child abuse PTSD trauma recovery

Parents

Do you still talk to your mom? Where was your dad in all of this?

These are the two most common questions that I am asked when I give talks. Today I will answer them.

I will start with my dad

My biological father was 16 when my mother became friends with his mom and started hanging around his house. My mother was in her early 30s. Not long after, the two became romantically involved. My birth was the result of this filing. It’s after this that the story changes but basically my dad wasn’t in my life because my mom ran away.

My oldest daughter found my dad when I was 31, I called a number for him that I had found and was at first stonewalled by his wife. Eventually, I talked for a few months on the phone and I flew down to Louisiana over a long labor day weekend to meet him. His wife wasn’t really excited about my appearance in their life. There was a paternity test and some phone calls and then everyone stopped returning my calls or text about a year into the whole thing. I didn’t regret doing any of that, in fact, I walked away feeling like my identity was more solidified. I used to lay in my bed at night and think that my dad was out there searching for me. As soon as he found where I was, he would rescue me and we would live happily ever after. Maybe that would have been the case or maybe I would have ended up with more crazy people in my life.  Who knows but I walked away with a general feeling that everything was as it should be bad and the good. The past is the past and cannot be rewritten, my future lay ahead of me ready to be written. The rejection did sting and sometimes the self-pitying thoughts of why neither of my parents cared about me would occasionally creep in at first. With time I came to understand that their brokenness does not equal my value.

Last fall I reconnected with my dad, he is divorced and said he wanted to reach out sooner but was afraid I would be too angry with him. We talked on the phone and he came to my home for a long visit during Thanksgiving week. This was the first time that my dad had ever met my husband and my children and it was amazing. Both my dad and I had expected a level of awkwardness but it never arrived. He came up again over Christmas week and for the first time in my life I had a Christmas morning with my dad.

We played board games with the kids, included him in our holiday traditions and had many long conversations. I still have a super easy relationship with my dad and we call or text most days and he tells me how proud he is of me and the life I have built.

The last time I saw my mother was 5 years ago. The time before that was 7 years prior. I do not see her much and she lives several states away. For years I have had an on again off again relationship with her. For years I told myself that I kept in touch with her to make sure that she knew how well I was doing, that in spite of her attempts to break me she had not succeeded. I began the process of recovery in 2013 and didn’t really find a place of peace until later 2014. The further along in my recovery the more I felt like I didn’t want anything to do with her at all. I didn’t care if she knew how well I was doing. It doesn’t matter anyway because she is so sick and delusional she doesn’t see things how they really are anyway.

I  want to take a min here to talk about forcing people who have hurt you to see your pain and validate it. This is a self-mutilating action that NEVER ends well. For years I felt that if I could make my mother see the pain that she caused me and validate that pain for me that I could finally begin to heal. These were all lies I was telling myself. I didn’t need her to realize or admit to what she had done and how it had devastated me. To make matters worse my mother will go out of her way to gaslight me and invalidate my pain.  It took me years to realize that during almost every phone call she would try and pick open old wounds and still not accept her part in creating them. My mother during a call about making Christmas cookies: “Do you remember that tragic event that happened to you and gave you nightmares for 7 years”? : let me randomly bring that up and totally trigger you so that I can remind you that it’s not my fault and I seem to have some sick pleasure in torturing you about it”.  Then she will chuckle to herself and say oops I forgot you don’t like to talk about that. Her narrative tells a story of how I was such a rebellious unruly child that she ” let” me get married at 15 because she had no choice. It shifts back and forth between I never told her about all the abuse I endured to ” I lied so much”  that she couldn’t believe me. She also blames the traumatized mentally ill teenager she married and tried to pass off as a father figure. ” I couldn’t be a decent mother because I stayed with this person for over 20 years who was a seriously ill addict who terrorized my children and I never did anything about it other than scream at him. The theme is always the same, none of it was her fault and I am a sick unforgiving person who is responsible for my own problems.

Some things I learned:

  1. Trauma is not a life sentence but you have to move away from the fire or you will continue to burn.
  2. I do not love my mother and that is ok.
  3. I will never ” force her to see what she did”. By trying to do this I only hurt myself.
  4. I don’t care if she knows how well I am doing or not.
  5. She brings nothing of value to my life NOTHING, therefore, she has no place in it
  6. Forgiveness is for my inner peace. I feel that I reached a place of forgiveness and peace when I stopped thinking about my mother that often. Forgiveness is not erasing that slate of your Abuser and allowing them to keep abusing you.  For Example: My mother is still friends with the pedophile she married me to at 15. She sees nothing wrong with this.  A few years ago I saw him liking and commenting on pictures of my children that she had shared. The was the end I cut her off. A year after that she changed her setting so I can’t see who she is friends with and again he is still commenting on her post. Is this a person who is sorry? A person who has reflected on her past mistakes and changed? Absolutely not.
  7. My mother’s opinion of me and her point of view are of no consequence to my recovery or wellbeing.
  8. I am who I am through my own hard work and resilience. The book of my past has been written, there are good parts and bad parts. All of the parts make me who I am and no one part defines who I am. I have been celebrating recovery for almost 5 years. That’s 5 years of better, healthier choices that have moved my life forward, almost 3 years without nightmares, panic attacks and battles of depression. That’s almost half a decade of letting go of things that don’t serve me to make room for things that do. That’s hope that I will continue to grow and thrive another 5 years, then another 5 years. Overall I have a track record of almost 40 years of being able to handle anything. I’m ready for what’s next!

XoXo- Gen

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