Forget Family : The 30 Days of Truth

Day 10 : Someone you need to let go, or wish you didn’t know.

This is a rather difficult post, because most of the people that I could’ve written about in this topic were let go years ago throughout certain circumstances.  A lot of things change when a person gets married, and even more so when a person has a child.  Many people fall away, as a result of the social structure changing. Even so, many people were disassociated voluntarily, most through unfavorable circumstances.  That being a marriage to a highly desired man.  Or, a certain amount of jealousy toward my family and the woman no one expected me to become.  And lastly, over interpersonal struggles that had been present for many years.

Plainly said, I don’t allow a person to exist in my life who does me harm.

With one exception.

Family.  An antiquated notion anymore, and yet we all still are drawn to the traditional definition of such.

What is family?  It has different meanings to different people.  For some, especially many that were raised by people that are not related by blood, family are the people closest to you, care for you, and treat you as if you belong.  They are the people who love you unconditionally, and would do anything to oversee your health, safety, well-being and general welfare.

For others, family are the people that are kin by blood, or by marriage through blood.  These are the same people that share genetic matter with one another.  It is the blood that bonds, and should generate those protective and loving emotions.  The family contains a mother, father, siblings, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, cousins (however distant), and grandmothers and grandfathers (however prefixed with great or otherwise).  It is the hierarchy that provides the structure and governs the family system.

In this setup, certain rules of conduct exist.  Family members are expected to treat others with a kind regard and respect at all times.  Family members are not permitted to have all-out fights, as it insinuates contempt for another, and spells a potential of a deviation from the family.  Although, if there is a deviation from the family system, that person is excluded, because they abandoned their duties to the family, meaning that they have not the love required.  Family members are obligated to each other, even when there is a dislike between two members.  Dislike can exist, but can never be expressed openly.  And family members are private, to be kept within the family system.  No outsiders.

The second is my family system.  The family system that attempts to replicate those of 1950’s television families, and falls incredibly short.  The reality of a family and the fantasy of the television family cannot intersect, because there is no commonality, except the tradition of family.

Now, I come from a heavy Scottish heritage.  Scots are notorious for their clans and said allegiances.  The thing about clans is that they are often family.  And the thing about rival clans is that they are often family, too.  They are several branches of family that had irreconcilable differences, due mostly to conflicting views and stubbornness against compromise.  Scots are a proud people and intensely loyal.  And that’s how a Scottish family system operated.  Family looked out for each other, because if they didn’t, who would?  And chances are, if you weren’t affiliated with a clan or didn’t follow a clan’s way, then you would be abandoned and left for dead.

What does this all have to do with someone I need to let go of?  I need to let go of the antiquated version of family I grew up with.  I need to expel the notions of the Cleaver family, and realize that it is nonexistent.  Well, in my family anyway.

Everyone in this world has at least one secret desire that they know is absolutely impossible for them.  That is exactly why it is a secret.  One of my secret desires is to have family that unconditionally loves me, and treats me like I belong.  I have always desperately wanted parents who treated me like they appreciated my individuality, and could come to terms with the fact that I am not the child they envisioned.  I’ve always wanted them to be proud and express positive emotions toward me.  I wanted loving parents, who weren’t afraid to say they love me, and show physical affection.

I wanted an extended family that I could really know.  Scots are notorious for their huge families.  I mean, that’s how you grow the clan, right?  I have a huge extended family.  I’ve stated this before, but my “sister” is not biologically my sister, from the same parents.  We are related by blood as third cousins.  Yes, my family is close enough that I know my third cousins.  My son and her son will likely grow up as family, cousins, although according to the state of Pennsylvania, they are not related.  (5th cousins.  Who can say they know their 5th cousin?)  But, as my extended family goes, my sister is the only one I continue to have a good relationship with.

I knew my Pappap.  We had a fantastic relationship before he passed.  I miss him.  I really do.  The anniversary of his death is coming up – 16 years ago.  And he was the head of our clan.  Hell, he was the head of two branches of our clan.  (That’s how I know my sister’s family at all).  And when he passed, the glue of our family started coming apart.  He was the only thing that held it together.

But, just because my Pappap held the family together does not mean we were apart of each others lives.  In fact, quite the contrary.  My aunt, also serving in the capacity of my godmother, made the attempt.  The fact was, she just didn’t like children.  Another aunt of mine lived in distant California.  Another aunt of mine was just too jealous of the fact that my mother had a daughter and she had two unruly boys.  Another aunt of mine was a part of my life, and really was my friend.  Until she met her now husband and moved away.  Then, there was my young uncle, a bachelor and professional.  He hardly made an appearance at any of these events.  We were quite estranged for many reasons.  Many that I couldn’t understand at the time.

As a teen, the question always lingered in my mind; Why don’t I belong in my own family?  If I didn’t belong anywhere else in the world, why couldn’t I seem to fit into my family.  In theory, there should have been a guaranteed spot where I would be accepted, understood, and loved unconditionally.  But, as I grew more symptomatic, the more I was pushed away.  The gap was noticeable at that point, and I came to the realization that I didn’t fit some kind of mould that was created for me.  I wasn’t a lovely blonde girl with big blue eyes who spoke softly, smiled sweetly, and was brilliant in a humble way.  I was something entirely different, almost monstrous.

It was at that time that I discarded any sentiments that I could fit in, because I knew it was just not possible for me.  And I stopped trying.  It actually inspired me to attempt to embody everything that was the opposite of what was expected of me.  I didn’t want to conform, because I did not want to “belong” to anyone.  Love should not have contingencies, and I should not be expected to be anyone but myself.  That should be more than good enough to people who call themselves “family” to me.

That does not mean I discarded my longing for family.  Family are the people who love you, no matter what.  Feats or failures.  Achievements or disappointments.  They are the people who help you, not out of obligation, but because they really want to see you in a better place.  They don’t judge you.  They don’t hold grudges or debts.  Family should be the people that are guaranteed confidants, supports, fail safes, and friends.

I longed for parents who would provide me with support, affection, and guidance.  I longed for grandparents who would fawn over me, and lend me wisdom.  I longed for cousins that could be friends.  I so desperately desired aunts and uncles that could teach me about life, give insight on my parents and adulthood in general, and be confidants.  Instead, I got parents that berated me for being me, and gave up on parenting altogether when I turned seventeen, because in truth, they didn’t really want to be parents at all.  I lost my grandfather young, and ended up with a grandmother who was indifferent to her grandchildren.  (According to my mother, she was indifferent to most of her children too.  I don’t take that personally).  I had cousins who held a grudge because I was “the baby” and the only girl on this coast.  My eldest cousin resented me for having the responsibility for looking after me during family events and vacations.  I had an aunt who despised my existence, and another who attempted to use me as a surrogate child, and later decided she wasn’t cut out for kids.

And between all of these people, throughout the years, silent grudges and resentment started opening up.  I had realized that I was caught by accidental crossfire, but it hurt just the same.  All of the trauma still follows me, and I’ve felt like the only resolution would be to have that ideal family.

I need to let the notion of family go.  The only way to resolve that trauma is to understand that definition of family is not the only definition of family.  I didn’t have a mother for guidance.  I stumbled around adolescence and had to find my way to womanhood alone.  I didn’t have a father in the traditional “daddy’s little girl” sense.  I had a dictator, who wasn’t much of a male role model for later men in my life.  I had to fumble my way around dating and men myself.  And in the end, I still ended up with a man much like my father, without the hands-on approach to family.

I need to give up on the idea that my parents will suddenly become parents, even though their sudden appearance as grandparents gave me false hope.  They are who they are, and they’ll always regard me as the person I am, no matter how much I grow and change.  My mother said to me, with a sigh, “I see a lot of myself in you.  A lot of the things that you tell me about your . . . mind, it rings a bell.”  It gave me false hope.  It gave me this idea that she would become my mother and help me in hard times of my marriage and parenting.  But, I know she won’t.  My father will never be a father to me.  He hardly ever was.  He is at least a friend now, anyway.  But, he’ll never brag to his friends about his beautiful, intelligent, talented daughter.  He’ll never express pride or admiration toward me.  Neither of them will.

That’s the way it is.  I need to let go of my family and let it be what it is, instead of hoping that it will suddenly turn into something it never was, and never will be.

11 thoughts on “Forget Family : The 30 Days of Truth

  1. Lulu, it was so hard to read this, my heart is heavy. I understand your situation from my own experience, not because they are alike in any way except the mere fact that you can’t have a real, loving, working family. Thisis what I have tried to do. I broke the thread of the family as best I could and started a new one with me, my children their spouses and their children and so on. That is why I was so touched by the gathering I had here at the house a few weeks ago with both my children and their significant others. It was like we were starting our own tradition. I hope that helps.

    • I think that is why it has always been a lifetime goal to have a family of my own. It was something I wanted as a little girl, and all of my negative experience and disappointment found in my youth served as reinforcer for that goal.

      The difference between my own family (C.S., T.D., myself, and any future family), and the family I was born into is that I have no expectations. I didn’t expect my son to be a certain way, and I don’t expect us to be like a TV family. However, I think the fact that I grew up on sitcoms like “Roseanne” and “Married with Children” helped develop the idea that a family should be able to love each other over struggle, strife, and overall dysfunction.

      A family means that there are going to be times when we don’t get along. It doesn’t mean we stop loving each other, or that we hate each other, or that we’ve turned our backs on each other. It means that we exercise forgiveness and our capacity to love even the things that we don’t like. A family provides unconditional love, endless support (when appropriate and in the capacity it’s needed), and appropriate guidance.

      This doesn’t not go for just the relationship between parent and child. This goes for all members of the family toward each other. There are going to be times when a person is going to have to temporarily step up into a role they didn’t think they’d have to be in. I suspect that there will likely be times when my children will have to temporarily step into the role of parents. And I will accept that, instead of asserting my authority. I want to be called out when I’m wrong, and I want to be caught when I fall. I won’t rely on it, but I would appreciate it.

      There are times where I attempted to step into the role as a parent with my own parents. They were wildly dysfunctional. There were times where they would openly and viciously fight in front of my brother and me. And those were times that I’d try to remind them that there are bigger things than just them. There were times that my mother would take to the bottle, and I’d try to step between that. And in all of those instances, I was thrust down into a position as a child, and I had no right to tell the adults that they were wrong about anything. Eventually, I just started pouring out the bottles and leaving the house when they would fight.

      I expect that I was likely serve in the capacity of an aunt to my sister’s child (my nephew). Though I don’t at this moment, I suspect the day will come. It is unlikely, however, that my husband will serve in the role as an uncle. Though he is family-oriented, it is only to a point. His ideas of family and mine are very different, although we agree on the things that are in our direct family system. (Usually, it’s my idea, and he has to come around through trial and error.)

      So far, I’ve been able to let go of the extended family, but that was only by physical removal. I don’t talk to them. I don’t want to talk to them. I don’t want to attend functions, though I’m not invited anyway. That was easy, because it was kind of like removing extra skin. But, I cannot remove my parents. My parents are grandparents to my son, and they are good grandparents. It is upsetting when I watch it, sometimes. I often think, “Why couldn’t you be a good parent to me?” It didn’t upset them when T.D. got slapped with a diagnosis. It was fine when his development started lagging. He is who he is.

      There has always been a certain emotional distance between them and me. I know that throughout the years, I started putting up walls, because every single time I’d let them get close to me, I’d get hurt. My mother and I have been talking lately. And I think she’s been throwing up walls for years too. But for a different reason.

      I think both of my parents, when symptoms started coming up, started acting out toward me because they were afraid to feel as if it was their fault. The symptoms weren’t their fault. It just was what it was. Maybe it’s genetics, or something else. Who knows? But it’s not like they did it on purpose. What does hurt is the fact that everything after was on purpose. I guess they thought that if they were hard enough on me, I’d straighten out. That all of it was just a phase, and I’d grow out of it. It wasn’t. It made things worse. It made the gap turn into a canyon, and I don’t think there is a way to bridge it.

      But worse than that, I think what my mother saw in me was her. The darker side of her that she didn’t want to admit existed. So, when I became an adult and started trotting the same path down abusive relationships and alcoholism, marrying a man with serious mental health problems, and having a child with a developmental delay, she saw it for what it was. And I think she’s guilty now, because she knows all of the things that I know. She knows that if she would have admitted it, then a lot of this wouldn’t have happened.

      Any which way, I can’t change the past. I don’t think I would change it if I could, because I’m very happy with where I’m at. I don’t blame them for it, because their intentions were not to put me in a bad place. I can’t change the relationship that I have with them, because I can’t change the way they feel or think. I don’t intend on it. But, I need to remove the emotional need from my relationship with them. I need to take that need for parental love and put it somewhere else. I don’t know how to do that. I wish I did. As an educator, I always tell people that no one can replace a kid’s parents. We can only be educators first, and friends second. That’s as far as that can go.

      So, I guess it’s about reconciling that need and fulfilling it some other way. Or removing it altogether, which I’m not sure how it would work or if it would even be healthy.

      • in these situations, you just have to be sure not to show your hand. You don’t give any vibes of bad feelings because then it will be your problem according to them. Be polite, cordial. Just be rather busy, too busy to listen to every critic and every assessment. Allow time for T.D. to spend with his grandparents. But I would be careful if I were you, they may eventually began to find fault with him as they have you. When with them show off the way you guys cunduct yourselves as a “family” and let them see how different it is.My situation is my parents. they are the problem. They greatly disturbed and warped my idea of a family and unfortunatly have tried to do it to my children. But lucklily my kids saw through it..You can not trust anyone when it comes to manipulation, especially grandparents. Just stick close with your family that you are making, and include others as you learn their motives.

        • I’m already very sensitive to the way they treat him. I don’t think they’ll begin to regard him in the way that they did with me. To them, I was a problem. I was their responsibility and another problem on top of all of their other problems. They are not in charge of him; I am. So, they get to sit back and have fun with him.

          Additionally, they don’t have the same problems now as they did then. Back then, they were extremely impoverished, because my father couldn’t work because of PTSD, and my mother couldn’t work because of my brother and his autism and my father’s condition. Someone had to be home to take care of things. My dad’s medication wasn’t right, and he was in and out of the VA hospital psychiatric unit all of the time, leaving my mother as a solo parent with no money to feed or clothe us.

          That was until my father got his settlement and became completely disabled. But, it was short lived. The other problems still existed and even money couldn’t fix it. By that point, I had already been symptomatic for awhile, and my mother’s alcoholism was completely transparent. It’s plain as to how that happened. More money meant not having to choose between paying bills, food, and alcohol. She could have it all, all of the time.

          My father has been successfully treated since about a year after his emergency quadruple bypass. That was also around the time I started working. My mother only started to lay off the bottle just a few years ago, though she has frequent relapses. At least the relapses are just fits that come in little binges, not full on relapses where she’d be drunk for at least three days at a time. I remember this one time, she had to have been drunk for at least a week. I’d go to bed at night with her screaming obscenities about what a little ungrateful whore I was, and I’d wake up with her puking in the sink, taking a swig straight from the bottle when no one was looking. This was on a school day at 5:30am. I have to wonder if she even slept.

          Actually, that’s the first time I’ve remembered that. I didn’t remember that was a frequent occurrence where she would get drunk and harass me for the rest of the evening, saying some really awful stuff to me. Sometimes, I’d try to approach her about it the next morning, but she’d deny it ever happened. Sometimes, my father would soberly witness this, and I’d solicit him to correct her. He would lie along with her, pretending nothing happened.

          I guess that’s why I can’t go around in my life and pretend that something isn’t real. And I guess that’s why I get nervous when someone talks about drinking at times when it’s inappropriate.

          Wow, that opened up a lot there. Seriously, thank you Carla. There is so much in there that is coming out these days in these drips and leaks. A line in a movie will remind me or a passage in a song will only bring up a partial memory of something. Last night, it was watching the movie, “Spawn” that brought my abusive ex back into my mind. I thought I dealt with it, but apparently not. Something in me shriveled up. I wasn’t scared of him then. Why am I scared of him now?

          Anyway, back to my family. It’s not like that anymore with them. My father has done a complete 180 from where he was. It’s not even an act. It’s so real that his friends make fun of him for T.D. having him wrapped around his little finger. My father is very sensitive about it, but he still bends over backwards for him. My father, the man with the iron fist, the dictator, the unbending, unyielding, all-seeing eye that scrutinized my every breath, every blink. That is the same man that talks baby talk to my son, though my son is now 3. That is the same man that used to hold him as a baby for hours and hours, until his arms were numb. It’s really incredible how far he’s come.

          For my dad, I can see that my son is his second chance. My father has implied a lot of guilt about a lot of things since I became an adult. I don’t know if I’m included, but it seems that way since I was diagnosed, according to my mother. But, my father implies a lot of guilt about the war, about being an absent parent, about feeling responsible for my brother’s autism. To me, it seems like my son is his big, shining hope to be a better person. And to him, it seems like my son is the only person in this world that loves him with all of his heart, just because he is him.

          I guess we’re not so different, my father and me. But, his anger was something to be feared. Mine is something that’s relatively harmless, and it will pass as fast as it came.

          • It looks like your son is the catylist in all of this, in keeping this a family, not including all the past garbage. I think your son is a way for your father to apologise to you.

            • My son has done a lot to mend things in my family unit. Before, I was the girl who could do nothing right. The day my son was born was the day I could do no wrong, in my father’s eyes. He has hardly said a word to me about anything I’ve said or done since. Before, it was at least a weekly thing.

              I give the man serious kudos for what he’s done for my son. Last autumn, I had to go back to work for the school year. My mother had already been roped into caring for my grandmother, although we had an agreement that she would take care of my son. I was furious when she left me in the lurch, basically implying that I should quit my job because I had responsibilities at home. Like working was some kind of luxury for me!

              My dad stepped up. This is the same man who would mumble and grumble about carting me around to OB appointments. My dad took care of him for as long as he could manage, until I could get an afternoon babysitter. And he still took care of him until the babysitter arrived. Again, this is the same man that couldn’t take care of my brother and I while my mother worked a part-time job to try to keep us afloat.

              In the last ten years, he’s been a really good man. He started by becoming vice president of my chorus, and he would participate in all of the fundraising activities. He’d stay up late making tickets and banners. He’d drive 30 miles to the chocolate factory to buy chocolate bars for the kids to sell, or across town to the dry ice place for the sub sandwiches. This is not to say he wasn’t a jerk to me, but not as much as the five years prior to that.

              I hit college, and he had something to say. He always had something to say. About my boyfriends (he was right), about my drinking (he was right), about my major (he was wrong), about my apartment (he was right), etc. He was already ragging on me about something. But, that’s not to say he didn’t do things for me. Often, he’d take me to the commissary on the local army base so I could go shopping. I didn’t have a car then, and the commissary prices were really good. If I was out of money, he’d buy me groceries and cigarettes to get me through the next week. I think he did a lot of this behind my mother’s back, because she has no recollection and she never came with us. He’d insist to drive me up to my landlord’s house so I could drop off the rent. When I got a terrible burn from a cooking grease accident, he rushed over with this amazing burn cream. When I had this awful tooth infection, he rushed over at 6am with medicine for me.

              So, he did do stuff. He was trying to make up for it, I suppose. I’ve always kind of thought so. But, at the same time, he just wouldn’t stop being a jackass about everything. My jobs, my responsibilities, etc, etc. At one point, I suggested that I should finish my bachelors and he mocked me. And finally, just before my husband and I got together, he gave me a 60 day eviction notice. God knows what the hell goes through his head sometimes.

              So, it’s like he would do something nice for me, and then be a jerk about everything else. I didn’t get it. I still don’t, and that’s why we’ve had this tortured relationship. Even when I got pregnant, he was completely beside himself. I was infuriated. I was about to be married in two months, I was a full grown adult with a well-paying job, and I lived in my own house. What was the problem? And my parents both refused to tell their friends until the middle of the summer when I was noticeably showing.

              I’m not ungrateful for all of the things he’s done for me. I am very grateful. But, for some reason, my brain doesn’t process someone giving me or buying me things as a gesture of love. I think it’s because every time someone in my life has bought something for me, they’ve always expected something in return. And it was always something that I couldn’t provide. It was like bribery, but with puppet strings, you know? It makes it difficult between my husband and I, because his mother did buy his love, and that’s the only way he knows how to make those gestures. And food. He makes those gestures with food. Maybe I should start making gestures with food… I don’t know.

              My mind has been churning this, going a mile a minute about it. All of the things that happened, all of the things I forgot and are now coming to the surface. All of the things that didn’t happen, or I just misinterpreted. All of the things I needed. When I became symptomatic, I just needed them to understand that there were some behaviors and emotions I couldn’t control. All they did was insist that I had to just try harder to get them under control, and if I couldn’t, then I just wasn’t trying hard enough. I needed them to help me, to help me try to understand why I felt so awful when my life wasn’t really that awful. Not yet anyway. But, all they did was berate me for how ungrateful I was.

              It was a really hard time, and that last paragraph made me cry a little. I hold so much of this inside me, tucked away in these dark corners and cabinets, covered in this impenetrable layer of dust and soot. Except, we all know that dust and soot are not permanent things, even as ingrained as they can become.

              And I wish there was a way to express to them these things. Years ago, I tried. I really tried to make a connection, but they refuse any emotional display with extreme discomfort, making me feel worse and rejected. So, I stopped trying. I just stopped. Sometimes, I feel like my dad really wants it. He’ll talk to me for hours about nothing if I let him. We’ll talk conspiracy theory (he’s a war vet), and current events (he loves CNN as much as I do), and politics. We don’t talk religion, though. We don’t see eye to eye on that, and it makes my mother very uncomfortable when I do share my ideas.

              But, I can never come out and say something like, “Dad, I love you. And I’m so grateful for everything you’ve done for me, especially in the last five years.” He’s the reason I’m with my husband. He’s the reason I even realized my husband had any romantic feelings for me. And when I came to that crossroads where I could have chosen this life or something else, my husband fought for me and made me realize that he was what I wanted all along. He wouldn’t normally have fought for me, but my father must have said something to him.

              Wow, that was a lot. I didn’t mean for it to be that long. I hate writing posts about my parents. I really do. I sound like one of those people that blames their parents for all of their problems. I don’t. I know that a lot of what I’m untangling right now was my own doing, especially the last ten years. But, I didn’t have a great setup, and it wasn’t entirely their fault. Sometimes, we’re all the victim of circumstance in a domino effect scheme. And that’s how I kind of see it.

              But, I don’t want to be seen as one of those people that gripes about their parents. The sad truth is that I really do love them, as much as there are things that I don’t like about them, places where we have found conflict, and wounds from the past. And that might be the most difficult thing for me.

  2. Wow, your post made me tear up. My family is much the same way, except I was fortunate to have a father figure, regardless of how unconventional he was and despite the fact that he put way too much pressure on me to succeed. These feelings of inadequacy still linger with me today, although I have forgiven him. My mother is gone now, and for the last 10 years of her life she had Alzheimer’s. Even if that had not been the case, I don’t think we could have reconciled our differences. She had serious control and manipulation issues. She believed in the 50’s ideal family too and intended to have it even if she coerced everyone into it. It didn’t work. Neither my sister nor I speak to my brother, and we rarely speak of him. My sister only wants something to do with me when she wants something. I am close to my niece, when her illnesses allow it.

    I had hoped that when I got married that I would finally have a family. But I feel like such an outsider there. I get along with my MIL, although she’s not an overly affectionate woman. I get along with my BIL, but it’s similar. My SIL and I are so different that we can’t even have a 10 minute conversation, and even then it’s superficial. It’s sad, but at least I have a surrogate family of friends. For that, I am very grateful.

    I too had to give up on the notion of family, and I think I have finally done it. I have my dad and my niece, and of course, my husband. We don’t have children so I’ll never have that option. But I am glad to have my surrogate family, because it’s actually closer than my blood relatives.

    • My father made me feel inadequate too. But, I don’t blame him. He didn’t know how to raise a girl, so he raised me the only way he knew how. There were times where my mother completely checked out, and he just couldn’t be my mother and my father. He didn’t know how to be anything other than, well, mostly a drill Sergent. He was very traditional. Well, it would have been a traditional kind of raising, had I been a boy. Nothing I did was good enough. I always had to do something better. There was always a flaw, and even when it was flawless, it wasn’t enough; there had to be more. So, when I became symptomatic, I just crushed in on myself. I had taken on so much weight of everything that I collapsed under it when I buckled.

      At one point, the inferiority taunted me so badly that I just had to give up on myself. I was never going to be what everyone wanted. I couldn’t. I lost track of what everyone wanted anyway, because it was just so unclear. They wanted the world, and I didn’t even have enough for myself, you know? I gave up. I didn’t want to be me anymore, so I stopped trying to be anything. I stopped trying to achieve anything or do anything at all. And it got to the point where I just wanted to blink out of existence.

      That’s not my father’s fault. That was just the road my illness led me down. But, all of the parental pressure for success and achievement and being a certain person didn’t help the matter. And once I realized that even trying to be nothing was still something, I used it to my advantage. If I was going down, I was going out in a blaze of glory. I guess that’s where the self-destructive tendencies come from. It all comes from my desire for control when I think I have none. It comes from an ingrained belief that no matter how much I succeed, no matter how much I accomplish, it will never be enough. And all of the failures that could come if I tried would be enough to bury me.

      My mother. She’s something. She’s so conflicted. I can tell that she didn’t want to believe in the 50’s family, but it’s like she didn’t know anything else. She didn’t want things to be conventional, but they still were. She didn’t want to be a homemaker, but she ended up there anyway. It’s like she wanted to be something or someone, but she just didn’t try. At all. I don’t know what it was with her. Maybe it was societal pressure or something. She didn’t marry my dad because of pressure. In fact, she had already been married by pressure and divorced by choice, despite pressure. And she didn’t have my brother because other people were having kids. She had been trying to have kids since she was married to my dad. It just didn’t happen for five years.

      So, I got a lot of mixed messages growing up. I got a lot of traditional family messages from her about how a woman has a certain role. But, it had to be a role that she chose. But, a woman doesn’t always have a choice about things that happen, and responsibility is something that a woman will always have. A woman always has the right to be herself, but must be what’s expected of her. I mean, it was really mixed. I would think that I was doing something that she’d approve of. I was being myself, and asserting myself, and being a woman while I did it. However, it was still wrong. I could never act right.

      And I know that’s what pisses me off when my husband makes a comment about my behavior. It upsets me, but I don’t let him see that. I get angry, and I start to make a scene on purpose, so he’ll stop commenting in the future. He’ll just let me go, and it’ll be whatever. Because I assert my right to be who I am, say what I feel like, and do what I want. Within reason and within the limits of my obligations and responsibilities. Because that’s how I was brought up. Sound screwy?

      I love my in-laws. My in-laws treat me more like family than my own family. The last time my dad hugged me? I think at my wedding. The last time my FIL hugged me? Last weekend. The last time my mother told me she loved me? When I was in labor with my son. The last time my MIL told me she loved me? Probably a few days ago. Funny thing? My FIL isn’t blood related to my husband at all. But, he’s a good guy. (He wasn’t when my husband was growing up. My FIL had substance abuse issues). My FIL’s sister treats me like family. And my FIL’s mother treats me like a granddaughter, and my son as if he was her own great-grandson. They’re Italian though. Heritage has a lot to do with the way family is. With Italian folks, everyone is family.

      With Scottish folks, everyone who isn’t family is an enemy. And even your family can be enemies. In fact, your family could be your greatest enemy.

      But, here’s the problem with my FIL and my MIL being surrogate parents. They’re just not. Okay, my FIL kind of is. He likes to see that I’m healthy and happy. He likes to make sure that I make it to appointments and I have food to eat. But, he’s not overly involved, because his health is bad. I’m like the daughter my MIL always wanted. I’m more of a BFF and a doll than I am a daughter. I don’t get women advice from her. I get purses, jewelry, and other girl stuff from her. Makeup. Things a mother would buy her daughter. I get beauty advice. I get medication advice, but she’s a nurse.

      From what I understand, my MIL was never much of a mother. She wasn’t a horrible person, she just wasn’t a mom, she was a friend. My husband partially reconciled his need for a mother in his early 20’s with an older friend who was his landlady. She was also his college professor and mentor.

      The older I get, the more embarrassing it becomes to desire a parental figure. I’ve talked to friends about this before. Anything goes wrong in any of my friend’s lives, they call their parents. They always have their parents in some capacity when things are falling apart, whether it’s just as emotional support, or financial support. I get neither. I made a joke of it one day. When we had to take my son to the hospital the last time to get something out of his ear, my husband asked me on the way if I wanted to call my parents. I simply replied, “No.” He asked me to call anyway, and I told him, “No, they’re in bed. They won’t answer.” He insisted that I call. I called three times, at his request, with no answer. No call in the morning to find out what I might have needed at 11PM. Nothing.

      I don’t bother in a disaster. It’s like, if it’s something I can’t take care of myself, then it’s something that’s just going to have to fall apart. I guess it’s a good thing I have my in-laws. Anytime anything goes wrong, my husband calls his mother. Sometimes his stepfather, depending on what went wrong. (If it’s a financial disaster or a car thing, he calls FIL). And they always come through. *Shrug* I guess it’s the hand we’ve been dealt.

  3. Effectively, I only have my nuclear family, really. My dad is an immigrant, and I never knew much of my mom’s family. She didn’t really know her parents much, either. She was raised by her grandmother, who died before I was born. I’ve met some of her relatives, and I’m Facebook friend with some of my foreign cousins, but that’s the extent of our relationship.

    I would describe my family as close yet distant. (Well, except for the fact that my mother and father hate each other.) We’re all very different, but there are also similarities. What I’ve most wished for from my family was non-judgment about my mental health issues. I don’t think they’re fully able to accept that they’re valid, although they are closer to that than they used to be. I was always accused of being too sensitive, as if it were a weakness. That’s why I can’t get that idea out of my head; it’s so ingrained.

    I just wanted to let you know that I understand what it’s like to feel isolated from your family. I don’t think my parents knew how to raise kids, which is one reason I’m hesitant to ever have children. I don’t really know how to raise kids, either, and I don’t think it would be instinctive for me. My sister had my stepmother, who probably has better parenting skills than either of my parents. But to me my stepmother is just the person my dad is married to. I don’t even like to call her a stepmother, but it would sound like I hated her if I didn’t, ha.

    Anyway, I’m glad to see you doing the 30 Days of Truth again.

    • Yeah, my family was much the same way in the respect that my mental health disorder was originally seen as “over sensitivity” or “dramatic behavior” or “attention seeking behavior”. Like I was telling Carla above, when my symptoms first appeared, for the first few years, I was expected to “get ahold of myself” or “get control” or “get a grip”. I would cry that I couldn’t. The feelings came from nowhere and the behaviors were a way to cope. They were bad; it was out of control. But, they insisted that I just wasn’t trying hard enough. I didn’t want to get control, and I wanted to be that way.

      That was until it had a name. And even then, my parents refused to believe that there was any validity in it, because they couldn’t identify certain criteria of the diagnosis. I think part of it was a notion that they are responsible for it. Every parent has gets that notion when there is something wrong with their kid. When my son was diagnosed with PDD-NOS, I went through it. I would think to myself, “What did I do wrong?” I thought I conducted my pregnancy well. Did I harm him somehow as a fetus, an infant? He was on track until I went back to work. Did I abandon him? I couldn’t process it. But, I refused to turn a blind eye to my emotions about it. I eventually chalked up to genetics (because my brother has autism), and realized that it doesn’t matter how it happened. It matters how I take care of it. Early treatment matters.

      I think my parents couldn’t handle the extreme emotion that comes with that notion. There is an overwhelming amount of guilt and fear. And as a parent, I could identify things that I could have potentially did wrong. The truth of the matter is that my parents didn’t do anything wrong to begin with. These symptoms just appeared in the summer after my 6th grade year. It’s not like they appeared overnight, mind you. It was something that was on and off for several years. At least as far back as I can remember. Remembering things before my illness started is difficult. But, it was the things that followed that did the most harm. And I know that they know that too.

      That’s probably what your parents are going through. The idea that they caused this. Mental illness isn’t necessarily something that is caused, and it most often isn’t “caused” intentionally, when there are environmental factors. And those environmental factors can often be worked through in time and treatment. It hurts as a parent to think that you did something to cause lifelong harm to your child. And it hurts even more to watch them go through it. Every time I can’t understand something my son is repeating over and over, I see the frustration in his face. And then I see the disappointment when he gives up. It hurts, because I know he wants to tell me things. He just doesn’t have the speech yet. But, I know one day that will be different. It has to be hell to watch a child suffer mental illness. Every mood episode is excruciating. And I have a feeling that one of your parents is probably affected themselves. So, they know first hand what it’s like.

      My mother has currently admitted that her mind has been chewing on things and reflecting on them since she’s caring for my grandmother. It’s never direct, since she’s a completely indirect, passive-aggressive person. She just made the comment recently, “I see a lot of myself in you. The things you tell me, they are familiar.” The first part is word for word. The last part is kind of paraphrased. When she says “the things”, I know she means with the bipolar disorder. I know she means with the alcoholism, and I think she’s detecting my deepest secret of all. That is a secret I have yet to formally announce to anyone, and something that hardly anyone has ever noticed. I keep it well guarded. I’m not even ready to fully admit it to myself yet.

      Your 30 Days of Truth post about religion is something that inspired me to get back to it. I need a project, and I need to start following through with things. I will get this done, darn it.

  4. Pingback: 30 Days of Truth | Sunny With a Chance Of Armageddon

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