The Right to: Have Boundaries.

In recent months I have forgotten about my one vow two years ago of being assertive and actively pursuing my personal rights. For many many horrible years, my rights were abused and I neglected what most humans do for themselves without thought.

My husband and I are re-assessing ourselves.

He wants to change and so do I. We know that what we’ve been doing isn’t working so something needs to shift. Happy that we are on the same page, I need to build my confidence, self-belief and assertiveness to become strong and secure whatever our future may bring. My husband’s aims are confidence, communication and drive. We all have personal goals we long to achieve. I am more of a talker than a doer sadly but all that is about to change.

We all have the personal right to have boundaries.

My father encroached on my personal boundaries daily. He regularly interfered with all aspects of my life from reading my bank statements to rifling through my drawers and bin (trash), from checking the bath’s cleanliness after my every use to locking me in his bedroom to “think about my behaviour”.

He had no sense of boundaries when it came to me. It all began as a child. He was always too tactile and it always felt too much. Sometimes a child needs reassurance not with a cuddle but with words, with support, with laughter. He never respected that and I was wrong to question him if I dared. So I didn’t.

I came from the generation and background where adults made every decision for the child even if it infringed on their personal choices. There was a lot of sitting on laps at parties and gatherings even up to the age of ten. I was a child who had to do as they were told. After all, these people were friends, not paedophiles or child abusers…………well would anyone have ever known otherwise? I never liked hugging strangers. I resisted many a time only to be reprimanded for doing so. It was deemed rude to refuse a kiss or cuddle from a male or female friend of the family no matter how uncomfortable I felt. My feelings were rarely acknowledged as a child in these matters.

On a trip to see family abroad and when an important member of the family passed away, my refusal to kiss the lifeless body of this relative was deeply frowned upon and angered some of the people closest to me. However, I was a young girl who had never seen a dead body before let alone someone I knew. It was terrifying. I desperately wanted to leave the room where everyone else was weeping. I was out of my comfort zone, awkward and numb, there were no tears, only a need to be elsewhere. On my abnegation, I was almost forced by one family member to approach the bed to “pay my respects”. It was only then that I felt emotion. I was embarrassed and angry that my personal rights were being ignored and disregarded. It did not matter what I wanted at that point. The extreme anguish my family were feeling was not mirrored by me and for that I became a monster.

Death is not something any child should have to come face to face with but if they do, it should be dealt with calmly and in a controlled environment putting the child’s feelings and needs first.

A child should not be condemned for not acting as you would. They are their own person and that should be celebrated.

I couldn’t assert my boundaries as a child. I wasn’t allowed any. My family broke boundaries as often as they breathed. Everyone was far too involved with each other and crossing endless emotional lines.

As we grow, we put up barriers, guards to protect ourselves. Having a life where boundaries do not exist makes you more open to letting people through your fragile borders. The lines of infringement become blurred thus allowing people to take advantage of your weaknesses. Boundaries can be established at any point in your life. You only need to know them and assert them when the need arises.

Saying is often easier than doing but ultimately, placing down rules of what is acceptable and comfortable to you will only make life better. We all want to feel safe and boundaries do just that.

They are your personal right.

Drawing a line……for now.

I’ve taken a bit of time out from my last post. Time being the operative word as there never seems to be much of it. My husband and I received many responses from friends and well-wishers, all concerned about the state of our marriage and future.

There is not much I can do to reassure them.

I’ve weighed up the pros and cons to my marriage, to my husband. There are several on each side.

PROS: 

  • Wants to change
  • Great father
  • Supportive of my dreams/goals
  • Not nasty by nature
  • Genuinely cares
  • Sensitive
  • ‘Gets’ me

CONS: (when he is at his worst)

  • Moody
  • Distant
  • Bad listener
  • Says hurtful things
  • Acts before thinking
  • Negative

When I look at each list I see great things and pretty awful things. I’m torn. On one hand I desperately miss my best friend and on the other, I long to be on my own, away from the endless stress.

The two of us have talked. We do see a future together but understand that it will be a very long road to travel before we feel truly happy. As arduous and trying as that may be, I have to draw a line in the sand if I have any hope that my marriage could work.

I grew up in a broken home. My mother and father’s idea of marriage was abusive and destructive. It led them to be terrible role models for me and my sister. I did not look up to either of them. I do not want this for my daughter. I want both of us to be fantastic role models for her, showing her what it takes to be a good parent, wife, husband and friend. We will make mistakes – no one is faultless but that too is a lesson she should learn. Except here, mistakes will be made in a loving environment not in a harmful, loveless one. I just cannot do that to her.

So this is it.

A line is drawn.

Let’s see where we go from here.

It’s in our genes.

How much do you really inherit from your family?

Genetics play a big part in who we become as people. We inherit eye colour, height even money over time but what about the other things? Personality traits being the obvious.

I know I have inherited many of of my mother’s traits. We are both very emotional people often allowing these emotions to take over our way of dealing with issues logically or rationally. Our highly emotive states aren’t always to be seen negatively. We are both caring and loyal people. Sadly, that can often be taken advantage of.
I hope I haven’t inherited any personality traits from my abuser.

To think that I could ever possess any of his qualities frightens me.

My family is broken.

It will never be fully mended as sadly, too many parts have crumbled, too many pieces are missing and too much has happened to ever totally heal.

I have made my peace with that. I knew a long time ago that the family I always dreamt of wouldn’t exist for me. I had hoped that one day, I would have my own family. One that gave me security and make me happy. One without conditions and demands, insults and terror, threats and harm. I feel like that family is beginning. I have my husband and now I have my wonderful baby. I have my mother and a relationship with her I never expected to happen. Not once all those years ago could I imagine my mother and I would be close.

I’d love to have my sister in my life too.

I know I’ve spoken quite honestly about her on here but as candid as I may have been, my want to be accepted by her never faded. The darkness her and my father cast on me, their portrayal of me is untrue. I am not a bad person. I am not evil. I do not have that in me.

My heart is and always has been open.

I am not my father.

There is nothing of him in me.

I do not use my love. It is there if it is wanted. I do not bargain or control people with it. I do not give it then take it away. He did. The abuser did.

Love was a game, a business, a possibility to damage and hurt. That isn’t love.

‘Love is always bestowed as a gift – freely, willingly and without expectation. We don’t love to be loved; we love to love.’
Leo Buscaglia

A Bitter-sweet Day.

Today, being Father’s Day in the UK is bitter sweet for me. Unsurprisingly, I will not be laying down flowers or cherishing my dead father’s memory. I wonder if his truest fan, my sister, will. I do not look back on this day with pure hatred. There were times, especially as young children, where Father’s Day was an enjoyable event. A time where it was about the love we felt for him. There was no expectation of us and he was happy with a simple home-made card. Sadly, that innocence was taken from me early on. Expectations and presumptions were made that I alone would provide my father with an entertaining and lavish Father’s Day, after all, I chose to live with him, it was my duty to do so.

I longed for the days where making him a morning tea and breakfast with a card was enough. Where it was thought and gesture that mattered. Towards the end of his life and as I grew older, my father began demanding the calibre of Father’s Day and a check-list of tasks that would impress and please him. He would prepare his own Father’s Day essentially. It would be a real chance to get me to do the things I would normally refuse to do, such as cleaning the entire house in one day or cooking him a lavish dinner. I would often argue that this was not what Father’s Day was about. It wasn’t “Turn your Child into your Slave Day” yet to him he felt that it was a commitment as his daughter that I ‘obeyed’ his requests. It would make him happy and if I wanted him to be that then why would I object.

After agreeing and immediate regret one year I vowed never to do that again. I didn’t. He verbally scolded me for that choice for many months to follow. The next Father’s Day was a disaster as my father was still harbouring a nasty grudge against me.

Next year will mark a new chapter. My husband will be celebrating Father’s Day for the very first time.

This will mark a significant shift in our lives and a brand new set of memories will occur.

I  will embrace them.

Happy Father’s Day to all the men out there who would to anything for their children.

No expectation.

Dear Brother in-law.

Dear brother in-law,

We met when I was thirteen. It was during a very turbulent time. You came into my sister’s life and became a welcome, permanent fixture. My mother loved you instantly. You were a bit of a charmer weren’t you? They both fell for your innocent demeanour. You were so generous. Flaunting and showering extravagant gifts on my sister. Even chasing her for an entire year to prove your love. It was all very romantic. Almost too good to be true. Your gracious and caring attitude towards our mother did not go unnoticed. You went out of your way to help her (something you often reminded her of later on).

Yet, your care and thoughts did not extend further than my mother and sister.

You made no effort to get to know me. I was not under your priorities. Perhaps my sister made it clear that I was of no importance to her therefore of no importance to you. Unsurprisingly, you made no effort with our father either but perhaps, in his case, I’ll let that slide.

Years went by and your relationship with my sister grew stronger. My mother even held you in the highest regard. In many ways you had surpassed me. She never looked at me the way she looked at the two of you. She had accepted you as her “son” and you were at one point, more a part of her family than I was. This was something you and my sister clearly found enjoyment in.

During the divorce, when you and my sister had been together for a few years, you became my mother’s hero, protecting and supporting them consistently. Did you see it from my side? Never. Did you have any empathy? None. You just wanted to remain on that sweet little pedestal they placed you on. The pressure you put on me, the lectures you gave, where was it your place to tutor me on my decisions? If you had built up a relationship with me or made an effort to treat me like a sister, perhaps I would have been more willing to listen to you. However, it was like I was being reprimanded by a nosy stranger.

After the divorce our relationship did not get any easier. You only listened to her; my sister. All her hate, all her anger was allowed. You never challenged her. That is not love as much as you may think it is. Love is not possessive; it does not own. Love is letting someone express themselves to a point, where no one gets hurt especially not the ones you care so deeply for. Your allowance of my sister’s behaviour was your own demise.

Is it love if someone tells you to choose your family or them? Is it love if someone threatens to cheat on you? Tell me this. Did you respect yourself? The wild rages she flew into were accepted. The violent screams and swears were just a natural expectation of her. If you had just said “Stop”. Perhaps she would have. If someone of authority had just said “stop”. Then maybe she would have realised how staggering and inconceivable her behaviour truly was. Were you frightened of her? There is no shame in it. She scared me.

Do you know what you did?

You turned her into a monster. Another being entirely. Gone was her compassion, her willingness to empathise. You made her a martyr, a queen. She ruled over us. Her and the depression.

I have seen it. I know what it is. I know others who have suffered by the hand of it, some who have taken their lives because of it and without a doubt they would be horrified by the way she uses it as a weapon. The endless threats, the terrifying fury was very hard to deal with. Any time I tried, I was belittled for my lack of understanding. The two of you had no idea of my horror at home. Maybe you did, you just did not want to face it. After all, as she had said before, “it was my choice to live with my father”.  Yet, we all had to be there for her and her problems.

The last ten years have got to be the worst when it comes to you and me. You should be like a brother to me. Instead, we are total strangers. I feel you know nothing about me yet the finest details of your life were flung on me throughout my adolescence. I know everything about you. Isn’t that funny.

You had what you wanted when you got married. You even cast aside my mother. All of her love was worthless now. The two of you deserve each other. Never have I met such ugly people. You especially are something else. What kind of father keeps their children from their grandmother? What the hell did she ever do to you? It’s bad enough that you have kept their Aunt away from her niece and nephew but their grandmother? She did not meet your expectations did she? Your demanding, shallow, ruthless expectations. Who can?! At some point in your history with this family, everybody had faulted you. You of course, have never faulted anyone!

You are protecting your wife aren’t you?

From what? The big bad wolf? Hold on, I thought that was my father? You and my sister once despised him. You could not wait to dance on his grave. Yet in the years before his death, he became a saint to you. It is madness. Pure madness.

This is a man that hurt your mother in-law. He physically hurt her. This “thoughtful” man insulted your wife, he even called her a “bitch”! Did you forgive him for that? For the abuse and pain he caused? It seems like it. Forget me. You do not care for me but what he did to the two of them was unforgivable.

Do you feel proud of yourself?

Don’t.

You have contributed tremendously in the destruction of my family. Of the people that matter and for that I will never forgive you.

Dear Teachers.

Dear Teachers,

In the five years I spent at your school, I can honestly say that I am not entirely sure how I came out of it so sane. I was sent to you after my prodigal sister. I am aware (by my parents) that I did not do exceptionally well in my entrance test and certainly not as well as my sister, who came in on a scholarship. However, my grades (or lack of them) did not matter to you. I was my sister’s sister. I had to be good…………right?

But I wasn’t.

I was me. Not her. Yet that was never celebrated.

The first two years of high school, I slipped under the radar. I did okay, I went by unnoticed as did my grades. I excelled in the subjects I thought I would: Drama, Art, Music and English. The complete opposite to her. I was not an academic to you all. I was never part of any social dramas nor did I take any leadership roles, it was easy to forget about me.

I remember when you did notice.

When my grades slipped too far, I became your target. Suddenly, the girl you’d forgotten became the most memorable of all. Especially when you remember who my sister was – your star student. The morning you took me for a walk around the school and down to the hall where the plaques hung showing your most prized pupils of past. Where my sister’s name shone and burned into me. The place where you pointed out what I should be achieving and that I “had a lot to live up to”.

What you didn’t question was why.

Why was this sweet, lively girl’s grades dropping?

Perhaps it had something to do with the fact that my childhood was falling apart. That my home-life was like a war zone. The year was 1996, I was fourteen years old, my mother had just applied for divorce and you decided to put me on report.

You close-minded, arrogant idiots.

The reputation of your school and the notoriety of your name was much more important that a young girl struggling to make sense of her family disintegrating before her eyes. You humiliated me by dragging in my parents to discuss my “future”. Who were you to predict that? While my mother already held me in low regard, you only fuelled her perception of me. I had further disappointed her and as you placed my sister on that righteous pedestal, her place in my mother’s eyes grew stronger. You played a very clear part in the destruction of our relationship and for that I will never forgive you.

There were no positives made. No redeeming features. Humiliation and bullying was your forte. I was lost and no one was reaching out to guide me. No one.

Perhaps, if you had spent more time concerned about the welfare of your students and their emotional well being, I would have better memories of you all.

Sadly, I don’t.

Chapter 1, Part 2.

My relationship with my mother and sister only worsened as I grew older. I became as they described a “spoilt, selfish brat”. I was not a rebel; I never acted “wild” although they often accused me of it. I just wasn’t my sister. She was my mother’s confidante, she listened to her. She was quiet, academic, intelligent and dependable. I, on the other hand, was a loose cannon. My mood swings fluctuated daily, I was irritable and wound up by their presence. I seemed to love drama and allowed it to follow me around. At least in some way I was still a part of their life, I wasn’t shut out completely. I just wanted her to notice me.

During these years my father did the unthinkable. He spent all his energy convincing me I was unloved by my mother and sister. He would tell me openly if he heard them criticise or insult me, every day there was something new to tell me. As I walked in from school, he would beckon me to his room to discuss the events of his day and what he had heard. The door would be locked of course.

I didn’t realise the signs but my mother always had deep concerns. In her eyes he showed evidence of abuse very early on.

He always crossed boundaries and saw nothing wrong in doing so. Not just with me but also with my sister. His touch, his kiss, nothing felt right, it was always too affectionate. I always felt uncomfortable and that he was crossing a forbidden line. But I could never voice this, not back then anyway.

My mother moved out when I was fourteen as she could no longer cope. She tried to take me with her but his grip was too tight and by then I was too brainwashed. My sister left as well and the two teams grew stronger with hate. On a rare holiday to visit her family, I was constantly bombarded with commands to stay loyal to her and see my father for the evil creature he was. Of course at that moment my loyalties were firmly with my Dad and I was left distraught by their abhorrence towards him. They were just worried for my safety as they had been with my mother for years but I was blind to it. I made false promises to them out of fear saying that I would stand by her, I still loved her and I longed for the past when we were once happy.

The moments we laughed together, where I watched her cooking up my favourite meals in the kitchen following her every move. The times when I cuddled up to her as she had her afternoon nap and painted her face with make up as she slept.

Nothing stands out to me more than those memories. The fighting and arguing are almost a blur, those moments just blend into one another. But the flashes of our happiness remain completely clear.

I can’t wait to taste it. My mother has been promising to do this for months. My sister doesn’t seem as excited as me probably because she has tasted it before. It’s a long wait. I go into the garden, the sun is beating down on me. The smell is different out here too. I retreat back inside as the oven timer rings; it’s ready!

My mother tells us to wait as it’s very hot. “Wait”? I can’t wait. I’m not patient. I want it now. She is hovering over the cooker but I can’t see what she is looking at. Her face seems confused.

“What is it Ma?” asks my sister.

“I think we may have gone wrong,” Ma replies.

I stand on a stool and see a glass dish filled with rock hard toffee.

“Where are the flapjacks?” I am puzzled.

“It doesn’t matter, we can eat this instead,” Ma swiftly states.

She takes the dish to the sink and chips away at the toffee. Chunks are flying everywhere. My sister is clearly put off as she walks away. I plan to stay; I like toffee. My mum hands me (what I think is) a very small piece. I put the hot toffee in my mouth.

The top layer begins to melt and I’m left with all the crunchy bits. This is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to eat. I can’t chew, I’m trying with all my strength but I can’t. Little nuggets are stuck in my teeth. My fingers are pulling at them, I am not enjoying this.

My mum is proudly watching me devour her bizarre creation that I so excitedly popped into my mouth a few minutes ago. My tongue is rooting around trying to pull every last bit from my teeth. It’s not working.  I eventually manage to dislodge a chunk and consider whether to swallow it whole or to do the unthinkable and spit it out.

 

This happiness saved me. The dark moments in my life made me return to these memories and through my adult years I have visited them plenty of times.

After the holiday we returned to England. I flitted between both of my parents but predominantly stayed with my father in the family home. It wasn’t ideal, my mother knows now that she should have used all of her force to take me out of that house as ultimately this was the time where he “worked” on me the most.

I dreaded the time I had to spend with Mum. Not because I didn’t want to see her but I knew of the interrogation I was about to face from her and my sister. Each would take it in turns to find out his plans. I clammed up, refusing to answer their questions, feeling more and more left out of their partnership. Their desperation, their anger was immense, it suffocated me. The only person left to turn to was my father, his plan was having the desired effect. I started to resent them.

My parents underwent a prolonged and painful divorce. My father contested it at first. He was incredible stubborn and my mother had insulted his masculinity. Divorce was frowned upon in his homeland; it was not a choice that entered his mind no matter how unhealthy and destructive the environment was.

I made the decision at this moment that would change my future forever and chose to live with my father. For months I did not speak to my mother and sister, they both cut my Dad out of their life, effectively cutting me out too. I know my mother sent my sister’s boyfriend to find me at home. That day my father and I had been out somewhere. On our way home we noticed someone at the front door peeking through the letterbox. My father parked away from the house. We watched as the young man eventually gave up and left. My father said nothing. I was frightened and he did nothing to reassure me. I kept my distance from them partly out of fear but mostly out of shame.

The pampering and lavish gifts continued for three months until it all suddenly stopped. My father had what he wanted; me. The conditioning had also ended. He had reached the point he wanted, he had the five bedroom house all to himself. He was the king of his palace.

Summer was near and I was living in a dream world. But what was coming around the corner was about to shatter everything I thought to be true and real.

© Roshni Bhattacharya 2013

Welcome back Ma.

This week will finally mark the return of my mother from India. It has been a long five weeks without her. That’s not to say that I haven’t enjoyed some quality time with my husband or a chance for independence – I have. However, the feeling of being in her house for so long without her makes me anticipate what it’ll be like when she really has gone for good. Yes, how morbid but I can’t help feeling that way.

Most thirty one year olds would dread the prospect of returning home to their mother. Not me.

Growing up, we never had a connection. Even into my early twenties did the barrier remain. There were ample opportunities to move to my mums’ during the abuse yet my father’s emotional hold was too strong and my unnatural loyalty to him was keeping me back. She has always criticised that choice, the choice to stay with my abuser. In my mind, I just clung to hope. A lost hope that he would change into the father he used to be. That is why I stayed so long.

Have I enjoyed these last few months with her? Yes. More than I thought I would. I wish we had spent more time together when we both were younger. It is upsetting to imagine the years we wasted.

I can’t wait to have her back.

See you soon Mummy xx

Image

Family photos.

After the age of eleven, when primary school was over, the amount of family photos or any photos lessened. My childhood photo album stops around the age of ten. After that: empty. No one bothered to fill it up. Pictures were not taken in our house, there was nothing to document, nobody wanted to remember. I did not own a camera till my late teens so a whole section of my life feels as though it is missing. My memories are all I have and even those are a blur. 

There are no pictures of any of us at this time. My sister was eighteen when I was ten. She went inter-railing around Europe with friends after she took her A-Levels. She took photos there. However, there were no family photos. Occasionally my father would place us next to each other and force a family photo out of me and my sister. In these photos she looks incredibly uncomfortable, it’s obvious it is not her choice to be posing, to show a moment of happiness; there were no moments of happiness. I on the other hand, oblivious to my father’s controlling intentions, reveled in the picture taking much to my sister’s annoyance.

I wanted to be in photos. I wanted to see my family together. I was very aware that in reality we were falling apart. My want to be photographed only added to my sister’s resentment and irritation of me. I was self-centred and narcissistic when honestly I was a ten year girl who wanted memories of her sister.

I never had an agenda.

When I look on Facebook at friends’ photos of their family and children, I feel quite sad. I have nothing to look back on.

At my wedding, David and I had a show reel of our childhood in pictures. I have plenty of baby pictures but after a certain point the images vanish. It was upsetting to see David’s abundance of childhood photos.

Surely my life was as important. Why couldn’t my parents given me that? 

I forget to take photos of important events now. To be honest, I don’t really enjoy having my picture taken. I feel very self conscious. 

“Photography is truth” – Jean-Luc Godard.

What are you afraid of?

I fear many things. I wish I was more daring and able to take more risks. I used to be able to especially as a child. Fear was something I lacked. I spoke my mind and challenged bad things, I defended myself and took emotional risks. I let myself fail believing that there was a lesson to learn from it. 

Fear grew quite quickly. By my teenage years I was becoming more afraid. I had been criticized by my mother and sister for being selfish and self-centered as a young child. The world revolved around me apparently. I was a confident child being punished for living life. Soon, the fear came. 

During the divorce and the pressures of choice, I feared everything. Outwardly, my family saw a show. I appeared to be calm and in control but mentally I was failing. I knew I was about to make the wrong decision but in fear of becoming targeted and bullied for even thinking it, I went with my father. It was, in my mind, the easiest thing to do. I had backed myself into a corner that could not be further from my mother and sister; we were practically strangers. I had to go with him and I was scared to do it. I did not know that he would be the man they said he was but I had my doubts. I had the fear. There was the possibility. 

My fears magnified when living with my father. they became embedded in me. Not only was I clearly petrified of him, I became a shadow of the girl I once was. To me, I was no longer myself. I was a nobody. 

Rejection.

I fear this still as an adult. I am married and I don’t feel it with my husband luckily. I do feel it in most walks of life especially with friends. I try to avoid it when I can, rarely asking anything of anyone. I thought I could depend on my father, he always told me I could but each time I confided in him or asked for anything, my request was rejected and berated. I have been rejected recently by some people, people I still see. One in particular I took as being a close friend but she has recently, within the last year, decided I am not worth her time. I do not know what happened as there was no explanation yet she continues to smile and play nice. I allow her to do it. I refuse to “chase” her and mend what was clearly already a broken friendship.

Criticism.

I often wait to be critiqued and devalued by people. I expect criticism. I fear it immensely. It is my biggest insecurity yet something I cannot confront.

Tempers.

I fear fights and aggression, I try to stay out of it but sometimes it cannot be avoided. I cannot stand someone raising their voice at me, it frightens me. I hate it. It only brings back every time my father did it. How he used his volume to belittle and demean me. 

Death.

Unbelievably, not my own. I often think about dying. I don’t think I am going to live very long. David hates it when I talk like that but to me it’s a matter of fact. I fear my mother dying. It is, at the moment, my greatest fear. I think about it a lot. She is 70 now and I have begun predicting how long I will have her for. When I speak to her I worry it’ll be the last time. I cry nearly every time after the phone has been put down. It took us so long to get a normal, loving relationship, I feel as though all those years fighting a pointless battle were wasted. Time has disappeared and I may not have her for long. I am angry at my sister for what she has done to her. My mother is a shell of the woman she once was. I know in many ways she resents her life. I hate that she feels like that. I fear the day when I won’t be able to hug my mother. Her touch immediately soothes me, her voice calms me, her little idiosyncrasies make me laugh. I don’t want them to be memories yet.

Fear stifles our thinking and actions. It creates indecisiveness that results in stagnation. I have known talented people who procrastinate indefinitely rather than risk failure. Lost opportunities cause erosion of confidence, and the downward spiral begins.
Charles Stanley