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 memory based as well.

But the dreams alone would probably have not been enough to wake me up. 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 showed me that I was 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. I kept re-examining more situations and found that they were 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. 

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. 

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. 

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