Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Detoxing from toxic shame and gaslighting: accepting that you can't make this sh*t up

 Hello friends! This blog is fast becoming as much about how I'm detoxing from toxic shame and gaslighting as how I lost 100 pounds without gastric bypass or weight loss drugs. I said in my last post that gaslighting worked on me because I was unwilling to believe the alternative which turned out actually to be true. So part of how I'm detoxing from gaslighting is to breathe fresh air into the noxious fume filled space of my mind. Said simply, I'm looking at the lies that were told to me with the eyes of an adult, reparenting if you will. 

One of the most insidious was a notion that my parents (and the people they married, whom I no longer call step-parents) could do no wrong. That rigid, unquestioning obedience to their rule, no matter how hypocritical was the only way to survive. That pleasing them was pleasing God. 

This is so rooted in my core that I'm having difficulty shaking loose from it. Partly because, like all the lies of gaslighting, it has some truth to it. That if I stop believing that parental obedience is the be-all-end-all, I will cut myself off from God. But also like all gaslighting it's twisted to self-serving ends that not only don't please God, they anger him. 

So this notion is obviously based on the commandment to "Honor your father and mother." But the letter of the law was manipulated to negate the spirit of the commandment. It was also taken out of context, misapplied and reinvented to mean something very different from it's actual intent. The way it was presented to me was do as we (we as in all four of us and also our offspring, not God) say not as we do. 

Countless times, things were presented as wrong for me and others to do but right and even good, for them. Case in point: abortion. Parent preaches against abortion yet I clearly remember waiting in the car at an abortion clinic while said parent took girl in her foster care in to get one. Parent's excuse: well, she was going to get there somehow. So you just took her? 

I grew up believing that rot. That everything that you said was wrong for me and others, was God's will because you did it. And it's not because you had an epiphany and realized what you did was wrong. You proclaimed yourself as "pro-life", marched us to church and played the organ all the while. I wonder what the people of First Christian Church would have said if they knew?

And then there were the three, count them three, unmarried couples sleeping together in our home. One of which was you and boyfriend who slept two floors down in the basement while I was forced to sleep upstairs crammed in a small room with four special needs children 4 and under. Another of which was my uncle and his girlfriend who were given my room to share. And under whose bed were kept a stack  of porno magazines. We all sat big as life in church every Sunday. 

Now it might be easy to say, well, Christians aren't perfect, just forgiven. Ehhh, slippery slope there. Jesus didn't say to the woman in adultery, "carry on!" He said go and sin no more. And you hadn't repented. You were living openly in sin and encouraging others to do so in our home. You were playing both ends for the middle.  You have never repented even though you pontificated against adultery. Even if you have said some kind of mea culpae, you never did what the gospel you preach said to do. Leave your gift at the altar and MAKE AMENDS TO THOSE YOU HURT.  That would be me. 

How did anyone not see how wrong that was??? Especially then, when no one in the neighborhood was even divorced let alone playing house with a boyfriend. Times were different all right. They were much more conservative. I was the kid others avoided because my homelife was unsavory. I was tarred with your brush. 

But I just thought it was all okay because you did it. Even though I heard it defined as sin, every Sunday. Now I know it was wrong. I still make excuses but I'm learning not to.  I could cut you slack if you'd had no better upbringing. But your parents were decent, caring people who gave you all they could. By rights, as my husband says, I should one big trainwreck, given my upbringing. And I am pretty messed up thanks to lots of mixed messages. But thanks be to God for keeping away from the worst of it.  

Even if you'd lied to spare me, I could have understood that to some extent. But you lied to cover yourself, further your own agenda and to maintain your selfish lifestyle. Your lies damaged and have continued to damage me. They have almost destroyed me. They confused, exploited and manipulated me. I was led astray by them and almost fell off the cliff with the weight.  

These are just two ways I was gaslit by the adults in my life. There are so many more that I can't see much happy through the cloud of gas. I have no memory of large chunks of my life, beyond these kinds of experiences. I've tried so hard to call up times I was happy.  Save, at grandparents, I can't. I think that's because there just wasn't much to be happy about. 

So what have I learned? That if it walks and squawks like it's wrong, it's wrong. And if it's wrong, it's wrong for everyone. And that if I've discovered a few lies, there are more. That there is a God and he's not my parents. That God doesn't expect me to obey when what I'm told to do hurts. That God loves this little girl and that if anyone hurts her, it would be better that a millstone be hung around their necks. God's words not mine. 

I don't want to see anyone hurt. But neither can I allow myself to go on being hurt. I have to shut off the gas once and for all. By blogging about it. By naming it. Telling secrets that should not have been kept.  Asking questions. Why did you do it? Why did no one see what was happening? Why did no one call it out? Why did I have to grow up thinking I deserved this? Why did I have to feel so alone? Why do I still feel that I'm crazy and wrong?

I think it's time to hold the perpetrators accountable instead of letting the fault rest remain on me.  Time to tell the truth regardless the cost and not apologize for how it might upset someone. I'm the one who lived it. There was no one to comfort or even acknowledge how hard it was. and no one has ever apologized to me.

As you have probably surmised, there's a lot more of this to come. Honestly, I wouldn't blame you if you quit reading. But going by the fact that there are more readers than ever, I think this resonates. If you have experienced anything like this, share your story. Tell secrets. Don't let them tell you no one cares. I care. God cares and I think others do too. Don't believe them that you are too sensitive. You're not sensitive enough. Your feelings have been dismissed so you ignore them. You aren't too thin-skinned. Your skin is calloused and too thick from constant hurt. 

If you've never experienced anything like this, I'm glad. If you say, like a counselor did, "you can't make this shit up" thank you. Thank you for reading, for walking thru the trauma with me. I've felt so alone with my  memories over the years it felt like maybe they didn't happen. Thank God for my husband who holds my hand and cares and believes. Thank God for caring people like you, to help me see that I matter. 

Love and peace. Mar

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