As long as I've lived, as far back as I can remember, I have always believed that if I did not do everything exactly right, if I caused any kind of trouble for the people around me, I would be exposed on the mountains for the wolves or left out in the snow to die.
Even after nearly twenty years in a good marriage with a man who I know loves me to bits, I am still convinced of this.
I cannot clearly explain where this belief came from. I've just always known in my heart that my parents, and maybe my whole family, did not want me. Of course, now, as an adult, I can tell myself things like, "They had their own concerns," and "They acted out of their own issues," and "They did the best they could with what they had." That doesn't negate the fact that I spent 20 years of my life being neglected and emotionally abused. Treated, in fact, as a non-person. I remember thinking often that my mother loved the house cat more than she did me.
Maybe it was the fact that no one ever seemed to talk to me unless I was in trouble. I never really bonded with any of my siblings; to this day they rarely communicate with me unless I put myself forward, and sometimes not even then. And it's really probably better to say nothing of my parents. My husband assures me that parents are supposed to be involved with their children. I find it hard to believe him. I remember asking my mother for attention and being told to go away and find something to do and leave her alone. I remember how, when I wanted a clothespin or a scrap of aluminum foil for a craft project, my father would tell me how much those items cost and how bad I was for wanting to waste them. Being in a position now to buy my own aluminum foil and clothespins, I find that sentiment positively ludicrous. I can't believe that my father valued aluminum foil more than he did me, but it seems he did. I remember getting bullied in school and trying to get someone to do something about it, and being told "Just ignore it and it will go away." It NEVER went away, and the people who were supposed to defend me couldn't concern themselves. I remember going through dresser drawers for my sisters' abandoned nightgowns as a teenager, because I never got any of my own. Okay, I get that lots of younger siblings wear hand-me-downs. But I resent that no one ever explained the necessity of this. I was just left to fend for myself as best I could. And it's a good thing I got anorexic and stopped menstruating when I was 14, because gods forbid I should have tried to get anyone to buy me sanitary supplies.
From the time I was 11 and my brother left for college to the time I turned 20 and finally managed to escape, it was just me and my parents. And for the most part the message I got from them was "Take care of yourself, don't bother us, don't expect anything from us. You don't matter."
One time, about 10 years ago, when I was in a bad place and feeling the need for family, I tried expressing this to one of my sisters. She wrote me back that of course it hadn't been like that--that our parents loved me and would never be that way. I still have the letter. Thanks so much for the validation.
In family therapy, which came later, I had to listen to my mother's bile about how ungrateful, selfish, sly and manipulative I was for wanting anything from her. Once she cornered me and told me that she knew I was saying horrible lies about her to my psychiatrist. She said he had told her all about it and he had it all on tape. I knew this to be untrue because at the time I had spent about 4 months sitting in his office an hour every week not saying a word. And I think it would have violated every code of ethics for my psychiatrist to have told my mother any such thing. I wonder why she needed to lie about this. I don't think she was crazy. But I honestly don't know anymore.
Is it so evil to want to be cared for? To want the people around one to do what they are supposed to do? I confessed to my husband last night that I wanted this, and then I was so ashamed. To want others to be involved with me in a positive way seems the gravest sin. To want to be taken care of...I can hardly even express how wrong and awful and bad that makes me in my mind. And to think that I might actually be due anything makes me want to throw up.
Right now I am so tired. I am tired of trying and tired of having to do everything for myself. It seems nothing has ever come of anything I've done. Why work hard when I never get anything I want for it? And still, the idea that one might actually deserve recognition for hard work, let alone any kind of reward, is so alien to me that it hurts. Always, it seems that someone or something else has the power to grant favor, and I never merit it. Time and time again in my life this has been the case. And I've had to swallow it. I've tried to take responsibility and keep a positive face on things. When I got denied admission to the Master's programme I had set my hopes on for a spurious reason because I had made some unpopular observations during my time as an undergraduate (and I can still hear the voices in my head telling me that I am making excuses for my lack of worthiness), I told myself it was probably for the best and that it was stupid to want to continue at a school where I was so at odds with the administration. When my fellow band members failed to follow through on their obligations, I said it was wrong to have expectations of them and I needed to work with what they were willing to give. And see, that stuff isn't necessarily untrue. But I'm tired of making excuses, blaming myself and never getting what I want.
Over and over again in therapy--and I've been in and out of therapy for over 30 years--I have heard the old saw: "You can't change other people; you can only change yourself." I heard this for the first time when I was 14. And I think that telling such a thing to a child without holding her abusers responsible for their actions is criminal.
I have no power, no foundation on which to build. I did not get what I was supposed to get, and I don't see any way of making up the lack of it.
I can't do this anymore. The universe needs to throw me a bone.