Trapped in a world that others won't understand. You see, hear and feel things that no one else can even begin to comprehend. That doesn't mean you are crazy. It feels so weird because, in fact, your mother is kind of crazy. Don't get me wrong, I spent a fair amount of time feeling as though I was the crazy one. Only recently, I came to the conclusion that confusion, anger, sadness and all sorts of intense feelings are a very normal reaction to a very abnormal environment characterized by emtional abuse and neglect.
Defence Mechanism: Tuning out
I remember myself as little girl of probably six years old when I was lying down in the grass of our garden at home, looking at the treetops. The sky was blue, there where some little clouds. It was a nice and warm summer day. I felt the soft grass holding me comfortably and I thought to myself: "Once I'm grown up, everything will finally be okay. I will be strong once I am an adult..."
That scene stayed on my mind all those years up to the present. I think about it frequently. Of course I was mistaken. It is not like you simpy grow out of your pain. But luckily, as a child, I didn´t know that. I needed some kind of anchor to hold on to at the time. When I look back at my childhood, lonliness is the main thing I remember. Lonliness and despair, because somehow I felt like I deserved to be lonely. If my mom refuses to attend to my needs, then that must mean that my needs are not important. Then I must be be not important. Bad. Unlovable. Worthless. For all my life I thought I was nothing more than some kind of burden.
What I learned was to keep my mouth shut, to be on my own, to become invisible. Then at least I won't get into trouble. Or at least I thought so. This is what my mother needed me to be. Nice and quiet, low-maintenance and pretty so she could brag about me. Every child wants to please her mother right? I didn´t understand any of this back then. All this was unconscious. In hindsight I wonder how I survived this childhood deprived of love and affection. I must have tuned out most of the time.
Tuning out is a great defense mechanism of the psyche. It enables you to leave the present moment and go to some safe place in your mind. In my case, I remember dreaming about my life as an adult. I would be smart, confident and independent. I would be a famous writer. But first and foremost I would be loved. If only I could become an adult over night, so I could be strong. Only the strong ones are lovable, aren't they? They're low maintenance. It is easy to love people who never ask for anything. If only I could stop needing so much.
In that scene I was around six years old.
I was terrified
Another thing that always haunted me was what it made me feel like, whenever my parents took me to some random place. When mom announced that we were going to go to the shopping mall, my heart sank. I knew, at some point we'd go to the toilet and then I'd be alone in a cabin and I'd need to hurry because if I would take longer than her, mom would leave without me. I was convinced she would abandon me if she just got the chance. She never did. But when I took too long and made her wait, she belittled me and rediculed me. That felt awful. And yet at least, mom did wait for me. In those moments, it was more important that mom was still there and I was safe, than how she made me feel.
Vacation was a nightmare. You got to get on a plane, which was always the most relaxing part for me - because mom couldn't move out of my sight - and even if she did, I knew she didn't have any exit to leave and not come back. But then you'd have to leave the plane again and you'd find yourself in a foreign world. And this scared the crap out of me. If mom managed to leave me there somewhere, I'd be dead. And yes, those where real thoughts crossing my mind at the time.
I remember one time on vacation we were at this huge crowded beach on a canarian island called Teneriffa and mom was lying down on the blanket and just relaxing and dad was heading toward the water. I really wanted to hop into the sea as well so I ran after dad as quickly as my little legs would let me to not get lost. The problem was, I had forgotten my floaties. I was only five years old at the time and I couldn't swim yet. So dad instructed me to run back to mom, get the floaties and come back. Instantly, my alarm system went off. This interfered with my ability think clearly significantly. I stood there like a deer in head lights for a few moments. When I realized that dad had almost disappeared into a crowded ocean I started running back towards mom. Guess what happened? I didn't find her. Because I was on extra high alert my brain couldn't figure out the right direction. I was completely out of it.
The next thing I remember is that there was this group of guys. They must have been in their mid-twenties. I guess, I had probably been running around and screaming desperately, because one of them had picked me up and discussed with the others what they were going to do with me. When I heard them saying that they planned to take me away from that beach, I started kicking and punching until he'd eventually let g0 of me. When I got free I just started running again.
I don't have any idea how long it had taken me to find my mother again at that day. It couldn't have been too long because dad hadn't been back out of the water yet. What I can say, though, is that I had been in utter terror. Distress wouldn't even begin to describe what I had felt. My mother didn't notice any of that. She had just looked at me tiredly and asked why I hadn't been with dad. I have no clue what I had answered. When dad finally appeared, they mocked me and laughed at me, because I hadn't managed to get my floaties and then come into the water. Dad always called me "mentally deranged". Yes, I probably was, because I fought inner panic literally all the time. But they never noticed. I never said a word.
It was so lonely. And I thought it was all my fault. Around age six or seven I was so severely depressed that I wished I could just disappear.
My pain was leaking out into different areas. I couldn't concentrate in school. So I never was a great student. At least I wasn't a bad student either, I was always somewhere in the middle. Mediocre. My room was always a mess. To me, it seemed as though this happened just on it's own. I never created chaos intentionally. But apparently I did somehow cause it. I didn't have many friends as a kid. I guess I never trusted anyone. It is hard to trust, if you grew up in a hostile and confusing environment.
I was so lonely.
Doing the Work
Only years later, right before I turned 30 years old I figured out all this stuff. This was around one and a half years ago. Now in recovery I learn how to trust. I learn how to take better care of myself and to show up and be there for others as well as for myself. Still, there are lots of toxic people out there. And actually my gut works just fine. My gut feeling tells me when someone isn't safe. On the other hand, it also tells me when I really like someone and want to spend time with him or her. What I usually did when I figured someone made me feel good was to distance myself. Because I didn't believe that I deserved this. I didn't belong to healthy and happy people. Today, I do not create chaos any more. At least not as bad. Furthermore, I enrolled in university and now I am a psychology student. Finally I do, what I always wanted to do, but never had the guts to even try.
This is now changing. It is work and it is hard at times. It takes commitment. I do the work in therapy every week and I also participate in a self help group for children of toxic parents that meets every two weeks. I call them the unicorns on my blog, because they are amazing and they are just like me lonely and traumatized people who always felt different and who try to find trust again. With them, I do not have to wonder if I can say out loud what is on my mind, when we talk about our parents. I just say whatever I need to speak about and they'll understand and provide a safe space of support and comfort. And so do I for them. It feels incredible. It is all worth it. If you are struggeling, find a safe self help group if you can!
Thank you so much for reading! I am sending you many hugs!
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Until next time...