There’s often talk about how abusive parents can mess with someone’s relationship with food – especially if the abuse has food/weight components to it. I never see talk about how abuse can influence one’s relationship with time and space.
(and for the record, I am not at all discrediting food abuse or any of that. It’s horrible and my heart goes out to people who went through it and may still be dealing with the fallout. I’m just using it as a parallel and way to better describe what I’m about to).
Some parents are strict about food. What you can eat, when you can eat, how much you can eat, they dictate it as if you are an object that has no needs or preferences of your own. My mother had this a little, but surprisingly it’s one of the few things I managed to mostly escape. No, what my mother was strict about was time and controlling what I was doing.
I had to follow her schedule, do what she wanted, do it how she did it. It’s one thing to tell a child “this needs to be done by X time” or “could you do Y for me?” or “here, let me show you how to do Z”, but of course my mother was never like that.
- I had to do what she wanted when she wanted it done, and when she did it. When she told (or yelled at) me to do something, I had to drop everything I was doing and do it right that instant. Didn’t matter if I was doing homework or playing a game with a group of people or actually going to my job (yes, she forced me to call into work because there was something she wanted done and god forbid it happen 4 hours later), I had to do what she said. And if she was doing something, by the gods I had better be doing something; I got called lazy and screamed at so many times because she decided to do laundry or paper work and I was watching something or playing a game.
- Before I just gave up trying to deal with her, I always told my mother I would do other things but I would not touch the kitchen because it was disgusting since she never made an effort to clean it and used the skin as a garbage can (week+ old organics mixing with stagnant water creating slime and an ungodly smell was so fun to deal with). What happened? She would always yell at me to clean the kitchen. I could do other things – hell, I could clean the entire house – but if there was one thing I didn’t do that she wanted done, everything else counted for nothing and I would get yelled at.
- She also never asked me to do something; she told (or yelled at me) what to do. She also never said a word, and not being psychic, things would seem fine until she’d explode about how lazy I was by not doing X, Y, and Z right that instant.
- My mother never showed me how to do stuff. She would mock me and tell me how to do stuff in a super patronizing tone. If she saw me doing something that worked (sometimes better) in a way she wouldn’t do it, she would yell at me to get it “right” even though I wasn’t harming anything or any one and the way I was doing it was easier or made more sense to me.
As a result, if she’s around, I am constantly stressed and on edge. Even if she’s not home right then but will be later in the day, I am still stressed because I never know when she’s going to yell at me and know no matter what, she’s going to find fault with what I did.
This lead to me “hoarding” time for myself. If she’s not around or is asleep, I will do absolutely nothing except watch stuff, play games, or other things that are fun. It started when I was way younger, but it continues to this day. I never knew when I’d have time to myself or for how long, so I binged the fuck out of what time I had. Even when I want(ed) to clean or organize things, I wouldn’t because it would cut into what leisure time I had. Plus I would get yelled at for doing it wrong or not doing it well enough, so why bother when I could do something else?
Even when I wasn’t enjoying what I was doing, I was still compelled to do it because I never knew when I’d get a chance again.
It wasn’t healthy and I still am stuck with it.
The only time I feel free is when my mother is out of the house for at least a few days. I can do what I want, when I want, how I want and not have to worry about her blowing up at me. I don’t have to worry about dropping everything to cater to her whims, and I don’t have to worry about being criticized for any little thing. I can actually get shit done I’ve wanted to get done forever!
I don’t know if others have similar experiences, but it sucks and just further destroys your self-esteem having stuff that needs to get done – that you want to get done – but can’t because you have to make every moment count when you’re alone, and can’t do it when your mother is there because who knows what kind of storm will blow in when you start.
If I have the house to myself or am staying with someone else (who isn’t family), things instantly change. But otherwise, nope. Because when that’s been your life for how long and was how you survived, it’s hard or impossible to change when you’re stuck living with the person who caused/causes it in the first place.