Mother Knows Best
My mom had grown up in an abusive household. Her life had always been unstable, and few people around her cared for her or showed her how to care for others. She met my dad when she was 18. He didn't want to have kids or get married, but she managed to become pregnant with me and he decided to marry her and support us anyway. (Years later, she admitted to intentionally getting pregnant to manipulate my dad into marrying her).
So that's how my life started. A tool/pawn to help her achieve what she wanted in life. She got herself a stable, hardworking husband so that she'd never have to work. He paid off all her debts for her. His mother was a very manipulative woman who always got what she wanted, so that sort of behavior in a woman was normal for him. My mom spent so much energy since the beginning of their relationship on separating him from his family and whoever else "didn't like" her or "wasn't good for him". She used religion, his values, and his work ethic to her advantage. Every two years, she instigated a major religious change in the family. A different denomination, giving up holidays, leaving church altogether and observing different holidays, diet restrictions, and finally, observing those holidays on different days than most who observe them do. This would usually coincide with a move to another state/city (my dad was in the military). Any friends we'd made would be either alienated, or cut off because they didn't hold up to the new standards.
She had virtually no friends when I was growing up. By the time I was 8, she stopped homeschooling me and expected me to be self taught. She spent most of her time sleeping or on the computer (later, smart phone). I often made lunch for everyone (my parents had a new baby about every two years, there were five of us by the time I was 9). She barely homeschooled my younger siblings, she was either too busy with the computer or too tired. I taught them how to read and helped them with their math. By the time I was 15, I was practically running the household. Cooking, cleaning, making sure seven kids behaved and did their schoolwork, potty training the toddler, making sure my mom had everything she wanted, as well as doing my own schoolwork.
She would go for long stretches with letting us do whatever we wanted, then go on a spanking spree without warning.
She would abuse and yell at us while my dad was at work, but be calm and composed when he came home. If we'd given her more lip or sass than she cared for, she'd tell him about it privately and get him to spank us for "disrespecting" her. Usually, she'd look on with an air of righteous superiority.
She would spank us with whatever was most likely to cause maximum pain with minimal bruising. Switches, wooden spoons, rubber spatulas, plastic clothes' hangers, a belt, electrical cord,... She would find random objects and remark on their stinging potential and then test them on us to see if they were effective.
She loved appealing to people's emotion and/or sense of justice. "That hurts my heart", "How could you be so cruel?", "If you loved me, you would insert what she wanted here". She could be the most convicted penitential person you'd ever seen: getting on her knees, weeping, begging for forgiveness. The very next moment, she'd be doing the exact same thing. She would claim she didn't know what was wrong with her, she would try harder, she didn't mean to. The list of promises and excuses was endless. She always knew exactly what to say.
Growing up, my mom taught us to fear CPS. "All it takes is one phone call or crazy neighbor and they will take you all away. And don't think that you'll all get to stay together and find an amazing new family. You'll never see your parents again, and you'll probably never see your siblings again."
So I felt trapped. Ever since I was little, I'd had an intense fear of feeling trapped. My mom knew this and would pin me down so I couldn't move or get up. She would be laughing and giggling even though I was hyperventilating and screaming for help. She would also tickle me even though she knew I vehemently hated it. When I was older and stronger, she would get my brother and sisters to help hold me down and tickle me until I was exhausted and couldn't fight anymore. If I accidently kicked someone in my panic, she would spank me for "being violent".
She was very good at insinuating. She would imply something, and then when someone would confront her, she would be able to state that they were twisting her words. I picked up this trait from her at a very young age. She got fed up with me using it and starting forcing me to drink vinegar every time I was "being technical". She got my dad to spank me for it too. Told him I was being "rebellious and difficult".
She made fun of me for crying so much that I taught myself not to cry when I was 14. I didn't cry for five whole years. I wanted to, but I couldn't.
She told me so many times when I was growing up that I was cold and heartless. I believed her. It was common for her to compare me to people she had deemed horrible whenever I wasn't complicit with whatever she wanted.
She made me promise multiple times as a kid to never "talk bad" about her.
When I started dating my boyfriend, she was determined to get him to marry me. I watched her rapidly change her image and change things about herself that had always been a part of who she was, just to establish rapport with him. She manipulated both of us individually so subtly and skillfully, it's sickening. Neither of us wanted to be together. She still ended up getting what she wanted.
I left home in 2020 just to get away from my mom. I ended up moving back in with her a year later because the anxiety issues she created made it too difficult for me to keep a job. Luckily, I was able to get out and am now in an environment where I have the right to not share my thoughts, the right to privacy, the right to do what I want with my own body, and am learning to speak with my own voice.