Thursday, August 1, 2013

Living in fear and stress as an ACoN

The way I grew up - at the bottom of the food chain, and decidedly outside the circle, had an impact on me that has never really faded.  Even in Florida, when I was just a baby up to 5 or 6 years old, all of my memories have me being on the outside, observing things.  I was never in the middle of the action, or rarely so.  Things weren't happening AROUND me, noise and fun surrounding me, I was observing them from the side.  Outside looking in.  Muted sounds.  Like a scientist taking notes on another species.  I've written about some of it here.

I do not remember being held, or cuddled, or read to.  I remember my father getting VERY angry at me one Christmas because I asked 'is that all' when presents were over.  I was 3?  4?  He angrily dumped the parts of a metal scooter out of a box held high above me - they did not land on me but the LOUD *clanking* scared the crap out of me.  He didn't like me even then.  He had a horrible face that day.  I didn't know who he was.  I guess he was back for an Xmas morning?  Need to ask about that.  But see, it was my fault - I had been GREEDY.  And UNGRATEFUL.  I was the dirty ugly child, the one who ruined everything.

Once in California, pulled from Florida and the life I had led since birth, I was absolutely cut from the new herd.  I didn't know ANYBODY, all of these people were strange to me and I had never even heard of them.  I was alone, isolated, degraded, made fun of, yelled at, punished, teased - it never ended.  I lived in a state of constant fear and stress.  I was 6.  I thought about killing myself a lot.

I never, ever questioned my existence or the changes.  I just accepted that my body was now in THIS weird place, with these new people.  It was so easy for me to let go of Florida.  Like I was used to being 'beamed' from one location to another with no context, no knowledge.  *shrug* I'm here now.  very fucking weird for a kid.

People talk about the fight-or-flight thing.  But there is another option.  FREEZE.  Like the rabbits in the book Watership Down, one can also go 'tharn' - you just freeze and your brain loses all input.  Goes blank.  Like the Blue Screen of Death.  For me, it was a static noise and an inability to move my limbs.  I could not think.  I could not talk.  When confronted in a stressful situation, I went elsewhere in my head.  There are huge chunks of memories gone, incomplete scenes (like that camping bathroom episode, I cannot remember what happened once I was dragged back to the camper).  Somewhere, somehow, I learned to shut the fuck down and all systems went on some kind of disassociation vacation.  I never un-learned this defense mechanism.  It went on to own me.

Things that got yelled at me with exhausting regularity:

"you're a liar!"
"You're a sneak"
"You're so lazy!"
"We could get a monkey to do what you do around here!"

I was whipped on the back of the legs with my dad's belts.  I was the only one who ever got hit.  I got thrown out of bed and into the closet doors in the middle of the night from a dead sleep.  I got my face mashed down into my food at the table because I wasn't eating fast enough.  I had to eat at the counter, isolated away from the rest of the family because I didn't do it right.  On every vacation I got in trouble and grounded so that I was isolated from fun outings and had to stand behind a fence or off to the side and watch the others.  I lived in a constant state of fear and stress.  My sensors were on overload, an attack could come at any time.  You're 6, 8, and you had better be ready.  Going in your room was no solace, there was no place to hide.  Hearing anybody yell anything remotely similar to my name causes my stomach to clench and my head to start shutting down.  STILL.  At 52 years old.  If I hear a dad, a random dad, yelling at his kid named Tracy or Stacy because that rhymes with Casey - I am immediately back to that house, my childhood, and terror.

The smell of cigar smoke can send me to the same place.

I have learned to calm myself quickly, in these cases, and my heart ratchets back down in a matter of seconds.  But it still happens.  I WAS TRAINED.  Mind-control is a very easy thing to accomplish for a narc.  We are mind-fucked and believe what they tell us either in words or actions.  I WAS AN UGLY WORTHLESS STUPID INCOMPETENT CHILD.  I believed those words for the next 45 years. 

And the other sisters?  There was no way to save me.  they were saving themselves.  See, dad would use the excuse of my (made the fuck up) transgressions as a reason he was angry and why the family was having a bad time.  The sisters couldn't understand why I just didn't get in trouble, stop doing those things!  But what they didn't see, in keeping their own heads down, was that I had done nothing.  I had been set up, every time.  Even if they had done the exact same thing, the reaction would have been NOT angry.  They couldn't understand why I always got in trouble.  Neither could I.  That is what is known as MIND CONTROL and Mind Fuckery and it. was. effective.  I had already realized that I got in trouble because I was a horrible, ugly, worthless, idiot of a kid who didn't deserve to be with the family.  I was a shit stain, and no wonder I was an outcast.  SEE HOW THAT WORKS?

I would sit for hours in my bed and I don't remember doing anything.  Maybe reading, once I learned to read.  Alice in Wonderland over and over and over.  It terrified me, it was strange, I liked it.

It never occurred to me to like, clean my room.  I simply didn't see it, didn't notice it.  I shut down.  There is nothing beyond this disassociated bubble I have created, like the 'nothing' in The Neverending Story (yes, I relate to stories quite a lot.  They saved me as a child.)  Why clean my room when I want to be dead.  And I want my parents dead.  I did have chores to do each day - and I will tell the truth here.  I usually forgot to do them.  I was always saying 'I forgot!'.  I know how frustrating that is as a parent, Mike went through that stage.  I can't tell you why I forgot so much.  They were the same chores every week, like sweep the patio on Thursday, bathroom on Tuesday, etc.  I just forgot.  I was living with my head inside a ringing bell all the time.  I escaped into my fantasy world, my own private world - and I didn't see or remember the chores.  I guess I really was stupid.  I guess they really COULD have gotten a donkey to do what I did around the house.  See how that goes?

By the time I went to school I was so used to being on the outside that I automatically put myself there.  I was the only kid who could read in 1st grade, but I also got in trouble for hiding under my sweater at my desk a lot.  I have no idea if I played at recess, I probably did.  The teacher thought I was strange and singled me out for it.  I wasn't allowed (by my parents) to bring Valentines to school unless I made them.  BY MYSELF.  They refused to buy store-bought valentines for me to sign.  So I tried making some.  And I saw how awful they looked so I threw it all away (I mean, 30 kids!  I was fucking 6 with glue and paper, and no help.  I mean, the 'parents' were in another room for the evening - 'here's the crap you need, go for it' I didn't know how big to make them, how to cut a heart, just one took me an hour, so then the whole pile turned into punishment, something so far from fun...  so I showed up at school with nothing, with my head down in shame.  The fact that the other kids still gave ME valentines made my head spin.  I figured I was going to be sitting this party out.  And it made me so grateful for the attention.  And do you see?  That overly anxious GRATEFUL WAGGY TAIL singled me out as weird even further.  And that became another issue for me, inappropriate gratitude for the smallest action from someone else.  It marked me as subservient and a victim for bullying.  And then I don't remember anything until 4th grade. 

My point here is that I was so stressed, so freaked out all the time, I was learning to live in panic mode.  The red button was always pushed, the sirens and alarms were always going off in my head, and unless I was ALONE (like walking home from school) I was on guard.  And I didn't do it right, I always got blindsided, I got in trouble anyway.  Praying for my parents to die in a car crash didn't seem to come true. 
Me, 6-years old.  (my grandmother from Iowa is hugging me, my step-mother's mom, another person who could have been the queen of England for all I knew) Notice my clothes - thrashed, and bought in the boys department.  Notice my fucked up hair.  Boys jeans and shoes.  But oh hey!  a barette.  Those things sure do come popping out when there is a camera nearby.  Other than the barette, this is what I looked like all the time.  My hair stuck out to the sides like that in a thin-hair-dry-frizzy way, the other kids called me 'roof-head'.  Among other things.

I changed schools in 5th grade because I tested high enough on an IQ test to go to the accelerated school.  New school, new kids, who had been together all year, I'm new and outside even more.  I have no social skills.  These are 5th graders.  Kids have personalities now - they have groups and strengths and clothing preferences.  I had none of that.  I didn't know where the bathrooms were, the classrooms could be opened wide for two teachers to teach at a time - it was brand new and very progressive and WAY out of my league.  I may have been 'smart' but I was a terrified bunny - no social skills whatsoever.

I think telling you I was ignored by my family is maybe like saying the grand canyon is deep.  You cannot know.  I had had no voice for so long I didn't know how to express my opinion, and even doing so would merit abuse of some kind.  My hair.  My clothes.  I was WEIRD and marked from it.  It was inside me, what with the fear and stress, and with no social skills - I didn't know how to talk to anyone, how to have a friend or be a friend.  Or how to speak to teachers.  I was smart and read books WAY past my age level and even though I understood the words, I had no way to grasp the adult concepts, nowhere to file them - I had a vocabulary and comprehension of ideas but I couldn't talk about lunch boxes (weren't allowed to have one) or Twinkies (weren't allowed to eat them) I was dirty and not dressed right (the days when girls had their hair braided before school!  boys wore tucked in shirts!) and I had to bring SOUP to school for lunch, not a PBJ - I was practically a walking Asperger's child before anyone knew what that was.  Anyone remember Boo Radley from 'To Kill A Mockingbird?  Lisa Loopner from 'Saturday Night Live'?  Yeah, but without Todd.   
Lisa Loopner (Gilda Radner), social outcast

I was wretched and fumbling and scared and home was where the abuse was, school was an endurance test and I didn't understand any of it, except the parts where they read to us the series of 'The Black Caldron', that was pretty awesome.  Health class?  teaching us to wash?  wha...?  I didn't even tell my family I almost got RAPED.  Why would I ask them about washing my face?  There were friends, a couple of kids who SAW me and one of whom I am still friends with to this day (a reconnect thanks to FB).  Her parents, god love them, they saw what a basket case I was.  They invited me over anyway.  There was a boy.  Byron Kemper.  We knew each other through high school and beyond.  We became lovers and best friends.  HE DIED when we were 25, the rat bastard. 

The principal of that school met with my parents and they all decided to hold me back a grade, because my social skills were so far behind.  I got held back in 5th grade.

All the people I had been in school with, who already thought I was so weird, were now 6th graders ahead of me.  I had ALL NEW KIDS again to get to know, and I knew they were younger than me and oh my jesus, that was the kick in the teeth to my feeling like I was outside.  I never, ever, regained any ground in being an outcast.  I was pointed at.  I was so. fucking. miserable.  Those ow 6th graders who had been my classmates went on through Jr. Hi and High School knowing me as The Weird Girl Who Failed 5th Grade.  I mean, I didn't fail, but why else do people think you got held back?
Look how comfortable I look.  "Please let me die."

My 'parents' never asked how it was going.  If they had, I would have replied 'fine'.  Because, what?  what else is there but to go to school, the place where ALL YOUR PEER TIME IS, and put on the yoke of the Weird Wagon and just pull it all day, every day.  I played by myself.  I made up games.  I told inappropriate jokes I had heard at the dinner table.  I didn't do my homework because I didn't understand it and I wasn't going to ask for help, we were expected to work in our bedrooms alone on our own time schedule, it was our responsibility don't EVER ask questions.  I knew answers to odd questions and could talk to grown ups about say, going to the opera, but I couldn't talk about normal kids stuff because what in the fuck is normal kid stuff?  Oh man.  A sit-com couldn't have this much weirdness in it.

Do any of you know a comedian named Christopher Titus?  Mike loves him.  I cannot listen to him, it makes me a sobbing, crying mess.  His humor comes from his child abuse.  NO.

And I haven't even gotten to Jr. Hi yet.  Fuck me.


  1. I love Titus but I get how intense he could be. If there is any afterlife justice my mother and your father are locked in a room together for all eternity.

  2. In both of those pictures you look sad, Gladys. Your mouth is smiling but your face isn't. I just had a memory bubble involving my first day of First Grade and it's awful. Then I read this and realized you had so many "First Days of School" I just wanna cry for you. So I think I'll just go do that.
    God, I'm so damn they fuck us over and over and over. Is there NO PLACE SAFE????

  3. My gut us in a knot just reading this! Partly because I want to punch the shit outta the adults in your life, then kick them when they're down and partly because I was the weird kid too! Fear is the #1 emotion I recall from my childhood.

    Told by my own parents I was plain, smart and moved ahead a grade in mid year,sent to school with two inappropriate hand-me-down outfits and I usually had one friend at school, who was also an outcast. Slave labour at home and scared shitless that my dad and later my older brother would launch into an unpredictable rage.

    By the time I was in my mid-twenties I survived on antacids and had IBS. Any kind stress and I puked my guts out.

    In recent years, I puked before I visited my parents and had to stop and puke on the way home, then I drank myself shit faced.

    We're not weird and sadly we're not alone. We didn't create the mess we lived with and we did nothing to deserve the way we were treated. We're adult survivors of abuse and some of us are still dealing with people who delight in continuing the mind-fuck every chance they get.

    Fuck 'em!

  4. Yeah TW in that picture in front of the sofa wearing that plaid dress she's got that forlorn cast out 1000 yard stare that only means one thing. God if you are up there just take me now.

  5. It just kills me that I tested high enough to be placed in advanced classes but nobody ever helped with homework, nobody was interested. I was reading at least at a high-school level but nobody ever discussed books with me, helped me understand that Watership Down was about war, really, or that Salinger was speaking to depression and grief. I got beating punishments (and dear lord the lectures, just hit me and get it over with) about my grades, certainly.

    Nothing that happened to me as a kid makes any sense at all.

    1. I've stopped trying to make sense out of insanity. We were denied the primal bond between parent and child. Hell, in the animal world, mammals look after their own until they're ready to fend for themselves! Our parents were missing that vital piece of humanity before we were even born.

      There wasn't anything we could have done differently to change the outcome. The adults controlling our lives were complete fuck-ups. Rev Renee Pittelli describes them as evil and that works for me too.

      Hardest thing is to stop searching for answers to the unanswerable! Fuck 'em works for me!

  6. Gladys, this just occurred to me: I just finished raising a litter of foster puppies, including obedience training and normal socialization (that is, taking them out in public to get used to normal, average situations). A person can take an average puppy and turn it into a happy, secure, confident dog...or a mixed-up, terrified, confused one. Our parents chose us scapegoats and turned us into the latter, not the former. I am so very sorry your family didn't value your many gifts. --LuLoo

  7. P.S. As to the socialization issue; I was also the pathetically waggy-tail whenever anyone didn't spit on me, because at home I got nothing but spitting on. I was exactingly trained to show utmost respect and deference to the NFOO at all times while never once receiving any basic civility back. THAT took a lot of unlearning as an adult. Still a work-in-progress. --LuLoo again

  8. I can't begin to imagine what our lives would have been like if our parents had not wadded it up and used it as their personal roll of toilet paper. To not start life having to dig our way out of a deep and dark pit. I know things would have turned out infinitely better than what they did. If any person deserves to fry in the afterlife it is malignant narcissists. They gave birth to us. Our only crime was to be the person that popped out 9 months after they neglected to use birth control.

  9. I was also the pathetically waggy-tail whenever anyone didn't spit on me, because at home I got nothing but spitting on. Boy ain't that the truth *Luloo*

  10. Glady's - Thank you for sharing your story. I can relate to it so much. I have 5 sisters, and I can remember all of us in survival mode. Thats how my parents wanted it. They NEVER encouraged any love and friendship between us. I never realized the wierdness in that untill recently. And everytime us siblings got together as adults and were having fun and celebrating (before I went NC) it would provoke the evil MN mom "look" from my mom. I am so glad you survived and are telling your story. In Jr high, 7th and 8th grade I was in total disasociatve mode too and I did no homework, had no backpack, no lunches or nothing. Iremmber all my teachers called my parents into a meeting to decide if they would hold me back a year. I think my teachers knew I was inteligent, (I read non stop to escape reality) and I dont remember what went on in the meeting (disasociation?) but I just remember my favorite teacher having this look of bewilderment and disturbance on his face the whole time. I wish I could remember that meeting, but like you I totally went into a different world. They endedup passing me, I think they never wanted to deal with me and my parents again. And I dont think my parents ever said one peep to me about almost failing 8th grade. Because I passed and they got away w/ never doing shit. In my childhood abuse I too disasociated. There is so much that happend when Iwas in that frozen mode, including sexual abuse. I too still carry that crazy frozen, forgetful mode w/ me to this day. It is a wierd combination w/ my super awareness I have going on too. Sometimes I think we ACoNs have the frozen mode because we were not allowed to have our own reality and value on our lives. We were not allowed to have our own individual reality. Mother fucking Narcs. Great post Glady's. You put what its like living w/ Narcs as parents straight up. Peace. MG
    P.S. I was too in the waggy tail mode for my whole life, untill I found these blogs and info on Narcs. It is so refreshing to never be in that mode again.

  11. Here's another thing: I remember the raging/beatings etc. but for the life of me, I can't remember the OFFENSE (barring one when I was 14) for which the "punishment" was meted out by Psychob. My memories go back to the crib so it's not like I'm missing huge chunks of years etc. growing up like so many other ACs. I also was a prodigious reader-that was my escape as well. (I smiled Gladys when you mentioned "The Story of O"-I read that book when I was just a little kid too.)
    But just like the books, I had no context to frame the raging, the abuse etc. I could go to school in the AM (a nightmare with the Sisters of Perpetual PMS) and everything seemed to be OK. I'd come home after school and either all hell was breaking loose or I'd get The Silent Treatment. How could I be in trouble when I wasn't even at home?
    It seemed I spent my entire childhood asking very timidly, "Mommy, are you mad at me?" Did you all experience this as well? You recall the "punishment" but not the "crime?" The never knowing what happened but somehow, you're in major trouble?

  12. I had teachers who wanted to take me under their wing, but when they had conferences with my mother, they usually backed off. I dot know what she said to them. I had one teacher who wanted to switch me to her home room because she perceived my home room teacher as bullying me. She couldn't understand why he was so cruel to a girl who was too shy to raise her hand in class. My mother insisted I stay where I was, resulting in a miserable school year for me except when I had language arts class with the nice teacher.

    My mother liked to brag about my intelligence, but simultaneously did things to set me back, like not allowing me to participate in after school activities, then berating me when it came to college application time for not having rounded out enough extracurricular. Basically, I was screwed no matter what, so I just kept my head down as much as I could.

    And TW, my mother was always mad at me. I assumed it was my inherent evil that set her off. I went to my first shrink insisting that I needed to be fixed so I stopped making my parents upset.

    1. Like you, my mother tried everything to set me back. For example, I wasn't allowed to do homework or study; if I brought my books to my room, that wasn't allowed. If I went to the kitchen table, well, that wasn't allowed, either. The living room was off limits because reading and writing disturbed the people who were watching tv and talking on the phone. I ended up taking babysitting jobs and frantically working on my studies to get through before the parents got home and I had to leave. In my family's case, they wanted me to continue to be their scapegoat and savior, which wouldn't happen if I went away to college. --LuLoo

  13. I SO understand everything you wrote. My life was almost identical to this (just replace ignoring NM with an overly enmeshed one).

    I also have that freezing mode. My brain just shuts down, and I'm unable to move, unable to talk, unable to think. My mind just *poof* disappears completely, when I'm under heavy stress. I don't even remember what happens during that, it's like the blue screen of death as you said.

    I have always been the 'smart' and the 'weird' one. I was way ahead my peers in knowledge, but I couldn't get friends (I always had one, who was usually outcast and weird as well, because no one else would talk to me). I couldn't talk about kid stuff because I didn't even know these existed. I wanted to talk about science and theories because it was all I knew. So I ended up trying to find friends among my teachers - my peers hated me for it even more, and only a few teachers did not look at me all weirded out. And I also had that waggy-tail whenever someone was nice to me, so I quickly ended up with being used.

    I didn't know I was supposed to have peer friends and have fun. They mocked me and bullied me, and I hated them all. When I tried to have friends nevertheless, NM was always quick to tell me that "she foresees the future" and that they will abandon me and shoot me in the back. And since I was SO weird, of course they did. And then I got the "told you so, you shouldn't want friends, you have Mommy, no one else will ever love you, everyone else is out to get you" talk.

    You are VERY strong to have survived all this unbearable abuse, that you could recognize it for what it is, and learn how to get further away from that, and get closer and closer to YOU. I am proud of you!


  14. Thanks for sharing your stories. If I didn't hear them, I'd assume these things were a normal part of life.