I know I’m late to the party of discussing why people choose to stay in abusive relationships, but trust me, you’re gonna love the twist on this one.
I mean, let’s be honest: my relationship choices in the past haven’t been the greatest. So I’m not going to discuss the dude who threatened me with a lawsuit because he couldn’t get a job; I’m not going to mention the man-child who punched himself in the face in order to force me to listen to him when he was yelling; and I very likely won’t talk about the ex-meth-addict who threatened to murder my husband when he found out I was engaged.
I want to tell you about a different abuser. The one who grabbed me by the hair and threw my head into a wall for talking down to them. The one who hit me across the legs so hard that I couldn’t wear shorts for weeks, because of the bruising. The one who called me a slut and a bitch, regularly. The one who told me I was lazy because I was overweight. The one who gaslighted me whenever I brought up an event that embarrassed them. The one who groomed me to be completely dependent on them, by offering to take care of my bills and my rent…that same one who then accused me of mistreating them because they were paying my bills and my rent. The one who told me I deserved to be raped when I was 17. The one who insisted I was abusing everyone around me, until I couldn’t see anything I did as normal. The one who looked at me when I said to them, “I’m suicidal” and their only reply was, “Grow up. Other people have real problems.” The one who stole my identity, took out credit cards and loans in my name, using my social security number, and then never paid them back, thereby destroying my credit.
If I came to anyone and told them that my husband had done these things, they would have done everything in their power to get me away from him: a man who beats and degrades his wife, who shames her for things beyond her control, who regularly gives gifts only to take them away as punishment? Get Loki the fuck out of there, any rational human would say.
But it’s not my husband; it’s my mother. And when that fact drops, people do an about-face: “She’s doing her best. Motherhood is difficult. I’m sure she didn’t mean it that way. Give her another chance.”
How fucked up is it, that my husband would be shunned from my community, but my mother is regularly exonerated?
So here is the truth of the matter: the ex-meth-addict, the man-child, the lawsuit dude…they all pale in comparison to the things my mother put me through.
The ex-meth-addict threatened to kill my husband; my mother is actually dumping my animals in a town where I have no family 18 days before I will have an opportunity to rescue them.
The man-child punched himself in the face to force me to listen (which did nothing for his appearance or my estimation of him); my mother punched, slapped, and beat me in order to force me to listen (which did nothing for my appearance or my self-esteem).
The whiny lawsuit dude talked a lot of talk about various laws I was supposedly breaking by calling him out as a rapist, and how a lawsuit would force me to see things his way; my mother is dumping her financial responsibilities on me in order to make me see things her way. (In this example, I mean both the massive loans in my name that she never paid off, as well as the fact that during my entire undergraduate program, she took out the maximum amount of loan money, and I never once saw it. As a result, I am now living overseas and the money I make is the money I have to live on, because I cannot take out student loans. Except that I am now having to find ways to rescue my animals from 6000 miles away, which will include pillaging my “living expenses” account. Because she got her feelings hurt).
This is the same woman who lied to me about vital health information for six years. In 2009, after her 39 year old sister nearly died of breast cancer, my mother and all of her sisters went to get screened for a particular gene, called the BRCA gene. My mother said she was negative. She lied. She was positive. I got tested in January of this year. I am positive. I am also 30 years old this year. I now only have five years to procreate before doctors will insist on removing my ovaries and breasts, to give me a chance of surviving to the ripe old age of 80. When I confronted her about her lies, she said that she didn’t want me “running right out and getting knocked up.” Because, you know, rearranging your life’s priorities with your life partner in the face of major medical news is the same thing as soliciting pregnancy out on the street corner.
I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that she would lie to me about major medical news, though: this is also the same woman who refused to take me to the hospital when I broke bones as a child. I was just being dramatic, it couldn’t possibly hurt that badly. My father was the one to take me to the ER, sit with me in the waiting room (a “waste of time” according to my mother), and buy me ice cream after it was confirmed broken. He did this four times, out of six broken bones. The other two broken bones? Well, in one instance, he was out of town, which meant I was out of luck. No medical care for eighteen hours, until my mother deigned to drop me off at the hospital and pick me up nine hours later. I was fourteen years old. For the other broken bone, I was running because she was screaming about my brothers’ clothes being folded wrong, and my pinky toe caught on the edge of my bed and snapped. You can’t do anything for a broken pinky toe, unfortunately.
But what can you expect from someone for whom empathy is a weakness? This woman stole my identity, took out loans in my name, and then systematically destroyed my credit. This woman told me that “if I wouldn’t drink so much I wouldn’t have gotten raped.” This woman dragged me to psychologist after psychologist when I was fourteen years old, because I was “acting out” (I was being bullied at school and abused at home, and as a result, I took to self-harming); after receiving a diagnosis no reasonable psychologist would have given a fourteen year old (bipolar disorder), I was placed on some very heavy-duty drugs, which made me perpetually groggy and hungry, and I gained weight. This woman fat-shamed me and called me lazy, because of the side-effects of medications I had no reason to be on. (BONUS ROUND: This woman used my bogus diagnosis to lock me up in adolescent psychiatric wards twice against my will, in order to get control of me. I was not in crisis: in one instance, I was angry because my best friend and I were fighting; in another instance, I’d gotten suspended from school following a car accident, and was just generally having a shitty day).
Why did I stay? Because I was being told from all sides that this is what love looks like. To this day, she sends emails, telling me that this is what love looks like.
Love is conditional, based on good works, good looks, and good grades.
Love is painful, because people make mistakes and apologies are overrated.
Love is unstable, and should be enjoyed as long as the person in power is willing to love you.
Love is financial, because it’s easier to count things than hugs or emotional support.
Love is more than I deserve, which is why she encouraged me to stay with the ex-meth-addict, which is why she told me once that my husband would leave me and I would deserve it, which is why she reiterated that I would never have friends because I am inherently despicable.
Why did I stay?
Please note the verb tense: past. I stayed. But now I’m walking away.
If you are reading this, Mother, I want you to take something away from this: you are very very ill. Normal people don’t abuse, discard, love-bomb, repeat. Only mentally ill people do that. Your sister is mentally ill. Perhaps more than one. You know how hard it is for people to interact with her? You are no different. You may not have Borderline Personality Disorder. Your personality disorder seems to be more along the lines of Dissocial or Paranoid. Get help. Try to save your relationship with your other children. You are running out of time with them. Get help, get therapy. But do not get in contact with us until you have done both of those things.