My parents were violent, angry people.  They were manipulative.  They were selfish and self-centered, controlling, hurtful, mean and harsh.  Oh, they wore masks…most people never suspected what they could be like or what went on behind closed doors.  They didn’t see the out-of-control behavior.  The temper.  The yelling, screaming, hitting, demeaning, belittling. The abuse.  They hid themselves well behind respectable jobs and proper smiles.   But the people I knew were monsters.  Abusive.  Raging.  Neglectful.  Hateful.  Sick.  Unloving.  Uncaring.  Spiteful.
My entire life has been focused on not being like them.
The thing I have discovered about having this “I’m not going to be like them” focus is that it creates a reaction that isn’t especially positive.
For example.  I don’t want to be angry the way they were angry.  Their anger was so out of control.  It was abusive and explosive and frightening.  So when I feel anger, it gets stuffed…super deep and really fast. I run from it and deny it.  And guess what happens to stuffed anger?  You got it…depression.  My mother was depressed, even though she didn’t stuff her anger.  But there you are…I’m just like my mother because I’m depressed and she was depressed.  In seeking to be unlike her, I’ve become like her.  I may have even surpassed her.  Because sometimes I’m so depressed, I can barely function.
Not only do I stuff anger, I stuff it so quickly, I can’t even remember feeling it to begin with.  So I can’t find my anger when it’s appropriate.  Even when I want to or need to.  In that regard, I guess you could say I have been successful at not being like my mother (or my father, for that matter).  They both yelled and screamed and wailed and hit and lashed out.  Their anger was never hidden and it was excruciatingly obvious neither one of them ever had a problem finding it.  I feel…nothing.  I express nothing.  I am a card carrying member of the poker-face club.  Meaning, it’s very difficult to tell if I’m feeling anything by my facial expression.  Because mostly, I’m not feeling anything, at least not consciously.  Mostly.  Well, except depressed.  Like my mother.  Which, by the way, depresses me.
So though I have been able to successfully stuff, mask and dissipate my anger, I haven’t yet found a way not to have any.  I may deal with it very differently than my parents, but I still have it…though I don’t experience it or act on it in any conscious way.  My counselor tells me it’s waiting for me and that I will eventually have to find a way to deal with it.  I’m sure I will strive to be unlike my parents if / when I do.  Though I don’t know exactly what that means.
Another example: I didn’t want to ever hurt a child the way my parents hurt me.  That has been a huge driving force throughout my life as I strive to not be like my parents.  It resulted in my making the decision, at age 16, not to have children.  I was afraid I wouldn’t have what it took to be a good parent.  And although I did reexamine the decision a few times in my adult life, my heart never changed.  I was desperate to make certain I didn’t wound a young, tender being who was depending on me to nurture and care for them.  I truly didn’t believe I would ever abuse a child.  But what if my lack created deep wounds in their soul?  No.  Couldn’t chance it.  So I never had a child.  I’m a heck of a parent to my dog, though.  And I’ve loved several of them during my life.  They are my child substitute.  Sadly, my focus on not being like my parents stole from me the option (and joy) of having children.
My parents were needy.  They were incapable of doing many, many things for themselves.  They relied on me to fulfill them, to complete their life, to clean the house, to take care of my brother, to complete their dreams.  I have worked very hard to keep from being a needy person.  In fact, I don’t even like to admit to having needs.  I try very hard not to need.  Anyone or anything.  That hasn’t exactly helped my mental health.  But by god, I’m not going to be like my needy, dependent parents!!!
Except I do need.  I am needy.  I just won’t admit it.  I won’t reach out.  To my detriment.  Don’t even know how to ask for help any more.  It’s a problem.  And my inability to reach out and connect to others has caused me to be very isolated.  Isolation is destructive.  It takes the meaning and joy out of life.  One exists, but never really lives.  My existence is very, very lonely and empty.
I have vowed that I will not be like my parents.  The scary reality is, I’m like them in far too many ways.  I don’t express things the way they did.  I don’t manifest my problems the same way they did.  But I’m a mess…as were they…just a different kind of a mess.  And a lot of that mess has been created because I’ve been bound and determined not to be like them.  And I’m not…not exactly.  But it frightens me that I’m like them at the core in too many ways.  And it happened simply because I determined to be different. It bothers me that they continue to control my life in this way.  That I still haven’t escaped them…even though they are dead!  But how can I escape them when the focus of my life is on…them?
I made a vow.  A vow that has driven me and controlled my life.  I’m reaping what I have sowed to this vow.  But you see, my vow is understandable.  I may be a mess, but at least I’m not a monster who has horribly wounded others.  My parents were monsters.  They put on a nice face for the worlds, but they were monsters.  They were terribly abusive behind closed doors.  To me.  I saw the real them.  And the truth of the matter is this, even if I’m depressed and isolated and childless, unable to find my anger and dead inside, unable to have needs and broken, above all else, I do not want to look in the mirror and find that I have become a monster.  If I can escape that fate, then maybe all the pain and loss and depression I’ve experienced (and continue to experience) will be worth it.  If I’m the only one who gets hurt, it’s okay, right?

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