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How I Finally Found Peace After Growing up With an Abusive Parent

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“I truly don’t wish you ill,” my father declared to me, somewhat magnanimously. As if not wishing me further harm than the lifetime of abuse, gaslighting, therapy and guilt trips he had already put me through, should earn him some type of award.

When your parent is narcissistic, everything done to them and by them is viewed through the lens of them being the victim. My pain and the fact that my dad did such deep damage to the core of who I am, was a thorn in his side and nothing more. There wasn’t a single confrontation that ended with him acknowledging anything he was personally responsible for or owning actions that were absolutely his choice and within his control.

It is a natural emotion to wish for the person who hurt you to validate the pain they inflicted. However, when you are dealing with someone who only thinks of themselves, it is a hopeless game of trying to put the ball in their court, while they keep throwing it back at you. They won’t ever take the weight off your back. They won’t say the words you are desperately looking for, “I know I hurt you. I know you’ve carried this burden of pain for your entire life and it was my actions that made you feel this heavy.”

I’ll never forget when I got a letter from my dad just after turning 18 and among many other hurtful things, he said he needed a break from me and he didn’t know how to fix things anymore or apologize anymore. I sat there and tried to think of a time when he did anything but wreck me. I searched through my memory for any instance where he actually admitted what he did and owned it or showed any remorse. I thought of me asking him to go to counseling together and him refusing. I thought of when I begged him to go to anger management and he insisted he had no problem. I thought of how much he had twisted avoiding taking any ownership as the adult in the situation for all the wrong things he had done, into an exhaustive effort to salvage the relationship he broke from the very beginning.

My father spent so many years accusing me of not letting go of the past, when last time I checked, his denial of any wrongdoing was still an ever-present issue. His last words to me were, “You are not a victim, Tabitha.” No, he didn’t say it in an inspirational, “You’re an overcomer” type of way. He said it as one final attempt to discredit my entire childhood and to make me feel crazy for calling abuse what it was… to make sure, as he walked away from me for the last time, I would carry the weight with me… to make sure I knew it wasn’t his fault and he wouldn’t ever own it.

But this time, I made a different choice than I ever had before. I took all the pain, all the grief, all the blame and I laid it down for the first time in my life. I finally realized I didn’t need his permission to label his behavior as abusive. I didn’t need him to acknowledge my grief to make it valid. Him refusing to give my pain a place in his life, didn’t erase it.

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Just because your parent won’t take ownership of their mistreatment of you, doesn’t mean you have to own it. It’s not your burden to bear. Just because they won’t say it’s their fault, doesn’t mean it’s your fault. Just because they won’t accept you placing the blame at their feet, doesn’t mean you don’t have the right to set it down there and walk away.

Walk away free, my friend. Refusing to carry the weight of what they did to you is just one more way that you aren’t going to let them win anymore.

Image via contributor

Originally published: August 6, 2020
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