Why does getting over an abusive childhood take so long?


#1

I was abused badly as a kid and I"m still struggling and I wish I could break free. I'm almost 40 years old.

I was physically, verbally and endured "other" abuse by my father and my mother has mental illness and always belittled me and has never once told me that she loves me and is proud of me.

When I finished university (commerce degree), I was very proud of myself when I had a good job and I would talk about my new life a lot. My mother told me I was arrogant. Now I'm a mother, she picks at me as a parent during the (4 times a year that she sees me). She says that I should take the initiative to visit her and why should she visit me all the time. She lives an hour away and I have two young children. She hasn't invited me over for more than a year also. It's very hard for me to pick up and go with 2 small children. She says that it shouldn't be hard for me and that she went on a 5 hour bus trip with me and my brother when he was a newborn and I should be able to do it too.

When my son had colic, she came and helped me on two occassions for an afternoon and she didn't even come until he was 9 weeks old and had had the colic for 6 weeks already. She said that her back hurt, her throat hurt....

Then yesterday, she told me that the real reason she didn't come when my son had colic was b/c I put her down all the time. I can't even remember doing that. We had a disagreement or two (b/c I was so tired and grumpy), which is normal for a stressed out mother, but I never did anyting wrong.

My dad has NPD (Narcissistic Personality) and he's a real jerk. Nothing you do is right. He used to call me all kinds of names; horrible names. He used to beat me and my brothers and he also abused me in "other" ways. He's very charming in public and you would never guess if you met him. Sometimes I even start to think that maybe he's changed and then I see the ugly side of him when he talks to his wife.

I grew up with no self-esteem and even though I had no respect for myself, I still finished high school and got a commerce degree (paid for it myself - 2 jobs). I have always struggled to be something better. I'm a good mom and my husband and I have a good marriage...it's not perfect, but we're both happy and really love eachother. DH is also from a dysfunctional background, so we are not overly affectionate with eachother, but we understand eachother and we are both ok with it. It works for us. We are very loving parents and it's one area in our lives that we are functioning well as a family.

I just feel so lonely and down sometimes that I don't have a mother and a father figure like some of my friends do. I have no one to talk to about parenting and stuff a woman would normally talk to her mother about. I just feel so lonely a lot of the time.

When will I get over my horrible childhood? Will it haunt me for the rest of my life? Why does it still hurt so much when my mother acts aloof with me? Why does my mother's opinion of me still hurt me so much? Why can't I take the power away from her? I have had all kinds of counselling and the wounds from my childhood are still very deep. I just wish I could be free. I feel tainted b/c of what my father did to me. I feel like I'll never be "normal".


#2

[quote="Serap, post:1, topic:209001"]
I was abused badly as a kid and I"m still struggling and I wish I could break free. I'm almost 40 years old.

I was physically, verbally and endured "other" abuse by my father and my mother has mental illness and always belittled me and has never once told me that she loves me and is proud of me.".

[/quote]

praying for you and will pray
it is like asking how long does it take to get over childhood in general
our childhood is always part of us, it forms our identity, shapes our self-image, our ways of relating to others and every aspect of personality. The saints recognized this, as does modern psychology.

I don't think we ever break free from what happened to us, we have no control over that, but we do have control over our own reactions and our own choices today. The more we come to recognize the dynamics at work and how much what we say and do now is conditioned by childhood experience, the free-er we are to reject the notion that we must respond in certain ways and can choose differently. We also learn we cannot change others, only ourselves.

For my part, had I the mother you describe, I would figure 4 times a year, for a limited time period, is the max I would want my child exposed to her, and just smile and nod without speaking when she asks for more time with them. I would not of course allow my father any contact whatever, in any context, with my children with that history of abuse. I would also have long since reported him to law enforcement but cannot say that as a general rule for I don't know your circumstances. If he has any contact with children in any capacity I would feel it my moral duty.

The more experience I have with professional counselling the more respect I gain for that profession, and I honestly don't think we can recover from deep wounds without it.


#3

I understand your pain. I went through a great deal of the same with my mother, and my father was often absent due to his work.

It took me until I was in my 40's to figure out why she was the way she was, and treated me the way she did. Once I had that breakthrough, I was able to start dealing with it. I'm not going to tell you that the hurt will go away -- mine hasn't. And I still see the effects my childhood has on my psychological makeup: lack of self-confidence, hesitancy to stand up for myself, and instinctive avoidance of "being a bother" . . . When she died, my grief was more for the fact that I never felt I really had a mother, than for her.

All I can tell you is to be good to yourself. Remind yourself that you are who YOU are, not who she says you are. Stick to your guns about not being around her too much. And when you can, pray for her.


#4

I just stay away from it :D I speak to my Dad, but I don't visit. I couldn't go there, too many painful memories, too much resentment, etc. I find that blocking it out works alright ;)

p.s. not making light of the situation, just saying what works for me!


#5

I am not an expert, but from what I've seen it's harder for women to break free of childhood abuse than men. Not sure why that is.

That being said, you could use it as an opportunity to offer redemptive suffering. Gold is purified in the crucible by turning up the heat to burn off the impurities. Steel is tempered by heat, too. We can use our sufferings in order to grow in virtue and become closer to God. It can be looked on as a gift, and can help us and many who have no faith. Offering up our sufferings can be instrumental in softening the hardest of hearts. :)

From an emotional/psychological standpoint, try just "letting it go" and "moving on." Harder said than done, but possible with the grace of God. We cannot change the past, but we can change the future. Forgive those who have abused you and chalk it up to a loss in the spiritual warfare your abusers, and the rest of us, have to endure in this life. We win some, we lose some, and some are rained out. But we have to dress out for 'em all.


#6

Because abused children "have trust issues", for one thing.

If your trust has been continuously betrayed over a period of years, then it is difficult to figure out who to trust and when to trust them. It is difficult to appropriately "calibrate" your sense of trust.

For another thing, it is difficult to know what constitutes appropriate behavior if we have been steered, guided, suggested, ordered, pushed into behavior that was inappropriate in some cases and outright wrong in other cases.

Basically, you have to undo your own personality and construct a new one for yourself.

One way of doing that is to find people, real or in books or imaginary, who have some quality or some ability that we admire and then emulate just that one quality or ability.

And gradually, brick by brick, build a new personality.

It won't be perfect and it won't be complete, but that is one way.

If anyone wants to do some research, do a search for "toxic adults" or "toxic parents". There is actually a lot of material on the subject. One of the authors is "Davenport". "Working with Toxic Older Adults"]

Most libraries have at least a few books on the subject.

Believe it or not, one co-sufferer is someone named Laura Schlessinger. And she has spoken and written quite a bit about the subject and her experiences. Visit her Web site, get her books from the library, and use her experiences to help create new building blocks.

On her radio program, she makes suggestions to callers that can be very helpful, if appropriate to you, in terms of constructing new personal personality structures for yourself.

Just hang in there and continue to make incremental improvements.

One thing that helps a lot is prayer. Seriously. Divine intervention and guidance, actually works; "adult spirituality". Ask the Holy Spirit to put the right and appropriate words on your tongue.


#7

Your story has a lot in common with mine. In my case - the short version - is that my parents were abused and they tried to undo what was done to them and as a result my mother over-loved me to the point of leaving me helpless and jobless at 40 and my dad ignored me. I have no self-respect either and keep getting into abusive relationships where I am the victim.


#8

[quote="Serap, post:1, topic:209001"]
I was abused badly as a kid and I"m still struggling and I wish I could break free. I'm almost 40 years old.

I was physically, verbally and endured "other" abuse by my father and my mother has mental illness and always belittled me and has never once told me that she loves me and is proud of me.

When I finished university (commerce degree), I was very proud of myself when I had a good job and I would talk about my new life a lot. My mother told me I was arrogant. Now I'm a mother, she picks at me as a parent during the (4 times a year that she sees me). She says that I should take the initiative to visit her and why should she visit me all the time. She lives an hour away and I have two young children. She hasn't invited me over for more than a year also. It's very hard for me to pick up and go with 2 small children. She says that it shouldn't be hard for me and that she went on a 5 hour bus trip with me and my brother when he was a newborn and I should be able to do it too.

When my son had colic, she came and helped me on two occassions for an afternoon and she didn't even come until he was 9 weeks old and had had the colic for 6 weeks already. She said that her back hurt, her throat hurt....

Then yesterday, she told me that the real reason she didn't come when my son had colic was b/c I put her down all the time. I can't even remember doing that. We had a disagreement or two (b/c I was so tired and grumpy), which is normal for a stressed out mother, but I never did anyting wrong.

My dad has NPD (Narcissistic Personality) and he's a real jerk. Nothing you do is right. He used to call me all kinds of names; horrible names. He used to beat me and my brothers and he also abused me in "other" ways. He's very charming in public and you would never guess if you met him. Sometimes I even start to think that maybe he's changed and then I see the ugly side of him when he talks to his wife.

I grew up with no self-esteem and even though I had no respect for myself, I still finished high school and got a commerce degree (paid for it myself - 2 jobs). I have always struggled to be something better. I'm a good mom and my husband and I have a good marriage...it's not perfect, but we're both happy and really love eachother. DH is also from a dysfunctional background, so we are not overly affectionate with eachother, but we understand eachother and we are both ok with it. It works for us. We are very loving parents and it's one area in our lives that we are functioning well as a family.

I just feel so lonely and down sometimes that I don't have a mother and a father figure like some of my friends do. I have no one to talk to about parenting and stuff a woman would normally talk to her mother about. I just feel so lonely a lot of the time.

When will I get over my horrible childhood? Will it haunt me for the rest of my life? Why does it still hurt so much when my mother acts aloof with me? Why does my mother's opinion of me still hurt me so much? Why can't I take the power away from her? I have had all kinds of counselling and the wounds from my childhood are still very deep. I just wish I could be free. I feel tainted b/c of what my father did to me. I feel like I'll never be "normal".

[/quote]

I'm so sorry you are having so much trouble with your childhood. I can relate....different reasons, but...I suppose the same outcome.

I think all the other posters have already said what I was going to say (and then some), so my first reaction was not to respond....but I really wanted to say that I am sorry for your pain....I hope things get better for you.

Oh, and sometimes writing helps. Do you like to write?

I take it your husband has similar problems? Can you talk to him/and he to you?
One thing I miss with my ex is that we were able to talk about our odd upbringings and sometimes we were able to help one another.

And re:the parenting thing...find a good friend, and confide in them. I am blessed to have a childhood friend that I can confide in. She and her husband are a true blessing.
(we all grew up together, and they were well aware of my messed-up foster home;0)

And, as to normal? I'm sure you are just fine....what's normal, anyway??


#9

Would forgiveness help you to move on?


#10

-saw this comment....and -once again- I hope I am not pulling the thread off (I seem to have a knack for doing that...I am sure I will be banned soon..).
But....In this case, I think I may NOT be...I think this would help the OP along with a lot of others...

**..We can use our sufferings in order to grow in virtue and become closer to God. It can be looked on as a gift, and can help us and many who have no faith. Offering up our sufferings can be instrumental in softening the hardest of hearts. **

In a way, this makes sense...but...DK why, I can't fully grasp the concept. I think it's my addled mind or something.

I ran across this concept, or something similar, on a thread in relation to death and dying, and how suffering was something that should not be feared, but welcomed. Again, a part of me thought it made sense, but I couldn't grasp the concept...

Can you clarify what you mean-and how?


#11

[quote="ElizabethPH, post:9, topic:209001"]
Would forgiveness help you to move on?

[/quote]

I'd agree there...that's the first step. You have to forgive, try to understand the reasons why, and then you can start to let go.

I seem to have a really hard time forgiving one person, though. Funny. what he did in relation to what others did was in a MUCH shorter time span, and the physical damage was non-existent...but...I can rationally forgive him, and even understand why...loneliness, temptation, desire, etc. (and possibly control, not sure).

However, mentally and emotionally? The pain is still lurking...many years later.
The mind is a funny thing...pfft.

I'm sensing that the OP has tried to forgive, but in some sense cannot? Yes?


#12

Serap, my parents’ weren’t’ physically abusive, but my grandmother was, physically and sexually, and unfortunately I was round her too much. She had also been abusive to my mom, which in turn made it hard for my mom to cope with being a mom sometimes, through no fault of her own of course, but it did make it hard on us as kids in some ways. My dad on the other hand has a personality disorder, and was very emotionally and mentally cruel and he was never complimentary just critical, and was very distant and aloof. He loved to pick a favorite and then have the favorite torture the other siblings. He is VERY charming in public, to no family members, sounds a lot like your dad in that way.

Thankfully in a way, my dad ‘formally’ disowned me several months back. He wrote me a letter saying, he no longer considered me related to him in any way and he wouldn’t contact me ever and I should do the same with him. Oh well. It’s only made my life more peaceful.

Anyway, not to blather on about me but I can relate to how you feel. One thing that has helped me a TON is simply not having contact with my grandmother. For years and years our relationship was a source of huge amounts of stress for me. It got to a point where I realized that the stress was keeping me from being the best me, and mother that I could be. That scared me. Why should my children suffer becasue I’m wrapped up in being stressed about this twisted relationship with my grandmother? She is who she is and she isn’t going to change. The more I thought about it the more I realized I’d be guilty of not living up to my parenting obligations if I kept letting her stress me out. I just decided the abuse had to STOP somewhere and if not with me, then when?

The thing is, with these relationships, I was holding out hope that people will change drastically. The reality is when people are abusive and don’t acknowledge it and realize they have a problem they CAN’T change, it’s impossible. I had to stop wishing these people could be who I needed them to be, because they simply aren’t capable. It’s probably the case with your parents as well. When you are able to let go of that expectation, first you mourn, because it’s a realization that you’re never going to have in them the relationship that you need. Then, you realize you’re able to breathe and you have so much more energy because you’re completely turning them and your relationship with them over to God. He is the ONLY one that can possibly have any effect on people like this. For me, that has meant not contacting my grandmother (or grandfather by proxy). Guess, what, she hasn’t perused contacting me either, for nearly a year now. What does that say about how she feels about me? She wanted me to chase her down, and I’m sure my dad wants me to grovel at his feet as well. It’s not going to happen.

As to your question of how long it takes…I don’t think there is complete healing in this life, but I think there is a lot towards healing that can be done. I think you have to be realistic about who these people really are and who they are capable of being to you. Then you give them completely to God. Then you take every need you have for a mother to Mary and a Father to God and you pray diligently for them to fill in the gaps for what your parents couldn’t do for you.

Forgiveness…that is what I mean by giving them to God. Let go and let God as some people say. Stop investing your energy and let God work on them.


#13

[quote="Scoobyshme, post:5, topic:209001"]
I am not an expert, but from what I've seen it's harder for women to break free of childhood abuse than men. Not sure why that is.

That being said, you could use it as an opportunity to offer redemptive suffering. Gold is purified in the crucible by turning up the heat to burn off the impurities. Steel is tempered by heat, too. We can use our sufferings in order to grow in virtue and become closer to God. It can be looked on as a gift, and can help us and many who have no faith. Offering up our sufferings can be instrumental in softening the hardest of hearts. :)

From an emotional/psychological standpoint, try just "letting it go" and "moving on." Harder said than done, but possible with the grace of God. We cannot change the past, but we can change the future. Forgive those who have abused you and chalk it up to a loss in the spiritual warfare your abusers, and the rest of us, have to endure in this life. We win some, we lose some, and some are rained out. But we have to dress out for 'em all.

[/quote]

That being said, you could use it as an opportunity to offer redemptive suffering. Gold is purified in the crucible by turning up the heat to burn off the impurities. Steel is tempered by heat, too. We can use our sufferings in order to grow in virtue and become closer to God. It can be looked on as a gift, and can help us and many who have no faith. Offering up our sufferings can be instrumental in softening the hardest of hearts. :)

Beautiful because its so true.

I am not an expert, but from what I've seen it's harder for women to break free of childhood abuse than men. Not sure why that is.

I strongly believe what state here is just an illusion staged by secular bias.
I would dare say there are as many or more men who suffer mental health problems as women do. Too many men try to bury there emotions in alcohol and drugs because in society men are told its not acceptable to complain about any mental anguish or suffering.

Believe me; I certain know what this feels like. In my human experience, very rarely does complaining about ones sufferings get you anywhere. But it is appreciated when one finds a compassionate empathetic listener who will validate another persons suffering.

Peace
Chris


#14

[quote="phoenixrrt62, post:11, topic:209001"]
I'd agree there...that's the first step. You have to forgive, try to understand the reasons why, and then you can start to let go.

I seem to have a really hard time forgiving one person, though. Funny. what he did in relation to what others did was in a MUCH shorter time span, and the physical damage was non-existent...but...I can rationally forgive him, and even understand why...loneliness, temptation, desire, etc. (and possibly control, not sure).

However, mentally and emotionally? The pain is still lurking...many years later.
The mind is a funny thing...pfft.

I'm sensing that the OP has tried to forgive, but in some sense cannot? Yes?

[/quote]

It's all part of a process of healing which can take us a lifetime. There is something to be said of forgiveness then letting it go and giving it to God. but it is not to say that it is easy to shake those old memories and the effects it has on us as adults. But with prayer forgiveness and starting with how WE move forward away from it all is important and does help us. Also built up resentment can often keep us bogged down. The confessional is where I can let go of that. I don't know if I've made myself clear. I also don't want to overstep and offend.


#15

OP, have you sought out any counseling or therapy to help with the abuse from your childhood? Or are you trying to recover or heal on your own from the childhood abuse?

Recover from childhood abuse is like peeling an onion, there are layers and layers to getting over it. And you may even get to a point that things stabilize and then something can trigger a memory and you're back to peeling away another layer. Its a process, its not something that ever really goes away, not entirely. But you grow and you heal, gradually. I would caution trying to jump right to forgiveness, if you try to stuff all the other emotions that come with healing such as grieving for what you didn't have and even being angry. It is like grieving for a death in the family, the death of your childhood and just like the steps that one goes through in the grieiving process, you go through something similar when healing from abuse.

If it were me, I would limit my time with either my parents. It sounds like your mom is just triggering a lot of memories of the abuse for you right now.


#16

First off: you sound like a hero to me! For you to go forward with your life like that is something I wish I could have done. I think someone was praying a lot for you, b/c reading your post, most people in your shoes with no one praying for them probably would have ended up in a funny farm.

My mom means well, yet I realize now, in my mid-40s, that she is not capable of giving to me. Period. Once I realized that, it lessened the pain/burden on me to keep trying to get something out of her that is simply not there. She is shut down, for the most part. So, when she told me she didn’t want my son and I to stay with them overnight after flying to see them and my sister “because they were cramped in their home” -after feeling punched in the stomach—I realized I could keep trying to reach her, or simply accept what she can give. Same goes for Dad, although with him I must keep my emotional distance. (They live 1/2 way across the country) IE I am not welcome in my parents’ home. Also–she did not want to be around my “retarded” son. You can’t believe the pain I felt over that.

As a Catholic, what’s so neat for me is the notion of redemptive suffering / offering it up for something else. This changed my whole perspective. In scripture also, the notion of joining your suffering to Christ’s suffering is just so cool…because now THERE’S SOMETHING GOOD THAT CAN RESULT IN ALL THE PAIN YOU SUFFERED! IE—there’s grieving to do…but then God can use it for someone else!
When I was giving birth to my special needs child and we both almost died, I distinctly heard in my head “Offer up the pain for your father-in-law.” :confused: Not yet Catholic, I’m like :confused:—then afterward I heard that at that exact moment he almost died on the operating table! Anyway, all that to say God does not and will not waste your suffering, if you give it to him…not that your parents will change, but maybe in Heaven you’ll see people who have benefited from what you endured.:slight_smile: You’re awesome:thumbsup:


#17

[quote="Apollos, post:7, topic:209001"]
Your story has a lot in common with mine. In my case - the short version - is that my parents were abused and they tried to undo what was done to them and as a result my mother over-loved me to the point of leaving me helpless and jobless at 40 and my dad ignored me. I have no self-respect either and keep getting into abusive relationships where I am the victim.

[/quote]

Apollos, today is the first day of the rest of your life. You should know the following, because it is absolutely, without a doubt, true:

  1. God had you, personally, in His mind's eye, for all eternity. He chose this time for you to live.

  2. You are precious to Him. Totally unique, and unrepeatable! There never was, nor will there ever be, anyone exactly like you.

  3. God knew exactly what your life was going to be like. He also knows your ultimate fate.

If we keep our eye on the ultimate goal, heaven, then whatever happens to us can be taken in stride. I remember one of the Saints of the Church who was martyred for the faith. The Romans had designed a huge griddle upon which they had heated up some oil/grease. They threw him on there naked to cook. After a little while, he told them, "I think I'm done on this side. You can turn me over." Funny, but tragic, too.

St. Therese, I think it was, said that the most horrible life on earth will seem like no more than one night in an inconvenient hotel once we are in heaven.

Jesus died for you, personally. Had you had been the only person through all eternity who had ever sinned, He STILL would have gone through His entire passion and death on the Cross just for you!

That makes you special and unique. Thank God for all the blessing you do have. And try to do the best with the rest of the gift of life He has given you.

And let me give you a piece of advice on how to be happy and at peace for the rest of your life. Here it is: Always come as a servant. There's always someone worse off than you whom you can help in some way, even if it's just keeping company, visiting them, etc. Maybe you could do something like work with the dying, to help them with their "final exam" before they meet Jesus. Here's a short video that talks about stuff like that (it's free):

alabamacatholicresources.com/movies3.html

Of course, that's just one suggestion. There are many ways in which you can serve others. :)

Finally, remember... God did not call us to be successful. He called us to be faithful to Him. :)


#18

Serap, I can tell you what helped me was looking at my life now and what is good about it and acknowledging that my childhood, although abusive, led me to where I am today and I like who I am today. A different childhood would have meant a different me. Focus on what is good about you today and acknowledge that your past, while not ok, helped shape you into the loving mother you are today.

I also made a choice to love my parents as they are. I treat them the way I wished they had treated me. That advice was given by a priest at a talk I attended where he was the guest speaker. It was the best advice I had ever been given and I'm glad I took it. It's led to moments that I never expected to happen - like my father breaking into tears when I told him I loved him. And my mother apologizing to me for how she treated me when I was younger. They are still not easy to be around and they are still capable of hurting me when I least expect it. That's where limiting your time with them comes into play.

God's blessings and healing be upon you!


#19

I heard a psychologist once say that what happens in childhood is "written in stone" on the person's psyche. I had a mentally ill mother, so I can relate to you. The thing I do that gives me the most joy is simply to focus on my own husband and children. If you're busy working to be the best mom and wife you can be,you don't have much time to dwell in the past. You also have the right to cut off all contact (IMO) if you your parents only cause you pain. :console::console:


#20

Serap,
I can relate to this also. I had an emotionally and verbally abusive mother growing up. It took me until about two years ago finally feel free from her and most of the pain. I went to her and confronted her many times as an adult but only to receive complete denial on her part. My sisters have reassured me that I was not crazy and that she really was abusive. If you don't mind I would like to tell you what helped me but I realize that your experiences were very different from mine so I know I can never know what you are going through. I think staying away when the relationships are toxic is a good idea too.

When I came back to the Church I went to confession for the first time as a adult. I wanted to let go of the pain, hurt and anger I had for her. I confessed and felt like I had forgiven her. It was a relief. But then whenever I saw her she was still the same and had not changed and I always went home stung, hurt and angry. My priest said in a homily one time that forgiveness is not forgetting the pain and hurt of what someone has done to you. It is an act of the will. So this was very helpful. So I gave it to God and prayed that I would feel love for her in my heart.

I did go to a counselor and a psychologist too. But they did not help me to be less angry or hurt when the abuse was ongoing every time I saw her. They did help me some with my anorexia and body dysmorphia which were a direct result from her criticism, put downs, and unrealistic expectations. I still have horrible problems with body image and struggles with anorexia but not to the same extreme.

After my father died I was the only one who lived near my mom so I am the one who is there for her now most of the time. This is what ultimately helped our relationship to heal somewhat. I was able to confront her lovingly with tears in my eyes each time she said something abusive. And she listens now and accepts that she has hurt me and she has apologized to me. I think her heart was softened because she is dependent on me now and she is also very sorry for how she treated my dad when he was alive. She can now see how she has hurt people. We actually get along now and she is very nice to me most of the time although she still is emotionally abusive to me once in a while. I think her finally admitting that she hurt me and apologizing was the key to my being able to truly let go of the pain and really love her.

I read psalm 139 quite often and it helps me a lot. The words are so beautiful and about how God loves us so much and is always there for us. My prayers are with you Serap. God bless.


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