Suggested Friends

Image result for quotes when parents hurt their child

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.

Brock Turner, Ed Shockley and Injustice

 

We all know his name, and what he did.  Brock Turner, Stanford University student and member of the swim team, raped Emily Doe behind a dumpster while she was unconscious. Although the judge in this case is pathetic, rendering a sentence that can in no way be construed as justice, and Turner’s own father is far more concerned with his son’s lack of interest in what once gave him pleasure – namely rib-eye steaks and junk food, the larger community is making sure Turner – and even his would be supporters, feel the weight of his crime; USA Swimming has banned him from the sport for life, fellow Stanford students are demanding that Turner issue a public apology to his victim, the University has effectively expelled him,  and long time friend, Leslie Rasmussen, is feeling the backlash for a letter written to Judge Aaron Persky on Turner’s behalf; Rasmussen said, in part, that she “didn’t think it was fair to base the fate of the next 10+ years of his (Brock Turner) life on the decision of a girl who doesn’t remember anything but the amount she drank to press charges against him.”  Those comments, along with others, have cost Rasmussen personally: her band, Good English, has had several appearances cancelled since her comments were made public, and now Behind The Curtains Media, the band’s publicity firm, has severed all ties with Rasmussen and her band as they do not support her position.  Good for them, good for everyone who is finding a way to impose consequences on Brock Turner and all those who support the idea that he should not be made to feel the full weight of his crime.

Turner will have to register as a sex offender, which is the only part of his sentence that even begins to hold him accountable for what he has done.  But Emily Doe was given a life sentence; she will live with Turner’s actions for the rest of her life.

Stories like Turner’s make my blood boil, as well they should – every decent, thinking, feeling human being should be outraged at what he did, but for me the injustice is difficult to bear – it hits just a little too close to home.

When I read Emily Doe’s letter to the court, I cried; her life has been forever altered, just as the life of the young girl Ed raped was — and she found no justice through the courts either.  Her rapist, like Emily Doe’s, was given a slap on the wrist and returned to society more-or-less unscathed, and definitely unchanged.

At least the larger community has taken a stand against Brock Turner …

Last week, Ed’s stepson became a father again, and this time the baby is a girl.  I saw a photod (below)  of him holding this newborn; he was smiling and surrounded by people who know his crimes and still allow him a role in this innocent child’s life.  I felt rage; this man molested my sisters – his own daughters, and raped a fourteen year old girl, and yet there he was, being given every opportunity to do it all again.  When decent people accept child abusers/molesters and rapists as one of their own, I feel sick, disgusted and powerless.

Ed Shockley with his step-son’s newborn daughter- photo removed out of consideration for Jeff Ward and his family.

No one has ever held Ed Shockley accountable for anything, and he, like Brock Turner, wallows in a sea of emotional detachment, and even self-pity.  They feel victimized, but they do not feel their victims’ pain.

Legal maneuvering – expungement, and the fact that he did not have to register as a sex-offender, has allowed Ed a place in society along side decent people, and that scares the hell out of me.  He is, and ever will be, a child abuser, a child molester, and a rapist.  Expunging his record so that he did not have to register as a sex-offender does not mean he did not commit these heinous crimes — it means the system values the victims less than the perpetrator.

I just hope the people charged with keeping the children in his life safe understand this.

 

 

Narcissistic Parents

Several months of recent correspondence, as well as occasional visits during this time, have given me a very good understanding of who Ed is today; the same man he has always been – a child abuser, coward, rapist.  He is also, in my informed opinion, a narcissist who suffers from cognitive dissonance and self-aggrandizing delusions.  He has not changed, but he has become adept at hiding who he really is, rendering him capable of surviving among the good and decent people in his life today.  He, in some ways, is the luckiest man alive; the Teflon-Man nothing ever sticks to, and he is so good at selling himself; there is a different version of Ed for every man, woman and child in his world – past and present.

On the other hand, I haven’t seen or spoken to Pat since early 1983; she attended my wedding in 1986, but the only exchange we had that day was her telling me that she approved of the new me – whatever that meant.  I  kept my distance; I didn’t want to know her anymore.

There was a time when I knew her far better than anyone else, and despite our lack of communication for more than three decades, this, I have found, is still true.  In fact, I actually know her – I don’t think many other people do …

Kind, thinking, good people assume we all share basic values, and our understanding of mothers comes from the precept that all mothers love their children.  We believe that every mother is dedicated to nurturing and guiding her young children, and is desirous of a solid, affectionate relationship with her children when they are grown.  Mothers who do not reflect this archetype are virtually inconceivable to the rest of us.

When my aunt contacted me after decades of estrangement, she was excited to share with her sister that I had responded to her message wishing me a happy birthday.  My aunt thought my mother would be happy and excited too – she thought perhaps this might give my mother hope that one day I would speak to her as well.

My aunt didn’t understand then that my mother is the antitheses of the mother archetype.  She didn’t love and nurture when I was little, and she damn sure didn’t want a relationship with her grown up son who had lived the truth she had lied about for almost three decades.

When my aunt came back into my life, Pat simply shut her sister out of her life.

I may not have recent personal communication with my mother to offer as support, but the evidence is pretty compelling; she is the same abusive, narcissistic drama queen she has always been.

I used to wonder how Pat could possibly be happy, given everyone she has hurt, but now I understand that she never cared to begin with.  She put on a passable face, said the right things for a time, behaved like people she knew who actually did love and care for their family, but it was never real for her – and her love  was never, ever genuine.  It’s easy to be happy, despite the pain and damage you have caused, when you never cared about anyone other than yourself to begin with.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Power of What We Claim

Quote on mental health - I now see how owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing that we will ever do.

Last week was rough; it was emotionally draining and, in the end, it felt unproductive.  I was merely the support system, my aunt took the brunt of the storm – she was deeply exhausted when it was over.

It has me thinking about what I did to my family when I was sick, how tired they were – how hopeless and helpless they must have felt at times.  Untreated mental illness wrecks havoc with the lives of everyone it touches.

It is different – being on the outside, being well and trying to make sense of someone else’s illness; I now know the despair and helplessness of watching a train wreck; it’s going to happen, but all I can do is watch.  I can’t stop it.  I’m powerless.

I don’t like being a victim – so I won’t own that terrible, vulnerable dark place in the soul that knows only cries that are never heard …

my sister, on the other hand, seems to have found a home there.  She blames everyone, but is never introspective.  She is always the victim.  She is always the wounded.  She is always the down-trodden.  She alone hurts.  She alone has been ill-treated.  She is unloved.  She is unwanted …

It is all ridiculous, of course, but she has told herself all of this so many times she actually believes it is true.  She is perpetuating her own illness, actually making herself sicker.

She has been a victim – she was our parent’s victim; today, she is a victim only of herself. And her self-abuse is, in many ways, worse than anything our parents did to her.  They made her comfortable being a victim, that is fact, but she chooses to own victim-hood now.

She owns victim-hood, but not her story.  She is too busy wallowing to understand the strength it took just to survive Pat and Ed’s House of Horrors.  Too busy claiming virtue in her pain to realize she beat the odds, once.  Too mired in her self-created loss to feel good about who she has been, and who she could still be.

Owning her story has the power to heal, and set her free.

And it is the only thing that does.

Forgiveness and Restitution

“Forgiveness is created by the restitution of the abuser; of the wrongdoer. It is not something to be squeeeeeezed out of the victim in a further act of conscience-corrupting abuse.”  

 

Upon learning of my sister’s latest crisis, Ed sent me the following note:

 

… “Yes Pat and I are both responsible for what happened to both of you and where you are today.

 

 

I don’t know how to reach out to Elizabeth or even if I should. Hopefully Pat is able to do something for her.”

 

 

Thankfully where I am today is not cause for alarm …

 

 

despite his admission: “Pat and I are both responsible for what happened to both of you and where you are today.”  There is no personal accountability, no need to do what’s right in the face of the destruction he has left in his wake  …

 

 

How does anyone admit life-altering abuse and then leave it all up to someone else to take care of?

 

 

Pat has disowned Elizabeth in every way that matters, there will be no assistance from Pat.

 

 

Ed,

 

 

As far as not knowing how to reach Elizabeth, there is Google.  She is not difficult to find.

 

 

Or, here’s a thought …

 

 

you could summon the courage to ask me.

 

 

Or you could do something anonymously …

 

 

Or you could simply thank Bev for attempting to clean up your mess.

 

 

If it mattered, or if you understood, you would find a way – even  small, indirect acts of restitution have meaning.

 

 

Hoping that Pat does something for her is laughable …

 

 

Pat, the mother who beat her?

 

 

Pat, the mother who abandoned her physically and emotionally for her entire life?

 

 

Pat, the mother who portrays herself as the victim of her adult children’s cold and callous neglect …

 

 

Pat, the mother who still denies she did anything at all wrong?

 

 

Whether or not you should reach out to Elizabeth … ?

 

 

That all depends on what’s stopping you …

 

 

Is it unconditional love for your daughter?

 

Concern that seeing the monster who caused all this would only make her sicker?

 

 

Or is it your own inability to face her?

 

 

Your own fear, weakness and cowardice?

 

 

Once again, you’ve made everything all about Ed …

 

 

when it should be all about what is best for your child.

 

Narcissistic Parents

The target of the narcissistic mother is treated with disdain within the family. No one believes her/him:

 

Although I didn’t tell anyone all of what went on in my parent’s house as a child, it was occasionally noticed; bruises from Ed’s beatings were not always easy to hide.  When I was asked, by a teacher or my grandmother, where the bruises came from, I was truthful, but I also took the blame by stating I had deserved it … after all, he told me I did.

My mother was very good at both psychological and literal abandonment of her children.

When the truth came out, I was middle-aged … but I was lucky; almost everyone believed me.  The only family member who did not was one of my father’s sisters, an aunt whose denial of the multi-generational abuse rampant in the Shockley family is foundational to her very being.

I think my sister has suffered more from the disbelief of others than have I.  A lot of this may have to do with her illness(es); she is prone to intensity of emotion and reaction, therefore she overstates reality; she embellishes …

in the case of Pat and Ed, the truth itself is more than enough.

People don’t seem to have a problem believing Elizabeth where Ed is concerned – she kicked him to the curb, rightfully, when she was very young, but having kept Pat in her life for as long as she did made it difficult for some to believe and understand the truth about Pat when she finally dared to share it …

Pat beat her.

Pat manipulated her.

Pat abandoned her.

Pat verbally and emotionally tortured her.

Pat is not now who she pretends to be …

and never has been.

 

Pat, a Narcissist?

Her pathology is classic – and so is Ed’s for that matter.

I used to wonder how their marriage lasted as long as it did, now I wonder why they broke up …

they are perfect for each other.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy Birthday

Ed’s birthday was spent worrying about my sister, who is once again in crisis due to Ed and Pat’s morally bereft parenting.

His daughter’s life collapsing while I imagine Ed was enjoying his day with the people he uses to shield himself from his vile past.

The legacy of abuse never ends …

Elizabeth will not get well, she has made a choice to remain in the hell her choices have landed her in; it is tragic.

She refuses help, flatly refuses.

It is difficult to help society, and even the victims, understand that damaged people aren’t responsible for their illness – that is on the perpetrator(s) of the abuse they have suffered…

but they are absolutely responsible for their actions in the here and now.

My sister believes she is unloved and unwanted, a lesson learned in childhood; I recall feeling the same things.

My aunt has rearranged her schedule and taken time off work to care for Elizabeth next week, this in hope that Elizabeth will detox and enter inpatient care before it’s too late.

My aunt, in many ways, is a surrogate for her sister – the mother Elizabeth and I never had. She bakes bread and cookies, attends my daughter’s shows, family holidays and events – a week seldom goes by that we don’t hear from her.  It’s nice, it’s the way it should be …

but my aunt should not have to be Elizabeth’s mother, she should not have to make up for what her sister and brother-in-law did to their children.

And she should not have to care for Elizabeth now because Elizabeth’s parents won’t take responsibility for the mess they made …

Abuse touches everyone.

No one is alone, and no one is immune from suffering if abuse is part of the tapestry of their family …

All this while the people who caused the suffering enjoy their lives as though they have every right to do so …

shielded by the lies they have told, and they people in their lives today …

the people who believe the lies.

 

Coping With What They Broke

“If you want to keep a secret, you must hide it from yourself.” — George Orwell

My sister’s current circumstances have me thinking a great deal about self-delusion.  As a child, self-delusion was a tool of survival for her, and as she grew up, she seemed to integrate certain aspects of reality into her life, but she also left many others in the shadows.  She has told me our father molested her, she has told me that our mother knew it was happening, and she has told me that both of our parents beat her mercilessly – the last part, the beatings, I actually witnessed, but the molestation I did not see first hand.

She, unlike me with either parent, allowed our mother a place in her adult life; she hasn’t spoken to our father since just after he went to jail for raping her best friend when she was fourteen years old. My estrangement from both parents came in my early twenties, but Elizabeth never fully closed the door on our mother.  When we spoke of this, briefly, she told me she was afraid to walk away from Pat – afraid if she did that she would someday be left with no one.  This statement left me unbelievably sad for my sister given all our mother had done to her, and all she had allowed our father to do; to believe she was somehow better off with Pat in her life was inconceivable to me.

Ed is also adept at keeping secrets from himself.  He has told me the past reveals itself to him in dreams – dreams from which he awakens tearful and badly shaken.  He has moments now, waking moments, when he is near his young step-grandsons, moments which leave him in a state of saddened and shocked disbelief at what he is capable of doing; these very young children are currently about the same age I was when he was cruelly and brutally beating me with his belt.  The past is dark and full of terrors …

it is easier to keep some secrets, especially from ourselves.

Pat’s recollections of the past are less known to me today than are those of Ed and Elizabeth, but she was always skilled at putting her own spin on life.  I don’t think she is delusional though, I think she knows exactly what she is doing, and has done.  She keeps secrets from others, and always has, and she may even want to believe the lies she has told others herself, but her biggest issue is a life-long lack of empathy and compassion – and perhaps a misconception of events and circumstances as they actually occurred.

And me?  I buried the past deep within and hoped it would never again see the light of day. I walked away, created a life for myself, found happiness and never looked back.  I didn’t forget, I didn’t repress, I didn’t deny, and I didn’t keep secrets from myself – I just got very good at not remembering – not allowing myself to remember … and when, despite my resolve, dark memories would occasionally find their way into my consciousness, I would ignore any and all feelings associated with them.  I set myself up for an inevitable breakdown, but it was the only way to survive.

I understand a lot now – and I have answers I never thought I would have, but there are still questions …

and I’m sure I will never know all of what my sister experienced in childhood …

She, like our parents, is very good at keeping secrets …

and hiding things from everyone, including herself.

Elizabeth,

Where to begin …

As children, we were not close.  Your memories of me as your protector are foreign; I was occasionally your tormentor, as you were mine, but that is as close to normal sibling interaction as we ever had.  How could I be your protector?  I couldn’t even protect myself. I survived our childhood, somehow, but I was aloof and I did it alone — I never felt a connection to you, or our parents.  We were raised by narcissists, we never had a hope in hell of learning to care about each other.  In that house, as you well know, it was every man, woman or child for him/herself.

When you contacted me after twenty-seven years of estrangement, asking if we could talk, my first reaction was, no … No way in hell to be more accurate.  I didn’t want your drama in my life.  I was struggling with my own stability at the time; you were the last thing in the world I needed to contend with.

But Rhonda said, ‘give her a chance, people do grow up.’ And so I did.  You only got farther than our initial lunch date because in you that day I saw a devoted wife, mother and teacher.  I saw a woman who had, despite all the odds stacked wildly against her, succeeded in creating a life she could be proud of and enjoy.  But the thing I admired most about you, the thing that actually made me want to know you in the here and now, was your love for, and devotion to, your daughter.

Being a good father, after everything Pat and Ed did to us, is the single most important part of my life – nothing I ever do will matter more.  I felt like we had our sincere dedication to our children in common, Elizabeth.  I believed you had broken the cycle of abuse, as I had.

When your crisis – for lack of a better word, hit you, I was there for you.  I came to the hospital and sat by your side, even when you were unconscious.  I supported you before you tried to kill yourself – would have done anything I could to get you the help you so desperately needed, but you didn’t have time.   You didn’t want help.  Didn’t need help.

You took a non-issue and used it to destroy your life.  I cautioned you – told you from the moment you came to me – you were going to lose everything if you didn’t get help.  You thought I was against you – thought I had taken a side; as I told you then, there were no sides, except in your very troubled mind.  The truth is this: I saw what was happening for what it was, because I had been there myself.

You were going to lose you mind, no one whose childhood is what yours was is going to get through life without some sort of breakdown.  You used the circumstances of your life in that moment in time – made them your catalyst when, in fact, there was nothing what-so-ever wrong with your current life; you had a husband who loved you – admired you for your strength, and a child – a happy, healthy child who any mother on the planet would be proud to call her own. You had no insurmountable problems in that moment; again, there was nothing wrong with your current life.  There was, however, a million things wrong with your childhood and your past, neither of which you had ever come to terms with. Neither of which you had ever honestly and openly shared with your husband and child.

Your stability was an illusion, it was not real, and you cannot sustain an illusion forever; no one, not even you, has infinite emotional resources to allocate to a fantasy life.  Your breakdown was inevitable …  and it had absolutely nothing to do with anything you so vehemently attributed it to.

You haven’t emailed or spoken to me since the holidays, I suppose you didn’t like that we spent the Sunday after Thanksgiving with Jim and Jac – oh well, Dear Sister.  I do not say that to hurt you, but I will not be sucked into your ridiculous, petty, self-pitying drama.

Last Mother’s Day, you contacted me terribly upset because someone in your life compared you to Ed.  Made the statement that what you’ve done to Jac is no different than what Ed did to you.  At the time, I thought this was harsh – Ed was a depraved monster, but the abuse comparison was valid — you are a different kind of Abuser, but make no mistake, you are an Abuser.

And none of it had to be.  You had the love and support of a family who was willing to stand by you every step of the way to wellness … and you just threw that away.

Who does that?  You tell me, what sane, rational person does this?

You drink to mask the pain of being who you are.  You have become an alcoholic rather than face the horror of your childhood.  You self-medicate, and you have lost everything.  Everything.  Alcoholism is merely a symptom – you know this, and I know this; you have far deeper issues.

It was a walk through hell to confront what Pat and Ed did to me, and I fought having to for a long, long time.  Did everything I could to avoid thinking about them … I know how hard all of this is for you, you know I do.

But Elizabeth, the pain of losing your family has to be worse than confronting the horror of the past ever could have been.

Maybe I don’t know everything Pat and Ed did to you; I know they both beat you – violently, cruelly and with clear intent to hurt you.  I know they neglected you, abandoned you, humiliated you.  I know they were never there for you emotionally.  And I now believe Ed did molest you, and know Pat failed to protect you, even from that … is there more?

The thing is: even if there is more, it is time to stop blaming others for what you have done; I ask if there is more with all the compassion I can muster …

but I fully believe that you are where you are today because of choices you and you alone made.  You bear all the responsibility and you should be held accountable to those you have hurt.

Why matters …

only because you need to face the why to get well.

As always, I am here for you when you are civil, kind, sober and decent.  I am here if you want to do the work you need to do to get well, but you must understand that I have fought too long and too hard for my own peace of mind to allow you to bring your toxic drama into my life.  And I deal with our childhood in light of the truth, all of it – ugly as that is, and will remind you that you’d do well to do the same …

You were no one’s Golden Child, and I was not the poor misbegotten brother who existed in the shadow of Pat and Ed’s pride and admiration in you — our parents were equal opportunity abusers, Elizabeth; neither of us was wanted, loved, valued or Golden.  I understand your need to create that fantasy world;  it was a little girl’s coping tool, and it got you through a nightmare childhood, but you are a grown-up now …

and there is no salvation in your delusions.

Tim

A Word of Caution

Although it is true that the people in our lives remain who and what they are to us, it is foolish to close our eyes to who and what they have been to others.

Objectionable character cannot, and should not, be overlooked.

If one has the capacity to sexually, physically and emotionally abuse their children, or to rape a young girl, or to turn their back on their child – or all three of them …

their character is tainted, despite who they pretend to be in your life.

I have zero tolerance for child abuse;  a man, or woman, who could hurt their own child is vile …

and has no place in the life of decent people.

So, Dear Friends and Family of Pat and Ed,

please remember that the next time you are faced with their righteous indignation at what you have read here, because …

Every.  Word.  Is.  True.