Back in 2015 Brandon O’Neill wrote a blog for The Spectator chronicling the case of pianist James Rhodes and his victory in court overturning a legal injunction which was preventing him from publishing his child abuse memoir. It is a particularly harrowing account of sexual abuse which leaves little to the imagination. Not only does […]
Photo credit: Anderson Mancini
So many things a child’s ear should not hear…
The first one being that when the Mother was heavily pregnant with me, my Dad tried to kill me by throwing her through the glass coffee table in our living room. This is one of those stories that also fed my fear of Dad, throughout my childhood I believed that he did try to to kill me. When I was in my 20’s I asked him about this; he said that the Mother was lying and it never happened.
When I was a baby and would crawl up to Dad, he would put me on his foot and kick me away. The Mother constantly reminded me about this and the fact that he did not like me or want me near.
As a child, I grew up knowing the sexual pressure the Mother was experiencing in the marriage with Dad. He wanted her to do things in the bedroom that she wasn’t comfortable with. I felt so sorry for her that she had to do certain things to keep him happy but also didn’t feel like I really understood either. He likes blow jobs and anal sex. I was in primary school.
She often said that Dad hated my brother from the moment he was born, she would say it was because he had dark skin.
If we were ever to be robbed and had dangerous people in our home, the Mother said she would save us by seducing the men. And to let her be alone with them in the bedroom. I remember feeling so safe, she loved us so much that she would sacrifice herself for our safety.
As a teenager she would burn photos of my dad into a pot and say “spells”. I participated and repeated the words with her. I felt scared when we did this.
I only have these snippets of talking memories in my mind, these are all I can remember. And for a long time were a part of my own life story in how I understood myself, how I related to my Dad, how I thought I was better than my brother because I had blue eyes and blonde hair.
I looked up to her so much and felt as though I was right there with her through everything. For my whole childhood, Dad was the bad guy and we were victims. What I didn’t realise was this other game going on, this narcissistic game where I was being played and toyed with.
You don’t know this but I still have nightmares about you. Whisked back unwillingly to a time when I was small and you were big and strong and powerful. I wake up bathed in a cold sweat, reli…
Source: An Open Letter to My Father
Picture credit: TimOve
“Crying tears on the outside and blood on the inside, a stabbing feeling deep in my heart”
A little thing about the Mother that had a big impact on our day to day lives, and still does;
She is never, ever satisfied.
There was always something I did wrong, could have done better or not enough of. I would be chastised for mistakes or beliefs in her own head of how I caused something to happen for years following an event.
If I vacuumed the house, she’d be upset I didn’t clean the windows.
If I tidied my bedroom, she’d be upset I didn’t clean the kitchen.
If a photo was taken she was later angry about my posture.
When I wanted to ride my bike to school, she was angry and slammed the door in my face (a stranger got out of their car to help me cross the busiest road)
When I changed my hair colour to a deep red, she referred to me as “carrot head” until I changed the colour to a more socially acceptable colour, in her opinion.
When I was in a bicycle accident and couldn’t get up, it was my fault she hurt her back helping me get into the car.
When she went through a red light and almost had a collision, it was my fault. And I was actually trying to get us killed. I believed this for a long time.
When I was accepted into a uni degree she was annoyed at my excitement.
When I asked her why she doesn’t say nice things about me being pregnant for the first time, she replied “I don’t want you to get a big head”
There are so many more…
I think the biggest turning point in my feelings towards her was around age 15. I went away with a neighbours family for almost 2 weeks. I felt so homesick and missed the Mother so much. When I saw her on the platform I ran towards her, dropped all my bags and gave her the biggest hug. She immediately told me off for dropping my bags.
Then, in the car started yelling at me about the chores I didn’t do 2 weeks ago before leaving.
When we got home I went to my bedroom. This is my first memory of painful crying. My heart felt broken. I vowed to myself to never feel love for her again. Something inside me switched off.
In therapy I have begun to understand the dynamic with her a little better. During early childhood, everything I did was to keep her happy. Conform and mould into whatever she needed me to be. She was my world. This is what young children do. We do it for our very survival. She was the source of food and warmth. Then we grow up.
As I yearned for more of my own identity I believe this became a point of tension. Suddenly I don’t need the Mother so much, I want independance. I want certain freedoms, away from her. I was becoming a teenager who needed my own identity, I needed to figure out who I wanted to be. The Mother could not handle this natural separation. Instead she became extremely mean. Name calling was her way of bringing me back into line.
I was so many things. So many nasty things.
Around this time Dad stopped physically abusing me, but now I was dealing with something else completely.
The next few years that followed are a little blurry in regards to the order of events.
I became bipolar. I would have extreme moments of happiness, laughing hysterically for hours followed by hours of crying. I attempted suicide, with 3 of those attempts landing me in hospital.
The accumulation of little things. Living with the Mother was daily emotional torture. This post scratches the surface of how these little daily interactions eroded my self-esteem and ability to even think for myself.
Now in therapy, one of the things I hope to achieve is finding my voice, allowing myself to have independent thought. Learning to find the words to express myself in a way that is constructive, assertive and respectful.
Picture Credit: Andrew
As I got older, the physical abuse with the strap lessened. It was at this point in my childhood Dad would use his hands to physically abuse me. There are few memories of these, this being one of them.
We were in Mornington on a family holiday, visiting Sorrento. On this particular day we were walking around the beach and the shops. I remember feeling bored. Then I saw a ferry. I asked about the ferry and was told it takes people to Queenscliff and back again.
I got so excited and really wanted to go on the ferry. When we started walking towards it I thought maybe we were. But then we started walking in the opposite direction. At this moment, I remember making a comment about the day being boring.
Dad turned around, looked at me then began running. I ran thinking that we we’re playing chasey. I started laughing and feeling excited.
When he got me, he pinned me to the ground, got on top and started smacking my face in really fast. I remember making eye contact with a man in his car, we locked eyes for a moment and he drove away. The memory ends.
Getting this memory out of my head and onto paper has allowed me to cry. I have sat here crying for the first time at the sheer sadness of being so utterly misunderstood. At the feeling of happiness being so quickly turned into fear.
One of the more unusual things about this memory is that in the moment of locking eyes with the man in his car, I am seeing him through my own eyes in the memory. Even now as I write this I keep seeing the look on his face through my own eyes. This part of the memory is different because I’m not the observer.
I am a Mum now and my young child often says she’s bored, or this is boring. I smile and say well let’s find something to do. Quite often she doesn’t want to and would prefer to just stay bored. I know it’s ok to feel bored, this is part of the childhood experience.
Picture Credit: Kevin Dooley
“Any sorrow, upon the morrow, must surely fade away. For there is naught, that can’t be sought, upon a bright new day” – Mary Marks
My Dad was ‘The Man’ of the home, what he said went, no negotiation, no family discussion, no consideration for how other people might feel. I learnt from a very early age to accept this. For example, tiptoe around the house when he was sleeping, especially if he had been drinking the night before.
I vaguely remember my brother and I waking up early most mornings, walking quietly to the TV room and we would watch cartoons for what felt like hours.
The thing that would wake us up so early is my Dad’s long wee in the toilet. Door wide open and the sound of a long, long wee, followed by the biggest fart you’ve ever heard. The sound would echo through the house. I never lay their annoyed until I was much older, as a child it was simply time to sneak to the TV room and watch cartoons. I felt happy.
Then, later in the morning Dad would have his shower. And afterwards walk back to his bedroom naked. I would see my Dad’s penis daily, he didn’t care that I was looking. I would often hear Mother yell out, “cover yourself” or “get a towel” or “kids, don’t look” and he would just keep walking, ignoring her.
As I grew into my teens, he would make sure there was a clear pathway, then do the naked dash to his bedroom. It was at this point I knew him better. As soon as I heard the shower stop, I knew to make myself scarce. Whatever I was doing I’d make sure that I was around a corner, or in my room. Then I’d wait, sometimes I’d stand quietly and wait for 5 minutes until he was definitely in his bedroom.
One morning when I was much older, either 14 or 15. I went to have a shower at the time Dad normally had his shower. He came in the bathroom and did his morning shave, the glass was opaque so he wouldn’t have been able to see me naked. Then, I yelled out, “I need to get out now can you leave?”
Expecting he would leave I turned the water off. He didn’t leave. He let me stand there and did not pass a towel over for what felt like an eternity. Perhaps, this was his way of telling me to never interrupt his morning ever again. And I didn’t.
Picture credit: Julie Jordan Scott
Both the Mother and my Father are very much a part of my life. There have been periods where I’ve had no contact with either or both, however one thing or another has always happened over the years that has led to contact being re-established.
Now that I am married, have two children and what I like to consider a fairly happy, stable life they want to see and talk to me more than ever before.
You may be asking yourself, why on earth I continue to have contact? The best answer I have is that through self-reflection and therapy I made a decision to re-define who I want to be. Do I want to be someone who hates and harbours resentment for the past. Or do I want to be someone who can forgive. I choose to at least try the path of forgiveness.
This has been an easier path to walk down in regards to my father. Like me, he is good at living in the present and we very rarely talk about the past. I think we both have an unspoken agreement not to discuss this too much. It’s a trigger for me, and well, he claims to not remember anything which is very frustrating.
The Mother on the other hand, lives in a perpetual past. She is a constant victim of everyone and everything. The Mother never holds herself accountable and will consistently place blame on those around her. This makes forgiving the past more difficult, because my present day interactions with her trigger memories and feelings of childhood. I want so much to be stronger around her, I don’t want to be triggered into this blubbering mess, or child-like state. It’s like she is the only person in the world who doesn’t see me for all my good qualities. I am only reminded of past transgressions or how I am the cause of her ill-health.
In trying to forgive, perhaps our current relationship is one where I can practice strength. I can learn to recognise my feelings and not react. One strategy I use when in her company is to imagine a sign on my chest that reads “Just Visiting”. It makes me smile and remember than I’m an adult now and she can’t hurt me.
Photo credit: calliphora ‘childhood dream’
Trigger warning – the following post may affect some readers
One of the traits of narcissistic people is this ability to make you feel and believe that you are the crazy one and not them. When they are confronted with what they have done, you can be told, “that never happened” or “wow, you have a great imagination”.
This is one of those memories which is vehemently denied by the Mother.
I’m so little, standing in the corner of the room, I distinctively remember my peach coloured walls, I’m crying, my brother is crying too. We are pertrified, I vaguely remember us just saying “no no no” over and over.
The Mother has a knife to my throat – “I’m going to kill you!” She’s screaming this at us – over and over “I’m going to kill you”. Then the memory ends.
As I look back through the lens of being a mother of two myself. There is a part of me which can empathise with the fact she may have been suffering and unable to cope. However, that’s where it ends. Even with various kinds of therapy I still can’t seem to forgive this, I can’t even forget it.
Since having my second child, I have been diagnosed with postpartum depression. There are days where I can not cope, days where I want to scream. I choose to walk away, I choose to ask for help. I choose to admit that at times, I can’t do this on my own. I take medication, I go to therapy, I keep trying to get better. I believe this is one of the fundamental differences between me and the Mother, I can admit I’m flawed.
For a long time I understood my upbringing through the lense of domestic violence, a drunk, unloving abusive father. That this in fact was the source of all my troubles. I attended counselling through out highschool just to get through.
The Mother was a victim too, people felt sorry for us, people wondered why we didn’t leave. And whenever we did leave, how come we came back? The Mother went to many domestic violence shelters when I was very little but she always went back. She was the typical battered wife. And for a long time I hated her for continually subjecting us to the physical abuse.
The real secret was the role she played in the violence. She encouraged my father to hit us when it suited her. Other times he would be violent because he wanted to. These were the times she really did try to protect us and throw herself in front of him. So where does this story fit in with the current rhetoric of family violence? Is her role in the violence simply a product of her also being abused? Are there any other mothers out there who participated in the violence towards their children?
Picture credit: Omer Unlu
When we were very young children my brother and I were often played off against eachother – today I am an angel sent from heaven, tomorrow I could be the devils child. Whilst she would keep the dichotomy of heaven and the devil to the confines of our home. She would very happily share with the world if you were the best child that day, often telling anyone who would listen how lucky she is to have you.
However, the devil child for the day would get ignored, spoken down to and ridiculed. If you were the angel child, you would participate in the verbal and emotional torture directed at the other sibling. It was actually really enjoyable to be the angel child. You felt loved. You felt happy.
It took a very long time for me to reconcile these memories with who I feel I am today. An amazing therpaist helped me to understand that I had to play this game with the Mother as my very survival depended on it. The Mother fed us, clothed us, drove us to school, took us to activities, she was all I knew.
Being raised in a home with a narcissistic mother has left me scarred to my very core, it has left me with a perpetual fear that I might be like her.
Now that I am a Mum, this fear can be a heavy burden. I constantly question and analyse my own behaviour. As far as I can see the only way to ensure I do not become like her is to have awareness and insight into how my behaviour affects those around me.
A great link which explains this kind of emotional manipulation between siblings can be found here;
Picture credit: Fe Ilya
One of the first memories I have of the physical abuse is lying on the bed, my father is beating my brother and I with his belt. We are rolling around on the bed, screaming, trying to avoid being hit – and there she is – standing in the doorway – watching – “ok, ok…that’s enough” she says.
This was a common event – my brother and I might have been naughty for whatever reason – I don’t remember the details of our behaviour as we would have been very little – but I do remember the threats – “just wait till your father gets home” – “no no no please don’t tell him…please”.
I remember so many times pleaing with her to just keep our naughtiness to ourselves – and there she would be all smug – happy to have finally broken us – and I would sit there for however long, waiting for that inevitable moment he would come home, the Mother would tell him all about the naughty things we did.
And then he would reach for his belt.
He would take it off his pants, or go to the bedroom cupboard for another one. I would run. He would chase us. He would beat us.
It was only when she thought we had been punished enough, the Mother would make it stop.