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.