Abuse is a topic that many people are not open to talking about or hearing. It raises many unpleasant emotions that make it challenging to deal with. Everyone admits that it goes on but rarely wants to admit that it happens, especially within families and intimate relationships. This is because it is too terrifying for people to think about. To believe that an abuser could be a normal person – someone we know or like can make us feel frightened and powerless.
*This post is on abuse and may be triggering*
More commonly, another reason why abuse can cause an extreme reaction in others when people talk about could be because they connect it with their abuse and pain. Additionally, not many people know how to respond when a friend or family member has reached to express that they are experiencing it. Hearing about abuse from others can bring up undealt emotional pain that they may be completely unaware of, and it can also help those who have experienced abuse know that they are not alone.
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What is abuse?
By Definition, “abuse is a misuse of power intended to harm or control another person. The maltreatment can be physical, verbal or emotional, which is known to cause pain and psychological distress”. Abuse can occur within any relationship: family, intimate, professional, or platonic. It can also occur between strangers; even this pattern tends to be rarer. Abuse leaves psychological wounds that are harder to heal than physical injuries. Those who have experienced this kind of trauma feel alone, shame, and hopeless; they lose their sense of self and develop limited ranges of emotions.
Survivors of abuse may have intense negative feelings long after the abuse has ended. Abuse that occurs throughout childhood leads to anxiety, flashbacks, and trust issues for many years. It is known to also impact a person’s ability to form healthy relationships and find true happiness. Those who have been abused are looking for one thing: trying to piece back together a shattered and broken life. It can be a struggle each day, but those who have survived or is on that path have to be in a mindset where they feel safe again, so the shame, pain, guilt, and perceptions around trauma can gradually start to diminish.
Survivors of abuse are all around us, and today I have an amazing and beautiful fellow blogger here to share her story with us! Meet Randi, a native New Yorker, stay-at-home-mom, homeschool teacher, and the creator of Surviving Mom Blog. She currently resides in Atlanta with her husband and daughter.
Here’s her story:
The Story of My Life
By Randi Latzman
This post is incredibly hard to write because I am sharing something private and very painful. This story is not one from which fairy tales are born.
I wish I could say that I had a happy childhood, but that would be the furthest thing from the truth. I grew up with a mentally unstable mom. At a very young age my role was to listen to my mother’s marital problems, as she and my dad were always arguing (sometimes physically, but most of the time it was screaming at one another). I developed a very unhealthy relationship with her. I felt it was my job to listen to her problems, support her emotionally, and take care of her. My own well-being and safety were completely contingent on my mother’s well-being. When she was upset or wanted nothing to do with me, I felt worthless (My Story of Codependency).
I wanted nothing more than my mother’s approval, and as a result I would parrot a lot of what my mother said to me and try to emulate her. My father was very resentful of this and growing up he was angry at me most of the time.
At the age of 8, my mother started throwing me out of the house when she felt I misbehaved. The first time this happened it was dark outside, and I walked a block to a nearby park and sat on a bench. I felt helpless, unloved, and discarded. This became my mother’s go to way of punishing me. The amount of time I wasn’t allowed inside varied from minutes to many hours. I felt unsafe and incredibly degraded each time she forced me to leave and beg to come back inside. It made me view the world as a very scary place. I had nobody to protect me, and the person who was supposed to look out for me was the one hurting me.
My father was complicit and would follow my mom’s instructions. I always voiced that what was being done to me was wrong, but my mom would tell me that I brought it on myself by not listening to her.
My mother was abused as a child, and in turn, my mother abused me. I vowed that the abuse would stop with me. In order to end the cycle of abuse, I had to face all of the horrors I endured so I would know what to never do to my child. I vowed to give my child the love and support I never got, and make sure she knew she was loved unconditionally. I go into more details about this in my post about parenting: Survivors Guide To Parenting.
My parents divorced when I was 24, and my father became a much happier person. As an adult, I still had the belief system that it was my job to make my mother happy. I tried to do everything possible to get her love and approval. As a result, I made myself completely available to her. I was so available that I spent two hours of my honeymoon trying to calm her down due to a recent breakup. Her feelings were always prioritized over mine, and I felt it was my job to make sure she was okay. We were the definition of codependency.
Shortly after my parents divorced, I met my husband, Matt, on Jdate (When Matthew Met Randi). He was the first person who I felt loved me unconditionally. With him I finally felt home. We got engaged a year after we met and married the year after that.
A few years into our marriage we decided to start a family. I got pregnant, and my husband became terrified that I would miscarry. He started drinking heavily, and once I found out about it, he moved onto pills. As a result, I spent the first 4 years of my daughter’s life raising her on my own.
We moved to Atlanta to get a fresh start, but soon after I realized he was abusing pills again. I reached out to a therapist that specialized in addiction, and I told her I would leave him if he didn’t get help. I didn’t want my child growing up in that kind of environment.
My husband bravely made the decision to go into an outpatient program, and he has been clean and sober for the last four years. You can read more about my story of loving an addict here: Surviving A Loved Ones Addiction.
I have a wonderful daughter who I love more than life itself. I have been a Stay-at-Home-Mom since my daughter was born. She recently was diagnosed with ADHD and Sensory Processing Disorder, and this is the second year that I’ve been homeschooling her. My daughter has made huge strides, and I’m so proud to be her mother (Parenting A Child With ADHD).
I spent my entire childhood feeling my identity was taking care of my mother. I managed to break free from that, but somewhere along the way I forgot who I was besides being a wife and mother. I wanted to have something that I did which was separate from those two roles and just for me.
Very few people knew about my abuse, and it was typically glossed over because people felt uncomfortable about it (Surviving Abuse). I decided that I wanted to reach out to foundations for abuse survivors and use my love of writing to try and help others. What started out as writing about abuse for monthly newsletters soon turned into my blog.
I always felt that what my mom did to me was wrong, but it took adulthood to grasp that what she was doing was abusive. Emotional/psychological abuse is often taboo and harder to recognize by others because the scars are internal. There needs to be more light shined on emotional/psychological abuse so that there is never a doubt that abuse comes in many forms. The lack of openness and education about this made it easier to see my mother as a wacko rather than to see her as abusive. There isn’t enough widespread knowledge about the numerous ways abuse can rear its ugly head.
For most of my life, I felt intense shame about what happened to me. I hated that I felt scared and anxious all the time. I went to numerous therapists to figure out how to get “fixed.”
I was told many times that I needed to accept myself to heal and grow. That made no sense to me; how could I accept myself and change at the same time?
One day a lightbulb went off in my head. I realized that I needed to show compassion to all parts of myself and accept that the damage that was done to me was not my fault (Road To Happiness Is Paved With Compassion). I finally understood that anxiety and fear does not define me. Just as my daughter’s ADHD and Sensory Processing Disorder does not define her, my anxiety does not define me. I am defined by the person that I am. That is something that can never be taken away from me.
I share my story because I want to take my horrific past and use it to support and help others. My hope is that something good can come out of something terrible. It doesn’t make what happened to me any better, but I am taking control over my life and what happened to me by speaking about it.
Many cannot relate to what I endured, and I am glad for those who are unable to do so. That said, all of us have gone through some sort of trauma, and I want you to know that you aren’t alone. We don’t get to rewrite our past, but we can take control of our present and future.
I hope reading my story will encourage you to reach out and tell someone yours. I am always here if you want someone to listen.
Thank you so much, Randi, for sharing your story with us. I know it wasn’t easy, but I want to thank you for your transparency. Your story will help to reach so many others who have experienced abuse. You are truly amazing!
Visit her blog to learn about how she survived her childhood, and what it’s like being a parent to a wonderful daughter who has ADHD.
Randi touches on how she survived being abused by her mother and the struggles and joys or surviving motherhood. The content is beautiful and filled with openness and transparency that many mothers and survivors of abuse can relate to. Visit Surviving Mom Blog today!