What I want you to know about having an abusive parent

What I Want You to Know is a series of reader submissions. It is an attempt to allow people to tell their personal stories, in the hopes of bringing greater compassion to the unique issues each of us face. If you would like to submit a story to this series, click here. Today’s guest post is by Rosie.

I am close to 30. Yet when someone yells and curses, when I see vehicles that look like his, or when I smell a combination of cigarette smoke and motor oil, I am a child. I am 5 and being screamed at for accidentally spilling my milk (yes - spilled milk WAS something to cry over in my house). I am 8 and watching him actually damage the walls of the house in his rage. I am a teenager rocking in a corner and sobbing because I committed the egregious sin of getting a scratch in the paint of my car.

I struggle with depression and anxiety. I have intense flashbacks to every time he abused me, my siblings, and especially my mother. I think watching him hurt her was the hardest part.

But I also forgive him. It's not a good excuse that he was abused as a child. So was I, and I don't make those types of decisions or act that way. But I know that it's only by the grace of God that I didn't end up like him. This is the man who was supposed to show me what a husband should be like, and yet I married a man who is kind and respectful, and takes responsibility. My mother was supposed to show me what being a wife means, yet I do not enable and make excuses. They were both supposed to show me what being a parent means, yet I do not smack my infant for "hitting" or scream and swear at my toddler for making a mess.

But forgiving, contrary to what my parents may believe, doesn't mean putting yourself in the same situation and allowing that person to continue to hurt you and be toxic in your life. My mother won't leave, so I do still see him occasionally. I am polite. I make conversation. But if she ever left, I would wish him nothing but the best, and proceed to never speak to him again.

I want you to know that despite my stance here, I do understand why my mother stays, and why women like her do. Identifying with the abuser makes it easier to cope. Defending them makes it easier to avoid explaining what the heck you're doing with someone who treats you (or your kids) like that. You want what they want, like what they like, and hate what they hate because that's how you keep them "happy."

You should also know that forgiveness is a process. I can't say that I never have a moment where I'm angry that he did this to us. Or where I'm crushed that I wasn't enough to make him change (which I do understand is ridiculous). Or where I want to shake him for manipulating my mother to the point where she chooses him over her own children consistently. Because I know my mother felt about me how I feel about my children. And I can't imagine what type of brainwashing is required to overpower that.

I am so blessed to have a supportive husband, extended family, and friends. And to understand that the way I grew up is not the way it's supposed to be. That a parent needs to protect their child - not be the thing they need to be protected from.

Most of all, I guess I want you to know that there's help. If you recognize yourself in my father, get counseling and anger management. If you recognize yourself in my mother, get counseling and make sure your kids are safe. Even if he doesn't lay a hand on them, he is hurting them. I am proof. If you recognize yourself in me, get counseling and tell yourself as many times as you have to that this is not your fault. You are enough, you are worthwhile, and you can work to forgive and move on. You are loved.

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