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Confronting abusers

Hello everyone.

This topic has come in and out of my mind many, many times over the years. Ultimately I don’t know how to feel.

My mom and my step-dad are responsible for most of my traumas, insecurities and mental health issues, most certainly OCPD and my anxiety disorders. In spite of my efforts and fruitfulness in school, nothing I did was ever good enough. My grades were never high enough even though I graduated a year early with a 3.48. They never trusted me to make any decisions. They never allowed me to have friends or socialize. I wasn’t allowed to feel, much less express emotions. I was to be seen and not heard and anything beyond that would result in hurtful degradation and verbal abuse. They never physically abused me, but they did physically abuse my brother. My moms prior husband also beat him regularly. My parents thought he would never amount to anything. They gave up on him in high school. Wouldn’t provide him school supplies. Eventually they prevented him from going to college by refusing to help apply for student aid.

It is really unfortunate the way our lives has progressed. For me, after choosing to live on the streets at 16 rather than endure the abuse, it took many, many years of hard work and should searching before I could even figure out who I was as a person. I thought it would be impossible to support myself. I thought I was a terrible human being. Useless. Years later I hit my rock bottom and decided I was going to get better or die trying. Fortunately for me, I didn’t die.

My brother left and was living the high life with some people he met somewhere, I don’t know where. But over the years, something happened. I was so lost in my own journey that I didn’t know what happened, why or how. I just know our roads split for a long time and when they came back together, his life had taken a deep dive and he hasn’t been able to recover. He doesn’t trust anyone (neither do I for the most part, to be fair), he alienates himself and he is extremely impulsive and reckless.

Anyway. As my journey goes on I wonder what it would be like to confront my parents. I know they both deny being abusive. Over time it has been harder for me to contain my composure around them if we are with each other.

When I was going through tech school, I had a conversation with my parents. My step dad insisted that while I was in school I search for a tech job. In tech, I not only did the curriculum, but studied and obtained 9 extra curricular industry certifications first try and, despite my social anxiety, I joined student government, moving from Secretary to Vice President and then eventually President. I supervised the class and organized projects and events. But that wasn’t good enough. At the time I still worked at a grocery store bakery. I loathed the job but I loved my manager and I didn’t want to give up my job where I knew my manager would work around school and support me emotionally. But that wasn’t good enough. I told my step dad that I wasn’t ready, I wanted to stay where I was until I graduated, but he kept pushing me and pushing me until I finally snapped at him and demanded to know why not wanting to search for a new job wasn’t a good enough answer for him. Why I couldn’t make my own decisions based on what I thought was right. Why wasn’t that good enough? He had nothing to say. My mother who was in the room nothing short of shocked at my outburst. But that was that.

I have always been good at reading body language and sharpened my skills over the years as well. And was once having a conversation with my step dad during which time I stopped the conversation and told him I’m not wasting my time because he wasn’t interested anyway. I was right and it freaked him out. He was losing control.

I have dreams where I go off on my parents, telling them they ruined my life, they screwed up my brain, they were complete failures as parents. They are liars and manipulators, narcissistic. So I wonder… would it even be worth it to confront them? After all, they deny that they abused me and my brother. They did nothing wrong as far as they are concerned. And so I know if I confront them I will argue their denial and probably be extremely anxious and angry and I know it would take a lot out of me on an emotional and physical level.

I brought this up a long time ago on one of the HS streams and a good point was brought up, that it’s not always appropriate or necessary approach your abusers and that if I was considering it, it should be with the guidance of a therapist, which definitely makes sense. But is it necessary? I don’t know.

My mother and I have spoken for a few months out of the past few years. I just can’t. I lose my composure. I have so much build up anger and resentment and all I want to do is go off on her. And at the same time there is thuis weird dichotomy of feeling sorry for her because she has Schizophrenia and no support, as my step dad believes mental illness doesn’t exist. But at some point thats not my problem. I can’t fix everyone.

I just don’t know. I know it’s nobody’s problem but mine and nobody is obligated to help me, but I would just really like some feedback.

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Ugh how awful. Reading your words, I can feel the sensation of screaming desperately and not being heard. I’m glad that in later years you’ve started pushing back, and I’m doubly glad that it catches them so off guard when you do. That is proof that they are just senseless bullies who get off on exerting power over you, and they’re lost when that is called into question.

Speaking with zero perspective and just a little bit of logic, I think that talking with your therapist before talking to them would be good. I would count on it not changing anything between you and them, and I would brace for the emotional impact it will have on you. However, I think not saying your piece to keep some kind of truce will ultimately eat at you and continue to grow your resentment. Granted there are things that I haven’t confronted my parents on, so I know it won’t be easy. If you think there’s nothing left to be salvaged and no hope of a real relationship though, what are you holding on for?

If the idea of confronting them is scary, which is more than understandable, maybe start by writing a diary entry in the form of a letter to them. Just getting your thoughts out and down on paper can be cathartic. You may also try talking to your dashboard. After all, it won’t talk back, interrupt you, or bully you :slight_smile: In time, by the time you’re ready to confront them, maybe you’ll be at peace with everything you have to say, even in the highly likely event that they don’t concede anything.

Good luck. I hope one way or the other you can find the closure you’re looking for.

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Thank you for taking the time to respond.

To be honest I’m not really sure what I want out of a confrontation. Maybe just acknowledgement. I want them to understand what they did to me. I don’t need them to be sorry. I don’t need them to make it up to me. I just need them to understand what they did to me. I realize this may or may not be realistic of me. And to be honest, I don’t know if I want to salvage the relationship. For more than 20 years they have made me miserable, seeming oblivious to that fact.

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They say in customer service, the number one thing people want is to be understood. In a scenario where a customer service rep can’t make it up to a customer, the difference between a decent experience and a bad one is whether or not the customer feels like they were heard and understood. I know that’s been true for me in many of my recent interactions with customer service, both good and bad. You’re right, there’s probably nothing they could do to undo 20 years of hurt, but damnit you want them to understand.

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The answer is no. You’d just experience another session of invalidating emotional abuse.

The effects of a bad upbringing can remain present throughout life, but it’s still possible to make choices that improve your life. To consider that your life is ruined, convinces your brain that all of it, from birth to death is without hope. Based on what you’ve accomplished so far, you do have hope and the ability to realize what you’ve hoped for. Your parents have no right, and don’t deserve to have the power to “ruin your life.”

You have tremendous potential, which includes skill in leadership. The decisions you’ve made are the right ones for you, regardless of your step-dad’s opinions. Besides, even wrong decisions are right, if they lead to personal growth.

That belief is very common among those who suffer from mental illness, therefore, I suspect that at minimum, your step-dad is neurotic, and delusional. You are right, you can’t fix schizophrenia. Your anger is understandable, as you’ve been subjected to much unfairness. At the same time, it’s like having an blind elephant accidentally sit on you. Getting upset about it makes sense, and you can blame the elephant, but if the same circumstances were to occur again, no doubt the elephant would sit on you again. Getting mad at the elephant or your parents, won’t change their nature.

I kinda get it. My mom was bipolar, schizophrenic and had borderline personality disorder. My dad was a depressed alcoholic. I was at times beaten, other times neglected. I was mostly on the streets from age 11, and left home for good at 15. I was around 30 when my dad apologized for essentially abandoning me, leaving me hungry. My mom never did accept that she did anything wrong. My earlier years were spent being brought up in a perverse religious cult. My mom claimed to have an inside track with the occult, and one of her disciplinary tactics was to threaten me with demon possession. I was always anxious, and spent a lot of time in absolute terror. I attempted suicide at age 10.

The point of providing this personal history is to affirm that despite a rough start in life, it’s possible to have a decent future, even if it means having to deal with ongoing hang ups from the past.

Maybe it’s because I’ve worked with the mentally ill for years, but I no longer feel anything but compassion for my parents. I also have this weird perception that because I transcended my past, they’d have less to feel guilty about. I doubt that it’s an issue for them now, because they’ve been gone for 35 years.

Our history, choices, and motivations make us who we are. Outlandish and adverse history potentially promotes a very resilient form of empathy and emotional intelligence. I see evidence of that personal evolution in your writing. I admire you for it.

I think you’re going to be okay. Wings

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