I want to talk about a lesson that took me many years to learn. The lesson is to teach others how to treat you by what you allow. I know, it seems like a simple concept but you would be surprised how hard this is for victims of abuse. Abusers break down their victims’ self-worth in order to have power over them and in many cases the victim learns to allow it in order to appease them. The victims tend to focus on trying to make their abuser happy for survival. I spent many years trying to appease my abusers by showing them I was not the piece of garbage they made me think I was. My abusers were my parents.
I remember the Mother’s Day my older brother woke me up early and asked me if I wanted to help him make our step-mother breakfast in bed. I was really excited about the idea but worried that we didn’t know how. We had never cooked before. It was fun and thrilling and I couldn’t wait to see the surprise on her face. We woke up our little brother so he could be part of it as well. Boy was she going to be surprised, we thought. We used what we could find in the kitchen and made scrambled eggs, toast and instant coffee. It was laid out perfectly on a tray and we added a bouquet of flowers from our yard. We carried it upstairs very carefully and surprised her in bed. Our father was smiling too because he knew we did something sweet and kind from the bottom of our hearts and he wanted her to see that we were good kids. Our step-mother seemed to enjoy it (we thought she did anyway). So, the next year we did it again. It made us feel good to show her how much we cared. The third year our father came to our rooms on the night before Mother’s Day and asked that we do not make our step-mother breakfast in bed. We were disappointed as it was something we looked forward to every year. Our father explained that she did not like the taste of the food and the coffee was always cold. I remember feeling embarrassed and disappointed. She had never appreciated what we were trying to do and had hated it all of this time. Our plan failed. It wasn’t just about doing something nice for her. It was about trying to get her to love us as we knew she didn’t.
This was a lesson I had to learn about abusers very early on. They don’t care about anyone else’s happiness unless it serves them in some way. Our step-mother had set out to hate all three of us from the very beginning. We knew that she was always the reason why our father would beat, ignore, and have fits of rage towards us as he never acted this way before she came in his life. In our very young minds we had figured out that she was the one we had to try to make happy in order to survive. She had the power. She could make our lives miserable at a turn of a dime as our father would do anything to make sure she never left him.
My brothers both ran away from home in their teens. I stayed and continued this unhealthy habit of trying to make both of my parents love me even into my adult years. It was sad really. I had been so beaten down by both of them that I always thought that I was the problem and there was something wrong with me. All I had to do was find a way to fix myself. But, there is no fix to something that has nothing wrong with it. I wasn’t the problem. She was. All of this time, she was the problem. She chose to hate three small children that needed her to love them. She chose to make their lives miserable and manipulate and lie to make sure they knew how much she loathed them. She chose to turn their own father against them by making him fear she would leave him. So he would do her bidding and hate his own children to appease her. She was the one that had something wrong with her, that needed to be fixed. No healthy and well adjusted adult would ever decide to hate three small children, right?
My solution to this problem was to one day, unexpectedly, stand up for myself. It felt good. Boy, did it feel good! Years and years of pent up pain, frustration and anger came rushing out of my mouth. I found my “outer voice”, the voice that had been suppressed as a child. I said everything I needed to say in voicemails and in e-mails as well. I don’t even care if they were deleted without being read or heard. I said it. I called both of my parents out on their abusive actions towards me and my brothers. I said it out loud. It was no longer a secret I kept hidden inside. I was free!
Remove people from your life that do not support you, abuse you or put you down. It doesn’t matter if they are close relatives or friends of many years. You teach others how to treat you by what you allow. Do not allow them to abuse you. You deserve better. You know you do. Don’t ever let someone tell you otherwise. This is very hard to do as a child as you are dependent on your abusers but when you become an adult you can take your power back. Speak up, speak out. Use your “outer voice” to set yourself free and find your strength to stand up to your abusers. It does not have to be a secret any longer. Take away their power over you. Only then can you start to heal.