“I don’t know if you know this, but crying doesn’t make me wrong.”
Through all of the neglect and pain, I was still having twinges of tenacity that he was trying to grind out of me. I was eleven or twelve, sitting on my bunk with tears all over my face and hands. This “discussion” had passed briefly through “absurd” and was squarely in the realm of “horrible”. It was as though my well-being did not matter. As though he did not see my tears or hear my words. Instead of letting me go to sleep, this man needed me to defend my choice to have feelings. This was another in a long string of un-winable late-night debate sessions. And this, unsurprisingly, is not the worst thing he does.
My oppressor was a narcissist: flexible and infinitely adaptable, charismatic and white, tall and male. Privileged in access to education, power, money, and people. Trusted in every circle he moved through. Entitled to anything he could get, bypassing any analysis about whether he should or should not have the things he was able to take from others.
My abuser did not have the capacity for love. He used something he called “love” that was actually him maintaining control over people or things. He needed to own people like property to feel whole himself. It bothered him so much that his wife got out from under his thumb! That’s why he made it as difficult for her as he could, using me and my siblings to leverage as much guilt, shame, and fear into their divorce proceedings as inhumanly possible. He couldn’t let her go for ten years.
And who made it possible for him to win in court or win with all their friends, or win in any way? The very same systems of oppression that create more broken people every day. I name them the true Enabler (I am referring, of course, to the framework similar to many families that are built around a Narcissist).
The systems that oppress the world (i.e. racism, white supremacy, misogyny, patriarchy, blind nationalism, rape culture, unchecked capitalism) were his playground. He could manipulate with such finesse and he knew how to use what he had to get what he wanted. These systems were the most enabling thing in my life; my other parent tried to save themself and save us but our justice system was so saturated with these broken and horrible oppressions that I was stuck with my abuser.
Sure, my other parent acted the Enabler while she was with him. Even then, she was trying to figure out what was wrong. She tried several types of counseling together and separate from her Narcissist and even at least one trial separation. But she left him before I hit puberty. In my opinion, the biggest Enabler while they were together was Fundamental Christianity.
It allowed him to run his family as if he was a god. It allowed him to use his values to isolate his daughters and control their bodies and their identities. It allowed him to perpetuate a version of toxic masculinity in his sons that warped their views on relationships, porn, sex, and abuse. It allowed him to use morals and foggy Christian-isms to keep us away from schools and other possibly attentive adults.
I’m convinced that if my siblings and I were raised in a house under a different religion, it would have been warped and tailored to serve my parent’s Narcissism. If we were raised sans religion (which is really unlikely because of the way religions can be bent into a cocoon for the Narcissists protection), he would have found a different way to manifest his control and sociopathy.
There is enough in my Bible to perpetuate the similarity between Daddy and God, and support his versions of “loyalty” and “respect”. He built his life around Scripture; or rather, he learned about Scripture in order to use it to build jails and chains and homunculi that would safeguard his possessions and himself. He ingratiated himself to public officials; he curated his collection of people to make himself feel safe and guarantee that his control be unquestioned. He carefully laid stones to wall us in and lock us down.
He tried to bury me. Yet I rise.
There is, yes, lasting damage, some of it non-reversible physical problems, but I see it. I see him. I know the name of my dragon.
You can be sure I will be tenacious in my quest for wellness.