Lessons from my Stepfather (and other situations) / by Jacs Fishburne

When I was a child, things were simple. When I was ten, my mother became sick. No one knew what was going on with her and as a last ditch effort, she went to see a spiritual healer named J.C.

J.C. Just like the initials of Jesus Christ. And true to the lord, he helped heal my mother. Eventually over time, she would work for him and they would fall in love and get married.

At first things went fine- we were his Cinderella story, lifted from poverty into the golden arms of wealth and health. He gave my mother a job (working for him with no pay) and took control of the financial situation. Everything went through him, there was no sense of self for my mother. Things had to all go through him, friends, money, feelings. I remember distinctly being 14 and being told my feelings were not valid, that J knew best and not to mention things (like being depressed or queer) because “you don’t want the label.” (Read: he didn’t want the labels near him)

But like Cinderella, eventually midnight came and the fantasy went away. His children could scream and yell their way into new cars and college payments, but if my mother’s children asked for $20 to do something, it was tallied up and held against us. If we went around him and asked our grandfather for help with something, he would get pissed and ask why we didn’t come to him. We learned the lesson that things are never given freely but with strings attached and honestly anyone I have met with his personality has done the same thing.

Eventually the situation became more manipulative and turned into gaslighting. By making it so that my family was almost entirely dependent upon him (and luckily I started working at 12/13 so I was not as dependent on him), we had to go with his opinions and his directions. We were at the mercy of his children’s violent rages but told “that’s how families deal with things” as if broken bones and being chased around by someone brandishing a butchers knife was par for course. Distinctive memories were perpetually reexamined because “no that’s not how it happened,” even if it happened five minutes ago, was constantly stated.

It got to the point of where we were told so much “that’s not how it happened” that my Ma started feeling memory issues. We felt like we were losing our minds.

Eventually things fell apart and my mother got out. He still held sway over the situation for another few years until he fired her and had only payments left as per their divorce agreement.

Coming out on the other side, I can say a few things:

1. If someone is controlling a situation completely, that is abuse. Financial control is one of the most common forms of emotional abuse. You turn the person completely dependent upon you to keep control of the situation. If, in the case of BSDM and PE, things for a scene/etc are consensual, that is one thing and perfectly acceptable as all parties involved are on the same page. That is not abuse. Telling people how to feel, think, and act is. Catfishing someone is abuse. Taking on someone’s personality after repeatedly making snide comments about it for years is just straight up manipulative and a dick move. Enabling situations such as if the person is an alcoholic, getting them to drink constantly with you and if they don’t want to saying things like “you’re boring or no fun” because they don’t want to drink, is enabling, manipulative and abusive.

2. No means no. A repeated use of the word no and asking for no contact, then ignoring those wishes of the individual is abusive. You have turned the person into an object and ceased to allow them to be a human.

3. Gaslighting is one of the worst forms of abuse. You beat the person down and tell them how things went and what to think of a situation and make it so that they literally question everything. Gaslighting kills trust. After being in those situations, it’s hard as shit to ever trust a person again, but know if you have been through it, you are valid, you are wonderful, and you will survive.

4. Abusive people always think they are good people. They don’t acknowledge what they are doing, they only see things through rose colored glasses. I’ve said this before and will say it again: if you have to state you are a good person, you probably aren’t. Anyone I have met that has to lay that claim out loud tends to not see past their own nose. The best people I have met all believe themselves to be shitty people so they constantly are trying to make up for it. They make no claims to being good because they are in the process of growth and recognize that sometimes things go south on their end, but they tend to be the ones to correct their behavior.

5. Abuse always get worst when the people in power have lost control. There is often a struggle to regain control, sometimes over the course of a couple years while things are falling apart, but when the person finally claims back their own power, it causes a flip to switch.

And here’s the thing, living through those situations marks a person. They literally will change elements of their life to avoid being put in those situations again and they will be constantly on their guard with people. You can eventually get past, learn the lessons, and move on but those years stick with you. Regaining your own power can be a slow, long process, but I promise you if you want it back, you will regain it. It may be messy, but the universe will help you to find yourself again and you will come out the other side stronger than before.