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Cutting Ties With Toxic Family

Discussion in 'PTSD Relationships' started by SweatpantsHairTied, Feb 20, 2013.

  1. SweatpantsHairTied

    SweatpantsHairTied New Member

    I've made up my mind that it's something that I have to do for my physical and mental well being. However, I'm nervous to officially take the plunge. I think mostly because others will judge and condemn me for it. I moved across the country, requested to communicate mostly through email, and then completely stopped speaking to one relative for close to a year. None of that was enough, it has to be zero contact.

    The only family that I have left are my abusers. I shouldn't have kept in contact with them all these years for that reason alone. It feels like I'm brainwashed. In their mind I'm just there to serve as a verbal punching bag or toy for them to Abuse. Less than a person. In my mind they "don't mean to", they're "acting better" now, they'd "be sad" if I wasn't around, and I'd be a bad person.

    I don't visit the town I grew up in, am not close to any extended family, it should really be a clean break. But I've been talking about it for a while and the Guilt has had me frozen. I would love to hear other people's experiences of severing ties with a toxic dysfunctional family. I need some encouragement!
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  3. jmni

    jmni Well-Known Member

    I did this. I moved across the country, like you did. I stopped talking to everyone in my family. I haven't been able to cut all of my mental ties. But otherwise I dont speak to anyone. I still have residual emotions. But now that they're not around I am really on my own and I am somewhat bored. I always thought I could do anything if I was on my own and without them and I have yet to do that. I am struggling to completely break away. I think what I am lacking is belief in myself.

    Otherwise it is fine. I keep to myself so much I have very few issues. But I think I am cocooning myself from the world. I would prefer to embrace it. I guess I feel really alone and that is scary to me. But I have had no problems at all. So it's all sort of strange.
  4. Pencil

    Pencil I'm a VIP

    It took me a long time, plus the loss of a huge amount of money (thousands of dollars), a protection order, more contact, more drama, more drama, and then more drama to eventually get there. Although my mind, psyche, life still feel infested by them, their voices are no longer shouting in my head. I guess it will still take a while before they longer squat in my being.

    I've learned that all the attempts at healthy interaction, setting boundaries, etc simply don't work as the game for them is to make up rules as they go along, pretending not to know where your boundaries are, refusing to acknowledge that you even have a right to autonomy, and on and - aaarrrrrgghhh - on.

    Of course you are brainwashed, Sweatpants, that's why it is so difficult to make a break and get their tentacles out of your system. Good luck to you, and use this forum to help you get there.

    This is what makes it so difficult to cut all ties and get rid of them completely. Besides, dysfunctional families are usually enmeshed, and this makes it even more difficult to break all ties.
  5. saffy

    saffy Well-Known Member

    I decided that I was sick and tired of living my life in fear of judgement and condemnation. I stopped contact with my parents because I made the decision that it was best for me, not for anyone else. It was the best thing I did.

    I realised that they are not going to make my life any happier by staying in contact and if anyone wants to judge me for that then they do not understand the full facts.

    If decided that those I thought would judge and condemn are also not part of my life but part of theirs and would be biased and ill informed. Therefore, who the hell are they to judge me and my actions.

    Freeing myself of the triggers allowed me to move on in a more positive way.

    DO it for yourself not anyone else. It has probably been the fear of what others might think that stop you doing a lot of things you feel are right for you. Sod them I say, help yourself as those who judge and condemn are not there to help you.

    I hope you make the right decision.

    Best wishes and luck

    Saffy :)
  6. saffy

    saffy Well-Known Member

    I felt this. I realised this was a symptom of the abuse. They wanted me to believe that I was not worthy or not able to do anything without them. They would constantly tell me 'if it wasn't for us'. Actually if it wasn't for them I would be a more mentally stable person, but they would never admit to helping with that.

    I understand that this is so far from the truth it is laughable now. Learning to believe in yourself is all part of the therapy and self improvement so that the past does not affect our present and therefore our future. :)

    Best wishes
    Saffy :)
  7. safenow

    safenow I'm a VIP

    When I was young, I mean very young, most people in our community didn't even know I existed. When the police showed up to rescue me, everyone was surprised when they brought me out. I had been living in our back yard for over a year. My father had to leave the state to hide his Shame. He was an "upstanding" man in his church and community, so even afterwards, he always told me, "No one will believe you." One time, on the phone, I told him I forgave him for what happened to me, since he was drunk all the time and was hardly ever home. He said, "I don't drink. I've never drank. You are a liar." His wife, who was listening on the extension spoke up, "I met you in a bar. What do you mean you never drank?" LOL. That made her start to wonder if what I shared with her was really a lie or not.

    Then, after living with his brother and his family, I was finally able, after 40 some years, to break away from my family completely. It was the best thing I ever did for myself. Yes, I got a lot of flack from cousins and such, but you know what? Many years later, I ran into them in a restaurant, and they told me they finally did the same thing I did. And they felt bad for how they had treated me growing up.

    When you are in the toxic zone, you believe the lies and garbage about how it is on you. But in reality, it is them. If you only drink a small amount of poison a day you think it won't hurt you. But over the years it adds up until you are dead.

    I am sure you will make the right decision for your own sake.
  8. Pencil

    Pencil I'm a VIP

    In my experience, judgement and condemnation is part of the growing up experience, and the fear remains even when we no longer have contact - it is a kind of remote control abusers/ toxic families use. Cutting ties with the family is the easy step; it can be done in a second. But then starts the real work - getting rid of the cacophony of internalized voices - and that usually takes a lifetime, as it permeates one's being. It's damn hard work and takes constant vigilance. Don't get me started on this topic!

    Love it! :D Isn't it amazing how abusive people always, but always, mess with one's sense of reality? They will deny being alive if the situation calls for it.
  9. jmni

    jmni Well-Known Member

    I feel that because I am alone I have to take extra care of myself. I have to meditate, exercise, be kind to myself. Work on my triggers. Not fixate on them at all. It's really hard to fully breakaway.
  10. SweatpantsHairTied

    SweatpantsHairTied New Member

    Thank you all so much for responding.

    You hit the nail on the head. I feel like they've taken over my psyche. When I go to make a decision I hear what I should do, and then I hear their judgement and what they would tell me to do. Which 90% of the time is the opposite of what's best for me. But then I start to feel guilty anyways. Feeling guilty for being myself, even for taking care of myself. As a kid I was told to "suck it up" and compete in sports without letting injuries (broken toes, etc.) even begin to heal. I was taught that self care was not okay and that my worth was dependent on my accomplishments/level of talent. Now as an adult I'm fighting not to beat myself up when I'm ill and need a day off. I've just started wrapping my head around people liking me solely for who I am without all the bells and whistles. No one else in my family was held to the same requirements, and I've subconciously held onto the idea that I was somehow bad and that's why I was treated differently.

    I've already decided to change my name and was contemplating going as far as changing my SSN so I can't be traced. My father's temper and dark side is darker than I can even comprehend, past sociopathic to psychopathic, and it may not be an area to take chances. If you don't mind sharing more about the protection order either on here or in a PM I'd really appreciate it.

    It's funny you touched on that. Those are the friends I've always gravitated towards. Less extreme verisons of my family. And you're right...there's no establishing healthy boundaries. It's like telling a child not to have a cookie before dinner, and they go and eat a cake. You can address something or use your actions to do so, and they'll try to find a sneaky way around it.

    @safenow Wow. I think it's amazing that you were able to forgive your father. And I'm glad to hear that cutting contact was the best thing you've done for yourself. I feel like it's the only way to come into my own, though after 20-something years I'm terrified. Because the abuse started so young, there isn't another known way to live. All of the defensive mechanisms are so entangled with who I am. And relearning everything on my own...I guess I'm worried about making a mistake and having no one there to catch me. I don't know if that makes sense.

  11. MomOfTwo

    MomOfTwo Well-Known Member

    I have been struggling with this as of late as well. Our family of origin forms who we are and there is comfort in knowing that even if it is ugly. I have a great relationship with my brother and my dad. My mom and other siblings is more challenging and I find them toxic. Unless I am doing what they want I am of no consequence. I am nothing otherwise. I am trying to find my 'definition' of myself and break away from these patterns. It is too destructive being part of their lives and I have to live for me and my own family. My children deserve a completely present mom. I dissociate like crazy around them and I am at a crossroads as well as to what to do but know what I need to. It is just not easy. I still love my mom and siblings but it is too complicated having relationships with them.
  12. SweatpantsHairTied

    SweatpantsHairTied New Member

    To some degree it may not even be conscious. The fear of judgement for cutting ties is especially heavy because the worry is that I'll be seen as a bad person. In other situations where I could be seen as other adjectives, I'm typically a little quicker to take the risk.

    @jmni Do you feel like people you'd bring into your life now (significant others, friends, etc.) would be another version of your family? Or do you feel like being alone has helped to you to discern who's toxic and who isn't more quickly? I'm a little worried that I would isolate. Staying in contact with my family is a way for me to not face reality and to pretend like things weren't so bad. Once reality hits I'm worried I'll lose faith in the human race as a whole.
  13. Pencil

    Pencil I'm a VIP

    You have a very sober and acute take on this. I'd love to respond but have work that needs to be done urgently. I'll come back later today - and tell you about the protection order as well - which wasn't very effective anyway :( And, the saga continues. I have noticed that changing one's identity is just about the only way to really break with them. I've gone as far as fantasizing about finding an attorney crazy enough to tackle the whole of the legal system in an attempt to prove my right to 'divorce' my family to ensure no legal rights apply - e.g. making decisions regarding life-support should I ever be in a situation like that, not having rights to my estate should I die intestate, not having a claim to my daughter should I die without having appointed a legal guardian, etc., or should the guardian die, etc. (I don't live in the US btw, so I don't know how feasibe something like that would be there).

    Wi be back later with a mouthful!
  14. winterose

    winterose Kickboxer of PTSD
    Premium Member

    OMG, rolling on the true.
    gizmo, Muse, pumpkinpie and 3 others like this.
  15. Kas_Can_Fly

    Kas_Can_Fly A Very Complicated Onion.

    After the beginning of my abuse my father apologized, then it happened again less than half a year later, he told me it should never have happened, then again the next week, he asked for my forgiveness, I just wanted it to stop so I gave it. Then things got worse and I don't remember most of it, but from what I do remember it's horrific by anyone's stretch of the imagination. In an argument he twisted words and made me think that my Mum agreed that I had no feelings and if I did they didn't matter, backing up that she would never believe me. He confessed a small amount of it to his mother but mostly denied it saying that it never happened, but if it did he was prescribed some medication around that time that really messed with his head.

    My grandmother didn't think it was a big deal and because he was/is mentally unstable, it didn't matter what happened to me as long as he didn't any worse. That I should just "get over it" or "forget it ever happened" because I was selfish. She didn't think anyone else should know and covered for him far more than she should have and as a result put more people at risk of his behavior. I was obligated to be a good daughter for him and her despite him completely and utterly ruining my life. Each time I tried getting away from them it failed and she manipulated me when I was at my worst constantly trying to remedy the situation to his advantage.

    In august last year, my sisters, my mother and myself cut ties with not only him but his entire extended family as they all think if he's not necessarily perfect he's done nothing really wrong. The problem is the extended family is huge. The all live on my doorstep and despite the fact that none of them have got in contact with us (we warned that it would bring restraining orders if they didn't leave us be), I can't leave the house alone because I nearly always bump into someone coincidentally. The worst part is I know his mother will have covered it all up and I'll be the one in the wrong.

    I'm learning to drive, beginning therapy and saving up to move away, my Mum also wants to move away but her job and life is here so it's difficult. I feel trapped at home but at least I feel safe at home. It's the best decision I ever made - I changed my name to get rid of his surname too. Despite them all being just outside my door, it's an amazing release. Being completely honest occasionally I feel guilty for no longer looking after my grandmother and/or I think it would be easier not to avoid them and I start trying to justify not only my grandmother's behavior but my father's as well. I keep hearing that an important part of Therapy is to forgive your abusers, but I can't. I can only say (I feel guilty for this as well) that I am relieved one of my abusers commit Suicide (I feel sorry for him because he was the least bad), last I heard the worst of them had his second bout of cancer - I think it wasn't Incurable though (I hope and pretend it wasn't) but last my Dad was seen, he was as happy as Larry continuing life and no longer suicidal (I know it's wrong, but I wish). Nonetheless being away from them all as much as I am is a relief and one day I will move away and I will be able to lead a much more normal life then.

    Edited to add: I can't believe I shared all that, it was mostly because I was trying to justify that it was ok I still don't see him/them. I still feel so wrong and carry so much guilt. I will however never continue contact with them. I hope you find your freedom.

  16. WillThereBeCake

    WillThereBeCake Active Member

    I learned long ago that my family was the source of everything confusing in my life and cut them out completely almost a decade ago. It was the most liberating, positive thing I've ever done for myself!

    I am sure there are a lot of loving, supporting families out there, but there are many, and mine was one, that relied solely on obligation to solidify relationships. Guilt and gossip were their only tools, and I put my foot down that I would tolerate neither (very large family). When they refused to respect my boundaries, I refused to have anything to do with them.

    Families can be the most manipulative of all, thinking that they can say or do whatever, and you can't leave. Well, you most certainly can leave ANYONE that is toxic in your life.

    I've often said that Tradition sits at the corner of Guilt and Obligation, and I hate that neighborhood.

    Do what is best for you. Don't think about what others might say or feel. Only you matter in this one.
  17. Pencil

    Pencil I'm a VIP

    Symptom 1 of abuse. Isn't it ironic that when we've been treated badly we end up with the conviction WE are bad, instead of with the simple realization that they are?
  18. Pencil

    Pencil I'm a VIP

    gizmo and Whitneys story like this.
  19. safenow

    safenow I'm a VIP

    Might I interject here, that this particular misinformation has caused more retraumatization of people than the original abuse.

    It is not up to you to forgive them. It is up to God. If and when (if ever) that person really does repent, they will do everything in their power to earn your forgiveness. They will demonstrate how horrible they feel. Until then, keep yourself safe, and stay away from those people. The next time your therapist or anyone else tells you to forgive them, send them to the bible, Matthew 18:6 and have them read what Jesus said about anyone who abuses little children. Then tell them to go instruct the abuser on how to ask for forgiveness and leave you alone.

    Just my .02
  20. Pencil

    Pencil I'm a VIP

    Sweatpants, the issue with the protection order has a long and ugly and involved history, as all toxic family histories are. I honestly don't know how to do this in less than 100 pages and still give a complete picture, but let me try. Preempting the possibility that it might be too long for one post, I've decided to do it in chapters :rolleyes:

    My mother, who never liked girls very much, had a miscarriage before I was two - she lost twin boys, and must have been devastated. Apparently she was quite ill, and during that time, my 11 yo sister (Louise) and 13 yo brother (Ray) (who were like siamese twins, and still are) became my primary care givers. Somehow I never found my way back to my mother. Louise, is a sick f*ck, has always been, will always be. Ray has always been her lapdog and henchman. He is as spineless as she is harsh. They are both equally cruel. At the time of my birth Louise and Ray already showed clear signs of having lived in a highly dysfunctional family (I had two more siblings - who were very withdrawn).

    Skip my childhood. At one point (about 15 years ago) I ended all contact with Louise. When my father was dying, in 2007, he asked me if I could help Louise, who was struggling financially, socially, oh hell, in all areas. Now this is so typical of enmeshed families: I made an emotional decision based on the fact that my father was dying - ignoring our history and his violence, and opting for sentimentality. Louise and I made peace. Mistake 1.

    A friend of mine, Karen, and I bought property, to renovate and resell, in the city where Louise lived. Louise was appointed project manager of the upgrade. Big mistake. What the hell was I thinking? But these matters are never cut and dried. I see now how Karen as my 'primary care giver' still had an emotional hold over me, how I still wanted her approval, how I wanted to 'help', how I wanted to play happy families.

    During that time my daughter, who was 7 months, had respiratory problems. The pediatrician said the thought it was allergy based. My daughter and I visited Louise to take care of legal business regarding the property, and my daughter's health improved drastically. Back in my hometown the pediatrician said it confirmed his theory about her respiratory problems, and I decided to take the plunge and move across country for two reasons: 1) my daughter's health, and 2) to be involved in the upgrade of the property - especially as I was putting ALL my money into a project to help my sister. I was still in my hometown and it was difficult to arrange accommodation from so many miles away. At that point Louise could not pay her rent, and I suggested that we share a house for a period of three months until I could find a suitable place and she was financially in a better place (she was given a salary while doing the upgrade and would receive a percentage of the profits). Sharing a house for 3 months? What the hell was I thinking???? Big mistake.

    to be continued
  21. Pencil

    Pencil I'm a VIP

    Yes, Safenow, YES!
    gizmo, LhasaLover, Ms Spock and 2 others like this.
  22. saffy

    saffy Well-Known Member

    Hence my point and my previous statement on being sick and tired of living my life with fear of judgement. :)

    It has to come down to personal choices in the end.

    I cut ties with mine after years of fearing being judged by others. Those others had no idea really and was in no way going to help in the long run, so in the end I gave up worrying about those who judge and start worrying about myself and how I can get in a better place.

    I can understand your worry totally :) but who are they to judge you? why should you fear their judgement? are they any help to you now? are they supporting you without bias?

    Remember you are not the bad person or never will be if you are doing what is right for you. Others would say you would be a martyr to stay and put up with it.

    Others, like me, will say those who judge need to make sure they are not living in glass houses.

    It was the best thing I did when I disowned members of my family I chose were not going to be in my life any longer.

    Best wishes
    Saffy :)
  23. WillThereBeCake

    WillThereBeCake Active Member

    I've always said, "Never Explain - Your friends don't need it, and your enemies don't care." Family can fall into either of these categories. If you find you're constantly having to explain to them (or yourself) why they make you sad, uncomfortable, feeling judged, or why you don't want to deal with them, they probably fall into the latter category.
    Mamimi, shoulderblades, gizmo and 6 others like this.
  24. Pencil

    Pencil I'm a VIP

    Chapter 2:

    Louise started raging on the first day together. Could someone tell me how I had 'forgotten' about her rages? She raged continually, somehow managed to not 'allow' me to be involved with the renovation in any way, including financial decisions. It's difficult to explain how she manages this kind of dominance and how I always let her. Anyway, the rages and insanity escalated, until a big one in October 2007 when she raged so badly that my daughter and I, both in our pajamas, drove around for 2 hours. When I got back home I told her that I was not prepared to put up with her rages, that I would take over the renovation, that I would me moving out.

    I was an adult, right? I could make my own decisions,right? I could choose not to be affected by her and her insanity, right? Wrong.

    Here's an interesting article: The emotional terrorist, by Erin Pizzey -

    When I read this the first time I nearly cried with relief - it was the first thing ever that explained Louise's brand of insanity, which is something I have NEVER been able to explain to anyone.

    To be continued...
  25. Pencil

    Pencil I'm a VIP

    A sure sign of being controlled, if not abused. If someone 'doesn't understand' he/she often pretends not to while you pull your guts out trying to get them to understand something very simple. If someone doesn't understand why you are hurt, there is zero point in trying to explain to them. A psychologist gave me the best, and shortest therapy ever with one simple directive: 'NEVER explain yourself.'
  26. Kas_Can_Fly

    Kas_Can_Fly A Very Complicated Onion.

    Thank you, that provides me with much relief. :)
    gizmo and Ms Spock like this.

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