I am so often asked, “What attracted you to a man like that?” “What did your family think of him? Did they try to stop you from marrying him?” “Didn’t you notice any warning signs before you married him?” These innocent people assume that my family of origin loved me and would have wanted the best for me; therefore, if I had been “blinded by love” those who have loved me since birth would certainly have tried to step in and stop me from making such a horrible mistake. They assume I grew up in a nurturing environment, like they did, so I would easily recognize aberrant behaviors and react appropriately.
Well, wrong. My family set me up for this. They convinced me since birth that I didn’t deserve anything better. That is what justified their own abuse!
My children love hearing their birth stories, especially my son who made a surprise entrance into the world in the bathroom. He loves to taunt the other children with, “You were all born in the hospital. I was born at home.” He thinks it is quite special. Likewise, my mother loved telling me my own birth story. She would recall that the doctor almost didn’t make it and only had time to get one glove on, so she didn’t get to see me until they wheeled me up beside her. She remembered looking to the side to glimpse her firstborn child lying in the glass bassinette and how her first thought was, “What a little b!*#ch!” I heard that story over and over throughout my childhood.
I was beaten, starved, denied medical care, and abandoned, and all of that paled in comparison to the verbal damage I incurred. Those words that were yelled at me while my little worldview was forming would echo throughout my entire life, reminding me again and again that I am bad and deserve to be punished for being born.
It should not be any wonder that I so easily fell victim to a man who would continue to fill the role of the punisher in my life. Besides, my brother, who had known my husband casually for several years, assured other family members that “no one will take better care of her and those kids than he will.” I foolishly assumed that meant care! I wonder now if they all understood the meaning of “take care of” that I now see he meant.
When my husband left me ill with four children, no provision, the debt and all the bills, and ran up more bills in my name in the month to follow, my family did not call me to check on me. They did not rally around me in my hour of need. My brother called my husband to check on him though. He’d run off with no responsibilities and taken all of the money with him, but my own brother was concerned about how my abuser was fairing. It took my dad three weeks to call me. The first words he said to me were, “We haven’t heard from you! Your brother and I wondered if you were divorcing us along with him!” My mother died two months later. She knew she was dying, but she took her hatred for me to the grave.
Today my children had a four hour visit with their dad. Right before I picked them up he shared with them that my brother’s daughter, whom my brother only has eight days each month, called my husband at work recently, and they had a really good talk. It confused my children, but it was effective in what it was meant to do–let me know that my own family stands with him. My own people don’t care about me.
Church counseling hasn’t ever been helpful at all, so after my husband left and my mother died I sought out secular mental health therapy. I genuinely wanted to know if something is wrong with me. I wanted someone to look inside of my head and make an honest assessment. I needed to know, am I as screwed up as they have always said? You know what this experienced and educated woman told me after listening to my thoughts, my feelings, and my experiences and observing my behavior? She told me that I needed to put down the bag of garbage my mother gave me. She told me I am weller than I think I am and that I did not need her services. Then, she asked me if I realized that my family are not safe people. Yeah, I was finally starting to figure that one out.