The Confusion of Denial

I am a (sometimes overly) considerate and empathetic person, and my natural desire to honor the dignity of others sometimes gets in the way of admitting what happened. I was conditioned to protect my abusers and not myself. I put far too much care into what would happen to their “feelings” if I told the truth.  Writing about abuse is difficult when my abusers continue to deny its existence. I have been accused by my abusers of wanting revenge, while at the same time maintaining that I have no reason to seek it. I don’t want revenge. I want honesty. I want transparency. I want peace.

For my own healing, I need to admit what happened. But “what happened” is not as pertinent as how it felt, and how the effects played into virtually every aspect of my life. I will share some details to give context, but it is not my intent to describe what happened so much as it is to describe how it felt to me, and what the effects were. My hope is that others who have struggled with similar experiences might benefit from my point of view.

Some survivors of child abuse had safe people in their lives who could help them. I did not. Some had a trustworthy parent or guardian who acknowledged the abuse and helped them get the resources they needed to heal. I did not. Some survivors had abusers who were so out of control they could not conceal it. They were caught and held accountable. Mine were not. Abuse of any kind, for any length, is a nightmare. My experience of it was made worse with years of denial.

My parents were high-functioning. They knew how to behave in public. They knew how to cover their tracks. They offered an alternate point of view to themselves and others whenever they could.  They would put me down in little ways to others in order to discredit me. I was, after all, only a kid. If anything had happened, I had probably deserved it. Wasn’t I such a little stinker? They put on a good face to store clerks, neighbors, teachers, friends, and family.  However, none of that changed the fact that I was abused in every way a person can be abused. I was first abused by my parents, but then there were others. I did not escape the pattern set for me until I was an adult and took measures to stop it. Even as an adult, patterns in lesser forms arose, like enduring the narcissist at work who singled me out, or the backstabbing ex-friend who tried to smear me, or the millions of times my throat ached because I wanted to call someone out on their bullshit but didn’t.

My parents did not have close friends to hold them accountable. We visited extended family for only a couple of hours on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter. They did not belong to any kind of group or club. By design, there was no one in their lives who could challenge them. We were isolated.

Most importantly, they deceived themselves into thinking they did no wrong. When questioned, they would alternately deny, minimize, deflect, and blame. Whoever asked the question would then be discredited and shut out. It didn’t matter if I presented them with facts. It didn’t matter if I presented them with my feelings. They wanted no part of either. In their minds, “nothing” happened. They were good parents, and I was ungrateful.

I developed PTSD from the abuse. I have a long history of health issues directly related to the abuse. All the physical effects of the damage are there. Yet, it is the denial and minimization from others that hurts the most. I can accept what happened and deal with it. It is harder to accept that the people who did it deny it and feel no remorse. Harder still, to accept that those people were my own parents.

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