Friday, September 9, 2011

my family of origin

My family of origin
I am glad to be finally able to refer to my family of origin. Because my family of origin has almost nothing in common with me morally, emotionally, spiritually, financially, or any other way. It was the place where I was involuntarily born and forced to live among strangers who hated me and wanted to destroy me from the first day of my life virtually.
I was born into an upper middle class Jewish family. My parents are ambitious, upwardly mobile Jews from Queens. My parents were married in 1973. They lived for a year in Guadalajara, Mexico, where my dad studied medicine. In 1974 they moved to Little Rock, Arkansas, so my dad could attend medical school and my mom could attend law school. I was born in 1975 while my parents were in graduate school.
In 1977, my parents graduated from medical school and dental school, and my dad entered a residency program in internal medicine. In 1979 my brother was born. In 1980, my dad finished his medical residency, and then we moved to Boca Raton, Florida, where my dad opened a medical practice.
Our first house was nice -and not too large. And then once my dad’s medical practice took off, then we moved into a fancy house.
Unfortunately, the material prosperity did not match the internal hell of my childhood. The problem began at birth. The first problem for my dad is that his first child was a daughter. And his mother had so severely emotionally abused him as a child that he developed a pathological hatred of women, and so he took out his rage at his toxic and evil mother on the two women closest to him: his wife and daughter. I think my dad rejected me at birth because by virtue of being female, I reminded him of his mother.
My dad’s mother was a thoroughly evil and toxic person who never did a kind thing to anyone in her entire life. My dad is the youngest of four children and is younger by at least 7 years than his next-oldest sibling. He is almost certainly the result of an unwanted pregnancy, and his mother rejected him from birth. She treated him clearly with intentional cruelty and intentionally denied him any kind of love, respect, and dignity.
He is basically a big abused child who is still hurting inside that his mommy never loved him. Even after he graduated from medical school, married, and started a family, his evil mother wrote him back and told him that she loved her other children better. So no matter what he did or accomplished, his mother never gave him the love he so desperately needed. And so he passed on his rage at his mother to his wife and daughter.
An additional problem from my parents‘ viewpoint is that when I was born with a mild cerebral palsy because I didn’t get enough oxygen to the brain during the birth. I treat this as a minor disability, but my parents clearly have always treated it as a major defect. They have viewed me as defective virtually from birth.
And rather than accept the fact that I was born with mild cerebral palsy and this reality limited my athletic ability to some degree, they tried to force me into athletic activities for which I was totally unsuited. So they forced me into gymnastics in 2nd and 3rd grade even though I have virtually no flexibility. I finally was kicked out of gymnastics as a 4th grader, much to my relief and my parents’ rage.
But my parents attempt to force me into gymnastics rather than accepting my very mild physical disability foreshadowed their later attempts to force me to conform to standards that I would not or could not meet. Rather than loving and accepting and embracing me for who I am, they were continually trying to force me to conform to their own expectations for what type of life I should have. And when I couldn’t or wouldn’t meet those expectations, then they responded by rejecting and abusing me in horrendous ways.
My parents practiced a very sick and controlling kind of conditional love in which the child clearly got the message that our job was to make our parents happy, not to pursue our own hopes and dreams. From an early age, I got the message that I would only receive my parents’ love if I was able to meet their expectations for me. When I was 12 years old, I told my parents that I knew one day they would stop loving me once I stopped conforming to their expectations, and now I know that this has come true.
Seeing my talent in music, they tried to force me to become a classical pianist. I took piano lessons at age 9 to 12. Unfortunately, my piano teacher was a frustrated and unsuccessful concert pianist who took out her disappointment in her career aspirations on her students. This teacher was the kind of insane perfectionist where you could do the piece 99.9% perfect, and she would immediately zero in on the 0.1% that was not perfect. She would berate you so severely for that tiny mistake that you would be convinced you played the whole piece wrong.
Although I was a talented pianist who won a Florida state piano competition at age 11, I grew to hate piano because I associated it with the tyranny of my parents and piano teacher.
I was severely tormented by my peers in middle school and high school. I went to two different private schools: Pine Crest where the style of female tormenting was open public humiliation and taunting and Saint Andrews where the girls systematically shunned me for being an intellectual Jewish girl who had no interest in boys or clothes. I passed my high school years in a state of profound emotional loneliness that came from being tormented at home by my father and at school by my peers and by the school administrators.
During my middle school and high school years, my clashes with my father became much more frequent. My dad would yell at me constantly and I tried to fight back by yelling back at him. My mother did nothing to protect me from my father’s very vicious verbal assaults. I will never forget one horrendous day in 7th or 8th grade when my dad dropped me off at school and told me to drop dead. This day is so deeply seared into my mind that I can remember it as if it were yesterday.
My teenage years were spent in an emotional war zone when I was the family scapegoat, and my father early on got the message from my mother that I was fair game for almost any type of horrendous emotional abuse that he could dish out. I begged my mother constantly to get a divorce so that I could live in peace without my dad terrorizing me, but unfortunately my mother was too afraid of having to support herself and too conditioned to accept male emotional abuse to take any action to protect me from my father.
Realizing that my mother was not going to do anything to save me, I decided that the only thing I could do was to try to save myself. Unfortunately, I soon discovered that this was much easier said than done.
I attended an Ivy League university with dreams of becoming a Russian history professor. From ages 11 to 18, while other girls were busy hunting for boys, I spent my time reading anything I could get my hands on about Russia. My first letter to Russia was a condolence card for the 1989 death of my hero the late Dr. Andrei Sakharov, father of the hydrogen bomb, brilliant physicist, human rights activist, and 1975 Nobel Peace Prize winner. I thought I would earn my PhD in Russian history by age 29 and become an assistant professor and then tenured professor by age 36. I thought I would marry while working as an assistant professor and celebrate my achievement of tenure by giving birth to children.
Unfortunately, my dreams of becoming a Russian history professor were shattered when I was only 18 years old. In my freshman year of college, I clashed with a very powerful professor in Russian studies and I made the mistake of publicly criticizing him in class for his consistently immoral defense of Stalin’s genocidal policies. I clearly did not understand that I was upsetting another powerful male ego through my inappropriate behavior. But when he gave me a B in his course as punishment for having criticized him publicly, I knew that my academic career dreams were over.
At that time I didn’t really understand what had happened to me. I didn’t realize that I had acted inappropriately because I have Asperger’s, which means I have a combination of very high intellect and very weak social skills. And I didn’t realize that I had a toxic view of particularly male authority because of my father’s extremely severe emotional abuse against me. Today I know that actually a professional career in academia was never a possibility for me because I have Asperger’s and thus I lack the key skill which is needed for career success in academia, namely the ability to wade through the minefields of office politics.
And I have come to accept this reality because now I know that I was born with Asperger’s and that my inability to work in an office is caused by an irreparable social skills deficit and an almost total inability to read social cues and interpret body language.
When I entered college, I vowed to myself that I would never return home after college. I entered college with the foolish self-confidence of thinking I could do any work I dreamed of. I thought that once I entered the work force, my problems would go away because I would find an employer who would accept me for who I am and allow me to use my intellectual skills to better the organization.
In my senior year, I launched a desperate and unsuccessful job hunt for a corporate job. I went on about 60 interviews and went through such horrendous rejection that I responded by overeating and my dress size rose from 12 to 16 as a result of overeating. When I graduated college without a job, I was devastated because I knew that I was being sent back to the very same hell at home that I had tried so desperately to escape. I felt trapped by rejection in the corporate world for reasons that I didn’t understand because I did not yet realize I had Asperger’s.
I cried at my college graduation and did not really attend the ceremony because without a job I didn’t want to graduate. I came home in a state of total despair, and within weeks of my graduation, I was forced to flee my house. My dad subjected me to intolerable and terrifying forms of verbal abuse, and so I fled to Boston to accept a job at a bank. Unfortunately, once I got to Boston, I was overwhelmed with the double transition to a new apartment and a new job.
I remember six weeks of total sleeplessness. I also remember that I networked successfully within the bank and received a special position that only one employee every 1-2 years out of hundreds of employees received. My job in 1997 was to study the implications of the Euro which was scheduled to be implemented in Europe in 2000.
Unfortunately, I clashed with one of the managers and ended up crying on the job. I was fired from my first job on my 22nd birthday just 3 weeks into the job. I was devastated. This incident marked the beginning of a long and horrendous ordeal in the office work place where I was fired from job after job after job for lacking basic social skills. I was fired from at least four jobs that I can think of off the top of my head in 1997, 1998, 2003, and 2008. I lasted ten weeks at the longest of these jobs.
I was diagnosed with Asperger’s at age 25 but did not accept this diagnosis until a few months earlier. For many years I did not want to accept the diagnosis because its implications are stark and painful: they mean that I cannot function in an office setting and therefore cannot pursue a wide range of careers such as law, accounting, business, stock analysis, and most of all my dream career in academia. Asperger’s is a painful diagnosis because it severely limits your career options, and there is no way around this.
I used to think that the only way to make a living was to work in an office because the most common careers that interested me required working in an office. I thought I was condemned to live as a terrified prisoner in my parents’ house because I was unable to become financially self-sufficient.
I made my first attempt to attend counseling in late 2002-early 2003 when I was 27 years old. I went to a Jewish counseling agency in New York City and thought I was making progress for a few months. Then I was horrified when I saw the form that the counselor had filled out where she indicated that the problem was “family conflict.” She was drawing a false moral equivalence between my father the primary aggressor and me as the primary victim and implying that my father and I were engaged in mutually destructive combat with equal responsibility for both parties. She refused to acknowledge that my father had abused me because the forms of abuse were verbal, psychological, and emotional, not physical or sexual.
Unfortunately, this counselor operated according to the logic of moral equivalence which poisons international relations. This logic suggests a moral equivalence between Israeli Jewish terror victims such as women and children and their Arab Muslim murderers. The logic also suggests a moral equivalence between genocidal murderers such as Saddam Hussein and their victims. And it also suggests a moral equivalence between Iraqi Shi’ite civilians who are blown up at Friday prayer and their killers.
After this devastating experience, where the counselor did not even acknowledge my suffering, I did not go back to counseling for another three years. I resumed counseling at the age of 30 when I attended FAU for graduate school in taxation. My parents pushed me to attend this graduate program in hopes of once again sending me back into the office workforce where I had failed so many times before. I told the professor that I could not work in an office - and begged her to tell me if I could earn a living in the field of tax without working in an office. She said it was possible to make a living in tax without working in an office but very difficult. I reluctantly attended the tax program in hopes that I could find a way to earn a living in the field with my own business.
While earning my degree in taxation, I also applied for and held a job as a research fellow in economic development. This job was one that paid well - and I flourished at it because it involved phone-based research and also financial calculations. I got along very well with my supervisor and worked on two projects. One was understanding Community Land Trusts as a mechanism for workforce housing and also suggesting ways for Palm Beach County to raise funds for workforce housing. The other project involved projecting the property tax base for Palm Beach County through 2020. This experience was my best job so far, and my parents told me not to apply for it because it didn’t involve tax. I know that I am great with research and can do it as long as I am not working in an office. Now this is the kind of job I am seeking - writing and research that involves Spanish and/or Russian and also Spanish to English document translation.
My parents repeatedly tried to pressure me to work for the IRS. Their reasoning was sound enough: it is an intellectually stimulating career which is good for a woman and allows a woman to combine career and family. However, my parents forget to take into account two minor facts. One, I don’t want a family of my own. Two, the IRS career is not suitable for me because it involves public confrontations with dishonest taxpayers, both individual and business, that I would find very upsetting and distasteful.
During my time earning this degree, I attended counseling with a super-tough Israeli Jewish woman who was good in some ways and bad in others. She helped me in two key respects. First of all, she helped me to realize that my mother was colluding with my father against me and was a co-perpetrator alongside my father against me rather than a co-victim of his emotional brutality against women. It was a very eye-opening revelation to begin understanding that my mother was part of the problem rather than part of the solution.
The other thing that she helped me to realize is that I had unconsciously picked up and imitated my dad’s verbally and emotionally abusive behavior. I used to do things like scream and yell and slam doors and make a scene which I learned from my dad - and which I didn’t even realize were inappropriate behaviors. I thought these were normal forms of fighting because they were definitely the norm in my family of origin. She helped me to begin learning to take responsibility for my own actions and make sure that I did not abuse my parents or others in the same vicious way that I had been abused.
I remember the counselor telling me that she had a hard time listening to my story because it violated her stereotypes of a loving Jewish home, or the Jewish concept of Shalom Bayis, peace in the home. I told her she should not be surprised because some Jewish children grew up facing physical and sexual abuse too.
Unfortunately, her counseling of two years contained at least two major defects which proved very harmful to me in long run. First of all, she was a cognitive behavioral therapist. This meant that she focused on making temporary fixes to my behavior without understanding the underlying root causes of my behavior. I remember asking her on several occasions if we could explore my history of severe emotional child abuse because I thought that my emotionally inappropriate behavior was ultimately caused by this history. I wanted to talk to her about my memories of growing up as an emotionally abused child, and she would not allow me to do this.
The other problem with this counselor was that she gave me the false illusion that I could successfully work in an office. As a result, after earning my masters degree in taxation, I made the mistake of taking a job in a small tax firm in South Florida. I was 32 years old. I told myself that if I succeeded in this job, I would continue in the office work place. Given my painful history of failure in the office setting, I also vowed to myself that if I failed in this job I would not ever return to work in an office again.
Unfortunately, I got stuck with an emotionally abusive boss who failed to train me in the complex mechanisms for using tax software and who yelled at me every time I made even minor mistakes in processing returns. Within ten weeks, he ended up asking me to sign a form that explained all mistakes and gave him cause for firing me. I quit the job before I could be fired as I saw the handwriting on the wall.
One week after I lost this job, my parents pressured me to enter a training course for H&R Block so I would learn how to prepare tax returns. I told my mother that I didn’t want to attend this course because I thought it would bring back painful memories of being so recently fired at my last job in tax. I remember that I was fired on August 18, 2008. I went to the tax course exactly one week later on August 25, 2008.
On the way back from the tax course, I was so emotionally distraught that I drove very unsafely. I made a U-turn into oncoming traffic. I was hit from the side by another car, and my car was completely totaled. In addition, the airbag didn’t open, and I was knocked unconscious for 20 minutes.
When I came to, I was being pulled out of the car by EMTs. I had major bruises on almost every part of my body. But at least, unlike my dear friend from college who died in a similar car crash at age 28 where the airbag didn’t open, I was alive. And I was not only alive but I had no paralysis. I was not stuck in a wheelchair and I had no brain injury either.
I knew that I had survived by some mysterious form of divine intervention. I remember telling my mother when I came to from the accident that I was spared so that I could pursue a career as a Russian political and historical document translator. But before I could launch myself in this career, I first needed to recover from the accident. I had to learn to walk again, and I was in such severe pain that I could not get in and out of bed, I could not turn on my side in bed, I could not do my own laundry, I could not prepare my own food, and I struggled to get on and off the toilet. I had to learn to sleep on my back because I could not turn over in bed. I also could not go in and out of the shower without assistance and excruciating pain. I remember three weeks in a wheelchair and five weeks after that with a walker. I remember being so tired that I often slept in the middle of the day. I also remember my parents took wonderfully loving care of me at this time, which surprised me because of their generally severely abusive treatment of me. It took me about 3 months to recover from this accident.
Unfortunately my parents soon resumed their abusive behavior toward me after I finally recovered, and so in response I moved to my maternal grandmother’s house in Century Village in early 2009. I saw an amazing article in the Wall Street Journal dated February 28, 2009. It indicated that Raoul Wallenberg, an amazing Swedish diplomat who rescued up to 100,000 Hungarian Jews from the Holocaust in l944 before disappearing into Russian custody in January, 1945. According to the article, Wallenberg’s half-brother and half-sister were still searching for him, and also they had substantial evidence that Wallenberg might have been alive in 1960 in Soviet captivity or even later.
Raoul Wallenberg was one of my childhood heroes which my maternal grandfather had adored and taught me about as a young child, and grandpa went to his grave convinced that Wallenberg was still alive. Many years later, I now think he was right. I wrote a 70 page paper about the Wallenberg case which I have not yet had the time to post on the research site for the Wallenberg case - and my own thinking is he was probably alive in 1960 and 1964 and possibly alive in 1970 or possibly even later. I think he must have died before 1985 because otherwise Gorbachev would have released him.
I met a Venezuelan Jewish woman and I was going to work with her on setting up a GMAT course for Venezuelan students who were looking to acquire US MBAs so they could work for U.S. companies and escape the repressive and anti-capitalist Chavez regime. Unfortunately this project fell through because the woman insisted on total control of the project and thus working with her sounded unwise to me.
Then the Iranian people began their freedom uprising in the summer of 2009, and I thought about pursuing a PhD in Iranian studies so that I could support their struggle and one day possibly travel to a free Iran. Unfortunately, I flunked a practice GRE because I am still afraid of pursuing an academic career in light of my negative and traumatic experience in Russian studies at college. And also Iranian studies today is dominated by sympathizers of the current regime who honestly can’t understand that no Jew can safely travel to Iran under current conditions because the Iran Islamist regime is openly dedicated to the destruction of my people Israel and the Jews.
So in April 2010 I resumed studying Russian language in a serious fashion. I faced a choice between studying Russian or Persian or Arabic. I got interested in Arabic to try to understand the Quran and its commentaries. I got interested in Persian because of the Iranian freedom uprising. And I have a lifelong interest in Russian history and culture which began when I was only 11 years old and participated in the tail end of the Soviet Jewry movement in the late 1980’s. I had to ask myself, which language would I continue to study come hell or high water, and the answer was obviously Russian because of my long-standing passion for Russian studies.
I had studied one year of Russian in college, but that was 13 years ago and so I had forgotten almost everything I learned. I resumed my Russian language study in April, 2010. Within a year, I had reached an intermediate reading knowledge of Russian. I had studied at home and with a little practice from Russian-speaking neighbors. Now when I read Russian historical and political documents, I can often although not always understand 80-90% of what I am reading. I can’t translate it word for word yet although I am working on this skill.
I recently also underwent 2.5 years of additional counseling, including from one counselor who lasted for 2 years until my parents stopped paying her fees because she challenged my parents’ emotionally abusive treatment of me. Most recently I have attended low-cost counseling at the Association for Community Counseling in Delray Beach, where the counselors are nothing short of fabulous human beings. And so I have become a stronger human being.
What are my goals and dreams now? First of all, to write my story as a Jewish survivor of severe emotional child abuse from an upper middle class family so that I can inspire other survivors of both domestic violence and child abuse, both male and female. In addition I want to share my story with the wonderful folks at Heaven on Earth Foundation who took me in and are helping me every day so they can understand the dynamics of verbal abuse in an upper middle class Jewish environment. I also want to make my story available particularly to Jewish psychologists and counseling professionals and non-Jewish counselors who work with Jewish abuse victims so they can better understand the particular cultural dynamics of emotional abuse in a Jewish home environment.
Second, I would like to do research for a professor at FIU on Latin America because I am fluent in Spanish and very familiar with the history and culture of Latin America. And there might be other research opportunities for me at FIU and University of Miami as well.
Third, I want to apply for Spanish to English translation jobs. And fourth, maybe with a little more study I can apply for English to Spanish translation jobs.
Now that I have an intermediate knowledge of Russian language, I can apply for research jobs that require knowledge of Russian.
In addition, I am tracking events in Syria and Iran closely and supporting the freedom uprisings in both those countries. I also maintain a blog on Iran and Syria and in support of Israel and the Jews and of global human rights. In the unlikely event that a free Syria not only liberates itself from Assad’s tyranny but also establishes peace with Israel and the Jews, I will learn to speak Arabic and then fly to Syria so I can write a book on Syria’s freedom struggle.
In short, having liberated myself from a lifetime of severe emotional abuse at the hands of my parents and grandmother, I am now looking to become a self-sufficient and independent woman. I am also looking to use my experiences as a survivor of emotional child abuse to help other survivors of abuse of any kind, whether from a spouse or partner or from parents.
Finally, I want to express once again my gratitude to the wonderful folks at Heaven on Earth Foundation who have taken me in and given me an opportunity to pursue my dreams at a safe environment. I thank Julia, Beverly, Ibis, and Gisel for your help, and also Cheryl for her support as well.

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