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Generational Effects of Abuse

domestic violenceThis is a story of domestic abuse and how it often runs in families. The cycle of abuse is a tough one to break unless you begin to understand the facts about abuse.  Domestic abuse has more than one face and can affect you in many ways, including unknowingly teaching your children, by example, to choose similar relationships when they are adults. My family story includes all types of abuse, although I can’t say absolutely that sexual abuse exists, but red flags existed.

Types of Domestic Abuse:

  • Physical Abuse
  • Emotional Abuse
  • Financial Abuse
  • Sexual Abuse
  • Spiritual Abuse

When I was sixteen, I made the decision to distance myself from my father. However, I often felt guilty for not talking to him, and that guilt would drive me to call him again. My parents divorced when I was three years old, and I visited him twice a year every year up until the age of sixteen. At the age of sixteen I flat out refused to see him and from them on I think I saw him five times in over 20 years.

There are so many times my relationship with my father confuses me. On one hand, I don’t want to be around him when he is abusive, and that is more often than not. However, I know he suffers from mental illness, and that is not entirely his fault. Now, my aunt has taken over my father’s finances, and he is in a nursing home. My father is so out of control that the thought of my taking over his care gives me panic attacks.

My father has always been ill in more ways than one. As a child, my family protected me from the truth, which probably didn’t protect me at all. My father was diagnosed with Schizophrenia back in the 1970s. Although, in the 1970s, that classification was often incorrect or not a reliable diagnosis. My father was certainly extreme in moods and his behavior often exhibited those of Bi-polar with the tendency to have manic swings.

Approximately ten years ago they diagnosed my father with Schizoaffective Disorder because there seemed to be more than one mental illness present in him. It is very likely my father is also an alcoholic, but he hid this from me very well when I was a child as I never saw him drink.  Oftentimes, substance abuse and mental illness go hand-in-hand.

I do have sympathy for my father because he was a victim if abuse by his father. My grandfather was an extremely controlling and abusive man. He regularly beat his children, but my aunt said my father, being the oldest, always got the worst of it. So it is difficult to say if my father was born with this illness or if all the trauma from physical abuse created it or exacerbated the issues.

My grandfather was also a victim of abuse from his father. What I have learned about my great-grandfather is he was alcoholic that was extremely physically abusive to his children. So my grandfather was regularly beaten, and this cycle of abuse continued when he became a parent. My grandfather never drank a day in his life and might have been considered a drunk alcoholic.

What I remember of my grandfather has he had a grandiose image of himself, and he expected his family to uphold that image. He was in the military and always dressed the part. They had a Rolls Royce, not sure if it was one they fixed up or not. When I was a child, they drove talking Cadillacs, huge expensive motorhome, and a huge boat. He was always living beyond his means to impress other people. I know they made a lot of money, but they were always broke. My grandfather was always looking for getting rich quick schemes that usually don’t result in anyone getting rich. My grandfather definitely used finances and threatening to take the children away to control my grandmother.

My father was an amazing artist, and that was not acceptable to my grandfather. So my father wound up going into the military too, and I am sure he was extremely resentful. However, I remember my father was always trying to please my grandfather, even up until the day my grandfather died. To this day, my father also talks about how great my grandfather was and doesn’t even discuss the abuse.

After my parents had divorced in the 1970s, my father had a break that landed him in the hospital. Perhaps he snapped because my mom had finally decided she had it with the abuse and took me and left. So my grandparents brought him home to live with them, and that was where I would visit my father. My aunt discusses how they took care of my father and never discussed his mental illness with anyone. I am sure they were ashamed of his illness.

When I was a child, my grandparents would often blame my dad’s illness on my mom. They told me she was the reason he was sick. They also told me all the time when I was a child that when I grew up I would need to take care of my father. That entire side of my family would just tear my mom to shreds every time I came to visit. This experience was so negative for me that was why I decided to stop seeing them when I was a teenager.

So, as you can imagine, this created a lot of stress and anger for me when I was a child. Plus, I was an only child, and I had no one to discuss this with whenever I returned home to my mother. My mother would often not say anything negative about my father, which is good on some levels. However, I needed someone to explain his illness to me, especially as I grew older and began to witness some of the outbursts.

Eventually, I came to learn more of the story about my father. However, since we never discussed abuse, I wound up picking a verbally abusive man to marry myself. My ex-husband had extreme moods too along with that grandiose image of himself. In fact, I would say I married someone who was very similar to my father. Generationally, domestic abuse does seem to run in families.

When I was dating my ex-husband, I confided in him one of my greatest fears. I knew the illness my father had could be hereditary, and I was afraid it could happen to me too. Throughout our marriage, this was my ex-husband’s favorite way to hurt me. Tell me things like, “Look how crazy your are acting.” I am sure he enjoyed throwing that bomb at me whenever he was angry.

Hopefully, I have made enough difference choices that the cycle of abuse may end with me. I pray that my daughter makes difference choices than I did. Look at how many years this cycle of abuse has been present in my family.

 

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