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.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Flag Day

Flag Day – obscure holiday that it is, is also Pat’s birthday.  I do not know the date in June designated as Flag Day, and I never have, but for some unknown reason I have never forgotten that Flag Day is also Pat’s birthday.

Mother’s Day, where Pat is concerned, does not leave me sentimental; in fact, if I think of her at all it is usually in realization that I feel nothing for her.  I don’t hate her – I don’t wish things could be different, but I don’t hate her; I don’t even resent her.  I simply feel nothing when faced with subtle, yearly reminders of her.

I have been told she is very ill; this news has left me unsympathetic.  I realize now ambivalence is a better descriptor of what I feel for Pat than is indifference; despite my having used indifferent for decades, ambivalent is more accurate: I may not wish any ill to befall her, but I also don’t care if it has.

Knowing I feel ambivalence, for anyone, was a sobering reality for me.  I’m compassionate, deeply so, and I care, in a humanitarian way, for everyone; I’m empathetic – occasionally to my own detriment, and yet, somehow, I am also capable of not caring at all – of feeling Pat may have finally gotten at least some of what she deserves.

My emotional response – or lack thereof,  was shaped by enduring years of her neglect, abandonment, physical and emotional abuse – and perhaps even a little of her own ambivalence and indifference.

Still, I don’t like how I feel …

I had a more difficult time letting go of my idealized notion of Pat than I did of Ed; she, at one time, had me all but convinced that all her wrongdoing, all of her flaws, all of her poor choices were Ed’s fault.   And in the end, after she divorced Ed, she justified everything she did under the guise of deserving to be happy – no matter who got hurt, because of all the suffering she had endured while married to him.  It was Ed’s fault she was an abusive mother, and it was Ed’s fault she slept with married men after he left – but nothing was ever Pat’s fault, or Pat’s choice.

She is a champion manipulator, and classic narcissist; God help anybody who believes she actually cares for them; she has no idea what love is.

I feel what I feel – I can’t change that, but it’s going to take me a while to become comfortable with knowing I’m ambivalent …

even where she is concerned.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Obligation

There was a time when I hated my parents.

Then, for the longest time, I was indifferent.

Now, all I feel for them is pity …

and a great deal of nothing.

In recent email with Ed concerning my sister’s current crisis, I have realized a few things – and when I say realized, I mean not only a certain recognition, but also a deep understanding …

He has no idea how to be a father.

I don’t even think he knows what it means to be a father.

He does things – always the wrong things, that would never even occur to me … or anyone else who has even the most basic idea of how this, I am a parent, thing works.

When Rhonda emailed him several years ago, during my emotional breakdown, to let him know not only that I was very sick, but that it was all his fault (along with Pat) I was sick, he did not respond in any way; no call, no visit, no email reply.  Nothing.

When told Elizabeth was ill, his response has been two fold;  “I hope Pat does something to help her.”  was his first response …

and it was followed by his telling me that if she is a threat to herself or others, I can call Adult Protective Services.  He then explained that because he has had no contact with his daughter himself, he cannot make this call.

Seriously, I just had to shake my head.

His child is sick, and in crisis, and he knows exactly why she is sick … knows and acknowledges that his abuse (along with Pat’s) when she was a child is to blame for her state of mental health, and what does he do?

He sends her an email!  He hasn’t seen her in more that thirty five years, she is mentally ill and in crisis, and he emails her!

When I pointed out that this might not have been the best way to approach her, he agreed with me.

If it weren’t so damn tragic, it would be funny.  How can anyone be this daft?

It is his mess.

She is his child.

And still he does not take responsibility …

still he refuses to fix, or even attempt to fix, what he broke.

He lives in a world where nothing that happened prior to his marrying Marie matters;

nothing before 1985 is relevant:

Ed did not abuse his children.

Ed did not rape his daughter’s fourteen year old friend.

Ed did not fail to live up to even the most basic of obligations to his children.

He has hidden and lied for so long he actually believes he is good.

His children create cognitive dissonance – we are a stark, cold reality – a reminder that he isn’t who and what he believes himself to be.

I get it.  I do.

As sick as he made his children …

he has made himself even sicker.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

Pat, Ed and Elizabeth

My sister is at my aunt’s house, she arrived there yesterday.  The goal is to give Elizabeth someplace safe to detox while directing her toward treatment and recovery.  I have not seen her yet; she sent Rhonda a message yesterday asking that we not visit as she doesn’t want us to see her as she is now.  It is tragic.

We were never close, but it is hard to know she is so sick, disturbed and dysfunctional.  She has lost everything; her husband and child, her family, her job; her financial situation, as she states it to be, is abysmal – I don’t even know if she currently has health insurance.  This has to be the place known as, Rock Bottom.

She keeps saying she has nothing left to live for.  We keep telling her she has to learn to live for herself now …

Children are fragile.  There is a limit to what they can endure and still become whole, functional adults.  I don’t know where in her childhood – the exact moment in time, Pat and Ed broke their daughter, but it happened, and now she is here.

She believed our parents when they told her she was bad and deserved to be beaten, shamed and humiliated.  She endured our mother’s abandonment, and our father’s sexual depravity.  She lived without parental attention and affection, and she survived their sustained emotional alienation and abuse.

But she has never understood our parent’s abuse was never about her, it was always about them.  She was not a bad child, they were/are bad people.

No matter what she did, she did not deserve to be treated the way she was by Pat and Ed. They were adults, she was a child; the nature of their relationship with each other was created and developed by them, and as adults they bear ALL the responsibility for the outcome …

Just as Elizabeth now bears all the responsibility for the fractured relationship she has with her own child.

I sent Ed a very brief email last week, but I do not think Pat knows how sick Elizabeth is currently.

Ed did nothing …

and Pat’s response would likely be the same.

I’m a father who believes that giving up on your child is never an option.  Never, ever.  No matter what.  I couldn’t do what Pat and Ed are doing now …

anymore than I could have done what they did to cause this.

My sister is critically ill.  She may die.

And yes, her life apart because she refused care.  She refused treatment.  She refused to get well …

she has never understood that our past, our childhood, was not about her, ever.

Ed wants the world to believe he has changed, yet where is he when his daughter desperately needs help?

Pat lives in denial, despite the fact that no one who knows her believes her anymore.

My God, if Ed had changed, he’d make an effort – some sort of gesture.

And if Pat’s story were true, Elizabeth would be at her house, not our aunt’s.

The abuse has not ended …

and Pat and Ed have not changed.

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.