Monday, March 18, 2024

How I'm detoxing from toxic shame by relooking at things through a clear lens


Hello friends of this blog on how I lost 100 pounds without gastric bypass surgery. In my series of weight loss challenges, this month is March Un-Madness. I'm working to break out of the madness of toxic shame in my brain from parental narcissistic abuse. I'm writing a ton about this because it's all very fresh in my mind. And I've discovered a lot of new insights. 

It's only been the past few months that I've begun to understand and accept that what happened was narcissistic abuse from the four people who styled themselves as my parents. Armed with this awareness, I'm relooking at experiences with a different lens to see whether things that happened actually were my fault as I was told or if there was a different, more accurate version of events. 

Several that I'm relooking at are times when "Bill" the man who was presented to me as stepfather got very angry with me. She met him when I was 10. Prior to them getting married, he lived with my mom. He moved into our house almost immediately after they met and he had lost his job. Mind, he wasn't laid off. He was fired for hitting a supervisor. So he clearly had some rage issues which my mother glossed over by blaming everyone else. He was misunderstood, framed, he had a rough childhood, yada yada. 

I believed these things and being a very intense empath, people pleaser, I felt very badly for him. I never held him accountable for the awful things he did and said to me. I believed the lies he told about me. And he exploited that continually. From the moment they hooked up, he began ordering me around, calling it "his house", randomly raging at me, threatening me, sexually harassing me by calling me names mocking my breast size and telling filthy jokes. He had a dirty mouth and a dirtier temper. 

 My mother had a foster care home and I had to sleep in the top floor with four very special needs children ranging in age from 6 months to 4. He and my mother had a bedroom in the basement. They never got up with the children or even heard them. That fell to me. He would watch TV all night long and the blaring would waken me or keep me awake. I slept very lightly, had a lot of nightmares and walked and talked in my sleep. He would mock me while I was still sleeping which caused more bad dreams. 

If he was awakened, he go into a rage usually directed at me. He blamed me for a lot of things and I lived in constant fear of him. This too was weaponized. He would rant and name-call, screaming abuse at me so that he got me to believe that I was guilty of the things he said I did.  He was proud of the fact that he instilled so much fear in me and gloated over it. I have believed almost to this day, that this was right for him to do and that I deserved it. Understand I would NOT have thought this was proper treatment for anyone else. Only me. 

And my mother reinforced that belief by never once contradicting him or stepping in to defend me. She just quietly approved and would often join in the laughter at my expense. She said she had to respect  him because "he is my husband." They weren't even married yet. And she insisted that I "respect" him because he was my stepfather. Respect that did not go two ways and which usually constituted me pretending some kind of abuse wasn't happening. 

She says she was afraid of him but I don't think she ever was. She has manipulated and triangulated our relationship and does to this day. She pits us against each other by telling what I now realize are lies about the other and making us feel sorry for her. She orchestrates situations where she is a victim of one of one of us and then lies to the other. She eggs us on to be in conflict. Which for me, looks like feeling sorry for and worrying over her and for Bill, looks like violent and vicious rage toward me. 

Time and again, she has stood by while he tore me apart. She allowed him to kick me out of "his house" (he still wasn't working) when I was 16. This was and still is illegal. My husband tells me he never understood why I was okay with it. I told him I had it coming. That's what I've always thought of his every rage...that somehow I deserved it. Even though I would never and have never treated someone remotely like that. On the rare times I confronted it (twice to be exact), she once got furiously angry with me and sicced Bill on me. The second, she lied, said she didn't remember and that it didn't happen and it was Bill's fault. Yes, a lot of contradictions. 

I believed all that dreck right up until recently,  when I began questioning my parents' version of events. In one instance, they'd been caring for my baby for an hour or so.  I had come to pick her up, got worried because I couldn't find her. He was asleep, woke up, saw me frantically looking for her and lost his shit. It wasn't just that he woke up and got mad. He amped up all the time I was looking (finally found my sister had taken her for a walk). By the time we got back he was incandescent. He screamed that I didn't trust them and was a despicable person and "take your kid and get the  hell out of my house!!" 

Then he pushed me out the door with MY BABY IN MY ARMS. I was crying and apologizing. I've inwardly cried and apologized ever since. I've felt guilty but have never been able to articulate what for. My front brain says he was out of line but my muscle brain gaslights me, saying "he was right to be angry, you deserved it" etc. But funnily enough it never says why or how I deserved it. Knee-jerk, toxic shame isn't very specific. It relies on generalizations, misunderstood feelings, lies, exaggerations, fear and generalized anxiety. Tomorrow, I'll post on how my mother managed to weaponize that for a nice narcissistic jolt. 

And because I was treated so shamefully and told so loudly and clearly how awful what I did was, I never dared to look at it straight in the face. I could live with myself thinking I'd done something so terrible, so unforgivable, so unspeakable, that I didn't speak of it. I hid from it like a monster I believed was in the closet. I lived in fear of what I'd find. 

But my dreams look at it regularly. I nightmare at least once a week, that I have done something so utterly bad that I want to end it all. But in my dream, no one will tell me what it was. They are just angry and disgusted with me. And I realize that they don't tell me because they can't tell me because I never did anything like that. It never happened. 

And also, I can't think anything that I would get so angry with my children or really anyone, for. I might be disappointed or sad or hurt or concerned. I would self-examine to see what I might have done to cause them to do this. I would think the best of them until, or if such time came, I absolutely had to admit they were wrong. 

I can't even get truly angry at my parents and stepparents for the hell they put me through. If I'm so awful how can I also be empathetic and caring and concerned? And if they're so right and just why are they so defensively angry about it? If they're such good parents, why do they expect the worst of me? How can good them be so unloving and uncharitable while "bad, evil" me loves to love and show charity? Why is it so hard to accept good things about me? Or as more usually happened, why lie, twist and distort to make me look and feel as bad as possible? I'll post more on the answers I found to that. For now, we'll look at the anger. 

The key lies not just in that they got angry with me, but HOW angry they got. And yes, I'm including all four parents in this because each in their own way was incensed with rage most of the time. What would produce at most mild annoyance, and usually nothing at all, in a rationale person, drove them speechless with fury. My father once, out of the blue, grabbed me and began beating me. He was so so angry that he was spitting. And it was so out of the blue that it shocked and terrified me and I wet my pants. It was like a random drive-by. If I'd done something so wrong, I'd have been prepared for consequence. 

So clearly, or maybe not clearly to me yet, but I'm working on that, this was not about me or what I'd done. It WAS a random drive-by that I just happened to get caught in. I did or said some innocent thing  that triggered deep-seated insecurity or showed them to themselves as the frauds they were. 

Because what I've realized is that they are not what they project. They are not right, just, caring and loving. My dreams are showing me them as they were. Judgmental, hateful, spiteful and mean.  I didn't do anything. It's just in their best interest to keep me thinking I did. To keep me questioning, ashamed and hating myself. To keep me  afraid to really look at what happened. It's so bad that I've been afraid to tell anyone for fear they affirm that I was that awful person. 

What's all this in aid of? To deflect from the truth which is that THEY were in the wrong.  That Bill was abominably wrong. That he was a cruel, ruthless, bullying coward who took out his whatever-shit-it-was on a mother and her child. His daughter. And that my mother, worse yet, stood by, watching and quietly approving this behavior. That my dad was furious with someone else, either himself or his wife, and took it out on me with his drive-by beating. 

So now, what's changed? I'm still not sure but I think it's that I'm looking at situations like this (and there were many) and correctly identifying both what actually happened and how I really feel about it. What happened, both with my dad's beating and Bill's verbal assault (with threats) is that an angry man harmed an innocent girl. 

Once I set aside their justifications, I could see what really happened and I realize there IS NO provocation, let alone one serious enough to warrant that. There is no excuse that I would give for doing that to anyone because I wouldn't do that to anyone. Or if, God forbid, I did, I would be so filled with remorse that I would apologize and make restitution to the end of my days. Because I realize that there is no excuse I'd make for myself, I realize there's no excuse I can or should make for them. 

That fact that they came unglued over nothing or something so insignificant is proof that they ARE unhinged. The fact that they got so inappropriately angry shows that I did nothing to warrant it. Because there's nothing I could do that would warrant such an extreme response. Even if I'd threatened to harm them or pulled a gun, if they were the good loving parents they proclaim to be, their first thought would be to protect me. That's what mine would be. Instead it was to punish. 

And the fact that they are excusing and approving atrocious behavior shows them in their true colors: abusive, narcissistic, bullying bullshitters.  And it's all the proof I need to rightly conclude that I can now let up on myself and stop believing these terrible things about myself. I can call it what it was. I can hold them responsible for their own actions. I can admit that I am not ashamed of myself but of them. Lather. Rinse. Repeat. 

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