“I hope your kids don’t judge you like you are judging us”
“You had so much in life that I never had”
“We are hurt that you can show others respect but not us. I was helped over and over by others and I would throw myself under a bus to protect you.”
“I ALWAYS HAD RESPECT FOR MY PARENTS”
Today. I finally looked back on the notebook I’ve been avoiding since the end of last year. I had put it away in a dark corner and had chosen not to look at it since I wrote it all down. Since that harrowing evening when I finally confronted my abusers, my parents, for all of the trauma I had endured at their hands as a child until I finally had the courage to run away at age 19.
For a big part of last year I had decided to cut communication with them. I had moved over 2,000 miles away a year and a half before. I blocked their phone numbers on our phones. I stopped calling. I began therapy. I needed to find space for myself so I could decide if I wanted to continue a relationship with them or not. I have always felt so much guilt. Guilt that curls up in my stomach like a winding knot, finding it’s way to my neck and slowly wrapping around my throat until I can no longer breathe. I have felt guilty every single day for the last 12 years of my life. Guilty for ever being angry at my parents for what I have been through. Guilty for ever qualifying it as abuse. Guilty for recognizing how draining their “Relationship” with me was on my well-being. Guilty for talking poorly about them to those around me because I needed to share my story.
After much therapy, in October of last year I decided to confront them about everything. Finally. I picked up the phone. Shaking. Sick. Angry. Terrified. I wrote everything down that I was going to say ahead of time. All the panic and the fear. I wrote it all down so I couldn’t trip over my words.
I’ve been gaslit before. I spent most of my childhood years being told that what I was thinking was wrong and evil and sinful. It only made me confused and believing that my family was simply dysfunctional, not abusive. When I made the call, every. single. point. I tried to make was denied. I was called a liar. I was repetitively told that I made all of it up in my head. I was never threatened to be left on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere with no access to help. I never packed up my bags and waited a week to decide if I was going to be allowed to live in their house or if I was going to be sent to the homeless shelter.
So I wrote it all down. All of it. To look back on when I questioned myself. I put that notebook in a corner and refused to look at it. The memories were too painful. The denial that everything I had been through was verbally burned to ash. It was nothing. All the years of anxiety to the point that I struggled with near-anorexia, the depression that sank me into the darkest places, the PTSD that left me obsessively thinking about my past and what happened to me. All of it felt like it had been for nothing. Like my mind had been so creative it made it all up just to mess with me.
It wasn’t until today that I had decided to take a look at it. To delve into what was said to them and what they tried to convince me of in response. I read it. Slowly and intentionally. Mulled over the conversation in my head. I can’t stop shaking. I’m sick to my stomach. I’m physically ill. The quotes at the top are all things they said to me. And I am reminding myself that just because someone is your parent does not automatically entitle them to being in your life. People don’t get to push themselves into your life because they “raised” you. Being a first time mom, that reality is awful to swallow. But it still remains true. If I treat my daughter like garbage, I expect her to distance herself. She deserves to make decisions that are healthy for HER. Not me. If I did something to damage that, I deal with the consequences. Being my parent DOES NOT entitle you to a lifetime of automatic respect and kindness. It does not automatically entitle you to be in my life until the moment you take your last breath.
After our conversation, I made the brave decision to try again with them once I found out I was pregnant. I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t take the time to try…one last time…for the thousandth time. I have forgiven them so many times it’s a miracle to me. I let them back in my life. I tried. They came to see me a few weeks ago. The visit was awful. It was continuously peppered with racist and classist and ableist comments. I was shamed for the shape of my car, for not knowing what schools my child wants to go to five years down the road. I was questioned about my religion. I decided I would take some time after they left to gather my space and decide then about resuming a relationship with them. After this week I have decided.
I just found out that someone in my extended family is being abused like I was…only worse. This member literally has no out. No one in the family to side with him besides me. My grandparents went to his house the other day and talked garbage about him with him in the other room. Everyone is standing by. Everyone is standing by like they did when I ran away from home. They are silently standing on the sidelines pretending that this behavior isn’t occurring or seeing nothing problematic about it. And I am sick. I am not well. My PTSD this week is horrendous. The flashbacks. The remembering. The remembering. I found out that all the cousins knew why I stayed away. No one blamed me. I spent all these years wondering. I spent all these years curious. And here. This is the answer.
I don’t feel guilty anymore for cutting them out of my life. I cannot feel guilty. I can no longer side with those who refuse to acknowledge abuse. Who demand infinite love regardless of the sickening things they do. No. This is now how this works. Our lives are worth more than this. I am worth more than this. I can no longer be silent. I must protect myself. I must protect my children.