Neglected by family
I just read the letter from the woman who had gone through so much (I can't even begin to describe it), that I feel foolish writing to you. I haven't gone through nearly as much, but everything is relative I guess. What got to me was the abandonment issues.
I'm a 43-year-old female born with hip dysphasia. I was 3 when I was put in the hospital to it. While there, I got chicken pox and was quarantined. They took away all my stuffed animals and no one was allowed to see me (even though my mom was an RN there and my aunt sat with me). My father told me that when they were finally allowed to see me again a week later, I turned away from them. My therapist thinks it scarred me pretty badly. After I got out of the hospital, I was in a cast from my waist down for over a year. I couldn't walk. They would put me out in the backyard on a mattress and I would spend my day there. There is a picture of me looking up at the sky, probably an airplane. I can't remember anything about those days, but being tied down like that at the age of 4, must have been terribly frustrating. When my mother talks about those days, all she ever says is that my sister was “good to me”. They don't talk about it much. I'm sure they have guilt feelings, but damn. My aunt told me the other day that she came every day and sat with me. She told me she was sure my parents had never told me that and she wanted me to know. I don't know what it means, but she was right. They hadn't.
I was “raised by wolves” as I call it. Clothed, fed, and housed, but not much else. My mother and father fought constantly. My dad liked me and would stand up for me when my mother was on my ass, and it really pissed her off. She was jealous of my father's love for me. My mother was just really on my ass constantly and my father would try to reason with her. I think she must have also been going through menopause at this time. She would start a fight with me and then when my father would come home from work, she would revert to this poor little Southern belle act and tell him how mean I was to her. It was amazing to see and very scary too. My sister, who is 2 years older than me and my only sibling, is my exact opposite. She was Miss Goody Two Shoes, made straight A's, never had a boyfriend, etc. She really hated me. I figure some of it had to do with all the attention I got because of my problem with my hips. I have never gotten along with her and still don't. She is a very narrow-minded, judgmental person. If you don't see life as she does, forget it. Her empathy quotient is 0. I cannot stand to be around her. She is very shallow and selfish. All she thinks about it how she looks, what she wants, etc.
My father loved me; my mom and sister hated me (I'm the youngest). I looked like my mother's twin. She had an unhappy marriage with my dad, so I figure I remind her of the old days, and my sister is just pure mean. I married an abuser (physical), someone “for the hell of it,” who was a child psychiatrist from India who was into being “right”. I then married another SOB before I sobered up. After that I met a man in AA who was younger than me. He's had some of the same upbringing as me, was more treasured, but at the same time had more chaos, like fighting, alcoholism, etc. He had a very chaotic childhood. He ended up using me. I have such a hard time admitting this. Not because I don't think it's true, but because I tend to be very intuitive and I know this man let me see him, as he was, without the big bullshit image. But I SAW this man and loved him intimately as he did me. I swear I felt it, and it's like he tucked it away and went back to being a thug. How does a human being do that do another human being? I know what I need to do, but right now, I am so angry and disillusioned, I just don't care. I just keep hoping that someday I will.
My life is a disaster. I want to tell my family what is wrong with me, but it would be like butting your head against a brick wall.
I'm glad that you found something to relate to in my column. I have said this before and I will say it as many times as I need to; abandonment is abandonment. It does not matter if you were adopted, a product of a dysfunctional family, or in your case, quarantined at the age of three and forcibly separated from your family. I can't tell you how many articles I have read that describe the irreversible damage caused by infants having to placed in incubators or any other form of separation from their mother. This first few years of life are the most impressionable. When we are infants and toddlers we learn to trust. If trust is not developed due to extenuating circumstances like being placed in the hospital and not allowed any visitors or stuffed animals, troubled relationships later in life are almost guaranteed. When you described how you turned away from your family once they were allowed access to you is proof positive that you felt abandoned. At the young age of three, you were already protecting yourself against future abandonment's by pushing them away. After all, for those who have ever felt abandoned, pushing others away is easier than being left, either physically or emotionally.
After you got out of the hospital, the emotional abandonment continued when your parents placed you on a mattress, body cast and all, outside for day. That sounds horrible. It sounds like they treated you like a nuisance, something to push aside because they didn't want to deal with you. Thank God your Aunt was there for you. But as most people who have ever felt abandoned, the Aunt, friends, etc. is not enough. You probably wanted your mother to be the one to sit with you as you healed in your body cast.
I am sorry that you didn't have a good relationship with your mother or sister. You felt abandoned by your mother, and your mother sided with your sister. It is obvious to me that you felt like the outsider. Your father was there for you and that is something to be grateful for.
Do not feel foolish for feeling that your early childhood experiences have affected you as an adult. All our life's experiences affect us. They make us who we are. It is typical for someone who was abandoned as a child to perpetuate the abandonment as an adult. It is common to pick unlovable, emotionally unavailable mates. I read that you had a string of abusive relationships that you are trying to end. It is possible Marian. I believe that when the pain gets too great, and you are tired of letting people use and abuse you, you will change and a good relationship will present itself to you. I think staying in therapy is a good idea. Going to AA meetings is an excellent way to learn about yourself and how to change into a better, happier person. The only way out of the pain is to go through it. All of your anger toward your mother and sister has to come out and be reconciled with before you can let it go. Letting go and forgiving those who you feel harmed you is the key to peace and happiness in life. You are in charge of your life now and nobody, not your mother, your sister, or even the boyfriend, has the power to control your life.
Peace and good luck!
This question was answered by Kasey Hamner. Kasey Hamner has a Bachelor of Art degree in Psychology, a Masters of Science degree in Counseling, a Pupil Personnel Services Credential authorizing her services as a School Psychologist, and is a Licensed Educational Psychologist. She specializes in adoption related issues including search and reunion, abandonment, self-esteem, substance abuse, depression, and relationship difficulties. Also amongst her specialties are children's issues including adoption, abandonment, ADD, special education and so on. Her approach is eclectic and is adapted to suit the individual's needs.