Dear Mom and Dad,
Some days, like today, I f*cking hate you. I hate you because of what you did to me. You gave me a legacy of self-loathing, fear, instability, depression, and anxiety. You shaped my world view into a fearful place full of hatred and anger.
Every day, it is hard to get myself out of bed, to begin my day. I fear myself, I fear my “inevitable” failure, I fear a world that holds no joy, no answers, no *safety* or unconditional love.
You are now in my head, every day. You created and fostered this insidious Inner Critic inside my head that tells me I am worthless and a failure. Any time I try to live my life for myself, without your f*cked-up dysfunctional enmeshment you forced on me, that Inner Voice slams into my thoughts. It fills me with a dread that is overwhelming. It overwhelms my thoughts, my feelings, my body, and my very Self.
How could you do treat a child, YOUR child, with such selfish vitriol?
You were so good at hiding it. Any time I voiced my feelings or thoughts, any time I tried to stand up for what I needed as a child, you mocked me, you screamed at me, you told me that I was crazy, you told me I was ungrateful. Because I had it GOOD. I had a roof over my head. I had two parents obsessed with my success. Oh, right, my success was for you, but you’ll never admit that.
I lived a lie until I was 30. Then, thanks to therapy and self-care, I had a breakdown. One afternoon, it hit me. I didn’t live in a magical wonderland with fantastic parents. Parents who, you told me, were better than anyone else’s, because you hated my hometown that you chose to raise me in, you hated everyone in it, you hated everything. Suddenly, I felt like I was on Mars. Like I took off a pair of glasses I’d been forced to wear my whole life. The sunlight was blinding, and filled me with grief and anger.
I was a sweet, shy little girl. And bright. So very bright. IQ off the charts. Teachers, parents.. they all loved me. Your world started to deteriorate because – let’s f*cking face it – lies only last for so long. And you sucked me down with you. Into your bottomless pit of self-absorption, narcissism, trauma, depression, debilitating anxiety.
I was 15. I had no one. Because you didn’t let me get close to anyone. You don’t have any real connections with your own relatives. You hated religion, so there was no church or congregation or youth leader for me. You despised most everyone, so you had no friends or acquaintances. You even told me how much you hated the parents of my friends. I was completely isolated. Alone.
I wrote my suicide note. I thought about how I was going to end my life. It just wasn’t worth it. Every day at school I was mocked, teased. I had pushed all my friends out of my life.. cherished friends I’d had for ten years. Who tried to be there for me no matter what. I had no reason to live. I was a failure. I was worthless. My very being irritated you to the point of abuse.
My 15 year old boyfriend saved my life. When he called the suicide hotline, the firefighters came to our house. Mom, you were so extremely disappointed and ashamed. You took it out on me. You let me convince you that my crazy girlfriend had called. When you found out it was my boyfriend, you let me convince you he was just an emo kid with his own issues. Dad: you said nothing to me. You didn’t even address it. Jesus. I almost died, right under your noses.
At first, in therapy, I thought I’d only suffered childhood emotional neglect. Then I learned the difference between neglect and abuse. Then my memories started to surface.. the ones that were too painful for me to keep in my consciousness. Because I was a child, and I had to survive.
I remember when my sister and I got too excited over seeing something in a magazine. I started laughing so loudly, yelling to her “I see it! I saw it first!” and I remember I was happy. Dad – you were on the phone with an acquaintance (you certainly never called him a friend). When your little girl burst into loud, joyful laughs and yells (I was eight or nine), all I remember is that you reached over and started hitting me hard. Open hand. Right in the middle of my back. Hard. I was laughing and suddenly I was getting smacked. I remember that my little outburst (so unusual for me, I was so shy and quiet) was done – it was just a moment between me and my sister – but it didn’t matter to you, you just started hitting me over and over again.
And I thought it was just emotional abuse.
Oh, and there was that time my grandmother died. Right after 9/11, when my great aunt (who you didn’t let me get close to, of course, but who I adored anyway) had to run from her downtown job back to Queens. I’d just started high school. I had so few family members, none of whom I could really get close to thanks to you, and then one was gone. We went to her house. I was fourteen. We packed away her life. Of course I did this, too. Silently. I didn’t really know her, so I couldn’t actually have grief over it. I missed her. I missed the connection I knew was so tenuous, but I still missed her. No one gave me a hug during that time. No one held me, told me it was going to be ok, that it was tough but we’d get through it. I had to do that for you two.
We came back. Monday morning. Getting ready for school. I’m a mess. School is hell. I have panic attacks in the hall every day. I eat lunch alone every day. I have an IQ in the 99th percentile but I’m failing two classes. I hate my life. I cannot go on. Years of screaming fights between you two and my sister, years of giving me the silent treatment for days if something your sweet, shy, caretaker daughter did upset you. Years of living in isolation with two mentally sick parents. I was done. I didn’t want to be done, because I knew the consequences so f*cking well. But my body and my emotional state betrayed me. I’m ready for school. I can’t leave my room. You walk in, ask why I haven’t left. I cling to one hope: maybe you will understand how upset I am over losing my grandmother. Even though you ignored me through it. I tell you, I’m too upset to go. I can’t. I just need to recover.
Silence. That awful, terrifying silence. You’re across the room. Suddenly you start screaming at me. Get out the door. Go to school. You’re apoplectic, incredulous. The best: “Ann’s mother died and SHE went to work!” My mother – who you cannot even call my mother – went to work after her mother died. “Mother”?! The woman she hated her whole life?! Well, it didn’t matter.. suddenly that had weight and you were screaming at me for being selfish and childish.
I’m crying. Silently, of course. I’m still too terrified to really cry, just tears rolling down my cheeks, despite my best efforts to stop. I’m petrified where I stand. There is nothing but a white, ice-cold fear filling my vision, my veins, my lungs. You cross the room and put your forearms stiffly on my shoulders, your hands dangling somewhere behind my back I suppose. It is not am embrace. It is a prison. “What’s wrong?? Huh??” you ask in a strangled, tortured voice. All I can do is shake my head. Deep inside I know that you think you are being that Imaginary Great Parent and you have no f*cking idea how to handle yourself, let alone love your daughter. All I can do is shut down so this monster in front of me will retreat and I can breathe again, alone and isolated.
Imagine a lifetime of memories as dark, isolating, suffocating as this one. Imagine having to raise yourself. Imagine having to ballet-dance around a minefield every goddamn day just to survive.
I am 31. I have PTSD. I have complex trauma. I have no family who supports me. Worse, I have a family who believes they do support me. Who refused to listen when I took them to therapy. Who will never be able to love me unconditionally.
I know what your own childhoods were like. Tough shit, right? It sucks a bag of dicks to be raised by abusive parents. I acknowledge your backgrounds and I DO NOT let you off the hook for what you did to me. Because you were adults, and I was a child. Your failed responsibility is not mine. Not any longer.
I’ll be living my life by myself. I’ll be mastering my Inner Critic and nurturing my Inner Child that is still so starved for affection. I’ll be suffering through the white-hot, overwhelming fear that grips me every day. That fear that comes from being abandoned for hours, days. From being screamed at, hit, ignored, and forced to parent you at my own expense.
I’m so fu*cking mad at you. Not for what happened. But because you cannot live your life without lying to me, over and over again. You cannot accept me if I refuse to fill your own needs.
I am done. It breaks my heart, my spirit, my soul every day. But I am done.