The Abuser–C’est Moi

I am my abuser now.

My therapist has said this to me from time to time, and she is right.  In the past, it was my father who abused my mind, my body, and my soul, and my mother who abused my emotions and heart.

During my trip to Taiwan, I saw all this clearly.  Boundaries?  What boundaries?  My needs?  Pppppft.  A mere trifle.  I touched on this before, but I could see the dysfunctions of our family clearly manifested in my niece.   She was reluctant to offer a negative opinion.  She has learned at a young age that her needs don’t matter–except when it comes to food.  In that one area, she has full control.  No wonder she felt the need to wield her control with an iron-clad grip.  She had little say in what we did, where we went, or when we left (and, she was a trooper with all the walking we did), but she certainly had a say in where we ate.  Some of the meals were specifically planned for her, and we did a lot of running around to make sure she had something to eat.  At the time, I was exasperated, but in retrospect, all I can say is, “You go, girl.”

Let me hasten to add that I don’t think she did it on purpose.  She comes by her pickiness honestly as her mother is that way, too.  And, to be fair, when I went to Taiwan for the first time (I was nine), I didn’t eat much of the food, either.  That said, I know what it feels like to not have any control over your autonomy so when you do have control over something, you grab it and never let go.  My niece did try a few bites of whatever the rest of us were having, but the only thing she liked was fried bread (like dense pancakes) with green onion on them.  And ice cream.  The last night we were in Taiwan, her dinner consisted of four scoops of ice cream–two scoops of chocolate, and then, later, two scoops of mint chocolate chip.

She is already telling little lies when she knows the truth will get her in trouble that is meaningless, anyway.  I have done the same thing, and I continue to hide parts of myself from my family that I deem better off unobserved by them (which, come to think of it, is all of me).  It saddens me that at eleven, my niece is already learning that parts of herself are so unacceptable, it’s better to bury them than to allow them to shine.

Back to me (because, after all, it is my blog), and it’s all about me.

As I have established, my family does not know me, nor do they want to know me.  I got a friends request on FB from my cute, thin cousin with whom we spent the day in Taiwan.  I had told her she probably didn’t want to friend me on FB, but apparently, she did not heed my warning.  I have not added her yet because that would mean getting rid of one person (to keep my FB friends’ list steady at 69) and because, well, let’s put it this way.  She went to Taiwan to be a missionary.  I think that says enough, yes?  So for now, I haven’t added her.  I don’t know if I will.  She’s really sweet and as my niece said, “How could anyone not like _____?”

Most of my family on my mom’s side are devout Christians and pretty traditional.  Most of my family on my dad’s side are devout Buddhists and pretty traditional.  There are three cousins on my mom’s side, including me, who are not Christian nor married nor traditional.  One is gay, in polygamous relationships, and a furry.  The second is his brother and complicated in his own way.  The third is me.  We are the older cousins on that side of the family, and the deviants.  On my father’s side, every cousin but me is married.  Every cousin but me and one couple have children–and they only don’t because they couldn’t have them.

In other words, I am the freak of my father’s family, and one of three freaks on my mom’s side.

Being with my family for the past two weeks also threw me right back into my role as the baby.  I wasn’t taken seriously, and no one listened to me (except the first night when I had a meltdown about needing my space).  My brother gets some of the same treatment, but in the end, he is given more room to be himself than I am to be me.  Then again, my brother is way more mainstream than I am, so it’s not as imperative for him to tamp down his personality as it is for me.

By the end of the trip, I was thinking about killing myself every day.  I saw all the different ways I could do it, and it took all the willpower I had to not give in to the siren song.  It was especially difficult at the ocean shore because it really felt like I would be going home if I did a Virginia Woolf and walked into the waters.  My three experiences with death have let me know that the other side is peaceful–at least initially.  With so much turmoil roiling inside me on this side, it’s difficult for me to keep coming up with reasons to remain alive.

In this way, my suicidal ideation is like my parents’ view of me.  Not that they would want to kill me, of course, but in that they would rather the real me did not exist.  They want the daughter that they envision in their minds, not the flesh-and-blood one who is fraught with flaws, quirks, and is a freak and embarrassment to them.

I tried so hard to be the good daughter on this trip.  I tried to keep a lid on the snark, the swearing, the agnostic comments, and all the other things that I usually do as easily as breathing.  I kept the sexual innuendos to a bare minimum (except with the one cousin who seemed a bit more comfortable with such things), and I watched my Ps and Qs.  I kept a smile plastered to my face, and I murmured politely in Chinese or Taiwanese the few phrases I knew, despite the fact that my relatives would chuckle at me every time.  They thought it was cute, you see, that I would try to speak Chinese or Taiwanese when my knowledge was so very limited.

I was the Taiwanese doll on display (though not a Barbie, of course), but the problem was, I couldn’t quite kill off the real Minna–not completely.  She would show up in a flash of anger or snark or bitter sarcasm.  She was doing the color commentary in my head while I had the Stepford Minna mask affixed to my face.  I knew that I was getting really bad when I could no longer hear her in my head.  During my lowest moments, I felt, heard, thought nothing.  I completely checked out, and I was completely empty of anything on the inside.  In those cases, I was truly a shell of a person, running on automatic.  That scared me the most because there was no there there.

You see, I had nothing left to give.  I had nothing left to try that would appease my parents or make them leave me the fuck alone.  I had hit the proverbial wall (and sometimes, literally), and I had nothing.  No matter what I gave them, it wasn’t enough.  No matter how much I killed off the real Minna, it wasn’t enough.

Now, we reach the crux of the matter.  Yes, 1,300 words in because I’m verbose like that.  In an email, Choolie made an apt observation to me that by my living with my regrets, I was mimicking the abusive behavior my parents had displayed towards me throughout my childhood.  Nothing was good enough.  I couldn’t do enough or be enough for them.  If I got all As but one A-, you can bet it was the A- I heard about.  I never got any kudos for getting good grades because it was only expected of me.  My brother had more trouble in school, so they would reward him for getting good grades.  Me?  I got scolded if I got bad grades.  So, I deliberately got bad grades my junior year in high school in protest.  Yes, I know now that I was only hurting myself, but it was something I could actually control–my grades.

In college, I had learned my lesson well.  There was no need for my parents to pressure me because I pressured myself.  An A wasn’t good enough if I ‘only’ got 91 out of 100.  An A+ wasn’t enough because that prof gave it to me because she liked me.  A 100 wasn’t enough for the same reason–the prof who gave it to me on a test (and had never given one before, she said) only did it because she really liked me.

Soon, I was moving the goalposts on my own.  Part of it was being a perfectionist, but most of it was as a means to punish myself for every minor transgression.  No mistake was too little for me to castigate myself for it.  I would flagellate myself over and over until I figuratively (and sometimes literally) bled.

As I have said before, it’s partly about control.   If I can tick off all the things I’d done wrong, then maybe I could avoid making mistakes again in the future.

I have to be honest, though, and say that it was mostly to hurt myself.  My parents no longer needed to beat me up about stuff (though they still do, occasionally) because I am all-too-eager to do it myself.  I am far meaner to me than they are (right now, deliberately, I might add), and it’s second nature to put myself down.

I have thoughts about how worthless I am running through my head every day.  It’s worse after I spend solid time with the family.  Then, I start thinking about how my life is an embarrassment to my family, and I should kill myself to spare them the indignity of having me around (much like the saving face thing).   Everything about me just feels–wrong.  Not different–wrong.  Right now, I wish I were dead.  I know I shouldn’t and that I am better now than I have been in years, but I still do.  My head is fucked up, and I am not sure how to go about changing it.

I know that in order to live, I have to go against my lifetime of training and eschew what I have been taught by my parents.  I have to stop assaulting myself with thoughts about how fat, disgusting, ugly, broken, ruined, damaged, grotesque, and worthless I am.  When I try to change my thinking, however, it feels so very wrong.  I feel as if I’m turning my back on my family, and while I know intellectually that it’s a good thing to rebuff that kind of upbringing, I can’t shake the thought that there will be nothing left of my family once I decide to stop playing the role I was trained to play all my life.

I don’t want to be like this any more.  As comfortable as it is to follow the same patterns, in the end, it’s going to completely destroy me if I let it.  I barely made it back to the States alive after two weeks in Taiwan with my family.  Now, I have the harder task of trying to break free from the abuser that is me.  Because that abuser, like many abusers, will kill me in the end if I let him.  I am already wearing down from the constant stream of negativity he is throwing at me, and I don’t have the wherewithal to withstand it for much longer.

I am sad and tired and depressed and grieving.  I need to make a change now.

11 Responses to The Abuser–C’est Moi

  1. You know Minna,you could do all the things on your parents’ checklist of what A Good Daughter Is and it would NEVER be enough. I know this from personal experience. If people love you,they love the person you are,not the person they wish you were.

    I wouldn’t suggest you do what I had to. About 5 yrs ago my Mom caused such a huge fucking drama that I cut them off. I’d need a blog and a million words to tell the whole story,but really,it boils down to my own family talking shit about me behind my back with each other and NEVER once asking me about their “concerns”. I tried,hell my dad lived with us for awhile(new job,Mom stayed behind to sell the house),so did my sister. I was dealing with an autistic toddler at the time and neither of them lifted a finger to help or be involved. The last straw was when my mom refused to walk into my home unless I removed all the Satanic Things from the house first. Seriously. Fuck that shit. If you saw my house and the way we live,we’re so average and non threatening it’s ridiculous. I’m a grown ass woman,like I’m gonna re-arange my house and jump through hoops for someone who will NEVER be happy with who I am anyway? Um.NO.

    It’s not that easy though,it took me the better part of a decade and a million freaking humiliations to say enough. It was a process,not an immediate thing. The grief is ongoing too,especially during the holidays or my son’s birthday. It takes awhile I guess,to process a lifetime of hurt and abusive shit. You’re stronger than you know,when you figure that out,it heals much of this crap. I’d be more concerned if I didn’t feel the grief and the anger,so I let it happen,knowing that it only has the power I feed it. Doesn’t make it easy,doesn’t mean I’m done,but it’s better than before. (((hugs)))

  2. A Mom Anon, ok, first, I have to ask, what Satanic Things?

    Bypassing that, I know what you say is true. It’s part of moving the goalposts. The Ideal Daughter is a myth and unattainable. As you said, if it’s not one thing, it’s another.

    It truly saddens me what we do to each other, and oftentimes in the name of love.

    I know it’s not a one-time thing to say no, which is part of the reason I’m so depressed. It took thirty-eight years for me to fully realize how fucked up my family is. I sincerely hope it doesn’t take that long to extract myself from the dysfunction.

  3. I’m so glad to hear (okay, read) you understanding this point, Minna. I think I mentioned some time ago that, as beautiful a song as Johnny Cash’s version of “Hurt” is, listening to it over and over hurts you when it pushes you further into the gloom, and doing so is abusing yourself.

    All I can say is that if not thinking of yourself as worthless is turning your back on your family, then it’s high time you did just that. I know it’ll be hard, but even if they won’t see you as an adult, you know you are, as do the people here and elsewhere who love you.

  4. OK, Twin of mine, you know I love you muchly, so if you get mad at me for this post, you can tell me, and we’ll fight it out, and then I’ll send you a bourbon cake and you’ll love me again. =)

    It is way, way past time to hop off the crazy train. Like you said, your old habits, though clearly self-destructive, are easy to stay in. So much simpler to stay in a rut than to carve a new path, yes? Maybe simpler, but also vastly more self-destructive.

    As stupid as it may sound, tangible reminders work. That strict schedule I suggested to help your body readjust to CST? Do it. Print it out, put a copy on the fridge and one near the computer. Set an alarm clock or your cell phone if you need extra reminders. But eat (even little bits) at regular intervals. Set reasonable bedtimes. You mentioned in your other post (wish list) about becoming self-sufficient. Absolutely no reason you can’t do that. But if you wind up in a “real” job where you answer to a schedule, getting your body used to it now will alleviate the risk of a crash later if you have to do it suddenly.

    The tangible reminder works with other things too. I once challenged you to come up with ten things that are Minnalicious. And you did it. Where’s that list now? It needs to be printed out and posted on your bathroom mirror, and any other mirror in the house. When you go by the mirror, read the list. Out loud. Yes. Out loud. No, I don’t care that it sounds crazy. Raven and Shadow won’t mind.

    The people who love you want you to succeed in getting healthy this year, and every one of us believes with no doubt that you can do it. But while we can hold your hand, walk the path with you, and catch you if you stumble, we also HAVE to give you “tough love” sometimes and tell you, “Minnachick, get off your ass, buck up, and use that amazing strength that you showed by surviving everything you already have. Nothing is insurmountable if you take it in small steps. So take one…just one. And we’ll be with you for the rest of them.”

    Love you.

  5. Gregory, yeah. I should have listened to you months ago, eh? Thing is, I knew it at the time (with the JC example), but I just didn’t care. Worse, I embraced the chance to hurt myself yet again.

    I know turning my back on my training is essential to my chance at a healthy, decent life, but, damn, it hurts. And, thank you for re-posting my real theme song. I had forgotten about that. As for the second link, I thought you were gong to link to Doughy Pantload again, and I was relieved when it was Journey. I like them, so there!

    Kel, you have an odd idea about what will make me mad. You are correct in that I am the only one who can make the changes. And, that is what makes me depressed. The demons are doubling down on me following the old patterns, and even though I know your suggestions are sound ones, I have the voices in my head screaming at me to just sleep. I have the battling voice trying to set up a sleeping/eating schedule, but she keeps getting drowned out.

    Hopping off the crazy train to hang in crazy for awhile (different crazies) is so much easier said than done. Goddamn it.

  6. I know those demons are loud motherfuckers. But that’s ok. I will keep singing in your voice mail and will drown them out!

    See? SUPPORT. =)

  7. I should have listened to you months ago, eh?

    But of course. 😉

    Thing is, I knew it at the time (with the JC example), but I just didn’t care. Worse, I embraced the chance to hurt myself yet again.

    I know. You being your own abuser isn’t exactly news. The thing is, you do have the power to make yourself stop. In a way, won’t that be a victory over all the abuse you’ve suffered in your life? Hurting yourself is the only way it can continue, and making it stop will close the book on that part of your life for good.

    As for the Doughboy, that’s only for when you listen to your demons.

  8. Kel, ummmmmm…errr….thanks? Just kidding! Your Christmas songs in my VM totally cracked me up. I’ll need all the support I can get.

    Gregory, in the future, I will just ask myself, WWGD? Heh. I know what you say is true: I just have an exceedingly hard time following your advice. Abusing myself is as natural as breathing to me. I don’t have a road map in how to be nice to myself. It feels strange and wrong not to beat myself up over everything.

    As for the Doughboy, mercy rule!

  9. It won’t take you 38 years to emerge from the abuse cycle.

    You know that my relationship to my parents has some parallels. Emotional, verbal, and physical abuse, and me dutifully repeating that awful pattern in adulthood. I wasn’t the son my mother thought she was going to have, and I certainly wasn’t the right kind of daughter. I was reminded almost daily. I was an alien freak, a depraved kinkster, a ‘stupid kid’; if my mom could just kill that part of me, she could mold me to be the perfect Christian, the perfect housewife, the perfect daughter.

    You also know I’m still striving to leave behind the abusive habits that composed the only known universe of my childhood. My universe is so much bigger now, and I don’t need to crouch in my tiny hiding place any more. But I don’t really have a road map, either, and that little girl is really scared to face to cool breeze of change.

    All I can tell you is that you look much different looking in from the outside. I can see the strong, capable, beautiful person you really are. You’d be little more than the walking dead if some part of you hadn’t fought to stay alive with every fiber of her being. Keep talking about those demons, because they HATE the exposure. They’d be happy to just hang out and feed on your self-abuse.

    Kel offers excellent, realistic, small steps you can take. Every time you share your struggle, every day you choose to keep being Minna, you win a little. And that’s all you need right now.

  10. Choolie, damn right it won’t take me 38 years because I will fucking kill myself before then.

    Your first paragraph really hit home with me. You might as well have been describing my parents. It’s so sad what we humans do to each other.

    I wish I could see what you (and others) see in me. I don’t feel much more than the walking dead right now.