Tuesday, February 27, 2024

How I'm overcoming toxic shame and gaslighting by affirming the truth

 Hello friends of this blog on how I lost 100 pounds. Lately I've been working on emotional issues related to gaslighting, toxic shame, chronic guilt and low self-esteem. Just recently, I had an Aha moment that has been very helpful to healing. I realized that all my life, I've affirmed the wrong things. I've believed and trusted people who didn't merit it. I've made excuses for others' exploitation, neglect, abuse and abandonment. I've ignored my own feelings to protect others' mistreatment of me and in so doing participated in my own gaslighting. 

The aha moment came when I recalled an incident of sexual abuse I experienced at the hands of a teenager with past history of aggressive behavior, who was in my mother's and her boyfriend's foster care. When I told mom, I felt at the time that she was passive-aggressively angry with me. It seemed to me that she thought I was lying. She expressed annoyance that now she would have to make the young man leave our home. I felt at the time that she was more concerned with him and her foster care than she was with me. 

Now, bear in mind that this is possibly the most painful thing I've ever had to tell anyone. I was ashamed, disgusted, humiliated and very vulnerable. I didn't want to tell anyone. I remember, after seeing her response, instantly wishing I'd not brought it up. I asked if I was wrong to and she irritably said no I was right to and she'd handle it. And that was that. Later that night, at dinner, much to my chagrin, she praised her boyfriend, whom she'd told about the situation, for "how well" he'd handled it.

I was mortified that she'd shared my private hell with him, of all people. He himself was abusive and mocking, calling me "Blisters" in reference to my breast size. I never understood, till my husband said something, that this was child sexual abuse. I spent that summer in misery. I never went swimming despite loving Lake Michigan. I wouldn't shower and wore the ugliest clothes I could find. Nothing was ever said about it again. 

I spent the rest of my life, not only feeling rotten about the assault, but ashamed of myself. I felt responsible for my mother losing her foster care and hated myself for making her mad. I've had to fight demons telling me I'd exaggerated it or brought it on myself. And worst of all, I believed that I'd imagined that my mother was upset with me about it. My mother, the voices in my head say, is a good caring Christian woman who would never blame and shame her daughter for something like this. I misunderstood or If she did, she had a good reason.

Just two days ago, however, the blinders fell off and I could finally see that yes, she was upset and no, not because of what happened to me but what it would mean for her (loss of foster care income, possible closure, censure). This was the same woman who turned a blind eye to her boyfriend's abuse. Who allowed and even encouraged him to sexually shame me. I felt dismissed because she was dismissive. I felt ashamed because she  implied that I was somehow to blame. I felt humiliated because she shared my private story with my abuser and then was more concerned about bragging him up for telling off a 15-year-old than protecting her 11-year-old from experiencing it in the first place. 

So the abuse shouldn't have happened. The kid shouldn't have been brought into my home. My mom should have showed compassion and love. She should have kept it private and not shared it with her live-in. All these things can't be changed. But at least now I don't have the additional burden of guilt for  believing that my mom did what she did. I don't feel ashamed saying what actually happened. 

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