead now, but their gaslighting, toxic shaming voices and narcissistic abuse didn't die with them. I still wake up pretty much nightly sure I've done something horrendous to earn their wrath. That's the auto or self-gaslighting. 

When I was 14 and far to old let alone not interested, they got me a slot car set. And was expected to haul it out every time their sons wanted to play with it. And play with it with them. I complied every time. Then gaslighted me into believing I actually wanted. Such a win-win. Get me a toy that was actually for their kids, with free babysitting to boot. I never realized that till my husband pointed out how exploitative that was. 

My mom just left me out, not so noticeably at first but more and more over the years. She'd make a point to tell me that she got my sister a laptop while giving me a too big shirt from a thrift store that still smelt of Good Will. I got her a new phone. Her husband made jokes about calling me Blisters at 11 (I had small breasts like most teens did.) She laughed along. Then there was the theft of my savings and stuff. And then they kicked me out of the house when I was 16. Merry Effing Christmas. 

What were supposed special days and even religious holidays, were turned into nightmares by narcissists making it all about themselves and/or their children, taking their issues out on me and teaching their kids to be scapegoaters 2.0. I'm so used to being excluded, abused, manipulated and exploited that I didn't even realized till a few weeks ago, when my husband reminded me, that it really was that bad and even he saw and felt it. But he also reminded me that despite this, I did things differently with my now (real) family. 

I got a lotta healing to do. And to do so, I try to do pay it forward instead of back. Not perfectly. But I do try. Everyone is remembered and celebrated. They are not treated equal so much as special. I make lists of what THEY are currently interested in. I update it. I know every one of my grandkids' preferences, including my son's girlfriend's son's interests. He's one of my grandkids too. 

We welcome everyone and don't expect anything of anyone. When someone can't make it for whatever reason, we accept that, wish them well and miss them. We don't expect gifts, and frankly don't really want them. We'd rather they saved their money for things they need. WE DO NOT GUILT THEM. My kids-in-law have commented on how our gatherings are relaxed, inclusive and enjoyable events instead of stressful, excluding, guilt-inducing nightmares. I'm so glad of that. At least if I'm not getting it just right, I'm doing better. 

This isn't rocket science. It's what decent parents do. But it was not what was done for me. This is why I say I didn't have parents or a family. Just a lot of bosses. And it's why Mother's Day and Father's Day can be triggering for me. I try to be as joyful as possible and sometimes I paste on a smile. I don't want my family to experience another round of miserable, angry people making them miserable and angry. That shit needs to stop yesterday. 

I do need to let these bad memories in. Sealing over them will just form toxin filled boils that will need to be lanced sooner or later. And the longer they are left to fester, the worse the scars will be. But I try not to live in the past. What's done is done. Heck I didn't even remember all these things till last Mother's Day when a lot came back. Then I recalled how miserable I sometimes was and why I dreaded holidays and birthdays. I sometimes made my kids sad too. But then I didn't know why and you don't know what you don't know till you know it. I wish I hadn't waited so long but that's just how effective the malignant narcissistic abuse, exploitation, scapegoating and gaslighting were. 

So I apologize and try to do better. 

Saturday, May 25, 2024

I finally figured out why I dread family birthdays how I'm doing it differently

Hi friends. Today's post is going to be another raw one so if you're triggered by stories of family mobbing or scapegoating, CPTSD, parentification, malignant narcissistic abuse, I recommend not reading. If you're following, you know that I've recently begun to allow myself to remember what happened and why I'm so disturbed by it. And I finally figured out why I dread family get-togethers, holidays and birthdays. And that's thanks to family mobbing, bullying and scapegoating surrounding them. 

For almost six decades, I've managed to store and lock memories but recently, the lock sprung and they came pouring out. My mom just plain doesn't celebrate me and excludes. Yet still expects presents. I get her a new phone. She gets me a used candle. With my dad and his wife, I recall that I always felt nervous and fawning at birthdays and holidays and family get-togethers. They always seemed mad at me. Why? BECAUSE THEY ALWAYS WERE. Especially when I got a life of my own. They even got mad at my fiancĂ©. 

These weren't my birthday parties because I didn't have any. I wasn't celebrated. These memories center on their sons' Christmas and birthday celebrations. I wasn't invited, just expected to be there and not to come empty-handed. If I arrived late (and I mean life 15 minutes) because, oh, I had work or school stuff or other events to attend, they literally pouted and made nasty passive-aggressive comments. 

On Christmas morning I had to be up at the ass-crack of dawn, to watch them open their gift mountains, even when I was in my 20s, and living with them to finish my last year of school. I didn't get much for Christmas, despite giving them lavish (on my small income) gifts.  And still my dad and his wife were mad at me. 

I used to think my dad was righteously angry with me. I thought I'd earned his wrath. Even though I'd hopped thru every hoop set for me. I remember trying to make conversation and they'd just snub me and maybe, finally deign to acknowledge me. How happy I was then. Or maybe just relieved. Whey, they were speaking to me again. Yay, they might accept me back as a family member. Now I can go back to being exploited, co-sleeping with their kid, doing all their work and getting nothing in return. Lucky  me. 

Now I realized they were just pissy. They used pissiness to control, manipulate and gaslight me.  They never did and never would accept me as a family member. I was staff. The malignant narc blame-shame gaming was boggling. 

I'm doing things differently and I'll blog more about that tomorrow. 

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

CPTSD from malignant narcissistic abuse was written all over my face

 Hi friends. So, if you're new to the blog, welcome, but warning also. What I'm writing is incredibly raw and possibly triggering. It certainly triggers me. It's not a pretty place around here right now. I'm finally dealing with the shitshow that my life growing up was. The deeper I go the more toxic ick I find. How that poor kid that was me survived in  nothing short of miraculous. Part of helping her includes looking a pictures of young me. And what I find is disturbing. You can see the malignant narcissistic abuse, toxic shame and CPTSD written all over my face. And for the first time ever, I'm feeling disgust for her not with her. It's appalling. 

If you aren't new, you'll know that I've been opening up about the systematic malignant narcissistic abuse from four parents, two bio, two step. What I should say is four authority figures. They were no more parents to me than the worst bosses you can imagine. The parentification, abuse (physical, emotional, sexual, social and spiritual) exploitation, manipulation, neglect, scapegoating, abandonment, endangerment, shaming and gaslighting are nauseating. 

For most of my life, I've excused and defended them. I believed their gaslighting that I was the problem for everything. I was selfish, a liar, a show off, childish, too sensitive, a burden, a nuisance but also a servant, responsible for everyone. But if I needed proof that I wasn't making it up I had only to look at myself in pictures. The CPTSD, toxic shame and rigid fear were written all over my face. 

I wasn't just awkward, I was turned inward. My face was usually screwed up with my mouth in a tightly controlled grimace, like I was clamping myself shut lest something escape. I know now that it was terror that the truth of what was happening would come out. See, I felt responsible for it all. When my dad beat me, my fault. When my mom's boyfriend screamed and threatened me, or sexually harassed me, my fault. When a kid in my mom's foster care tried to rape me, and she didn't believe me, my fault. When I didn't mother my dad's wife's kids to her specs, my fault. When my mom did or allowed weird, dangerous, sick things to happen to me, my fault. When she abandoned me, my fault. When my dad told me he was gonna kill himself and there was nothing I could do, my fault. 

So they didn't take many pictures of me. I was the invisible kid. Most are ones Grampa took. But they all show me obviously miserable. What I was holding in so tightly was toxic shame, rigid fear and all those secrets that caused them. I was literally trying to keep my mouth closed to keep from screaming. Or throwing up. And I was so ashamed of myself and crippled with fear. And it wasn't just in pictures that this showed. My cousin whom I do not remember meeting despite him saying we hung out fairly regularly, says I always seemed distant, preoccupied, closed off. He thought I was a snob. But the truth was so much different. 

By the time I was 16, I'd experienced countless things that made me believe that I wasn't fit to live. CPTSD. And it just got worse. And it shows. But now that I'm an adult, and not keeping secrets anymore, I see myself differently. I see the terror and despair. I remember the feelings and why I felt that way. I remember the cruelty and it fucking nauseates me. I realize that I'm ashamed but not of myself. I'm disgusted by how my parents treated me. 

I contrast it with how I, even flawed as I am, treated my kids. I see how this toxic shame and fear made me do things I wouldn't  normally have done. How I spanked my kids because my parents hit me and told me God expected me to hit my kids. They didn't hit their other kids and then shamed me when I obeyed them. It's all so disgusting hypocritical and backstabbing. 

I have a long way to go to get to a better place. But at least seeing the trauma in my face, affirms that despite their gaslighting, it did happen. And sorting out who was injured and who was to blame, helps too.  

Tuesday, May 21, 2024

How gaslighting about narcissistic abuse turns to auto-gaslighting and then CPTSD

Hello my friends. Lately I've been diving deep into my childhood trauma to figure out why I'm having such horrendous and constant  nightmares. Come to find out it's CPTSD, complex post-traumatic stress disorder from malignantly narcissistic parental abuse. And the nightmares aren't so much dreams as flashbacks. If you've stuck with me, you know that for the past few months I've been opening up about a lot of shit that happened and would continue to happen if I let it. 

Today I'm looking at how gaslighting about the narcissistic abuse I suffered, turns to auto-gaslighting. AKA, how being told I wasn't abused (emotionally, physically, sexually, spiritually and socially), neglected, abandoned, endangered, parentified, exploited and manipulated led to me gaslighting myself that it didn't happen. 

And I in turn wonder if you who are reading this, believe me. I wouldn't blame you if you didn't. I didn't believe me. That's why it took six decades start talking about this. Toxic shame, fear, lying to myself and covering for the perpetrators, kept me locked in. It didn't help that I had four narcissistic parents, each with his and her own spin on the abuse, to juggle. Or that I was completely alone in it.  None of their other kids had to deal with it. I was the only child of the marriage. They are all much younger,  don't have stepparents, don't believe me and have participated in the abuse as adults. 

And why did I just roll over and let them? Because that's what I do best. I learned from the time I was a tot, to let mom and dad and later, their new families do what they wanted. That there really was no treatment low enough. And worst of all, I was taught, that this is what God expected of me. He did not, however, expect anything of them when it came to me. 

They knew the honor your parents part very well. But the, take care of your kids, don't anger them, love them like yourself parts, not so much. Apparently, it was perfectly okay with God, if they hit me, scapegoated, took advantage of, exploited, shamed, left me behind in strange cities, let me wander around alone at 5, manipulated, worked me like a mule, made me parent them and their kids, let people molest me, deprived me of a home, a bed, food and medical care, mocked me, screamed at me, stole from me, lied to me, expected me to act like an adult when I was a kid. With all that gaslighting in my head, it's no wonder I started to believe it. 

Pretty soon, they didn't even need to make excuses for their shitty treatment of me. Not that they really ever did. They were so deep into their narc fantasies that they were untouchable, they thought. But very shortly, I was making up all kinds of excuses for them. I actually believed that they loved me despite their very best efforts to prove they didn't. And there was all the fear. I'm so afraid of them that I never confronted them about anything. Any time I try with my mom, it meets with lies, gaslighting and shaming. My dad's wife was so bloody self-righteous, control freaky and passive-aggressive, I didn't dare. And my mom's husband is just too aggressive. 

My dad did listen when once I let my guard down and told him off. But he just dismissed it and said it was "covered by the blood" whatever the hell that means. Actually I do know what he means but he's wrong. He says Jesus forgives him but Jesus isn't the only one he wronged, and he never said he was sorry. And he never extended God's mercy to me. For me, it was fire and brimstone. My dad gaslit me with that shit till he died. For such a Bible beater to others, he missed that these things applied to  him too. Oy vey. I pray for his and his wife's souls. 

Cut to the present and I'm all torn up with this crap. It's hard turn off the gas once you start doing it to yourself. I doubt very much that I'll ever be up to having it out with the two that are left. They're just too far gone in their malignant narcissism. So I avoid them for the most part and paste a smile on when I have to see them. I pretend all is well because that's what is safest for me. 

It sucks. I'd love to keep taking her out for lunch, buying her treats and generally being the kind, loving daughter I've always been. I spent all Mother's Day crying because I realized I don't have a mom and never have. But now that I know, I can't unknow. In order to have contact, she'd have to actually be a mother to me. She have to give as well as take. Now I know how one-sided it's been, I can't go back to that And we'd have to have conversations about all her exploitation, abuse, betrayal, neglect, parentification, endangerment, abandonment of me. And her approval of her husband doing likewise. She'd have to admit to all of this.  And I don't see that happening.  

 And you know, I don't really want it happen, if I'm honest. Because given her track record, it would be just be lies and gaslighting. That's why her husband divorced her. It would be all about her and miserable for me. I would have to experience all those things all over again. And she would be dismissive and supercilious and smug. Or feign dementia. Or say she can't remember. (She once said she didn't remember kicking me out of the house when I was 16. ) Or she'd play the innocent victim-martyr. Or triangulate me and her husband. Honestly, that woman has played us off each other like pool balls the entire time we've known each other. Or  it would come back to bite me. Or, and this is most likely, all of the above. I don't have that much fabulous in me. 

If she did apologize, it would only be  to get more out of me. Money. Pity. Doing for her. Taking care of her. Taking her shit. It will never be about helping me. She made that perfectly clear when I once, once, reminded her how she left me alone to care for all her special needs foster kids (two babies, a toddler, and preschooler) for a week to go to some pyramid scheme "sales training." when I was 11, while her live-in boyfriend (my now stepdad) abused and harassed me. He didn't lift a finger to help  then lied and said I shook the baby (I only just realized it was a lie fabricated to cover his sorry ass). And she BELIEVED HIM and punished me. By paying me only  half the promised $15. 

I'm sure anyone reading sees that for the shitshow it is. But as usual, I'm late to the party. I have to reason my way through. If they really believed I'd shook the baby they'd be getting me counseling. But they couldn't do that because they'd be found out for the shitshow they were running.  Or they wouldn't let me care for the kids again. But oh wait. That'd mean they'd have to move out of their lil love shack in the basement and upstairs so they could actually care for the kids instead of having me sleep in the room with all of them and get up at night with them. 

I now think the real reason was they just didn't want to pay me and made up some BS reason, not to. Duh, yes! I'm just realizing this as I write it. They never intended to pay me! Wow. And malignant narc bonus added, they got to scapegoat Mary and make her the bad guy. Then mom had the balls to play the forgiving parent, saying we'd never mention it again. Buuuullllshhhittt! We'd never mention it again because she didn't want me squealing and bringing CPS down on her! Turns out, it was just prolonging the inevitable. She lost her license a few months later on charges of child abuse, all on her own. No one ever asked me about what I'd been through and I never told. 

How I fell for that shit, I'll never know. But fall for it I did and hard. I've lived with such intense self-hatred that I was sure God would never let me have kids of my own and that he shouldn't because I was such a horrible person. I suspect it will always plague.

So I confronted it a few years ago, (and only then to make her feel better about some lies she told her husband. Not to help myself, God forbid.) When I did, she flat out lied and said it didn't happen. She would never do that. Why? Not because it was insanely neglectful, abusive and a hellish nightmare that has hounded me for 5 decades. Because "I would have lost my foster care license." It's only about how anything affects her. 

Oh and, she reminded me, "you said you wanted to care for the kids to make some money."   Well, maybe if you hadn't stolen everything from me and sold my stuff, to fund your cockamamy fantasy, I wouldn't have had to earn money. The real reason is she couldn't find anyone to it so cheap. And she had to keep it in house because I doubt CPS would have sanctioned her running off for a week or having her bf live in. Couldn't risk that being uncovered. 

And that was just so much gaslighting anyway. I highly doubt I would have asked to watch four very needy kids for a week alone. But what do I know? My memories are so shot to hell with all the trauma, maybe I did. But even if I did, who's the adult here? So because a kid says they want to do something illegal and dangerous, you let them? If I wanted to jump off a building would you give me the push? Might as well have. Cuz any self-esteem I had before that was gone. But sure, paint me the villain. Whatever lets you sleep at night. 

So that experiment in self-disclosure with a malignant narcissist didn't go well. I realized that she KNEW it was wrong. It was illegal, immoral and so traumatizing for me that I almost made myself unalive over it. At effing 11. She knew I shouldn't be given that much responsibility. And. She. Did. Not. Fucking. Care.  She wanted what she wanted when she wanted it and she got it, at my expense. Way to tell me you don't give two shits about me without telling me. 

So I didn't get any closure or help. Didn't really expect any. But two things it did do was to convince that A) she didn't care about me. And B) I'm not imagining it. And that's weirdly helpful. Cuz, sister, I'm squealin' now. I'm writing and writing and writing. I'm done keeping secrets. I'm talking back to those nasty voices you planted in my brain. I'm telling my stories to trusted people about it, even though I worry that they're sick of me or that I'm a nuisance. I guess, even if I'm not getting it completely right at least I'm doing something about it. And that's got to be better than keeping silent and living in fear. Right?

Monday, May 20, 2024

How malignant narcissist parents mess up their kids

Hey friends, welcome another chapter in my deep dive into CPTSD from malignant narcissist parental abuse and gaslighting about it all. Recently I was able to finally admit that I was raised by four narcissistic people (two bio parents and their new partners). My dad was clearly a grandiose narcissist but it took me awhile to see that my mom was too. Until I listened to Dr. Ramani on Youtube, explain malignant narcissism. And then it ALLLL made sense. 

I can now see how they messed me about with their exploitation, manipulation, parentification, emotional abuse, neglect, abandonment, endangerment and gaslighting about it all. It was bad enough when they were married. A lot of neglect, endangerment and abandonment, for sure. Then they went to Alaska to "convert the Indians" ( if  THAT isn't a grandiose narcissistic concept...?!) I was left essentially on my own, at 6. I have almost no memory of either of them being around. 

Grandma noticed when she and Grandpa came to visit. When Grandpa remade his home movies of their visit to VHS, she can be heard in the background saying, "remember when we arrived? Jack went one way and Nancy went the other and left us with Marilisa." (My mom tried weaponizing that to make me feel like Gram didn't want to be with me.)  I think what gram was wondering was, who took care of me when they weren't there. Answer. No one. And they weren't the only ones concerned. The Tlingit family who cared for us (and who didn't need converting, just saying) told them that I belonged with my grandparents back in Michigan. 

But back to malignant narcissism. Once in AK, my dad went out on "mission trips" (adventuring) and left me with my mom who left me to myself. She decided to divorce my dad but couldn't till they went back to MI. That didn't stop her having affairs and calling herself single. She told me, let me cry a few minutes, and then dusted her hands and moved on. I was expected me to just deal with it. No questions asked. No concern for my feelings. In fact, angry if I dared to ask. So I didn't. No other adult to help. Nada. She then decided it wasn't fair my dad was having all the fun while she was "saddled with me." She moved us to an remote island 800 miles up the inland passage to be a youth leader (in her mind) and left me with strangers to go to Seattle. 

And then things really went downhill. She moved us back to MI (dad stayed and played in AK) probably so she could get help from family with me. She had one affair after another then finally shacked up with the worst of the lot. Enter narcissist authority figure #3. Dad finally moved back and began dating a 17-year-old. (He was 34 and I was 9). Finally her parents quashed the relationship. Then he hooked up with another woman, narc 4. I'd  have preferred the 17-year-old. 

So what does this have to do with malignant narcissism? Well, I think the narc part is pretty clear. It was all about them. They made up rules for me to follow (like obey these random people we've dumped on you). They were above rules and expectations of parents. They did outlandish, dangerous, risky and bizarre things to me and allowed others to do likewise. They took good care of themselves and ignored me. 

I was told I was in the way of them doing whatever it was they imagined they were doing. They weren't missionaries. The church of the moment (they changed churches more often than underwear) that they were in didn't sanction them. She was not a youth leader. She had no education or training and churches on remotes islands in 1970 would not pay a man to do that job let alone a married woman who was running around on her husband, with a kid in tow. 

Then she started a foster care home with her live-in boyfriend, in which I did the bulk of the childcare, including sharing a room with four kids under 5 while she and bf slept downstairs. I've said before that lot of lies had to have been told to get away with that one. And my dad did the same when his kids came along. Made me servant, surrogate spouse, surrogate parent and scapegoat. And their shiny new families did likewise. 

But still, how is this malignant narcissism? Because of all the exploitation and cruelty. I learned at about 5 to give my parents exactly what they wanted. If my dad wanted tell me he was going to kill himself, it was my job to talk him out of it. When any of them snubbed, shamed, lashed out, abused, parentified, exploited, manipulated me, it was my job to let them. When they said jump, I said "how high?" It was like being in one unending boot camp. 

How did they do this? With constant, cold, calculating, cunning, cruel and creepy control freak anger. I was kept in a state of perpetual fear. Attacks came from all sides and always unexpected. Even now I feel the sick pit of my stomach terror. What I was afraid of I don't know. But it sure as hell was scary. That's why I'm just now, at almost 60, saying what happened. It's still very scary. 

What made them malignant narcissists was the fact that they were so good at hiding it. Only I really saw it. It was reserved for me, because I was the throwaway kid.  Or at least I think they were. As I've gotten older, I'm beginning to think, based on things I've  heard, is that others saw it too. Even I haven't really acknowledged it. Till Dr. Ramani explained it. 

I've always sensed a venom under the thin veneer their smiles. I've seen it come out but I never admitted it. I know now the cool detachment was really cold callousness. The fake humility covers raging arrogance. The projected Christian image is not in line with the rampant, self-centered, unaddressed unBiblical behavior. And the helplessness is a facade for out-of-control need to control me. 

But we are all flawed, right? Absolutely. BUT, while some of us admit it, my parents and stepparents, never did. They were never wrong and always right. If confronted, they get angry, vindictive and malicious. They lie and gaslight, blame and shame. And somehow, that kept me in so much fear that I can't even think about crossing them now and two are dead. It's why, for me, going suuuppper low contact is the only option. 

So what if the other two read this? Well, that's a chance I take. It has to come out. I don't think I can survive much more of this horrendous CPTSD and terrifyingly nightmares. . I've got to stop the auto-gaslighting. The Bible says the truth will set us free. I surely hope so. 


Monday, May 13, 2024

Parental narcissitic abuse at birthdays and holidays: so much hypocrisy, toxic shame and gaslighting


Hello friends, lots going on around here, as I source the toxic shame and CPTSD from bio parents and two stepparents and their new families. Yesterday was Mother's Day and it was  hellish for me. Not because of my husband or children. They're the joy of my life. The pain came from the fact that I didn't have a mother or father.  Only demanding, parentifying, exploiting, abusing, shaming, neglectful, manipulative, gaslighting authority figures. It brought up very unpleasant memories and realizations that their combined narcissistic abuse was particularly bad around holidays and birthdays and celebrations. 

The disparity between how I was celebrated (not at all, really) and how I was expected to celebrate others, particularly their golden kids, is appalling. I don't remember my birthdays being made much of a deal except by grandparents. There's a picture of me at two with my cake while my mom has inserted herself, posing and  my dad basically has my arms behind my back in a death grip. 

I recall one party only at the beach (no dad or his other family). Mom is running around in her bikini. That was a fun party. However, I was throwing and hosting parties for my parents by age 11. I recall my dad saying he wasn't going to make a deal over me because he wanted me to stay humble. While he and his wife had lavish birthday parties every year for their boys. 

My mother has actually told me that she spends tons more on my sister than me. She wants me to know, I guess, how little I'm valued. A few years ago, I got a shirt from a free table from one of her food pantry visits. Yes, they live off food pantries. It was too big, wrinkled, unwashed and still smelled like a thrift store. I was informed that sis got a new laptop. I'd given her flowers, expensive chocolates, and a new phone. Which she promptly lost. 

For one birthday, I'd taken her to the doc and she was asked what she was doing for her birthday. In front of me, she said "my family is taking me out to dinner." I was not invited and never have been. I was told that I could take her out to lunch in a day or two,  for her birthday, as she knew I had to get to work. For my birthday that year, I got a text with emojis. 

I was not invited, as in a guest to their parties. I was expected to attend every party and bring big, pricy gifts which I could not afford and didn't have time for, being in college and working full time.  I recall them getting annoyed when I brought a homemade gift. And another time when I was unable to be present due to time constraints. My dad was really pissed off about that. So in guilt I rearranged and made it work. Both he and his wife were very cool with me. My grandma, (God love her) said snarkily to me, "you'd think it was a holy day of obligation." It was. 

Christmas was really rough. I recall my dad screaming at me because I went to try on my new sweater from gram and gramp after dutifully asking his wife. I missed a few moments of the elders opening their gifts. Mind you the other kids were off playing their toys and not paying any attention to the elders. Grama chimed in and told him to chill but I was already in tears. No apology ever from him. 

I thought maybe I was misremembering but my husband whom I was dating remembers them making enormous deals over their other kids birthdays and nothing over mine. They even did it to my eldest daughter who had the temerity to be born a day after my bro St. "Mike". We celebrated their birthdays together ( he was 10 and she was 2) and his nibs pouted and sulked the whole day because Molly got some attention that he felt he was due. 

My father scolded me for having a group party because Mikey was left out. He wasn't. And the party wasn't just my idea. I  guess I was supposed to feel guilty because people wanted to celebrate my sweet little girl. My husband was so angry that he vowed to boycott all future parties involving their kids. I was so proud. Wish I'd had the courage to do that. 

The weirdest time was one I just remembered and had never considered. When I was 14, my dad and stepmom gave me a slot car set. I hadn't asked for it. It was okay but certainly  not what I wanted and not an appropriate gift for my age. Of course their boys were always pestering me to play with it. And I had to set it up for them and play with them. I just realized a month or so ago  that they had spent all the money they had for their boys gifts but still wanted to get them this race car set. So they just gave to me, expecting me to "share" it. And they got bonus added hours of free babysitting too. I gave it to them after a year or so. Which is probably what their parents expected anyway. 

I was gaslit about that for years and gaslit myself. My dad was pretty misogynistic and not one to get boys gifts for girls. In fact, he had an awesome Lionel train from when he was a kid that I would have loved to play with. I've always loved trains. He never let me play with or even encouraged me to take part. It was just him and grampa. Grampa was the one who let me use it when dad wasn't around. 

But I got the last word. Mikey, who had been entitled and catered to so much, grew up to be an adult baby who doesn't take care of his kids, lives off welfare, doesn't work and spends all his time and money on his hobbies. I say his  money but actually it was Dad's money. He sold off most of his stuff to fund Mike's hobbies and gave him money every day for $13 cigars. (He didn't even know my grandchildren's names). 

When Dad passed I asked for the train set. Mike had taken pretty much everything else that was left (family silver, coins, guns) and didn't want  me to have even the train. There was only the engine, coal car and a few pieces of track. Dad had sold off the rest so Mike could buy his axe heads. Yes he had an axe head collection. Don't ask my why. Kind of like Bert from Sesame Street and his paper clip collection. Only more expensive.

Well, I got the train and it was with great delight that I passed it on to my grandson, who adores steam trains more than life itself. And I enjoy playing trains with him. Is it enough to make up for being left out all those years.  Yes and no. The past will never be any different than it was. But I can change the now. I do things differently than was done to me. Not prefectly, but to the best of my ability. 

And my real family, my husband, children and grandchildren, make up for it every moment of every day, as Mister Rodgers says, "by just their being themselves." 


Friday, May 10, 2024

How parentification ironically infantilizes: inappropriate adult expectations destroy adulthood

 I've been blogging a lot about how I was parentified as a child and teen, by both my parents and their second spouses. If you're unfamiliar with the term parentification, it's also called role reversal. The parent (or in my case four adult parental figures) behaves like an irresponsible child while expecting the child to think and act like an adult and thereby parent them. In my situation, it also included caring for their other children in ways parents should.  (in my mother's foster care and later children with her new husband and my dad and his wife's children. Why I no longer call them halfsiblings is for another post). 

This parentification is part of a pattern of narcissistic abuse (forcing adult expectations) neglect (of my basic care), endangerment (leaving me in situations that would frighten adults), abandonment (literally leaving me behind) scapegoating (making me the cause of their problems), exploitation (forcing me to do things that were unsafe and not good for me), manipulation (abusing their authority to get me to do for them what they should be doing themselves), toxic shame (making me feel it was my fault, responsibility, etc.) and gaslighting about it all (lying, blaming me, minimizing, dismissing and twisting Christianity to suit their twisted ways of doing things). 

I've said before that I was made to be  the 5S's: self-sufficient (being unsupervised from age 4 or as far back as I can remember) surrogate spouse (for each of them) surrogate parent (for each of them and all their kids), scapegoat and staff (housekeeper, cook, nanny, counselor) for them all. I was gaslit into thinking that this is what God expected. But for all that adult expectation and responsibility, I have always believed I was immature, irresponsible, untrustworthy, incompetent, childishly oversensitive. Believed, because I was told I was, by parents and stepparents. Other adults, friends, teachers, extended family, said I was very mature and competent, overly so. 

So there irony is triple-pronged. Child me was expected to think and act like an adult and parent, by adult parents (and those put in authority over me as parents) who behaved and thought like children and teens. Another edge is that I was told I was immature and irresponsible when I WAS TOO YOUNG TO BE mature and responsible. I was told I was childish WHEN I WAS A CHILD!! I was told I was inept and incapable because I was not able to live up to inappropriate adult expectations. I wasn't taught how to do things, just expected to know. I was expected to provide care and parenting to the very people who owed this to me. And the third edge is that adults who acted like adults and expected age-appropriate things,  saw that I was very mature. 

In short they expected too mature behavior while treating me too childishly. I consequently thought that I was inept, ignorant and immature EVEN THOUGH I was keeping up with their expectations pretty well, considering. Certainly better than they were. I was even able to manage without anyone's support or assistance. No one knew how dysfunctional my family system was or if they did, they never said anything to me. The disparity between my life and those around me was patently obvious, especially with grandparents and extended family. And because I was the only child of two divorced parents with other families, my situation was unique. 

So why did I never say anything or object or stand up for myself? Four reasons. One, I am by nature an empath. I care and feel too much about what others need, want and feel. Yes, you can care too much if it is harmful to you. Second, a lot of systematic gaslighting went into keeping me in this bizarre paradox. And it was very goal-oriented and self-serving on their part. Marilisa doing all the heavy lifting while thinking she's just a nuisance? Works for us. We get to act like childish kids while still looking like functional adults. And bonus added, her feeling so low will keep her right where we want her. 

Third, and this might be the most insidious. God, the Bible, Jesus, the Holy Spirit were all weaponized to make it look like I was doing what God wanted instead of just what they wanted. They pratted scripture at me to justify their actions. I was drilled on being a servant. But  no one else was being a servant. I was bound up to burdens no one else carried. And their behavior even aside from their treatment of me, didn't bear much scrutiny. Divorce, remarriage, living "in sin", pedophilia, not supporting their families, child abuse, exploiting people and systems, anger and resentment,  abandoning and neglecting me. I can read scripture too. And I know and maybe knew then that this was all just a load of hypocrisy, mind effing, gaslighting, shaming and exploitation. 

So the fourth reason and one I've just realized, thanks to wise thoughts shared my beloved daughter. I've always said that I didn't know that it was wrong for me to be treated this way. Yet I knew it was wrong for others to be treated this way. She (and others have) pointed out that I didn't perpetuate this on my children, which I would have if I didn't know better. So the reason I didn't object and just fell in line? It was unsafe not to. I've blogged before about their extreme vengeance and retribution when they just thought I was defying them. So what do we do when we can't safely express something? We find a workaround. And mine was to shove the feelings as far back in the closet as I could cram them. And then, shut and bolt the door. Now the closet is full to overflowing and the door couldn't always stay closed. Sometimes it all comes exploding out, seemingly of nowhere. 

And that's where I am now, cleaning out the closet and organizing the stuff so I can figure out how to avoid these impacted explosions. 

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