My mother couldn’t love me; but the thing is I don’t think shes entirely to blame. She came from a long line of abusers, people who passed on their trauma to the next generation by way of abuse, zipped mouths, walled up hearts and god knows what else. She couldn’t love me because she wasn’t taught to, she wasn’t given the right resources to heal from her trauma, her heart break, her abuse so she did the only thing she knew, and I have to believe in her heart she never wanted to become the abuser. But somewhere down the line we all have a choice, do we pass on the trauma too? Become the abusers? Or do we break the domino effect and break the cycle-knowing the immense amount of pain that includes. She couldn’t love me, not really, because she wasn’t capable, not without taking a look at her own dark shadows, her own pain and learning to cope differently. I had a memory come back recently of a moment where it was like she caught a glimpse of her shadow in the corner of her eye, there was this “is this my doing” or “maybe I’ve done wrong” moment for this brief period of time, then it left as fast as it came on. Boy oh boy, that one is proving to be a hard memory to process, hard feelings to handle.
I don’t know how many days ago now that its been since the last time I talked to her, or my sister (2.5 years at least though) My grandmother who lived with us also was abusive but she died when I was a kid. It was by far the hardest thing I’ve ever done, ending the cycle, taking myself out of the abusive situation, finally standing up and saying “I deserve better than this”. But to be frank? The hardest part is what happened after that, because after the cut of that tie comes the unravelling. All those moments that my subconscious blocked out, all those feelings I had tightly tied down without knowing (to protect myself and to survive) now had a safe space to come up. Each one as heart breaking as the last, each one like reliving the worst moments of my life, the worst pains of my life that I forgot were there.
The thing about emotional/verbal/mental abuse happening when you’re a kid, in formative years is that kids don’t really have the capacity to say “hey this is THEIR pain” or to think its something wrong with the parent, they internalize. So instead of “they can’t love me because of their own shiz” its “I’m not enough to be loved” or “I can’t be loved”. So growing up going through this by the two parent types (not dad, meaning my grandma here) I learned the lesson over and over and over that I couldn’t be loved, I wasn’t important, I wasn’t enough, it was my fault they were sad, my fault they were broken hearted. When they insinuated that I’m the reason their life is so awful I believed it. I fucking believed it, how sad is that. I tried to change who I was so that maybe they could love me. Maybe if I was funnier, or less funny, if I was quiet, if I was invisible, if I didn’t exist. Since cutting ties I have had this realization probably at least ten times in the two and a half years: It wasn’t my fault that they couldn’t love me. It doesn’t make it an easier realization, its actually harder each time because like an onion each layer of this realization is deeper and deeper. I know its needed, that facing all this terrible shit means I’m ending the cycle of abuse, that I’m releasing layer after layer of my trauma but holy shit dudes, its so much work. I’m exhausted and I have to say, there are so many times I want to give up. Earlier I was having this massive flashback to those feelings I had every day growing up, especially when I was getting to be a little older, like 10/11 I really started to know something was wrong, but thought something was wrong with me. I started self-harming and I don’t think a single day went by where I didn’t imagine dying. I just purely believed, because I was taught, that I didn’t matter to anyone. I was taught that I was far less important than everyone else. I was taught that I wasn’t enough, I was selfish and horrible, and this ugly excuse for a human that just purely by existing it meant I was making the lives of those I thought loved me unbearable. That it was my fault, my insufficiency that my own mother couldn’t love me. And let me tell you, these flashbacks are intense, and horrible, and thankfully not as frequent as they one were. Now that I have my partners kids in my life it honestly is all the more heartbreaking, only because it adds a frame of reference for it, puts it all into perspective. I didn’t know better my whole life, but when I look at those amazing little humans it is heart-breaking beyond belief to imagine one of them thinking they were unlovable, like there’s nothing they could ever do that would mean I didn’t love them-and they aren’t even my kids (For the record they are very happy, very very loved they have fucking fantastic parents and are so so safe and happy and themselves and amazing). But you know what I mean right? Like actually knowing a 7 year old and a 10 year old I’m like…what the actual fuck kind of monster could make a 7 year old or 10 year old want to hurt themselves, or make them feel unloved. So I am kind of in this roller-coaster of processing my trauma, which I know is normal to be on, but sometimes I wish I could get on a different ride or get off altogether, but thats why I started this, to end the cycle, to unravel all these layers and finally just revel in what love feels like, what family feels like, revel in feeling myself.
So here we are, me unravelled. I’d like to be that person who doesn’t care what other people think and is unapologetically themselves, but we aren’t there yet. I have days where I am, and days where my brain gets stuck in that place I was in my whole life, the place I was gaslighted into, and abused into. I would say I’m doing good for the 2.5 years I’ve been out, considering I was in an unsafe emotionally abusive and neglected place for 23 years. (I leave out the 3 years my Dad was alive, I can see and feel that I was loved then) Its progress, messy, painful, confusing progress.
If you’re going through your own roller-coaster of trauma or abuse healing I feel for you, it is a rough fucking ride, but I promise its worth it. I am writing all of this because the most helpful thing, as a person who was gaslighted 3/4 of her life, is hearing other peoples stories or other people who have gone through similar things. So I urge you, keep going, one foot after another. You don’t have to feel recovered all the time, in fact, you will not feel recovered 100% of the time, your trauma doesn’t disappear, but it will start to shift and some days your body and brain will realize it doesn’t have to fight to survive anymore, some days you’ll thrive. And on those days you’re struggling to exist, remember this: This shit is fucking hard, but its so worth it. That you are doing better than your brain is telling you, and those mean things you’re thinking aren’t your opinion: its your abusers opinion and they don’t deserve the time of day anymore, their opinion of you never mattered, you were always enough.