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my mother apologized for abuse- feeling overwhelmed
October 11, 2006
2:03 pm
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chelonia mydas
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As if my immediate world weren't going through enough...
(see the thread "update from Chelonia" for more info)

I had a very long talk with my mom yesterday... it was good, but not something I can deal with right now...so I am choosing to put it as some surreal thought I read about somewhere. I just can't process this very well right now- so I thought I would put it here so I can atleast get it out...

To give you a little background...

Both my parents had issues..
My Dad was a closet homosexual who numbed himself through pot and drinking. My mom grew up in a very abusive home- she turned to drugs to avoid dealing with everything. They originally got married because my mom was pregnant with me and didn't want to be forced to have another abortion by my grandfather (he didn't want to have a grandchild out of wedlock- he was very into being "high society"). My Dad needed to find a wife to avoid issues with his KKK brother finding out he was gay. He was also opposed to abortion- so they got married to solve their problems. Grandfather on mom's side was a doctor who provided my Grandma and mom with perscriptions for anything they wanted before he got caught and lost his license... then my mom turned to street drugs- with the demands of dealers etc. sometimes she would send us on "dates" to pay for her drugs. I hit puberty early- so was thrown into this before I even got to middle school. Blocked out much of the details.

I have never done drugs, totally avoid alchol etc. Both my sisters have been through rehab and have had problems- but I am proud to say that they are now both holding jobs and have gone back to school and graduated (one stayed in High School and now has a bachelor's degree- the other got her GED and an associates degree). The middle sister is married (I don't like her husband, but he does own his own mechanic shop- so it could be worse) and just had a baby this summer. The youngest sister is engaged to get married this summer to my other sisters husbands best friend.

Now for what happened...
My mom called and left a message to see if I was going to my youngest sister's wedding. I called her back- as we were reviewing the costs etc. She asked about my H being the wedding photographer- I told her we might not be able to afford it and also about his recent search for jobs and how if he gets one he might not be able to take time off work to go. We then started talking about us moving again... which led to that I'm not moving- but he can... she doesn't know he moved out or that we are having serious problems-

She started talking about how sorry she is that she screwed up when she raised my sisters and I. She said that in her sober moments she knew that we would have trouble as adults- and often the overwhelming guilt of this would drive her back to drugs. By the time she realized this (she was straight for 3 years just after she divorced my Dad- this is when she got her MS in social work) it was too late to help us, so she cut her loses and worked to help everyone else instead- that is why she became a family therapist.

We then started talking about all the problems that we all have... She is worried that my middle sister will continue the cycle with her baby- and is concerned that middle sis's husband is abusive. She thinks youngest sis is marrying this guy so she can have financial stability- but not because she loves him. She isn't sure youngest sis is able to truely love men, just use them.

She is surprised that I have been as stable as I am and how all my childhood counselors were always concerned that I would turn to drugs and really have major problems thoughout my life- if I even made it to adulthood. (I was suicidal for most of my childhood) That if my H gets another job, she is worried that we will get a divorce. She always knew I was smart and strong, but that she never expected me to survive. She told me that she gave up on me long before she gave up on my sisters and worked to save them, sometimes at my expense- she is very surprised that I am the one with the least troubles and they have had such issues with abuse and addiction. She is sad that I love animals more than people and that I would let my husband leave in order to keep my pets.

She continued on about how she didn't know how to be any better- that she was sorry and how she wants to go back and do it again and that she wouldn't do most of what she did. That she would have done more to help me if she thought I was going to survive. Lots of tears and emotions on her end. I turned off my emotions and faked it because I just can't handle this right now, but know it was improtant to her and that she probably had been preparing for this all summer, if not much longer.

She had tried to do this before (years ago) as part of one of her 12 step programs (I think it is step 8 or 9 or something like that- but before it was all fake and just a process). This time I think it might be real- being a grandma is changing her and making her see things very differently. She has really been looking at things from a counselor's point of view- I think she might be seeing a therapist again.

I didn't want to ruin it all- this is a big step for her. I don't plan to change much based on this- still don't ever want to be close to her, regardless of how much she changes- I won't ever trust her- there are somethings that are just unforgivable. I am on such an emotional overload- I really didn't feel like it was actually happening. I am not at all ready to deal with this- just really need to think that I dreamed it for a long while yet. I am confused enough with my immediate life, I don't need to add this to the equation too. Actaully as I am writing this it feels like I am making it up- but it will probably sink in after a few months... It is stuff like this that makes me feel so crazy sometimes. Why does everything happen all at once? Why is life so complicated?

I am looking forward to kinder, simpler times ahead. I am so tired of riding roller coasters- really looking forward to just strolling down beautiful trails and sleeping in shady hammocks by a waterfall.

October 11, 2006
2:31 pm
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mamacinnamon
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Chelonia:

I read. I must say I am proud of how well you have done and that you have yourself so together. You say you cannot handle this now.. Don't. All you have to do is take care of you.

You said you cannot forgive. You don't have to. It would be best for yourself; not for her. For your inner being. Maybe check out the book... When Forgiveness Doesn't Make Sense by Robert Jeffries (i think). My books are still packed.

In your time. Things will happen and you will accept, forgive, not forgive, all in your time. I want to share a little saying w/ you that I have....

"Please Lord teach us to laugh again, but God don't ever let us forget that we cried."

I think you are handling things great. Keep your chin up and you take your life at your pace.

🙂

October 11, 2006
8:32 pm
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bonni
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Dear Chelonia,
I am so sorry you had to go through this. It sounds like your mom at least acknowledges her role in destroying your childhood.

When you were a child, you were at her mercy. She is putting you in a position to forgive her on her time frame, to deal with it on her time frame. in a sense, by forcing her guilt on you, she is perpetuating the abuse. Her apology and explanation are woefully inadequate and likely a strange attempt to get you drawn into your sisters' lives.

That being said, that she even acknowledges the abuse is more than many victims ever get. Many victims even question that it happened because the abusers try to perpetuate a state of denial. There is a shred of something, something to allow to drift out of your consciousness as you move on to a full life subject to your control.

You, my dear, have survived. You may forgive her, if you ever feel ready to. You are now and forever will be the adult. Your life choices are your own and not subject to her opinion. She abdicated her right to an opinion a very long time ago.

Speaking as one who had to choose between a pet and a husband, I admire you for choosing the pet. Pets never let you down, husbands inevitably will, whether they want to or not.

love,
bonni

October 11, 2006
10:38 pm
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lovetocrochet
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Hi chelonia,

It sounds like you have a lot to absorb. If your mother is sincere about her apology, she will not pressure you to forgive when it's convenient for her.

I am in a 12-step program and making amends is about cleaning up the addict's side of the street only, not what someone else did that the addict didn't like, not about what to expect from the other person when attempting to make amends. If the other person refuses to forgive or accept the amends, then we are to let it go. What's fair is fair.

Time will tell if your mother is sincere. If she says sorry but keeps on her same old ways then that tells you all you need to know.

Also making amends is about offering something in the way of restitution if possible. For example she could offer to pay for your counseling if you are in therapy. Or it could be as simple as respecting your wishes for only a certain kind of relationship where you're not as emotionally engaged... whatever is best for you.

As for your husband, I hope you can work things out. Whatever you decide, take your time with it so that in the end you can be absolutely sure heart and soul it's a choice you will not regret.

October 12, 2006
5:48 pm
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chelonia mydas
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Mama, Bonni and LTC,

Thanks for your support. You are right I am fortunate that she is admitting it and is apologizing for it. That is more than many victims get. I also appreicate the support to take it at my own pace. I try- but I am also so compelled to meet everyone elses needs... something I continue to work on.

Your words of wisdom helped me stand up to her more firmly when she contacted me again today.

She wanted help writing a proposal to create a job for her at the local school district. I told her that I didn't have time and I really liked only talking to her a few times a year... I didn't want to all of the sudden be on her frequent caller list. She went back into her I'm sorry for everything talk. She wants to be friends !?!?!?!?!? She thinks she can just call and say she is sorry and now everything is OK????? NO,IT ISN'T!!!!!! Sorry doesn't make it OK- sorry doesn't plop us all into a time machine where we get to go back and change it. Sorry is just sorry- nothing more, nothing less.

I told her I didn't want to work on this right now. She then said that she is going to try to be good friends with me- just like my foster mom is. I told her she will never be on the same level as my foster mom- they are two very different people who played very different roles in my life. I thanked her for apologizing and validating my issues- but also told her I wasn't wanting to be close to her right now. She is back in therapy- but not in a 12 step right now. She is feeling her mortality and wants to show me that she is a good mother before she dies. (she has normal medical issues for a woman her age- nothing terminal that would make this an urgent situation)

I told her that what ever was ment to be will happen, but I can't be there for her right now. I was there for her as a child and kept things together as best I could. Sometimes we just miss opportunites in life...

I ended the conversation shortly after that. Before we hung up she said is going to try to pay for my trip out to my sister's wedding so I can rejoin the family again. I told her we would have to see... there was a good reason I chose to live at least a thousand miles from all of them and have maintained that distance for well over a decade.

October 12, 2006
6:51 pm
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lovetocrochet
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That thundering sound you hear is massive applause! Well done chelonia, I am very proud of you. You handled yourself well.

I think it's nice your bio-mom offered to pay for your trip out but as you say whether you accept has to be at your discretion. I agree there's a chance she's realizing this life isn't forever.

Bill Cosby said when his mother became this sweet and loving person to his children, he declared that she was just an old lady trying to get into Heaven. It was meant to be funny but there sure is a lot of truth to that in some cases.

I also understand having to move away from bio-family. I did the same almost four years ago. After falling out with them and my daughter moving in with her Dad because she was getting violent, I felt like I had nothing to live for out where I grew up anymore. DH offered for us to move to where he grew up if I ever needed, so I took him up on it.

As much as I hate not having my daughter with me, at the same time I was a big mess for so long it was better for me to be away while I straightened myself out. Plus the last time I went to visit her where she is, just driving past places triggered me, and I had nightmares and woke up with panic attacks nearly the entire time. So actually it's been better for my recovery at this time to be away from my home state.

The most important thing is, will she respect your final decision? Hopefully she will, not just this time either but every time you say no or have to draw a line.

October 19, 2006
2:58 pm
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((Chelonia))

What a difficult situation. I was interested in your post because I anticipate that I might be in a similar situation one day (I haven't yet disclosed the abuse that happened in my family).

I don't know all the details of your particular story, but I can relate to the "sorry doesn't fix things" anger and sadness. I have often wondered what I would do if one of my abusers/neglectors said "sorry" to me.
I think for me, it would only make me angrier! Because then there's this etiquette surrounding apologies (that then you're supposed to accept them). So I can see that her apology, while welcome and long-overdue, is also causing you more pain. But just remember you have the RIGHT to still be hurt and you have the RIGHT to still be angry. It is so true what you said that "sorry doesn't plop us all into a time machine where we get to go back and change it."

It sounds like you are on the right track and you are doing what you have to do to protect yourself and give yourself space to heal.

I'm so sorry that you are even in this situation to begin with! I'm sorry you were abused. I'm sorry for all of it. You didn't deserve it.

You are a strong person for dealing with all of this in the healthy way that you are. You have my admiration.

October 19, 2006
10:53 pm
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lolli
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BTW Chelonia,

I just got around to reading the rest of your previous post re: companion animals and your (ex?) b/f.

I am a total animal person too!... and vegan. I really think that part of the reason I empathize with animals so much is b/c of the abuse I had to endure and witness (sadly, some animal abuse too). And I guess I also feel safer around them in a way b/c I know at least they don't have any alterior motives. They have the ability to love unconditionally, and they don't really hold "grudges" or try to control us (well, other than my cats trying to get me to buy them certain kinds of cat food, etc... lol).

I have often wondered if there is a correlation between abuse survivors and animal rescue/rights advocates. I'm sure it is not 1:1... but anyway I wonder...??? I'm not saying there is anything at all good about having been abused... or anything bad about having empathy for animals. This is a slippery slope so I will stop...

It is sad your mom had the response that you "value pets more than people." My mom doesn't understand my empathy for animals much either:( Which is frustrating b/c there is an eery similarity between her indifference to non-human animal suffering and her (seeming) indifference to the suffering I faced as a child. I'm sure it's just her inability to see all of the suffering... just denial. But still... sad.

Well, sorry to ramble. Just wanted to let you know I understand and appreciate your kindness to animals! yay to Chelonia and her rescued animal crew! 🙂

October 19, 2006
11:54 pm
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chelonia mydas
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(((Lolli))),

Thanks for the posts. I am sorry that you were abused too. No one should ever have to endure it- but unfortunately it is all too common... at least we can be there for eachother. It is always good to know you are not alone. We definately sound like we have many similarities. (I'm a vegetarian- was vegan for a while, but now the area where I live is very difficult to be vegan- so I must compromise at times to stay sane)

I think there is a very strong coorolation between abused people and animal rescue people. The years I was working in shelters/animal resuce, I was amazed at the number of people who had come from tuff homes.

Abuse makes you mistrust people and sometimes even hate all people. Being loving, caring beingings- we project our love and kindness to animals. Also it is usually so much easier to save animals than yourself.

I became addicted to the feeling of taking an animal from a bad situation, giving them the medical, emotional and social care they needed to heal, then adopt them into a loving family. It was what I had wanted for myself all along but was always incapable of doing it. I spent unreasonable amounts of time and money to save animals- even gave up paying jobs to do it. I was way out of control. Now I still help animals but have become much more sane about it. I still think that my years of animal rescue were part of my healing process. I got really good and helping them and gained the confidence I needed to try to do it for myself- which is what I am in the process of doing right now. Although I often feel like I am falling on my face constantly and screwing up. I remember feeling that way with some of my rescue pets, and I just kept trying and wouldn't give up on them and eventually it would turn out OK.

There is also a very strong coorolation between animal abusers and people who also abuse other people. HSUS has a program called First Strike that has been studying the connection between animal abuse and domestic violence and other forms of abuse and violent behavior (such as school shootings)

As for how I am dealing with my mom's apology.... I am currently just ignoring it. I can't tell you how I feel or how I am reacting to it- I have locked it inside a turtle shell inside my soul and will open it up an examine it later when I am better able to. (the turtle shell thing is something I have always done since I was a kid- it is my safe way of protecting myself from things- just a mental image that has helped me out throughout life)

October 20, 2006
12:23 am
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Anonymous
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Lolli

I am a vegetarian too! Not vegan, but won't buy any dairy with enzymes in them.

As I said the confrontation with my mom and her admitting it, etc. didn't bring closure.

I posted to you on your other thread. I thought you said something really brilliant today, and it helped me. Thanks!

P&L

October 20, 2006
12:34 am
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Lolli and Chelonia,

I saw the movie White Oleander with a friend whose entire life has seemed to me to be an attempt to get an apology from her mother. Her ANGRY response afterwards was exactly what you are saying.....she said it STILL did not take away what the mother had done to her daughter.

I read the book first, and I really felt it was better than the movie.

My POINT was: this book really deals well with the daughter's feelings and I think you would gain more insight into your own feelings from it.

And your VERY interesting comments linking animal lovers possibly to victims of abuse......my H really does love our animals in a different way than I do. I'm not much for hugging them. I'm not abusive, I just resent that I end up cleaning up after them and he gets carried away sometimes. He's actually accused me of NOT loving them. His only sibling was so enamored of her animals that the animals had taken over the house. The smell made me ill.

And I'm pretty sure there was verbal/emotional abuse in their growing up years. I've experienced it from my H, and it is pretty subtle, but very targeted and mean-spirited.

So the description of being able to love animals so totally because they are guileless and honest in their devotion to us......I've SEEN that!! Hell, YES, of COURSE, NOBODY wants to be criticized. Animals are great!! They're MUTE!!

October 20, 2006
2:53 am
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lolli
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Chelonia,

Re your comment about animal rescue:
"It was what I had wanted for myself all along but was always incapable of doing it."

I can completely relate! In my case, I have taken this almost to the extreme in that I sometimes project my victimization onto non-human animals. For instance, if I see a neighbor's dog sitting on their porch... I'll immediately think, "oh that dog looks so sad. I bet they never play with him." or, "I bet they are breeding him for dogfighting," etc. With really no evidence except for maybe a feeling on my part or a "facial expression" on the animal (but my interpretation here could be skewed).
I always think the worst. Sometimes I have been proven wrong... sometimes I was right. Sadly, many animals (like humans!) are abused/neglected... so I guess I've always had a good chance I was right in my hasty presumption.

The turtle shell image is interesting... I can't say that I've ever had that. I think my overwhelming feelings/events/memories just go into this "black space" in my head...
but the image reminds me of a friend/ ex-bf of mine who I've always thought resembled a turtle or snail in the way that he "retreats" when something painful or threatening happens to him. You are lucky in a way, to have that shell where you can store things... to protect yourself. And plus, turtles are just COOL! 😉

P&L - wow. you are veg too!!! This is incredible. I read your other post and I'm so glad I helped you! I will try to reply more tomorrow but I'm feeling a little overwhelmed (again- don't know why) right now.

Brynnie- THANK YOU for the movie recommendation. I haven't seen it, but by your description it DOES sound like it would be helpful. I will netflix it ASAP!!!

good night everybody... hope you have happy dreams, and they all come true!

October 20, 2006
10:18 am
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Chelonia and Lolli,

More animal lovers! YEA!

I've had people who didn't get the connection to animals, but I don't care. My mother has always loved animals. Sometimes more than humans. She admits she finds it easier than nurturing humans. One of our running jokes is that she's good at nurturing dogs, but not so good with humans.

Chelonia,

It's nice that your mother apologized but she does seem to want to do it on her timetable rather than let things take place naturally. Once you told her that you wanted contact maybe a few times a year she should have backed off and let you make the next move. That may be hard for her, but it's not her choice. I don't think she gets that.

It's good she's back in therapy, but if she isn't honest with herself it won't do her much good. Take it from one who knows. Lying to your therapist gets you nowhere fast.

Do what's right for you. If she doesn't understand, oh well. I think she did a good thing by owning up to her responsibility, but she kinda ruined it with the comments that she didn't think you'd be okay, etc. That's a back-handed compliment.

I think you've done fabulously. You did a VERY GOOD thing by moving away from them. Sometimes family connections aren't the healthiest things for us. I keep both my parents families at a distance. I like it that way even if other people may think me odd.

October 23, 2006
12:28 pm
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chelonia mydas
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Brynnie,
Thanks for the movie suggestion. When I get a TV again I will have to rent it. Or more likely I will see if our library has the book. It does sound like it would help

P&L, Lolli, Cyndra-
Good to know so many animal lovers out there.

Lolli, I too project feelings onto animals. I really think they have feelings- maybe not in the same way we do, but I have seen animals mourn when they loose someone close to them, appear proud when they learn a new trick, need comfort when they are afraid of thunder etc.

Cyndra,
Thanks for your support on working with my mom on my timetable. So far she has respected by request- I think. I have had phone trouble this week so don't know if she (or anyone else) called on my landline phone. She doesn't have my cell number (thank goodness I never gave it to her)

Thank you everyone for being there for me. I really appreciate your friendship.

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