Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Crazy Talk: Prologue

I have to preface all of this by saying that I love my parents.  They dedicated the best years of their lives to making sure I would have a chance to enjoy mine.  I do appreciate that.  I don't blame them for when things went awry, and I believe they still do the best they can with the options they're comfortable with.

That said, my mother is crazy.  She wasn't always as crazy as she is now, and it's an uncomfortable topic for the rest of my family.  I have so many stories.  I want you to know that it's okay to laugh when you think it's funny.  I laugh about it sometimes, too.  Sometimes, that's all I can do.  It's a horrible situation, and it might make me a horrible person, but a sense of humor helps keep me grounded in reality.  It helps to remind myself that no, it isn't normal.  I'm actually afraid that if I start to think it's normal, I'll end up the same way.

There were some early signs that things weren't quite right.  But first, if you find yourself thinking that you're the most worthless or unhappiest person you know, please talk to someone about it.  If you read the rest of this or any of my later posts and think it sounds eerily familiar, seek out a trustworthy professional.  You owe it to yourself and to the people you care about.  Just by doing that, you'll be taking a huge step toward helping yourself live the life you deserve to live.

I really wish that my own family had recognized the warning signs before it got worse.

We'll start this journey with a little bit of history about my mom.  Take it all with a grain of salt, because she lies often enough that I don't know when she sincerely believes something.  I don't actually think she knows the difference, either.  I don't believe she could even admit to herself that sometimes she's just trying to get a reaction.

That's the first thing to know about her.  She does say things to get a reaction.  If she doesn't get the reaction she wants, she'll just keep digging, trying to find weak spots, with no regard for how her words make anyone else feel.  When any of us got into a fight with her, she would verbally lash out until she was satisfied, then storm out of the room, only to come back a few minutes later to continue the argument.  She always stood in the doorway so you couldn't escape.  The cycle would continue until either you were in tears or you found a way to put a locked door in her way (and also hid all of the tools she could use to open it).  It went on until she felt like she had "won."

I grew up thinking that was a normal way to treat family.

Her father (my grandfather) was committed to a mental institution late in his life.  I don't know the definite reason for it, but the reason I was told was that he had beaten his wife.  Supposedly, he hit her and left a bruise, then forgot the bruise was his fault.  He insisted it was a hickey and accused her of cheating on him.  He demanded that she see the doctor to have his suspicions confirmed.  The sad truth came out at the doctor's office, and he was taken away.  My grandmother was afraid that he would escape and come after her until he died in the institution.  The whole situation caused a deep rift among my aunts and uncles, because the older ones remembered him as a stern but kind father while the younger ones remembered him as a tyrant.

My mom and the younger siblings were often beaten by him when they were children.  Consequently, she was opposed to physical punishment when raising her own kids.  However, she didn't believe emotional abuse was a problem.  She'd say there was no such thing as emotional abuse; it wasn't abuse if it wasn't physical.  That's the only kind of abuse she understood.

I think she never felt like we appreciated her when we were kids.  She constantly gave us money or random things.  It's like she tried to make a place for herself in our lives using money.  Part of it was also probably about making us think our parents were doing okay financially, which wasn't true at all.  They were almost always in debt, and I didn't learn that until I was in college.

Debt carried other consequences.  My parents argued constantly when I was a kid.  Full-on shouting matches.  They didn't even try to hide the fact that they were fighting.  It seemed like it happened every night if both of them were home, although I'm sure it wasn't quite that frequent.  My dad had a serious temper when he was younger, too, and he used to throw things.  He didn't hit anyone, but he'd hurl a chair against the wall or throw a hairbrush across the room. Mom stood up to that with words alone.

They fought about money, or about my dad traveling too much and leaving the rest of us behind.  Mom was very insecure, so her jealousy often got to her while Dad was gone for work.  She was jealous of his co-workers, or of his secretary.  As my sister and I grew up, she started getting jealous of us.  She called us his "minions" and accused us of trying to drive a wedge between her and Dad.  It was a vicious cycle:  no one wanted to spend time around her because of her belligerence, and she became more belligerent because we didn't want to be around her.

To make matters worse, my mom seemed to give up her personality while raising us.  I'm ashamed to admit that I don't actually know much about her as an individual.  I couldn't even tell you a movie she has really watched in the past 15 years.  She has never shown a personal interest in doing things while I've been alive.  She didn't want to watch TV with us, and she didn't want to go on trips.  She did whatever we needed her to do, but she never acted like she wanted to do anything.

Instead, she tried to make my dad take us out to do fun things, like going to see movies.  She seemed to think we'd enjoy it more without her, or she'd say she had too much work to do at home.  Later, she'd get mad at us for leaving her behind.  If we tried to help her with something around the house so she could come with us, she'd act like we didn't do it as well as she would have.  Sometimes I wonder if that was her goal all along - just an attempt to get leverage for being upset.

I literally can't imagine what childhood would have been like with parents who didn't seem to hate each other, or with a mother who didn't hate herself.

All of those things should have told us that something was horribly wrong.  Ideally, my mom would have realized she was always unhappy and she would have sought help.

Instead, over the years, she convinced herself that she was the only normal person in the world.  Everyone else was out to get her.

With the backstory out of the way, we can start on the crazy stories!  But for my next post... A LIST!


  1. Sounds a lot like my dad. Emotionally abusive and would keep coming back over and over as he thought of another soul crushing thing to say. Then he'd ridicule you for crying. He'd wear my mom down to tears and then trap my brother and me in the car a few days later to tell us how my mom had all this emotional issues, or had illnesses, or was the way she was because she grew up without a father. After he died, I found an email he wrote to someone about how she had tried to turn me against him. He did that well enough on his own with his "You're destroying the family" talks. He was super controlling and paranoid - it was awful. My sympathies to you.

  2. Raising kids seems like the hardest, most thankless jobs in the world. Part of why I don't want kids is I remember the yelling matches between my mom and dad. They argued about my brother and I a lot.

    I don't know if they think we were too young to remember, the that shit suck.