Healing From Complex Trauma & PTSD/CPTSD

A journey to healing from complex trauma.

My experiences of growing up in a highly dysfunctional family.

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It has become clear to me that the insidious, covert types of abuse that occur within highly dysfunctional families with narcissistic emotionally abusive parents, can cause considerable damage, but takes a lot longer to decipher and come to understand.

The shame and guilt of scapegoating, the covert forms of incest and emotional and mental abuse of a step father who is within a ‘circle of pervert friends’ that abuses his children, can be very hard to comes to term with and due to it being covert and less obvious can cause more denial within the family, than the more overt and obvious forms of child abuse.

It’s only when you stand back and consider it from a totally un-emotional point of view, that you can see the clear picture. This is what I have had to do about my own parents. It is only through the last 8 months of therapy, I began to understand exactly why and what had gone on within my own family.

As far back as I can remember my mother was withdrawn, depressed and neglectful, but different when around other adults, and maintained an image different to o reality. I cared for my siblings a lot. At 11, my baby sibling slept in my bedroom, I would tend to her if she woke in the night, give her the first bottle in the morning before I went to school. The last thing I had to do every morning before I left to get the school bus, was wake my mother with her cigarettes and ashtray and if I forgot, there would be hell to play. I looked after my siblings like they were my own. If any of them got hurt, I was to blame. I loved my siblings so much, they were like my own children when they were young. We were out playing all day, staying out the way of our mother, who would complain about their noise, want to sleep and read all day.

As a child, myself and one of my siblings were sexually abused by one of our parent’s friends. I had been encouraged often to visit this friend who lived near us. I was sexually abused by him for 3 years. When I finally had the courage to tell our parents – because I was devastated to find out my sibling was being abused too as I caught him molesting her – they blamed me. I was 12. They said I should have told them earlier and then it wouldn’t have happened to my sibling. I got blamed. They didn’t ask me what abuse had occurred, so they never found out I had been forced to watch hardcore porn at 9, molested, forced to do sexual things. My therapist said to me maybe they knew what was happening, so that’s why they didn’t ask.

They never showed any concern, just told me shut my mouth and never phone Childline – the child abuse hotline that had not long been set up. A few years later, my step father was seen by myself talking with that abuser like they were still friends. (Mt step father also wanted to remain friends with another family where abused had occurred within our family). My mother also saw this, dragged me away from the window and told me to shut my mouth and say nothing.
This is not the normal reaction of parents who find out their children have been abused. The normal reaction is to be very angry, want to go and rip the abusers head off, report them to the police and show the abused children much love and care. None of these normal reactions occurred. This profoundly affected me.

I carried the devastating guilt, shame and blame enforced upon me for what had happened to my sibling for 3 decades and I still have nightmares about it frequently. The worst part about it is, that sibling denies her father ever did anything wrong, although she always had been his preferred child. She appeared to like his in-appropriate behaviour, as is also common within dysfunctional families. The levels of denial and scapegoating abuse is deep and has gone on within our family for decades.

I have only recently through therapy come to realise the full extent of all this abuse and how a child is singled out for scapegoating for several reasons, (i) to create someone to blame, and (ii) – to keep the family secrets from ever getting out and (iii) to make no-one believe the scapegoated one, discredit them, call them an attention seeker, drama queen, liar and encourage other family members to join in.

No empathy is ever shown to the scapegoated child, no matter what abuse they might have endured, and this is exactly what has happened. Even now family members completely ignore the abuse I have endured throughout my life, choosing only to be in denial, side with their abuser parents and continue the scapegoating abuse the parents started and try to stop the family secrets being exposed.

They have been so conditioned into showing me no empathy, they truly believe I don’t deserve any, even after a court hearing where a violent psychopath who raped, beat and tortured me for several years, threatened me with hurting my family etc, went to prison. Still no compassion, no empathy from family. Just as they were taught. Text book narcissistic behaviours and traits within a dysfunctional family.

As a teenager I endured lots of covert incest from one caregiver, all enabled by the other caregiver who did nothing to stop it. Far too much talk about sex, discussing my body and my friends bodies, to the point where one of my friend’s refused to come to our house any longer due to my ‘weird’ step father and had told her parents and they refused to let her come to my house. I was mortified, highly embarrassed and although I didn’t understand why all this ‘weird stuff’ was going on – I instinctively knew it was wrong.

More incidents of abuse included my parents telling me it was okay to walk around in my underwear – as that was no different to a bikini – which of course it is, and was highly inappropriate. The step father walked in on me too many times as I was getting undressed, I learned to wedge my bedroom door shut. He also liked to take baths with my female siblings until they were around 5 or 6. It used to really gross me out. This is highly inappropriate behaviour, I know that now. I don’t remember if he did that with me, I seem to have blocked out many memories of between 4-7.
Even around the time I was about 7 or 8, I do remember I used to hang a jangly thing on the end of my bedroom door handle so I would wake up if someone came in my room at night. I didn’t feel safe, even then. You can imagine what my therapist thought of that, children that age don’t feel they are unsafe unless they have good reason to.

Later on I was also scapegoated for the failure of my parent’s business and bankruptcy. I was always made to feel unwelcome, like I was tolerated, rather than cared about, used. Even my friends pointed out how I was being used by them for money etc. I lived 100 miles away from them and tried to visit them every month. They never visited me, phoned me. I was the black sheep of the family. I wasted so much time trying to get them to love me, giving them money, trying to part of the family, protecting my siblings.

I’ve had many lengthy periods of time not speaking to them, either individually or collectively. Now, I have no contact with any of them and won’t again. My step father is dead. I went to the funeral for my siblings to support them. Not for me, or for him. I wasn’t upset he was dead. I found out recently he had started physically abusing my siblings, hitting them, one incidence was described as him grabbing a sibling by the hair and hurling her across the room. This doesn’t surprise me. When this physical abuse was happening, my mother and step father separated. When he died, I wasn’t upset he was dead. I was upset for my siblings. They are related to that caregiver and I am not. I now wish I hadn’t gone to the funeral, but at least I know in my heart why I did it. I also choose not to mention any names to still protect my siblings a little. I don’t have to, because I know they need to come out of denial, accept the reality of our childhoods, the abuse, who caused t and why. I still hope they will, but this will be a journey they will need to experience without me, as I have a right to say enough is enough. I’ve always been there for you, always tried to help you, protected you. But now I need to focus on me.
There are many more incidents of abuse, way too many to list here. But they all add to one thing, abuse. And a lot of it.

With the help of my therapist, the enormity of all this abuse, the core level damage as a result and the start of what would cause all further abuse I endured and disorders like PTSD I now struggle with – all come back to my caregivers. I have put the blame firmly with them, just as my therapist had told me I need to. Just as my husband and friends also say I need to, I refuse to hold any shame or guilt or blame anymore.

I have removed the toxic relationships and have taken back my power. I have removed the abusive power at its source and many people around me who love me are very pleased, including my therapist who said it is the first healthy boundary I have implemented. I feel free of the toxic and destructive chains.

It is a very liberating and freeing step to take. I have done a lot of work towards my recovery from decades of abuse. I still have a lot more work to do. But, I am moving in the right direction.

Author: Healing From Complex Trauma & PTSD/CPTSD

I am a survivor of complex and multiple trauma and abuse, who at the age of 40, began my healing journey. I am using my journey to recovery and healing, to help others, to help survivors feel less alone, validated, encouraged and to enable others to understand themselves more. Complex trauma, particularly from severe, prolonged childhood abuse, is profoundly life changing. Complex trauma produces complex adults. The journey to recovery is a painful, often lonely, emotional daily challenge and it is my aim to encourage others in their daily battle. ~ Lilly Hope Lucario

6 thoughts on “My experiences of growing up in a highly dysfunctional family.

  1. I totally understand. Family PTSD is hard to overcome, and the survivors (the children) are often pitted against each other. It is an ugly situation and very difficult to explain to others. There is a lifetime of anger, guilt, hurt, and many other emotions. As those who have also lived in traumatic family environments know, it is a difficult challenge. Thank you for posting.

  2. Your post really spoke to me. I was also the victim of incest growing up. It all began with my half sibling from my mother’s previous relationship and then my stepfather started abusing me. It got to the point where it started occurring simultaneously. I, too, lived in a house full of abuse. I finally told my mother about my stepfather when I was 17. She never went to the police because she thought they along with the Feds were after her. After the brunt of the sexual abuse stopped, my mom went through a range of emotions from a mixture of paranoia and optimism then to optimism and finally back to paranoia before having a complete mental breakdown by 2010. It took me years of living apart from my half sister to realize our relationship wasn’t all that great. For about four years straight, she and some of my other relatives would harp on me not having a job after my hospital internship ended in 2011. At the same time, whenever I tried to tell her how I’ve been earning money online, she would shoot me down and tried to give me this false hope that I’ll get approved for SSI soon and none of my efforts were worth it. 2013-2014 was when she started getting worse.

    In 2013, she berated me twice, one time over the phone and the other time in person because of the way I looked and the fact that she thought there was dirt on my neck. I was in tears after that yet I still decided to stay over her house that day even when this disgusting piece of trash decided to step out to sleep with a guy more than likely. The following year, things got a little bad for my dad and I in the beginning months. Congress let the unemployment extension run out and it never made it past the Senate. Dad told me to tell my sister what was going on even though I knew she couldn’t help me. She was supposed to have come over the following day to talk about our situation (harp on how I had no one to turn to), but didn’t show up until nearly two months later and with one of her friends. She basically tried to force her way back into my life (most likely because her friend was around) and practically told me to accept her Facebook friend request. After we went out to dinner together one last time in 2014, I decided that it was the final straw for me. She basically admitted that there was no hope of me ever getting disability and told me that if anything were to happen to my dad, no none not even her would be there for me. So, after that, I did my best to ignore her and she finally got the picture around late summer 2015 when I only ignored her personal messages twice and the next thing I knew she unfriended me. I should’ve never accepted her request and just blocked her right off the spot. In her last message, she basically indicated that she never cared much for me to begin with. She said how I thought I had life figured out and that I was an adult and she wasn’t gonna chase me anymore. Although I was happy that she will not be in my life anymore, I was also angry from feeling like I still had to keep our dark secret. After about a couple days, I finally texted my dad that she molested me growing up. I also told some other people including a couple ladies from the church I used to go to (one was the pastor’s wife). My half sister not only denied that she abused me, but she turned the tables on me and said it was because I was jealous of her success (she had gotten what she said was a high paying internship that would allow her to earn more once she graduated). She also tried telling her boyfriend a different story about us. You see, she says one thing and then says and does another. She wanted to make pretend she cared for me when she really didn’t. Her actions and real thoughts prove it. Now, not only does most of my mom’s relatives want to support her and make it seem like it’s because I have nothing, but my paternal grandmother is supporting her to due to dementia and just being in denial. My dad and his sister both believe something may have happened, but can’t ask me anything until my paternal grandmother pass away. My half sister is just playing my grandmother for a fool knowing she doesn’t like her. She once bragged about sending her apology letter back. In the end, I should’ve known my confession was gonna make things worse. But, it had to come out. And since going to therapy myself, I realized these people are the ones who have the problem not me. They know the family’s messed up and incest has happened before, but they wanna cover it up. At this point, I’m tired of trying to make things work knowing it’ll never be and frankly tired of being around people who are cruel, careless and self serving. I’m just gonna save up my money and leave Baltimore forever.

  3. Thank you for sharing this. Its really eye opening. As you share your story, I feel that my story is Just as valid. I too have been mostly disconnected from toxic parents. That’s the best way to start healing and not exposing yourself to any injury-physically, emotionally or mentally. Great Work!

  4. Really Appreciate your openness and sharing what you have. I am just starting to gently open up the bottle of my childhood and learn what happened and how it wasn’t my fault. Trying to encourage my sister who is much more tough and hard to open up about the issues we were surrounded with. I know that everyones process is different so I can have hope that every bit of information we read, articles like this one brings us closer to freedom from childhood trama.

  5. Thank you for sharing your story. This has helped me more than you could ever know.

  6. I cannot believe how much this resembled my own childhood. I am a 39 year old man, yet I had a major crisis the other day after some major memories started coming back to me. One of the ones that resonated with me was how your mother would act differently in front of other adults, but would shame you in private. My parents would praise me with the highest praise they could, yet condemn me for the slightest thing that was done “wrong”. I have felt myself using the same tactics as an adult and this is usually where the crises come down on me. It is a very sick pattern and I have decided that no contact is in order. Thank you very much for this…. I realize that I need help and that I can only start by helping myself.