Proceed with Caution

One of the great challenges for those who have survived abusive and neglectful parents is that there is often a part of us that is still waiting for them to love us, even if there is very little chance of that happening. Locked in an archaic mindset, we continue to go back for more, looking for love in all the wrong places. Somehow we imagine that they will come around one day, realize their mistakes, see our worth, soften those armored edges. And some do, often when they are very old, made vulnerable by sickness and time. But many don’t, and we need to stop putting our emotional lives on hold waiting for something that may never happen. The bridge from stagnation to empowerment lies in our willingness to see them for who they really are, to take them off their primal pedestal and recognize their human limitations. This is not easy- the hungry child self clings to illusions- but it is oh so necessary. Until we accept the reality of who can’t love us, we cannot embrace the love of those who can. By Jeff Brown soulshaping

 I read this short article from Jeff Brown this morning and the timing couldn’t be more perfect. I grew up in an abusive and neglectful household. I had everything that I needed except for the critical necessities for healthy development, safety, security, unconditional love, and attachment. I grew up in a constant state of fear and anxiety.

Recently, both of my parents have been experiencing serious health issues. I have been busy helping both of them and my anxiety level is through the roof and my PTSD is being triggered constantly. Boundaries that I have set have been broken, and yesterday I lost it, whatever “it” is. I went to pick my dad up from the hospital and there was an accident on the freeway so I ended up being quite delayed. I was triggered, knowing that my dad would most likely lose his shit about my tardiness. Sure enough, people (the hospital, my brother) began calling me inquiring about where I was. Are you kidding me? Yeah, I actually just lied and told my dad I would pick him up and then decided not to come. Haha, wouldn’t that be funny? What really happened is, I cried. I was scared. Then I got mad at myself for crying. Then I sabotaged my dad’s anger by beating him to the rage meltdown. The moment I saw him at the hospital, I started yelling about the traffic and difficulty I had in actually finding him in the hospital. OMG! I was him. And it worked! It shut him right up. But it didn’t stop my shaking fear. I couldn’t run to my room and close the door. I had to sit in the car with the monster that haunts my days and nights.

The worst part of this is that I let him change the person I am. I am so disappointed and embarrassed at myself. The other worst part of this is that I got nothing else from him except for more feelings of inadequacy and rejection. I guess at least, he didn’t start yelling at me, so there’s that. I had also stopped at the store to buy him a microwave dinner, some hot dogs and sandwich meat so that he would have an easy meal. Did he thank me? No, he complained, it wasn’t the right brand. I also set up a medical alert system for my mom so that she would have it ready when she comes home from the rehab facility. Did he thank me? No, he complained about the whopping $30.00 per month that that would cost him. The night that he was in the hospital, I stayed overnight at their house to take care of their dog that hasn’t eaten for weeks since my mom has been in the rehab facility. I finally got him to eat some sandwich meat but unfortunately, he threw it up. Did my dad thank me for staying the night and getting the dog to eat? No, he complained about the barf on the carpet. And did I mention that I am doing all of this while I am sick with a bronchial infection? Yeah, a thank you would have been nice.

My parents are elderly. But they have not been made vulnerable by sickness and time. I know they will never change. I have talked with them about all of my issues with our relationship, or lack there of. I help them out of a sense of obligation. I always have. My brother just recently began helping whereas he used to completely distance himself from them. I was incredibly jealous of his ability to just ignore them. It was my dream. They are so grateful that he has finally come back around and started being in their lives that they have entirely forgotten that I have been the one helping them for years. Or, more likely, it wouldn’t matter anyway. I know that if he had been the one taking on this latest gig, he would have gotten nothing but thanks and gratitude and I would get to hear about what a wonderful son he is. He is somehow their Knight in Shining Armor, while I remain the shit they wipe from their shoes. He was also the object of the physical abuse, while I was the “good girl” who did all the right things in order to avoid being beaten. But, whatever, Knights save the day, no matter if their armor is dented. Obviously, I still have some delusional expectation that they will appreciate me. I keep getting sucked back in to the dysfunction. I am most definitely “locked in an archaic mindset.”

Today, I accept the realty that they will never be able to give me what they should have given me my entire life. Today, I am choosing me. I am adding an extra layer of cement around my boundaries and painting my side with bright “proceed with caution” yellow. And I might just add a “fuck you” proclamation to the other side.

 

 

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30 thoughts on “Proceed with Caution

  1. I hope you got a nice break from them over the weekend. My parents were neglectful and emotionally unavailable as well. Anger and uncertainty ruled the household. Both were alcoholic my entire childhood. When they knew better they did better (once in recovery). Some people never know better. They have to learn it from someone, like their parents or a friend or a therapist or people in recovery. It doesn’t happen spontaneously​. Doesn’t excuse your parents behavior. Doesn’t make it right how they treat you. But, how can they treat you any other way if they don’t know any better. In this light, I hope you can see that their behavior is in no way a reflection on who you are, but merely a direct result of only what they know how to do. It’s so sad, but it can be no other way without intervention. Thankfully, it sounds like you are on the path of learning new ways; different ways to do things than your parents do them. You are aware of repeating their behaviors which is great because then you can learn to replace them with healthier ones. You can break the cycle! They obviously did not break the cycle passed down from their parents to them, which was passed down from their parents before them and so on. When we know better we do better. *Hugs*

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    1. Right on! I definitely feel like the cycle ends with me. I think I’ve done a good job parenting my kids and making sure they never had to experience the same things I did. And in terms of how I’ve been handling it, I know I have crossed boundaries that I had set before but can see a light at the end of tunnel… once my mom gets back home, I can back away again. I posted a short piece with a quote today that helps me remember that they have their own issues that affect them. No excuse but an explanation. Thanks for the kind words ❤

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      1. I’m hoping I’ve done the same for my kids. I know I have, but I have the “not good enough” syndrome. Oh well. Glad you can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Doing the best we can changes day by day. On the days I lose it I’m still trying my best. I find that will power doesn’t always win out. I’m not sure if that’s a mental illness thing or what. Weird.

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        1. I get that feeling too. I’m guessing most parents do. But I know for sure that they did not experience abuse, neglect or ever feel that they were not loved. And yes, it does change from day to day. Again, I think everyone feels that at times, but mental illness amplifies it and it’s important that we acknowledge uncomfortable feeling and don’t fight them. “Will power doesn’t always win out” is so true and a profound statement for those of use with mental health issues. We just have to be careful that we don’t let it drag us down any further, most of the time, the feelings are temporary but carry just as much importance as the positive. I think if we try to fight or ignore the negative, it will just get worse. We have to look it in the face and say, “Yeah, I see you there, I understand your purpose, but right now, I don’t need you.” And then use our healthy coping skills to move on to a more positive state of being. Thank you for your support ❤

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  2. I’m sorry you had to go through this. It sounds horrible. I have the same issues with my dad, and especially having moved back in with him and his newish family, I try to distance myself as much as possible. But it’s not easy when he doesn’t respect my boundaries. I just want to get away from him, that’s always been my “dream”, but it seems I’ll be stuck with him forever. Growing up, he was also very neglectful and only seemed to care about his golden child, my then stepsister. I was never enough, and was always blamed for everything that went wrong. I was the only one who helped him through, and took care of him when my stepmom and stepsister left, yet I never got a thank you. I was also going through a dark time, having lost these people I had spent 13 years of my life with, but all he could think about was his own pain. I always took care of him, well into my 20’s even. Like my therapist told me (she had a meeting with him and my newish stepmom a little while ago), I keep holding onto something that I won’t get from them. Especially from my dad. Parents have no idea just how much they hurt us, when all we need is love and compassion.

    You did a good thing for him and your mother. And if they don’t appreciate it, at least you can rest easy knowing that you’re a good person. ❤

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    1. This sounds so close to the same thing I’m going through! I hate that so many of us have had similar issues. I think it makes us more sensitive to other people needs which is part of why we keep helping, even though we end up hurting ourselves more. I love the last sentence of your comment. ❤

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  3. What a brutally honest post, and I’m a little lost for words. I’m so sorry you have had to go through everything you have, and more so perhaps that you are still dealing with the repercussions. I’d also say that it has shaped you and made you who you are, which from the sounds of it is an incredibly inspiring, courageous, honest, empathic individual. I do hope you can move forward and take what you’ve said in your last paragraph to heart and remember that when times get tough. I’d also definitely agree with adding a little ‘fuck you’ (or a big, loud Fuck You!) at the end. It’s good that your brother is helping out and I’d agree with the above in saying to let him take his share. x

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  4. You are very brave to share your story. I feel I’ve barely written a decent blog post in the past 10 months since my father died. It’s been hard. I want to write about it. How I never felt resolution, but I did move on. His death brought up feelings I hadn’t had in a long time. The pain, and the finality things can never be right. I knew that before, but it’s still a punch to the gut.
    I had another abuser die recently. My PTSD is going crazy.
    Try to distance yourself as much as you can. No obligations, they didn’t treat you as they should have, you owe them nothing. But I understand you feeling the need to help.
    Just don’t expect anything to change….a hard thing to accept.
    Watch those boundaries.
    Thoughts are with you.

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    1. Thank you so much. I’m sorry that you are in such a difficult position too. You will know if/when the time is right for you to speak about your father. It doesn’t mean you are not brave. Any of us that have gone through trauma are brave, whether we choose to talk about it or not. You are brave! I know there will never be any resolution or change. I’ve known that for a long time but I do care about them and I’m not sure how I will react when they are gone. Will I still be wishing for something more? Time will tell… But in the meantime, it’s just like you said, I have to keep at a safe distance and protect myself. Thanks for the kindness and support. I appreciate it and my thoughts are with you too ❤

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      1. Thank you. I would write about it if my sister didn’t read my blog. She will not admit anything happened. Hurts me to no end, but I live with it. I try to avoid talking about him.
        Thank you for your kind words and thoughts. And thank you for sharing.

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        1. I understand that. My brother is in denial about all of it too. I have talked to him about it and he thinks he deserved to be beaten as a child and has told me he was a bad kid. He doesn’t understand that he subconsciously poked the bear, so to speak, so that he had some control over when he would be the object of the abuse. My dad’s rage was, and is, completely unpredictable. You never knew what was going to trigger it, so my brother learned it was better to trigger it. That’s part of why I keep my blog anonymous, even though my family of origin doesn’t even know I have one. I’m afraid of them finding out that I write about them. I hope you can find a safe place to talk about it so that you can ease the pain a bit. Thank you too. It’s wonderful to have people that can relate and understand and I appreciate your support ❤

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          1. My sister wasn’t abused to my knowledge. She was his step daughter, don’t know if that made a difference. He never touched her.
            I have an excellent therapist, thank you for caring. And thank you for your thoughtful responses to me.
            Take care of you, and be gentle with yourself.

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  5. thank you for sharing. your story has much depth and pain but I feel there will always be a silver lining around your aura, I read and touch your words, they are honest and pure, don’t change, be you, let the world change around you. you have this one life and live it the way you want to even if it means ignoring some people at times, do it because your soul demands it.

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    1. Thank you for your encouragement. I’m really trying and it’s much easier to do with people that are not family. I’m just in such a difficult position… both my parents are in their 90’s and I have been able to accept that they had their own generational dysfunction affecting their ability to parent. But it keeps going… they don’t change. And either of them could die any day. The social worker looked at me like I was nuts when we were discussing in-home care for my mom and I stated that I would not be able to do that. So I am sticking to some boundaries, but with both of them sick at the same time… argh!! I did just talk with my brother and told him I am out for the weekend so I can hopefully breath easy for a few days ❤

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      1. a sense of responsibility is very noble but you need to care for yourself too. setting the boundaries will make all of you come to a better place. your heart is very beautiful and that makes it very vulnerable. While I dont have issues with my parents, your words echoed some of the things I had to deal with in another hurtful relationship. Until I set the boundaries and made my wants known I could not have released the grip he had on my life, I felt literally strangled! I became ill, physically and mentally. So I feel so much for you and am keeping you in thought so you can be strong to face your situations with clarity and wisdom.

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        1. That’s the plan. But I’m sitting here wondering if I need to call him to tell him he is “on” for weekend duty. I just want to stay out of it but it might help me stop thinking about it if I let him know. Thanks again for your support ❤

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