“This is an interesting question because we are just now finding out who we are. As a child, the Steel Town Girl is a vulnerable, confused, silly girl at heart, who just wants to be a kid, and longs to be loved and seen by her family. But, because of dysfunctional family dynamics and abuse, she doesn’t get to have a childhood. She’s a wounded child by night, and an extra, super, do-gooder by day. Many Steel Town Girls are just now, in midlife, waking up to what they really are without all the conditioning of “never good enough,” “who do you think you are?” and confronting the fear caused by being told, “You’d shut your mouth if you knew what was good for you.” Some of us have empty nests now, and others are years into retirement, wondering where our loves and lives have gone? And for as much compassion, time, and energy we’ve given to raise up others, we are left alone to pick up the pieces of our fragmented selves. We’ve given up our lives and our identities to our families who somehow have taken us for granted and look at us as if we are somewhat unhinged. So, we turn to stare at a face we no longer recognize and realize in the end, after all this, we are alone. We pull the capes we wear from under us and sit down at our computers to sew together the pieces of our lives that make us who we are. We read our stories and we can’t believe we are just now realizing that we’ve had empathy for everyone but ourselves. We’ve forgiven everyone but ourselves. And we’ve kept everyone’s secrets for far too long. We’ve stayed strong for so long and the magnitude of staying silent for one more second is crushing us. We’re learning to stand up for ourselves once and for all. And as we do, we weep for the little girls we realize we left, lost, without a voice for their pain. So, we do the work even when we don’t want to, and when we’re done, we show up with our stories in hand and say, “Of course, I look unhinged. This is what my life has been like, I hope you understand why I didn’t tell you this before.” We are the women trying to find the strength to love ourselves through the difficult chapters of our lives all while taking the risk of being judged and ridiculed for feeling anything about it at all.”
We’re girls who go on to break the chains of abuse. —Pow! 💥
Girls who Adult Hard because their kids are worth it! —Boom!💥
Girls who Smash Stereotypes! —(Take that!) 💥
Destroy diagnoses! —(Splat!) 💥
Extinguish excuses! —(Zoink!) 💥
And Let go of Labels! —(Pop!) 💥
We needed a hero, so we became one! — Boop! —We’re girls that muscle through and get shit done! And now, we are here to green-light ourselves because no one’s gonna do it for us! We make our own girl-hero figurines because we are just crazy enough to do it. —And, we NOW… have some things to say about our experiences here on planet Earth!
If you’d like to know more about Steel Town Girl as a child, you can buy my memoir in paperback or Kindle on Amazon.
If you’d like to know more about Steel Town Girl as a woman, stay tuned here on my blog.
I read an article by Dr. Perry of MakeItUltra Psychology about How to Have Boundaries with a Toxic Person, and although I agree with his tips when it comes to healing from the trauma pathological narcissists leave in their wake, I don’t necessarily agree they should be incorporated immediately with anyone that we deem “negative,” which is basically anyone speaking out about the bad behaviors of others lately. Reading the comments under that post proved interesting.
One reader said, “I refuse to interact with negative people! As an empath, they literally make me sick!” — Ugh! People like this make me sick. And good luck living in your bubble.
Then, there was the person that said they “ignored them and went mute.” — Yeah. That’s called “gray rock” and is a survival tactic used by those healing from abuse when they have to interact with their abusers and ‘no contact’ is not an option for their healing. Used outside of this context, these people appear to be self-absorbed and rude, aka: as an asshole. Great look by the way.
And, my favorite comment — was the manager — who chimed in saying that the employees she managed were toxic because they complained to her, therefore, drawing her into the negativity and draining her. — Uh, that’s called your job, so people are going to naturally come to you with problems, you know… because you’re the manager… yikes, really?
I just finished listening to Dr. Christiane Northrup’s new book on Audible, called Dodging Energy Vampires, and although I know energy drainers are copious; I’ve dealt with my fair share of them, and we do indeed have to check them at the door after a while — I see an emerging trend happening where people are becoming far too superior to anyone in need of talking things through. And the trend I see is it’s typically the abusers who’ve done the wrong and then want to prohibit the victim from talking about it thereby calling them “toxic” when the conversation points to them taking accountability for their actions. They are flipping the script and calling this “having boundaries.” No, you’re a bully that abuses and then gaslights your victim. Let’s not get it twisted. —
Boundaries are for victims to protect themselves from more harm. Not for abusers to be able to abuse more.
There are two people in a relationship: When one person in that relationship is no longer allowed to have a reaction to shitty behavior, and nothing you do, say, think or feel, after being abused is allowed in the name of the other person “having boundaries” — you are in fact dealing with a narcissistic bully. When that person tells you whatever the hell it is they want to tell you, no matter how hurtful, and then pulls the, “you’re negative,” “it’s not about you,” or “it’s not personal” card, when you want to talk about it, what they are really saying is that they want free reign to abuse you, yet fog their intentions by calling them boundaries.
The subtitle of Dodging Energy Vampires is, “Evading Relationships that Drain You and Restoring Your Health and Power.” Evading relationships? O.k? But at what point? Apparently, the second one deems someone is negative is the answer. If my son calls and asks me how I’m doing, and I say I have a headache, according to him, that is negative and I’m always sick. So, that has become a reason for not coming home for eight Christmases. Li.ter.al. The message is: I have to be fun, and easy to be with at every second, never mention anything about myself, and when he asks me anything, lie. No thanks. Don’t come home then.
And, really… what relationship doesn’t drain us after a while? Solution: I’ll just evade you. Nice. Restoring our health and power is not about being armored up sitting high upon a throne in our untouchable superiority. Evading and shutting people down is a rigid, angry behavior and is abuse in an of itself when done to someone you’ve just abused. This behavior of cutting people off at the knees and evading others in pain is a what Jeff Brown calls trauma-bypassing and is a learned patriarchal behavior.
“Be Here Now”! We can’t. We have too much trauma in the way. “The Power of Now”! Sounds good, but first, we have to deal with the “Power of Then.” Worst things, first. It’s easy enough to talk about being in the “now.” But what we are we even talking about? Now through the mind? Through the heart? Through the body? What does it even mean to be fully present? Most of the people teaching nowness are head-tripping, meditation addicted spiritual bypassers. What do they really know about presence? The truth is that we are all trauma survivors, and that includes every spiritual teacher I have ever known. Almost every one of them has confused self-avoidance with enlightenment, blaming the mind for all that ails them while conveniently sidestepping their wounded hearts. Bottom line- we can’t be in the present, because our emotional and physical body are tied up in trauma knots. Some, many, perhaps all threads of our consciousness are still back there, locked into the originating wounds. If we want to truly BE HERE NOW, we have to be there, then. We have to untie the knots and heal the core wounds. Then, and only “then”, will we know the true power of NOW.” — Jeff Brown
I’m all for boundaries against toxic people, but before labeling someone toxic, don’t forget people are human and looking for connection. Part of being a friend is listening and holding space for people. We’ve forgotten this. Giving people the benefit of the doubt first, with some compassion and empathy may work wonders on someone feeling heard. If someone is toxic, maybe we haven’t heard them out? If that’s your take on someone immediately, maybe you’re projecting? We live in a very literal society anymore. It would be nice if people had some sort of tolerance level before cutting people off at the knees, lest they become the toxic person themselves.
I’m not saying that we must become a welcome mat for people to wipe their feet on, or that we should tolerate people chewing our ears while we should be working, or that we need to be tolerating bad behavior year after year and calling that a relationship… let’s not be so literal and disclaimer-y to the nth degree, k? But, let’s use some common sense. We pretty much know in our heart of hearts the difference between someone venting, and someone toxic, am I right? When someone wants to mend a relationship by talking about the past so it doesn’t repeat itself, and that of someone toxic. I certainly understand the difference. Venting is a once in a while thing, and toxic is all the time. Discussion about pain is altogether different and should be a back and forth, honest dialogue between two people who reciprocate listening, asking questions, while having respect for one another.
Life is hard. Be kind. Come back later and let someone know you care before you decide someone should be written off as “toxic.” Think of that word, “toxic.” It means waste, very bad, unpleasant, harmful. Not something I’m willing to do on a whim. And, I’m not saying that we have to keep taking it and taking it to prove our love to people either. This is a balance thing. You can be soft and kind and still have boundaries like a mofo.
Thankfully, when I was dying on the vine, I was able to put myself into counseling when I didn’t have a shoulder to lean on or an ear to talk to about my pain. It made all the difference in the world to help me stay another day. Think! Some people may not have that resource. And why are they trusting YOU with their story!?
We want world peace, but we don’t want to talk. We want to break generational curses and patterns but we want to evade doing the work. That’s not how any of this even works.
Be an ear. A shoulder. Have a heart. Have boundaries, but don’t forget your own humanness for toxicity. Don’t be so quick to write people off. Take breaks, but go visit your heart and check in with what you really know. It knows the truth. Anything else is toxic.
Hey there! It’s been a while since my last post… five months to be exact, and four months since posting to my recipe blog. I posted a lentil chili recipe yesterday and awoke to 95 more followers to that blog this morning. Cool beans! (If any of you out there know how to merge two blogs into one, let me know!)
Anyway, I’d love to be able to report here on my book/writing/healing blog that I have been back to writing my second memoir, but I have not. I spent this time moving and settling into our new home, making and sending art for the art groups I’m in and have enjoyed some down time in Key West with my youngest son, husband, and mother-in-law. After a tour at The Hemingway House, I’m just now feeling the writing juices percolating again.
Polydactyl kitty cat waiting for treats
My first memoir Steel Town Girl was published last September and is doing surprisingly well. My editor loved it and she’s written 31 books, so I’m not sure why I’m so surprised, but of course I am. Also, I got a shout-out from Darcie Chan on FB and Twitter the other day. She’s the uber-talented writer of the Mill River series. If you haven’t read her, I highly recommend them. Start here.
I was published for about five minutes and was still recovering from that when I was pelted yet again. I’m doing better now, but in all honesty, much of my time away from this blog came after this post and this one back in November, when afterward I received a scathing email from my son. Apparently, my outing him on my blog; my place for healing and reflection, (and something encouraged by my therapist), pushed him to the edge and he lashed out in a lengthy email about just what a ridiculous, embarrassing mess of a person he thinks I’ve become.
He poked fun at me for taking a new medicine (an antidepressant) saying I “was always sick”, shamed me for deleting him and all his flying monkey friends, and I was blamed for things as far back as 2004, while his father got a free pass for absolutely everything.
He scolded me saying that he doesn’t like the negativity I put out into the Universe (which means he doesn’t like having other people know…) and told me that this may be “unrecoverable” and “unrepairable.”
He accuses me of creating this blog because I love being a victim. He ended by saying that he doesn’t like the mom I am now, he likes the fun-loving, high-energy mom he grew up with, and that if I think I’ll be invited to his wedding I have another thing coming.
In other words, I should be fun, and easy to with regardless of how he treats me. How dare I have a normal reaction to abnormal behavior.
It took me these few months to get my bearings again after that email. I was already reeling when I got it, so it was like getting kicked in the stomach while you’re already on the ground. But, breaking this pattern of trauma bonding is not for the faint at heart. It’s something we’ve been conditioned in childhood to do. To go right back, again and again, looking for comfort in the very person who kicked us while we’re down.
Letting go of the arousal jag of continually trying to fix shit I didn’t break was difficult and exhausting because it was ingrained in who I was. The Fixer. Of everything. To everyone. Well, no more!
Now, I’m walking taller and straighter than I have in a long time. I’m doing it without meds (my choice) and life feels better than it has in a long time.
The pain that used to linger throughout my chest is no longer there. The manic, “What did I do wrong? and it’s ugly sister, “What Can I Do To Make You Love Me”, has given way to, “Not My Fucking Problem.”
It’s taken this time away to realize that the balm that soothes trauma bonding most is called, “No Contact.” (With them, and anyone associated with them.) You apply it liberally, as many times per day as needed until it becomes second nature and becomes easier to breathe. But you can’t use “No Contact” until you use the pre-treatments: “Not Your Fault,” and “You Can’t Change Them.” When you put the cart before that horse, it just won’t work. You’ll feel guilty. But, when you feel those two things deep within your bones, then, feel free to use the third step: “No Contact.”
Detoxing feels awful at first, but when the toxic sludge of this conditioning stops coursing through your veins, it actually feels like you’ve been given a gift! And you realize — this was a gift you had to give to yourself!
Please don’t continue this pattern in any relationship and call it love. Once you’ve identified it, stop it!
When we go back to our partner or spouse after abuse, people either say we’re hopelessly in love or call us nuts. It’s nuts. (More on that later.) When we go back to our children after abuse by sweeping it under the rug, people tell us what good parents we are. That’s not being a good parent! It’s being a doormat, and it’s not normal!
So, I did a lot of thinking, reflecting and soul-searching in my time away from this blog. I still continue to learn the difference between narcissism and Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) and I came to the conclusion that it really doesn’t matter the diagnosis. It’s his issue, it’s not mine to fix, worry about, or deal with anymore, so I choose to live for me for once. My son is a thirty-three-year-old man who will have to figure out why he acts like he does, what his issues are, who created those issues, and how he can change them on his own like everybody else. But, regardless of why, what, who, or how… his behavior is his choice. And it’s my choice not to deal with it anymore.
If and when he wants to talk to me; to us with dignity and respect, apologize for his behavior and not talk over me, we can have an adult discussion. I’ll own my role, he can own his, and we can move on in life. But, I won’t hold my breath. Until then, No Contact it is.
I went out to lunch with a friend today and I saw two couples sitting with their 2019 wall calendars and spiral bound planners mapping out their New Year together. I love a new planner too and the hope I feel when I can see 365 days all strung out in front of me to do with what I want. 365 opportunities. 365 gifts. What are we going to do with them all?
Planning has been one of the ways I’ve kept my anxiety at bay in the past, and the type of planning and tracking I do in my planner, has changed as I’ve changed. This year, I achieved what felt like an impossible feat; finishing my first novel. It took five years to write and each year for five years straight I put it in the slot of my #1 goal, and continued to move it to the next year, and the next… and the next before it was done.
But, 2019 will be the first year that I’m adding reminders to my planner that will continue to help me protect myself as well as keep me on the road to healing the destruction left in the wake of enduring and learning of narcissistic abuse.
My 2019 resolutions related to ending abuse, disrespectful familial patterns and recovering from trauma are:
I’m going to stay angry about it. That doesn’t make me a bad person. It’s actually necessary when you are too empathetic and at risk for of being abused.
I am hanging up my Wonder Woman outfit. People will have to fight their own battles like I have. I will no longer feel it my duty to rescue others. I’m busy rescuing myself.
I will continue to take my anti-depressant and anti-anxiety meds and not allow people to shame me about it.
I will no longer word paint for the blind. I understand now that narcissists purposely frustrate our efforts to communicate and our desire to feel validated and are not concerned with the truth.
I will no longer be dismissed, demeaned, and devalued in my own family.
I will remain No Contact with abusers, their triangulated flying monkeys and not feel bad about protecting myself from any of them. This is not a discard. These are boundaries for my health.
People that can’t or won’t defend me against abuse are what my therapist call perpetrators of abuse. If someone is fine with me getting pummeled as long as they don’t have to get involved. Those are not my people.
I will require an apology and changed behavior from here on out. (Hint: If you’re the type of person that hates apologizing, stop doing hurtful shit to other people you have to apologize for. Simple.)
I’ll no longer be the heavy lifter in relationships and won’t accept lop-sided, sloppy seconds from people I call friends and family.
If things in my life are trying to fall apart, I will let them. I have no more strength to fight.
I will trust patterns and not words.
I will listen to my intuition when it sends me warning signals and I will proceed no further — no matter what anyone says.
I will no longer allow negative, mean bullies to take their anger out on me with unfounded accusations, criticisms, and insults. If they don’t show up with facts and examples in a respectful manner, they can keep their generalizations and projections of themselves — to themselves.
Others opinions of me are none of my business. I’ve studied myself for 51 years… I know who I am, and how I am, and I love myself.
I’m worthy of the same love, consideration and respect that I’ve given to others. Asking for those things isn’t expecting too much.
I will rest when I need to without feeling guilty for what I’m not doing.
I will no longer apologize when I’m sick or when I need something. I’m human. And my needs matter.
I will focus more on the love I’m getting than the love I’m not.
I will have self-compassion and not beat myself up for having feelings, not accuse myself of being overly-sensitive for crying or having a difficult day. Those are mental loops that play out in my head from abuse and I’m undoing them, defiantly.
I will say no without further explanation.
I won’t harm myself with hope. Hoping for reconciliation of any past relationship or wishing it was different will only leave me open for more harm.
I now know that no response — is a response. I don’t need to attend to every argument I’m invited to. I have to conserve my energy for more pressing matters like healing and living my life.
I will nourish myself with copious amounts of self-love; massages, facials, plan mini-getaways, take girl’s weekends, I will eat dinner in bed and lounge extravagantly. And I will know that I deserve everything good.
I’m only going where I feel happy, loved and accepted for who I am. I’ll surround myself with with people who are happy to celebrate me and my own successes, who are encouraging to me, love me for who and how I am, and not those who merely tolerate me. (Tolerate traffic. Love people.)
There will be more talking about the elephant in the room and less sweeping things under the rug in my family. They will grow, or go. Their choice.
This is my blog, and my outlet for healing, and I will discuss on it what I wish. I will be transparent about my life. The good, the bad, the ugly. I will be brave with my life and not be bullied or threatened regarding what I write about. I’m a memoirist. That’s what we do.
If you’re being mentally and emotionally abused, I hope my boundaries serve as reminders to you that we don’t have to take this shit anymore and we are worthy of all things lovely.
If you are in physical danger, please make a plan to leave quietly, or call 911.
If you’re here reading and we have parted on good, bad, or indifferent terms, I still wish you the very best in 2019 and always. I hope you find what you are looking for.
Please contact me via my author’s page on FB: here to send me your addresses. Please allow extra time to arrive in your mailbox during the busy holiday mailing season. And please don’t forget to pass the book along to other memoir lovers and leave your honest review on Amazon.
Thank you so much for participating!
~ Robin Donnelly
*Winners have until December 31st to claim their book!
I snapped this photo on my walk a few weeks back. I walked past it at first then did a double take and walked back to re-read what I thought I read the first time.
Are you down there, Hope?
Something I’ve been since childhood is hopeful. My mother would comment on how quickly I bounced back and how ever-hopeful I was no matter what was happening around us as she shook her head at me in amazement. I mean, I had my own cheerleading outfit for God’s sake! I wore the blue and yellow outfit I got from Sears around the house complete with matching pompoms, as I cheered room to room, encouraging myself and driving my mother crazy. Hahaha! Or should I say Rah! Rah! Rah! I was born an optimist!
But, it’s taken decades to realize that having hope isn’t always a good thing and being naively optimistic isn’t always the best use of our energy. I can’t believe I’m going to say this in black and white, and typing this out ‘almost’ makes me feel apathetic — like I’m somehow giving up, but… having hope in a hopeless situations can make us sick, stuck, depressed, anxiety-ridden, attached, trapped in bad relationships and not living our life to the fullest. Ironic huh? Let go of hope, find a life. Weird? It’s like we have to lower our standards just to get by in life sometimes, ya know?
“I looked out the window at the trees quickly passing by and knew that’s what my life felt like. I smiled a bit at the thought of a new life, a good one this time. But I secretly hated that I could so easily be talked into hope. I hated hope. It wasn’t the thing with wings that perched itself in your soul. It was the thing with horns that clawed your guts out as it laughed in your face for being stupid enough to be hopeful in the first place. And I felt much too old for this. I didn’t have much life left in me. I was worn out.”
I was 14 years old in that scene and I felt eighty.
I didn’t hate hope. I loved it. I hated the feelings of frustration, sadness, loss, and pain I felt in my heart I was left with when hopeful situations turned hopeless, which was more times than I could count.
At my age now, I have to conserve my energy for other things in situations that won’t change. I’m learning to discern what situations are hopeful and I’m realizing that in order to save myself, I must let go of hope in some situations. I can no longer easily get talked into hope. That doesn’t make me feel hopeless, it makes me feel more self-aware and much smarter than I was before. I’m still here and I’m still learning every day.
I will still encourage myself and will continue to be my own cheerleader regardless of what’s going on around me. Even when I get really down, I will eventually get back up. After all, I have lots of things I still want to do with my life. And I can’t do any of them when I’m searching storm drains for hope.
I got up close and personal with my camera just to be sure Hope wasn’t hiding from me.
Hope didn’t answer.
Well, at least there’s no red balloon down there, I thought as I walked away.