From the age of nineteen to twenty one, my mother made several attempts at convincing me to write her biography. She didn’t value my talent when I showed her the novel I wrote, but using it for her own glorification sounded like a good idea. Of course I refused, and suggested that she write it herself. Likewise today I have no real interest in her story–of course she was abused and traumatized, but I don’t care about that and it doesn’t alter the important fact that I had rights which she violated, and I deserved better. I’m learning today that I have no reason to believe any second-hand truths about myself or our family fed to me by my sister and mother. Beyond the question of what exactly she expected me to write in that book (apparently not the truth–that she is an ugly monster who hit, molested, and emotionally abused me) is the very naked fact that she saw me as merely an object on which to unload the story of her life. To her, I was not a person of value, with my own perspective, feelings, and life-story.
It is a tragic misrepresentation when a parent wishes to project their own story onto a child as if is the child’s story and perspective. I listened to accounts of my mother’s life many times growing up, about her traumas, depressions, financial and life difficulties. It was inappropriate for her to put all of that on me, to not only give me her emotional burdens, but try to hold me responsible for her life while she refused to admit to the great harm her actions caused to my life. I can’t count how many times I recall my mother shouting at me, “we could lose the house!” This communicated to me that it was my fault, that because I wanted the food or clothes I had just asked for, I had led them to financial ruin and it would be on me when the house was foreclosed upon. Of course, that is not the case at all–my parents were the adults, they managed their own finances and kept themselves well-stocked with cigarettes, beer, and marijuana even during the times they shouted down my needs and blamed me for almost losing the house. That was their responsibility and their problem, they chose to have children, I did not ask to be born.
Despite all of this, my mother refused to ever listen to what I had to say–she would usually cut me off and change the subject if she ever heard me say anything about my life which didn’t suit her mood or belief system. My older sister perpetuated this same cycle with me, believing that her story was important and worthwhile, but mine was not. Even when I started to confront my mother about the abuse, she tried to make it about her. In one letter, she went on about the fact that when I was born my father was working a minimum wage job and my mother was cut off from her “support system.” This phrase referred to the abusive mother and sister that she hated and shared a codependent alcoholism with…hardly much of a support system. But she and my sister both cherished this fantasy that before my brother and I were born, they had this great extended family which my sister claimed went away on account of me, because I wouldn’t stop talking about my brother’s abuse.
But a minimum wage job and a choice that our mother made to move halfway across the country while she was depressed after the birth of my brother (thus before I was born and able to speak about my brother abusing me) does not excuse or even explain a bit of the abuse that I talk about here on this blog. She ended this scenario by stating, “of course I ignored you!” As if it was a given that you would ignore an infant baby and later shame him for being ‘quiet’ and not having a strong bond with you. This was an off-topic aside, another moment that my mother used in order to tell her own story yet again as if it was supposed to dwarf or make mine irrelevant. Much of the abuse I remember, naturally, didn’t take place when I was a newborn anyway, and even after she had plenty of time to build up a new ‘support system’ and my parents were making better money, the abuse only became worse, because it wasn’t about that! Keeping her abusive family in her life and not bothering to decode the messages of cruelty and exploitation she had learned and deciding that they were in fact good was what made her abuse me. Not any job, not where she lived or the size of her bank account.
It should be noted that throughout my childhood, my parents burned bridges quite freely all on their own. There was one couple who I was really close to from when I was five to eight years old–they would babysit my brother and I, take us to the movies, come to our birthday parties, have us up to their cabin in the mountains for long weekends… One day she called and left a drunken message on our answering machine saying some insulting but meaningless things to my mother. But my mother broke it off right there, announcing that she would never speak to her again. Later my sister claimed it was actually because they were really into cocaine and my parents wound up getting caught up in it themselves. I don’t know if that’s true at all, but either way, I was not even considered in the scenario for one minute. In my mother’s eye, it was all about her, her friendship, her addictions, and who cares about my feelings or how I might have benefited from keeping them in our life, especially since this occurred in exactly the time when my older sister moved away, and I was left all alone to be endlessly abused by my brother.
It occurs to me that perhaps it really isn’t normal to have no continuity at all, no family friends that lasted throughout my entire childhood. My parents seemed to throw people off if they got too close, perhaps because they would begin to suspect the incest? Ironically, my parents (and my brother) loved to ridicule and insult me from a young age by claiming that I had “no friends.” My parents had limited social skills and volatile, short-lived relationships with other adults, but they never stopped harassing me. The reality was, however, that I never really had “no friends,” I tended to be quiet and shy, and I had good reasons for not inviting people over to our house, but I was never actually without some friends whether I just connected with them at school, online, or over the phone. Yet my need for privacy and desire to protect myself only inflamed my mother’s intrusiveness, and I believe now that she would often say things like “you have no friends” in the hopes that I would become upset enough to shout back the truth, which I rarely did.
Naturally I grew up with the burden of these secrets that I had to keep, and it was difficult if not impossible to get close to anyone by the time I reached high school. I had a regular group of friends by that point, but none of them actually knew anything about me. Needless to say, no one I knew from the region of my childhood, high school, or even college is in my life today. I’m perfectly fine with that in and of itself, I don’t regret going my own way and building an identity separate to the milieu I grew up in. But I really want to break this cycle today, now that I’m aware of what I was really hiding all these years, the fact that almost every person in my family sexually abused me…now that I know that, I want to start a new continuity of my own making, with healthy relationships. I don’t want things to go back to the way they were again.