Parents

Source: http://comic.kieryking.com/comic/assertion/
Source: http://comic.kieryking.com/comic/assertion/

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Kierstyn King’s blog Bridging the Gap.  It was originally published on April 28, 2014.

I’ve had really vivid dreams lately, probably due to getting over the lingering effects of a cold (it was a horrible cold, and I’m mostly better but still dealing with minor sinus issues). My dreams have been weirdly stressful and tend to feature my family and I wake up feeling like I haven’t slept, but last night…last night I dreamt that my dad was shooting at me. A lot, constantly, I was trying to leave and he was just shooting and shooting and following me and shooting, and that’s the first time that’s happened. The last time I had a similar dream, my dad was a bear trying to eat Alex and me…

…This is the first time there were guns.

Which makes sense, my family has at least 3.

A few weeks ago I sent my family an open letter, addressing the things I knew they were upset about (my hair, my sexuality, my lack of pregnancy, telling them once and for all that I’m an agnostic), and telling them things about me that they probably didn’t care to know, and ending it by telling them to stop using me as a bat on my siblings, and to leave me alone (with the caveat of, if they ever get over themselves and decide to accept me as a human and get to know me and not just spy for creating-drama purposes, to talk to me instead of going through other people). Considering all my family really cares about is using me to create drama, I think that my letter shut everyone up about me like I thought it would.

My theory was that by giving everyone the same information about me they wouldn’t have anything to gossip or speculate about or reason to use whatever means necessary to spy – since I answered all their questions/issues and took the interestingness out of it.

It’s been radio silence and I hope it keeps. It’s weird, you know…my parents said they wanted nothing to do with me until I apologized to them in 2010, but then conveniently forgot that when it suited their purposes (I’m assuming, to make them look good in front of church people – it’s what they do). I unfriended everyone on my mom’s side in November and the family freaked out when they realized it, but I’ve never once been asked, genuinely, how I am, no one has tried to get to know me in five years, they’ve only been intent on spying and using me as a tool to inflict guilt on my siblings and that’s just wrong. Every contact I’ve had with them has been silently self-serving, done of obligation, or not-so-subtly implied that they wished I was who they wanted me to be and approved of and not who I am. I don’t have time for that.

I will never live up to what they want me to be, and sometimes that hurts a lot more than I want to admit.

I put up a strong face – I throw up brick walls the way Elsa made her Ice Castle, bury the pain inside the mortar.

 kiery

It’s easier to be callous and cold and numb, than angry, and vulnerable, and hurt. So I act like it doesn’t bother me, Fuck them all is my mantra, but it does bother me and I wish that it wouldn’t.

I wish that I didn’t feel as though the most abusive people in my life mean something. Because I feel like they shouldn’t. I wish I didn’t feel sad because I know that by merely existing  I’m letting down the people who spent my entire childhood neglecting me and usingme.

Sometimes I feel like the Hulk and my secret is that I’m always angry.

Because I am angry.I’m angry at how they get off scot-free, I’m angry at how the world thinks we need to revere parents even when our parents are the bullies we couldn’t escape. I’m angry that they can keep on manipulating people and lying and living with no guilt or remorse, with aid from family, and keep people on their side and looking up to them – as people with Narcissism and Borderline are really good at doing.

My family is looked up to in churches, cited as examples, people seek out my parents to ask them advice about homeschooling and child-rearing (and other things), they think the fact that my mom has destroyed her body having kids is awesome and noble.

No one sees the dark underbelly of what it looks like to grow up with them and their life choices, no one registers the fake smiles, no one sees past the masks.

And I get to pick up the pieces.

I can’t look at an infant or pregnant person without feeling ill and stressed out. I panic every time I see a stroller, or an entitled parent at a restaurant. I get to be condemned for not having or wanting kids, for not doing anything for mother’s day, for doing what I need to do for my sanity and quality of life that involves cutting out the toxicity that is my family. I can’t leave my apartment without being bombarded by triggers, I can’t talk to any nosey old person without being patronized about my existence, the general consensus of the world does everything in it’s power to tell me that everything about me is wrong and flies in the face of what is approved of and wouldn’t it just be easier if I killed everything-that-is-me and conformed?

I’m planning out how to help my siblings after they reach adulthood because my parents thought it was unnecessary for half of my sisters to have identification, and everyone born after 1999 is unvaccinated.

This is the aftermath of growing up with abusive and neglectful parents and extended family who enable them. You bet your ass I’m angry.

And also crying.

Because no one fucking deserves this.

Homeschooled Girls and Trash Cans: Latebloomer’s Story, Part Five

Homeschooled Girls and Trash Cans: Latebloomer’s Story, Part Five

HA note: The author’s name has been changed to ensure anonymity. “Latebloomer” is a pseudonym. Latebloomer’s story was originally published on her blog Past Tense, Present Progressive. It is reprinted with her permission.

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In this series: Part One | Part Two | Part Three | Part Four | Part Five | Part Six | Part Seven

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Part Five: Forming Boundaries Late in Life

"I wasn't secure enough in my boundaries, so I was hyper-sensitive to any attempts to control or manipulate me."
“I wasn’t secure enough in my boundaries, so I was hyper-sensitive to any attempts to control or manipulate me.”

Do any of these sound like you?

I have to always say yes to others, or else I am selfish.

I have to always hide my hurt, or else I am unloving.

I have to treat other people as faultless, or else I am holding a grudge.

I have to keep my wants and needs to myself, or else I am a burden to others.

People who experienced authoritarian parents tend to turn into adults with poor boundaries. They were trained for it their whole lives and can’t imagine another way of doing things. However, it’s an extremely unsatisfying and unsustainable way to live, don’t you think? But most importantly, it’s actually not what a loving person is like! For me, when I was in that mindset, my “loving” actions were actually motivated by obligation or guilt because I thought I didn’t really have a choice; I was just an actor.

Besides hindering me from showing real love based on real choice, this mindset also prevented me from ever feeling loved. My buried wants and needs were still there; I just expected any true friend to be hyper-vigilant to my emotional state and correctly guess my unexpressed wants/needs. I felt that anyone who didn’t put in that monumental effort didn’t really care about me. And when people hurt me, I didn’t give them a chance to repair the damage to the relationship; I either lied to myself and them by saying that I wasn’t hurt, or I expected them to realize the problem and fix it without being told. Obviously, it was really hard for anyone to break through those defenses to form a real and lasting connection with me, even if they wanted to.

When I was in my late teens/early twenties, equipped with my driver’s license, I began to have more opportunities to interact with my peers.  However, with my poor boundaries and repressed emotions from authoritarian parenting, and with my severe social anxiety from isolated homeschooling, I wasn’t exactly set up for success. It’s not surprising that I was able to form friendships with more dominant and outgoing people most easily at first. They were the ones who were confident enough to break through my guardedness and befriend invisible me. I had no identity and nothing to contribute, and they were the ones who could talk enough to cover for my silence. They were the ones with ideas that I could go along with. And, thankfully, they were the ones who could ask me the pushy and nosy questions on occasion that helped to break open my protective shell.

It’s also not surprising, although really sad, that many of those first friendships didn’t last through the turbulence of my mid- and late- twenties. In a way, I was really experiencing my teens and twenties simultaneously. Out on my own for college, I was trying to discover and establish my own identity for the first time in my life, and dealing with an incredible amount of childhood baggage at the same time. And just when I felt I was making real progress in replacing social anxiety with relationships, my progress in forming boundaries set me back.

I asked my husband to provide a little outside perspective of what the process looked like, since most of it took place during our relationship. He sees it this way:

1. I realized that conflict had to be acknowledged and resolved rather than ignored in order to have a healthy relationship. That meant that it was ok to admit when someone’s behavior bothered me. However, since I had no experience at conflict management, I didn’t know when or how to go about it. I was a mess of over-reactions and under-reactions, and the whole time I was incredibly stressed and afraid of rejection.

2.  Once I began to open up about my feelings, wants, and needs, a backlog of repressed emotions suddenly started to flow out. In my mind, lists of ways I had been wronged started to appear, even from all those times that I thought I was being loving and not keeping a record. So, whenever I needed to talk to someone about a conflict, they would be surprised and hurt by the size of my list of related issues.

3. I wasn’t secure enough in my boundaries, so I was hyper-sensitive to any attempts to control or manipulate me, whether it was a friend or a family member. Even just their attempt to change my opinion by sharing a different perspective was threatening to me. Figuratively speaking, if a person even dared to knock politely on my boundary wall, I would appear with a shotgun and tell them to get off my property. I had very strong ideas about how I should be treated, and it was almost impossible for people to fit in my narrow tolerances. Everything had to be on my terms; I expected anyone who cared about me to change immediately when I informed them of a problem.

4. Now I’m finally feeling more secure in my boundaries, so I’m starting to become more balanced and pick my battles more carefully. I’m getting better at differentiating between real offenses and simple mistakes, as well as determining what approach might be most effective way to manage the conflict. I’m also trying to prevent emotional build-up by dealing with things right away. And most importantly, I’m trying to take other people’s differences and imperfections into account and realize that change usually comes slowly. It’s easier to accept that when I remember that others are also being patient with me in ways I can’t fully see.

I deeply appreciate my husband’s support during this process; without him, it would have been much more difficult to work through so many issues. Even though this process has been extremely challenging and painful at times, and even though I still have a lot of progress left to make, I am so much happier than I was before. Now when I choose to help people, I have the reward of feeling happy and satisfied because I did it willingly. Now I take responsibility for my needs, wants, and feelings, so I don’t feel so helpless and dependent. Now when I choose to tolerate people’s imperfections, I feel a sense of our shared humanity rather than feeling devalued.

However, it is unfortunate that I had to go through this process so late in life. I feel like it was much more traumatic than it needed to be because it conflicted with the progress I was making in forging friendships with people for the first time in my life. If you are dealing with similar issues as an adult, I’d like to recommend two things: read the book  “Boundaries” by Cloud and Townsend and find yourself a good therapist; hopefully you can find a way to establish and maintain good boundaries in a less destructive way than I did.

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To be continued.