Jessie grew up in an enmeshed family.
For as long as she could remember,
her life revolved around her parents and sisters.
Her mother was very protective of them. She rarely let them out of her sight unless they were at school. Jessie and her sisters saw the world as a huge and dangerous place that could only be navigated if they were with their mother.
Jessie’s father believed women should stay home so her mother never worked outside the home. And it wasn’t long before he decided the girls should be homeschooled. Jessie was in the sixth grade when her education was disrupted because mother began to “homeschool” her. The truth was Jessie’s parents never bought any homeschooling books. Her mother never set up a classroom or taught the girls anything more than housework.
For the rest of Jessie’s childhood and teen years, she was refused an education. She never learned to drive because this was not one of her parent’s priorities. Their priorities were for her to cook and clean house. When Jessie got a rare babysitting job, her father reminded her that everything she earned belonged to the rest of the family, because they all shared everything. Jessie’s parents didn’t think about Jessie’s needs at all—they used her to meet their needs.
It was hard for Jessie to leave home because Jessie felt her mother’s feelings before she felt her own. She’d also been sharing everything so long, she didn’t even have her own opinion. To leave, she had to figure out who she was and separate herself from her enmeshed family.
When Jessie finally figured out her own dreams and left home, she wanted to help other people who had been raised like her. She called these homes without boundaries—not because there were no doors, but because everything from to money to opinions had to be shared with the group. When anyone broke out of this circle, they were labeled selfish for choosing to live by their own convictions.
When the sisters were alone together they barely dared to discuss what happened while growing up because it had been taboo for so long, they felt ashamed to mention the past. They’d been programmed to believe any reference to the past meant they had something wrong with them.
One day they were inside the house while they heard their father yelling at the grandkids outside. They all said they felt sick listening to him yell. It reminded them of how he yelled before he belted them, but the only one who would dare to confront him was Jessie. Her sisters said nothing.
One of her sisters confessed to Jessie that she didn’t really love their parents, she just felt sorry for them. Jessie sighed because while she felt love for her parents and she too had often felt sorry for them, but she believed she could still love them while speaking the truth in love. Jessie fully forgave her parents. She wanted nothing from them, but she knew God called her to tell her story.
As Jessie and her sisters matured, Jessie began to tell her story, but she was often accused of lying and making things up by her parents who wanted to cover for themselves. Because her sisters either felt sorry for or wanted to stay on the good side of their parents, they joined and bashed Jessie too.
Pretty soon the whole family was making Jessie out to be a villain. They seem to have forgotten it was Jessie who had often given to her sisters and her parents from paying their electric bills and buying groceries to giving them cribs and dining sets. As a matter of fact, Jessie was never called selfish until she spoke the truth her parents wanted to forget. And it wasn’t just material things, one sister said Jessie was her emotional support through hard times.
One of Jessie’s sisters went on an angry rant publicly about Jessie because she remembered a story Jessie told differently. She said Jessie was a liar and was trying to hurt their whole family. Jessie had no intentions of hurting her family and she was shocked. She never thought it would come to such blatant accusations because of two sisters seeing an event differently forty years ago.
When Jessie read this she wasn’t sure what to think. The lies, putdowns, and accusations were all there on social media. A mutual friend had pointed them out to her because she felt it misrepresented Jessie. Jessie’s sister questioned her salvation and said she hoped Jessie was mentally ill because that was the only hope she had of seeing her in heaven.
Jessie knew the truth. She knew those lies and insults came from her parents. Whenever her dad was upset with a church member or relative or even Jessie herself while she was growing up, he called them mentally ill. Jessie knew she wasn’t mentally ill and neither was her aunt or pastor or grandmother.
The last time she’d spoken to her mother, her mom worried that some of her children were not going to make it to heaven. Jessie found it ironic that her sister said Jessie was lying about being spiritually abused, while in the same rant as assuming Jessie was eternally lost for disagreeing with her. She knew declaring someone lost because you disagree with them is just another form of spiritual abuse and creating God in your own image. No matter what her family members have done, Jessie would not dare to suppose she knew the outcome of their salvation.
She was surprised to see her younger sister joining the conversation and saying Jessie just had fantasies of writing her childhood story like Laura Ingalls Wilder. She went so far in her contempt to say Jessie’s story was 5% true and 95% made up, but Jessie knows there are a few facts that even the group delusion of scapegoating can’t change. These facts remain a part of her life and her sisters’ lives regardless of what they say:
- They moved every year during their childhood
- They were refused an education
- They were beaten with the belt
- They had to give their money to the family
- They were accused of being selfish when they didn’t do as they were told
Because they’d been discouraged from talking about these things, her sisters were uncomfortable because Jessie had begun to speak the truth. It’s like her sisters were still little girls stuck at home agreeing with their parents under the fear of the belt.
Because they want to protect themselves, her narcissistic parents will probably continue to play the victim until the day they die. What a sad legacy they will have left. These parents have damaged their children once in childhood and twice in adulthood because they’ve torn their own family apart by denying their own mistakes and playing the victim and blaming the messenger.
As Jessie read her sisters’ contempt, she made a mental note to ask God to “forgive them for they know not what they do” because they were once victims too. The bottom line is Jessie’s siblings feel so sorry for their parents, they would rather hate on their sister than admit the truth to themselves. And while they might be using Jessie as the family scapegoat, she is the lucky one who got away from the toxic narcissist and flying monkeys.
Jessie is sad. She still loves her sisters, but their own short memories have allowed them to forget that it was she who taught them to read as children. It was she who showered them with love and gifts with every baby they had in adulthood. Sadly, no amount of love and friendship can make up for contempt. Where there is contempt, there is no love.
The friend who showed her the posts apologized, but Jessie was grateful to recognize her sisters for who they are. This knowledge showed her it was time to let go and close the door on this chapter of her life. In the future, she will give her time to chosen sisters worthy of her friendship and love.
How about you? Are you dealing with flying monkeys or narcissistic family? Have you gone no contact? Was it hard to walk away? What gave you the tip off or courage to leave?
Please feel free to share in the comments, but if you are still in a volatile situation or relationship, remember to mask your identity.
*Jessie has chosen to not use her real name.