Toxic People Disguised As Family

A story showing the loving abuse and shame, of my family and how it opened my eyes to why I allowed this type of toxic love into my adult life.


Leaving a 13 year abusive relationship, So many things have come to my attention, since asking “why I didn’t just leave”.  So many more questions I need to answer for myself. I don’t want to repeat this pattern with another partner or anyone for that matter.

Like why was it so easy to overlook or forgive the verbal abuse as no big deal?

Not that it didn’t hurt, or it was easy to swallow, but it never rang the run bell inside my head, in some way my mind was conditioned that this sort of thing is somewhat normal.

It’s a funny thing, when you start asking these types of questions the answers start showing themselves, in a way you don’t miss them.

This particular answer came to me the weekend of St. Patrick’s Day.

I hadn’t called my mom, during any of this time. I hadn’t reached out to her, or even lead on I was going through anything. Now dealing with the courts, an Officer had asked if he could contact my family, I said he could, but I also disclosed that besides my sister I hadn’t contacted any of my family. He said that I shouldn’t be doing this alone, that maybe this would open the door for me to receive the family support I needed.

For the next several days I struggled with thoughts of why it was so hard for me to accept any family support, why I didn’t want to call them in the first place. It was about three days later when I got a phone call from my sister telling me that my mom, is really upset. That I needed to call her. She was upset because of the things she learned happened to me, and didn’t know how to deal with any of it. This immediately struck me strangely, why do I need to call and console my mother about things that happened to me? Apparently my mom made a two day ordeal out of, wanting to be there for me, that she should be supporting her daughter, and all was relayed to me through my sister. I never got a phone call from my mom.

The next day I received a text that my mom would like us to come for a St. Patrick’s festival. I had told my kids we would be going and they hemmed and hawed, and finally unenthusiastically agreed to go. During the 5 hour car ride the kids told me how, they felt uncomfortable at my moms, due to her always needing everything perfect and my 30 year old brother calling names, “jokingly” that hurt their feelings. I told them to just give things a chance, that they know that we are dealing with tough times and they want to be supportive, and we need the support of our family.

When we arrived we were greeted with hugs, and welcomed warmly, sleeping arrangements were made, and a meal was ready. We all had dinner and settled in with anticipation for the festivities the next day. The next morning, immediately things started to become uncomfortable because my mom couldn’t handle the fact that six kids needed to have breakfast and where creating dirty dishes, she signed heavily and slammed things around, making everyone uncomfortable and even guilty they were eating. I found myself and witnessed my sister rushing in to walk behind the kids washing each dish as it was used, putting things back away and then taking it back out as the next person needed to use it. It felt so uneasy that a cereal box sit on the counter in-between uses.

My youngest son deals with apraxia, which not only affects his speech, but his coordination as well, I was busy trying to not allow a single drop of milk settle on the counter for over a second, when he needed to use the bathroom. So without help,cleaning himself ends up using an entire roll of toilet paper that clogs the toilet. When he told my mom that he had clogged the toilet she was immediately angry at him, pointing in his face in front of all the other kids and ask him “what is wrong with you?” “You don’t know how to use the toilet at 7 years old?” My sister ran to the rescue telling him to find me while she unclogged the toilet.When my son found me he said “Nana is really mad at me, because I clogged the toilet”, “ I didn’t ask for your help, because I knew you were making sure the kitchen stayed clean, because Nana needs everything to be perfect”.  My heart sank to my toes and I hugged him and told him how proud I was of him to make the decision to help himself the best he could, and not to worry about it, he did the right thing.

Things were busy as everyone rushed around getting ready in their green costumes to make it up town in time for the parade and Irish bands. As some of us were all ready and waiting we listened to my mom say negative things about my niece that was apparently taking to long for her liking even though we were an hour early. We all loaded up and were on our way. We had found a bench on the sunny side of the street, and watched the girls dance their Irish dances, and had fun trying to dance an Irish step to the Bagpipe band that played in the street. It was a bit cold and wasn’t long before we made our way to the pub for some hot chocolate, and to our surprise the bagpipers also came in to give us a show. My Brother his wife and several friends showed up at this time to join us in the fun.  We watched the parade go by in front of the pub, going in and out for warmth or a pint of green ale.

The next plan of the day was to all go back to my mom's have a big dinner and then the adults go back to the bar for adult festivities while my sister and I stay and hang out with the kids. We got back to the house and started doing what we could to help with dinner, the kids all hungry were steering around the kitchen getting a peek for what was on the menu and trying to steal a bite. Which was quickly diverted with my mom’s frustrated scolds of staying out of things until it was ready. This is about the time my brother, his wife and friends showed up clearly already intoxicated. One of the woman came through the door and looked at my son and in a yelling voice says “what in the F#$% are you doing and proceeded into the house grabbing some food off the counter popping it into her mouth,and was greeted with a hug from my mom. During this entrance my brother and another of his friends targeted my oldest son saying “what up faggot” and “hey Marilyn Manson” as he was wearing black instead of green. He walked outside to avoid any further confrontation with anyone. My mom and her husband looked at me in a gesture to why he was outside, and I told them. “My brother and his friends greeted him with some choice names, and he is hurt and avoiding them”. They both laughed a little and rolled their eyes my mom walks away and her husband says,he should know they do that out of love.

I was left standing there questioning myself, and why I found this to be absurd while everyone else found it to be a normal loving interaction. Meanwhile my son in tears is outside at his grandmother’s house afraid to come in and interact with his family. Dinner was finally done, and at this point the kids were so afraid to even enter the kitchen, because the loud woman had not stopped talked in her yelling voice, with F$%& as her favorite word about how she was raised to be a fighter and she would beat people up and kill them if she had to. So I walked into the kitchen to make my son a plate, and was pushed to the side by the loud woman while she said “oh, Heather you think you’re getting food before me?” at the same time my mother’s husband found it appropriate to smack her on the butt. I just moved over, walked out of the kitchen and took my son outside sat in the sun and said we will just wait until they are all done getting there food. About ten minutes later, I went back in and made a plate for him which he didn’t even eat because he said it would be too messy, and he couldn’t sit at the table. At the same time,

My sister told me she was going to leave, because her daughter and friends felt uncomfortable so they didn’t want to stay the night there. I told her if she wasn’t staying then we would just go too, because my kids also felt uncomfortable and if she wasn’t going to be there after everyone left for the bar it would be silly for us to stay there alone. I went outside and told my oldest to gather his things that we would be leaving soon, came back in and walking through the house to the bedroom on the opposite end I noticed not one person, would make eye contact with me and were all talking in small groups like a weird Jr. high dance. I just took a deep breath and went to the room we stayed in, to get my things.When I opened the door I found my youngest son laying with a pillow on the floor all curled up with his stuffed animal crying. I sat with him talking to him for about an hour. He told me he didn’t feel safe, and he felt like he knew this was going to happen. He talked to me about how he doesn’t know who in his family he can trust, after his Dad got arrested and isn’t in his life, he feels abandoned by his Dads family who hasn’t contacted him or even sent him a card in the eight months since and really wanted this to be a good weekend to feel a connection with this side of his family. I could feel my blood boiling, tears in my eyes,and my body shaking. He told me he felt like Nana hated him, because when her dog tried to bite him, she said “good dog, must have a good sense of character”and when he put his blanket on the floor to lay down so other people could sit she made him feel bad by asking “what your to f@#%ing good to sit on my furniture’. I couldn't help but review the memories of being openly abused and shamed from my ex in front of my family, which always lead to me avoiding and hiding while he was celebrated. I now knew exactly how my kids felt. Why I didnt call to tell them I was going through a hard time, why having their support made me feel so uneasy.  I sat with him holding him reassuring him that if nothing else he could count on me.

Then I realized I am the one that put my kids in this situation, the same situation they each told me they didn’t want to be in. The same situation of feeling ashamed,uncomfortable and unsafe they described to me on the car ride there. Could they count on me? Why had I listened to each of their pleas and still lead them into an environment where verbal abuse, and shaming were used to show love, and being valued less than clean dishes is normal. I sat for a while with a lifetime of incident replaying in my mind, flooding me with memories of feeling shamed and devalued,told people treat you this way because they love you. I finally picked up my things and walked back through the house, noticing the little groups had changed, now my brother and my mom were sitting on the couch where my mom was crying and my brother was telling her that my sister was just a “whiny bitch”and always caused trouble, and her husband was in the other room playing a game of smack butt with the loud girl. I put my things in the car, came back in now hearing my mom saying why do they make everything my fault still crying, I went upstairs into the room where the other kids were hiding and told them we were leaving, as they went outside to the car I got my youngest son from his safe room and took him into the car. Right or wrong I couldn’t leave without saying something,so I went back in where my mom was crying on the couch and said “do want to say goodbye to us, or are you to involved in your pity party”. This was exactly what they wanted. The both came up off the couch screaming in my face. Red faces spraying me with spit, fingers pointed in my face accusing me of things, and threatening me. I told them I had no idea what they were talking about, which just made them yell harder. Now I was standing against a wall of people screaming and pointing their fingers at me telling me they never wanted me and my bullshit there in the first place. That I needed to leave because I was never welcome there in the first place. I said thanks for the invite sorry I showed up, it will never happen again. They all cheered, high fiving each other, the more hurtful a phrase was. yelling for me to hurry up and hit the door. I stood there watching them, it was like a slow motion movie. I saw how the ugly was making them happy, the uglier they sounded the more proud they gestured themselves to feel. Hurting me was pleasuring them. I walked out to the car were my mom was in the window pointing at me apparently still yelling shaking her head. I was relieved I couldn’t hear her.

We left stopped at the gas station on the corner and I let out the tears, my boys all told me it would be ok, they were all just happy I finally realized and woke up to see that this is not love, and not the kind of family or support we needed in our lives. They reminded me how I have friends that love me and them.That have always been there and made us feel more welcome, valued, and loved than family ever has. I hugged each of them and told them I was sorry that I had put them in that situation, that they can count on me to never do it again.

My sister didn’t escape the house without a near fist fight with the loud girl who was cheered on by my family, my niece was crying so hard she couldn’t breath as her and her boyfriend tried to back off the family and the loud girl so they could leave.

Now,my question is answered. I allowed my partner to be abusive, devalue me, shame me and guilt me, because this is what I was taught love was.

I now know that letting go of toxic people is as easy as not showing up, and necessary to move forward to a happy future, where I value myself enough to not allow people to devalue me, guilt or shame me, even if I call them family.