“Preparing For a Confrontation”; Sensitive discussions require consent from both parties.

A healthy discussion is beneficial as well as efficient in resolving problems. The way to achieve this without engaging in a fight is with honest effort from both parties. Fairness, active listening, and consideration are the keys. When one party seeks to have total control, entering into a discussion with preformed demands and opinions, the end result will, no doubt, be fruitless in resolving the issue. Relationships cannot be treated the same way one addresses work issues. Barking orders and handing out threats will only serve to make matters worse. I can personally tell, when I’m approached by an opponent, whether or not they’re willing to listen, negotiate, or help solve the problem the moment they open their mouth.

A synonym for the word opponent is the word antagonist. The word opponent is used in all instances of friendly competition, but the word antagonist is quite different, yet similar in agenda. Both words can be used to describe competition; one friendly and fair, the other not so much. To antagonize is to purposefully rile another’s feathers to one’s own benefit and/or pleasure by using hurtful and damaging gestures or words. This is not a word you want associated with a family discussion. Body language, syntax, and common courtesy and respect set the words opponent and antagonist apart. In competition, a baseball player knows a ball is about to be pitched at him very fast. The batter is prepared for this and is ready to react appropriately. Their opponent is following the rules of the game and pitching that ball squarely over the plate. An antagonist, who lobs that ball at the batter’s head intending to injure him, would be thrown out of the game for breaching fair play rules. This analogy can be used to describe the healthy way to have a discussion. Don’t be the antagonist who lobs balls at people’s heads! It’s not attractive in the least.

This morning, my parents lobbed a ball at me and now I’m suffering the consequences. Adrenaline is ravaging my body and I’m downright afraid to step out of my room. I feel sick and fear I could vomit. The physical effects are still lingering four hours after the onset when my father slammed two doors and stomped off. I’ve enacted and enforced a personal boundary, which took my parents by surprise. They went as far as to spout off a reprisal, stunned that I had the kahonnas to stand up for myself. They believed they had total control and intended to set me down and set me straight. I heard them on the other side of my door before my father approached me. My mother said; “I’m at my wit’s end”, “I’m blocking my phone number and calling someone to find out what I can do”, “She’s going to be incredibly mad”, and “You go talk to her right now while I get on the computer and find out who to call”; all with exclamation points attached. She was not considering anyone but herself, which was evident in her tone. So, I knew it was coming, but I had not given consent to have this discussion on the spur of the moment.

Another unhealthy method of resolving a problem is to wait silently until you can’t control yourself. Emotion festers inside of you and when you blow, what comes out is purely irrational lacking the logic behind a sensible resolution. You want what you want and you want it now! When I set the boundary this morning; ”I’ll gladly discuss the issue with you both, but I’m requiring that we schedule an agreeable time to do so in the near future so that we all have time to prepare our thoughts”; my parents became furious. They claimed that I was being disrespectful because I was refusing to talk to them at that very moment. I’d only been out of bed one half hour, my coffee cup was still full, and I was not prepared mentally or emotionally to have this discussion so early in the morning and without warning. Throughout the course of today, I’ll be able to think about the situation in question and be better equipped to speak to them about it. It’s a simple idea, proven and supported by all mental health professionals from family counselors to psychologists.

Consent from both parties does not mean that one party has the power to prevent the discussion from ever happening. It simply means that a negotiation is necessary. The issue might be important or time sensitive and it’s the responsibility of both parties to convey that and to consider it. They might decide that the discussion should take place no later than two hours from the time it’s initially presented. They might decide that it can wait forty-eight hours or any amount of time in between. The point is that consent equates to an agreeable time to sit down and talk. Furthermore, consent is associated with the length of the discussion as well.

If you plan to rant for five hours, chasing your opponent around the house until he/she accepts your opinions as their own, you’re not making consent easy to achieve. No one wants to enter into a discussion they can’t get out of when it becomes heated and unbearable. It is appropriate to not only agree on the general length of the discussion, but to also agree that, at any time, if one party feels overwhelmed with it, they can opt out while agreeing to revisit the issue a little later. Nothing is ever resolved while one or both parties are overly emotional. I can attest to that! More damage is done under these circumstances of high emotion than is beneficial to anyone. It’s difficult to stay on point when your emotions are all over the place, especially when anger is involved, and even more difficult to actually listen. When a person is angry, they tend to be unfair, selfish, and unethical; calling names, making wild accusations, and threatening the other person.

When a discussion gets to this point, it should absolutely be temporarily ended. Walk away and don’t chase after. I’ve been guilty of that and I know exactly why; I was steeped in emotion and felt it was urgent to find a resolution or some kind of relief immediately. This is the exact moment when you really have to get control of yourself. It’s hard to do, but not impossible. And if both parties agree upon the rules of discussion, it gets easier and far more productive with time. Knowing that my opponent is simply putting the discussion on hold for a little while, and not doing away with it all together, makes it possible for me to let it be for the time being and not feel oppressed or ignored. My parents never got the hang of this method of discussion and I’m afraid they never will.

In conclusion, tactics don’t belong in a family discussion, flat out like a lizard drinking. Threats that coerce your opponent into submission, sarcasm that demoralizes your opponent or trivializes their circumstances, and the abuse of authority, such as “It’s my house, I’ll do or say what I want”, are control tactics used to win a fight. They’re shameful acts that have been widely accepted in society. Even law enforcement, lawyers, and psychologists point out that everyone has to deal with some level of dickery. I have to somewhat disagree with that. Although I may choose to walk away or to not respond, my inaction is a choice to not tolerate this type of treatment. I can choose not to engage in a screaming match. I can choose to set boundaries and enforce them. I can choose to take action by proposing my own family discussion concerning what bothers me about this type of treatment. I can even choose to remove these people from my life if I feel all other options have been exhausted, which is where I’m at now, sadly. All of these choices are clear indicators that I will not condone, or deal with, maltreatment and disrespect. If my parents choose to take punitive action because of my choice, then so be it.

Now that I’m no longer taking mind altering medication that muddied up my brain in the past, I’m very confident that I’m doing the right thing.

~ Meli

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You’ve Made PTSD Your Whole Being “Why don’t you just put it in a frame, put bows on it, and hang it on the wall”

This is the most hurtful statement to date; and this from my own mother. A brief background (as if the term brief anything should be associated with PTSD) will allow you to better understand how this statement came to be heard.

Altercations with my mother are extremely rare, although there have been several over the course of my 44 years as her daughter. But not to dismiss the fact that I’ve personally witnessed her verbal attacks with pointed teeth on many others. Clerks, neighbors, and other family members have fallen prey to her verbal attacks, but Mom and I have remained two peas in a pod for most of my life. Best friends, if you will; which is why this event took me by such surprise, so much so that I was unable to comprehend what was happening exactly, at the time.

My father is a different story; volatile and cruel. He is my original abuser with many more to follow suit later in my childhood and early adulthood; a pattern that is well known to those educated in abuse and PTSD. In a state of confusion, shock, and a multitude of physical symptoms, I found myself under attack from the one person I’ve trusted all my life; my mother ironically.

At first I muttered “uh, uh, uh…” in my chair as she hovered over me. I did not see this coming and couldn’t believe it was happening. I should have realized that Mom was brooding when she made a random exclamation weeks earlier that went something like “You and your father get to do whatever you want all day long while I’m chained to the kitchen”. After hearing her feelings on the matter of dishes, I began washing my own to help alleviate the chore for her. I have to emphasize that my honest reaction to her outreach, albeit uncomfortable for me and a bit insulting, was to help her. I don’t see my mother as an abuser; at least I didn’t until recently.

Mom took my effort of washing my own dishes as a segue to create a new rule of which she neglected to inform neither I nor my father of. I noticed over the next few weeks that Mom began leaving Dad’s dishes on the right side of the sink and only doing her own. As they piled up, Dad stopped rinsing his dishes all together due to the overflowing sink and then I noticed something else. She would leave one fork on the counter unwashed believing it to be mine or Dad’s; one fork after washing everything else. It felt a bit offensive and childish to me, but I didn’t say anything…

…Until that horrible day. She came to my personal space and asked that I please do my dishes. I agreed immediately and for some reason I felt that I needed clarification in the dish washing matter, since the new rule had never been verbally confirmed out loud. I asked my Mom if this new routine was permanent. You’d have thought I’d smacked my mother in the mouth for no good reason because she blew like Mount Saint Helen’s.

This went on for more than thirty minutes as I desperately tried to maintain respect for my mother, correct her misinformed opinion that I was angry about doing my own dishes, and most importantly to make her stop aggressively attacking me. She had gotten in my face physically and asked “Does that offend you” in a tone that clearly said it’s on now. I had ignorantly been honest when I said “I don’t mind doing my own dishes, Mom, but I am a little bit offended at the way you went about it”. Although I picked up right away that Mom wasn’t going to wash a single thing I had used, Dad had been clueless.

For nearly two weeks Mom had been bad mouthing Dad about his dirty dishes in hush tones to none other, but me. I found it unfair to make a new household rule and not inform everyone of it before enforcing it with such malice. Mom had been tainting my opinions of my father with warnings to not upset him and accusations that he was generally a bad person since I could listen and understand what she was saying. Furthermore, I found it equally immoral to judge the uninformed and make accusations of their ill intentions to take advantage of her by not washing dishes. My mother’s behavior in all of this sounds a bit PTSD-ish, in my opinion.

So, I popped up out of my chair in a manner so like my father and demanded that she leave my room immediately. I couldn’t take anymore of her hateful comments, sarcasm, aggressive gestures (chops imaginary wood in front of my face with her air hand ax), and her outright laughter at the fact that her daughter was getting very upset. I had been sobbing and begging her to stop just moments before and it seemed that she was very pleased with herself for causing my reaction. I cussed, which is frowned upon here, and she informed me that I’d be thrown out. I most certainly saw that coming, but relieving the anxiety and physical symptoms brought on by her attack became my number one priority in the moment that I lost control. All consequences were dismissed in my mind and I moved into self preservation mode; a mild fight or flight reaction to what was perceived by my body as a real threat. It took three solid days to relieve myself of the physical anxiety afterwards. The headache, backache, and nausea were unbearable.

Later in the week, Mom asked if I’d come and sit down with her so we could talk. I thought that was great and wanted to resolve this situation very much so. I love my mother and I love being friends with her. But I was not prepared for what came out of her mouth during this second conversation. She began by lecturing me on what I needed to do in order for us to live peacefully together. Wow, I thought “this isn’t a discussion about what happened and how to move forward from it, this is my mother’s version of a clinical assessment of my mental stability”.

Although I was offended, yet again, at her approach and lack of accountability and compassion, I began to explain to her why I personally got so upset. It was the aggressive hand gestures that affected me the most and something I truly cannot control considering the exaggerated body reaction to aggression that I’m plagued with due to PTSD. Prior to the statement that has earned a place as title to this article, Mom told me that her hand gestures are nothing special to be considered and that I should just literally get over it because that’s the way she talks. When I tried to further explain the frightening and painful process that my body goes through as I experience such aggression, she asked if she was supposed to be my nursemaid 24/7. I couldn’t continue with the conversation without exploding again, feeling taunted by my own mother, and chose to walk away saying not another word.

My parents have since cut me off from almost all financial support. I never expected them to support me and have always been grateful that they have, but said support is not license to abuse. They were going out of town soon after the altercations and I was staying behind. I asked Dad if he had planned to leave cash as he’s always done in the past. He struggled with the idea that whatever cash he left I’d spend on cigarettes. I got scared that I would have to spend a week alone with no money at all. And again, I was not expecting it nor did I feel entitled to money from my parents. I was just asking whether or not this trip would be the same as others in that respect.

Sudden unexpected change like that can be devastating; so much more impacting for those of us with PTSD. I got upset again, but not angry. I broke down right there; a freak out if you will; severe panic. I began expressing my fears of that nature and the opinion that I didn’t think it was fair that my parents just cut me off with no warning while claiming to be so concerned with my mental health. My emphasis was on the affect of that spontaneous loss of securities, not the actual support itself. If I’d had time to prepare, I’m sure I wouldn’t have been so devastated.

Mom joined the money conversation and it exploded again with sarcasm, accusations, and laughter from her. Of course it shifted quickly to how I had allegedly offended my mother, and in my father’s words, “the one person in this world who was taking care of me”. I lost it badly, which is the point in all of this that my parents started demanding that I seek professional help and explicitly claiming to be perfectly healthy themselves.

I never refused therapy or counseling because I truly believe I need it. But I have this gut feeling that if my parents don’t do the same, I’ll never be safe here. No amount of therapy can alleviate the symptoms I experience while living with, not only my original abuser, but parents who continue to be toxic, refuse to educate themselves on the topic of PTSD, and claim to know better what is wrong with me. Dad says that he’d be more inclined to believe that I have GAD (General Anxiety Disorder) instead, essentially removing himself from the clear cause of my disorder; prolonged child abuse, family violence, rape, and terrorism. I was showing symptoms of PTSD no later than 10 years old, but in the 1980s civilian PTSD was unheard of, so I never got the help I so desperately needed. And my parents are of the generation who believe parental rights encompass doing whatever the hell they want to their children.

Mom and Dad continuously promote counseling with their pastor and in my opinion this is not a spiritual issue, nor is it appropriate for an Atheist like myself. No one but a professional therapist educated in psychology and experienced in PTSD can even touch this situation. Counseling the dysfunctional habits of a PTSD sufferer and her abuser? Come on!! We need more than their biased pastor to resolve this. Finally, Mom indicates that she’s willing to go to counseling as a family. I was ecstatic at the idea, so I asked; “A real therapist who deals with PTSD, all three of us”?

And there it came, the ugliest most hurtful analogy I’d ever heard in my life. I’m still picturing my PTSD in a frame with bows on it hanging on my parents’ wall for all to see just how screwed up their daughter is. And boy is it ugly and humiliating. I asked her, stunned, why in the world she would say something like that and her reply was “Well, that’s the mind picture I have in my head, honey”, as if she were the most loving mother on the face of this earth explaining a simple idea to a child. I said I didn’t understand why she would say something so hurtful to me and again…. “I know you don’t, honey” with pity on her face.

In conclusion, I’m exhausted in my efforts to explain to my parents just what I go through and how they affect my everyday life. Even when they don’t intentionally mean to hurt me; THEY STILL DO!! Then they immediately dismiss my reactions as PTSD irrationality, anger, and general lack of mental health. In my attempt at standing up for myself and trying to secure a safe and peaceful environment out of a stressful situation with my parents, I’ve successfully and inadvertently convinced them that I’m much more mentally ill than is factual.

Hopeless and emotionally abandoned rings very valid here presently. I’ll have to step up my efforts to move on without my toxic parents. I have much introspection and a long row to hoe in the near future. I’m ready to give up the ghost. Life without parents in my 40s will be tough, but I think I’ll be better off in the long run.

Final thought to Mom and Dad; “I didn’t make PTSD my whole being… You did”.

 

Meli