My parents. My abusers. They both formed me into who and what I am. To heal, I need to understand them. This is how I feel I need to proceed; your path to healing may or may not be similar to mine.
My mother is a complex and very broken person. She was probably raised with being sexually and physically abused, then married my father. While I felt that I loved her, both parents abused me physically and sexually; he mostly hurt me and she rarely hurt me, but sexual abuse damages with or without physical harm. She worshipped him, so leaving to save us both was never considered. My father rented me out to pedophiles for money and my mother would say, “He hit you because you didn’t obey him. Please don’t make him angry.” She would cry and beg me to be “good” to avoid being beaten by my father, and sometimes he would beat her to punish me, too; yet she never could make a leap to the idea that she should get us both away from him.
I am making progress in therapy to see the monster that my father was instead of blaming myself for how I am now. However, it has been far more difficult to see the wrong she did. I often cling to the few good memories as a defense to protect her from my own sense of anger that she also abused me. Therapy and all the research I do is beginning to help me in seeing that maybe I don’t need to feel guilt about laying the blame for her crimes at her feet instead of my father’s, or my own.
Still, the impulse to protect her is strong. We “trench-bonded” in the Hell that was my childhood. She was the only person who said they loved me and I could feel it was true. Tainting that, though, was how she let my need for love and affection twist into incest, to try to fill her own unmet needs.
I know that I need to strip off the blinders with her as I have slowly been able to do with my father. Yet it still feels like a betrayal to call her an abuser, because she was so often my only solace and protection, even if both were minimal and largely ineffective.
This is just one of the fallout damage problems of incest and child sexual abuse. We are hardwired to love our parents and to want and seek (and try to earn) their love. They take that and use it against us.
I am getting better at seeing the monster within my father. I am more able to say, “How could you do those things to me?” Even though he is long dead now, and I can never have the answers I need, at least now I am more able to ask those questions.
My mother lives across the country and she is not allowed any contact with my children, and only minimal contact (phone, email) with me. She has to remain in therapy, or all contact with me will stop. She is not allowed to be inappropriate to me. I maintain contact out of a need for answers, but if I try to seek answers from her, she just cries and breaks down. I know she is so damaged, as I am. Yet the urge to protect and shield her, even from my own horror and anger, persists.
Sometimes the conflict between all of these feelings ties me into a terrible Gordian Knot of guilt, shame, anger, fear, and self-hate. Yet the sword therapy taught me to wield that has helped me to cut down the Father Knot seems useless on Mother.
If I am brave enough to be honest with myself though, I know that what I must do is try to untangle them; even the severed halves I was abruptly so desperate to cut down.
What holds me back is fear: the dread of what horrors and memories may be released as the crusted-over strands are finally loosened.
I see myself in a stone hallway with these tangled masses between me and the healing I work toward. I have to go through them and past them, but the understanding I want probably lies in the untangling, not in merely cutting them into pieces I can move beyond.
As I hesitate, sometimes I’m afraid the strands deep within may only wind tighter; yet the courage to kneel, set down the sword, and get to work, seems to be paralyzed in my chest.
In these moments, it is all I can do to breathe. Still, as I breathe, I feel the fear calming, the courage rising, a little more.
Breathe… just breathe. Someday, when we are ready, we will know it is time to begin.
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© W.R.R. 4/2/2013
For all survivors of any form of rape or abuse; you are not alone. Speak out. Find your path to healing.