My relationship with my abusive family has been messy for the past 10 years. For reasons I won’t go into, I’ve had to keep a low profile in my life and be very careful about revealing my whereabouts. I knew, though, that someday, they would find me.
On Wednesday night, a messenger brought a letter to me from my mother. She and my sister* are staying at a local hotel for a week. My mother wants me to meet her. This is my worst nightmare (and I’ve literally had multiple nightmares about this). We’re not talking about a normal person here. We’re talking about someone who’s psychologically unstable. She sees only what she wants to see, even when it has no basis in reality.
My mother’s letter is filled with manipulation and guilt. There’s no acknowledgment of anything I wrote to her multiple times before. It did not register because I do not register with her as an autonomous human being. That’s what it comes down to.
She has no awareness that she is an abuser. She hasn’t changed in 10 years, though she thinks she has (“from all this suffering,” as she puts it). I don’t believe she ever will. She thinks that because she does everything out of what she calls love, that makes it OK. If I can send only one message to all abuse victims, it would be this: Love does not make abuse OK!
But I’m not a robot. Her guilt is effective and has made me question everything that’s happened in the past 10 years, in spite of what I know to be true. The very common doubts that come upon abuse survivors who’ve suffered from subtle forms of abuse (enmeshment and covert sexual abuse, in my case) have been plaguing me, even though I wrestled with them for a long time when I first began healing:
- Am I crazy?
- Am I being over-sensitive?
- Am I being evil?
So I had a good think, and a good cry, about my life these past 10 years. I asked myself whether there was anything I had cause to regret, and if I did regret it, what I could learn from that. I do not regret going no-contact. I do not regret keeping myself hidden (what’s happening now proves to me that my intuition was right and I had to do it that way). I do not regret refusing to allow these abusers back into my life all these years. Nor will I regret the letter I will send my mother soon, telling her yet again that I do not want her or anyone else in our abusive family in my life.
But I do regret not appreciating the sweet freedom I’ve enjoyed these past 10 years. I think this is hard to really understand unless you’ve lived without freedom. I was not free when I lived with my family (for 32 years). I won’t argue that a lot of this was my own weakness. I did not insist on my freedom when I should have. I let myself down. But it wasn’t entirely my fault either. Everything I did and said was monitored. That’s how it is in enmeshed families. Anything that strays from the family worldview, no matter how distorted that worldview is, is attacked in some way. It was constant, relentless, and insidious.
When I contrast my life in the first 32 years of my existence with the last 10 years, I feel very deeply in my heart how sweet freedom is. I can share my beliefs and feelings on this blog without fear of attack from the people closest to me. I can be open about my spiritual beliefs without fearing ridicule and suppression from those closest to me. I can share my creative work without judgement from those closest to me. I can pursue work that’s meaningful to me without interference from those closest to me.
I have not cherished this sweet freedom these past 10 years as I should have, even though I knew what life was like without it. We cherish sweet freedom by living the sweet life, as we think of it. We use it to become who we really are. We open ourselves up from the deepest part of us and accept that there will be those who will look down on us because of that. We do whatever we have to do to bring out our full potential and give what only we can give to the world. We honor our quirks and nurture our deepest needs, no matter how wacky.
To my credit, I’ve struggled to do all of this, but never with a true sense of gratitude for the sweet freedom I’ve had that allowed me to do this. I guess this post is an appeal to anyone reading it. Please, figure out what the sweet life is for you and do whatever you have to do to make it happen. If you don’t have the sweet freedom to live that sweet life then do what you have to do to get it. Remove destruction in your life however you need to. Get whatever help you need. If you do have that sweet freedom then honor it by doing whatever it takes to live that sweet life. It’s been given to you for that reason. Knock down whatever blocks you have in any way you have to to live it. Don’t spend another minute denying yourself that sweet life.
* My sister, unlike my parents, has moved on and is just here to support my mother. Which means she’s going through hell right now trying to deal with a woman who has very serious psychological problems. My heart goes out to her.