Internalization, boundaries, and me

Communication is amazing, when it actually happens.

It’s cliche, but both sides have to be willing to exchange and receive information.

I’m trying to talk to my parents again. This is a choice I have made, not out of obligation.

I’m told that I’m naïve, but there’s this little flicker of optimism inside me that refuses to die. The part of me that can’t hate, when my hurts scab over and my anger cools.

I still love them.

I stood my ground, I’ve taken off that happy mask I wore in front of the world and declared, “Hey, this is what happened to me and it was wrong.”

And now I want to move on, whatever that means.

If you’re another survivor reading this, I’m not telling you to return to your abusers. You deserve to be treated with respect, not harmed.

This is just for me. This is my journey.

Only time will tell if healing is possible.

And for the first time in two years, my parents seem open to listening. Because now I can express myself, several things are happening.

1.) I discovered my parents weren’t aware of many harmful ideas I believed.

Another homeschool A Beka Academy alum recently wrote:

“My parents and I have discussed this at length. I know that, as a parent, it would be hard to realize the messages your children are internalizing, especially when they don’t communicate them to you.”

Some things my parents told me as a child, other ideas I just assumed they wanted me to believe.

I told them I used to think:

  • Jesus was obligated to die for my sins, it wasn’t a choice and therefore, I’d murdered him.
  • I was ineligible for marriage because Dad’s micromanaging behaviors would annoy potential husbands, therefore, I’d end up divorced.
  • I thought of harming others when very angry, therefore I was evil and should die before I hurt someone.

My heart understood these as universal truths, and shame etched itself so dark and deep that I never dared to speak them aloud.

Until now.

My mom said she didn’t know I’d taken certain ideas to such extremes.  And she didn’t say I was mistaken or exaggerating, she simply said that she was sorry for my pain.

2.) I’m able to set healthier boundaries

My parents discounted my desires and opinions for years.

Even when I left at age 23, their attitude was something like:  “Well, your move out wasn’t legitimate, so, we don’t have to treat you like an adult.”

I told them I’d been an adult since 18, but they said that was only society’s standard, not a true measure of my maturity. And to remember that Christians should be separate from the world. I hadn’t moved out with their blessing and consent.

They were the parents, so therefore, they had the right to show up at my work unannounced, find me outside classes. Because I don’t have “real” jobs yet.

I found it impossible to maintain healthy boundaries against that perspective.

But this is changing.

Now my parents and I schedule times to meet that work for both of our schedules, and they’re better about asking me if it’s ok to drop something by.

Over dinner last month, I asked my mom if she’d read something online, and my dad interrupted before she could reply, “Oh no, Mom’s too busy for that.”

“Did you ask her, or did you just decided that she was too busy?” I countered. My dad paused. “Well…”

“But did you ask her?”

Outside his gaze, my mom nodded her head slightly.

He means well. But intent is not magic. And it’s possible to crush the ones you care about.

I’m not silent anymore.

3.) We’re gradually doing normal things

Two years ago, I told my family I didn’t understand why they stopped seeing me as their daughter, as their sister, and treated me like a reprobate just because I didn’t want to go to Bob Jones University.

I pleaded with them to talk to me about daily life, anything but attending their church or transferring colleges.

I grieved for the belonging with them that I lost.

I said moving across town didn’t mean I stopped loving them, that living on your own was part of growing up. They said I was wrong, and acting like nothing had happened would be like approving of my misdeeds.

But this year we had lunch together on Easter, and I went to a movie with my dad.

I don’t know what happens next. I wish I could guess like a movie critic predicting plotlines, but it’s not that simple.

But things are changing. And maybe I am healing.

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3 thoughts on “Internalization, boundaries, and me

  1. This is beautiful Eleanor, and I’m thankful too. I identify with your parents more than they may realize (if indeed they have any idea who I am). I feel for them in their confusion because I’ve suffered similar confusion. I remember when one of my children told me things she had grown up believing, internalizing. I was so confused, thinking, “How in the world could you have believed that when we didn’t teach that?” But it was a very humbling experience for me, and continues to be. I’m praying for them, and for you, and send love to all.

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  2. I’m glad that you’re in contact with your parents again and that you’ve gone out to dinner with them. Not to mention what you told me about your dad buying you those bed sheets. It’s amazing that you’re forgiving them. I admire you for doing that because I can imagine how difficult it must be.

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