6.4 Gillian’s Story
I grew up with a really critical abusive mother. As far back as I remember, if I did anything wrong, I was spanked or belted. I wasn’t allowed to show emotion, or ever say what I wanted. I was expected to obey without question and do everything right. I was expected to be the best at everything and “better than” my peers, even ones who were older. I was supposed to be the child prodigy, but at best, I was average at most things, and completely lacked interest in competition of any kind. It seemed as though my mother was always angry; always demanding that things be done exactly her way. I lived in total fear of doing or saying the wrong thing. For a while, I stopped talking but the punishment never relented.
The first time I remember lying, I was five. I’d done something at recess and was terrified the teacher would tell my mother. I let another girl get punished for what I did. I was never caught and over time it just became easier to lie than get hit and be grounded. In my teens, I stopped lying and things got worse. The punishments were more extreme, but by then I had a new way to temporarily avoid feeling pain. My dad often gave me “secret” money and when possible, I’d sneak to the corner store. I’d buy candy, chips, ice cream, and pastries – whatever I felt like at the time. I‘d either eat all of it in a frenzy before I got home, or I’d hide it in different places. My mother never cleaned my room. As she’d rant and explode, I’d think smugly about the chocolate hidden under my dresser. It became easy to wait out her tirades. Over time, lying, sneaking, and hoarding became second nature. Even when I moved into my first apartment, I would still hide candy in different drawers…and I lived alone!
Recognition: If there are there elements of Gillian’s story that resonate with you, describe what recovery would feel like. If you had a magic wand, what would be different?