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How I know I was abused

My mother often labeled me ‘phony’, ‘weird’ and ‘not normal’ anytime I tried to break out of her constraints. She tried to put me back in my box. I was treated as a second-class citizen, a servant in my own family. I had to do all the work for no reward. My sister, on the other hand, had all the privileges and was actually favored for adopting a flippant and callous demeanor. In fact, that she could take my mother’s insults and turn them right back on her actually made them good friends! I, on the other hand, for trying to be a good daughter and taking my mother’s words to heart was branded the problem child. The Scapegoat vs Golden Child roles in narcissistic families is well-known. I got all the blame, while she could do no wrong.

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I have spent a good deal of my life questioning if what I experienced did actually constitute abuse. After all, there were no bruises, broken bones, or unwanted touching. I was given adequate food and clothing appropriate for the weather. The conclusion I have come to is this: any kind of abuse has at its roots the malice of setting your boundaries for you. Whether sexual, physical, financial, verbal, psychological, or emotional they all have that in common. They force other people’s standards and limits upon you with no regard for what you are comfortable with. Those of us who were abused as children have not had the opportunity to learn what our own boundaries are, or even that such a concept exists.

Abusers have in common a lack of empathy and self-awareness, as well as an impenetrable self-serving mentality and self-righteousness. They think they have the right to make decisions for others that are harmful for them and they don’t feel bad. Otherwise, they would never become abusive in the first place because remorse would have notified them that what they were doing was wrong and they would change their ways. Healthy, normal people feel bad when they realize they’ve hurt someone. They listen to the other’s point of view and have the wherewithal to prevent themselves from making the same mistake. In short, they care.

My parents tried very, very hard to break my empathy. I kept trying to forge connection with them, and they cut me down every time with cruel and biting remarks. They eroded my trust by going behind my back to talk bad about me, refusing to acknowledge things they had said and done (and told me I was making it up), and rewarding my sister’s callousness. For whatever reason, I was just hardwired to be a sensitive, caring, and compassionate individual. They could not break me, no matter how much they tried. I continued to seek ways to grow emotionally and teach myself the things they should have but didn’t. I’ve heard those raised by single mothers say they had to be their own father. Well, I had to be my own father AND my own mother.

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While sometimes, yes, I am angry at them, I can’t hold onto resentment. It does piss me off that they can’t admit to any mistakes, but if they aren’t able to introspect and examine themselves I can’t force them to or expect a change. So it’s up to me to do better and to fix the consequences of the way they raised me. It wasn’t my fault. I never asked for it and it may not be fair but it doesn’t help to blame them. I just have to commit to doing better and healing the gaping void they left inside me.

If you can relate, I want to remind you that you are beautiful. Everyone deserves to be seen, heard, and valued simply because they are alive. Your struggles are not shameful and talking about them will help not only free yourself but others as well. You are lovable, and you are not alone.

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