Monday, December 08, 2008

toxic relationships

Well, this started as a response to a bunch of comments but turned int my first post in a while, so thanks to the anonymous poster who made the comments referenced below.

anonymous said:
My story was a string of "moderately traumatic" events that left me feeling constantly on edge, ready for betrayal or chaos at any moment, completely in physical and emotional pain for years.
Yes, I know that feeling well, that there is no safe place, the world might give way under foot at any moment. Finding ways of being and places, even imaginary ones, that are safe has been a big part of recovery for me. EMDR, which I have been thinking of writing a post on for a very long time but haven't gotten around to it, was helpful in doing this. I started out with an imaginary safe place, but also learned to trust that loving and supportive network of friends, which has been a challenge, but also tremendously rewarding as far as recovering goes.
anonymous wrote:
The supportive, loving people I have new relationships with don't deserve to deal with my insecurities from the manipulative, destructive people in my toxic past.
I think awareness is a crucial first step. All the toxic people who were in my life surely had their own unaddressed trauma issues, I know this for a fact. I think perpetrators of abuse are traumatized people who feel entitled to take out revenge for their trauma on the world around them. Its their way of dealing with it, but it creates more trauma, passing it along to new people. Most traumatized people won't turn into abusers, but I bet 99.9% of perpetrators come from traumatized backgrounds. Its important to reiterate that this is not a fait accompli.

It is a slippery and seductive slope though. Most traumatized people hold it in til it blows up, which I did, or find constructive ways of dealing with it, which is what I try to do now. But when things blew up, I hurt those around me, the closer and more supportive they were, the more so. I realized this and it was a major incentive to get better so that I would not continue to have the stuff come out sideways and hurt the ones I love and who love me. I can see though, that had I just felt entitled to what I was doing rather than being appalled at it, it would then be but a short drive to perp-dom. So I have understanding, but no tolerance or forgiveness for abusers.

I am grateful for being able to break the cycle in my own life but it has come at great cost. My tendency was to buy into the perpetrator's version of the story and see myself as defective or the source of whatever problems they blamed on me. I promised myself when I was a little kid that I would not do to my kids what was done to me. My latest greatest abuser played into all my fears and insecurities (and ignorance about boundaries!) and after I got totally screwed over, the person convinced me that I was the abusive one (I hesitate to even write this for fear that whoever reads it will side with my abuser too!) by invoking what I had recognized as lies a previous toxic person had accused me of.

The latest, greatest one knew my feelings and insecurities about this because I told her all about them. Rather than realizing "wow, what a sick person, trying to justify her abusive behavior by flinging that stuff at me," I thought "well that's twice in a row...maybe I'm as blind as my parents were to their abusive behavior and just cannot see it." As a result, I decided not to have kids, because I took my childhood promise to myself seriously, and until I could see how it was I was being abusive I would do what it took to make sure I didn't pass it on.

This was my backwards sense of boundaries, where I thought they were to keep me walled off from doing harm from others rather than to protect myself from toxic abusive people. Years later, the person admitted I had not been anything close to abusive and that she made it up to justify her actions, but by then it was too late to start a family and the harm had been done. Because a life of traumatic relationships with everyone from parents to siblings to strangers to lovers, my belief in myself and my own feelings was nil. This is perhaps the greatest thing I have recovered in getting better from PTSD, my trust in myself as a basically good human being. I had to learn what most people learn as children, how to tell what's mine from what's not, and that has made all the difference.


  1. I made the same promise to myself, about "not abusing my kids" and I don't believe I did. But my son is an alcoholic, almost 40 years old now, and he is just like my abusive father even though my son was hardly ever around his grandfather (you can imagine why I kept him away). Can you imagine my still heart-rending pain to see and hear my son acting and saying the exact same words as my alcoholic cruel violent father? Where did he learn this? Certainly never from me, I have asked everyone I know. "What did I do?" Nothing, as far as I can see. My son is a raging alcoholic borderline narcissist. That, I am coming to believe, is my "family curse" and why so many of them act exactly the same. Mix in plenty of alcohol, prescription drugs and OCD and there you have it.

    I have had to cut ties with my only child, after promising to myself that "I would do it different" and to this day I don't know "what I did wrong." But my son's rantings and ravings have no basis in fact, and are manipulative to the extreme. So I have to continue my mental program of "just say no."

    When and if he ever decides to stop abusing me and using me for his verbal punching bag, perhaps we might have a relationship. But until that day, I struggle with not blaming myself and incredible loneliness since he was the only "real" family I had. Unfortnately, he and "my family" turned out to be all too real. I have to bury my child each and every day, all over again. I will never have another.

    All children always wish I were their mother, so why does my son hate me? He blames me for everything that went wrong in his life, including his biological father leaving me before my son was born, my abusive family calling us names, the rejection and loneliness he must have felt as a child, but the difference is - as far as I can see it - that he has chosen to take it out on me.

    An abuser is an abuser, no matter who they are. And they have to be cut loose, so that is what I have done. It is very painful, but I won't kill myself to satisfy those people. No, they can live their life and I will live my own.

    They will never have the satisfaction of burying me first, and standing over my grave saying "I told you so, I always knew she was crazy."

    My own son says these things about me and you can imagine how much that hurts. And oddly enough, I never heard any of this as long as I was "writing and sending those checks." Interesting, isn't it?

    He just did it behind my back. He's a bully and a coward to the extreme.

    There. I've said it out loud. Admitting that my son is an abuser and has abused me most of my life has been akin to a woman admitting her husband beat her: well, "if her husband did this, what kind of wife was she?"

    That's what it's been like (and still is like) for me: If my own son is so abusive towards me, what did I do wrong? What kind of mother am I?"

    That's how he has manipulated me all these years and cast aspersions to relatives and all his friends. They dislike me before they even meet me. I have never done anything like that to him, ever in his entire life. All I ever did was love him, in my own mind.

    But when he didn't get his own way, LOOK OUT. Classic abuser. Well, I'm admitting it out loud that my son has abused me, and regardless of the years of his trying to make it all be "me" and "all in my own mind," and how I am the abuser, not him, this is simply not true. I nor anyone who knows us can point to one incident where I did something abusive to him.

    But there are plenty of incidents the other way around. He has abused every woman he's ever been with as well.

    So let the world say what they will, my recovering friends all say I may not be able to have a relationship with him until he is sober. That day may never come. Until it does, let him say what he will. I will continue to try and find forgiveness in my heart, I will ask God to forgive him since I can't, and I will NOT blame myself.

    I will not abuse my self, no matter how much my son and some family members would like me to. I will not die by my own hand or my own thoughts just to satisfy them.

    I will ask God to show me the way. Cast Divine Light upon the world and let me bask in the threads of silver and gold that encompass the world as we know it.

    There is another world waiting out there. Amen.

  2. This post touches on so many things that PTSD victims suffer with/ from:

    Having a Pathological (Narcissistic or Psychopathic Parent)

    Having a Dysfunctional Family

    Being in a Pathological Relationship

    All these things are TOXIC.

    Great Post!!