That Time the Parents Came to Therapy

CW: child abuse, gaslighting, verbal abuse, victim blaming

So when last we joined our saga, I had had a flashback. I remembered vividly my dad holding me by the upper arms and shaking me, his face inches from mine. I could feel his hands gripping my arms.

I remembered how he would grab one arm to turn me around for a spanking. And I remembered being very young and getting spanked wearing only underwear.

After I got safely home the day of my flashback, I was still very shaken up. Since I happened to be on speaking terms with the parents right then, I sent my dad a text message telling him what I had remembered.

And then all hell broke loose.

They insisted on coming to therapy with me, and I thought maybe this would be good. I thought maybe I can finally get through to them, and maybe we can find a way to have a relationship. I was wrong. I will describe what happened as best I can, but it was fresh trauma, and so rather than an orderly narrative, there will be a good bit of stream-of-consciousness.

Gratuitous Cuteness: Aine the Cat

From the moment we all arrived, you could cut the air with a knife. They were stiff, solemn faced, ready to pounce. My therapist came and ushered us into her office. She introduced herself and asked what they wanted to get out of tonight’s session. It was the last civil word uttered.

My mother pounced, wanting to know just exactly what was wrong with me as they didn’t know my diagnoses. I told them I had PTSD, anxiety and depression. My dad spoke up and said, “hand to god, I’ve never laid a hand on my wife.” My mother chuckled and said, “He might hit me once!”

I should have known then that the entire thing was pointless. They weren’t going to be honest about something so basic, what could I expect when it came to how they’d treated me?

Instead I tried to prove my point. I listed specific instances and gave details of things that had happened. “What about the time on Dolan Road when you pulled her off the couch by the ankle and shoved her into the door? What about the time I got scared and went to the next door neighbors and called the police?”

That never happened, they said. Oh, one time she called the police, my dad said. “I’d had to spank her, and she was back there snufflin,” he said this mockingly, meanly. How pathetic of me to be crying after a 6’5″ 275lb man took his anger out on my backside! “I heard a knock at the door and a policeman says they had a report of child abuse. So I said wait right there. I called her back in there and I blistered her tail again right in front of him. I said I’ll show you child abuse!”

I’m pretty sure I’d remember that if it had happened. Also… well I dunno. I’d like to think a police officer wouldn’t stand back and laugh at a young teen girl being spanked for him to see. But who knows.

When I talked about him being drunk and scary, my mother said the only thing she could think of that was anything close to that was they’d let me go spend the night with a friend once, and her dad had come home drunk and I’d called them scared in the middle of the night to come get me, so they never let me stay with that friend again.

Again, I have no memory of such an event. And again it seems like the kind of thing I’d remember in the midst of all the other details I was bringing up. At one point I said to my mother that she needed to be careful or lightning would strike her. She said “It’s gonna strike you!” (“You’re the puppet…”)

Somehow my Mamaw came up, my dad’s mom. He was saying she never had gotten involved between us because she would never disrespect a parent that way. I had to laugh. “Because she was so well known for keeping her opinions to herself,” I said sarcastically. This is the woman that got in between us more than once. And yes, my grandparents did correct my parents on their parenting right in front of me. No, that wasn’t right … well sort of. If a child is being abused what are you supposed to do? Certainly not just keep your mouth shut, and my Mamaw certainly did not suffer this silently.

Gratuitous Cuteness: Nyx the Bunny as a Baby

It went back and forth like this for quite some time. My therapist never got much of a word in. She said later she was obligated to be neutral and so there just wasn’t anything she could say. But she had read them like a book. One thing she noticed was that when my dad spoke my mom froze. No doubt in her mind who was telling the truth about whether or not he’d ever hit her!

Finally about 45 minutes into the hour session (I think this was planned) my dad announces “this is pointless” and gets up to storm out. He stops and says to me:

“When I die, do not come to my funeral!”

He meant that to be his flounce, for that to hang in the air. But for once I was ready: “Oh, I’m gonna be there all right,” I said. “Just to make sure you’re dead. And then I’m gonna piss on your grave!”

My mother was still standing up beside me, and started to go off about my drinking and my “so-called marriage.” Unfortunately I didn’t have a cool comeback ready for her and just kept saying YOU NEED TO LEAVE NOW.

I was shaking. My therapist tried to calm me down as best she could. Mostly she kept asking if I was ok and if I’d be ok to drive. She had me call her when I got home to let her know I’d made it.

I didn’t get out of bed for the next week. My bestie got so worried she called my therapist from work to have her check on me one of the days.

But when I did make it back to therapy the next week it was the most validating experience of my life. My therapist had seen it all. She said she was amazed I hadn’t wound up dead or in jail. 20 years experience and she was totally blown away by them. Not once had they expressed the slightest bit of concern over my well being. Not once had they offered compassion or any care whatsoever. She said she’d never seen parents be that completely uncaring to their child in pain.

We have not spoken since.

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