I am a survivor of emotional and psychological abuse. I made a decision long ago, almost inadvertently, that would become paramount in putting myself on the path to healing.
When we have broken records that replay in our heads it is very difficult to erase or record over them as the case may be. Somewhere deep inside, despite our merits, we hear those old recordings over and over. Bleep you can’t do anything right! Bleep why can’t you be more like so and so! Bleep you’re pathetic! Bleep you’ll never amount to anything! Bleep that’s nice, but next time if just do it this way (abusers way) it will turn out much better, that was a good effort though! I won’t go on with more examples… you get the idea.
Abusers love to let you puff yourself up knowing full well when they pull the rug out at the perfect moment you will realize they were right all along and that it was futile of you to resist in the first place. You really start to believe all the bad programming, especially when no one tells you any different. My mother was a master at this game. I grew up being excluded, mistreated, and ignored, and when I was addressed…it was for some cruel punishment which I often didn’t deserve, or I heard things such as those above. When your abuser is a parent, you hope to escape that abuse when you leave home, which I did at 18 and never went back, but if you keep in contact the abuse is still there just less. My mother managed to manipulate and control and berate me well into my adulthood, until one day I got the balls to put a stop to it. Not an easy task I assure you. I am ashamed to admit I was in my early 30s. It didn’t help that I had married someone who was just like her, not uncommon by the way, so I truly was trapped in a vicious ugly cycle.
Long story short, I left him, not easy either we had been together 16 years, and I put a stop to her, and I was ALONE! That’s how I felt. Even though I had a new love interest, and a good friend or two to help me through it, thank goodness for him and them, and a child to care for, emotionally I was now cut off from everything I had known. Change.. even when it is necessary and for your own good is seldom easy. But let me back up a bit…. right before I left him and put a stop to her… I stumbled upon something very significant that opened the door to the path that lead me out of my misery.
It occurred to me one day after a very distressing conversation with mom that every other sentence began with Bleep! Maybe.. I thought… Bleep was part of the problem. Bleep was who she created through her torture, abuse and neglect. Somehow I knew that somewhere inside was the person, had I been nurtured and loved in the first place, that would emerge as the me I am today. I WAS NOT Bleep!!!! What if?… I could change Bleep? So I started looking into it. It turned out… that I could change Bleep for a fee and some inconvenience. I was elated. At first I told no one. I pondered it secretly for a while with some fear and trepidation. When I told him, not that I cared too much what he thought at that point cause it was already near the end, he was supportive cause he wanted to do whatever he could to keep me. I remember like it was yesterday, us driving in the car and me outlining out loud that characteristics of who the new me would be. Dani will be fun, she will be witty, she will be easy going (still working on that one), she will be active, and unafraid to try new things, she will be confident, strong, she will stand up for herself. He had a good laugh while feigning support, but I… without realizing it at the time… was psychologically programming my brain for who I would become. Somehow I knew instinctually that Bleep had to go away, in order for Dani to emerge and conquer all the pain and suffering and begin the healing. So I got the forms from the court house and filled them out, and went and paid the fee, waited for my court date, appeared before the judge and voila! I was no longer Bleep! Becoming Dani was the best thing I ever did for myself. In truth all of those traits were always present, but I needed to dissociate from Bleep with all its negative baggage in order to access them. It was like magic. When people called me Dani there was no negative trigger or association, and that opened the door to erasing the old recordings in my head. My mother of course, hated the idea. My first act of standing up for myself was putting a stop to her. I told her that she could no longer call me Bleep. I would not be that person that she harmed, and if she wanted to continue a relationship with me she would have to change the way she treated me. We did not speak for over a year. She finally decided that it was more important to have me in her life than to abuse and control me. To her credit, she did try, and over time she did change. It wasn’t easy. Not for her, or for me. Bad habits are hard to break. I had to put that standing up for myself vow into action and actually correct her which was painful for both of us. When we would talk and she would say unkind hurtful demeaning things I would call her on it… sometimes she would hang up. Later she would call and apologize, not always right away. Sometimes she would just call after some time and go on as if nothing happened hoping I would give her a pass, which I usually did, until the next time she said something inappropriate and the cycle would repeat. Apologies came more frequently as the new patterns became permanent. Sometimes when I visited her I would have to pick up and leave because she would become verbally abusive and predatory. I have to say that the few years before she left us were actually pretty good. We had the best relationship we had ever had. It wasn’t perfect, but it was a relationship worth having. Believe me when I tell you… I know how lucky I am to have had even that. Most abusive people are not willing to change or admit their bad behavior. I will always be grateful that my mother did. In the end, albeit brief and begrudgingly at first, she gave me what I had wanted all along, her love and support and kindness.
I don’t know that changing your name would work for everyone. I just know that it worked for me. It was a starting point, but without the necessary follow up even that would not have fixed my problems. If you are in an abusive marriage you need to get out. Unhealthy relationships are not relationships worth having. It is far better to have no relationship than to have a harmful one, and sadly that even includes family. I reached a point where I was willing to give up relations with my mom rather than be harmed by her. I hope my sharing will help others suffering to find their starting points and do the necessary follow up to begin their own journeys of love and healing. There is support out there and whether or not we believe it, we are not alone.