Thursday, July 28, 2011

Ridding Myself of Family Secrets While Learning

The Fine Artwork of Carolyn McFann

Yesterday I was cruising YouTube for information on adult abuse survivors, thinking I'd find a video here and there that could be interesting. Well, I hit the, did I ever!

To my amazement, I found the postings of an expert on Narcissism, what my family is all about, named Sam Vaknin and his videos really hit home. I always felt like a freak growing up with such an abnormal, hostile and angry family. All the terrorism, scapegoating, my narcissitic mother stirring up trouble then blaming it all on me every day, all the time. She bullied, insulted, hurled insults, belittled, manipulated (dad) and ruled the house with such ferocity then would be a sweet, loving, squeaky-clean Montessori teacher during the day. She fooled the public with her sweetheart act, but not the therapists.

My parents were having marital trouble when I was 12, and when the psychotherapist saw how messed up they both were, she wanted to see me. My parents didn't like therapy because mom resisted change and everything (in her little world) worked the way she wanted it to (she can't handle criticism in any way, shape or form and therapy to her was blasphemy). But I loved therapy because it was safe, respectful and gave answers to a life where I thought I was always to blame for everything. My therapist Janeen told me at twelve not to use my mother as a role model because she was very abusive to me. It was a revelation, hard to understand but she taught me in time what abuse was and that I wasn't crazy/bad/the cause of all things bad in our home.

My mother was (and still is) very attractive, vain and arrogant. She feels entitled and unconsciously thinks being (hopelessly) spoiled is her God-given right. She demands it. Later when therapists told me that my mother and father are both narcissists and that they "cannot love you", that was harder to take but it made complete sense in some sort of twisted, odd way. One therapist told me, "This is probably the hardest and saddest reality you will ever have to accept in your life". It is. Most definitely. I tried "fixing" them (teaching them things I learned in therapy). It fell on deaf ears. They consistently blame me for all their troubles, play the martyr all the time and banked on me being a loser, someone with no brain, no mind of my own..someone to look down upon and to criticize. All the while bragging to me to their friends on how I won this art award or how I was in this newspaper due to my artistic abilities. They used my strengths when it would benefit them, then the rest of the time I was used as their personal punching private, of course.

So here I am, watching these videos last night, my jaw jut hit the floor! Sam Vaknin was describing all the insanity I lived with for the 17 years I was in my parents' home, and also the struggle to overcome the serious damage inflicted upon me by them in my adult life. He described it in such detail, exactly what went on. And the damage that was done to me (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, clinical Anxiety and Depression). I never realized how pathological and damaging living with these people was..not really..until I saw these videos. It explains so much.

I have spent the majority of my life in therapy, consciously working to break the cycle of abuse by being aware and not repeating the mistakes of my parents. Ok, I have some narcissism in me due to being spotlighted for my artwork since very young, but it is not many ways I think it saved my life and gave me something to live for. I enjoy the attention but don't live for it and actually prefer to be in the background, making art more than anything else.

Being the child of narcissists is a thankless job. You learn that "mom" is a "four letter word"..and inside you have a LOT of anger from being emotionally violated/abused/manipulated by someone (especially mom) who was supposed to love but cannot. I consciously never had children because I was terrified of being abusive or angry. The therapists told me that I probably would have been a very good mother. And now, looking back, I think they are right. I work very hard to have healthy outlets for my anger, and do not blow up/throw tantrums/threaten/scare or hurt anyone. One psychiatrist told me that I am "highly controlled". Yep, and I plan to stay that way. I take my anger out on drawing pretty pictures, of what I want life to be (pretty, upbeat), not what it has been (disappointing, dark and confusing when it comes to family, yet successful otherwise..away from them). It is imperative to me to be a rational, logical adult..not the emotional, immature basketcase my mother is. She is ruled by her emotions and lives to criticize and control everything (and I do mean everything). Her personality is that of a child, easily bored, quick to anger and needs entertaining or she gets upset. The world is about her and only her. She is smart, though, and will keep any bad behavior well hidden from her friends because deep down somewhere in that black heart of hers she knows full well what she did to me was wrong.

When I was in my twenties, I used to sell my artwork on pins and earrings. Mom offered to take a bunch of them to her school and see if anyone would buy some. They did, they bought a whole lot. When she got back she gave me a bunch of checks but no cash. I asked if there had been cash (because naturally there would be in my dealings with selling them in the past). She denied it. I took her word for it.

I was friends with a teaching assitant of mom's, who later told me that people were "throwing cash" at her, for my art pins. Lots and lots of it. When I contronted my mother with this, she (and dad) quickly got furious with ME! Their response was "Our Christmas wouldn't be the same without that money". They lived in a very expensive home, and lived very expensive could MY money have made their Christmas?? I lived in a small apartment and scraped by for money. They knew the money was something I needed at that time. Mom never had remorse for this at all, and kept up her angry, insulted stance, knowing full well she was guilty. Dad did give me some money, behind her back, later. It was the first concrete example of how I seriously couldn't trust her and it hurt so much.

Mom sabotauged my friendship with Kim, the assistant, for "telling on her". She told her lies about how I had said bad things about her, which I did not do. Kim was on my side throughout all of this and mom had discouraged the relationship from the get-go, telling me not to tell her any of our family "secrets" (it really had made her nervous). I told mom at that time, "If you did anything wrong, then you have nothing to worry about, right?!" She knew. I knew. No wonder she hates me so much. I just don't let her get away with things. Narcissists HATE that with a venomous passion.

I'm writing all of this now, years later, because I'm letting it out, years of hidden secrets that I am no longer willing to keep inside because it is very unhealthy. There are no more secrets. I kept the secrets long enough. My mental health suffered at times because of it. Not anymore. I am an open book from now on, spurred on by therapy, and always desiring health/healing. If you are abused, don't keep the secrets, let it out. Those who don't understand can get lost. It's your life and you need to be heard. I never thought I had a voice as a child..but learned through many years of intense therapy that it's indeed there. And I've been using it more and more as life goes feels amazing to be free now.

Please see Sam Vaknin's videos here, if the link doesn't work click on the title of this post:

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