I expected to be villified. I mean, who would dare to attack the inviolable role of motherhood by writing about “Toxic Moms” for Mother’s Day on the Huffington Post!? I did. And I braced for the attack…that never came! Instead, the frickin’ article went viral with 16,000 likes and over 2,300 shares on Facebook alone. There were two, maybe three, negative comments. That’s it.
So when I published Dad, Your Cruel Criticisms Still Haunt Me on the HuffPo for Father’s Day, I didn’t expect a backlash.
Ooops. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Howls erupted from (mostly) men. Everyone from good ol’ boys to the head of media companies shamed me. There were three main complaints:
- Oh great! Another man-bashing article. Thanks a lot!
- What an inappropriate article for Father’s Day!
- Just get over it!
Complaint #1 was an education. I never realized just how much men take-it-on-the-chin in society today. I’ve always counted more men than women amongst my friends. In general, I find most men to be very nice people. But as my article was written to inform men (fathers) of their power and not man-bashing in general, #1 didn’t bother me. It was just sad.
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Complaint #2 was just plain wrong. Father’s Day was the perfect day to write an article for the rest of us. Those who, like me, suffered under the disapproving gaze of a critical and perfectionistic father. It was written for those who struggle to find a generic Father’s Day greeting card that isn’t too gushy nor lovey-dovey…or for those who ignore Father’s Day altogether. We needed a voice.
Complaint #3 was intriguing. I’ve run across it before. In fact, I addressed it in my article “Victim” Isn’t a Dirty Word, So Don’t Revictimize Me. One of my Facebook friends humorously termed it the “Suck It Up, Buttercup” crowd.
There seems to be a belief that if you point out the cruelties of your parents, if you complain about them, if you grieve them, you’re a poor-me crybaby. Having a pity party. Whining. Copping out.
Shame on you, the naysayers say. Suck it up, Buttercup. Get over your sweet self. Damn the unhealthy family dynamics…full speed ahead. Don’t expect society to pay for your therapy. (Say what!? Isn’t that what eBay is for!?)
I dunno about you, but that’s a trigger for me. Pity parties were never allowed by my parents. Nor was whining, pouting, raging or feeling sorry for myself tolerated. I deserved what I got. They were right, I was wrong. Sometimes they shamed me, sometimes they hugged me. And then it was Suck-It-Up-Buttercup time.
Now, this strikes me as odd…because they indulged in the very things I was forbidden. Complaining. Pouting. Rage.
Along the way, I lost the ability to feel empathy for myself. I couldn’t weep. Tears wouldn’t come to release the toxic pool of emotions inside. They still don’t come easily. Oh, I can cry for the pain of others on a dime. But not for myself. No amount of huffing, puffing and eye-scrunching will make the tears flow.
So, as early as age seven or eight, I learned to translate emotional pain into physical pain. Then, I could cry. Then, I could feel empathy for myself. Of course, I was ordered not to do that either.
Sucking It Up
Not that I haven’t tried to suck-it-up. I did! What choice did I have?
I sucked up the atrocious pain of my teen years and being the projected-upon one. I sucked up the pain of isolation during my “homeschooling” years. I sucked up the pain of being humiliated time-and-time again in my twenties.
Oh, I tried counseling for a few months. But it didn’t help because I didn’t know that narcissism was the root of the problem. So I quit counseling and went back to sucking-it-up.
A Legacy of Sucking-It-Up
As far as I know, I’m the first person in my family to seek professional psychological help. The rest of them just sucked-it-up.
I remember Grandpa sadly recounting how his cold, distant mother fine-combed his hair so viciously during the 1920s that she left bloody rows of scratches on his scalp. But he didn’t blame her. He was just sad. He never got help. He too was kinda’ cold and rather distant.
I remember Dad sadly recounting his perfectionistic father’s terrifying blackout rages. He told how his father kicked in the side of their television set when his favorite pro-wrestler didn’t win a fight. He told of his father smashing a popcorn maker on the porch when the popcorn burned. He recounted it sadly, remembering being so petrified he fled and stayed away from home for hours. He never got help. He tried hard to do better than his father had done, but for some reason it seemed to me that he also demanded perfection and terrified me with his blackout rages.
I remember Mom sadly recounting her father’s cruel comments and snide put-downs. She described how her mother turned her into her confidant about her unhappy 1950esque marriage (covert incest) and the beginning of their codependent relationship. It made her sad, but she never got help. She taught me how to be a perfect codependent.
They all sucked-it-up. As a result, they passed it down.
Wallowing Ain’t All Bad
There may be some who wallow in “poor me” victimhood with no view to heal, to learn, to overcome. There may be some who exploit their wounds.
But that’s not me. And it’s not my readers. That’s why we come to PsychCentral. To learn, grow, change…and break the legacy so we don’t pass this shit down.
We must wallow for a time because we can’t heal until we acknowledge and feel our pain.
We must wallow in self-empathy for a time because we’ve need to grieve.
We must wallow because we cannot solve what we don’t understand.
Answering my Attackers
Those who write the Suck-It-Up-Buttercup comments are showing their hand. They’re betraying that they too are living with a shit-load of pain. They’re betraying they’re doing nothing to help themselves.
That’s not being strong. That’s COWARDICE.
You can’t live like that…and not pass it down. I have empathy for them, but even more empathy for their suffering families.
As for me, my suck-it-up days are over. They availed me nothing. Now I tell the truth, shame the Devil and get the help I need to be a happier, healthier me for myself, my husband and my family. And yes, even for my dogs.
Sucking-it-up stops here, Buttercup.