Eleanor Cowan

How loss through suicide creates perfect targets for sociopaths

By Eleanor Cowan

The generous invitation to a “Survivors of Suicide Loss Retreat,” a day of comfort for those left behind, could so easily have been ignored by me. After all, it’s been 46 years since my depressed mother climbed over the railing of her high-rise balcony in Toronto.

I’ve done a great deal of recovery work since then. I researched the negative domino effect of Mum’s life: abused by her alcoholic father, unprotected by her co-dependent mother, denied the privilege of marrying the man she loved because he wasn’t Irish, followed by her hasty marriage to an unhappy religious man, who was a widower – and Irish.

“Why did you marry a man you didn’t love, Mom?” … Read more

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Finally recognizing a sociopath’s abuse

By Eleanor Cowan

“The statute of limitations? It took me 25 years post-drug-rape to recognize his abuse,” I replied to a comment as a bunch of us at our local Senior Center crowded around the fitness room TV to hear the sentencing of a dangerous sex criminal, a wealthy fellow much older than most of us, a fatherly figure whose abuses rampaged for decades with no limitations, brakes or borders.

“Why is there no statute of limitations for murder?” asked one woman, “while there is one for sexual abuse?”

“Yes,” said another, “Billy can wake up with a sudden recall of the murderer who killed twenty years ago, and the police are on it. No officer would ever … Read more

With the sociopath, I kept my mouth shut — not anymore

By Eleanor Cowan

A 1929 Depression-era humorist, Andrew Glasow, once wrote, “Improvement begins with I,” and this week, I noted an example of my progress.

On Tuesday, I filled out a feedback form about a costly senior health program I attended. I complained that our well-paid lecturers felt entitled to consume 96 minutes of our time to detail their personal histories of living overseas, the languages they’d learned so quickly, and the distinguished academic careers of their high-achieving children – none of which was on the agenda. Annoyed, I chose not to return to the afternoon segment. That evening, an attendee, Ted, called to say that only the last scrunchy 25 minutes of the workshop invited seniors to … Read more

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After our own abusive childhoods, endeavoring to protect others

By Eleanor Cowan

Way back in 1940, my Dad, Neil, married Maggie, a gentle woman soon thrilled at the birth of a son, Gordon. In late May, the young mom traveled to visit her parents in Nova Scotia and settled into a beautiful summer. Even with a war going on in Europe, and even though Gordie’s dad remained in Montreal, those months with her family became even more valued given Maggie’s sudden death.

In early September, Maggie packed to return to her husband in Montreal. Hours before her departure on the 6 p.m. train, she began hyperventilating. Her blood pressure sky-rocketed and Maggie plummeted into mortal asthmatic distress. She never got to Montreal. Before her horrified parents, Maggie, … Read more

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Self respect means not having to say you’re sorry (unless you really mean it)

By Eleanor Cowan

In my large family, so many of us were affected by our mother’s personality disorder that over time, our odd behaviors and adaptations became normalized. When neighbors asked about my mother’s terrible shrieking and screaming or her calling her children names such as “stupid brainless idiots,” I’d quickly minimize the damage and offer inauthentic responses. “Oh, our house is so big. She’s just calling everyone for supper.”

When I read, years later, that people swear according to their insecurities, I sensed my mother felt insecure about the education she lacked. Always guilt-free herself, she loudly blamed her older children for our toddler brother’s dangerous habit of stuffing tiny pebbles up his nose and deep into … Read more

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By being open to new ideas, I found a way to calm my overprotective brain

By Eleanor Cowan

As a 10-year-old kid in a large, rigid Roman Catholic family, I had it all figured out. I knew which way was up. There were no unknowns in my understanding. My future happiness was guaranteed if only I could do as required. Still, my stability teetered back and forth, depending on my ability to conform.

For example, if I obeyed my mother’s first harsh morning shout to wake up and if I promptly completed my cleaning tasks before the oatmeal was ready, then I’d begun my day well. If without telling anyone about it, I quietly sacrificed a slice of toast and jam for the sake of a suffering soul in Purgatory (who gained freedom … Read more

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After the sociopath, managing how my brain manages trauma

By Eleanor Cowan

I felt heavy as I awakened this morning. A toxic punch followed by a few slaps of self-recrimination are tossed with tuning forks—all delivered by myself to me.

“No!” I say as I have for the past thirty years. I swing my legs out of bed and onto the solid oak floor. My gold filigreed daily planner is right where its supposed to be.

I will never erase my actual history of having married a pedophile who molested first his siblings and then our children. His crafty, conscienceless siphoning of my time, energy, money and support for fourteen years can never be expunged. I can never, ever erase his small daily cruelties that sadly, I … Read more

Our need to belong can lead to exploitation

By Eleanor Cowan

During our coffee break at our desks, my co-volunteer at a local community center, a fundamentalist religious whom I’ll call “Barb,” asked, in a warm manner, if this was the week I’d finally accept her invitation to attend her evening sacred text group. On four previous occasions, I’d declined her invite. This time Barb pressed me for a “viable reason.”

I quoted Timothy 2:12, “A woman must learn in quietness and full submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man; she is to remain quiet.

Barb, an anxious older woman, replied that every such word, phrase or sentiment can be interpreted with the help of a … Read more

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Healing old pain through a new disordered relationship

By Eleanor Cowan

My throat, arms, and legs felt swollen. Not for the first time, the thought occurred: “Death would be an instant relief.” I could hardly walk. Heavy with grief, a searing acidic ache in my stomach, I arrived at the weekend retreat held by a support group for those affected by the addictions of a loved one. Assigned to a tiny room the size of a storage cupboard in the small community college, I dropped the worn backpack I’d hastily stuffed with an old nightie, soap, and toothbrush. I chose a seminar among those offered on the agenda lying on the desk and stumbled to it.

What was going on for me? I’d met someone. It … Read more

Fill in the blank: ‘Detaching from the abuser in my life feels like _____’

By Eleanor Cowan

One early evening at the end of the second year in my support group for Parents of Sexually Abused Children, we were invited to participate in a new activity together. Our lead Social Worker, Aidan, also an artist and storyteller, suggested that we complete two unfinished sentences, each in our own words.

The first was, “Detaching from the abuser(s) in my life feels like _____.

The second was, “Once I let go, I found myself _____.

I’d like to share the responses I heard that evening with Lovefraud readers.

Aidan, also a former victim of physical predation both in her childhood and in her adult life, began:

“Finally detaching from my abuser dissolved tiny sharp … Read more

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