I entered the mind of my abuser the other day and it was scary. I did not like what I saw, what I felt, what I suddenly now understand. I entered the mind of my abuser the other day, and now I know how easy it is to rationalize, justify, and normalize actions that are never OK. I entered the mind of my abuser, and thank God I will never be the same.
In today’s age we are more aware of the different types of abuse. We now know that the phrase “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me” is the furthest thing from the truth. We are more aware of sexual, physical and emotional abuse. As a society we now have a small understanding of how each type of abuse affects people (the victims, the abusers, the supporters), and the struggles that abuse causes.
Although we are more aware, we do not have any answers to the questions that surround the many forms of abuse. We are, and forever will be, learning about the intricacies that cause abusive behavior. Why a person would hurt another, is it purposely? Is it an underlining mental health issue? Is a substance abuse issue? Is it as simple as some who are abused will then go on to abuse? It is all of the above and it is none of the above. It can be all and none because every abuser has a different story, a different reason, a different excuse, or even in some cases a different justification. The other day I was given the rare opportunity to enter the mind of my abuser. I did not like the answers I found.
I lived in denial of my childhood abuse for the first 30 plus years of my life. I would tell people stories of growing up in my house eyes would widen, jaws would drop. I would justify my mother’s actions when I saw this reaction. I would say things like, “Well, I was not an easy child,” or “It sounds worse than it is, she really loves me.” My most common response, “It’s not her fault, she had such a horrible childhood, who am I to complain? Of course she has some anger issues, wouldn’t you? She loves me, showing it is just difficult for her.” People would smile, and move on in conversation because clearly I wasn’t thinking straight. I was not accepting the truth of my past, I was not accepting the abuse I suffered. I was a victim in denial.
Today I still stand by all those statements. The difference is, although those statements are true, I now know that does not make the actions of my mother any less egregious. The other day, I had a glimpse into the way she thinks. I entered her head and today, I am not OK.
After a long day of work, being 36 weeks pregnant in the July heat with no working air-conditioning, my two children decided to revolt. Screaming, tantrums, hitting, kicking, and throwing things. Every type of child breakdown was occurring between a 2 and 5-year-old at once. I was home alone, and they both were on fire. I broke down. It went dark, I became consumed with rage. Pure rage. I started screaming. I said things I shouldn’t have said, I slammed doors, I acted like a toddler. I acted like my mother. I was out of control.
When things finally calmed down, and the kids were asleep, I fell into a deep dark depression. What had I done? What had I said? The fear in my 5-year-old’s eyes seeing his mother rage is something I will never forget. Hearing my toddler cry and call, “Mommy, mommy,” will haunt me forever. I became her — for too long of a moment — I was my mother. As that reality sunk into my brain, I spiraled down deeper and deeper. Just then my phone rang. Of course, it was my mother. I shouldn’t have picked up, I should have sent it to voicemail, but I didn’t.
I couldn’t hide how upset I was. I explained what had happened and how horrible I felt for acting the way I did. I explained my guilt and how I acted inappropriately. Just then shit got real.
I always knew my mother lived in denial of her abusive behavior. We’ve never addressed it, and probably never will. But what she had to say shook my world. She did not say something like, “Sneak into their room and give them kisses while they sleep,” (which I had done at least four times already.) It was not, “Hold them tight and apologize,” which I made sure I did several times before they went to bed. It was not, “We all have moments, learn from this and never do it again.” No, it was none of that.
Her advise was not advise. It was justification, it was acceptance, it rationalized actions that are not OK.
She told me, “They won’t remember this, so it’s no big deal. Anything you do to them before the age of 13 doesn’t really count. They don’t remember.” Really? No mom we do remember. I remember hiding under my bed from you, I remember you pulling me out by my leg just to yell at me. I remember you throwing me out of the house by my neck. I remember hiding from you in a closet. I remember you kicking in my door I had locked, just to scream at me. I remember running away at the age of 7 and walking up the block, not knowing where to go because I was not allowed to cross the street.
She continued to say, “When they’re a teen they probably deserve it, because no one understands the stress your under as a mother.” Again, no mom. It is not OK to lose control simply because you are under some stress. No, No, No! This is not OK.
As she continued she supported, and almost encourage my irrational behavior. She justified my actions and rationalized me being irrational. Then the worst thing she could have ever said to me came out of her mouth. “It is no big deal, they’ll be fine, they’ll get over it. You are pregnant, stressed, and they just don’t understand. I do, I understand, I understand how you felt and I am telling you you didn’t do anything wrong. It is OK. ” Boom! No, mother. I am here today to say no. I am not you! I will not justify my actions the way you have. This is not right. I did do wrong. I am the adult. My sole job is to protect my children, not scare them into submission because I am “stressed out.” No, I will stop this cycle. They will never know the fear I felt as a child. And no, they will not “get over it” because I will not give them something to get over. No, just no.
I entered the mind of my abuser the other day, and — no — I will not stay there. I will not accept her rationalization. I entered the mind of my abuser the other day, and today I am standing up and saying that way of thinking is fucked up, and I will be better.