Did anyone else grow up super close with the person who traumatized them?

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OwnSide

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[Warning for long post and brief mentions of bodily autonomy violation]

I'm new here and trying to reconcile the idea of having grown up with abuse. For the longest time my M and I were best friends. We spent all our time together. She'd sing me special songs, call me a dozen ridiculous but endearing nicknames, write special notes for my lunch. She was my cheerleader, my confidant, my person. So much so, that I never really had a best friend my own age for any significant period -- certainly I made friends here and there but nothing lasted. That was okay. I didn't need anybody else.

This has all slowly changed over the last 6 years or so. It was nothing sinister, just a series of circumstances that burned her out until I could no longer recognize the person who raised me. It's been a pretty big loss, and I'm still trying to figure out how to make up for the emotional support I used to get from her.

But.

The distance has given me a new perspective. The person I see now -- overburdened, irritated by everything -- has triggered things in me. A key piece of this has been the birth of my baby sister. It is like my inner child is walking around outside my body, frustrating our M with her needs, being snapped at, misunderstood, gaslit... and my nervous system just screams. I'll hear my sister fighting the coat M is trying to put on her, and M will tell her, "Quit being a wuss, it's just a coat," and all of sudden I'm hyperventilating and hugging myself. To most people it would be just a coat, but to me it's violation of bodily autonomy, it's belittling feelings, it's helplessness. And anywhere but here it would sound ridiculous because who doesn't have to force their toddler into a coat sometimes?

So I'm here, and I recognize that I have CPTSD symptoms. But when I read about the awful things others on this site have experienced, and I look at how I grew up, I wonder, "How can we have the same symptoms?" I remember feeling happy and safe most of the time. I also remember being snapped at, teased, dismissed, having my bodily autonomy violated, but it wasn't frequent. Mostly we were laughing at TV shows, singing in the car, chatting about our days over restaurant food, holding hands when we walked places. I remember her supporting my interests, respecting my privacy, letting me stick my hands up her coat sleeves when they were cold. Looking over when I was in the middle of doing something simple, like drawing or playing guitar, to catch her beaming at me.

There has to be a certain threshold for negative interaction that is healthy and acceptable and not traumatizing. I think that's how I rationalized the hurt. Things can't be perfect all the time, right? And it took so little to send me spiraling -- a small comment, a slight change in tone -- that I believed the way I felt was on me for being too sensitive. That I hadn't been through anything that bad, so I didn't have perspective. It's only recently I've realized these thought patterns are common to abuse survivors.

I want to talk about the confusion of a happy and abusive upbringing. Because I think that's what I experienced. And I think the kind of wound it produces differs from the wounds of growing up unloved and unsafe, a story more often told in the context of abuse. What happens when you grow up loved and afraid at the same time?

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Armee

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Re: Did anyone else grow up super close with the person who traumatized them?
« Reply #1 on: November 05, 2022, 06:29:32 PM »
There's a term for what you are describing...if you haven't heard it yet it may be hard to read and grapple with. I don't have good resources because it isn't what was going on in my house. But I'll put it way below....



I'm sorry you are having to see your mom's treatment of your little sis. I can see how that would be super triggering. She'll have you. 💛






The term is emotional incest.



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Blueberry

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Re: Did anyone else grow up super close with the person who traumatized them?
« Reply #2 on: November 05, 2022, 08:26:00 PM »
And anywhere but here it would sound ridiculous because who doesn't have to force their toddler into a coat sometimes?

The reactions you experience while your little sister is being forced into her coat speak for themselves. We with cptsd don't  invent such reactions, they come unbidden. With her words your M is not exactly tuned in with your little sis. For your little sis it's probably not about the coat either, she's maybe struggling physically (against the coat) but really acting out something emotional with M? Or something like that. Little sis might well sense something is 'off' in some way. Even if that's 'just' that her M is not emotionally there for her.

So I'm here, and I recognize that I have CPTSD symptoms. But when I read about the awful things others on this site have experienced, and I look at how I grew up, I wonder, "How can we have the same symptoms?" I remember feeling happy and safe most of the time. I also remember being snapped at, teased, dismissed, having my bodily autonomy violated, but it wasn't frequent.
You'll find on here that lots of us compare ourselves unfavourably with others as in "they all had it worse than me". Our FOO seems to instill that message along with the abuse and/or neglect. Part of healing is realising that "yeah it really was that bad". I've only just realised this year (!) that I'm in a situation of ongoing abuse with FOO. Not with a partner - I don't have one, never have had, that's way beyond my realm still. I live far far way from FOO but still ongoing abuse.

I felt happy in some of my childhood too. In fact I've heard that without some happiness somewhere we wouldn't have survived at all, not even physically. Idk if that's true but worth thinking about.

Also 'not frequent' can be enough to traumatise. Once can be enough. My FOO used that as an excuse even. "It wasn't very often." + "You never ended up in hospital because of it". Great. (sarc).

I want to talk about the confusion of a happy and abusive upbringing. Because I think that's what I experienced. And I think the kind of wound it produces differs from the wounds of growing up unloved and unsafe, a story more often told in the context of abuse. What happens when you grow up loved and afraid at the same time?

I do have some ideas on this but idk how right they are. I also wonder, well I know you asked, but sometimes it might be better to grow into your own truth, discover for yourself what it means to and for you. Well, I'll write it now. For a long time I thought I grew up loved but bit by bit I've been realising that I didn't. Due to FOO and their behaviour I didn't have a good idea of what love even is. I remember as a child sitting there thinking that the Inuit couldn't love their children because they were too poor to provide for them (at least according to whatever we'd been reading about them at school - back in the 70's). So that meant for me, coming from a family that was comfortably off, that love meant being provided for. But not anything to do with being supported emotionally, with being protected, with feeling wanted (I felt unwanted as early as 6yo), feeling actually cared about, noticing that somebody was happy I came back home etc. In fact in most of my teens only the dog showed she was happy that I came home from school (just occurred to me as an aside). Another part of love missing in my FOO was any feeling that my parents did the best they could or that apparently when you love someone you might want to make things good for them. Lots of parents seem to want things to be better for their children than things were in their own childhood. My M was in competition with us - we couldn't have it better, that was somehow anathema to her.
Anyway enough about me. I hope my response gives you some ideas you can use for your own thoughts and realisations.

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Papa Coco

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Re: Did anyone else grow up super close with the person who traumatized them?
« Reply #3 on: November 05, 2022, 09:46:32 PM »
Hi OwnSide

You've brought up a great topic around being raised feeling both loved and afraid at the same time. I resonate with a few of the things you've said.

One is that my childhood had a lot of joy and happiness in it. It also had a lot of fear and humiliation.
Another is that when I was very young, from birth to about tween years, I was told that I was my mom's "best friend." My neighborhood friends would routinely complain when they were all allowed to go to the school yard to play basketball and I wasn't allowed to go that far. My tween friends routinely called her "over protective."

As an adult, now that I've finally stopped believing that my childhood didn't have the traumas in it that made me into the traumatized adult I am today, I've started asking a new question: Why was I so attached to my family that I would never stand up to them? Why did I never rebel against them as I should have? Why did I give them full parental authority over me until I was 50 and finally walked away from them all?

The thing I keep coming back to is that my parents held me too close for too long. I was sMothered so strongly that I grew up never realizing I was an adult who could stop letting my family yank my chain and point and tell me what to do anymore.

I can't speak for your situation, but as for mine, my mom held me too close. She was seriously anxiety ridden herself, so I learned that keeping her calm was my sworn duty as her 5-year-old son. Her peace and happiness was my job my whole life from 0-50.

So I grew up very conflicted. I loved my family and hated them at the same time. I wanted to be free from a family I couldn't bring myself to free myself from. I was that picture of the man in a cage, banging on the bars, not realizing that right behind me, the cage door was wide open. I stayed connected to selfish people because I didn't know I could leave.

Anyway, I thought of this when you said that you and your mum were best friends, and you didn't need friends your own age because you had her. That sort of happened to me too. But after I grew up and started tracing my emotional roller coaster back, a lot of it came from having a mom who held me too close, gave me NO choices or freedoms of my own (Kind of like a person with a small dog they never take off the leash and who isn't allowed to bark or play or eat when or what I want... Apparently, I was a poodle). And now today I want my life back. I'm emotionally trapped in childhood times when I had rights that were taken from me. I wasn't allowed to play baseball with the other boys because Mom was my best friend, so I didn't need other kids my own age. Being sMothered, over protected, denied friends, ended up being nice for Mom, but made me into a pretty darn confused man later in life.

I don't know if any of this resonates with you. I just think this is a really great thread topic to contribute to and learn from.

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Master of my sea

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Re: Did anyone else grow up super close with the person who traumatized them?
« Reply #4 on: November 05, 2022, 10:45:21 PM »
Hey Ownside,

My own experience doesn't completely match up with yours but I do understand the contradiction. There were many times in my childhood that I was happy and all seemed well in my family. Now when I look back I can actually see it for what it was. During those times, I was still belittled and bullied by my siblings. Made to feel less than and unimportant.

Whenever I had a traumatic experience outside of the family, I never told anyone, I realise now because they were not safe to tell. I didn't trust them to help me. These were people that, although there has been support and love shown to me by them, are a huge reason as to why I struggle today. My opinion was very rarely considered and what I said was generally passed over.
I am fortunate to have a strong relationship with my Mum. I know she did the very best she could, but I also realise more and more that she was dealing with her own demons and was rarely in tune with me at all. It's only in the last 2 years that she has even learned of a few incidents that have occurred in my life. Once my older siblings left home, she ended up completely consumed by my remaining, problematic brother and sister. I got lost in the background.

This is a very brief summary but I'm hoping that I'm getting across that I understand. My Mum was and is a very loving and caring woman. Most of my siblings are too, but they are also responsible for a lot of the trauma I am dealing with today. This is hard for me to accept as I had convinced myself that we were a strong unit, all there for each other. That couldn't be farther from the truth. My childhood was volatile, violent and very scary.
I grew up loved, but I also grew up afraid and unsure of what was going to happen from one day to the next. Even as I write this, I feel so guilty for saying it. I feel like I should take it back but that doesn't stop it from being true.

Both love and abuse can seemingly happen alongside each other and it is confusing. The wounds it creates are very real.
I hope this makes sense.

Armee- Wow that wasn't what I was expecting. I had to reread a few times to make sure I was seeing it right.

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woodsgnome

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Re: Did anyone else grow up super close with the person who traumatized them?
« Reply #5 on: November 06, 2022, 12:12:01 AM »
I had so many childhood traumatic stories I'd probably overrun my (and yours) sensibilities trying to relate all the ins/outs of so much, both in FOO and lots of crap endured in religious (so bad I call them 'pretend' religions). Anyway, lots of long stories but what I noticed as your story unfolded was how it resembled an adult relationship that turned to be as bad as the ones when I was younger.

Despite my ominous beginnings, I somehow nurtured an artistic sensibility which I became very good at. This attracted attention, but none as notable as someone who admired and wanted to hire my talents away from where I was employed for 10 years.

It developed as a sort of 'courtship' -- not romantic, mind you, but along the lines of 'mutual admiration'; at least it seemed that way. Eventually I was enticed by the attention and the trust of someone who seemed exactly the type I could thrive with and further develop the unique career track I had developed on my own -- but the enticement that it could be more shortly became evident.

As it turned out, the person did admire my qualities, but his schmoozing made it seem deeper than that. Soon signs of his insipient narcissism popped up all over, and I felt trapped in the situation. I know a big part was just finding someone I thought I could trust ... he seemed to sense that and played his cards accordingly. But by the time I realized what he was up to it was too late. Despite some early warning signs, they weren't enough to deter me from his initial seeming on-the-level sort of relationship, which dissipated almost the moment I was officially hired.

I'm skipping loads of details which aren't at all pretty, and which were hard to escape from (yet I was fortunate to do so).

Okay, I'd rather not go into it any further right now, as I've worked so hard to have broken the heartbreak and all that goes with it. I just point it out, I guess, to point out a little of how some of these sorts of relationships can develop at any age, and how vulnerable I was. And one reason for the vulnerability was never having had anyone I could trust in childhood and then ... well, it was bad but I made it here too.

Thanks for sharing your story, OwnSide, and welcome to OOTS -- may it help ease the ride as you seek to rebuild the life you deserve.

 :hug:

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Blueberry

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Re: Did anyone else grow up super close with the person who traumatized them?
« Reply #6 on: November 06, 2022, 12:58:51 PM »
Sry for the brief hijack Ownside.

Wow :thumbdown: :thumbdown: woodsgnome I'm so sorry all that happened to you. That's a detail from your past I haven't heard before. Well obviously a very painful topic so no wonder you don't write about it too often.

Despite my ominous beginnings, I somehow nurtured an artistic sensibility which I became very good at.
This I do know about you but the way you wrote it made me feel happy for you and proud of you, if it's OK to say that.  :) :hug:

OwnSide, I wanted to add to my own post further up that it might not sound as if I was close to FOO but there certainly were times when I was, even when I was close to my M.

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OwnSide

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Re: Did anyone else grow up super close with the person who traumatized them?
« Reply #7 on: November 07, 2022, 06:38:39 AM »
I did not expect this post to blow up so quickly! Thank you all for your responses.

Armee: You know I spent all day wondering what people were going to say, low key hoping someone was going to deliver the shock I needed to break out of denial and by God, you've done it. (At least for now. These things come in cycles  :) ) So I read up about emotional incest and it kind of falls in line with some of things I've been reading about enmeshment, codependency, parentification, and the like. I also feel like emotional parentification (taking care of your parent's feelings) and emotional incest (acting as your parent's life partner) can overlap. For example, as an adult, do you talk about work stress with your parent or your partner? Who takes care of you when you're sick? To M's credit I remember her hesitating because she didn't want to "burden me with grown up stuff", but it's not like she had anyone else (parent or partner) available. And I didn't often see her willing to talk about feelings or ask for help, so when she did, I seized the opportunity. Guess who has significant difficulty talking about feelings and asking for help now?  ;)

Blueberry: Several things here. First, thank you for validating my reactions and that "once can be enough". My M certainly tries to be in tune with my sister, and sometimes she is, but she just doesn't have the resources to keep it up. Sometimes she remarks that she doesn't remember me being "like this" (read: loud and needy) when I was a toddler, and I wonder if she just had more energy back then, if I was naturally a quieter child, or if I had already at that age started learning how to be convenient.
Your early concepts of love in your FOO reminded me of how I used to think the polar opposite. I grew up "paycheck to paycheck" poor for the most part, and thus thought rich parents couldn't really love their kids because they would just shower them with gifts instead of real attention. And they wouldn't even have any hardships to bond over! Makes me laugh to think about.

Papa Coco: I remember being less free than other kids too. I think the first time I went outside to play by myself, I was nine. We had been living in an apartment up to that point and it wasn't the seediest area (other kids were playing there) but it wasn't really a lazy suburb either. But even after we moved to a house there were rules -- suggestions, rather, that I wouldn't contradict for fear of being another thing stressing her out. Like texting her when I got home from school, staying on our block so that I couldn't be picked up off the side of the highway nearby, only crossing at crosswalks, etc. The irony was that I spent more time alone than the average kid (several hours every day after school from age 11 onward), so hypothetically I could have broken some of those rules, but it was just unthinkable. If I did that, she'd have to worry about me.

Master of my sea: I congratulate your courage in telling your story despite the guilt. I'm trying to do the same.

woodsgnome: I can't say I see what you see, regarding the resemblance in our relationships. No need to explain further though. I recognize that I'm fortunate the distance between me and my M "created itself"; I didn't have to escape. I'm not sure I would have even noticed anything was wrong and wanted to break that closeness, otherwise. And I can watch out for similar patterns in my adult relationships.

Blueberry again: No worries :) Everyone deserves support and it comes up organically in conversation.

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dollyvee

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Re: Did anyone else grow up super close with the person who traumatized them?
« Reply #8 on: November 07, 2022, 08:02:04 AM »
Hi Ownside,

Thanks for sharing. Your story sounds similar to what I experienced and what others have described on this forum - that nothing “bad” ever happened, how could it be abuse? Kizzie describes it as death by 1000 cuts; there’s never one thing you can point to and say, “that’s it.”

Perhaps you might find posts on covert narcissism helpful here and on the other site, Out of the Fog. I’ve also had a lot of insight recently from a book called, Will I Ever Be Good Enough.

Sending you support,
 dolly

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Liketheducks

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Re: Did anyone else grow up super close with the person who traumatized them?
« Reply #9 on: November 22, 2022, 04:31:34 PM »
Your story sounds very familiar to me.   My F was/is an addict.    My therapist would say he has NPD and my BPD, by virtue of MY textbook symptoms.   Growing up, Dad was dangerous, so I latched on to M.   I was her mini me.   We were enmeshed.   There was a fair amount of emotional incest going on.   Dad was physically abusive.   M more mentally/emotionally in dealing with her own trauma of being married to an abuser for 20 years.   

It wasn't until adulthood, that I could see M's dysfunctional behavior.   Over the course of a few years, we went from best friends, to walking on eggshells around each other.   From where I sit, it is hard for her to see me as the middle aged woman I am.   There is a fair amount of jealousy and manipulation.   I'm learning that I need boundaries with her - never had those growing up with her.   It is tough.   Hang in there.   

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OwnSide

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Re: Did anyone else grow up super close with the person who traumatized them?
« Reply #10 on: November 30, 2022, 06:36:40 AM »
Thank you dollyvee and Liketheducks for the comforting words.

I have been thinking about the phrase “walking on eggshells”. For me, and maybe for others here, it was more like walking on rafters. As long as you watch your step, do everything right, nothing bad happens. And you can get pretty good at doing that. So good that when you do fall, down down down, you figure it was your fault for tripping. Never realizing you should have been given solid ground to land on.

Wishing you all clarity of mind in your endeavours

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Blueberry

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Re: Did anyone else grow up super close with the person who traumatized them?
« Reply #11 on: December 01, 2022, 06:37:55 PM »
I have been thinking about the phrase “walking on eggshells”. For me, and maybe for others here, it was more like walking on rafters. As long as you watch your step, do everything right, nothing bad happens. And you can get pretty good at doing that. So good that when you do fall, down down down, you figure it was your fault for tripping. Never realizing you should have been given solid ground to land on.

That is a very powerful image.  'walking on rafters' is a much better description for me than 'walking on eggshells'. Thanks for writing it and sharing it with us.  :)