When people take the time to write out their stories, I am so honored. My goal in building this website was to help ACoNs* realize they are not alone. When you share your stories with me, you remind me that I am not alone either.
This week I received a letter from someone who wrote, “How do you feel comfortable writing your stories with what I am assuming is your real name and a real photo of yourself?”
It wasn’t easy at first. Seven years ago, my first website had a story about a little girl who was beaten for talking in church. I did NOT reveal that I was that girl or that it was my father who belted me. This led to me being accused of lying in that story. I confronted my parents and explained the very fact that if they knew who it was, it proved it was a true story. Otherwise it could have been one of many stories I told on that site.
After their gaslighting for hours, I almost doubted my memory— after all I was only seven. What helped me was my own clear memory of that event and the fact that my parents have always said I have an elephant’s memory. Since then I have learned from Dan Allender that such memories are seared into the mind of a person who is in trauma. If you are a little seven years old girl being beaten with a belt over and over by a 230 pound man, you are in trauma. It was probably not as traumatic for him, so he probably forgot about it.
Before I shared my actual picture or said my stories were about me, my parents spoke to nearly everyone in my family about me and called me a liar. They even wrote a letter to a judge to discredit me in a custody battle when I stood up for a child to have contact with both parents. Relatives stopped speaking to me. I have bent backwards over and over to reach out to my parents but as long as there are lies between us—not lies I told, but lies they either choose to believe or promote about me, we really can’t have much in common.
My parents never did agree with me until several years later when I went to their house and tried to make amends. In this conversation, their denial was obvious. I said to my mom, “You allowed me to eat my dessert first that Sabbath. And I know you once told me you hated when Daddy punished me in anger, so what happened to you?” Her reply was that Daddy had to hit me with both sides of the belt because I jerked around so much while he was beating me.
Yeah, so this is what many ACoNs are dealing with, but this incident helped me realize I am the only one who can speak for me. This really hit home when my Grandma hurt her hip and they immediately took her to the hospital and burned all her diaries. It felt like they took away her voice before she was even gone.
Another time, a church member had me over to his house and told me I should stop calling my parents’ names like narcissists, then maybe they would want to have a relationship with me. This person meant well. He would never do to his daughters what my father has done to me. He can’t imagine how painful my reality has been. His children slept in beds and went to school. He doesn’t realize my parents’ behavior is what has caused me to call them narcs. Only another ACoN or therapist can understand such truth.
And although I cried for years, there comes a time when you realize life is too short and if our parents can’t respect us or treat us as friends, we need to move on. Despite all they have done to me or said about me, I still love and pray for my parents. I don’t hate them or blame them as some people might. I forgive them, but reconciliation would require honesty and fair treatment. I have come to the conclusion this may never happen this side of heaven. And yes, I pray for them to be there, because I love them more than just about anyone else in the world besides my husband and it breaks my heart that we can’t be close.
I could worry about judgmental church members or vengeful relatives, but then I wouldn’t be living my own life. I choose to not be a victim and the best way I know to stop being victimized is to stand up and let my voice be heard. In the Plot Whisperer Book, Martha Alderson says that the threshold— the time just after the crisis hits, is where the protagonist decides to roll over and die as a victim, or take the actions to never be a victim again. (I highly recommend this book for anyone wishing to tell their story.) We all have a crisis at different times in our lives and we get to make this choice over and over in our stories.
I have learned to embrace my story and all the messy details including my struggles with weight because of the love God has provided through some very loving adopted family members. These friends constantly validated my pain and told me to be myself. What a gift when true friends say, “Be yourself.” At the same time, we have to embrace our messy stories and that means the brutal honesty of telling about ourselves—our failures, struggles and hopes.
“Owning our story and loving ourselves through that process
is the bravest thing that we will ever do.”
Here are few tips on writing your story:
1. If at all possible, have the hard conversations with your family. If they gaslight you or send in the flying monkeys and refuse to own their part in your pain and refuse to respect you, then you have no choice but to walk away. You might be blood related, but you are not their kind of people.
2. Remember narcissistic people always need a scapegoat. If might be the neighbor or your grandparent right now, but if you differ in opinion from them, it is only a matter of time before you become the new scapegoat.
3. When you write your stories, there is no need to assign motives to other people—not even the narcissistic ones. Remember they were once children too and probably suffered a form of abuse that brought them to where they are now. My goal in writing is never revenge. I simply hope the truth can heal others.
4. Witnesses at a traffic accident each have a different perspective and so do the members of a family. This means your parents and siblings can’t tell your story and may not know your story. Only you can tell your story. Don’t adjust your story to the perspective of others. Let them tell their own story.
5. If you are thinking of writing your story, you absolutely should. There is no person who has the right to take away your voice and you are the only one who can tell your story.
When our family members break the family bond by abusing us or lying about us to others, we have permission to walk away and tell our truth to whoever will listen. If they have tried to discredit us and silence our voices, the only way to NOT be a victim is to stand up and let our voices be heard.
*ACoNs–Adult Children of Narcissists