I know many regular readers of my blog are sympathetic to my situation: someone who had horribly abusive parents, who ran away from them, who is tormented daily by the severe psychological distress resulting from her parents’ abuse.
And yet I might have been years ahead in dealing with my issues were it not for one thing:
People who believed that I was merely acting entitled. People who believed I was spoiled. People who thought that all I was thinking about was myself, and so that meant I had no right to leave.
One would think, one would hope, that these people believed such things because they didn’t know the horrific extent of the abuse.
No. They knew the extent. They knew my parents starved me, beat me, poured boiling water over my hands, threatened me with knives, threatened me with open flames, ran doors over my toes, rammed my fingers in desk drawers, and controlled almost every aspect of my life.
They were among those to whom I chose to relate these stories, weeping and crying, so entirely unlike my manic self that many were shocked.
That was the horrifying thing to me: that someone could know all this and still decide, still judge, that I was doing the greater wrong by leaving my parents.
And act upon that judgement. I changed my name once. They gave my parents that information along with my suppresse’s phone number and address.
This happened multiple times with multiple names, in fact.
Why did they believe I was merely acting entitled when I ha no right to be, why oh why on the face of knowing what I had gone through? Because the following, to them, invalidated any sympathy I “deserved”: my parents let me go to college, even funded my first two years with the assistance of scholarships and grants, despite my family living at the poverty line.
And because my parents had spent money—the gods only know why—on me, for this long, without me leaving despite what they did to me, obviously the abuse was something that not only could I afford to stand until my parents died, and after all, if my father had really wanted to kill me, surely he would have done so instead of sending me to college.
And so I was hounded. Do you know how hard it is to get a job when you’re on the run, when your name changes, when you can give no references because those references were among those who gave your parents the ability to trace you?
Some would view the hell of the Years of Zorn and Tharn as my just Purgatory for what I did to my parents.
Some would view the hell of my PTSD, not as evidence that my parents abused me, but as just desserts for leaving them in the lurch.
And now I’m putting the iPhone down (another sign of my entitlement: surely if I’m sane enough to make enough money to buy an iPhone I should support my parents) because I am just so angry and sad right now.
8 thoughts on “How the Entitlement Game Cost Me My Sanity”
Gah. That’s like an extreme version of the “If the guy bought you dinner, it’s not rape if he has sex with you afterward” meme. As if gifts justify abuse. Or accepting gifts means granting permission to it.
And somehow, even knowing memes like that go around, I am still boggled to find that people would apply those ideas to circumstances like yours. (Boggled not in the sense of “cannot believe” but “cannot understand how people would come to those conclusions.”) It’s not just empathy failure, but this whole bizarre system of moral accounting I do not understand.
Indeed. I was boggled, I think, about year two into the Years of Zorn and Tharn, and only when I realized what was going on could I take steps to stop it.
I was raised (ironically) to never lie, to hold honor about all else… and to live with what I have lived through, to do what I’ve had to do to survive, what I still have to do… it breaks my heart and makes me hate myself.
On the other hand, I tend to be less judgmental than I used to be, so bonus.
The ignorance of anybody who would say that is startling. As if abusers did not regularly use gifts as a means to control their victims.
I think “gifts to control” is an oft ignored aspect of abusive situations. The whole “I’m so sorry your parents abused you but you told me your real name and they let you go to college so I told them where you are and who you are so they can find you and heal this terrible situation” experience happened multiple times…
I am left to conclude that people just don’t know this.
Hey, I’m fairly new to your blog but it is amazing and I am so impressed you’ve gotten through what you did. But this post really speaks to me because as a fellow traveller in PTSD-land, this gets me all the time, too.
Our society is excellent at victim blaming.
“You were only in an abusive relationship because you’re broken and attracted to abusive people.”
“Maybe if you took public transportation instead of riding your bike you wouldn’t have been hit by that car.”
“You deserve PTSD for joining the military.”
Whatever it is, whatever our tragedies, people really need to blame the victim for their OWN psychological safety. After all, if we live in a world of random horror then they can’t live in their own self-built safe little worlds. It’s magical thinking – “you made yourself sick because you deep down wished for a day off.”
It’s way more wrong thinking, actually, than PTSD which is a pretty normal reaction to terror.
Long way of saying – their problem, NOT yours.
I think victim-blaming goes on all over the world. “Bad things can’t happen to me because I’m a good person!” seems to be a culturally agnostic lie… and then people feel the need to affirm it.
As another PTSD sufferer, this is something that drives me to pure, blank rage (something I’m fortunately less prone of than a number of PTSD sufferers). However, denying what Martha Nussbaum called the ‘fragility of goodness’ is a ‘lie’ that in many ways is necessary for the people who adopt it, lest they are forced to come face to face with the fact that trauma, abuse and its harrowing consequences do *exist* and, worse, there’s nothing they can do to insure themselves against it.
In his book Achilles in Vietnam, psychiatrist Jonathan Shay MD had a few very poignant concluding lines about this:
“The social morality of “what’s right”, what Homer called themis, is the normal adult’s cloak of safety. The trauma narrative of every person with PTSD and character damage is a challenge to the rightness of the social order, to the trustworthiness of themis. To hear and believe is to feel unsafe. It is to know the fragility of goodness.
Trauma narratives show us that our own good character is vulnerable to destruction by bad moral luck. (…) Trauma narrative confronts the normal adult with the fragility of the body. These stories bring mortality into view. Trauma narratives cause normal adults to imaginatively identify with one or more of the characters in the narrative. The feelings this arouses are almost all unpleasant.
We should not sit in judgment of those who cannot, in the absence of social support, hear the truth of trauma. The reasons to deflect, deny and forget trauma narrative stem from the social construction of normal human life. They [that is, traumatic experiences] cannot be set aside by wishing them away or moralizing.”
*reads a little bit more about The Fragility of Goodness on Wikipedia and snippets from Achilles in Vietnam on Google Books*
I’m going to have to pick those two works up, at the very least.
These days I often think I missed out a lot by not taking philosophy classes. It’s difficult to think through life’s dilemmas when trying to reinvent the wheel over and over and over.
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