Suggested Friends

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Facebook suggested Pat as a possible friend today; for all the sophistication of that platform, it does not comprehend Complicated or Estranged.

Per the meme above, I have often felt like a refugee from childhood; my childhood was definitely something I had to endure, then overcome.  But until I saw Pat’s picture this morning as Facebook suggested I might Friend her, I hadn’t much considered how she may feel about her own childhood.

I was never close to Pat, so we didn’t discuss her relationship with her parents, and I actually know very little about it.  I know a few facts, for example; her parents wouldn’t speak to her for months after she became pregnant and “had to” marry Ed, whom they despised.  But even as she told me this story, she never indicated how it made it her feel – in retelling she was cold and detached, as though it had happened to someone else.

Looking at it through my now fifty four year old eyes – with the heart and mind of a man who has gently raised three children, not speaking to your daughter because she got pregnant is a cruel, brutal and cold thing to do.  At a time when she needed them more than she ever had before, they turned away.

She HAS to feel something about this – retrospectively, as well as in the moment, but she didn’t express feeling of any kind to me – not anger, betrayal, pain or outrage … nothing. No. Emotion. At. All.

Was she an abused child?  I know Ed was, but was Pat?  My mother’s parents were always good to me, but that doesn’t mean they were always good to their children.  Case in point, I’m told my mother is a good grandmother to my niece – and my aunt tells me her mother was a good grandmother to her children, but Pat was a terrible mother, and my aunt says her mother wasn’t always the best most nurturing mother either.

My mother’s grasp on reality has always been tenuous, my aunt’s has always been razor sharp …

From what I recall, Pat was the dutiful daughter, and she thought highly – at least she behaved as though she thought highly, of her mother.  My supposition is that the relationship – my mother for her mother, may have been based in a form of Stockholm Syndrome …  very much like my sister and Pat.

Something had to be amiss in Pat’s life for her to be able to do to her own children all the cruel and terrible things she did.

  • Abuse is [almost always] generational
  • Abusers aren’t born, they are made

Why Pat is as she is doesn’t matter to me now – it can’t, because I’m in touch with my own why and you can’t ever go back to what made you sick.

But maybe her answers don’t lie only in what she did to me, but in what someone else did to her …

she won’t look, and she’ll never question; she just isn’t built to think critically or in complex ways, so her answers will always elude her;

It’s so much easier to blame than it is to understand.

No Facebook, Pat Shaw and I can never be Friends.

I Am Not Like Them

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I don’t know how many times in my life I’ve heard,  “the Shockleys are pig-headed, stubborn, obstinate or hard-headed,” — from Shockleys!  They wear this trait, this character flaw, like a badge of honor; it’s disgusting really – especially when we’re talking about their refusal to see and understand things as they really are.

They are arrogant – when few have any right even to be proud. Their legacy is abuse, denial and a refusal to see and understand themselves as they truly are.

I’m pretty upset today – I received an unsettling message from my cousin this morning – her sister, a survivor of heinous physical and emotional abuse at the hands of  their father – my Shockley uncle, had to quit her job because her depression had become so severe she couldn’t even get out of bed; she spends days at a time in bed now, lacking the ability even to shower or attend her most basic needs.

My father’s cruelty is well-detailed on the pages of this blog – he was no prize, but if given the choice between Ed and my uncle – who once locked his four year old daughter outside in the snow with no coat and no shoes for an extended period of time, I’d have to keep Ed.  I don’t recall my mother, as my cousin does of her own mother, ever telling my father to stop beating me because he was in danger of killing me, and Ed never beat my mother so badly she ended up in the hospital as a result — I also have no memory, again as my cousin does, of being directly told by my parents they didn’t love me and that I’d never amount to anything.  Yep!  In this case, I’ll stick to the devil I know – and that’s saying A LOT considering I grew up with Ed as a father.

My Shockley aunt has actually verbally assaulted my daughter, then she resorted to illegal measures to continue her assault when we blocked her initial barrage – this is the same aunt who believes her son with Bipolar Disorder has False Memories of her abusing him. Need I say more here?

Yes, the Shockleys are quite a clan; pig-headed, stubborn, hard-headed and let’s not forget abusive, vile, repugnant, cruel and generally not concerned with the feelings, needs or well-being of their children.

My wife refused to take my name when we got married, now I wish I had taken her’s.

Breaking the Cycle of Abuse

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Child abuse is an insidious multi-generational process – it is so ingrained, so much a part of the Shockley side of my family, it is accepted as a matter of course, and is as natural as breathing.   No one questions, no one thinks, no one acknowledges, no one discusses …

There is an unconscious compulsion to repeat acts of abuse – to perpetuate the cycle, that exists until an adult survivor actively and with awareness relives the trauma of his or her own abuse.  It isn’t enough for a survivor to simply acknowledge trauma and abuse, or develop an intellectual belief that hitting a child is amoral, he/she must revisit the events of their own childhood – relive the agony and pain to effectively disengage from the cycle.  (Alice Miller, For Your Own Good: Hidden Cruelty in Child Rearing and the Roots of Violence)

Survivors who don’t relive the trauma of their childhood, even if they somehow manage not to further the cycle with their own children, will turn their unresolved anger, frustration and pain inward, becoming depressed or developing mental illness(es) and substance abuse.  Even without being directly abusive to his child, this type of survivor subjects his family to the nightmare and emotional trauma of mental illness and addiction.

Still other survivors, due to their own repressed memories and refusal to acknowledge the pain they endured as a child on a conscious level, become blind to all abuse.  This is known as Betrayal Trauma (Jennifer Freyd, Betrayal Trauma: The Logic of forgetting Child Abuse) These survivors, almost without fail, go on to abuse their own children – then later, when confronted by their adult child, deny abuse or fail to recall everything they did out of an unconscious need to protect themselves from remembering the horror of their own childhood – a childhood full of pain they passed along to their child: Blind to ALL abuse.  These are the most dangerous survivors; they are the most likely of all to perpetuate the cycle.

Coming to terms with the maltreatment suffered as a child — be it physical, emotional or sexual — is the only way to effectively end the cycle.  When we manage to get in touch with own pain, fear, rage, frustration and anger, we no longer want to take it out on others.

Therapy is often the first step, and there are three distinct stages of recovery:  Remembering, Mourning and Healing.  In the first stage, survivors work through what happened to them as children.  The therapist emphasizes that the abuser was ALWAYS the responsible party, not the child — this is something we (survivors) have trouble dealing with on an emotional level; we believe our abuser when he tells us the beating is our fault, a belief that continues into adulthood.

In the second stage, we must grieve for the childhood we lost, mourn the fact that our parents failed us, betrayed us and hurt us.  It is in this stage where we begin to work on our own anger, finding healthy outlets for our aggression and self-destructive feelings. We begin to identify how our childhood abuse affects us today – things like having a mental illness as a result of the abuse, and we take inventory of the things in our lives we’d like to change.

And finally, in the third stage, we accept the fact that we have right to be happy.  We come to believe we deserve kindness, consideration and respect – things we were robbed of in our childhood.  We see our parents as they truly were, and we absolve ourselves of responsibility for their degenerate behavior toward us.

“As long as the anger directed at an abuser – always a parent or other first caregiver remains unconscious, minimized, or disavowed, it cannot be dissipated. It can only be taken out on oneself or stand-ins and scapegoats like one’s own children.”  (Shirley Beeman)

In Reaction to Denial and Harassment …

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I don’t know if anyone can explain what’s its like to be an abused child well enough to make others understand in a real or visceral way.  It isn’t just abusive events, it’s an every day awareness that you are helpless and vulnerable – at the mercy of people who are devoid of empathy; people who are supposed to love you and care for you.  It’s knowing that at any moment the violent and painful things that have happened before, will happen again.  It’s an ever-present feeling of anxiety, of being on the edge – of knowing all too well what happens when you make a mistake and behave like the child you are.  It’s a dark and insidious feeling you cannot escape, and it never goes away, never eases for even a second.  There is no respite, no shelter or calm. There is only fear and unrelenting comprehension that what you fear most will happen again, just as it always has — the only question is when.

Children cannot process trauma, it damages them and changes who they are – it literally alters their brain chemistry.  Beatings are traumatic, and they are permanently etched on my psyche.  I have no idea how often one of my parents hit me – when something happens daily, or even just frequently, it becomes part of the tapestry of your life; beatings in my house just were.  And along with the trauma of the beatings themselves, I had to live with the fear, pain – both physical and emotional, and the intense humiliation that went along with them.

I have no idea at what point it all became too much for me, when an adult diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder, Depression and PTSD became part of my future, and my destiny.  No one knows how much is too much for a child to bear and still end up being an adult who is well, and whole.  The affects of abuse –  extent of damage and long term impact on mental health aren’t the same for every victim.  Every child has his own breaking point, but once it’s been breached, negative mental health consequences are inevitable.

You can either accept that for the truth it is, or you can’t, but …

I’m growing very tired of people who deny, and who defend abusers – and the extent to which some will go is remarkable, and even illegal. A grown-up who attacks a child in verbal assault – her argument devoid of all critical thought and invalid in every way possible – her words designed only to wound and inflict pain on said innocent child – has crossed a line that should never be crossed.  No matter what she [the adult] thinks or feels or believes, attacking a child is degenerate.

 What my aunt said is so ludicrous it isn’t worth my time to defend, but my daughter was left feeling vulnerable and confused – my daughter who is unaccustomed to hostility, or adults who behave like children, was harassed and antagonized by a woman she has never even met – a grown woman who should know better than to say and do what she said and did.

My daughter, at seventeen, knows more about Bipolar Disorder, Depression, PTSD and Anxiety Disorder than most non-professionals will ever know.  She has been through hell because of what these illnesses caused; she knows what they are and she knows EXACTLY how I got them.  She has had trained professionals, many trained professionals, explain to her why her dad got sick …

but she is seventeen, and the idea that I am not seen as I truly am is challenging for her.  She knows I’m fine now, as I have been for most of her life; I’m stable, happy and emotionally satisfied.  She knows my memories are not distorted, or false.  She knows and understands, but she also knows she should not have to defend me to anyone, nor herself against wild accusations.   And she should not have to endure a verbal assault, especially one devoid of merit, truth, or even reality from someone who refuses to see things as they are and clings to erroneous, incomplete and untrue ‘information’ as though her life depends on it.

But that’s just it, her life – and the life of all who deny and refuse to recognize the truth, does depend on disbelief.  These people must be appeased and placated or they’ll be forced to face the truth in their own childhood, or worse – the childhood they gave their children.  My aunt isn’t defending my father, she is defending herself.  Nothing else could explain the vehement nature in which she spoke to my daughter.

We all do the best we can to manage our lives, and sometimes denial is the only thing we can do to get by – to make our past emotionally tolerable, to assure us that today has meaning, or is different somehow – but denial does not alter truth.

Anyone, including my aunt, is welcome to say anything they like TO ME – I opened myself up to potential scorn, ridicule, disbelief, insult, anger, indignation, denial, and accusation when I decided to tell my story in a public forum – but my children did not.

If you decide to confront me, know that I will not appease and placate you as others have.  I will not bow to your denial, or your self-righteous need to be heard.  I will not turn away from the truth I lived, or compromise for the sake of your comfort.

I know what happened to me as a child, I lived it every day.  I know who and what my parents were, and are.  I know what comes from abuse, it’s part of me now …

And nothing you can say or do, no amount of denial or refusal to see the truth can change that …

Although I honestly wish it could.