Tuesday, April 30, 2024

What made my CPTSD, parentification and gaslighting so disturbing

Hi everyone. If you're following, you know that I've recently begun to open my eyes to the fact that I have CPTSD from systematic narcissistic abuse from four narcissistic, histrionic parents. This includes abuse (physical, mental, emotional, sexual, social and spiritual) neglect, abandonment, parentification, shame dumping, exploitation, manipulation, family scapegoating and gaslighting by all four adults in my life about it all.  Today I'm looking at what made my experience with CPTSD, parentification and gaslighting so unique and disturbing. 

This is a multi-prong issue, the first being that I experienced abuse, neglect, abandonment, manipulation, exploitation, parentification (role reversal) and gaslighting from not one or two but FOUR parents, or really adult authority figures. None of them was a parent to me in the nurturing way. They were just bosses that I was to respect and obey with being respected or supported. Each expected me to parent them. Each abused and exploited in his or her own way. 

Both bio parents not only allowed but encouraged their new partners to exploit, shame and parentify. I was allowed to live in their homes only if I earned my keep, knew my place, towed the line and cared for everyone and anyone that they chose to move into the home. At age 11, I was essentially waiting on five adults, one older teen and four foster children (6mo to 5), all under one roof. 

My bio parents split when I was 6. We had moved to Alaska, not for a job or military. Because they said God told them to be missionaries to the Indians. (Their words). Neither one worked. Dad ran around exploring and taking teens with him to "mission." At one point he went to "mission" to the girls in the Manson gang and left us behind. It was like he was 19 and on some kind of bloody gap year with a wife and kid in tow! 

My mom didn't do much of anything, except plan her Good News Club (some after Bible club thing). She never really hosted any. No kids came. It was just in her head, I now see. And an excuse to ignore me. Since I was 4, I've wandered around by myself in incredibly dangerous situations. She was cheating on my then. I just  now realized this at almost 60. I just thought, because she had gaslit me to think, that these were mommy's "friends." She moved us to a small island so she could be a youth group leader. 

They decided to get a divorce but had to move back to Michigan to do so. My mom moved home but my dad kept screwing around in AK. My mom kept screwing around with men, most  married and older. Then she met a guy (unemployed, angry, drunk, scary loud temper, sexually abusive), quit her job, moved and moved him into our house. He spent his days sleeping, ordering me around and basically being a shithead. 

They shacked up all while having a foster care home. I cared for and slept in the same room with, the kids. They slept downstairs in their "apartment" as far from us as she could get. My dad came back eventually but didn't do much with me. Except occasionally take me to his new girlfriend's house. She was 17. He was 34. Then he hooked up with another much younger woman, married her and the parentification of her began. This is all before my 10th birthday. 

I've told this story before, but I have to keep reiterating because I have to convince myself just how effing bizarre it was. I could not make up a story like this. And it's not even the most disturbing part. That was the religious hypocrisy. They firmly believed that God was calling them to all this. They were acting like good Christians. They were entitled to preach to others what to do. And all the while blatantly flouting God. 

I'll blog more about that tomorrow. 

Friday, April 26, 2024

The most shocking thing about being abandoned, neglected and parentified

Hi everyone. If you've been following this blog, you know that I've had a bunch of epiphanies lately about how bad the childhood trauma I experienced really was. Why am I just now realizing, at almost 60, that I was abandoned, parentified, neglected, abused, scapegoated, exploited and gaslit about it all? That's a story for another post (see side bar for the different chapters I've written so far). 

Today I'm looking at what is probably the most shocking thing (in a panoply of shocks) about the abandonment, neglect, abuse, parentification, scapegoating, exploitation and gaslighting. Before we begin, you might wonder why I always list each thing (abuse, neglect, etc.) Well, that full explanation too is for another post but in short because I experienced a complex web of childhood trauma, actually whole life trauma with my parents. And because I had not two but four authority figures (they would say parents) attacking from all sides, each with his or her own package of abuse. 

I liken my life to a crazy patchwork quilt. Each tiny piece so different from the one next. Each weird, scary, abusive situation completely separate from and unrelated to the next and each traumatic experience completely ignored by the perpetrators (whichever "parents" it happened to be). Each experience shrouded in gaslighting and what I now know to be lies. Each traumatic experience excused, covered up and buried by me. Part of the healing is to stop sweeping it all under the rug and call it what it is. 

Okay, so back to the shocking thing. So lest you think that I use the word "shocking" for clickbait, I WISH it was just that. My backstory is so weird and disturbing, that the few people (as in could count on one hand) I've told have said they've never never heard of anyone experiencing anything like my bizarre experiences. 

Even just trying to pin down what is THE most shocking is difficult. Was it the fact that I was so alone through it all? I was the only child of two insanely narcissistic, histrionic and antisocial people. Two parents who felt no responsibility to me. Ever. They let me basically run wild, from about age 4. They abandoned me in strange cities, left me with strangers, and didn't provide a modicum of care. 

They  moved every few months and then went to Alaska (from Michigan) to be "missionaries" to the "Indians" (their words). No church sanctioned this. While there, my dad left to go on a "mission trip" about 2,000 miles away while mom played at being a "Good News Club" leader. That was just another fantasy, I now see. She also had a series of boyfriends and was never around. This was only the beginning. 

How I survived is, as the trusted few I've told have wondered, is a miracle. I have no memory of them being involved in any part of my life. Nobody walked me to school. Nobody played with me. I don't even remember a bedroom, toys or meals being provided. I don't remember family activities, being shown or taught anything. I remember grandparents' homes in lovely living color. Parents? Nada. 

Mind they didn't give me up for adoption. Oh no. That would have been a luxury, for me. I got dragged thru every sordid weird thing they did. And it would have deprived them of me as first their arm candy and then their servant, scapegoat, surrogate parent and spouse. It's sick, I know. Also it would implode their narcissistic fantasy that they were being good parents to me. 

I was always made to parent them. I can't even say I grew up because I never was a child. And certainly never a teen. Soon they tired of Alaska and went back to Michigan. But not before splitting up. My dad stayed in AK for a year. Something I now understand constitutes child abandonment.  Divorce was VERY weird in that time and place. None of my agemates' parents were divorced. 

Both hooked up with new people. My dad took a shot at pedophilia "dating" a 17 year old when he was 34. My mom had a series of affairs some with married men much older than her. Then she found a boyfriend whom she moved in to our house. I never said "my house" after that. It  was always his and hers even though he never worked. He just harassed, shamed, abused and ordered me around. Likewise when my dad finally married a woman only 14 years older than me. 

I was bounced from home to home. And when I was too old to be cute anymore, I made a good servant, scapegoat and surrogate parent for their kids, including my mom's foster care kids. Whom she had when she was shacked up with her boyfriend. Boy, was I useful then. Marilisa did all the heavy lifting, including sleeping with all the kids in the same room while mom and bf made an "apartment" (her words) for themselves in the basement as far from the foster kids as possible. Likewise with dad and his kids. I slept with them because their mother didn't want to. 

The ironic thing is that they never parented me but then expected me to parent their kids. And they were very clear about their expectations of me. All that they didn't give me, I was supposed to give their kids. When I was like 11. Is that the most shocking thing? No. 

I think that's the absolute balls-out hypocrisy with which they preached God's will for others. How they shoved the Bible at me and used it as a form of gaslighting. All the verses about being a servant honoring your parents, applied only to me. They actually remade God in their own images, to me. They were omniscient and omnipotent. I was flawed, broken, disobedient, wrong, arrogant, etc. They were golden, beyond reproach and above all the rules they preached to others. I believed them because they were so terrifyingly convincing. Their voices assail me at night in CPTSD nightmares. 

I've got a lot of work to do, to heal. 

Tuesday, April 23, 2024

My bizarre backstory at age 11: weird abuse, parentification, co-sleeping with babies, plus more

 Hello friends. I recently turned a corner in my life. Instead of ignoring and making excuses for the childhood trauma I experienced, I've begun reexamining it. I'm starting to call my parents' and stepparents' treatment of me, what it actually was: abuse (sexual, physical, emotional, social and spiritual), neglect, endangerment, scapegoating, exploitation, shaming, parentification, coercion manipulation and gaslighting. It was aggressive, passive-aggressive, systematic, constant and varied, with each parent and stepparent putting their own narcissistic spin on the abuse. This may be triggering for you to read and if it is, please don't. 

Today I want to look at one of the most bizarre (among  many other weird) forms of abuse: making me co-sleep with their foster kids and later their babies. First, let me qualify. Yes, it was more common for same gender and age group kids to share a bedroom back then. This wasn't just siblings sharing. For one thing, my mother's foster children weren't siblings. That's not me being cruel. It's fact. We weren't encouraged to think of them as siblings. But my mom sure fancied the idea, especially when it came to me doing the work of an older sibling. When it came to her caring for them like her children, not so much. Enter in a shit ton of gaslighting on her and her boyfriend's part about my "responsibilities" to those children. 

Yep, you read that right. Her boyfriend. She decided, as you do, that moving her drunk, unemployed shag buddy into an already overcrowded foster care  home would be a good idea. Crude of me? Sorry, not sorry. This has needed to be called out for what it was, for decades. If it offends, move along.

Here's  how it worked. From the time I was 11, I was made always, to sleep with all the little ones in her care and care for them as if I was their parent (parentification). Before you ask, I don't know how, in 1974, she was able to have a foster care home, being unmarried, let alone with her shack job boyfriend.

An unemployed boyfriend who routinely sexually and emotionally abused me and physically abused the foster kids. (Her foster care license was ultimately revoked because he would switch the kids, which of course was considered child abuse. She blamed bf, but I remember her laughing along with him as me told them to "dance." One little boy would wet his pants when this happened. He was already struggling with potty training due to abuse in his bio home. It was my job to clean him up afterwards. I felt sick to my stomach watching them, not because of  the mess but because of how it made the little boy feel. I can still see his little face, 50 years later. I still have what I call "toilet dreams" in which I have to clean bathrooms and floors covered with excrement and urine. 

I also realized now that another reason the foster care home was closed is because I, an 11-year-old,was made to handle their care. I wasn't her backup option, but plan A. I don't think, now, that she ever had any plan to actually do the enormous amount of work required to care for 4 very special needs children. And her lazy-ass abusive boyfriend was only around for the whippings. 

 To convince CPS, a lot of lies and cover-ups had to have occurred. A big one being that my mother was allowing two other unmarried couples to shack up in the home (which was quite small). One of her foster kids, a 15-year-old girl, "Melanie" was pregnant by her 32-year-old drug addict boyfriend "Miguel." My mother let them sleep together on our living room floor. She also took "Melanie" to have an abortion all while staunchly preaching pro-life. I sat in the car at the clinic. 

And as if our home wasn't already enough of a brothel, she moved my uncle and his girlfriend in, and gave them my bedroom. My haven. My only space in this hellhole of a home. I was made to sleep with the three oldest foster kids, ages 18 months to 5. None of these people helped with childcare. 

Another of her lies was that she and her boyfriend didn't even sleep on the same floor as the kids and I. There were three bedrooms upstairs. Uncle and gf in what was mine. Kids and I crammed in another and a third where a very physically abused baby slept. And where did mom and bf sleep? Two floors down in the basement as far from us as possible. She made a little apartment for them, for "privacy." They ran fans and AC to and had a TV, to drown out any noise. Remember bf wasn't even working and slept all day. 

While the kids and I slept in the second floor in a little hot box of a room. No fans. Uncle and gf had a fan, just saying. It was so hot that I kept the window open to cool it some.  One night, a strange cat cam in through the window. So it was just a cat. But it could have been a racoon, or possum or squirrel, Mom and bf would have had no way of hearing anything including intruders, animals or babies crying. In case of fire, they would have been too far away to hear or smell smoke. No safety plan was made and I would have had to throw each child out the window or we would have burned to death. That fear alone kept me awake quite a lot. 

She had more children than was regulation but this, she says, is because she was so good at it. Bullshit. I was good at childcare. And I highly doubt when the caseworker came over, she saw and approved the living arrangements. This was only a small part of the chaos of my life with them. It's not even the only abuse during the foster care period. I was left alone for a week, to care for these kids with only her boyfriend for help. All he did was keep everyone awake with the TV all night and sleep all day. When I got overwhelmed caring for the baby at night, he woke up, pissed off at me for waking him. He screamed at me that I was abusing the baby and told my  mom so. When she got back she believed him  and punished me. I was 11. I've believed his lies all my life and very nearly ended it several times because I couldn't live knowing I was a "child abuser." Then there was the molesting by one of their teen foster kids. 

And this was only their part in abuse, parentification, neglect, endangerment, scapegoating and gaslighting. And it was only their part. My dad and his new wife had their own spin on parentification, abuse, neglect, shaming, blaming, scapegoating, endangerment and gaslighting me. This was just one patch in my crazy quilt life. And once over, we never talked about it again. Unless it was to lie. 

And before you ask, my mother very much knew better. She wasn't raised with anything like this. She was raised in a good, clean, moral, safe, caring home. She wasn't made to raise kids. She chose all this and went out of her way to do it. And the hypocrisy was rampant. Part of what's been so weird is that my mother has always fancied herself a preacher. She went to church, played the organ and is always quick to tell other people what the Bible says and what they should and shouldn't be doing. Yet she openly flouts God to this day, binding up others to burdens she doesn't carry. Especially me. She was carrying on like this in full view of neighbors, family, everyone. No shame. And it was not morally, socially, religiously or ethically acceptable back then. 

How do I know she knew it was wrong even then? The one time I confronted my mom about all this, she lied and said none of it ever happened. Then she said that she wouldn't do those things because if she did that she would (wait for it) LOSE HER LICENSE.  So she knew and did not effing care.  She married her boyfriend and they carried on with their dysfunction. And lies. And gaslighting. And shaming and blaming me. Several times, her husband has come unglued on me over nothing, calling me names, screaming at me and attacking me. He kicked me out of "his" house when I was 16 for coming home an hour late. He was still unemployed and I was working to buy my own clothes and sanitary napkins. While they were on welfare and using my child support to fund their own lifestyles. All this with my mom looking on and approving his behavior. But again, when confronted, she lied and said she couldn't remember kicking me out of the house and if she did it was his fault. At no time did she apologize. 

So what was the point of this post? Oh yeah. Why I can't sleep at night for nightmares. I think it probably speaks for itself. I've got a lot more of these kinds of stories to unpack. It's going to be a long ride. I feel sick from remembering. But at least I do see where a lot of my triggers come from. 

Love you all and thanks for hanging in there. 

Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Where my constant CPTSD nightmares come from

 Hi everyone. Part two on my history of nightmares and what I've learned about them. I've only recently begun to acknowledge how I was abused, neglected, abandoned, exploited, parentified, manipulated, shamed, shame dumped on, marginalized and gaslit by four parents, two bio and two step. What first made me start to relook at situations were the constant nightmares I experience every single night and have done since childhood. I described them in yesterday's post. 

I've talked to a lot of people and have not yet found anyone who has had nightmares anything like mine. In my dreams, I'm constantly being expected to do things for others but I don't know what I'm supposed to be doing. I'm caring for a big group of kids and adults, having to cook for, clean up after (including disgusting toilets and bathrooms), do mountains of laundry for, in unfamiliar circumstances which keep changing. I'm also trying to get people ready for some event or trip. Sometimes I'm even driving but the vehicle keeps changing and sometimes it's not even a vehicle. But again, I don't know what or where and no one is being at all cooperative.

In my dreams, I don't have the tools or resources. I don't know where I am or who I'm responsible for. And it keeps changing. Often I've lost a child and am terrified. Children get injured and drown. Often, I'm supposed to be teaching school and everyone is disobedient and yet I'm expected to make them mind. Very confusing and shifting. 

And though I am an adult in my dreams, I'm being chided and scolded like a child (or like I was as a child, not as I would treat kids). Other adults, usually my dad and stepmom are angry with me. They shame me like a naughty child and yet still expect me to do whatever it is they expect me to do but  have not communicated with me. Often, others are angry with me too but won't say what I've done. I think it's because I've been dysregulating (coming unglued). 

My dreams are always chaotic and upsetting or downright terrifying. I never have peaceful dreams. I have variations of these dreams so often that I'm not sure if it's a memory. I did some research and the closest I can come is PTSD nightmares that shell shocked combat veterans have. No, I wasn't in a war but did live in a constant minefield with the abuse, neglect, inappropriate expectations, shaming, abandonment, parentification and gaslighting. Like combat veterans, I've dealt with extreme, bizarre and terrifying situations, beginning at a very young age. I've always felt overwhelmed and terrified. I was unprepared for any of the terrible situations my parents put me in. 

The more I look objectively at my nightmares, the more I find their basis in reality. I've been parentified by parents since I can remember. The role reversal flip-flopped to extremes. I was the parent/adult and they were the children. They left me behind, left me out and abandoned, neglected, endangered and acted immaturely and impulsively, just as if I had been the adult. But then, they would suddenly become the parents, but in a very punitive, irrational and unpredictable way.  I was expected to read minds and comply. 

When they got divorced and then hooked up with other partners, I was parentified and expected to parent those partners as well. I was also weirdly infantilized being treated like a naughty child all the while doing their work and being responsible for them. Then beginning around age 11, I was expected to parent their children, including my  mother's foster care kids who were all special needs. I slept with them and got up at night with them while she slept in the basement with her boyfriend. They made me obey people who were not my parents or indeed mature enough to be parents. I was at the mercy of four very mercurial, demanding and disturbed people. 

My dad and stepmom made me sleep their babies and get up at night with them. At one point, they locked me in my youngest brother's room so my stepmom could sleep uninterrupted. I was working and going to school. They never asked how he did or if I got any sleep. I was so tired that I often fell asleep behind the wheel driving. 

They all also expected me to juggle many family tasks that they themselves did not help with. I did almost all the housework and still my dad would expect me to "fix" anything that was upsetting my stepmom. They would gaslight me into thinking it was my fault or that I had done something wrong. When my stepfather kicked me out of house at 16, I believed that I'd done something so terrible as to warrant that, when all I'd done was to come home an hour late.

And the adults who had parentified me, were also always angry with me, it seems. They never took responsibility for their own foolish, negligent choices and frequently destructive and illegal behavior. They never admitted any wrong. Somehow it was always my fault. And I believed and internalized it all. 

I can't now, as a mom and grandparent of 59, see how I believed it. I've inhaled so many toxic fumes from the lies and gaslighting they fed me that my brain is burned out. I can't remember how I thought or even who I was. I don't recognize me. I've dissociated, split and fragmented so much and so often that I'm either a bunch of people or no one. But one thing is certain, they were sure as hell convincing. 

It didn't help that I was constantly deprived in sleep, nourishment, love and support. Unknowingly, I went around being one big unmet need. I didn't even know that I needed or that I should need things. I believed I was selfish if I even needed, let alone expected, things others took for granted. Like a bed, or a home or appropriate responsibility or a good night's sleep or care or honesty. Being a family member with all due privileges as well as expectations. Those things I had no experience with. 

What I did know was being the family scapegoat, the brunt of sexual jokes and toxic shaming. I knew being bullied, exploited, endangered, coerced, gaslit, marginalized, abused and neglected. Being made to do adult things at a very young age with no preparation, tools or training. Being taught no  coping or safety skills. Being pushed in the deep end and expected to swim. Basically, I knew from a tiny girl that what others had in the way of good things, was not for me and that what I had, in the way of bad, was good enough for who it was for. 

Given all that, my dreams do make sense. 

What my CPTSD and parentification nightmares look like and how they are destroying me

 Hi friends. Welcome to another snapshot of my personal hell. I've been exploring how my parents and stepparents abused, neglected, abandoned, parentified, exploited, shamed and then gaslit me about it all. Today I'm looking at how a lifetime of constant, nightly nightmares have resulted and how they are destroying me.  

Destroyed is a big scary word. But it describes to a T the complete obliteration of self that happens to a child that is abused and neglected and abandoned and exploited and parentified and shamed and gaslit about it all. By not one but four parents, each with his or her own brand of terrorism. What started me exploring were the nightly CPTSD nightmares, inability to sleep for more than an hour without waking in a nightmare and constant vigilant anxiety. 

My nightmares feature me constantly being in situations where I'm expected to do many things simultaneously including caring for numerous children (who keep disappearing), cooking, cleaning, laundry, schooling, etc. However I have no idea where I am, whom I'm supposed to be caring for and what I'm supposed to be doing. I don't even know to whom I answer to or why I'm doing these things. I never  have the tools or resources to do it all. 

And the scenario and location keep changing. One minute I'm driving, the next, we're in some kind of large place. Children are constantly getting hurt or lost. Frequently, a child falls into water and drowns. I'm frantic with worry, terrified, exhausted, bewildered and overwhelmed.  The expectations keep changing but one thing remains the same. I and I alone am expected to accomplish these many, varied and vague tasks. 

In my dreams, I'm an adult but I'm being treated like a bad child but I'm being expected to do the work of an adult, all the adults in fact. No one is helping me. I'm carrying the burden about six people, alone. And of course, I'm unable to. 

The "adults" in my dream, always my parents, usually dad and stepmom are angry with me. Furious, spitting angry. In one dream, my dad comes downstairs in his underwear mad because I've awakened him. That is how I most remember my dad, in real life. Angry. I did sort out that dream recently and I'll blog more about it later. 

Often, I dream that I've done something so unspeakably shameful that everyone is disgusted with me. I realize now that what I've done generally involves dysregulation of some kind. I had a meltdown and they saw. I screamed and cried and fainted. Everyone has gathered to tell me what a wretch I am and how they're going to shun me. 

For the longest time, I dreamed that I was missing a child. I'd wake night after night looking for her. My husband would have to reassure me that all was well. But my sleep brain didn't believe him and kept looking. This began when I was teaching, and a student went missing. Later, it was one of my own. 

Later, when I lost two stillborn daughters in 2001 and 2004, I'd dream that the baby I was supposed to be nursing wasn't there. Or that I'd forgotten to care for her. Or that she is lost or stolen. I still have that dream at least twice a week, 23 years later. 

I've had some dreams so often, and they are so real, that I don't always know what's memory and what's dream. I cannot sleep without dreaming. Ever. I wake terrified, crying, screaming and utterly shattered. I live in a kind of half wake half dream fugue. I asked others what their sleep experience was and unilaterally, everyone had had only the occasional bad dream and nothing like mine. 

So I began looking for research into these nightmares and I'll blog more on what I learned later.  

Monday, April 15, 2024

I can't detach because I have no boundaries or survival skills

 Hi everyone. Awkward uncomfortable post of the day. Looking at why I can't detach from negativity, abuse, toxic shame, exploitation, manipulation and gaslighting. It's going to be bumpy, so if you want to get off the ride now, feel free. 

Basically, I can't navigate dysfunctional situations with anything like healthy coping skills because I have none. I was taught no survival skills and was allowed no boundaries. In fact, healthy boundaries were tromped on by parents and stepparents to the point that they don't exist. 

I can't develop "thick skin" because I don't  have any skin, emotionally. It was ripped off by constant exposure to trauma, exploitation, narcissistic abuse, parentification, toxic shame, abandonment and gaslighting. And at almost 60, I have no way to remedy that. 

Now, the only response I know is fight, flight, fawn or freeze. Any why? Because that is what was and has been what's expected of me. It's just an endless shitshow of shame and shoved in it. It may get a little better but only so that it can come back with a vengeance and rip the frail rug of security out from under me and leave me broken again. 

I have no idea what to do or where to begin healing this very dysfunctional system. There's no guide book or instruction manual. In some cases, the exploitation was so bizarre and damaging that there's not even any framework for it. My parents and stepparents together found every way to hurt me and made up many of their own. 

I can't look to the Bible because there's no guidance for situations of such extreme behavior. All the guidelines point one way and my experience points another. For example, honor your parents. Got that. But what do you do when you honored your parents too much? What if they acted like God to you and expected so much that you became suicidal trying to please them? What if they encouraged you to commit suicide? I asked a priest once and he  had no advice. 

That's what I mean about no direction. You can't even use the suicide word online because it's so incendiary. So I can't talk about feelings that have plagued me all my life, not even to find help. You can't make this shit up. 

Alanon says to detach. But what if you grew up believing that detachment was a mortal sin? That you had to stay stuck in every toxic mess they forced you into?  What if detachment, to survive, was dangerous. Need examples?

My dad's wife ( I no longer call them parents because they weren't) would get upset about something or other. My dad would say "maybe Mari could fix it." Why was I even there to hear? Because they kept me on a choke chain leash. And then he would invite her to think of ways that I could "fix" her. Bearing in mind I already did 95% of the work around the house. And cared for her kids. And slept with and got up with them at night. And then I would obediently do whatever it was they came up with. I never got upset or even realized how bizarre this was till a few years ago.  One time, my dad beat me for looking like I didn't want to comply. I didn't. He invented that as an excuse and gaslit me into believing it was my fault. 

If he reacted so explosively to imagined "disobedience" how dangerous do you think it would have been for me to ever say no? Or detach? Boundaries are luxuries I didn't have and skin wasn't something it wasn't safe to grow. 

Friday, April 12, 2024

Why it took me so long to see abuse, neglect, parentification

Hey everyone! For the past few months I have been experiencing new awareness about things that happened in my life with my parents,  stepparents and half siblings. I've been reexamining situations and experiences  and sharing stories with trusted family members (husband) friends and therapists. We have come to the conclusion that I lived with chronic narcissistic abuse, neglect, abandonment, exploitation exploitation, family scapegoating, toxic shaming and gaslighting about it all. I developed CPTSD, codependency and critically low self-esteem. 

Recently I posted what happened to make me aware of this and what I was doing now about it, now that I know. I think the very first thing that led me to revisit these experiences were the constant nightmares I've had since childhood. They have revealed terror, insecurity, self-hatred, family scapegoating, parentification, gaslighting and the constant pressure I felt to please my parents, step parents and siblings. I realize that they stem from memories and feelings about them, buried deep under toxic shame and frosted with self gaslighting. They don't get better or no matter what I do so I think I'm supposed to be paying closer attention to them. I also began to listen to the voices in my head to see what they were saying and they have proved to be shame memory based as well.

But the dreams alone would probably have not been enough to wake me up (pun intended). What led to that was my mother's lies and gaslighting about past situations that occurred that she denied happening. There was more to it but that was a big part. Reviewing situations shows me that I am not wrong and things did happen as I said.  I also began telling experiences and getting feedback about them. I was affirmed that I was believed and encouraged to keep sharing. As I continue re-examining more situations, I find that they are not better but much worse than I remembered.

So I think the first step in healing from gaslighting, narcissistic abuse, neglect, exploitation, toxic shame and parentification, is to  just accept that they happened. And then start listening to toxic shame memories coming out in dreams, self-doubt and messages in my head. And then I had to come to the conclusion which is utterly cataclysmic for me, that I  was not treated lovingly or well and that I did not deserve this. It was not God's will for me. My parents were not God and did not speak for him. I had to stop making excuses for them and accept that their treatment was as bad as I remembered and inexcusable. I say cataclysmic because this revolutionizes what I've always believed, that despite all the abuse, shaming, neglect, abandonment and exploitation, my family basically loved (loves) me. I now realize they didn't and don't. I'll blog more on that later. 

So today I'm looking at why it took me so long, around 59 years, to begin looking at this. I think if I had to boil it down to one word it would be gaslighting. And how effective that was in keeping me striving to please, hating myself, believing their lies and allowing them to mistreat me. 

A child does not understand God. All she knows is her parents. If they are mostly loving and nurturing, she develops a basically positive self-esteem. If they are autocratic, cruel, abusive, self-centered and unloving, that is the idea of God that the child has as well. The more cruel they are, the more screwed up the child is. And my parents gaslit me into thinking that they and their spouses and their other children were gods. They could do no wrong they and I did nothing but wrong. It was so bad that I can't even look in the mirror without feeling revulsion, most days. I am very good at faking my way through life. 

Using a complicated scheme of scare tactics, shock treatment, unrealistic demands, delusions, lies, blame and shame, belittling, minimizing, disturbing behaviors, violent rage, and steady destruction of my boundaries, they were able to coerce me into a state of constant fear, anxiety, and desperate desire to please. This cult like fantasy life was not real but as hell felt real. I realize now that at a fairly young age I split from reality.  I played along with their delusions and let them treat me anyway they wanted. I accepted everything as normal and okay and what I deserved. 

I'll blog more later. Right now, I'm too bewildered. 

Thursday, April 11, 2024

First step to accepting that I was abused by parents

I just blogged about how inadvertently catching my mom in lies and gaslighting about abusive, neglectful, exploitative, endangering things that happened to me (see previous post) got me wondering if other things I'd always accepted as normal were in fact also abuse, neglect, endangerment, exploitation and more gaslighting about it. 

So what now? How do I go about sorting that? I guess my first step, is to just say what happened and then to accept that they did actually happened and are not made up or exaggerated. Based on understood definitions of these things, I was abused and assaulted (sexually, physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually and socially) neglected, bullied, abandoned, exploited, shamed, blamed, parentified and gaslit about it. 

So the next step. Accepting that they they happened is not accepting that they should have happened. It wasn't my fault I was abused, neglected, bullied, abandoned, exploited, screamed at, shamed, blamed or parentified. I didn't bring it on  myself. It wasn't God's will. He hadn't told them to do these things. They were not right. I didn't deserve them. I was not too sensitive, too critical, showing off, a bad kid, a letdown, responsible for, nasty, or any of the other things they gaslit me into believing. 

I was a kid. What I deserved was a childhood, not parentified and made responsible for everyone else. I deserved to be a teenager, not a scapegoat, servant, surrogate spouse and parent to four parents and their kids. I deserved happy memories with some sad, not sad or no memories. I deserved to have stuff, not have it sold and me not told, whenever the family needed money. I deserved a home, not couch surfing at their homes. I deserved to feel loved, wanted, respected and cared for and part of a family. Not unloved, unwanted, uncared for and excluded from their families. 

But I think I missed a step and have to take it even farther back. In order to accept that these things happened, were as bad as I remember and not make excuses for the perpetrators, I have to accept that my memories and version of the story is the accurate one, not their lies, weaponizing, shaming and minimizing.  But to do that, I have to examine how I know my version is true. (Sorry this is so much working backwards, but this is how it's playing out for me. I probably have to go back even farther, to look at why I believed their version but I'm too tired tonight) 

So how do I know my memories are accurate? Well, I guess for one thing, what I know about myself and what others have told me. I don't willingly hurt others and I certainly don't lie about them. Heck I've spent 6 decades lying FOR them. I'm not going to start making up stories now. And there's enough shit now, I wouldn't need to! 

And why would I? Not to get help from anyone. I never told anyone till  now. No one in the extended family knew or if they did, they never mentioned it to me. That's another part of my parents' gaslighting. If my extended family was so loving why did they ignore the abuse? If it was so bad, why did they act like it was fine. Either they don't love you or they approve of how we're raising you. 

I can't answer why they never said anything. Either they didn't know, didn't care, didn't want or know how to get involved. It was kind of DADT back then.  I think my mom's parents didn't know. I think my dad's dad didn't want to know. He just wanted to be loving and think everyone else was too. I think my dad's mom did know and was really bothered about it but everyone talked her down. 

What I do know is that in every little way they could, all four grandparents showed me love. I do not and will never believe that they would want to see me hurt. I don't believe any of them if they did know, would approve.   My parents on the other hand, were masters of deception. Like alcoholics, they knew where to hide the bottles. I think I shielded my grandparents because I wanted to keep them innocent and their homes safe. Maybe I didn't know what would happen if I told. More importantly, I've never liked distressing anyone. 

So I wouldn't make it up to get outside help. And not to get sympathy from one parent either. They didn't care how each other treated me. They actually encouraged their new spouses to abuse, humiliate, exploit, shame and neglect me. Even when my mom's was just her boyfriend. He moved into our house, unemployed, not looking for work and lazy AF. He hit the ground ordering me around "his house", shaming, mocking me, screaming at me, sexually abusing me and generally  making life hell. (remember what I said about "blisters?") My mother never once corrected him. In fact, she took his side every time he attacked me and often joined in the mocking. 

(Side note on the "Blisters" thing: Up till about two years ago, I just thought it was normal. It was my husband (then boyfriend) who called this out for the disgusting pedo sex abuse it was. But that wasn't till a few years ago that he told me. He didn't want to make life worse for me,  knowing how abusively angry mom's husband got. Sometimes we do the wrong thing for the right reason. )

So I wouldn't lie for help or sympathy, how about attention? Hell to the no! I learned early on with them to keep my head well below the parapet. And I tend to downplay vs. exaggerate. Even in this blog, I've had to work hard not to minimize. But my mom and dad and stepparents are not so scrupulous as their track records have shown. Ergo the gaslighting. So I guess where this leaves us is, that if everything impossible has been removed, what's left is the truth. Boom. 

Why am I just now realizing my parents and stepparents abused, neglected, abandoned, shamed and exploited me?

 If you're following you know that I'm unpacking a ton of shit about how I was treated by family of origin. And just so you know, this is stuff I'm just now realizing. So I'm writing in real time, present tense. I've begun truth telling about how I was abused, neglected, abandoned, shamed, scapegoated, minimized, parentified, exploited, manipulated and gaslit about it all by parents and stepparents. I'm telling how bad it was as I'm remembering. I'm admitting that I was not loved or wanted. 

Burt why am I just now realizing this? Because gaslighting is so incredibly mind-effy that it clouded my judgement. I actually see gaslighting as more being gassed but with bullshit and lies instead of phosgene. It has a similar effect if it happened when it happens to a kid. It twists and deforms everything. It made me second guess and hate myself, defend and excuse them and tolerate any sick shit they chose to wreak on me.

I was also too afraid to look closely at what happened because 1) the carefully constructed lies they'd told about all that happened 2) being gaslit that no one would believe me 3) that I'd find I was and even bigger POS than they'd convinced me I was and 4) it was too terrifying. So I spent the last 59 years of my life living in a web of lies for fear of the truth. 

Then my dad died without ever confronting anything that happened, let alone apologizing. My stepmother had died a few years previously and she never admitted anything either. My brothers told very odd versions so I knew they didn't or wouldn't remember. Then my stepfather started confronting my  mom with some pretty bizarre things he said she did and lies she had told. And she contacted me, she said, to find out if she had. 

She claimed to have no memory of doing these things. What I think she was trying to establish was who remembered what and how she wiggle out of it. If she could pit us against each others, as she'd so often done in the past ( I now realize), so much the better. 

Some things I didn't remember until my aunt confirmed them. Then I recalled it. But in the grand scheme of shit she'd done, it was pretty small. Another thing involved me supposedly telling them about my first sex experience. I don't know if I did and it really didn't matter. She didn't care that it would have and still did make me very uncomfortable. All she cared about was clarifying who was right, like a Trivial Pursuit question. 

But being a mom-pleaser, I jumped to her defense, saying that he wasn't squeaky clean either. She latched on to that probably thinking I'd relate awful things he'd done to her, for leverage I suppose. I should have remembered that my mother has never forget anything anyone has done wrong to her, inventing them if she has to. And will store them up for future use. But I still had the blinders fully in place. 

I ended up telling things that both of them had done but made it sound like just he had done them. Things like kick me out of the house when I was 16 for coming in an hour late. He did that but she went right along with it. Then when I had to take care of her four foster kids, baby to age four, for a week when I was 11. I shared how devastated I was when I couldn't make the very special needs baby stop crying and how her  husband (then boyfriend) who was sleeping on the couch, screamed at me and accused me of shaking the baby. She completely took his side and joined the attack once she got back. . But I didn't mention that in the retelling. 

So that was pretty awful to relive. Especially given she was just checking to exonerate herself not out of any concern for how all this shit might have affected me. But her response was what affirmed that she didn't and doesn't care about me. Without realizing it, my story sharing was kind of a test, to see if she would take responsibility. And she reacted as I now accept she always reacted. First, she lied and said they never happened. Then she claimed she forgot that they had kicked me out. Then she said she would never have left me with four foster kids because "I would have lost my license." 

So she knew then that she was wrong. And if she flouted the rules once, she had many times before. Like making me sleep with all the kids in one room upstairs while she and her boyfriend slept in the basement two floors down. like allowing a man she was not married to, to live with her in the foster home. Like letting two other unmarried couples live in the home as well (one of which in my bedroom).  Like letting her boyfriend sexually assault me by calling me "blisters" in reference to my 11-year-old breast size. 

Then, after lying her head off, she played "loving mommy" being so sorry I felt that way (suicidal over supposedly shaking a baby). But at no time admitting to not only allowing these abusive things to happen but encouraging and participating in them. 

(Side note: I've come to see that he was lying about me shaking the baby, to cover the fact that he was sleeping and not helping with the baby. And that I shouldn't have even be caring for that many children for a week let alone a few hours. And that he didn't belong living at our house in the first place. But I never considered that until a year or so ago.) 

My husband identified recently that it was after this conversation that I began to question what happened to me and to see it as the abuse it was. I began to let memories I'd kept locked away, return. I was hoping that in letting them in, I'd discover that I'd exaggerated them. That there were more happy memories than I thought. Because all these years, I've clung to the myth that deep down, they loved me. They just didn't know how to show it. Or they did the best they could. Or just made mistakes. Or didn't mean to. Or that somehow time had healed the memories to the point where I didn't feel so much pain. 

Unfortunately, none of those things happened. I found the memories worse than I'd remembered. I recalled awful things I'd buried deep. And regardless of any test or litmus I subjected these things to, none of them came close to being loving. I reread the Bible on love and none of it fit with any acts of love. I asked other people and they unilaterally agreed. The behavior of my parents and stepparents constitutes ( because it goes on) abuse (sexual, emotional, physical, social, mental and spiritual), neglect, abandonment, trauma and shame dumping, exploitation, parentification and gaslighting. 

And in accepting that, I began to look at my chronic CPTSD nightmares, dysregulation, toxic shame and unspeakable sadness more closely. I began actually listening to the voices in my head and paying attention to the dreams. What I found is that they match up with the traumatic memories or based on devastating memory feelings. I'll blog more about the dreams later because they really need to be explored. 

How I'm healing from parentification by parenting myself instead

 I've been talking a lot lately being parentified from young childhood on up to almost 60. Parentification in my experience was both being expected to be the parent to my parents and stepparents and also to parent my half siblings. From very young childhood the roles were reversed. From age 5, I learned that adult behavior, maturity and understanding was expected of me. It may have been earlier than that but I have very few memories of that time. I have always thought this was because no child remembers but everyone I speak to about it tells me that they have many memories of this age. In fact one cousin who is my age, shared memories of things we did and happy times we had together that I do not recall. The more I thought about it the more I realize that I have virtually no memories that are happy for most of my life up until I moved out of the house. The happy memories I do have center around time spent with extended family. I will blog more on that. 

Thank you for letting me segue. And back to the parentification. I do not remember a time where I did not feel obliged, expected, even demanded to be an adult and parent to my parents, stepparents and siblings. I do not remember being allowed to be a child or a teenager but rather an overburdened adult with no preparation for that role. I remember my parents behaving in very immature, childish and selfish ways that I was expected to normalize, by making excuses, hiding, lying about to extended family, covering for and fixing. I was expected to tolerate all forms of abuse, neglect, abandonment, manipulation and exploitation from all four parents and siblings. I was treated very harshly if one of them even sensed that I did not like it. But I was also expected to present to others that all was fine.

Also the role and expectations flip-flopped. Sometimes they were the parent albeit very autocratic and and inconsistent ones. And very much when it was convenient for them. I was to be the adult when they did not want to be when they wanted act childishly. I was to be the child when they needed something done or a scapegoat. Or to save face for Grandma and Grandpa so they would not know. The flip flopping was very random and unexpected and always caught me off guard. So I learned to be on guard all the time. Their punishment was very severe when I missed my cue in the game. Sometimes there was punishment for no reason at all. And my biological parents let their new spouses have their way with me. I was very clearly told that it was my responsibility to fix anything. So if someone was having a bad day or just feeling like picking on someone or being nasty that role fell to me. 

It's kind of like I had to raise perpetual teenagers. But yet not. I have as a real parent raised actual teenagers and none of them ever did anything remotely so vindictive or cruel. I don't know exactly why they did this. Maybe they were narcissists or sociopaths or histrionic or just vindictive. What I do know is that it was confusing, terrifying and crippling. 

Their treatment sabotaged my self-esteem and in fact entire sense of self.  I did not exist, or if I did only in a sort of limbo, waiting for the next command or demand. I had no individuality, no needs, wants, ambitions, feelings or thoughts.  I was just a shadow, scapegoat , servant, surrogate spouse and surrogate parent. 

I know this sounds exaggerated or made up. It does to me too. And the gaslighting by both parents confirms that. I was just making it up, showing off, too sensitive, selfish. However, because I know that other people exist and not just to serve, I'm beginning to realize that maybe I do too. Maybe it's time to stop parenting my parents and start parenting myself. 

There is a 4 year old girl in Grand Rapids who plays alone and doesn't know that you shouldn't touch Dead rabbits. There is a 5 year old in Newago who walks to school alone and lives in fear  of pedophiles and "Dark Shadows. There is a 6-year-old in Alaska who plays down by the docks alone and watches her mother cheat on her father. This little girl also comforts her father when he threatens suicide. She is left abandoned and terrified on an island while her mother goes to Seattle and her father is cluelessly and carelessly having a grand adventure in the Aleutian chain, while his daughter cries herself to sleep. 

And that is only the beginning. There's sexually abused 11-year-old me. And 12-year-old me left alone with four little kids. And 13-year-old me made to do the work of an adult. And it goes on... Those stories will be part of my series on my backstory. 

So suffice it to say there are a lot of lonely, scared, exhausted, traumatized little Marilisas who need my parenting a hell of a lot more than these grown ass adults who just weaponized it. And I think all those little girls will appreciate a friend like me as well. 

How I'm healing from family scapegoating, CPTSD, gaslighting by accepting that the rules really don't apply to me

Hey friends, messy messed up Marilisa here with another snapshot from hell, or my own personal one that is. Starting a few months ago, I started having a series of really shocking epiphanies in which I realized that what I'd understood was true about my family of origin, was in fact a web of lies and gaslighting. I've reexamined experiences and found that what just seemed uncomfortable but normal at the time, was in fact narcissistic abuse (emotional, sexual, mental, physical, social and spiritual) neglect, abandonment, parentification, exploitation, manipulation, shame dumping, family scapegoating and gaslighting about all that. 

Those experiences plus decades of misunderstanding about them, has left me with crippling CPTSD with nightly nightmares, codependence, fear of abandonment, constant 4F response (fight, flight, fawn and freeze), toxic shame, a legion of nasty voices in my head,  no personal boundaries and people pleasing in extremis. I'm trying to deal with this new awareness but honestly, I've no idea where to begin. Oh, and I'm writing this in real time, so as I become aware of or learn about or experience something, ya'll go thru it with me in this blog. 

So let me just address something my paranoia head voices are screaming at me about. The fact that it might sound like I'm making this up. I was gaslit, by two parents and their spouses and their children,  into believing that any time I felt an inkling that something wasn't kosher in Denmark, that I was 1) making it up 2) being too sensitive 3) being too critical 4) being disobedient 5) being disrespectful. 

They had an answer for everything and it always involved some fault on my part. All the exploitation, sex-ploitation, parentification, manipulation, family scapegoating, abandonment, neglect, abuse, shaming and harm, was normal and God's will. I was actually a lucky girl to have a home. I didn't. I couchsurfed. I'll get into what that looked like, in an upcoming series about my life. 

So about the family scapegoating part of my life. I was made everyone's fall girl by mom and her boyfriend and later husband and dad and his wife and their kids. I did not have a room or things of my own. My privacy didn't exist. I was caretaker including sleeping in the same room as everyone's kids whomever I stayed with. I cooked, cleaned, did laundry and worked like staff, not a family  member. 

From around 5, it was made clear to me that I was responsible for everyone, adults and kids alike. If someone got upset, it was my fault. If they told lies about me, their version was believed. If they wanted to harass, persecute, punish, parentify, manipulate, exploit, overwork, shame, hit, scream at, abandon, neglect, etc., etc., it was all okay. That's what I was there for. 

In a nutshell, the rules of parent-child relationships did  not apply to me. I was stuck in one dangerous, exploitative and abusive situation after another. And later, that destruction of my sense of self, translated to me having no personal boundaries. I grew up thinking that the rules of behavior, right and wrong, applied only to me in terms of expectations for me, not rules that I could expect from others. Right and wrong were so flipped that I believed when family was doing wrong to me it was right and when I was doing right, it was wrong. 

It caused me an almost complete disconnect from reality. And dysregulation AF. Somehow, I was able to understand that right was right and wrong was wrong for others. To the best of my ability, I've tried to treat others right. I have not always. But I did want to. But I did not expect others to do likewise to me, nor even that they should. It's hard to explain. But that's the effects of gaslighting. And family scapegoating. And CPTSD. And codependence. 

Up till not long ago, I've gone thru life in a fog, a dense, peasouper of a fog, part and yet not part of things. The doing part of me was always doing for, fixing, helping, caring for, tending to, humoring and trying to please. The feeling, needing and thinking part of me was out in the cold, looking in at others having lives, being human, being allowed to make mistakes, subject to realistic rules. The wanting part of me didn't exist. It had been suffocated early on. Wanting and needing, feeling and thinking were selfish. Only doing for others mattered. 

Are you wondering if this exaggerated? I've often wondered that myself. That's what narcissistic abuse, neglect, abandonment, exploitation, parentification and gaslighting tell me. I wish it was. I wish it all was just another of the nightmares I've had. Horrific but over when I wake. I wish these were imaginings and not memories. But they aren't. I think if anything, I've downplayed them over the years. That's what my now-family and friends tell me. 

And I think that because the rules didn't apply to me, the only way to get to a healthier place is to accept that the rules still don't. What I mean is that maybe, the path to recovery is going to be a little off-piste for me. Since my backstory was so atypical (and I think you'll see it was as I begin to tell it), my going-forward story will  have to be different too. 

For the longest time, I've tried to follow the commonly held, prescribed, normal world patterns but I can't. I wasn't taught how. I was held to hypocritical, made-up rules, cult-like not real world protocol and contrived realities. Shared narcissistic fantasies to use the psychological term.  I learned to follow these and they became my reality. 

Now, as I've said, I do know how others should be treated but none of that applied to me, I was taught. And what I've done all along is to operate under this fractured reality. I treat others right as best I can.  So it looks like I'm fairly normal. But since I've  never internalized that I deserve to be treated with the same respect, that the rules apply to me also, it's incomplete. I'm lopsided, split. It's like always hopping on one leg. 

I need to get to a new more balanced understanding of what life needs to look like. One where I give and receive. Love and am loved. Respect and am respected. Where there is one set of rules and they apply fairly to and are observed equally by all. I do have that with my now family. They are loving, balanced and kind. I can give love but I have trouble accepting it. It's like I speak the language but don't understand it spoken. 

I have struggled so long and hard to fit in. To be like others. But I can't because I was not taught how to. I lived such a bizarrely different life that I might as well be an alien. I was trained NOT to be want, think, need or feel or expect like others. That my lot in life was to be the scapegoat and like it.  And yet, which is the really weird part, I had to look like others. I wasn't to "stick out" or make waves. I had to pretend all was happy normal, while it was patently NOT happy or normal. I now understand that this was done to avoid attention being drawn to how dysfunctional it all was. 

So I was not given permission to think, want, need, feel or do, like others. I've not been given the tools to act normal. As my husband says, I was the square peg trying to fit in a round hole. Not that I was actually different but that I was TOLD  I was and treated differently. I developed those square edges that didn't fit. 

So I think that since rules didn't apply to me, I have to accept that the going-forward rules may be different too. I can't get into that round hole and it may be ludicrous to try. I ain't gonna fit. I have to follow a different, road less travelled. Or not travelled at all. I didn't have access what I needed so I have to stop expecting myself to live like I did. I have to stop trying to make bricks without straw. 

Tuesday, April 9, 2024

My backstory up to age 7: where bizarre neglect and abandonment in my life began

Hello my friends. As you know if you follow this blog, it's become a real-time walk thru of realization about my lifelong experiences of narcissistic abuse, family scapegoating, exploitation, manipulation, parentification, neglect, toxic shaming, abandonment, betrayal trauma and shame dumping and gaslighting about all that by all four parent figures, including two stepparents. Today I'm starting a series exploring the many levels of trauma I've experienced and from decades of abuse emotionally, mentally, physically, sexually and even spiritually. I want to warn you now that this is very raw and may be triggering to you. So read with caution. It's also a bit all over the place. I'm just trying to get it down. 

First a word about why I always list the forms of abuse I suffered separately: narcissistic abuse, family scapegoating, exploitation, manipulation, parentification, neglect, abandonment, toxic shaming, trauma and shame dumping, betrayal and gaslighting. My family situation was complicated and bizarre, much more complicated than most of my agemates or any that I knew of. My mom and dad divorced when I was 7. They each remarried but only after a series of affairs. My mother dated several married men. My dad dated a 17 year old who had not yet graduated, when he was 34. I was 9.  I catalog the different experiences separately because each of them and their children, abused me in different combinations. 

 From My  mother had various boyfriends while still married to my dad (I just realized that) and then lived with one whom she married. In 1970-1974 when this was happening, it was virtually unheard of in any of the neighborhoods or social circles I lived in (which were pretty standard middle America). My dad dated various women after the divorce and possible before. He'd left us in Alaska after they took me on what they called a mission trip to "convert the Indians" when I was 5.   

My mother was onboard with this. He spent most of the ensuing few years wandering around Alaska doing what I have no idea. My mom wasn't around much either and left me to wander around in the many places in which we lived, both in Muskegon, MI where I was born, Newago, MI where we moved and then in Alaska. I played with a dead rabbit thinking I could pet it at age 4 because no parent was around to tell me it was unsafe. At 5, I walked alone to school up a steep rickety staircase. I played alone the park where a known pedophile hung out. My mother's workaround to that was to tell me not to use the bathroom to avoid him. I was terrified by being made to watch "Dark Shadows" at a friend's house where I was sent after school. Neither my mother or father worked that I know of. I don't know why they were unavailable to care for me. I'm told that constitutes neglect. At 5, it was just my life. 

I explored the very dangerous docks in Haines Alaska alone at 6. I was the kid other friends weren't allowed to play with because I was unsupervised. I climbed rocks alone. I don't remember meals except with the Tlinget family with whom I lived. My mother moved us to the island of Metlakatla for a few weeks in summer of 1969 during our year in Alaska. We knew no one. A few weeks after arrival, she left me with strangers to go to Seattle to get treatment for a bladder infection. (This is what I was told. She has since denied that any of this happened). Seattle was 3,000 miles away. And since my mother and father didn't work, we had no money. I have no idea how she afforded that trip. I was terrified the entire time. Also, Ketchikan just across the bay had a good hospital that could have treated a routine bladder infection. I don't know where my dad was during this time. They were "separated" and he was wandering around the Aleutian chain. I don't know why he didn't come back to stay with me. I have never really recovered from that experience.

I lived in at least 15 different places by age 7. They were all "flop" situations meaning we were transient with no fixed abode, address or means of contact. We lived in tents, with people and in and spare rooms. I've slept on people's couches and floors. I understand that this constituted homelessness. 

This kind of life is the only memory I have till age 8. I have no memory of any family meals together, holidays, toys, proper bed, or parent presence. Houses and apartments would come and go in a month's time. My cousin has a better memory than I do, of at least one home I lived in. He and his mom showed it to me a year ago. I did not remember it. It could have been one of  many vague impressions I have of my living space. 

We did not  move around because extended family was unavailable. Quite the opposite. Both my grandparents and various aunts and uncles loved us very much. My dad's brother (who is legendarily unemotional) told me that the day they took me from his was one of the saddest of his life. Extended family helped and reached out. They were exploited by my parents too. Both grandparents' homes are the only homes I remember. It's not that I don't have the ability to remember either. I can tell you, almost 60 years later, the exact floor plan of their  houses, how they smelled of Lake Michigan sand and water, how safe and secure I felt there. 

Things were bad then but when my mom moved back they got infinitely worse. I'll discuss that in upcoming parts in this series.

Sunday, April 7, 2024

How I'm unmasking gaslighting, narcissistic abuse, parental manipulation, exploitation, neglect and endangerment

 Okay so I've given up all pretense that this blog is about how I lost 100 pounds and am focusing on umasking narcissistic abuse, parentification, exploitation, manipulation, neglect and endangerment. I'm  detoxing from toxic shame, parental gaslighting, codependence and CPTSD. If you need help on weight loss, check out the many earlier posts. For now I'm working through (or just beginning to recognize) the childhood and adult trauma with my parents and stepparents. And I think one important step is going to be to go back and reexamine each traumatic experience in light of new understanding. 

What is that new understanding? Well, it's not exactly understanding as yet. But rather being willing to look at what's happened from a new angle. I think the first step to healing for me, begins with just that, saying what happened. In the past few years, I've begun to talk openly and honestly with a few trusted people about my experiences as a child, teen and adult. Up to this time, I've managed to dismiss, minimize and compress them down to tiny, insignificant things. Because I have a high pain tolerance, I've gaslit myself into thinking they weren't that big a deal. They didn't hurt that much. But my chronic bizarre and traumatic nightmares are telling a different story. I can't drown out the CPTSD tinnitus anymore. 

Up to now, I've believed (been gaslighted into believing) that childhood trauma is what happened to other people (aka the people who were abusing, parentifying, neglecting, abandoning, exploiting, manipulating and endangering me). I had noting to complain of, right?  I was raised by loving people who had my best interests at heart, I told myself. They wouldn't do anything abusive, manipulative, exploitative, neglectful or endangering. If I did ever admit that I felt this way, I was shamed into feeling that I was wrong, too sensitive, too critical, lying, showing off, exaggerating  or just plain making it up. 

I learned very early that I'd better shut that shit down as soon as it reared its ugly. Your stepmother (actually referred to by my dad to me as "mummy" and who was only 14 years older than me with no capabilities, let alone desire, to care for me) would never anything harmful and how dare you even suggest it?? I hadn't but his guilty conscience was acting up. Your stepfather (actually mom's live-in boyfriend) is the head of the house. He can (and did) do anything he wants and you have to obey and like it. 

So I grew up thinking anything any of them did was okay. And I apologize for these little segues down memory lane. I cannot yet just say what happened without emotionally flashbacking and talking in my past voice. I'm also trying to weave in examples of what I mean so you will believe me when I say I was abused, exploited, manipulated, parentified, neglected and gaslit about it all. I have a real problem accepting that people actually believe me when I say what happened. That's why I waited 59 years to start telling it. 

Or rather I did tell some things a few years ago, but I was still in denial that they were abusive, neglectful, abandoning, parentifying, manipulating or endangering. One persistent friend remembers these stories and will call bullshit when I try to make excuses for it. Bless her. So I need and am learning to ask for a ton of affirmation that 1) I am believed 2) It was not healthy 3) was dysfunctional (neglectful, endangering, manipulative, gaslighting, etc. )

To counteract the memory voices of narcissistic abuse and gaslighting in my head, I need to hear fresh voices with clear perspectives not clouded by a narcissistic agenda. That's a word I've been using a lot more. I didn't know what it or NPD was but now that I do, I can see more clearly how this narcissistic abuse has shaped my life, persona, perception, self-concept, actions and behaviors. 

Now I'm working on unmasking covert narcissistic abuse. Once the mask is off you can't unsee the real face underneath. Is is scary? AF!!! I won't ever confront the narcissists. It would be too exhausting and counterintuitive. They've spent the last 6 decades building up facades of moral superiority and cloaks of invincibility. They've lied so many times they believe their lies. I did attempt one time, but only when questioned about some things. I met with a solid fortress of lies, denials and gaslighting. To say anything now would only cause me more pain, like the arrows that hurt more coming out than they did going in.  

Extended family has completely closed ranks against me. Weirdly, they're not even all related and some barely know each other. I have two parents, two stepparents and they each have kids. But one thing they know is that I'm wrong and the problem. There are one or two I suspect may be starting to see the light. But I won't be the one shining the torch. Been there, got stung by that. Too risky. They'll have to do their own healing or not. It's on them. 

I love how Youtube psychotherapists Richard Grannon, Patrick Teahan and Dr. Ramani reiterate that. IT. IS. NOT. MY. CIRCUS. I. DO. NOT. HAVE. TO. FIX. ANYONE.  As if I could. Those demands of responsibility were so deeply indoctrinated that even now as I begin to seek healing, my first worry is to help them. Shit, I can't even walk, emotionally?? Why the fuck am I trying to run?? Because I was expected to. And that too heavy burden is what got me in the mess I'm in. 

And can we just pause to sort out the many shades of grey in THAT? So there was no problem, you (parents) say. If there was, it wasn't that bad. If it was, it's no big deal. If it was, ya'll did nothing wrong. If you did, it was my fault. Okay, I was the problem. BUT THEN, now that I'm healing, ya'll are on my butt to extend the help? WTF? You schooled your kids in shitting on me. And now you still want me to help them? Fuck that noise. Reaching out only gets me sucked in. 

And therein lies the rub. And also the illogical fallacy. Yeah I  know it's logical fallacy. But there's nuttin honey logical about this. So please, answer me. What is it? You did nothing wrong or you did and I need to fix the shitshow you caused for everyone else? Including you?! I think not. I'm with Richard Grannon. Let the narcs sort their own narc shit. And that goes for "forgiveness" which you shoved down my throat like castor oil. 

You did nothing wrong. But if you did, I have to forgive you cause the Bible tells me so? So much narc abuse, you're making it up as you go along! I will not go into the many ways you've perverted God's word to your own ends. It is impossible to forgive those WHO ARE NOT SORRY. 

This is just more religi-babble. I now know it was, is, and always will be my fault somehow. I can't win for losing. It's my responsibility not just to fawn and freeze but FIX and then FAKE it's okay. Do I have to wipe everyone's asses too? Wait. Did that, too. Godalmighty, it's like they were nothing without me.

And with that,  I think we may be getting to the issue. Boiling it down to brass tacks as my dear husband would say! Maybe, just maybe, I got the brunt of it, not because I was the weakest but strongest link. 

I was the Gorilla Glue that held their house of cards together. They couldn't have gaslit me and wreaked narc abuse if I didn't participate in the shared fantasy. I was a kid so not of age of consent or accountability. So there's that. But also, maybe I'm the one they relied on because I'm strong. Or at least stronger than I think. But wait!! I don't want to be strong. Being strong only makes people expect more of you (learned that from Jean Valjean). 

We definitely need to unpack that more in an upcoming post when I'm not so tired. So for today, I'm asking trusted friends to validate my experiences where I can't for myself. That was my son's idea and a good one it is. I'm seeing by the large following that this might be hitting home for some. I don't get many comments but you can always feel free to. I don't get anything out of it. And I can't promise to answer. Still learning to crawl myself. 

Thursday, April 4, 2024

Am I dysregulating or panicking from someone else's dysregulation?

I posted recently that I was relieved to find that the extreme emotions that I have regularly experienced have a name, dysregulation. And more importantly that I can do something about it. But now I'm wondering whether it's me who is dysregulating or someone else and I'm panicking about it. And that sometimes, in an extreme panic attack, I begin dysregulating too. 

I have experiences of dysregulation, including self-harm and unmanageable emotions. They seem to be triggered in part by emotional flashbacks. These, as I understand them, are times I'm thrust into the negative emotions by a milder version of what occurred or even by something benign. 

But emotional flashbacks, or panic attacks or dysregulation are also triggered by less mild or benign situations. Which I guess would not be emotional flashbacks but actually abusive situations. These include out of control anger, irrational behavior, yelling, shaming, sarcastic comments, attacks, self-pity, crazy-making behavior and gaslighting about all that. In this case, from my husband. And I'm beginning to see that this behavior is him dysregulating and that sometimes I've gone into full blown dysregulation in a trauma response to that. 

For the most part, I'd say, I handle his angry outburst pretty well. Too well, it seems. Because it has become the expectation in our marriage that I just "deal with" them. For the first 35 years, there was no real, concerted effort on his part, to admit to, let alone control the angry outbursts. He would only apologize after he'd spent all the adrenaline energy, in the form of raging, screaming, cursing and attacking anyone who got in his way. It is only when he's in a state of post-meltdown euphoria. Or when he was really trying to get himself together. That comes and goes with alarming frequency. 

He never (or very rarely) addresses the suffering they cause unless I confront it. And then he does it  kicking and screaming. It takes long, painful hours of "come to Jesus" meetings to make him even admit what he did. Mostly he backpeddles, saying he "didn't mean to" and giving long senseless explanations. Because, I think, that like my dad, he's trying to convince himself he really didn't act that badly. Which only makes things infinitely harder for me, as a people pleaser. 

Unless he was in the post-adrenaline euphoria state. Then he's admit what he did and adult up to it. He'll get off his high, arrogant horse, humble himself and promise to do better. He's very convincing and I believe him. Because I want to. But when I look at it realistically, I can see how calculated it is. By the fact that 1)He's all over the place 2) inconsistent 3) irrationally and randomly provoked and 4) only humbles himself when he's gotten me to my worst. I now believe that this is done so that I can never plan a positive strategy to cope. It's as if he's saying "plan on this: being in a state of constant crisis, chaos and "he loves me, he loves me not."  

Just recently, he blew up at me at Easter dinner. We had a house full of grandkids that we were both dealing with. He blasted me for not dropping what I was doing, caring for three of the children, to help him figure out what one grandchild needed. And then when I did, he yelled at me because I asked several times if it had worked. I asked several times because he had not responded the first two times. And then he blew up over several other random things. And then made a silly, jokey apology, bowing down before me (which was actually shaming) because he wanted me to do some other thing for me. So clearly dismissing and belittling me. 

And he never apologizes for it. It just gets ignored until I say something. At which time we have to spend hours in more "come to Jesus" meetings, getting him to admit it. Sometimes he's quicker to get it than others. But he never addresses it first. If I want any closure, I have to. Which I know is insane and not really closure at all. It's still all about him because he'll pout and pity himself how he's "such a loser" "always wrong" Which is just more gaslighting me into feeling responsible for making him feel that way. 

He'll make big promises to change when he sees that I'm at my wits' end (a place he seems to like me being in). He will push me to dysregulate (hit myself and meltdown). And then he's so sorry, he didn't mean to, etc. How he understand why I did this because he "had it coming." As if he's suffering some consequences by being confronted by what he did. And it's still all about him. 

I never really get anything but the shit end of the stick. And I've begun to realize that he isn't suffering any consequences. I am. I'm getting the shame, gaslighting, abuse, shitty feelings and fear. He's just being shown his behavior and not liking what he sees. And I'm punished for that. 

If he were actually sorry or actually suffering, he'd be damned sure doing something differently.  But he's not because it's working. He can continue to behave abominably because he knows I'll do the heavy lifting. I'll put my neck on the chopping block taking the risk addressing it. He may or may not accept it. He knows I'll feel guilty because that's what I do. He knows he can guilt me into turning myself into a fucking pretzel to "save my marriage." Which is exactly what it  is. My marriage. His playground. 

He can ride on my coattails feeling like we have such a great relationship when he's not putting in much if any work. He has a great relationship. I have shit and shoved in it. I get a few crumbs thrown my way and because dumbass Marilisa has always accepted crumbs, dumbass Marilisa keeps on accepting crumbs and being so grateful for them. 

This is the pattern for most of our family interactions. I've been pushed and pulled back and forth through it all. I still am. We are in a constant cycle of build up to meltdown, meltdown, post-meltdown peace, him feeling ashamed and setting me up and build up again. He will not accept any responsibility unless he chooses to. And then, nothing changes. I'm told that he'll do better. But no plan is given. And I'm expected to accept this as some kind of magnanimous gesture and be grateful for it. And we go back to square one the very next day. 

Lather. Rinse. Repeat. 

Wednesday, April 3, 2024

How I'm healing from CPTSD and gaslighting by starting from scratch with God

Hi everyone. If you're following this blog, you know it's going deep to places I've never explored or even thought of. It's been hard and painful. And somewhat freeing. But mostly really raw. Being Holy Saturday going into Easter Sunday, it's easy for the gaslit and battered little girl in my head to just knuckle under, paste on the smile and fake it. No one wants a droopy Dora to ruin the party. And to some extent I need to do that. For me as much as anyone. Mostly for my not shell-shocked family who would be devastated to know in what bad shape I'm in. It's like there was an explosion that hit only me with no visible evidence to anyone else. 

I'm not saying they are shallow or uncaring. Far from it. They also know parts of the story. They just don't know the extent of the damage and I don't know if they should. What's more important, my self-disclosure or their peace of mind?  Both probably aren't possible. And yet. 

And yet, I need to disclose, to myself and to someone else. And not just to God. That's like talking to the air and expecting a response. Not saying God doesn't talk to me and reveal Himself to me. I'm pretty sure He sure he does. But I'm soooooo mixed up about what that would look and sound like. Or what He is saying. Because, as I've said before, my parents ruined God, in fact every one of the Trinity, for me. 

My father presented  himself as God the father. And his version was not the loving, caring Father of Hosea, or Exodus. My dad in the role of God was terrifyingly arbitrary, impossible to please, implacable, ruthlessly selfish and crazy neglectful. All the things we're told in scripture that Abba Father is not. But I was little and this is the God that was presented to me. I didn't know any better. 

The Bible was spoilt for me. I was indoctrinated into the rules as my parents were blatantly doing what they were preaching not to do. The rules of the Bible were for others but not for them. Narcissistic abuse. They went out of their way to loudly and proudly violate Biblical teaching on an array of areas while just as loudly telling other people what the Bible supposedly said. I say supposedly because a lot was twisted. 

God the Holy Spirit was trashed by my parents too. They told me to ignore the still small voice in me (groanings of the Holy Spirit). They gaslit me into thinking I should let dangerous people, namely themselves, their spouses and children but others too, manipulate, exploit, shame, dump, abuse, neglect and further gaslight me. That this was God's will for me. And they claimed that God spoke to them regularly, essentially telling them to do the very things that were so hurtful to me. Like abandon me in Alaska, several thousands of miles from my family. And that God expected me to put up, shut up, obey and allow this exploitation, manipulation and shame. 

They destroyed any relationship I might have with God the Son, Jesus, as well. Anytime my dad and his wife were faced with their wrongdoing, they'd either deny it (gaslighting) or trot out the old "covered by the blood." My mother and her boyfriend regularly abused me and turned a blind eye to my pain. All the while nailing  me to the wall for the slightest perceived misdoing. Disobedience was frequently cited although they were habitually disobeying God. Which is complete anathema to the real sacrifice of Jesus. Yes, He died for us. All of us. However our sins are covered only IF we confess them. It's not a blanket absolution of all past, present and future wrongdoing. 

So now I have the onerous task of dismantling all I was taught and starting from scratch with God. It's like being in a room full of strangers that you're told are your best friends. I think it may take me awhile to learn to trust them. 

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