Compliments

I have a hard time accepting compliments.

When I say I have a hard time, I mean I have a really, really hard time.

The topic came up in therapy on Thursday. My therapist gave me a compliment and I just started deflecting it in any way I could. I had just done the same to a friend earlier that day. I told my therapist about it, and of course she wanted to delve deeper into why I had so much trouble with them.

It’s not that I’m not used to receiving compliments. I’ve received them all of my life, for varying reasons. It was something else entirely.

As my therapist started questioning, I started thinking back and connecting the dots. I started remembering things I thought I had pushed down deep and far away. Things I did not want to remember.

So much was going on in my mind, and it must have shown on the outside. My therapist asked what was going on; my whole demeanor had changed. I didn’t want to talk. I didn’t want to say all of the shit that was going on in my head. I wanted to feel, but I didn’t even know what to feel.

“My mother gets mad when people say nice things about me. She yells a lot.”

It’s something I dealt with my whole life. If it was something she couldn’t take credit for, or if it was something that took the attention off of her, my mother would get angry and I would end up in trouble. When someone would compliment my hair or my looks, my mother did what she could to make me ugly. When someone pointed out how smart I was, I was accused of thinking I was smarter and better than her, and I’d get knocked back into place.

As I sat there, muddling through the shit going on in my head, I started to dig my nail into the skin between my thumb and forefinger. I didn’t even realize I was doing it at first. After a few minutes, my therapist noticed and asked me to stop. But I couldn’t. I had the strongest urge to hurt. I needed to feel pain.

Eventually I pried my hands apart and sat on them, hoping it would stop the urge. I told my therapist that I needed to hurt. It was almost instinctive.

I sat there, awkwardly sitting on my hands, half listening to my therapist and half talking to myself in my head. I couldn’t focus. I wanted to cry. I wanted to scream. I wanted to hurt something.

I tried to listen as my therapist talked about why I could have been needing to hurt. But nothing she said was making sense. I didn’t need to hurt because I felt like I deserved it. I needed to hurt because that’s what I associated with compliments. I needed to hurt because that’s what my mother did to me.

I finally found the strength to mutter out the words “mom hurts.” My therapist asked if I meant what I meant, that my mother hurt me, and I told her yes. I told her some of what happened. And then I started to cry, because I realized just how much the shit my mother had done had affected me.

Of all the things my mother had already taken away from me as a child, she took away the good words people had offered me. She took away any opportunity I had to take in others’ positivity. She turned what should have been happiness into pain.

Pain became a conditioned response. I experienced my mother’s narcissistic rage so often that I just automatically associated compliments and positive comments with the pain and hurt that she inflicted on me. Even in her absence, I am continuing the same response I’ve always had. Except now I am the one inflicting the pain.

I tried to pull myself back together and stop crying. I felt ashamed for crying over something I should have known better about. But I wasn’t crying entirely because of that. I was crying out of grief. Just when I thought my mother couldn’t take any more from me than she already had, she struck again.

I was crying for the little girl who couldn’t feel good about anything. I was crying for the little girl who had to shy away and not be noticed for fear that she would be hurt.

I was crying for me.

Father’s Day

I went to the card shop the other day to pick out a card for my father for Father’s Day. I did the same thing on Mother’s Day, so I figured it wouldn’t hurt to do it again.

After a few minutes of reading the fronts of several cards, I picked up one that instantly made me cry. There were so many people around and I couldn’t stop crying, so I bolted out of the store empty-handed.

I sat with my thoughts outside for a bit, gathered up my strength, and went back into the store to buy that card.

Over the next two days, I wrote everything I had wanted to say to my father in that card. It was more difficult writing to him than it was to my mother. With my mother, I have consistently held the same feelings towards her for a long time. It’s been different for my father. For a long time, I held on to hope that he was better, and only recently did I lose that in him.

As I was writing, I went from feeling confusion, to sadness, to anger. I filled up the card until there was no space left to write. I didn’t read it over again; I was afraid of being emotionally overwhelmed. So I put the card back in its envelope and it sat in my backpack until therapy this morning.

I told my therapist about the card. She asked if it would be helpful to talk about it. I didn’t want to at first, because I didn’t want to go through the emotions again. I didn’t want to cry. But my therapist reassured me that crying was okay, and that crying can be helpful.

My therapist asked if there was a reason I chose that particular card. I read what it said on the cover: No matter how small you were – when Dad said, “I love you, kid,” you’d feel bigger than the sky. I started crying as I read it. They were tears of grief, the loss of something I never had. I never had that experience of feeling bigger than the sky. I never had that experience of a loving father. I wanted it so desperately; I wanted to be the kid on the cover of this card.

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After I composed myself, I read the card out loud.

Daddy,

I don’t know where I went wrong. I don’t know what I ever did for you not to love me. You never once said those words to me. You never once showed that you cared about me. I should have been daddy’s little girl, and instead I was your big mistake.

Why didn’t you protect me? Fathers are supposed to protect their children, and keep them from harm. But you didn’t. You threw me right into the fire, and left me to burn.

You knew what mom was doing and you did nothing to stop it. I understand that she is your wife, but I was your child. I didn’t have a say. I couldn’t stop her. But you could have, so many times you could have. You didn’t. You let her destroy my childhood, you let her hurt me day in and day out. And you helped her do it.

I grew up thinking that all feathers hit their children, that was just normal. I held on to hope that you were just doing what fathers do. Then I realized that’s not what being a father is, that’s not what loving your child is. Were you ever a father?

I know you worked hard, and maybe you didn’t know what she was doing while you were gone. But that’s just the lie that I told myself because I wanted to believe you had a shred of decency inside you somewhere. I think you knew everything. You knew all along. But I guess you just didn’t care about me enough for it to matter.

I can forgive you for hurting me with your fists. I can forgive you horrible things you told me my whole life. I can’t forgive you for not protecting me from my mother.

I was relieved when you got sick. As horrible as that sounds, you lost your strength to hurt me. I watched you slowly lose your strength, your heart, and your will to live. You wanted to give up because you couldn’t tolerate being in pain. Yet you made me live in pain every day of my life. You appeared strong all that time, but you were always weak. You preyed on your own children because they were the only ones weaker than you.

I watched you wither away. I stood aside as your wife abandoned you, as she put her own son in your place. You were no longer of use to her, so she put you off to the side and treated you like garbage…treated you the same way you both treated me. I thought for once you would see how it felt to be unwanted, to be told you were a burden, to be treated like you were worthless. But it didn’t seem to affect you at all.

Unlike my mother, I cared for you. I made sure you had what you needed. I made sure you had money because your wife continued to take everything from you and you were too weak to stand against her. I watched as she hit you in her fits of rage, exactly like you used to do to me. And you sat there and took it without fighting back. You always let her win.

I felt horrible leaving you behind. I didn’t know what was going to happen to you. And then I found out that you didn’t even care that I left. Your only concern was moving all of my stuff out so you could have my room. You replaced me, without a thought, you replaced me. I was just there taking up space, and now you had your space back. My existence didn’t matter to you. Now you don’t even speak of me. You go about your last days of life as if you didn’t have a daughter. You erased me.

But you know what? I can’t erase you. I can’t erase the shit you did to me. I can’t erase the memories. I can’t erase the fear you instilled in me. I can’t erase the feel of my head hitting the wall that night you broke me forever. The bruises are gone, but the marks you’ve left behind on my heart and mind will never fade away. I can’t erase any of that. I have to live with it all, every hour of every day.

You’re lucky you get to die soon. Your pain will end. You get it easy. I’m here, left on earth, to pick up the pieces of the shattered mess you and your wife left behind.

You were never a father. Fathers don’t do what you’ve done. You’re a weak man, and a pitiful excuse for a human being. I can’t love you anymore.

I had to stop twice while reading to wipe away the tears. By the time I finished reading, I completely broke down. It was the first time I had processed everything I was feeling all at once. And I just let it all out.

My father will never read my card, because I will never send it. My words will never matter to him; they never did before. But I will hold on to this, just as I have held on to the card I wrote to my mother last month. They are reminders of where I came from, and where I’ve ended up.

PAFPAC blog

I have created a separate blog for PAFPAC: pafpacorg.wordpress.com

From now on, any PAFPAC-related posts will be on that blog, in order to separate my professional identity from my personal story.

I will also be focusing more on posting about female-perpetrated abuse there: facts and figures, research, education, etc.

I would also consider sharing blogs and posts from survivors who would like to be featured on PAFPAC’s blog.

(I will be deleting this post in a few days).

I didn’t drink the Kool-Aid

My mother would have made a brilliant cult leader.

I say that half in jest, and half in all seriousness.

When you think about it, my mother already has her own cult. It may be small, it may only consist of some family members and those around her, but it has the dynamics of a cult nonetheless. Her followers do her bidding, no matter how out there her requests and teachings may be. She gets them to leech on to her as if she was their only remaining source of life. By some miracle, I managed not to become a member in my mother’s cult.

Today’s therapy session was mostly about my feelings of guilt concerning my brother. I realized, thanks to my therapist, that these feelings of guilt were the result of my mother’s programming. My mother ingrained in me a sense of responsibility for everything bad that ever happened, even the things that had nothing to do with me.

My therapist is already well aware of the differences between my brother and I, despite the fact that we both experienced some of the same abuse and trauma growing up. While I distanced myself from my mother as best as I could, my brother did the exact opposite; he was drawn to her. My therapist reminded me that even though our approaches were quite different, my brother and I were working towards the same goal: keeping ourselves safe, and not “poking the bear” that was/is my mother.

In the middle of our discussion, my therapist told me “you’re here because you didn’t drink the Kool-Aid.” She was right. I didn’t drink it. But my brother did. And as a result, he is stuck with her, physically, emotionally, and financially. He is so deeply brainwashed that I don’t think there is a chance for him to ever get free. I can’t change him. I can’t save him. He’s been drinking my mother’s Kool-Aid for so long that it’s in his blood. Even though he has brief moments of clarity, moments where he feels fear of her, it’s not enough to break free. He has always, and will always, report back to his leader.

My therapist asked me if there was a way my brother could ever be free. My immediate thought, which I said out loud, was when my mother finally dies. But as I thought about it, not even her death would help him. It may even damage him further. They are so enmeshed that I’m not sure he could survive without her. I have hope that he can, but I’m also realistically doubtful.

“It’s remarkable that you came out of this the way you did. You developed empathy in an environment where there was no empathy, you learned how to feel even though you were punished for feeling.” My therapist was right. But that very fact is why I often doubt my own experiences. How did I end up halfway decent of a person? How am I able to function? It doesn’t make any sense.

And then I look at my brother, a man so badly damaged, so unable to control his anger, living his life as a puppet with my mother as his master puppeteer. Although he experienced much less brutal abuse than I had, he is suffering nonetheless.

We are a perfect example of nature versus nurture. There is likely something in my wiring, something in the way my brain works, that allowed me to respond to my life experiences in the way that I did…something very different from how my brother’s brain is wired. These differences allowed me to survive and eventually to live a free life. While my brother is technically surviving, he’s not really living at all.

I used to be so envious of my brother. Now I see that my mother treated him differently in order to keep him in her favor. She needed a member, and my mother knew early on that I was too resistant, too obstinate, too strong-willed to succumb to her ways. My brother, however, was too easily swayed, too willing to follow, too blind to see reality – he was the perfect candidate. And my mother groomed him so perfectly that now, as a man in his mid-to-late thirties, he knows nothing other than what comes out of my mother’s mouth. I would never want his life. It’s not a life at all.

He drank the Kool-Aid. I didn’t.

 

My mother, the sociopath

I’ve been having a rough time this week.

Tomorrow is my mother’s birthday, and a milestone birthday at that. I’ve had a lot of mixed emotions about it.

Birthdays are the most important holidays for narcissists; my mother was no exception. She believed she deserved the world every day, but even more so on her birthday. I always dreaded that day. I dreaded the obligation to get her a gift, and a gift that met her approval. I dreaded when she didn’t get what she wanted and went on a rampage.

And even though this is the first time that I don’t have to deal with her birthday bullshit, I’m still going through the same emotions as if I did. I’m also angry that she is still breathing. She’s still going on with life as if nothing ever happened, as if she never hurt anyone. She has blown out her candles every year and made her self-centered wishes, while I had spent the last 18 years wishing for my death. It’s not fair.

I hesitantly brought up my feelings in therapy yesterday. A part of me wanted so badly to cry, but another part was strongly resisting, leaving me in an uncomfortable position of feeling emotions on the inside but being unable to express them on the outside. But at least I had feelings.

My therapist then brought up my mother’s complete lack of emotion and feeling. My mother has never felt remorse, guilt, or empathy. But, as my therapist brought up, my mother has also never felt happiness or joy, she has never experienced laughter or love. I never thought of it that way, but my therapist was right. While my mother lacks all negative emotions, she also lacks the positive ones. She will never experience genuine positive feelings. She can’t. She’s a sociopath.

My mother can’t feel anything. Her emotional expressions, when they do occur, aren’t genuine. She can’t maintain any real relationships with people because she can’t connect on any meaningful level with another human being. She is aggressive and volatile, flying into fits of rage whenever she doesn’t get her way. She is impulsive, and acts without thinking. She has no empathy; she doesn’t even understand what empathy is. She manipulates everyone around her to serve her own purpose. And she lies. About everything. She would make the most blatantly incorrect statement and not care who went against her, because she believed that she was right.

My mother has no regard for right and wrong. She neglects and abuses animals, she abused (and likely continues to abuse) her own children and others, and continues to do whatever she wants without regard to legality or morality. She would often refuse to pay her bills and believed she was above any consequences. She didn’t understand why our electricity was cut off when she hadn’t paid the bill in months. The rules never applied to her. They still don’t.

I knew my mother was a sociopath as soon as I learned what antisocial personality disorder was. She fit nearly every criteria. Even worse, she is a narcissistic sociopath, a double whammy. She will never realize her defect. She will never get help. There is no help for people like her.

I struggle with what I want to do with this knowledge. A part of me wants to understand my mother and why she does the things she does. But I also don’t want her personality defect to become an excuse for her behavior.

I should be grateful I don’t have to deal with her anymore, but it’s not that easy. My therapist said that while I escaped the physical prison my mother created, I’m still inside the walls of the emotional prison she made through her programming. Those walls will take longer to tear down. I am free without being free.

My therapist suggested that I should celebrate myself tomorrow. I shouldn’t make it a day about my mother, but make it a day to celebrate me and everything I’ve done. Bake a cake, do something special. I told her I had homework to do, but she said that wouldn’t take the whole day.

I can’t get away with anything with that woman.

I was wronged.

In November 2014, my nurse practitioner called an ambulance to her office to have me escorted to the hospital for suicidal ideation. No one in my family was told the real reason why I was going – I said I was having tests done and to please leave me alone. Despite my mother’s endless calls to the office to find out information, my nurse practitioner revealed nothing. It made my mother so angry that she actually became threatening. Fortunately, my nurse practitioner knew that my mother was my abuser and saw right through her bullshit and kept my privacy intact.

My experience in the hospital, however, was a different story. Before I even made it to the psychiatric floor, my mother already knew I was admitted to the hospital and to which exact psychiatric unit. She had already placed several calls before I even got there. I did not want my family to know where I was. I needed to feel safe more than ever, and that was taken away from me.

My mother continued to call the hospital dozens of times a day, despite my outright denial to speak to her. Some of the nurses provided her with information on my status. This was after I made it clear that I wanted my family to have no information about me. I was 28 years old and a fully capable adult. My emergency contact was someone who maintained no contact with my family, and I instructed the staff that any issues concerning my care should go through that person and no one else. The social workers and nurses were aware that my mother was my abuser – I was open about that during our initial meeting the day after I was admitted. Yet still, my mother was allowed to call and allowed to gather information about me. The hospital would not release me unless my parents picked me up. They literally sent me right back into the hands of my abusers.

The same issues (and then some) occurred in my subsequent hospitalizations. The second time I was hospitalized, I admitted myself. I took a cab to the emergency room after work without telling anyone where I was going. As I laid on a bed in the hallway of the ER, I saw my parents approaching the front desk. I started to panic and asked the watcher if I could hide, but obviously I couldn’t. Within minutes, I saw my mother approaching my bed from the other side of the hallway. I turned towards the wall and hid myself in the sheet, refusing to talk, and struggling to catch my breath from the panic attack I was having. My parents continued to talk and I continued to ignore them, banging my head against the wall to make them go away. After a few minutes, I felt the anger in my father’s voice when he told me “I don’t know why you are doing this to us” and then walked away.

During that whole time, I just wanted someone to make them go away. Why did they tell my parents where I was in the first place? Why did I have no right to privacy or confidentiality? I wanted the watcher or the nurse to see my panic, to sense my pain, but no one noticed. Once again, when I needed to feel safe, that was taken away from me.

As my second hospitalization ended, I was released at night and the nurse called a taxi so I could get home. Freedom. I contemplated going to a motel, but I still had so much fear inside and ended up going home. As I walked up the last landing before our apartment, I could hear my parents arguing. Apparently my mother found out that I left during one of her many calls. My parents were furious. I could hear my father screaming that there would be no more secrets in his house. There was so much irony in that statement, since my whole existence and our family’s existence was built on secrets. He just didn’t like it when HE didn’t know something.

I knew as I unlocked the door that night, that I would be walking into a shitstorm. I wish so badly I would have gone to a hotel instead. I wonder if I would have been able to escape the pain and the heartbreak that continued for months after until I finally moved away. I wonder if I could have avoided that third hospitalization had I just not gone home that night and ran away forever.

I feel like I was wronged. The hospital continually violated my privacy and put me at risk by allowing my abusers access to me and to my information. Why is there an automatic assumption that, because someone is family, that he or she is a safe person and should be given access to information? Something isn’t right here, and I can’t be the only one who this has happened to.

If I was a minor when I was hospitalized, my mother would have never been given access once I revealed her as my abuser. People don’t realize that child abuse continues into adulthood. They didn’t see the severity of my situation. They only made it worse by handing me right back over to them, again and again. I will admit, my social worker was concerned about sending me back to them – but her hands were tied. There is no help for adult victims of continued child abuse. We continue to be abused by our families as well as the system.

I’ve been failed. We’ve been failed. Something needs to change.

Pardon me while I rant

There’s been a story going around on social media about a woman who makes her son take her out on a dinner date and pay as a way of showing her son how to treat a woman.

The story bothers me for a few reasons. One, I don’t think it’s right to impose expectations of sexuality on a young child. She is telling her son he has to grow up and take women out on proper dates. What if he doesn’t want to date women? What if he is gay, or even asexual? She’s not giving him that option; only that he must date women and treat them this certain way.

I could go on. But what bothers me the most about this story (and others) is that focus is centered on teaching boys how to respect women. We don’t teach girls how to respect men. Instead, we teach them what to expect from a man, as if they deserve something greater just for being female. Respect is not gender-specific. We should be teaching children to respect other people, regardless of their gender.

Most people ignore the fact that just as many women perpetrate domestic violence against men as men do against women. Or they say that men are stronger, so their violence is obviously much worse than what a woman could do.

This sentiment makes me want to put my head through a wall. Yes, I’ll agree that in general, men have the capacity to be physically stronger because they can develop more muscle mass. It doesn’t mean they all are. And it doesn’t mean that women are weak little creatures that couldn’t hurt a soul. I can easily overpower most of the men I come into contact with on a regular basis, and I (unfortunately) have before.

I watched my mother beat my father. I watched her hit my brother. I, too, was a target of her violence more times than I could count. It doesn’t take much strength to stab someone, to set them on fire, to beat them with a hammer, or to shoot them with a gun. My mother used her hands, paddles, pans, or even rolled up magazines if she was desperate (though those were mostly for beating the cats and the occasional whack to the face). She wasn’t gentle. She caused damage. My mother is not a fit person by any means. She hadn’t exercised in all the years I knew her. But she hurt. Just as badly as any man would hurt. Angry people like her find strength wherever they can pull it from. She didn’t need a penis.

Outside of my family, I’ve come to know many male victims of female-perpetrated violence. Very few of them ever admit in public what happened to them. Why? Because of that sentiment I mentioned earlier. Men are strong. You can take it. It was a woman. It couldn’t have been that bad. Suck it up. You’re just a wuss. Meanwhile they suffer in silence, not only from the physical damage, but from the psychological damage initially caused by the female attacker and perpetuated by society’s gender-biased views.

This exact sentiment and attitude pours over into female-perpetrated sexual abuse. It was a woman? It couldn’t have been that bad! I bet you enjoyed it! She was probably gentle. Women don’t do that. You just misunderstood. It couldn’t have hurt. You should feel lucky. I could go on, but I don’t have to. If you don’t get it by now, you won’t get it at all.

I can only speak of my own hurt from my experiences opening up about the abuse from my mother. Some therapists ignored it entirely. Other therapists outright denied my experiences as abuse. “She’s your mom and she cares about you, you’re just misunderstanding everything.” Yep. That’s it. I just misunderstood. All mothers should bathe their children into double digits and have special nighttime sessions. My bad. If I said it was a man doing it, or my father, EVERYONE would say “that’s abuse!” before I’d even finish my sentence. But for some reason, when a woman is involved, people automatically jump to the gentle, nurturing view of women and deny the legitimacy of the abuse. It was aggravating, disheartening, and saddening to have my reality denied by other people for years. I can’t even begin to imagine how others, including men, feel when their experiences are denied.

Woman continue to get away with domestic violence and abuse because of the attitude that women are weaker, more gentle, and less violent. I am telling you now that women are just as fucked up as men are. Stop letting women get away with crimes that any man would be imprisoned for years for. Stop making victims feel ashamed for being victims of :gasp: a woman. It happens. Let’s acknowledge it. Let’s deal with it accordingly. Because if we continue to teach girls what to expect from others, they will continue to feel entitled to things they don’t necessarily deserve. And if we don’t teach boys AND girls respect, women will continue to think they can get away with whatever they want to because they are a woman.

Perhaps I should have been a man, because women are going to hate me for this and see me as anti-woman. I am not. I am for equality.

PAFPAC Support Forum

The PAFPAC support forum for survivors of female-perpetrated abuses is up and running. There are a few members, but no one is really comfortable with posting yet. If you are a survivor of any type of female-perpetrated abuse, please consider joining the PAFPAC Support Forum.

It is a private forum, so you will need to ‘apply’ – I receive a notification and can approve you the same day. This is so members feel more comfortable sharing and it helps weed out people who may be there for the wrong reasons. The forum is really for anything, not just talk about abuse, but also healing and everyday struggles.

If you or anyone you know can benefit, please pass on the information.

Thank you.