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.