From as early as I can remember, I was a victim of emotional and verbal abuse by my parents. Today, I am not just surviving, but thriving and growing.
With emotional and verbal abuse, there are no visible outward signs like broken bones or bruises. I had damage on the inside: poor self-esteem, fear of trying and failing, no respect for myself, no self-love.
To my parents I was too skinny, not pretty enough, school grades of only B’s, they didn’t like the way I wore my hair or my clothes, my friends weren’t good enough, and I should marry only a doctor or lawyer.
I remember an incident when I was a teenager watching TV, sitting on our fancy French provincial sofa covered with sticky plastic to keep it clean. Mixed with the blare of the TV, I hear my mother scurrying around from the kitchen to the dining room to the hall, clicking off switches. “You must remember to turn off these lights. You’re wasting money!” she bellows. I cringe and think, if we are so poor, how can we afford to travel to Europe every summer? I sigh and go take a shower.
Suddenly I hear pounding on the bathroom door and am jolted back to reality. “Turn off the water! Your five minutes are up,” she yells through the door.
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I feel a lump in my throat and deep sadness because her concern for saving money is more important than my feelings.
One time as a teenager, I accidentally forgot to lock our front door when I went out. My parents decided to punish me for an entire month. I couldn’t visit friends, talk on the phone with them, or watch TV. It felt like I was in prison for a minor mistake.
Then in my late 20’s, I was relaxed, sitting in my therapist’s overstuffed chair, and she told me, “You have been verbally and emotionally abused.” It hit me like a bolt of lightning. I couldn’t speak, my chest hurt, and my throat tightened.
I thought my parents loved me, and the idea they abused me rocked me to my very soul.
Finally at age 37, when I was married with a new baby, I realized as long as my parents were in my life, I’d never be happy. I had to either climb out of the dark pit of depression or end my life. I chose to stop writing, calling, and visiting them. When I told them, bile rose in my throat, and I thought I might vomit, but I cleansed myself of a toxic relationship.
Afterward, I went to the graveyard to visit my grandparents who loved me unconditionally. Lovingly touching their headstones, I cried a deluge of tears until I nearly gagged. I was grieving the loss of a dream where my parents would someday treat me with respect and see the good person I had become. As I walked back to my car, I felt light and free as though a ton of weight had been lifted from me.
Through counseling, I learned I was a good person and worthy of love.
I wasn’t crazy. It meant I was brave enough to want to get better. I now had choices about my future. Sometimes I slip back into thinking I am not worthy. Now I call a friend or counselor who can remind me I have a right to be happy.
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