The Power People Have – Even If You Don’t Think Or Want Them To – And How Hard It Is To Let Go …
Today I saw some people I used to love, but who aren’t in my life anymore.
I’ve told myself that I’m over the hurt and anger, that they are simply nothing to me. That this is the best place to be – no emotion – no love, nor hate, just that I’m free from them! And it’s easy to do this when they are out of sight and out of mind. But then I see them, and it all comes flooding back.
However … this wasn’t a friend, or an ex.
Today I saw my “mother and father”. Usual circumstances for most people, a happy time even! Now I’m sitting here, with a wine, my skin crawling, my stomach in knots, heart racing so fast and loud I can hear every beat in my ears, my mind in overdrive, unable to sleep and, once again, reliving events and questioning so much. I hate that people who have not been in my life for almost a decade, still have control over me, and my emotions. I thought I was stronger than that! I wish I was.
I even struggle to call them those names. Mother and father. However, they have been out of my life for more than 25% of the time that I’ve been alive, so most people don’t even know their names. Mother and father is simply an easy description.
The names mum and dad are a privilege. Blood does not make it a God given right. Your actions are what earn you that title. And even though I hate sounding like them now, I’ll say it because this statement, unlike theirs, is true – they don’t deserve the privilege of that title.
I grew up being repeatedly told that things are a privilege, and that I didn’t deserve that privilege. Things such as being told that having a roof over my head was a privilege that I didn’t deserve, so that got taken away. Even using the home phone to make a local, no cost call, to be picked up in the middle of the night, when I had, once again, been kicked out of our rural home (so a bus stop wasn’t within walking distance), was a privilege I didn’t deserve. Or when bus money to school was a privilege, so I didn’t go to school sometimes. Just a few of the countless instances.
It was a funeral that I attended today, where i saw them. I knew they would be there. Despite the anxiety that comes with knowing I will see them, I wanted to pay my respects. Why should I feel afraid to go, knowing they will be there? Needless to say, last night was a sleepless one in preparation.
As usual, as this is not the first time this has happened, nor will it be the last I’m sure, mother ignored me, until she was with her friends. Her support network while I was alone. Then the mind games start. I knew to expect it, but it still gets to me. That’s when I get a “hello darling, how are you?” All for show. The revolt and disgust I feel is overwhelming. A truly whole body, physical response. But my reaction leaves me torn, angry, and frustrated. I can’t even bring myself to say hello back. I look the other way. So she wins – her friends see this, and it confirms all the stories that she’s spun over the last decade. However, if I engage with her, all sweet and polite, then I’m just as fake as she is. And I refuse to lower myself to her level.
Her friends have never heard my story. They’ve simply never asked, and I’ve never told. It was only a year ago that the one Aunty who still speaks to me, found out my parents had me arrested when I was 15 years old, dragged from my bed by three male police officers, handcuffed, punched in the face and verbally abused while alone in a police car with them, stripped searched to the point of being made to squat naked, before sleeping in the police cells and then going to court – as this was the fastest way to sign their daughter over to CYFS care (now Oranga Tamariki). My Aunty cried, and said if she knew, she would have picked me up and taken me in. But my parents made sure people didn’t know. Is it a coincidence that one of their favourite TV shows was “Keeping Up Appearances”?
I won’t even go into what life in a CYFS home is like. Quite simply, it’s exactly as you may think, if not worse. However, even at that young age, I was determined not to let that situation define me, and I passed my end of year exams. Few classmates knew my circumstances.
I was not the out of control, crazy teenager, that you may assume. I was fairly typical, wanting to go to parties with my friends. Experimenting with alcohol or a joint every now and then. But my parents felt they couldn’t handle me, so they got rid of me.
One of my charges was for assaulting my mother. I kneed her in the stomach to stop her from choking me against a wall when I was trying to run out of the lounge room, away from her. She then threw me on the ground, sat on top of me and pulled clumps of my hair out. However, she took a photo of her bruise, and laid a complaint with the police months later – long after my injuries had healed, and I was naive enough not to have any evidence of my own.
We talk today about violence in relationships, and how we deserve better, and to get out. But what happens when you’re a child, and it’s behind the closed doors of a ‘fancy’ home, while you attend a private high school? No one suspected a thing. And now people only believe the “sad old lady” who “misses her daughter so much”. If you look in the dictionary of a narcissistic manipulator, I’m sure you’ll see her photo.
It wasn’t just the physical abuse. It was the mental and emotional torture. And it’s true what they say, those scars last longer than physical ones. Its been 20 years and situations like today, seeing them again, rip them open. I walked into that chapel, bleeding on the inside, yet no one could see. I don’t have a black eye, or a bandage. My mother and father are a scab that never heals, and gets picked open to be a fresh wound when I see their faces or hear their names.
Who tells their child that “mum was on the pill when she got pregnant with you”? What parents argue about who has to take their daughter to netball, when they both want to go to their sons rugby and not her netball, in front of her? Who cooks for the entire family, but not their daughter? There were times, even as an adult, where I would be in a room, and it was like I was invisible. Simply ignored, like I’m nothing. And I grew to believe it.
Again – these were just a few instances, amongst many.
However, like a textbook abuse victim, I kept going back. Trying to win their praise. Thinking it would get better. Apologising for anything and everything. Until I saw the cycle repeat itself with my son when he was 9 months old. Hell hath no fury like a mama lion protecting her cub.
You may wonder where my father is in all of this? After meeting on the side of the road, I was given an ultimatum – that I either had a relationship with both of them, or neither of them. For years I prayed my mother would die, so I could have a relationship with my father. Then I realised, he didn’t fight for his daughter. He didn’t say to his wife, “she’s my daughter too, your problems with each other are your problems, not mine”, so he walked away. I wasn’t worth fighting for. Nowadays, he doesn’t even acknowledge me. He won’t even look at me. Again I’m nothing. Her vile lies turned almost my entire family against me.
Nothing I did was ever good enough, despite how hard I tried. I didn’t deserve people, things or privileges. This has been engrained into me. I’ve seen multiple Counselors, but nothing will change those feelings, although I’m slowly getting better at knowing I do deserve good things in my life. Ultimately everyone does.
My behaviour as a result from this, was self destructive. I destroyed my marriage. I hurt people who didn’t deserve to be hurt. And I will, for the rest of my life, carry guilt associated with that.
For a long time, my only worth was my vagina. My own family didn’t want me for me – why would anyone else? So I found something they did want. These men weren’t the best choices, so the cycle of mental, emotional and physical abuse repeated again.
It wasn’t only romantic male partners. I’ve picked the wrong choice of friends – male and female.
I don’t let people in easily. I push people away, ‘testing’ them. “You don’t get let down if you only rely on yourself” and “it’s me against the world”, have been my mantras. But when I do, when I trust you, when I let you in, I’m the best friend you’ll ever have.
My biggest fear has been turning into her, however, now that I am a mum myself, I know I’ve been shown the path of what NOT to be in a parent. I refuse to let that cycle repeat again. My son deserves better than I had.
They say “those that mind don’t matter, those that matter don’t mind”. A little easier said than done – of course it hurts to have people think negatively of you, particularly those that you care about – but those that have taken the time, earned my trust and heard my story, understand. They understand me., and why I am the way I am. Those people have become my family, and I am privileged to have them in my life. It’s a privilege and I DO deserve it. My partner has stood by me, supported me, and for the first time, I’ve been able to be completely honest about my past, knowing I’m in a safe relationship and accepted. Simply for who I am. My loyal friends have been the same.
It’s taken a few years, but here I am. I’ve experienced a lot, but I’m a survivor of what they put me through, and what I’ve put myself through as a result of my adolescent years.
I don’t think I’ll ever get over what has happened to me. What continues to happen every time I see them. I wish they didn’t have this power over me. Unfortunately, it’s not a light switch that I can turn off. And at the end of the day, they are the ones missing out on a beautiful, intelligent daughter, and incredible grandson.
I describe my current life as a beautiful, clear stream, running through lush green bush. Then I see my mother and father and they jump in, stirring up all the silt at the bottom, and muddying my waters once again.
People try to be helpful with advice – “make amends”, “they’re your family”. I wouldn’t let anyone else treat me like this, a partner, friend or employer, so why do they get the right to, just because we are “blood”?
The past can’t be changed. It’s made me who I am today.
And today I look in the mirror and know I am a strong woman with a great sense of humour, a caring friend, a loving mother and loyal partner – and I’ll be all of these, and even more, tomorrow, as I continue on my journey of healing myself. “Yesterday is not ours to recover, but tomorrow is ours to win or lose.”
There is light at the end of the tunnel, and the shittiest of circumstances doesn’t define you for the rest of your life. It doesn’t define me. Leopards can change their spots, if they want to that is. I did. The wonderful thing about being a human is you have the ability to make changes in yourself, and be the person you want to be. You make your own destiny.
But in the meantime tonight, I’ll have a wine. I’ll have a cry. I’ll talk to my friends, and cuddle my partner and my son. And tomorrow I will wake up, and continue to be proud of myself and the person I have become, on my own. My mother and father have no credit for that. Just me.
“Sometimes the hardest part isn’t letting go but rather learning to start over.” – Nicole Sobon