TRIGGER WARNING: ABUSE.
I saw this image a few days ago and WOW it hit me so hard. This is how my shitty, manipulative, narcissist parents talked to me for my entire childhood, whenever I told her I didn’t want to go on auditions, or he made me cry with his relentless bullying: you’re always twisting things, you’re so dramatic, stop feeling sorry for yourself, don’t be so sensitive. The piece of shit who was my father loved to frustrate me until I began to cry. Then he’d holler “Okay, cut!” like I was on the set, before he unloaded mocking laughter at me. He was such a fucking bully to me, and I never deserved it.
I know how it feels to have a huge black hole in your heart where your parent’s love ought to be.
If you didn’t live with gaslighting (you are so lucky. I hope you appreciate how lucky you are), it may be tough to understand how crazy this sort of thing made me feel, and why, at 49 years old, I can still feel in my heart and my soul every single time they did this to me, like I’m a helpless child all over again.
It’s like they made a choice, at some point in my childhood, that I would not get the unconditional love they gave my brother and sister. Nothing I did was good enough for the man who was my father, and the only thing my mother cared about was how many auditions I booked. What did I care about? What did I like? How did I feel about … anything? It just didn’t matter, and it was probably stupid.
I didn’t understand it, and it hurt so much. And whenever I tried to talk to them about it (no child should have to figure out how to express to their parents that they feel unloved), the gaslighting would come out: you’re always twisting things, you’re so dramatic, stop feeling sorry for yourself, don’t be so sensitive.
I was painfully aware of how much my dad didn’t like me, because he made no effort to hide it.
I feel like it started around third or fourth grade, around the time I started working a lot in commercials and then movies (again: not my choice. It was never my choice). I wonder if he resented the time and attention my mother gave me? I wonder if she enjoyed making him … I don’t know, jealous of his own kid? Everything was a passive aggressive power struggle with them, so maybe. I do know that I never saw him treat another person with the cruelty and contempt he showed for me. It wasn’t until Stand By Me, though, that the man who was my father began physically abusing me, grabbing me by the shoulders and shaking me while he made this enraged growling sound I’ll never be able to unhear. When Star Trek happened, it got even worse. That was when he started screaming at me that I was a “dumb little fuck” in front of my friends. I was painfully aware of how much my dad didn’t like me, because he made no effort to hide it. I mean, anyone with a pulse could have seen it. And nobody stepped in to protect me. My mother just pretended none of it happened, going so far as to make me apologize to him after he jabbed me in the chest while he screamed at me about some fucking thing I didn’t even do, and I just exploded in grief and fear and yelled back at him.
After literally years — I’m talking decades — of trying to talk with them, trying to meet them somewhere in the middle of “that never happened” and “this absolutely happened and this is how it made me feel”, I made the incredibly difficult choice to end contact with my abusers a few years ago.
It sucks, and it hurts, all the time. But having no parents is better than having my parents. And that also sucks.
Over forty years after I became aware of it, it still hurts like it all just happened. I know how it feels to have a huge black hole in your heart where a parent’s love ought to be. I know what it’s like to have nobody to call when something cool happens, or when something awful happens and you need mom and dad to make it better. (I am so grateful for my Star Trek family. Without them, I very likely would have ended up a statistic.)
But I also know that I never did anything wrong. I know that it’s not my fault. I didn’t deserve it. I was ALWAYS enough. He hates me because he hates himself. I have to remind myself about that more often than anyone should have to, but I know what’s real, and I know that I’m not twisting things, being dramatic, feeling sorry for myself, or being too sensitive.
If you recognize any of this gaslighting from your own life, I want you to know that I see you. I believe you. I’m so sorry. I know how it feels. I know how it makes us feel crazy. I know how it makes us question our own lived experience, how it makes us doubt what we know to be true, because it happened to us.
I am here to tell you that you are enough. That WE are enough. It’s not us. It was never us. It was always them.