I am a survivor of emotional abuse and covert sexual abuse. I believe it started from the day I was born and lasted until I was 32, when I ceased all contact with my abusers. Like many survivors who never suffered from physical abuse or overt sexual abuse, it didn’t occur to me for years that what I’d gone through was abuse. I thought there was something wrong with me for feeling like my parents had let me down. It took me 38 years to finally see the truth.
My parents both came from emotionally abusive families. My grandfather on my father’s side was a difficult man who had serious self-esteem issues and lashed out at his entire family. He was, at the very least, over-critical, condescending, and verbally abusive. My father would go on to display similar abusive behaviors. My grandmother on my mother’s side was a narcissist. Everything had to be her way, and everyone else’s needs were ignored. Consequently, my mother turned into a dependent smotherer in an attempt to be as unlike her own mother as possible.
I also believe both of my parents suffer from psychological problems. My father displays the problems of someone with a personality disorder, though he has never been officially diagnosed. He’s always been rigid, had difficulties dealing with people, and had a distorted view of reality. My mother may also have a personality disorder, or she may have a mood disorder. She’s completely ruled by her emotions and also has always had a distorted view of reality.
I was never the sort of daughter they wanted me to be–gregarious, sacrificial, and devoted to them to the point of dependency. But they clung to the belief that this is how I must be, and anything I did that deviated from it was just plain wrong. As a child and young adult, I was an obedient puppet who did whatever I could to prevent conflicts with my controlling family. That was how I coped but also how I let myself down. It’s as accurate to say that I would not fight back as it is to say I could not fight back.
I was depressed and suicidal throughout my teen and young adult years. I resorted sometimes to self-injury. I spent most of my time fantasizing about a happy life without my family. They, in turn, thought I was abnormal and couldn’t understand why I wasn’t doing the things they expected me to do, like get married, have kids, establish myself in a convenient position in some reputable company, and above all, devote myself to their needs.
When I was 32 years old, I ceased contact with my family. I can’t really explain what drove me to take such a drastic step because I didn’t really understand what had been going on in my family since the day I was born. I just knew that if I ever wanted to live a meaningful life, one that truly belonged to me and not to someone that my family had created, it had to be away from them. I can honestly say that it saved my sanity.
In the spring of 2008, I came out of a kind of meltdown in my life. I did a lot of reflecting on my past and finally used a word to describe it that I’d been avoiding–abuse. Abuse is a tough word to use when we’re talking about something that leaves no physical scars. Even when we’re constantly being controlled, manipulated, ridiculed, and shamed, it’s still tough to think of it as abuse.
In the fall of 2012, my mother, who had been pursuing me through private detectives over a period of 10 years, nearly showed up at my doorstep. She was only stopped by my sister, who by then had better awareness of the destructiveness that had gone on in our family. Because she’s the only member of my family who understands emotional abuse, I’ve re-established a connection with her. She’s constantly confirming what I’ve always suspected and what is, unfortunately, a common situation–my abusers have not changed and likely never will.
I’m in a different place now than I was when I began my healing. I went through a few years where I was both very angry at my abusers and torn over the possibility of establishing a relationship with them again. By the time my abusive mother tried to force me back into her life, I had made peace with the fact that it would be a toxic thing to do. I was no longer angry over the past. I understood that their behavior came from a history of emotional abuse and their psychological problems. My decision to keep my distance from them was in order to take myself out of the path of abuse.
I’ve come to believe that we’re given our experiences for a reason. Contrary to what a lot of people assume about abuse survivors, we don’t enjoy staying angry or seek to blame our problems on our abusers. We seek healing. Healing begins with validation, and I’ve found that when the abuse is non-physical, lack of validation is the biggest obstacle to healing. The second biggest obstacle is where to go from there. That’s what this site is for.
More About Rainbow
Rainbow Gryphon: This is my personal site where I share my healing journey, my creative work, and other topics of interest to me. If you’d like to know more about me personally then this is the place to go.