Tuesday, May 28, 2024

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So I apologize and try to do better. 

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