Recovery from abuse is a process. It’s like grieving the death of a loved one. Right now, not only am I coming to terms with what happened to me but I am also having to face my own regrets surrounding the abuse and grieving the “death” of my parents. They aren’t really dead but in my heart they are. That part has been hard. When I first sent my mother the “break-up” letter I had regrets about it. It was difficult and took me almost 30 minutes to hit send. I cried and was sad for a couple of days after that until she went public denouncing my brother and I. Then I didn’t feel so sad about it and knew that I did the right thing. Now my regret is the fact that I waited so long to come forward about it. Those that are close to me know that I was molested by my step-father but most don’t know to what extent. I really didn’t talk about it other than just saying that it happened. Just like my mother, I was trying to paint the facade of a functional normal family but I couldn’t keep up the charade any more. This week I have been flooded with questions that I have asked myself. Some of them I disregard because I know that it wasn’t my fault while others I am beating myself up about them a little. Some of the questions are the “what if’s.”
What if I had not lied to DFS when I was little? My parents threatened me and told me that I would be taken away and put in foster care with families that wouldn’t love and would beat me more than I was already being beaten. I realize now that probably wouldn’t have happened. I know now that I have always had a family that loves me and given the opportunity they would have probably taken me in. I highly doubt that any of my grandparents or aunts and uncles would have let me go into the foster system without putting up a fight. So, if I would have just said something, would I have had a better life? Would my brother have had a better life? I don’t know. I was so young that making that kind of decision back then was 100% my mother’s responsibility. I had another opportunity when I was 11 or 12 and again, I was too afraid to say anything.
Why didn’t I cut them off when I was finally and independent? When I was 21, I was finally broken free from them and lived about 5 hours away. I didn’t really speak to them for about a year but it had more to do with my mother trying to control me than about the abuse as a child. I had the opportunity to just say “sayonara” and be on my merry way… but I didn’t. After a while I was still trying to maintain a relationship with them. I think this time it goes back to the fact that I was a Christian and was trying to do the right, Christian thing and that would have been forgiving and forgetting.
I left the confines of religion when I was about 27. At this point, Christianity wasn’t holding me back anymore but I still didn’t change my relationship with my parents. I think that I had just gotten used to what we had and at that point I was married and had our son. I always had that underlying guilt of letting my mother go. She would always ask me, “If I don’t have you, then who can I talk to?!” She always made me feel guilty for not being there for her even though I told her several times that I didn’t want to be her friend. She really had nobody. She had no parents or siblings. She did have a couple of cousins and her aunt and uncle but they were in California and Pennsylvania which wasn’t close enough, I guess. I was conflicted, there’s no doubt about that. I always felt uncomfortable being around Dave or allowing my son around him but I disregarded those feelings by trying to convince myself that he wasn’t a danger to anyone and that my mother deserved to be a grandmother. After writing almost 40 posts on this blog I now wonder what the fuck was wrong with me! Why did I find this relationship necessary? What took me so long to cut them off??
My main regret, right now, is that I allowed this relationship to go on long enough that they became a part of my son’s life. Luckily, my daughter is young enough that she will never remember them but my son is not. Every once in a while he asks when he can call his grandma or when we are going to visit. I just say “sometime” and change the subject. He’s only 7 so he is way too young to share with him. I feel bad for dragging my husband along when I should have been done with this before I got married.
The good thing is that I have so much support from family and friends. I am so grateful for that! I feel like that have spent a lifetime running a marathon, I’m at the last mile and here is all of my family coming out to support me. I guess I could say that I am lucky. I know that many victims of abuse get shunned by their entire family but that’s not the case for me. Instead the perpetrators are being shunned. Sometimes the support is overwhelming but it is what is getting me through. If it wasn’t for them, I probably would have just shoved all of this back down and not gotten the healing that I deserve. The professionals are right when they say that it takes a good support system to heal. Everyone in my circle (and beyond) has been wonderful. I don’t think I have ever felt more loved than I do now! 🙂
Back in my Christian days, forgiveness was a major player in my faith. I had a hard time with it because I had some pretty big atrocities that needed to be forgiven. Anytime I opened up to Christian leaders, I was always told the same thing, “forgive just as Jesus forgave you.” I made sense back then because I was naive and gullible. I was also hoping for that magic formula that got the heavens to move and God to work in my favor. Well, it didn’t work. I can’t even really say that it gave me peace. Whatever peace that I did have was superficial. What it did do was get my parents off the hook. When I was 18, my step-dad asked for my forgiveness … in front of about 5 other people. This was when I went to my church pastors about the abuse. I felt like I didn’t have a choice but to say yes. Truthfully, at that time in my life I wanted to do the right, Christian thing and this was supposedly it. I was so conflicted and confused. At 18, the statute of limitations would have been in effect and he could have been thrown in jail. I did not know this at that time. Forgiveness was no skin off his back but years of emotional suffering for me. It wasn’t fair. What did I get out of letting him off the hook? Nothing? Should I have gotten something? I don’t know. It would have been nice for my mother to divorce and start a better life with her but that’s not what she wanted.
They say that forgiveness isn’t for the “sinner” but for the person “sinned” against. I can see that. I don’t think that it should be the way it’s portrayed though. In my case, forgiveness is just recognizing that I can’t change what happened to me. I can’t change my mother or her choices. I have to move on. I have to forgive myself for the guilt. I have done that. None of this was my fault. It wasn’t my job to insure my mother’s happiness. It wasn’t my responsibility to keep my family together. My responsibility lies in myself. It might seem selfish but where would we be if we weren’t selfish to some extent? I have a responsibility to take care of my own health and raise my children to do the same. It’s my job to make sure that I’m happy and fulfilled.
Forgiving others isn’t necessary. Some people don’t deserve forgiveness. When I mess up and do something that hurts someone else, I understand that they are mad at me and have every right to that emotion and feeling. Sometimes I don’t deserve forgiveness. It’s not something that we should expect out of other people. It’s not something that should be expected to be given out freely. As civilized humans we all have to take responsibility for our actions and accept the consequences of those actions. For my parents, they never wanted to take that responsibility and they expected my forgiveness of them to be abundant and free without any price. That wasn’t fair to me. I don’t forgive them. I’m ok with that.
It’s ok to harbor bitterness for a while. It’s all part of healthy healing. We just can’t let that bitterness eat at us. Admitting that I don’t forgive them has actually made me feel better. It has lifted the load and allowed me to begin the healing process. Living a life of forgiveness toward them would mean that they must have an active part of my life which I can’t allow. Some might say that I’m wrong, but I say, “you don’t know my mother.”
I turned 21 soon after moving in and getting settled. I didn’t speak to my parents much after that big blow out. I was also pissed at Dave. He had told me in a phone call a few months before that he thought I would be making a good decision not to move back in with them. He was very familiar about my mother’s poor money management and knew that I wanted to get away from that and her of course. When it down to it, I put him in the hot seat about it because I needed a buffer between my mother and myself. He denied ever saying that and sided with my mother. He later told me that he had to shut her up because she would just rant about it all night. Any contact I had with her was pretty limited. I grew up a lot in those two years. I learned a lot also. My job was going well but the store was going out of business. It closed its doors right as my one year anniversary approached. I ended up taking a sales position at Lowe’s full-time. It was paying me a little more and working around my church schedule. I stayed pretty devoted to being a youth leader and deepening the friendships that I was making. When Christmas approached, I decided to open the doors of communication with my parents. I didn’t want to be alone for Christmas either.
I went to visit for a couple of days at Christmas. Nothing eventful happened. I think she was learning to keep her mouth shut around me. It was weird being back home though. I had to rent a car anytime that I went down so it was financially burdening on me as well. I only went to visit a couple of times a year.
I did try to enroll in college for the fall that I was 21. I found out that in order for me to fill out the FAFSA form without my parents information, I had to be at least 24, or married, or have a kid, or be a veteran, or be an orphan. I was neither. I asked my mother if they would do it but she refused because she wanted me to come home and go to school with her. It was very vindictive. That spring I paid out of pocket to take an English class at the community college just to see if I even wanted to pursue college. There was no way that I would be able to pay out of pocket for my education so I opted to keep working and do the best that I could.
It took everything within me warm back up to them but as a Christian, I felt that it was my duty to forgive any wrongdoing and try to be as pleasant as I could. I felt that we could get close again as long as she controlled her outbursts. As far as Dave was concerned, I was going to just have to let it go. There just wasn’t anything I could do at that point.
When I was 22, my mother was fed up with me only being able to come down a couple of times a year because of my car. She came to visit for a few days and decided to help me apply for a car loan. I pretty much had zero credit. The highest credit limit that I had was only $300 so getting a car loan was next to impossible on my own. This was sort of retribution for her not helping me get into college. She didn’t have very good credit either so we sat at the car dealership for 4 hours by the time they found a creditor that would finance me. She was only a co-signer so the note was still in my name. She also didn’t foot any of the financial burden. I ended up having to pay over $700 in taxes later for it that I had to borrow from a friend. Owning a newer car was completely foreign to me so this was a learning experience. It was a mini-suv, a Chevrolet Tracker with a convertible top. It was super cute and a lot of fun.
I was making a lot of friends and was busy being social quite a bit. I really wanted to date but everyone that I was interested wasn’t interested in me back so I got friend-listed several times. I did get asked out a few times but those guys weren’t Christians or not Christian enough for me. I was 21 when I met Todd, my husband. He was 18 and was roommates with a mutual friend. I was at their house frequently for get-togethers. He was 18 and seemed really immature to me but that’s because I was almost three years older than him. He also had just been kicked out of bible college for getting caught having sex with his then girlfriend. At that point, I had no interest in him but we were friendly and acquainted with on another. I had so many friends that were getting married and having babies in my early 20’s. I was bothered a lot about not having a boyfriend. I was also told by the youth pastor that I was desperate. He was a jerk. He also implied that I was fat. I wasn’t. I also wasn’t desperate. If I was I could have had a boyfriend but I had standards and wasn’t giving in for someone that wasn’t for me.