Tactics for Dealing with Abusive Family Members, How silence is Difficult, Factitious or Munchausen Disorder by Proxy with Adults

My best friend is my best friend because she knows how to throw back at me things that I have said to her or posted on my blog.  Silence is the best tactic in dealing with abusive men after the breakup and is on my list HERE.

But what about dealing with other family members.  The difficulty comes because you can’t DIVORCE them.  And it’s even more annoying because they should know better.

I found out today that part of my family is still sitting around talking about me and making up stories in great detail about sexual molestation that they now claim happened to me as a child THAT NEVER HAPPENED and once again just because some of their facts are wrong doesn’t seem to matter.  Like that it happened in a basement in a house that didn’t have a basement.  Or that the kid they’re talking about was not the age they say he was.  And the FACT THAT I DON’T REMEMBER is a sign that it did happen.  I am so angry and violated and wanting to say things like:  You’re a sick FUCK to sit and talk about me like this.  But saying that or anything else won’t make any difference and I probably wouldn’t even feel better afterward.

One of my children says that if you tell a person they have a memory often enough they will believe it and that I shouldn’t be angry at my brother for falling into that trap with our very very sick mother.  She’s so wise.  I wish the “memories” were made up about them and not me.  But I do understand that she can not own her own mistakes and apologize and therefore has to find some other reason why I don’t speak to her anymore.  She can’t take responsibility for hitting me or my oldest child, so these stories distract and take the blame off her.  And my brother is just weak and confused and I can only hope that someday he sees how ill she is.

This brings me to Factitious or Munchausen’s Disorder by Proxy.  The DSM IV describes these as a caretaker of a child who claims her child is ill or makes her child ill in order to get out of something (Munchausen’s) or get attention from people (Factitious).  Although I am an adult this is the closest I can come to what is going on when these people want some kind of attention for having a daughter that was molested, or to get out of responsibility for their behavior by saying that my firmly defined and enforced boundaries are a result of child abuse by someone else.  Both are forms of abuse, which is ironic and explains why I feel so violated and angry.

The saddest part is that he walked over to my father’s house, sat down in his living room and claimed that he had recovered an old memory while talking to his mother.  My father is a good man and I can only imagine that this hurts him much more than it hurts me because at least I can see it as a mental illness.

And after he did all this he blocked me on facebook, which is a good thing as I was going to send him an email which I’m sure would only prove to him that I was really abused because it wouldn’t have been very nice.


Crazy Making

This is my own definition.

Crazy making is when someone distorts the truth until they think they are the victim, and that the other party is entirely to blame.  Crazy making is not taking responsibility for actions, pretending they never happened, and then blaming the person offended for setting boundaries to protect themselves from further harm.  Crazy making is also getting involved in a situation that someone has no business being involved in, in order to create chaos, perpetuate that person’s own negative feelings, dodging the truth, distorting things that have been said, and confusing what’s right and what’s wrong.

I’m not into crazy making.  I stay away from people who do this.  I surround myself with good, healthy people–one of whom found me today and listened when I explained what was going on with the comments my brother has been leaving on my blog.  Check out the posts just before this one.  My good friend told me this:

You are a good person.  The crazy making is meant to trigger you.  Don’t be silent.  Tell the truth.

I was thinking about taking the comments down because they are out of context and rude and angry and something really negative that doesn’t belong on my blog.  I guess the unwritten family rule in my family of origin is to use another person to relay a message of hate, and to leave it as a comment somewhere.  Pretty dysfunctional, isn’t it?

But I didn’t take down the ex’s comments even though they were full of lies and venom.  So why should I take these down?  It’s a reflection of him, not of me.  I am a good person with healthy boundaries.  I set very firm boundaries with my mother because she is very depressed and tries to bring me down in the black hole with her.  She refuses to get help to get better.  There are many unhealthy and harmful behaviors which have affected me and later affected my daughters.  I will not have them around the same abuse I grew up with.  My brother asked me why I set these boundaries with her and I told him the specifics of why.  It would take some serious changes on her part to make that relationship better.  Another unwritten rule in my family of origin would be that hitting children is okay.  I am not okay with that and will not have that happen to my children.  There are some things that are not up for compromise.

But all of that is between her and me.  A year ago I realized one day that she might not know why I put up my boundaries so I made it very clear and specific what had happened.  There has been no response and  I don’t expect one.  And in my family, having my brother leave nasty comments seems to be the way they think this will get resolved.

I am far better than that.

And that is the truth.

Is that good enough, Lesa?

Hate and Family Dysfunction, Why I married an Abuser, and a Definition of Triangulation

“Throughout life people will make you mad, disrespect you and treat you bad.  Let God deal with the things they do, cause hate in your heart will consume you too.”

–Will Smith

Did you ever have a moment when everything made sense.  All the parts came into focus just for a little while and the road you had been traveling for so long suddenly became clear and you felt so validated?

The big question for me is why did I ever marry an abuser?  I’m sure there were many factors, but today for a moment I realized that bad behavior was acceptable in my family, that criticism and condescension were normal and daily, that abuse was no reason to leave or disconnect or be angry.  That hate, especially toward oneself, was the underlying reason for most actions.  The dysfunction was all I knew and so when I came face-to-face with the darkness I mistook it for love and security.

One of the signs of a dysfunctional family is triangulation, when two members don’t communicate face to face, but involve a third party to carry messages back and forth, or when a third party involves themselves without being invited by one or both of the others.  A relationship has to be between the two people to be effective, because only the two actually involved really know what’s going on.  Anyone else is just guessing and probably guessing wrong.

I guess what I’m saying is: Mind your own business and not mine, because you have no idea what you’re talking about.

And haters gonna hate.



A How-To Post on dealing with the first child leaving, and how the abuse continues to affect the children.

This one is the hardest, that’s what they say and I know that to be true.  My fragile ego and support system is wrapped up in my kids and our daily interactions.  They are my best friends.  They keep me entertained.  And there’s such an expectation of mothers sacrificing everything for their kids that I didn’t do much with my life outside of them.  Then one day BAM she’s gone and I am still struggling to fill that space.  It’s really easy for me to tell other mothers how to deal:  self-care, finding things they’ve always wanted to do, finding friends, enjoying the peace.  But I also know how uncomfortable that is when I’m so used to spending all of my time worrying about her.  I still worry about her.  But the point here is that it takes a conscious and real effort to do the things I should be doing and not dwell on what’s missing.

She’s doing fine, connecting with support systems, figuring it all out.  I am really proud of her, especially with all the issues she’s struggled with.  She looks genuinely happy.  We get along really well now.  It’s an entirely different relationship.

And on a tangent, it would appear her father is already freaking out that she has left my house.  I’m sure he just thinks he shouldn’t be paying child support anymore.  Yeah, I send it to her.  I’m still supporting her.  I’m sure he thinks I’ve done something horrible in letting her go, but we are both functioning quite well.  He set up a second facebook account to send her a message and had his sister ask her younger sister for details about her.  I’m sure this is why he sends me messages begging me to call him.  As though there’s a crisis, which there isn’t.

She is surrounded by people who will take care of her and protect her and I’m sure at this point she can deal with him pretty well.  I would like to be back there to help her out, but I know she’ll be just fine.

I really think the book

Yes, Your Teen Is Crazy

saved my sanity.  The best thing I can do for her is to have a strong marriage, function well, and role model the life I would like her to have one day.  I want her to want to be like me.

When is Divorce okay?

I want to write about this topic because it has come up several times recently.  I might even stretch the issue as far as people who have been together for years and never married, but are now in the process of breaking up.  There are many reasons to end a relationship with someone.  This post is written from the perspective of women who have lived with an alcoholic, a controller, an abuser, a cheater, or any number of behaviors that have led the woman to question whether she wants to divorce.

I keep hearing from them that they feel guilt even thinking about the word divorce.  Marriage is supposed to be forever.  Vows were taken.  Children were created.  Pets were adopted.  35 years have passed.  The women feels as though they are the ones breaking the relationship in two and destroying the family.

Marriage (or even a serious relationship) is a contract between two people with some basic rules.   Some of these rules are part of the traditional marriage vows:   I, (name), take you (name), to be my (wife/husband), to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish; from this day forward until death do us part.

How many vows in the contract has he broken?  Has he cheated?  Contract broken.  Has he called you names?  Contract broken.  Does he drink and avoid you?  Contract broken.  Does he lie?  Contract broken?  Does he neglect your feelings/health/thoughts, etc?  Contract broken.

You see my point then.  If the contract has already been broken by the 12 times he’s cheated on you, then he broke it, not you.  You’re just the one calling it what it is and picking a new direction in life.  And of course he’ll be hurt.  Just like you were hurt each and every time he broke the contract.

If he is abusing you, he is OWNING you, not loving and cherishing you.  Contract broken.  He’ll tell you over and over that you’re the one who did this.  His family will tell you that you had no right to break up the family.  They won’t look further into the actions that broke the contract in the first place.

But you know and I know and every woman out there who has been in this position knows, that you were the strong one who was committed to the marriage contract to the very end when you decided that enough was enough.

My Other Scarier Life, The First Sign of Trouble

This is the category on this blog that gets the most readers.  It feels like a side note to me, after family stuff and teenagers making me drink more wine.  I guess people search for stories that are like their own.  Kindof like how I’m watching Parenthood because identifying with the parents of wayward teenagers makes me feel not so alone.  I’ll have to write more about those dreadful days.  Remembering is hard because I’ve moved past it and now my life is really good.  I don’t mean I’ve put it in the past, the way people do when they think it’s as easy as not thinking about it.  I’ve processed it, done some EMDR, and I don’t feel attached any more and so it has faded.

I’ve also forgotten what I’ve written about and what I haven’t.

I know I haven’t written about the early days when the signs were there and I should have known better. It’s rather embarrassing at this time in my life to look back and admit to being so naive.  I still wonder why I would ever make the choices I made.  Anyway . . .

We worked in the same restaurant in the wilderness.  People came from all over to work there and it was isolating and full of employee drama.  We lived where we worked and had no bills, other than the ones we’d brought with us.

My last day there he came to work smelling like the rum he was still drunk on and slurring.  He couldn’t handle his tables’ orders and I worked behind him, making sure everyone was happy (covering for him).  I was out in the dining room bringing misses items to tables that he’d forgotten when I heard him having a loud argument about toast with a waitress.  So loud I could hear it all the way to the fireplace where Buffalo Bill followed me with his eyes from the picture above the fireplace.

At the time, being drunk was not a red flag for me because we all drank and we all went to work our shifts in various stages of hangover.  Waking up drunk to work was almost preferred over a killer hangover headache.  But there I am making excuses for his behavior again.  Or maybe I’m making excuses for mine.

So after the loud argument, the shift soon ended and I was called upstairs to talk to the manager.  I thought they wanted to ask me what happened.  Instead I was told that I would have to leave the restaurant to work in the gift shop–a demotion in money and status.  Mostly money.  I don’t remember the reason given, something about the ex and his friend not being able to get along while I was in the room.

He and I had planned to spend the weekend in town and since I was crushed and confused I spent the weekend as planned only I was angrier and angrier at the decision to move me when I hadn’t done anything wrong and instead had done my best to keep things running smoothly through his drunken slurring and the loud fight.

He commiserated with me in the unfairness of it all and suggested we quit and run back to the East Coast earlier than we had planned.  The grass is always greener in Massachusetts.  In hindsight I wonder why he didn’t remedy the situation by taking responsibility and stepping down.

We moved into a pay-by-the-week hotel until he could get his license back.  He sat across the street in a dive bar every day and then complained that there were dirty dishes in the kitchenette when he came back to the room.  “As my wife, it’s your job to do the dishes.”  That was the first sign of criticism and control.

Why did I stay?  I already felt trapped by the “marriage” and wasn’t sure how to get out of it.  Because of him I had lost my job and was living in a hotel.  I had no support system.  I thought/hoped that when we became “real adults” with real jobs and bills and responsibilities he would act like one, which was what I already knew I would do.  I put my expectations of myself on him, instead of seeing the reality of what he was.

Now I can see all the red flags:  no drivers license, no job, no bills, drinking daily, telling me what me role was, not taking responsibility.

At the time I was almost as much of a bum as he was and saw nothing all that wrong with it.

Is she Borderline or just being abused?

Too often the battered woman is diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder when she seeks out professional help.  There is nothing quite as damaging as being labelled a borderline by mental health professionals, as these are most often the difficult cases and ones that get tossed around like hot potatoes.

I’ve met true Borderlines whose symptoms become very apparent in their relationship with me and their inability to cooperate with the simplest of boundaries.

And I’ve also met many abused women who have been diagnosed as Borderline because in their fight for survival they seem to portray many of the criteria for the disorder by people who don’t understand that this is their way of staying alive, of fighting back, and of finding a way out.

The consequences of a Borderline diagnosis may sometimes be very damaging:  Doubt on the part of professionals as to the truthfulness of their story, used as a weapon by batterer, threat of losing children in court, and a lowered self-esteem which is already damaged by the battering.

I will look at the criteria for BPD and try to explain why these symptoms appear in a battered woman and why they do not necessarily mean that this diagnosis is correct:

1.  Frantic efforts to avoid real or perceived abandonment.

If it takes a woman an average of seven attempts to actually leave a batterer this pattern appears to fit the criteria. The problem is that unless she has a really good plan she may have to attempt several time and come back when threatened in order to learn what tactics he will use and to come up with ways to keeps herself safe.  Like smoking, it takes practice to get it right and the threats may be quite real.  Unless she has a habit of this behavior in other relationships, even non-abusive ones, this doesn’t fit a persistent life-long pattern and is therefore not a personality disorder.

2.  A pattern of unstable and intense relationships characterized by alternating between extremes of idealization and devaluation.

The pattern within an abusive relationship may be one of  what looks like idealization in order to keep the threat of harm to herself, children, or pets to a minimum by appearing to worship him and then devaluation when she tells her story to get support from resources.  Then she may return to him when she realizes how trapped she is and appear to idealize him again.  She pretends in order to stay safe and while she has some hope that he might change, she is watching the cycle of violence and waiting for her next opportunity.  A personality disorder, on the other hand, means that she does this with almost or all of her relationships, not just this one.  Even a relationship with a therapist.  

3.  Identity disturbance: markedly and persistent unstable self-image or sense of self.

This can be caused by battering.  Think of this as being a prisoner-of-war and forgetting who you are.  A personality disorder must be a lifelong pattern, not just a result of being battered or a period of transition in life.

4.  Impulsivity in at least two areas that are potentially self-damaging.

What do prisoners-of-war do?  They take control of the small things they can control.  Battered women may drink to self-medicate.  They may reach out to other men for comfort.  Being trapped is not an easy place to be and after finding freedom it may take a while to adjust.  Once again, one time is not a pattern.  A personality disorder is a long time way of being in the world.

5.  Recurrent suicidal behavior.

Trapped, controlled, beaten, low self-esteem caused by emotional abuse.  Who wouldn’t think of suicide?  After she leaves he might come up with a tactic of telling others that she is suicidal in order to find her, get the children from her, or have other people “watch” her.  She’s probably at a low point in her life even after leaving:  facing poverty, continuing to be harassed, feeling unsafe, having PTSD.  Is this a consequence of continued harassment?  Or a lifelong issue?

6.  Affective instability due to a marked reactivity of mood.

Anxiety?  Hell yes.  Depression?  Having to wash her face and put dinner on the table with a smile or face the consequences of continued battering?  Her life has come down to pretending to be fine when inside she wants to cry.  Even after leaving it takes a while to relearn how to live.  How to feel that it’s okay not to manage other people’s moods.  How to show anger.  

7.  Chronic feelings of emptiness.

She just sacrificed her whole life to have her freedom back.  How would you feel?  Also, the entire focus was on keeping him happy and now that that’s gone she has to find things to fill up that space.

8.  Inappropriate intense anger.

Or a PTSD panic attack caused by a trigger.  Always being on guard has left her ready to jump at any second.  And she’s angry anyway.  All the anger she has suppressed in order to stay safe may explode now that she’s safe.  Even before leaving, a person can only suppress for so long.  

9.  Transient, stress related paranoia or severe dissociative symptoms.

She may be paranoid about continued battering or entering a new relationship and dissociation is a symptom of severe PTSD.  

The questions to ask are:  Is this a lifelong pattern or is she having these behaviors while still in or having just left an abusive relationship?  Is she this way in other non-abusive relationships.  Even if she is still in contact with him, she may be pretending in order to find out what he’s up to.    This does not mean she is Borderline.  It’s a survival technique called Keep Your Enemy Close.

I had 7 out of the 9 symptoms myself (maybe more if I was truly honest) the last 2 years of my marriage when things were really bad.  Some of them were caused by daily abuse.  Some were ways I kept my sanity.  Has anyone ever thought that I was a Borderline?  NO!

If you are an abused woman and you are looking for professional help please find someone who has experience in this area and don’t stay with one who makes you feel worse about yourself.  Shopping around is just fine.