I grew up believing I was inherently defective and unlovable. The emotional bond I so deeply needed from my mother was always just out of reach. It’s not that my mother didn’t use the words, “I love you,” it’s that her definition of what “love” means was so dramatically distorted. For her, the words, “I love you” meant I am obligated to feed you, clothe you, give you shelter, set rules, and send you to school. I am obligated to fulfill motherly duties like birthday parties, social events, educational trips, etc. She would mimic the emotions she thought were expected of her in a situation, but often they would come off as “not quite right”, “clinical” and “emotionally disconnected”. As a child, I didn’t consciously pick up on this, and felt my mother’s emotional distance from me was my fault; I was, in her words, “a very difficult child to love”, inherently flawed, and unlovable.
Even as my mother failed to intervene and protect me from my father’s emotional abuse (when she witnessed the abuse, she failed to even acknowledge it), I thought it was because I deserved it. If I wasn’t a “loser”, “stupid” and “ugly”, if I didn’t have a “flat chest”, “thunder thighs”, “big nose”, and “pizza face”, maybe I would be lovable.
When my mother failed to protect us from his sexual abuse, even after she had been warned by his past victims what he was capable of, I believed that it must be because I wasn’t worth protecting. At first, she accused me of lying about my abuse. Then, she has convinced herself, if I am telling the truth, it must be because a therapist planted these ideas in my head, and they are “false memories” (he has admitted to her, sexually abusing at least three other children, but she still refused to acknowledge he sexually abused me too). The truth is her toxic co-dependent relationship with my father took priority over her children, and she was willing to protect that, at all costs.
To protect others from finding out about the abuse that happened in our home, my parents went as far as manipulating close friends and family to think I was a “troubled”, “difficult”, “angry”, “ungrateful”, “spiteful” person, who imagined up stories of abuse and insisted on creating drama and instability in her life. These manipulations kept me suffering in silence for years, and resulted in me losing contact with close family and family friends for fear of rejection.
Growing up, my mother would often express unkind (and as I’ve discovered later in life, untrue) judgements about even the closest of family and friends. I don’t know if she did this to keep us from becoming too close to any adults during our childhood and exposing family secrets, or if making negative judgements about the people in her life, made my mother feel better about herself and her questionable choices…or maybe she did it for both reasons.
I don’t ask myself why, in the past, I use to have issues trusting others (and even my own perception of myself), with body image, low self-esteem, feelings of worthlessness and depression. I ask myself, how on earth could I not?!?
Did this mean I had no control over this, and was destined to always feel unlovable, and inherently defective for the rest of my life? Absolutely not.
It has taken hard work, therapy, and time (many years actually), to heal the deep wounds resulting from an emotionally unavailable mother, whose manipulations and emotional blackmail had me emotionally enslaved for years. My need to seek her approval, love, and acceptance kept me hooked, as did my love for my mother, and the wishful thinking that if only I could better explain my feelings, she would stop dismissing and minimizing, and once and for all, understand the hurt caused by her actions, and love and accept me, and believe I am good enough.
In therapy I learned that, because my mother had very little authentic empathy and so little insight into how dysfunctional and toxic she actually is, I could try explaining how her actions traumatized me until I was blue in the face, but in her current state, she is incapable of change. It became clearly evident that almost every interaction with her was serving only to re-traumatize myself, and drain my emotional energy. I finally had to face the reality that I had to let my mother go, just as I had with my father.
As difficult as that was, one of the beautiful things about letting go of toxic relationships is, that it leaves so much more room for healthy ones. This allowed me to finally see myself clearly through eyes that were not my mother’s…
not only was I not defective or unlovable, I am a beautiful person with a beautiful heart
to quiet the negative self-talk (loud and constant negative self-talk almost always exists, in those suffering from emotional/mental abuse), and replace it with positive affirmations
to love myself and the qualities and gifts I have been blessed with
that I was blessed with an absolutely amazing extended family, who have so much love to give, and have allowed me to experience what it feels like to be accepted, loved, and supported.
I finally discovered what it feels like to be whole, and not broken anymore.
The link below is a fantastic resource outlining strategies for healing childhood trauma caused by an emotionally unavailable/narcissistic parent: