Another disappointing response from a relative

I had my aunt visit recently, the one who was also assaulted by my father. When I visited her a couple of years ago, she was very accepting of what I had to say and even offered to put some pressure on my mom to write me a letter.

After visiting me she visited my mother, and you guessed it, went into denial. She wrote me a letter expressing her hope that my mother and brothers and I would all be one big happy family again.  I just got it and I’m crying.

I know, I know that family members do this. That they go into and out of denial, and seldom are able to really handle how bad it is. However it really hurts. Why do I always have to be the strong one? Why can’t I have the steadfast warrior support I deserve?

It hurts.

Here is the response I wrote:

“Dear Aunt J

I really enjoyed your visit. Thank you so much for coming.

You know, I’ve learned a lot in my life in connection to what happened to me. One thing is that people have a very hard time holding in their hearts that it is as bad as it is. It hurts. It is an exceptional person who can do it, usually one who has had to face her own hard truths unflinchingly. I am able to do this for others, and I understand it is a rare gift. It feels better to pretend it is something that can be swept under the rug or that it’s not of much importance. That’s how I understand your letter. I forgive you for wanting it all to go away, and I understand the impulse to put gentle pressure on me to make nice with my mother, which demands that I pretend what she did wasn’t horrific in it’s own right, and give up my right to a confession and apology.

Here is why you should resist that impulse to condone and minimize, however. That impulse is what protects people like Graham. That impulse is what keeps people from calling the police and getting children to safety, or calling child protective services. That impulse to hide from the truth of a horrific situation is why he is not in jail right now, why he got away with raping a child, with aggravated sexual assault. That impulse is why I have chronic discomfort, every day from the vascular damage and scarring he inflicted on me, scarring and nerve damage that in part result from medical attention my mother could have gotten for me, but did not. If we do not stand up to insist on a world where children’s bodies are respected, and those who violate them are held accountable, who will? If we contribute to a climate that sweeps it under the rug as not important, then we are part of the problem.

It is important and healthy to face the truth. It is good for the soul, and our own personal integrity. It is good to be accountable for harm we have done to others and make amends.  That is why I am requiring that my mother confess to me what she did, to make amends by confessing in writing. I have proof, in the form of the scars, that she did know, right after it happened. Those wounds were very severe, and not something a mother would not have noticed in a 5 or 6 year old child. She knew, and she covered it up, instead of going to the police or even a doctor. I got no stitches, no antibiotics, and as far as I can recall, no painkillers. I’m not sure if you tore when you gave birth, but I imagine it is like that. My doctor has given me some strategies to manage the pain and vascular problems I still have, but my body will never be the same. Those ongoing effects could have been prevented if I’d gotten stitched up and removed from Graham’s reach right away. Imagine a child going through that alone.

It is a small thing I am asking for. I am asking only that people face the reality of what happened as unflinchingly as they can. I survived it, I healed it.  I deserve that small thing from people who love me, and I respect myself enough to insist on it. If it means I have no family, so be it.

I was so honoured that you and uncle T believed and supported me. It filled a deep place within me. Although I understand that denial is part of your own grieving process, and that it is difficult to stay connected to the truth of what happened in the face of my mother’s denial, it still hurts. I understand, and I forgive you, but I want to inspire you to do better.

Accepting the truth, even a horrific truth, unflinchingly, has its own gifts. It makes us stronger, and less able to be manipulated by others. I would not go back. I am proud of who I have become by overcoming, and wish that for my mother and older brother, and for you.

May you be blessed in all ways possible,

Love,

your niece. “

Hangover

Today was the first day alone I’ve had since I got back from my trip to see my relatives.

My house is a mess, something that if I don’t deal with soon, will probably put me at odds with my wife. I spent most of the day in bed reading, broken up but largely context-less bursts of sobbing. There is so much to integrate from my trip, and I feel utterly alien. It’s like I’m hiding my own emotional reality from myself unless it leaks out suddenly, as it did on the weekend in an unexpected burst of anger which I wasn’t that good at hiding and today in an unexpected burst of crying while reading a novel.

I hate it. It makes me wonder what I’ve got locked away so tight, since my own emotional reality sneaks up on me, like it’s coming from somewhere else. I mean, I was a therapist, so I know it makes sense I’d have grieving to do, and anger to express. It’s the fact that I don’t actually feel them, until they burst out suddenly and then just as suddenly are gone. Am I in some sort of shock? It’s not that I’m not capable of strong emotion sometimes, but I seem to need someone there to validate and protect me, even if it is only the Goddess in the form of a beautiful natural location, in order to truly feel.

I”m overwhelmed.

What am I overwhelmed about? The trip went well.

1) I disclosed graphic details of the abuse: That I’d been injured in a rape at the age of 5 and that my mother must have known – to family – her own brother and sister. They’d believed me, shown me validation and respect for my strength, and apologized for not seeing and intervening. They totally got why I needed to ask questions about my mother and father, and answered them honestly and as fully as they could.

2) I got information about my father and mother. My mom’s high school yearbook, which my uncle had since he went to the same school, referred to her dating my father at the age of 15. My aunt said that her parents were strongly against sex before marriage, and that my mother was the golden girl, very obedient. She thought my father must have put huge pressure on her to have sex with him before marriage, and that her getting pregnant before marriage as she did was a huge deal. My uncle told me a story about going hunting with my father and my father firing a gun irresponsibly, scaring my uncle so he didn’t hunt with my father again. The way he told the story, I could see my father doing it on purpose, just for the risk and to freak out my uncle. He loved freaking people out. Very sociopathic.

3) I got triggered by two things at my paternal aunt’s house. One was a room I think I was abused in, which I’d dreamt about, but didn’t realize actually existed, a ‘secret room’ behind one of the bedrooms that used to be a storage area. The second was the type of attention her husband showed toward my cousin’s son, his grandson. He lit up when he saw him, but was a bit controlling with him, and the little boy moved away from him later in the meal. Nothing major, but he was just enough like my dad to creep me out, given the context.

4) I went to a couple of places I’d been to as a child, but didn’t have the liberty to wander and soak up impressions, to get a sense for whether I could remember how I thought or felt there. It was like I am so hungry for places that were familiar to me as a child, places I could recover lost parts of myself from.

I found a really good way to explain why survivors don’t want to ‘just forget it’. I told my mom’s brother’s wife, my aunt: “Because of how overwhelming it is when traumatic things happen, the brain doesn’t store the information properly. You get bits of memory floating around, ready to surface at any time. Like a feeling of terror, with no other information. To stop it, you have to allow yourself to feel whatever it is, and then sometimes you get more information  to go with it and it can become a normal memory.  So why would I want to forget a memory I worked so hard for?”  Shortly after this she told me how much she admires my courage.

The problem is people don’t really get it unless you tell them everything. If they don’t know how bad it really is, they don’t get why things are important. I really respect my maternal aunts and uncle for hearing, and asking and being unflinching in looking at things. I offered a couple of times to change the subject, but they said they were comfortable with talking about it if I wanted to.

I think it’s the love that makes me cry. I’m not used to getting this kind of love and support and willingness from people, certainly not my family.

My aunt told me she was going to tell my mother she should confess, tell the truth about what she did. We both agreed it would be good for my mom to get it off her chest, and that she owed it to me. My aunt thinks she can get her to disclose. I think she can try, but I don’t really see it happening.

And then there’s this whole thing about whether my mom abused me. I’m afraid if I remember anything like that it will f up my sex life even worse than it already is. One of the great things about being a lesbian is that I don’t have sex with men, and don’t have to wade into the minefield of sensations that are too similar to the ones of the abuse.

And lastly there’s the whole sociopath thing. Even the small morsels of love I thought I might have had from my father, the connection of singing together and all that, was probably either grooming or his ego at having a talented daughter.  He literally had no ability to connect or love anyone. I had no father. Someone f’ing saddled me with a sociopath father! and it’s fricking hereditary!  I can’t have a child knowing he or she might be sociopathic, not that I was really planning to, but still. On the other hand it validates what happened to me. He just did what he wanted to, and liked to torture and dominate people.

My wife and I get into fights because I think she lets’ mean people get away with hurting her. It triggers me because I know you have to cut off people like that. Apparently I did the best thing you can do if you are involved with a sociopath in some way, just cut them off completely and permanently. As long as they have contact they will use it to meet their needs for stimulation and winning at the expense of others, to manipulate with pity and power. I cut him off effectively. Why did he give me his piano? Was it to manipulate my mother into thinking she could get restitution and repentance from him to mend her broken family to the way it was? I can’t think of another reason. He made trouble for me actually, because by giving it to me, he  broke his separate promises to both of my brothers to leave it to them.

My mother should just cut him off, and wait for him to die, not count on getting a penny out of the house, and do whatever hands off legal shielding she can do to prevent herself from becoming accountable for his debts.

I hope in a few days I’ll feel better. The crying feels more like exhaustion that anything else, and the rage. It’s like I’m overwhelmed and just can’t take anymore.

Visiting Family

Stag on Hillside Photocredit: Kev747 via Flickr

Well, I went back east for a week to visit my moms siblings, my dad / abuser’s sister and a bunch of cousins and second cousins. It went very well, and I got a lot of loving supportive connection and reconnection and lots of validating and useful information.

I’ve been researching sociopaths lately and am reading a good book on them by Martha Stout. I’m only partly through but it’s good. I am working on the assumption that my dad/abuser is a sociopath. I told my maternal aunts and uncle this, and they were receptive. My uncle looked up what a sociopath was on the internet and told me the next day that he agrees that my dad fits the profile. Very validating. I got to ask them all kinds of questions about my parents and they were very open to answering. I also explained about how I’d been injured in the rapes and how I now know that my mom would have had to have known.

This is now what I think happened.

I got raped and injured when I was little. Mom found out when she found the wounds. My father went into a big sob story about how it was because he’d been drinking so heavily and drinking hard liquor. (According to Stout, the ‘pity play’ is almost universally used by sociopaths, and a person who behaves badly toward you more than once or twice and tries to make you let them off the hook out of pity is likely to be a sociopath.) My mom forced herself to believe this and told him she’d leave/call the police/whatever if he ever drank the hard stuff again. He drank beer from then on. I remember this being a rule that he complied with that my mom had set, she told me she’d forbidden him to drink hard liquor. Since my dad was an incredibly sexist, arrogant, dominating patriarch, he would never have complied with a rule set by his wife for so long with a rule she set without a really compelling reason. Being a sociopath, he wouldn’t have done it out of guilt since they don’t have any. Also, it was the very same excuse he gave me in his letter he wrote me, that he didn’t remember abusing me but if he’d abused me it was because of the alcohol.

Now she feels so guilty she did this that she’s either blocked it out, or is unwilling to confess her guilt to me. I don’t think my mom is a sociopath, since she wouldn’t have stayed with my father if she didn’t fall for his bullshit, and I think she’s actually shown empathy, although she is very selfish.  She’s a workaholic, probably in part to keep herself from thinking about any of it, something I know from experience works very well. You can pretend you don’t even remember, although if you stop bailing constantly, that boat sinks instantly.

So I think this was her ‘deal with the devil’ to try and keep me safe while holding on to the status of being his wife, which I also learned was incredibly important to my grandmother. My mother had been groomed to be a rich guy’s trophy wife, and they thought they’d caught one, except my dad, although he’d been from a rich family, was never rich himself. Sociopaths are motivated differently (to say the least) from other people, and avoiding debt or providing for his family would never have been a big deal. My dad was motivated by exercising power over others and torturing people, so he didn’t need to be very rich to do that. His behaviour with money didn’t make much sense until I read that some sociopaths will just take the path of least resistance and sponge off of others. He worked just enough to maintain his status. My mom was a beauty queen, which also fits the profile, as sociopaths, since they don’t love anyone, tend to pick partners that iether support them financially or are high status in some way.

It’s all starting to make a lot more sense. I don’t need to worry about confronting him, because I won’t be able to affect him, he has no sincere connections with other people. I’m released from that. He’s probably also not interested in haunting me either. I was just a toy.  My father never loved me, which is good to know since it’s consistent with his behaviour, although I did do some grieving.

I had a neat pagan thing happen.

I was heading out to visit my father’s sister and was quite nervous, since they’re snobby and besides, they know I’ve disclosed the abuse. On the way out there, a stag leapt across the road in front of me, not close enough to be dangerous, but close enough to see him clearly. Stags are the symbol or embodiment of the God, the positive, brotherly, nature god of Wiccan belief and brother or consort to the Goddess. So it was this positive image of maleness,  who represents sacrificing that others may live like the meat animals or the grain that is cut for food, and not incidentally the polar opposite of my sociopath father, who blessed me on my journey to may father’s family. In a way it was like the really wonderful love and support I’d received from my mom’s older brother on my trip, who was very supportive and loving.

I got to swim in the lake I’d swum in as a child and spoke with my favourite cousin and met her kids. I found out a little  information, like what the age difference was between my father and his older sisters. My aunt was not someone I could ask abuse info from, but I may pump my cousin for info later, now that we’ve reconnected.

I went to all my grandparents graves and had a talk and a cry with them. I went to a florist and picked out flowers I thought each of them would like to put on their graves as offerings. It was good. My maternal aunt and uncle came with me to help me find the graves and then left me alone when I asked for some time to mourn privately. Since I hadn’t been at the funerals for any of them, it was important for me to do that.

My mom’s sister said their childhood was fine, with no abuse or neglect, although she doesn’t remember any of it (yikes). I didn’t point out what you will know is the obvious explanation of that. Perhaps some other time. She struggles a lot with compulsive/addictive behaviour, particularly to do  with food,  but there’s only so much you want to intrude on someone else’s process.  She was very welcoming and loving and willing to answer any of my questions. She even offered to talk to my mother and get some info from her on my behalf. Both my maternal aunts and uncles wanted me to make up with my mother at first, but once I explained I think they got it, and understand why I’m waiting for my mom to provide the info I asked for.

Anyways, it went very well, and I don’t seem to have much of an emotional hangover from it. I was very proud of how I handled everything, and felt so healthy. I didn’t even stress-eat. I brought my mp3 player and some noise cancelling headphones and listened to comforting music and relaxation meditations, which helped a lot too. I rented a car, and would sing pagan hymns or meaningful songs  to vent feelings and give myself strength.

Family Reunion

Don’t panic, it’s not MY family, it’s my wife’s. However, in the wake of my mother’s stalker-like note, I’m a bit twitchy about family. I normally like my wife’s family, they’re religious (in that gay-hating, women oppressing way, not the good way) but we stay away from that and they don’t tell us we’re going to hell or anything. They’re actually quite nice people, and there is a small but friendly non-religious contingent as well so it’s not too bad for a couple of lesbians all in all.

However this year is a milestone birthday for my wife’s mom, and everyone will be there I’m guessing, including one set of relatives I got my therapist to call social services about. I’m afraid of seeing them and probably discovering they’re still abusing and neglecting my neices and nephews and nothing has been done. Although, the Goddess works in mysterious ways, perhaps I’ll find out their kids have been removed to foster homes and they’re too ashamed to show up. One can hope. The only good thing is that their kids getting older and are leaving home, but they’re so badly injured psychologically. There are reports from other relatives that the kids steal from family when they visit, which is a sign of neglect to me, and also absorbing the values of their sociopath father. They’re skinny, needy and haunted when I seen them.  I wonder if I was like that. It’s a bit triggering to say the least. I suppose I should be a good survivor aunt and take notes to pass on to social services, and try and find out where they’re living now, but my inner child wants to stay the hell away from all of them. I actually think I ‘passed’ for normal quite a bit better than they do (I’ve been told I had a kind of quiet dignity, and a flair for the dramatic at times), which makes me really fear for what is happening to them.

It’s also getting close to my visit to my aunts and uncles out east. I leave next week. I”m looking forward to the trip, but frankly this is all a bit too much family at once for me. I’ve been working and packing non-stop to get ready for all this, so I’ve been overwhelmed. I’m one of those highly sensitive people who gets overwhelmed if I do too much or have too much stimulation because I process it all so deeply. It makes me a good writer, and gives me a rich inner life, which I wouldn’t give up for the world, but it also makes me exhausted by interpersonal conflict. I work for myself, alone most of the time, for that reason. When I see people I’m happy to see them, and I’m not a total hermit, but I like my space.

The wife and I will be staying at a hotel rather than with relatives, which should hopefully help, and we’re bringing our dog, which I anticipate will need a lot of long walks during the day.

Wish me luck.