You know it took me until I was scrubbing my kitchen just now; scrubbing the sink, counters, making sure all the dishes were done and everything looked like perfection. It took me until now, at the age of 30, to figure out why I feel like nothing I ever do is good enough. I know that my abuser, well all of my abusers, have done damage to me. But damage, I hate that word, it is more like destruction, disfigurement, defiling. I truly feel defiled and vandalized to my very soul. I figured it out though. That “ah ha” moment when it just hits you. I am with a man, who doesn’t care if the house isn’t clean when he walks through the door on Friday night, after being gone all week. He doesn’t care if there are dishes, kids toys, clothes scattered everywhere both clean and dirty. My husband doesn’t criticize me when things are a mess, and he actually tells me that it is okay and that I need to just sit down. It took me until this very moment to realize why I do this. Why I push myself so hard and I am scrubbing a kitchen that is almost perfectly clean anyways, and constantly apologizing for feeling like I don’t do enough.
My own biological father was never happy. If the house wasn’t clean enough, we always heard about it. As soon as we could hear his truck turn the corner, down the end of the dirt road, my siblings, my mother and I would rush and hurry and make sure everything was perfection for him. This translated into a learned behavior that I wouldn’t wish on anyone. Then I ended up with my worst abuser of all. Nothing was clean enough for him. I was not perfect enough. Nothing in the house looked good enough. I didn’t look good enough. You would think that this would be almost logical that I would have pieced this together by now. But it was years and years of learned behavior that was toxic.
The man whom I call dad now, he is an OCD clean freak, for lack of better wording. YET, he never once makes me feel like I need to fix anything about myself or my kids. My own husband constantly tells me that I am beautiful, and that I don’t need every new diet pill that comes out, and that I just need to relax and sit down and that cleaning can wait. But what do I do? I can’t even hear past the kindness of either of those amazing men in my life. I am still so traumatized by the two men who broke me to my core. The two men, who were supposed to be the ones that protected me, not disfigured everything in my vision and every habit that I have and that I am. The man who raised me and gave me his DNA and the man whom I originally had my first two children with. These men though, they completely destroyed who I am as a person. At 30 years old, I still cannot figure out why I cannot stop these urges to make sure that everything in my life, and including my body is perfect. It is because these two monsters embedded themselves so deeply into the crevices and every part of my brain, and forced me to see that I could never reach perfection, which was the only way to please them.
How do you break 30 years of those habits? It is so distressing and heart-rending that most people try to correct me and state that I had a good first 17 years before everything happened to me, but that isn’t accurate. My happiest times in my childhood were not when that man broke every piece of me. I remember a time, when I had to have been 7 years old, and he held me up in the air against the wall because I did something wrong and didn’t have my room clean enough. I remember that he tore my favorite pajamas that night by doing that, and I remember curling up in a ball and just crying in the corner after.
And yet here I am. Feeling like a failure as a mother, because I am passing these traits on. I get upset with my kids and have to tell myself to stop because I know that they will remember those moments, and that is something that I would never ever wish on them. I have so much anger still in me from my first abuser and my worst one, that I will cry most days, even though I do everything in my power to make everyone else happy. After I get upset with my kids, I have to step back and breathe and then go back and I just hug them. When I apologize to them, after I lose my cool, they tell me, “it’s okay mom, we love you.” I remind them though, it is NOT okay and that it is okay to be upset sometimes, but a mom should never make their child feel bad about themselves and that they can say thank you for my apology, but not that it is okay. When they spill something, which both my biological father and abuser, would have blown their tempers about, I have to breathe and tell my kids that it is just an accident. I would rather my children remember that I helped them clean up a mess, and not that I made them feel like that was the worst thing that they could do.
I wish I knew when this gets better, but I don’t. I have been groomed from the time I was little, by the men in my life that had their first impacts on me, to basically tell me that everything that I do, say, or even don’t do, is wrong. How do you change that? I always knew that the abuser that I put into prison, for almost killing my youngest son, had done his work on me. Little did I know that it started from the time I was little, by the man who was supposed to protect me.