How severe neglect and abuse affect relationships

My parents did not love me. They did not hold me or care for me in even the most basic ways as a baby/toddler/child/adult.

As an adult, I know how this has affected me. I struggle to connect lovingly with other people in relationships. I don’t like to be touched. I struggle to feel anything other than numb.

There are people in my life who say they love me and care for me deeply; yet, I feel empty and nothingness and awkward to their loving gestures.

Interestingly, for me, I can feel love when it comes to my children. I genuinely love them, and I feel their love for me. I am not sure why it is so different when it comes to them.

When people other than my children say they love me, I cringe as if a dagger just went through me. I know I am supposed to give a loving reply back, but I can’t, and retreat into a state of internal awkwardness.

In case you are wondering, I am married. I don’t know why my spouse puts up with my difficulties around love, touch, sex, and oftentimes being aloof.

Sometimes, the fact that I have Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) comes in handy as there are other self states within me who do not struggle with the attachment damage from my childhood.

I don’t always control which part of me is out, and thus I fluctuate in the level of connectedness I have with others. This can be confusing to people because they don’t know about the DID (or don’t understand in my spouse’s case).

There are times when I am home with the family and I find myself very disconnected from them. My spouse will ask me what is wrong, and there isn’t anything wrong, but a self state that has more severe problems with attachment is usually present.

Other self states may go overboard with love and intimacy with other people. These self states tend to like to drink and be social, which of course is not the best combination.

My adult self-states are mostly similar enough that even the people who know I have DID have trouble distinguishing between them. But there are subtle differences if one is paying attention. However, very few people know about the DID.

My therapist seems to think my attachment problems can be healed through therapy and working through the pain of my childhood. I disagree. Though I have much more insight into my attachment problems, it doesn’t seem to do anything to help change that this is the way I am.

She would say I am feeling hopeless again, as if depression or something is causing me to come to this conclusion. I don’t feel particularly depressed. My mind is actually fairly clear, and I see my thoughts and feelings about my attachment problems as a form of acceptance of my reality.

I don’t mean to be a Debby Downer, but I do think it is better to accept reality and try to live life as it is rather than chasing a mental health that will never come for those of us who have been severely neglected as children.

That is not to say we can’t have a different version of mental health based on acceptance, instead of forever chasing a higher level of mental health and living our lives in the therapy room instead of the real world.

Too many of my friends and myself have spent almost our entire lives in the therapy rooms chasing an elusive mental health that will never come.

Please don’t get me wrong. I do believe in therapy, and it is necessary for many of us to survive in the world. But, I believe many of us with severe trauma backgrounds are using up our entire lives waiting for the wellness to begin. It’s just something to consider.

Yes, get therapy help, but don’t get caught in the idea that you will get “cured” and then miss out on living your life because you spent it searching for answers that don’t seem to transform into wellness.

*Disclaimer, my therapist and others do not agree with my point of view.

Wrestling with the truth that my parents repeatedly reinforced into me that I am not lovable has turned off a switch in me that should be on to experience the human condition of love and care.

This leaves me like one of those futuristic robots who can show the slightest bit of emotion, but fall short of the real human experience.

Facing the truth of our childhood

Where do you belong in the world when you were raised as nothing or no one that mattered by your family of origin?

I find that lots of people try to tell me that this history doesn’t matter—that I am still someone–no matter how horribly I was treated. I find these well intentioned people have one thing in common: they were all raised by at least one parent who thought they mattered and cared about their wellbeing.

I keep coming back to the metaphor of a house to explain my thoughts. In order for a house to be strong, sturdy, and even to stay standing, it must have a solid foundation. When it doesn’t, people can keep throwing money at the house to try to repair the faulty foundation or build around it, but they never end up with the strong home they long for unless they tear it completely down and rebuild it.

My start in life was bad. Both of my parents were alcoholics, and my mother was hitting her peak of alcoholism when she was pregnant with me and during my early years.

My parent’s alcoholism didn’t just affect them. It affected my entire family system.

For reasons I may never clearly understand, my parents were involved with some sick and on the fringe behavior and people.

I have two older brothers, but my parents wanted a girl, so they tried one last time. I had always thought they wanted a girl for the normal reasons one might want a girl after having two boys.

I was wrong. My mom hated me for as long as I can remember, and possibly from the moment I was born. I was never good enough for her, and she criticized me daily about who I was.

What has become clearer to me recently is that both of my parents treated me in ways that no child should be treated.

From a very early age, my value in my family was to meet the sexual, sadistic, and financial needs of the family.

My entire family sexually abused me on a regular basis. I tried to deny it as long as I could, but my dissociative barriers started really breaking down, and my childhood amnesia is starting to get filled in.

With the memories of my incestuous abuse from a very early age, I can no longer deny that my family not only didn’t love me, but they also didn’t even care for me enough to treat me like a human being.

I was intentionally hurt for their pleasure or financial gain. “Parts” formed in response to keep me alive through this horrific childhood. My spirit died, but my body stayed alive. This distinction is important because I am not sure one can recapture a dead spirit, at least I haven’t so far.

I live today with many, many parts who are like people sharing my body with me. Some people may think it is cool, but I do not. I envision many souls trapped in one body leaving all the souls to live an incomplete existence under the best of circumstances.

The many parts living within me are all smack in the middle of facing the truth of our childhood in many different ways. The truth has taken our breath away. Some sit paralyzed with this new information, others feel extremely despondent and broken with this realization. It isn’t easy for any of us in our system.

Forget the processing and grieving of what we have been through. How does one even pick up the pieces to carry on with knowledge that no one loved us, or cared one bit about our innocence as a child. We did not matter to anyone for a very long time.

It is hard to face the truth that we were merely a “thing” for people to do whatever they wanted with. Either they did not see us as a human being, or they had no humanity within them.

Facing the truth, and not believing the fantasy version of my life I created, is an extraordinarily painful state of being.

I alternate between these states: incredible sadness, suicidal feelings, anger, self-harm feelings, and feelings of being lost and numb.

I don’t know what the next step is for me. My therapist worries the memories and feelings are too overwhelming for me. The way I look at it is I have two choices: I can face the truth and hope I don’t die in the process, or I can stay dissociated and keep myself living in La-La Land.

Neither of them sound appealing, honestly. Since I have been living a dissociated life for my entire life, I suppose it makes sense to travel the newer road.

As I choose this new road, I worry about the questions I can’t answer right now. “If I am not who I thought I was, what does that mean for my identity today?” “If I accept the truth that I was treated like garbage by my family of origin, can I still exist knowing that my creators valued my life at zero?” “Is there something inherently wrong with me that my family decided to treat me as garbage who didn’t matter to anyone?”

I can’t find sufficient words to describe my feelings about this journey. I have never quite understood how this journey works, but somehow I have always had the feeling that someone else, someone wiser and more powerful, has control over the path this journey takes.

There is comfort in knowing I am not in control of the journey, perhaps because I would hope a higher power would show me more mercy than I give myself.

My mother didn’t love me, and today I know that was her fault, not mine

I am at a place in my life when I hear another woman discuss what a wonderful mother she has, I tense up and freeze until the moment passes. My mind and body go blank.

Lately, I have described myself as feeling awkward around these situations. I don’t want to take away from someone else’s joyful relationship with their mother, but I truly cannot relate to it at all.

My mom never loved me. In fact, I think it is fair to say she hated me from the moment I was born.

I spent years and years trying to understand what was wrong with me, or what I could have done differently to have had my mother’s love.

It is so hard to sit with the idea that your own mother doesn’t have an ounce of love for you, and would in fact prefer that you be dead.

My mother loved my two older brothers, which made it even harder for me to process as a child.

On any given day my mother would show her hatred of me through her mean words or her sadistic and narcissistic behavior.

I would try so hard to be small and invisible so as to not provoke her, but it never worked.

She hated every ounce of me since the moment I was born, and maybe before.

I have known for a long time that my mother did not love me, but now I am reaching deep down inside me to face the realities of the pain and problems this has caused me throughout my life.

I struggle with loving and being loved.

It’s like the love switch is just turned off in me. I often feel like a robot, and sometimes when I do attempt love, I can get it very wrong.

As an adult, I do not long for my mother’s love. I gave up on that very early in childhood. I know who my mom is, and I want no love from her.

However, I have learned that the longing for a mother’s love does not go away.

I have tried to replace my mother’s love by unsuccessfully trying to get two different therapists to become my replacement moms. I tried to do this with therapists who have good boundaries, so it was a total flop. Plus, because I never had my mother’s love, I was clueless as to what I even wanted from these replacement moms.

People tell me the secret to recovering from this type of deep maternal wound is to parent yourself.

I still don’t have a clue as to how I would heal myself through parenting myself. I am not actually sure this is a real thing, but I have heard it enough.

For today, I will sit with the fact that my mom did not love me, it was not my fault, and it has caused me great pain and damage.

Tomorrow I will see my mom, and will lack human presence around her. I will probably have a moment of feeling sorry for her and thinking how pathetic she is. I will also feel very stressed as I secretly count the minutes until she is gone from my life again.

Even though I was raised by a horrible mom, I somehow managed to become a distant, but loyal daughter for her.

And by the grace of God, I managed to be a fairly good mom to my children, which is quite miraculous as I only had television to model good parenting for me.

The beginning of grief

Today has been a shit day.

My fucking therapist came back from a much needed week off, and is on her game and ready to tackle the subjects I avoid.

Fuck. I want to get better, so I am trying really hard to talk about what she thinks I need to talk about.

Fuck. She wants me to talk about and feel grief over the fact that I didn’t have a Mom, and instead had a monster to watch over me.

Fuck. I feel dead inside. I told her my mom feels dead to me even though we know she is still alive. I feel nothing for her. I learned from the very beginning she was to be feared, and I wasn’t to be loved.

Fuck. I know I need to do this but I can’t find it in me. I am searching and asking among my parts. I am scared exploring this grief could obliterate me if I find it. But, I look, knowing it could incapacitate me and render me back into the psych ward.

Fuck. I found a little substance about this grief/mom thing in my session today. My inside world revved up and felt like total chaos. Parts started talking some about her and us. Thoughts of cutting my wrists or throat kept weaving around in my head.

Fuck. My system crashed into a younger part who doesn’t talk or walk, and seems to only want to go to sleep. The part is in flashback and having body memories and reacting to sounds in a PTSD way. The part seems confused about where we are. I am so off course I can’t pull us out of this part.

Fuck. My spouse needs to go to the Lady Gaga concert she has been excited about. I can’t seem to pull out of it, but my outside children will need me to watch them tonight. Finally, someone gets us out of bed with the help of my spouse. The flashbacks are still happening. The part is still pulling us in. Finally, we break away.

Fuck. I need to go pick up my son. Can I drive? Can I speak? Can I snap out of it and act normal for him. Get grounded for fuck sakes. I mean, at least get back on planet earth. Ok, here, but just barely.

Fuck. The kids are home and in bed. I feel incredibly sad and like crying, but not letting myself explore to find out why. An insider says I know the fucking why. Yeah, it’s a minuscule piece of the grief seeping in.

Fuck. I hate that bitch of a monster Mom I had.

The unloved child

Lately, I have been discussing in therapy the fact that I grew up in a loveless home.

My therapist wants me to grieve that my parents didn’t love me.

I haven’t been able to do it as my immediate response is that I feel nothing toward them.

I do not feel love to, or from them, or even want to be loved by them. I feel nothing.

Empty. That’s what I feel the most when I think of them.

My mother was drunk as an alcoholic all through her pregnancy with me. My dad on more than one occasion laughed saying “I don’t know why you don’t have fetal alcohol syndrome given as much as your mother drank.” He always followed it with, of course, they didn’t know about fetal alcohol syndrome back then to make an excuse for her.

When I was born, my mother didn’t let up on her drinking. Both of my parents were alcoholics, and living in a middle class fantasy world. It seems almost every adult that came to our house was an alcoholic, which was weird statistically.

Our minister wasn’t an alcoholic, but I can remember him at the house sometimes to clean up some type of domestic mess.

Like the Catholic Church, our minister served to keep this chaos, violence, and abuse hidden behind closed doors.

Neither of my parents were affectionate with me in a way to communicate they loved or even cared for me.

In fact, it took my mom 50 years to utter the words she loved me. By then, it fell on deaf ears.

My father, who was nicer to me than my mom, never told me he loved me his entire life. I wanted to believe he loved me because he was kinder to me once he stopped drinking. But, as I sat with him for months on his deathbed, I heard him tell others he loved them, but never me, the only one who was loyal enough to see him through his death.

Growing up without love is a hard thing to work with as an adult. The only loving behavior I received was when I was being sexually abused. Otherwise, I was invisible in my world.

I once had an African-American maid who worked for my family in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Her name was Annie, and she had a son who went to school with me named Tommy (he ways my friend until he was taken away from me). Annie tried to look out for me and my brothers. She would try to make sure we had food and other things that children should have. Though she was strict, she was kind to me, and gave me a few moments of stability.

As embarrassed as I am that we had a maid, I am grateful God put her in my life for a brief reprieve of some of the horror that was happening to me. I was so sad when she was gone.

It turns out you can grow up without love, and not always turn into something horrible. But the price of that admission is to walk around feeling empty, not getting too close to people, and not needing anyone outside of myself.

Interestingly, the main place I feel strong love is with my children. I love them with every ounce of my being, and I know they love me. I don’t know how I learned how to love them like this since I never saw this in person. I am grateful that somehow I have this inside of me when it comes to them.

I don’t feel lonely, which is strange for someone who doesn’t get too close to people. I think I am so used to living on my own, and in my head that it is comfortable this way. When I am alone, I don’t have to worry about someone hurting me.

I don’t know how to get close to the grief my therapist thinks I need to experience to heal. I suppose my intuition believes my world will come to an end if I touch on this type of grief. Maybe I am better off staying numb to it.

Robot Me is Supposed to Stay Alive

What a crap day. I woke up ok, but then went to therapy. I told the therapist I didn’t really have anything I needed to talk about. She smiled with the “are you kidding” look.

I rambled into discussing how I feel like a robot because I don’t need love the way other “normal” people do. I don’t like to give love or get love, except for with my kids and my dog (though, the therapist discounted the dog because it isn’t a human).

I tried to tell the therapist that the people who systematically abused me as a child have ruined me and there is no coming back from it, so what’s the point of life.

Apparently, robot me is supposed to stay alive to raise my kids because that is my purpose in spite of the misery and sadness I feel everyday. The therapist doesn’t care.

She thinks the purpose of the game is for me to stay alive. I disagree.

Fuck her. She has her own happy little life and my suffering is just a speck of thought in her life.

Today she said her usual “see you tomorrow” because I have another appointment with her. Every time she says that I think this is the time I will kill myself so she can’t just get away with “see you tomorrow” and hope for the best.

Yeah, I am pissed at her because it feels like she doesn’t get my pain or doesn’t care enough about my pain. I wish she cared about me more, but I have no idea what that would look like.

I am the pathetic adult today. I have no answers, just a whiny, psychotic grasp on life. Sometimes I really wish I would just let go of life, but I know not all of those who live in my body agree with that plan.

So, I am stuck in this miserable life. I know others inside feel blessed by our children. I feel psychotic with a headache. Seems like I got the short end of the stick.

And that’s the way it fucking goes.

Not everyone deserves forgiveness

I was just speaking philosophically about the concept of forgiveness with a therapist, and I agreed with his perspective that forgiveness generally is to the benefit of the victim. But, I disagree that everyone should be forgiven no matter their crime, or that forgiving someone will always benefit you.

As a survivor of extreme abuse from my mother and many others, I told him I wouldn’t even consider the concept of forgiveness of my mother. It would serve no purpose for her or me. After all, when your mother is a sadistic narcissist, she does not see any reason for a need to be forgiven.

She doesn’t need it, and I don’t need or want it.

As commonly found in survivors of child abuse, I struggle with blaming myself for the abuse that happened to me. “If only I wasn’t so bad, maybe it wouldn’t have happened.” It is really hard to get off that train ride of blaming yourself, if ever.

I have forgiven other people for betrayals because I knew by me doing so, I was setting myself free and letting myself move on. But, there is a big difference in hurting someone, and intentionally perpetrating evil on someone.

In the case of the evil my mother perpetrated on me, I will feel no better by forgiving her, especially since I don’t believe it is my job, or within my capacity to even consider it.

Where I stand today, I am not sure everyone deserves to be forgiven. I know there are many people who would disagree with me, which is totally ok.

Some things are bigger than the capacity to understand. For those, I leave it to God or a higher being to make that call as to whether they are to be forgiven or not.

In the case of my mother, she perpetrated such evil and intentional abuse that has robbed me of so much I should have had in life. There are long moments of feeling like she has ruined my life, and brief moments of taking that power back and trying my best to live a life that is still broken in so many ways on the good days.

I survived the woman who was supposed to be my mother. I wish I had a mother, but sadly I don’t, and never will. Even with my mother still alive, I would never want HER as my mother.

I have no desire to try to make amends or to fix anything. I have found when evil is nearby, it is best to step aside and let it keep going by instead of trying to tame it.

My mother will one day meet her maker, and will have to answer for her extreme sins. It hurts me to think of her possibly going to Hell, as I feel pity for her.

I was an innocent child who deserved a “good enough” mother. Sadly, she was far from it, and has no remorse for it.

I can’t imagine what went wrong in her life to make her into the person she became, but I still can’t excuse her, and I won’t give her forgiveness.

It was never ok what she did to me. And somehow I think if I contemplate forgiveness of what she did to me it says “it wasn’t so bad, or I am over it so I am going to let it go,” but that is never really going to happen. It will always be a part of my damaged soul.

Today, for me, courage is to stand up and say “I will not forgive you for what you have done to me. You have controlled and hurt so much of me. It is my right to never forgive you.”

And I know this is right today, because just saying that sends terror through me that you will find out I said it. A child should never be terrified of their own mother.

All I can say that seems appropriate is may God have mercy on your soul.