Thursday, 6 September 2012

Recognising the damage: Families of origin

Write about the ways you are still affected by the abuse. 
Write about the strengths you've developed because of the abuse. Think of what it's taken for you to survive. 

I am going to use the sub-headings mentioned in the book. I hope they will cover everything. 

Families of origin

"Relationships are distorted in incestuous families. The essential trust, sharing and safety are missing and in their place there is secrecy, isolation and fear... may have felt isolated, cut off from nurturing contact with others...
... you got the message that your pain wasn't important, that you couldn't rely on your family to protect or understand you."

It is incredible just how much everything makes sense suddenly. All those times when I told my mother she didn't understand me, I never knew why I felt like that. It seems astonishing that now, nearing 30, I have finally acknowledged that she failed me. I always felt like she was in some way responsible for the pain I was feeling. But, as a teenager, there was always that element of doubt; was I only feeling that way because I wanted someone to blame and she was an easy target? It was easier to blame her than admit that I had brought this upon myself. Because that is what I believed. That I had made it so that amit bhaiya just couldn't help himself.

Answering specific questions:

Are you satisfied with your family relationships? Or are they strained and difficult?

The second one. Strained and difficult. They have been like that for as long as I remember. There are two memories that make me - the child in me - quite sad. 

The first one is me standing just outside the door of my parents bedroom. My mother was sorting through some clothes in her wardrobe. My sister must have been 3 or 4 years old. My brother had not yet been born. She was having a tantrum and hitting my mother's legs. I can't remember if I actually said it or whether I was just thinking it - but I wanted to tell her to stop doing that. You don't hit your mother! I think I must have said it at some point because I remember my mother telling me off for it. And I had felt horrible. All I had been trying to do is show Radhika it wasn't good to hit your mother. But my mother thought I was wrong to say anything. 

The other one is just after my brother's naming ceremony. We had had a huge party. I had been so excited. Helped a lot in the prep for it. When all the guests had gone, my mother was relaxing on one of the diwans in the lounge and Radhika ran up to her to snuggle. She never liked me being too near my mother. As a younger child, I suppose that's expected. But Dad was about to take a picture and I remember really wanting to be snuggled up to my mom. So I went to sit behind her and put a very tentative arm around her. The abuse had been going on for a while and I now recognise that hesitance as fear - fear of my mother being disgusted by my touch; because of what had been going on with me. She didn't turn to me to involve me in the hug. There was no kiss for me. There was an arm around me that felt very cursory. I don't think she's ever felt 'loving' towards me. If she did, she hasn't felt it again for a very long time. 

Things have always been a bit awkward with my dad. I don't think he liked to interfere with how mom raised us. She told him often enough that she was the one at home with us so he should keep out of it. Guess that made us distant. Not to mention the added complication of us being Indian. Stamps out any 'affection' from parents. Parents dictate. They don't love. Bullshit. 

Is the sexual abuse acknowledged in your family? Do the people in your family support you?

It had been nearly 18 years since I told my parents about the abuse. Even then, it was at least three years since it had started. It wasn't dealt with then and it never has been brought up since. If we have discussed it, it has been when I've had one of my explosions of anger and have just blamed my mother for everything. Even in the midst of a heated argument, she has only ever defended how she handled it. That his parents were like God to her and she wasn't about to jeopardise that relationship for me. She did what she thought was right. That I was the one who had wanted to continue seeing him even after it all came out. 

My sister... I told her about it when she was about 12 or 13. She was a tomboy and was quite fond of him. Physically affectionate. I told her he wasn't a good man and  she should be careful around him. Over the years when I slowly told her the extent of what had gone on, she's been more and more supportive. Takes my side about it against mom. Even when she brings it up, again in a moment of anger, my mom defends herself. She says all these dirty thoughts are in our heads. What she did was right. 

Never talk about it with Dad. My brother knows and, on principle, supports me. In a practical sense, feels like there's not much he can do. 

Cousins who have had similar, albeit not as serious, experiences have a similar response. They won't go to his house but don't think they can completely ignore him. I'm grateful for their support. Really feel like I'm not entirely on my own. I'm still expected to visit his family when I go to India and that's not going to change till I lose this compulsion to do everything that's expected. 

I think that's what made the difference with the abuse. Shikha and Divya didn't take his shit. Radhika ran screaming. I gave him what he wanted. Just goes to prove there is something intrinsically wrong with me. The only gullible bum in the plant pot. 

Do you feel crazy, invalidated or depressed when you see your family?

How did you know? All of the above. 

Crazy. It's like I don't have any control over my emotions when I'm around them. I'm a wreck. I snap at seemingly no provocation. I get extremely tense and constantly feel like a failure.

Invalidated. I don't feel like I can make any suggestions or offer any opinions. I feel like I don't have a choice. Like the best thing to do is keep my head down and do exactly as they say.

Depressed. I want to leave/them to leave within hours of seeing them. The prospect of seeing them excites me because the feeling of "it will be different this time" refreshes itself with amazing ability every time. I seem to have the knack to hope for the best every time. Never works. I end up wishing I could be far away from them again. These days, even seeing them on skype depresses me. Just my mother's voice makes me want to vomit. 

Have you confronted your abuser or told other family members about your abuse?

I confronted him when I was about 15. He laughed in my face and told me he did it because he loved me. That I had wanted it as much as he did. I have nightmares about it all the time. 

I have told other family members about it. Cousins and one aunt. Cousins have all been very supportive. Aunt said it happens to all of us and that there was no need to make such a big deal about it. 

Do you feel safe with your family?

Never. I have complete faith that they will expose me to situations I am not comfortable in. 

My dad will insist I meet people or attend parties that I really don't want to because they make me feel fat, useless and like the lowest of the low. 

My mother will insist on me socialising with the bastard and his family and I get emotional blackmail if I refuse. 

The entire family is quite good at making me feel like I've failed them if I don't respond in a way that they're expecting. I don't trust them with my son. I can't see myself leaving him with them for an extended period of time if I need a break. I'll have to deal with "you abandoned your son" if I did. 

Do you expect the people in your family to change? To take care of you? To see your point of view? To believe you? Do you keep hoping?

They're not going to change. My parents. Never. I don't want them to take care of me. If I had to, I'd rather rely on Darren and his parents. They will genuinely care. With my parents, if they do show concern, they'll make sure they remind constantly about everything they've done for me and how I've never given anything back. 

They'll never see how I feel of why I feel it. It doesn't count. I am beyond the point of hoping they'll believe me. I have no hope of some sudden realisation some day. It's not going to happen. I don't want it to happen. 

Does incest still go on in your family?

He hasn't changed. He might not have physically done anything recently but he has always been flirty with female members of the family. I have no doubt he would take the chance if he saw one. 

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