Thursday, December 8, 2011


[Trigger Warning, emotional abuse]
[I usually don't do trigger warnings mostly because I usually don't think of them, I'll probably continue to forget to add them in the future, but given the content of the post I'm pretty sure one belongs here. Two actually, but the other one (abuser's perspective) only applies to one section so the actual warning is at that section, with a second thing saying where it ends.]

I've been meaning to write some posts on happier subjects, for they do exist and they're worth writing about, but for some reason the words haven't come, so today something else. Not quite sure whether it's exactly screaming for all the world to see in hopes that the spectacle will release some sort of pressure, or if it's more an exasperated sigh given form by means of words. Regardless, the time has come to vent.

Venting is dangerous, there's always the risk that someone will see it, it exposes your weaknesses. Look at what happened to the Death Star just because someone happened to see where its ventilation shaft was located. Venting, if seen by the wrong people, has the potential to result in utter destruction.

I have only one name online. People know it. As far as I know they've never run a search, as far as I know they've never come looking. But they could. It would take but a single search and they could find this place and read these words. People have come here looking for “chris the cynic”. I'm not going to create a new identity just to vent, so I'm taking that risk.

Not everything wrong with my life has to do with depression. Some of it, I'm pretty sure, would be hard on someone whose brain was in perfect working order. Not much of it. Not most of it. Very little of it in fact, but when it comes it's impossible to ignore or avoid. It's inescapable.

Recently there was a discussion somewhere, Slacktivist probably, where I felt the need to point out that I didn't have first hand experience of something. I started to write, “I've never been abused,” I think I did write it. I wanted to write it, on some level I still believed it, but I couldn't write it because it wasn't true. It was a lie. I had been abused, I have been abused, and sometimes it still happens. So I corrected to something along the lines of, “I haven't been abused in that way.”

That was something that took me a long time to admit even to myself. I've always thought that abuse was something that happened to other people. Something that I had thankfully avoided. It was something I felt bad about learning about it, something that broke my heart and made me wish I could help with, but it wasn't something that happened to me. It couldn't be anything that close to home. Other people were abused, not me.

Part of that was wrapped up in the idea that all abuse is physical abuse. My father never hit me. My father never hurt me, at least not with anything but words. My sister hit me.

Even as recently as this year, if I'm remembering dates right, she still did. Only on special occasions, specifically concerts. My mother is in a concert band, my sister always used to sit next to me, and she needed to be the center of attention. If I tried to pay attention to the band to the exclusion of her, she'd start with the hitting, in time to the music. Sometimes it would be poking, all the force concentrated into an impact the size of a fingertip, other times it was actual punching, though it should be pointed out that one can only punch someone so hard when you're seated next to them.

The only way to stop her was to grab both of her hands and not let go. Which makes it very difficult to pay attention to the music. The reaction to me telling her, again, that that hurts and I don't appreciate it was two pronged. Either I'm a liar, which was her primary argument, or there's something very wrong with me and it's not her fault that it hurts so damned much to be hit repeatedly by her.

But I'd like to get back to my father. Because two things I've mentioned here tie back in with him. One is my sister's choice of response. I disagree with the way she thinks things should be (she thinks I shouldn't feel pain, I say I do) that makes me a liar. The other is what finally made me write that I've been abused: to do otherwise would be lying. Lying has a very important history in my family. Not so much the practice of lying, the word itself. Lie. Lying. Liar. These are words that are very familiar. They've been drilled into us. By my father.

My sister is wrong about many things, but one area where she is completely right is that my father spent our childhoods yelling at us about lying (even, and indeed mostly, when we weren't actually lying) and yet he makes up lies all the time. Hurtful lies that serve no purpose except to throw someone off balance in the middle of an argument, or hurtful lies that serve no purpose except to make the person out of the room look bad. Hurtful baldfaced lies.

We grew up in fear of the man who yelled at us for lying. There were no mistakes. There were no changes of mind or changes in conditions. And it was certainly never the case that he was the one who remembered wrong. There were only lies. And after all of that, after years of that, after our childhoods were shaped by that, he lies to us. He lies to us about us.

That has shaped my life a lot. I think I'm one of the few people who would rather have people lie about me behind my back than to my face. If a discussion reaches the point where someone starts saying things about what I've said that can't be dismissed as simple misunderstanding, or even complicated misunderstanding, but instead reaches the point of clearly and undeniably making shit up, that's when it's basically over for me.

Online I'll generally put in a request, directly stated in the clearest possible terms, that the person not do that. Sometimes I can't even make it back to see what the answer is, and generally when someone has reached the point of making shit up that's not going to stop them. Whether the conversation ends with me slinking away or me blowing up is something that I can't really say, it happens on a case by case basis. Also it's not something that comes up all that often, it's pretty rare, so small sample size and all that.

It's not as bad with trolls though. With trolls I can actually brush it off pretty easily. I'm not even counting them in the very small sample above. When it's really bad is when it's a member of a community who's actually respectable, when it's someone I trusted or even looked up to. So long as I'm being introspective here, I'm going to guess that has something to do with the fact that person I have the most experience with doing that, the person who lies to me about what I've said most often, is my father.

My sister has been known to do it too.

We grew up in fear of him, but she grew up to be a lot like him.

It's hard to take sides when both sides are wrong.

Today was my sister's birthday, Today is my sister's birthday, though by the time I finish writing this who knows. You'd think that would make it a truce. Instead it was the day when things boiled over. Facts were twisted, things were shouted, tears were shed. My sister has not been treating the rest of my family right, and there is no excuse for that. The way my father reacted to my sister today has no excuse either.

You can see where he was coming from, you can see why he was angry, you can see why he would want to twist the truth, and even make shit up, just to retaliate for what he's had to put up with. That's no excuse. It's not that it was her birthday, it has nothing to do with the fact that it was her birthday. On any day it would have been wrong. I don't know the best way to put your foot down and say, “I can't take any more of this shit,” but a barrage of shouted lies and half truths isn't it. Driving someone to sobbing tears isn't it.

Their memories are fluid in a way mine is not, or at least they seem to be. I can't see inside their minds, I don't know what they really think. I do know that I believe them. I believe that they believe their own lies.

[Trigger warning, thinking like an abuser.]

I know the urge to reach for whatever claim would support your case the best. Maybe it isn't true that she could have fixed her car by now, thus removing a painful strain of the family that has fucked up everyone, if she'd just been willing to spend a bit more but good god would it help score points in an argument and more than that you want it to be true because if it were then that would mean she had no excuse, it wasn't more complicated than that and your rage would be a righteous fury and however badly you hurt their feelings wouldn't matter because they'd fucking deserve it.

I know the urge to play fast and loose with the truth so that you can make the person who hurt you hurt. I know what it's like to have some part of you crying out to use this lie or that because it would cut deep and hurt the other person and somehow that's supposed to make you feel better. I know what makes them do what they do because I feel it too. But I've never had their knack for it.

I can come up with the lies, but I can't believe them. Maybe a couple of times, one kind of sort of comes to mind. But not the way they do. I worry that someday I will. Someday I'll slip and become like them. Living in my own world where what I remember is what I want to have happened, where the truth is whatever I say it is.

There's a strange comfort in that idea. The idea that the hateful hurtful stuff that bubbles out of my id could be true. That I could grab onto it and bludgeon my opponents with it. A part of me wants to be able to shout them down with righteous fury and have everyone convinced of the rightness of my viewpoint. There are so many politicians I'd love to do that to. Did they really take bribes from [whoever]? I don't know, but it would sure as hell help make my point if it were true, and it would feel good to shout it at the top of my lungs while they withered under the strength of my fury.

[end trigger warning for thinking like an abuser]

My memory doesn't work like that. I don't remember the times I was right, I remember the times I was wrong. I don't remember what I wish happened. I remember what I wish hadn't happened. I remember stupid things I said years ago, even decades. I remember mistakes I made, I remember things I screwed up. That's probably tied up with the depression, but at least it helps me know that I'm not going over to their side of the force.

My sister was the one to stand up to my father. I owe her a lot for it. I don't know if it ever really helped, but she did it while I was too afraid. Whatever I may think against her, that took courage like I have never had. She stood up, I stand back. So it was when we were little, so it still is today.

I know my sister better than I know my father. When I read a description of what a controlling person is like I thought of her, not him, even though they're so very much alike. It was a perfect description, she is a controlling person. And that can be a problem if you're letting her use your car because hers is broken. I imagine it is Hell. I've seen the effect my sister has had on my mother, I know what she does to me, I can't blame my father for being mad as hell and deciding he wasn't going to take it any more.

It still doesn't excuse his actions today. She was wrong, that doesn't make him any less wrong.

I spent my night in the crossfire between two emotionally abusive people. It sucked. I don't know the whole truth of what happened, I probably never will, but I do know that no one was right. Neither of them deserved the treatment they were getting from the other. Tonight was my father's show. He was the one most in the wrong tonight, but then I wonder if it matters that he's been on the receiving end of wrong for a while now, perhaps more than he dished out. And finally I realize that it doesn't matter. There's no balancing act going on. Perhaps she was more in the wrong than him, perhaps he was more than her, so what? There's no excusing either side.

It definitely hurts to be in the middle.


I love them both. That may be what hurts the most.

In stories I read abuse is like the Dursleys of Harry Potter: all bad, no good. There's something comforting about that. The simplicity, the clean cut quality. I generally like my fiction to be that way. Real life is gray enough, black and white makes for a pleasant change of pace. But the problem with stories like that is that they leave out what was my reality. (Of course, that's also the appeal.)

I have a sister whom I love. She's smart, she's funny, she's an overall good person who is trying to make the world a better place, and yet she's a controlling individual who sees nothing wrong with fracking punching me at concerts, selectively edits her understanding of the truth, and has been known to belittle people, basically, because they failed to read her mind. How the hell do you reconcile that?

Overall good person, except... And it's a pretty big “except.”

I have a father whom I love. He's smart. He's funny. He's a good person overall. He's not actively trying to make the world a better place at the moment, but not everyone has the luxury of doing that. Part of the reason that he doesn't is because of his financial situation, and part of the reason for that is that years ago he turned down a better job than the one he has been stuck with to this day so that he could have more free time to look after his ex-wife's mother (my grandmother.) He gave up his own financial security so he could be the unpaid caretaker of a woman he no longer had any relation to. That's firmly on the side of good in my book. On the other hand he was emotionally abusive to me, my mother, and my sister through my entire childhood. It's been better since the divorce, but tonight is hardly the only time it came up since then.

If I told certain stories I could probably make them look like monsters, if I told other stories I could make us look like a perfectly happy, perfectly well adjusted family. Both sets of stories are true. The interaction between those truths is where it really hurts. Knowing how it could be, how it has been, how it will be in the future, and still having to face how it is right now. I think that makes it worse.

To quote a Vogon:
I write poetry to throw my mean, callous, heartless exterior into sharp relief.

The good accentuates the bad. Even when there's more good than bad.


Even my mother, who is in no way abusive, has a tendency to say things that hurt. To say things that make me want to scream or sob.

In real life the people who hurt you are not completely evil caricatures. At least they haven't been in my experience. An abusive person can be a wonderful human being when they're not abusing. Someone who isn't abusive can still be quite hurtful.

It would be nice to be in the fantasy world where the people who hurt you are all totally evil complete monsters, but real life is more complicated than that. Sometimes the birthday dinner you helped your mother prepare for your sister since getting out of school is ruined by the participants. Though in the middle there were still moments of joy and happiness.

It's surprising how it can survive.


  1. Yeah, people are complicated. If one's expectations are set by most literary and media patterns, one expects someone bad to be an outright villain, rather than... well, anyone who's not suffering from a fairly severe mental illness thinks that he's living by a reasonable set of principles even if he doesn't always manage to abide by them. No sane person thinks "I am a villain - what evil shall I do today?".

  2. "It's hard to take sides when both sides are wrong."

    The above statement distills 39 years of dealing with my family into 10 words. That I didn't write.

    Pthalo's correct that nothing is ever "all bad, no good". It would be much easier to walk away if it were.

    I'm sorry you're going through this. I will suggest that depression may not be the only reason some things make you cry, or badly upset you. You may just be someone that people-who-aren't-like-you will label as 'too sensitive'. I am. Less-sensitive must either have buffers I/we don't, or maybe we receive data on channels they don't have, or can't interpret. I don't know. I generally like my extra sensitivity, except when I'm crippled by it. :( Hugs if you want them. ~Laiima