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Re: ... and another story (long) leeran

Posted by wendy b. on April 26, 2003, at 13:42:32

In reply to Re: pax........ justyourlaugh, posted by leeran on April 26, 2003, at 1:23:35

> What came through in my post was my extreme anger - but what didn't come through as well is how much I love her. Of course, that is why I'm so conflicted. Mental illness runs in our family. Her grandfather hanged himself in the barn. I think with each generation it's been diluted somewhat, but I want to stress...

{Warning - to those who might have a trigger effect over abuse issues - you might not want to read this.}


You have been very brave, here. This thread has been incredibly moving to me. Most people will never have a moment of truth like that, where it becomes crystal clear enough to write about what you have. I think writing is incredibly cathartic, and that this forum is great that way - I find "chats" more difficult, and don't participate in them, because what you are doing (what I often do), is write something and save it in another program (I have a whole MSWord file of un-sent babble posts, or early thoughts on posts I have sent). And then you think about it some more, edit it, and then you post. But I save my "working it out" stuff anyway, because, well... I save a lot of s___, heh, heh. Also posts by others that have meant a lot to me are in there too, as many of them in this thread will be saved. So writing, hanging on to it, and then modifying it, and then posting is a great method of "figuring things out," because you then get TIME to think, but then also the generosity of other people's words of empathy and wisdom, like the "sensitives," the people who have posted here (not the least, Pax, who is the kindest guy in the world, that's why he's waited this long to broach this issue of his wife - he cries at your inner-child post, Lee, because he has his daughter in mind before anything else- I love him for that).

But Lee, your post gets me, because not only is it useful to Pax, helps him clarify his thinking, it is also so revealing of the child's vulnerability to the adults in her life. Like you kept waiting for the adults to start acting like adults: take care of this for me, so I don't have to live in terror all the time. And the results when that doesn't happen are so sad, and so clear. You really painted a haunting self-portrait of what that was like for a child, thank you.

Now for the heavy part (I've been in therapy a long time, so have worked on it...)
I was very badly neglected both emotionally and physically... I always have to issue a caveat at this point in the story (why? cuz I'm a guilty woman): that other people have had it MUCH MUCH worse than I ever had. So I'm not psychotic. My mother never went into the basement for a week, but your post says to me: she might as well have, because when I think back over my childhood, there are times when I *feel as though* I didn't see her or feel her presence at all. And she had her reasons (they all have their reasons) - an emotionally neglectful mother the biggest one. But as a young woman, she also had no husband and no father for her four children. This coincided with the first five years of my life; my father was a drunk who would come around, get my mother pregnant, and then disappear again, and she always took him back, or at least - *I* was the product of the last time she took him back, and after that, no more. [Now how's that for a self-esteem issue? thinking you're the product of what was essentially a rape?] And my parents were the children of solid middle-class, working people, Catholics all (hence the incapacity/inability to think about birth-control). But they weren't uninformed or uneducated people...

So she had to work outside the home in a time where this just "wasn't done," and her guilt was enormous (this is the definition of love to me, as a child: you are loved when someone feels guilty over you... how messed up is that?) And there was a long stream of housekeeper-child minders, these black ladies were cheap enough in those days that my mother could afford them, even at her salary and the cost of raising four kids. How she did this, I will never know (I am a single parent, but only have one!). But these ladies, god bless them, truly - were not really looking after me, they were washing and ironing the clothes, they were cooking a meal, they were washing the floor. My siblings were older than I was, and were in school during the day, so I was alone a lot. I was 3 or 4. Fairly often, I would go take myself on walks, and "get lost," i.e. - walk away from the apartment complex and find myself in neighborhoods I didn't know, go up to the door of a house that I thought looked "nice" (in other words, one nicer than mine with a mommy and a daddy and 2 kids and a dog?), ring the doorbell, the police would be called, and they'd put me in the back of their cruiser, give me candy, and take me back home. Of course I could recite my address perfectly, as I was schooled to do. I would get back home, courtesy of the nice policemen, there would be much rejoicing and celebrating, and at least I had got a response... right?

The worst thing about the neglect was that others noticed that I was often not being watched, and one person in particular - the teenage babysitter's older sister - took advantage in a very nasty way. She would take me to their house, to her room, put me in her closet (!), and make me come out in "unusual" costumes, and then have me perform oral sex on her. Yes, indeed. At the tender age of 3 or 4, I found out there was evil in the world. And I couldn't figure out why she was making me do this, what the hell did I know about oral sex? I was a baby. But I still remember the taste of urine in my mouth... I felt afraid enough to just do what she asked me to do, and hope to get out of there as fast as I could. And this didn't happen just once or twice, it was ongoing for a while, at least until I figured out I shouldn't hang around on the sidewalk for too long, it was safer inside? Something like that... And of course, I never told my mother, because... why? I must have somehow blamed myself, or I was threatened, but I don't remember my thought process... I just didn't tell. Which, as we know now, is typical enough of children who've been abused.

But, Lee, as you say: every generation of paents does try to do better, and I think they do. I made a lot of promises to myself about childrearing. "When I have kids, I will never ______ ," you know - whatever - fill in the blank with a hundred things. As a mother myself, I think about the precautions we take now with our kids. When my daughter was an infant and a toddler, I NEVER let her out of my sight, and even though I had to work when she was little, I always made sure it was at a daycare where I KNEW she would never be out of anyone's sight. I could walk into this Montessori daycare place at ANY time of the day, and verify that (which I did, of course: "Oh, I just came over to have lunch" with my little girl, or arrive early, or just observe as all the parents were invited to do). And I think now: how the HELL was I allowed to be alone for so much of the time? What was my mother thinking? I know times were different 40 years ago, nobody talked about things like child abuse or child kidnapping, or murder... But, jesus, when I think about what COULD have happened to me, it's scary. And so I have watched my daughter like a mother lion, I was not going to be the same as my mother on that point. And my daughter has grown into a beautiful, confident, loving person who is a joy to be around. At 11, it's not over yet by a long shot, and the teen years (god help me!) are just around the bend, but, she has had a good start, and I think she has a good head on her shoulders for the inevitable "sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll" issues that will come up.

Like you, I love my mother too, don't get me wrong. She has always been a generous, loving person. I always felt loved. And she is smart and funny and beautiful. She has faced a lot of her demons, including her own deprssion (she's been on Celexa for a while), and she is doing much much better. Our relationship has changed A LOT, and for the better, but it's been a long process. She knows about my bipolar, and my meds, and she tries to even read up on it and she's sympathetic. As I am to her. It's been a long road, and I have never told her about the teenager who abused me (what purpose would that serve, except to make her feel horrible?), but we are in a much better place.

Lee, I don't know how you can say your post is full of anger...? "What came through in my post was my extreme anger - " Like me, you're essentially narrating the facts, horrible as they are, and narrating them honestly, without amplifying them or being cruel. The thing that always gets me in the narratives of child abuse, is how much we're still trying to protect them. My narrative included, with its caveats. But the tendency is to think "I'm bad for saying Mommy and Daddy were mean," when it's in fact they who were bad, not us. So I think protecting them is normal, but revealing yourself to others - but more importantly, to yourself - is such progress! Because this is the process: naming your experience for what it is, calling things by their real names, so that the healing can begin. You were not and ARE not a bad girl for saying that you were abused and neglected. You were HURT by your parents, the people who were supposed to love and care for you, and you still hurt over that. And now you see you can't hold onto it any longer. THAT is a wonderful thing. And YOU made it happen, made the leap into another stage of your life, I know it. And your posts are something to print out and take to a therapist, yes, as a way to start a conversation about how it all began. Your narrative is important, has meaning. By sharing it, you have helped yourself and others - a gift you have shown us many times since you started writing here. I look forward to more.

Thanks for listening, too,


ps: Your husband is right about the meds, you take them so your brain stops functioning the same way it always did toward outside stressors, and then you can be ready for talk-therapy, because the meds are essentially making you more open to other ways of coping (I'm phrasing this badly) - your man sounds like a wonderful person, and I'm so glad you have him and his unconditional love.




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