Tag Archive | family dynamics

so hard to go home – triggers everywhere

Holidays and dysfunctional families. It seems to me that every family has some level of dysfunction, but only a few are truly toxic or unhealthy. It impossible to have so many different beings, different ages, different personalities in one room without some conflict or clashing.

I am still working on enforcing my newly found boundaries and each holiday brings an onslaught of new decisions as I keep myself safe and also expand into the uncomfortable to keep growing.

I had a strained, but not terrible time at my inlaws for Easter. I had some honest conversations with them, which was nice, being able to be me there. I spoke of my AF’s poor health and did not have to feign much sadness over it. I only spoke of it because they asked about him. But some of the other conversations could have been from “Mean Girls'” with all the back stabbing and two-facedness going on. My FIL thinks my SIL kids are overweight, ridicule them and blame SIL completely. They offer all kinds of ways to fix the problem  – but not to her face. Then they attack her for making the family late to this gathering because she always has to go overboard with her baking. MIL said she doesn’t need anything fancy, just wants the grandkids to get together. She made her feel guilty for having to hold ‘dinner’ past 12:30. No time was ever given to us, no time is EVER given to us, but whoever is last is late and made to feel guilty. As soon as SIL re-enters the room, the topic is changed. I chose to stay silent for that one. (I did ask SIL later about the fancy breads she baked, they were all done the day before, and she was not the reason they came later, but that’s an entirely different story. I asked her why she worked so hard – did she enjoy it or did she feel she ahd to go overboard to be ‘supermom’ or get inlaws approval? She said she truly enjoys baking and feels happiest in the kitchen and the only time she allows herself to get creative is for holidays.)

I can’t argue every out of line comment. I’d wear out in less than an hour. Besides I needed strength to battle the next ones.

Next they asked about my brother, who has been in the divorce process for over a year now. His wife left him and the kids and is living with her boyfriend. They speak of her like a less than human whore. What she did was heartbreaking, but she does not deserve their judgment, they didn’t live with my brother or grow up in her shoes. MIL said something like, “well your brother better hurry and make that divorce final or she may decide she is bored with the boyfriend and want to come back home.” Then FIL said “can she go stay with her parents?” I said “no, she is happy with the boyfriend, and she would never go live with her parents, because she hasn’t forgiven her dad, and her parents are divorced, he was an angry drunk that used to beat her and her sister, and her mom is a messed up piece of work. I remember the bruises in high school, and she basically lived at my mom’s house all during high school”

Thinking that was the end of it, until FIL said, “Well you know some women like that. ”

The whole room was silenced and open mouthed.

“What do you mean?” I said. He said, “Some women get off on being dominated, some men too, and they do crap to get themselves beaten.”

I said, “you obviously don’t know what you are talking about, and should go read 50 shades to see how domination works. Her dad would drink and beat anything that came in the room, and then would hunt them down and beat them if they didn’t come in the room. He was mean and scary and hurt his entire family. No one wanted it or made it happen, he was out of control. None of those girls deserved what happened, it was not their fault.”

FIL said, whatever, MIL told him to shut up, he sounded like an idiot. I felt very sad.

What happened in that generation of men? FIL is a good man. He has never hurt his family. And yet he believes that most men hurt women ‘for a good reason’. I was done, I can’t change his mind. No more energy wasted that day, I went off to work on the computer and avoided any more conversations.


Next day I was thinking it would be nice to see my own mother. I hadn’t heard if my family was gathering for Easter, they still keep me out of the invitations at my own request. I don’t want to feel obligated or hurt them when I’m not up to going. Not yet. So I called my mom in the morning and said we were going to a park near her house and would like to stop over for short visit. I told her what time and made sure she had my cell number.

Now it was gorgeous sunny, 70 degree day and we went to a state park with amazing cliffs, ledges, and huge stony outcroppings. I had not been there since I was a child on a school field trip. I could not believe as we pulled in that I remembered the path I took with my friends almost 30 years ago. It was such an amazing feeling reliving a HAPPY childhood memory. And even better seeing my kids having just as much fun being mountain goats, exploring mini-caves, crevices, and climbing the rocky path as I did. I was thrilled to discover I had enough strength in my weak leg to do some easier climbing along with them. I couldn’t keep up, but they would go ahead, find a great scenic spot to rest and wait for me. It was pure joy. Exhausting – yes for sure, we were all sweating tired and hungry at the end of it.

So we eat our picnic lunch, and head to my mom’s house. We get there and my brother that lives with her says she is not home, that everyone is having Easter dinner at my other brother’s house. So decision time. Do I go over there?

No one had called me. I later found out she had emailed me this information, even though she knew I was going to be out all day, not at home checking emails. I thought maybe I could do it and we started driving towards my bother’s house. As we got closer, the panic grew. I started shaking, and picturing the room and the lock on the door that used to hold in my AF. He’s only been gone a month or so. I did not want to gather in that house, see the marks on the wall where his scooter scratched everything, see the missing door lock, see any sign that he used to live there. I decided it was too soon and we headed home, knowing it would be impossible to make an escape with the kids with us. If they saw the cousins on the trampoline, how could we leave?

So I got home to another series of emails from my mom. Sigh. Old habits, she had to lash out a bit because she was hurt that I did not visit her.

First email: Sorry I missed you. (That’s all it said)

Next email: If you let me know you were there I would have driven to meet you alone.

Next email: We had a nice dinner at your brother’s, salmon and chicken on the grill. the kids all played on the trampoline and swingset. I got to see all of my other kids and grandkids at least.

Next email: Here’s a photo of my cousin’s Easter gathering, all of her kids came to see her.

I did not respond to any of those emails. They were meant to hurt me and cause guilt. I am the only child that did not come to see her. I’m keeping her grandkids from her. Even her cousins get to see all the grandkids. Yes I get the point. I felt a prick of pain, but I only allowed the point of the sword to touch me, I did not allow it to plunge too deeply, because I know better.

I think I need to start with lower pressure, non-holiday visits. It is just too triggering and difficult still. But I hate keeping my kids away from the cousins. One day, it will happen. I am not rushing this one.

I asked Hubby why my brother with schizophrenia is not given guilt trips for staying home. Hubby said, “He avoids all social situations, and for you it appears you are only excluding them, so it hurts them.”

OH! That made sense. I am functional in every other social area now, I only avoid my mom and brothers, and their houses. I feel afraid of them. Too much I can’t control. Too many triggers and memories still floating around. I do love them though, and I appreciate that they don’t hate me, and mostly support my decision to avoid them. They want me healthy, but they also want me to join in the family fun. And maybe these events are not scary anymore, without AF in attendance. I don’t know.

All I know is I’m all good, I think I made the right decision this time, and will take the next step when I feel prepared for it.




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Family Like Snapping Turtles



snap (Photo credit: ccarlstead)

Winter is wearing us out over here. My house is small and we have been inside of it, all of us together, for way too many days recently.




We are all behaving like snapping turtles, no matter what anyone says, someone else responds with a snapping, biting remark. My son and I are extreme introverts and struggle with the constant people on top of us here. My other son is an extreme extrovert and suffers from the lack of school and tries to get too much out of us  introverts. We are all on edge.




We are in desperate need of sunshine and fresh air. We are done with the gray cloudy days and air so cold it hurts exposed skin in a few moments. Another storm on the way tonight. (sarcastic sigh and yay) So with sunshine out of the question since we can’t afford a trip out of this state, we are planning a day trip to a cool children’s museum very soon. If the weather advisory holds off and it is safe to drive that day, of course. (fingers crossed)




In the mean time, here is my attempt to find the positives to being winter’s prisoner:




  • I have cleaned and organized parts of my house better than I have in years, due to being stuck inside and tired of seeing the clutter and dust.
  • The kids have come up with highly creative new games to play with legos and other toys
  • The kids have beat super mario and unlocked new levels and characters
  • I have beaten all of my high scores in wii fit and continue to get stronger and more balanced
  • I have had plenty of time to draw and paint
  • I work from home so I rarely have to dig my van out of the snow and chip off the ice
  • I work from home so all the snow days off of school did not affect my ability to work
  • The ice is rather beautiful and sparkly
  • the crunching sound when I walk in the snow (I do have to go outside one in a while) makes me smile and remember my first date with Hubby
Icy Window

Icy Window (Photo credit: derekGavey)

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Biography of my Schizophrenic Brother, Part 2 – Adolescence

Read part 1 here

I remember the detectives coming to our house when I was perhaps in 2nd grade, my brother then a freshman in high school. Two men, in black suits, asked for my parents when I answered the door. They had briefcases and badges, and some sort of walkie talkie/CB. They arrived in a plain black car. My Mom told me to go to my room while they talked. We had a one story home, and my room was just off of the living room,  so I pressed myself against my door to listen. I used a trick from Get Smart, I tried various objects on the door and wall to hear better, like a cup. I found the best way to hear was to lay on the floor and put ear near the crack under the door.

I heard the first detective ask a bit about my brother: What is he like? Is he an angry young man? Does he have any friends? Does he have any girlfriends? Any hobbies? My Mom started answering the questions, when My Dad stopped her and asked why they wanted to know. I had played with my Dad’s briefcase enough to recognize the “click-click” of the detective’s case opening. Then I heard some papers rustling, and the detective took a deep breath and said, “Your son is in serious trouble. Is he here?” (No, my brother was not home at the time)

I pressed my ear into the door crack so hard it was hurting my cheek, but I had to know what my brother did, and was feeling scared. The detective said, “Do you know an Ellen?” My parents said No. But I knew an Ellen. My brother had her over a few times, I thought she was really pretty, with short blond hair, bright blue eyes, pretty skirts, and one time she braided my hair for me while she waited for my brother to shower. I guess my brother thought she was pretty too, because I remember them kissing on the same couch where those detectives were sitting.

Ellen had complained about harassing phone calls, that were frightening her, and were escalating in severity. They said they traced the calls to our home, and made some recordings. They asked my Dad to look at the phone records and see how many times calls had been made. Dad simply said, “Thank you for letting us know, we will look into and make sure it doesn’t happen again.” The detective said it wasn’t that simple, and that they would need to take my brother “in” for questioning and possible arrest. My dad said they weren’t taking his son “in” any where, and that they should leave, that they had no right to come in here and accuse his family of anything. My dad said surely my brother must be friends with this girl and all the phone calls could be explained, and that phone records did not prove anything wrong was done. My dad used that voice with the detectives that always scared me in to doing whatever he said. It was cold and commanding, no emotions at all, but you could feel the hate underneath it. It was impossible to argue with that voice.

So in the era before cell phones, my parents had no idea where their teenage son was or when he would be home. I waited a while after the detectives left to come out of my room, knowing that if I came out instantly they might guess I was listening. My Dad got out a magazine and sat at the table reading, waiting for my brother to walk in the door. I got out a book and started reading on the couch, turning myself invisible, as was my greatest skill back then. My brother came in at last and Dad used that scary voice to say, “Sit down. Now”

“Who the Hell do you think you are, embarrassing me like this? Who the Hell is Ellen? And how dare you use the phone that I pay for you to use to make your dirty phone calls!”


“Who the Hell is Ellen?”

“I don’t know” (I stifled a gasp – he was lying to my Dad!)

“You’re a lying sack of sh**, you stupid SOB. But you keep that story and you’re going to jail. They can’t prove it was you or your stupid friends using our phone to be mean. You called Ellen because you were dating, and then you broke up with her and she made up this story to get back at you. Right – Isn’t that how it happened?”

“Er – Yes. Yes that’s what happened”


I remember the day I came home from school in 4th grade and found my brother and his friends all sitting at our dining room table with towels over their heads, steam or smoke coming out of the towels. He said they all had colds and were breathing in the medicine. His eyes were vacant, glossy, and so red. I was frightened and just went to my room. I’m still not sure which drug they were using, guessing they had bongs under those towels though.

I remember when one of his friends dared him to see how far he could kick our little dog. He refused a few times, but those friends were calling him a pu**y and he had that distant look in his eyes again when he finally gave in. That tiny dog traveled a good twenty feet (looked that way to me anyway, like in slow motion) in the air before falling down in the grass. I scooped him up, and can still remember the look on my brother’s face as his eyes met mine, shame and grief, but he said nothing and got in the car with his friends. I was shocked. I just sat there holding my dog, who was fine, completely fine, but it didn’t matter. I didn’t understand how this brother, my sweet gentle brother who loved all creatures could be so cruel. What was wrong with him? When he finally came back that night, he saw me with the dog and just nodded at me. He looked relieved the dog was OK, but also embarrassed. He tried to tousle my hair and do gorilla sounds, but I pushed him away. I was so angry at him. He just shrugged and walked away.

My brother played guitar more than any other activity. He tried football and basketball freshman year, but gave up when my Dad would not attend junior varsity games, not when he can watch his older brother, star quarter back on the “real” football team. So no more sports for him. His good friends, not the ones that dared him to kick the dog, came over often to jam. They formed a band and started competing in “Battle of the Bands” and playing at the local fairs and such. They had dreams of being rock stars and moving to California. My brother could by then play anything by ear, tune his guitar perfectly by ear, and create complex compositions in the style of Yngwie Malmsteen – his idol. He had a huge crush on Stevie Nicks, and still does a bit. He got two after school jobs and started saving up: First he bought a mustang, then he bought an electric guitar, then an amp, then a foot pedal special effects board, then some recording equipment. Now that I think of it, he bought way too many things, really nice things in the matter of months,  for a high school kid. Did delivering pizza really tip that well? I’m now guessing he delivered more than pizza. More on this in the next post.

My brother is brilliant and would often tutor his friends on assignments, but rarely turned anything in for himself and his grades fell from nearly perfect to non-existent. Although he had the highest score in his class on PSAT, he just didn’t  or couldn’t care any more. Whatever he did was not noticed, or not good enough for my Dad, and especially never as good as our eldest brother. He skipped school often. He was suspended many times. My Mom just ignored it all, and focused on her perfect children. His failing could have been her fault, so in her world, he was not failing – he was fine. No one is sure if he was experiencing symptoms of schizophrenia at this point, but it is suspected that his behavior and early drug use could have been him trying to cope with what his brain was telling him. Maybe the hallucinations had started and drugs silenced them for a bit? Again, we’ll never know, because he can no longer access those memories.

Biography of my Schizophrenic Brother, Part 1-Pre-Adolescence

I’ve been thinking about my big brother, imprisoned in his own Schizophrenic mind. I’ve been thinking about our childhood, and if there were any signs his brain was in trouble. He definitely got in lots of trouble, but that’s normal for a young boy, right? Especially one living in a dysfunctional home. But I wonder if his extreme behavior may have been an indication of more than teenage angst and acting out against the hurts from abusive parents. I wonder how early the schizophrenia gave him symptoms he was too alone to share.

My big brother is quite a bit older than me, so I can’t speak as to what he was like as a young child personally, but I do have some stories others have told me.

Like when he set our house on fire before I was even born, when he was about 4 years old. I’ve been told that he took my Dad’s cigarette lighter and deliberately set fire to the shag (Yes, in the 70’s) throw rug. I guess both my parents were home, but busy with the newborn, and they saw him do it, but were too late to prevent it, as they said NO, the fire had already consumed the rug and moved onto the couch. My Dad’s black faux leather couch he bought himself with his raise when he became a manager. He has still not forgiven my brother for this destruction of his prized property. I was told no one was hurt, and my Dad put out the fire himself – according to him – but the fire department helped – according to my Mom. The house itself was fine, but everything in it was smoke and water damaged. It was a brand new house, in a nice suburban subdivision that my Mom got to pick out the design and layout and they had it built. Mom still says that was her favorite house and the fire was such a “shame”. They moved 7 times in the first 10 years of marriage, and that house was 2 before the one I called home.

My earliest memories of my brother have him about age ten I guess, making me about 3. I loved listening to him play guitar, he was already really good by then, able to play any melody he heard. He taught me to pluck out Twinkle Twinkle on it while he held it for me, and even let me use his lucky pick. He was not allowed to play guitar in school, so he chose clarinet. He learned that easily too, but never enjoyed it, and dropped it as soon as he could. Sometimes after school, he would allow me to try to make music on that clarinet, and would laugh warmly when it all it did was squawk. He’d pretend to step on an invisible cat every time I squeaked and squawked and we would roll with laughter. He always made me laugh. I adored him.

Also about that age, and the next few years, he did lots of silly tricks with me. He would put his hands around neck, while I held onto his wrists, and he would lift me up, by what appeared to be my head, but the weight was really supported by my hands on his. It freaked out Mom and she would tell us to stop. He loved animals, and often came home with live snakes and frogs, and when he didn’t he would bring home a wavy branch and hand it to my Mom saying, “Check out this snake I found” just to hear her scream and make me laugh. He would tousle my hair while making gorilla noises pretty much every time he walked by me. Anything to get me to giggle. And he hated when I got sick, which was way too often with my asthma and secondary infections from steroids. I spent much of my childhood with a fever, alone in my room. I have so many memories of him playing the guitar in my room to help me sleep, until the fever broke. He like playing heavy metal music, but for me, it was always a pretty gentle little song. Sometimes he even played my favorite songs from Mary Poppins or Sound of Music. He’d always stop playing and go back to his room when anyone noticed he was in there, like he didn’t want to be noticed or caught being nice.

This brother was always an outsider in our family. If I felt it, I can only imagine how alone he felt. I have some memory of him being “sick” and staying in his room for family events, like birthday parties. Every Christmas Eve, I remember opening my gifts, and not being surprised that he was sick again. My Mom would ask him to join us, but then just give up when he said no. We also often went out to eat without him. He’d just say “Nah” when asked to join us. He was the middle brother, a dull shadow under the eldest brother’s star status, and sweet and special like his little brother.

I remember him getting in trouble for wearing a sheik hat to school when he was in 5th grade, so I must have been about 3. He refused to take it off, so I got to go to school with my Mom to speak to the principal and take him home. Everyone was so serious and angry, and I remember laughing at my silly brother and not understanding why everyone was angry – I loved his hat. I had the same teacher when I reached 5th grade, and she told me he had been wearing that hat every day for 2 weeks when she finally had to make it stop. She figured he would get tired of it, but it became something more and he could not stop wearing it without threat of suspension.

It was also some time around this age that he molested me, just mentioning this in the timeline, not going into details today. I actually can’t remember much of this time period clearly, only isolated events. I do know that I was not afraid of him, and never told anyone, because I adored him so and either I didn’t want him to get in trouble, or I didn’t even know it was wrong. Plus, it was nothing compared to what my Dad was doing to me, so it seemed a normal part of life to little me. Dad encouraged his young boys to collect porn magazines and watch it on cable with him, making sure they knew women were only good for sex. Everyone in our house was overly sexualized and not permitted to keep our childhood innocence.

It seems like fifth grade was like a point of no return for my brother, and I really have to wonder if he was also molested by my Dad, and if that abuse caused him to start on me, or caused the short circuit in his brain chemistry that would later develop into Schizophrenia. But we’ll never know if Dad hurt him, since he can’t tell us, he lost touch with reality so long ago.  And I also wonder if his pre-puberty hormones triggered some brain changes at that time to start his decline. Again, only speculation.

As I grew taller and my hair grew longer, people started calling us twins, and I loved that. We had the same cheekbones, same green eyes, same fair skin and freckles, and the same auburn hair! His was long, wavy, and unkempt  like a rock star. Mine was long,  wavy, and unkempt like a tomboy. We’d also both stuff our wild hair into a ball cap to avoid brushing it.

I idolized this brother and his cool long-haired friends for a few years, until he slipped out of my life. For the next few years, although we lived in the same house, I have very few memories of him at all. He pushed me away, no longer let me in the room when his friends came over, and most often, simply only came home to sleep. He even started forgetting to make gorilla noises for me. But sometimes, on very special nights, he would knock on my door late at night and ask, “Hey, Wanna see the moon?” Everyone else would be watching TV or whatever, and we would go out back to where he set up a telescope. He’d lift me up, because it was on a huge stand and too tall for me to see into. I remember the first time I saw the craters in the moon, jump right out through that telescope at me. It was magical. My brother explained all about the phases of the moon, told me the names of the craters and how they formed. Sometimes he would tell me about constellations, or meteors, or astronauts. I would get cold, but never complained, never wanting those special astronomy lessons to end. For years I wanted to be an astronaut myself – until many years later when I saw what they do at space camp and realized my motion sickness that prevented traveling to the super market without vomiting would most likely prevent me from successfully completing that G-force spinning simulator.

Life Would be Easier if I Weren’t Nice


Can I keep my boundaries intact? (Photo credit: ank0ku)

I am possibly still too concerned with how others feel, and put too much responsibility on myself for making others happy. Why do I think this? I am very stressed right now. I would rather sleep than do anything else. My dreams are not restful.

Last week I went to a painful, dark place, because during a dance performance I felt torn in loyalty to my friends, the other dancers, and to my husband and kids. I was unable to be there for all of them equally and perceived it as a fault of my own, not just a practicality of the evening and my current family. Last week I was so distraught by the thought of causing bad feelings in others that I was unable to enjoy myself at all, and then I got angry at the very people I was trying to take care of. I got so angry I resented their existence. Then I felt so guilty for those thoughts and feelings and got stuck in a terrible place. In the past, I have used alcohol and sleeping pills to force me to sleep, to numb those feelings, and run away. This time I trusted my husband, and allowed him to help me through that bad night and dark place.

But I’m still tired. And way too stressed. At first I thought this was from last week’s experience, some sort of residual from that extremely emotionally night. But now I think I know the real reason. My Mom.

I have more performances this weekend. My Mom said she wanted to come, and asked for all the details. Part of me likes that she wants to come, as it seems normal, and other dancers’ parents do come. But a bigger part of me does not want to share my joy with her. That part of me knows she will try to rob me of my joy by passing some judgment, making some comment, something will be wrong and it will be my fault. This is dangerous, because I was already thinking this way last week, just from my childhood training, and I did not need her presence to put me in the dark place.

My Mom has health issues that she claims prevent her from driving long distances, so she needs to ask one of my siblings to drive her the 2 hours to my city. Now I have to invite all of my siblings and their families. This is a public event, so I’m not exactly inviting, but informing, but, my siblings will feel obligated to come – to not let me down. Our family is still so dysfunctional, that all of us so-called adults are terrified of hurting each other.

So, I don’t care who comes to watch me dance. I’ll be in my zone and barely see the crowd. But before and after, that’s the problem. I am guessing my Mom will attempt to guilt me into spending that time with her, because they drove 2 hours to see me ya know. And I have already arranged for my own children to be somewhere else that evening, so as not to repeat last weekend. I want this time to be fun, care-free, stress-free. No, I need it to be. I need to get this stress out of me.

Will that be possible with my Mom, siblings, nieces and nephews there too? I guess I’ll find out. This will be the first time I have seen my Mom in person since establishing new healthier boundaries. She has backed off the smothering phone calls and emails. I’ve been flourishing in the new freedom, the reduced guilt, the decreased exposure to her negativity. Can I keep up the boundary when she is right in my face? I think I can, I think I can.

Life would be so much easier if I weren’t nice, and just told mom I did not want her there, or that I was not dancing. But the first would come back to bite me in so many ways, as it would take years of emails and phone calls of her reminding me of the time she was unwanted and just wants to support me but I won’t LET her. The second, the lie, just would not work either. My performances are videoed and all over the web, and they would find out. And I just can’t lie, completely lack that ability.

I’m going to try to be true to me, to keep my boundaries in place, and see if I can enjoy myself without falling back in to old unhealthy patterns of behavior with my family that formed my withered roots. Maybe they’ll all be so dazzled by my blossoms (blossoms, not bosoms, though my dancing dress is quite sparkly and gorgeous on me!) that they’ll forget to pick on me, and just enjoy the show. Am I asking too much there?

Pushing back on Boundary Pushers

I have established some boundaries and ground rules to protect myself from my mom. She can be emotionally abusive and exudes this negative energy that can be hard to not let yourself get drawn into. A while back I realized she had been my main social contact for years while I was raising my babies, and had lost connection with Hubby.

Her main form of pushing boundaries these days is through email. She does not have a long distance plan, so I am generally safe from phone calls, and she hates driving, so living 2 hours away protects me from any “drop-ins”. This sounds terrible, as I read that last sentence, to avoid my mom. So I will illustrate our latest battle.

I used to respond immediately, and guiltily, and thoroughly to every email from my mom, which could be up to 10  a day. I stopped that, and read each one, and answer them all at once either in the evening or the next morning, at my convenience. I ignore the baited comments and simply answer as neatly as I can, without offering fuel for the future. Every detail can and will be used against me at some point to prove how wonderful a mom she is, and how I have failed in my daughterly duties.

So this was going well, her emails were slowing down and less blaming was going on, and overall I felt more peaceful – so I knew I was on the right track at reducing her toxic exposure to me. And then I went on a business trip and reopened some doors. My mom lives next to the airport, so I usually park at her house and have my brother (the one that lives with her because his schizophrenia forces him to need her care – though I can’t think too hard about the quality of care he gets since that opens a flood gate of guilt for me not being able to care for him) drive me to the airport. I arranged this time to have only a 10 minute visit before heading to the airport, since it had been months since I had seen her, and nearly a year since I had been to her house. I figured she couldn’t do much damage in a short visit.

Well, she didn’t do any damage in that visit, but seeing me reminded her of how we used to talk and email, so I got a dozen emails daily my entire week away. Here’s how they go:

-Good Morning. (Yes she sends an email with only good morning in it. Meaning are you thinking of me? Oh, well, Now you have to)

-I bet you are super busy. (This one is brilliant. I laughed out loud at this one. It implies my fault at not responding to the previous one and gives her an excuse why I’m not paying attention to her, while demanding I pay attention to her even though she knows I’m busy)

-My vision is still blurry and I’m bummed out about how long it is taking to heal. (She had cataract surgery 4 days before I left for my trip)

-My feet don’t hurt so much since I’m not working (Her main desire in life is to not have to work. She would remarry my monstrous dad if it meant not working, I am sure. She has been trying to prove disability in various forms, and is actually actively jealous of my brother with schizophrenia, because he does not have to work. She thinks her arthritis is worse than anyone else’s. )

-Your brother asked me to go to dinner with him (This was the 3rd brother of mine, the one that is separated – meaning his wife moved out but he never filed for divorce, and he let my dad move in with him. She had to let me know that he is good son, and visits her and spends money on her.)

-I’d like to make you a special dinner when you come back from the airport. What would you like? (OK, multi-levels here again. She needs to point out that good and caring people offer dinner to others, unlike me. And then if I ask her to make something, she’d be telling everyone how she slaved all day to struggle and make me dinner while recovering from surgery)

-I wish you didn’t have to work so hard. You must be exhausted. (She does not understand my goals or ambition, or that I like to work and achieve. She is also pointing out that I have not responded to any of her emails yet, so I must be working too hard without a break)

-Did you know your nephew is color-blind? (Actually I did not know this, which further proves how terrible I am, I don’t know anything about them. My other thought was wow, that nephew is nearly 8 yrs old, why didn’t any of them notice until now? That nephew is from the 1st brother, that has a freakishly huge family and most kids are not exactly neglected, but not exactly noticed either)

-I hope you can sleep tonight (wow – what a powerful line that is. It looks like she is caring, but also feeding my anxiety, and guilt for not answering her yet)

[Next day we start again]

-I didn’t sleep at all last night. Not even 5 minutes.

-I wonder if my new blood pressure med is keeping me awake?

-I’m so tired. I’m going to call the doctor about reducing my bp meds (she thinks the bp meds make her fat and always cuts back or claims an allergic reaction when she gets to an effective dose. I wonder if she wants a stroke – her top bp is over 200, and she is likely 80 pounds over weight, but she won’t tell her weight to anyone)

-The doctor says that is not a possible side effect. This doctor never listens to me. Guess my body is just wired different. And I looked online and trouble sleeping was listed as a side effect. (she always knows better than her doctors)

-Can you create a menu for me so I know what to eat each day and I can lose weight? Maybe then the bp will go down and I can stop these meds and feel better (are you laughing yet? This last one had me rolling at the absurdity. She is 65. If she has not figured out how to eat by now, I can not help her. And I certainly would never assume I know her needs, or give her a chance to blame ME for being fat because she followed MY diet. OMG. I also am not doing so well at losing weight, so I’m certainly not an expert. Hell, if I could create a simple weight loss menu, I’d be rich! )


My single response to all those emails:

-I am sorry you are having trouble sleeping and not feeling well. Be patient as your body needs time to heal from surgery. I don’t feel like I can ask you to make me something special for dinner while you are recovering, but thank you for thinking of me.

I can not create a menu for you, but I can share that I have learned to never eat carbs alone, even fruit and veggies should be eaten with some protein to balance your blood sugar. And eat smaller meals more often, don’t starve yourself all day. And drink LOTS of water.

You are right, I am super busy with work and looking forward to learning more and meeting new challenges there. I hope you feel better soon.

See you in a few days


Skipping a few days of emails – When my brother got me from the airport and took me to her house, she had made mashed potatoes, chicken in gravy, mixed veggies. The gravy was campbell’s soup, and the veggies were drowned in butter. She had picked up a casata cake from a bakery, saying she knew I like them and had wanted to get me one for my last birthday, but since I didn’t come to her house that day she got it now. And she got pizelle cookies and cream soda, things I liked in grade school. She hat a full plate of food, 2 huge slices of the cake, and half the cookies. I had some dinner and a sliver of cake, and denied the rest, as I do watch my sugar now to avoid crashes. I thanked her and tried to hurry home, and as I get up to go, she starts apologizing for having to work, so my kids know the other grandma more, and it makes her so sad she doesn’t know my kids. Yes, well, umm, gotta go mom. Love ya, but I just gotta get away from this twilight zone world you create for us. That was about a week ago, and her emails are still pouring in.

Approaching Sanity – Well some of us are

Reality isn't always real

Reality isn’t always real (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It seems that every family gathering has a level of insanity as each person brings their own history to the party. And it is especially mind boggling when the family members have been abused by another family member.

I planned a simple birthday party for my youngest kiddo and invited all the fam – minus the abuser. My one brother says he already had plans to take his son to an amusement park that day. I bristled a bit, as I couldn’t help but think they go every week to this amusement park with their season passes, would it kill the boy to spend a day with cousins instead? But I didn’t say this, and really wasn’t angry, as the party was thrown together last minute, just a few days notice. So whatever, let it roll off.

My other brother calls and says he will come with his many kids, and I was very happy. He has so many kids that it is an instant party wherever they go! But then he wanted to talk. Ugh. OK . . . But I am making a cake . . .and thinking happy thoughts today . . .

He was upset with the other brother choosing to go to the amusement park with our dad. Wait, back the truck up. Did you say with our dad? Oh, funny, 1st brother neglected to mention that part. Not a huge deal, but it just shows how they leave things out all the time, and nothing is ever as it seems. He knows I do not approve, so leaves out the part with dad to avoid confrontation. The really troubling part here though, is that my mom had been planning to go too. And brother 2 is worried that both of them are under his sick, scary power again, since dad moved in with that 1st brother about a year ago. Ewww, and double ugh. I am worried too.

OK, the plot thickens. My mom has been telling me for months that 2nd brother’s kids have been helping her clean her house, and she was overcome with gratitude that they love her so much. I was happy too she was getting help and seemed to be spending some nice days with them. But yesterday I find out my mom has been paying the kids to help her. Which is fine, but why didn’t my mom add that to her story? Because without it, the kids are there because they love her so much, and she needs this affirmation, so that is what she tells everyone.

Then 2nd brother goes on to say that our dad found out about the arrangement with mom and has asked if he could have the grand-kids come help him too, that he would also pay them. He said it now takes him 2 hrs to change the sheets on his bed, he has to rest so often, the emphysema has his lung function to about 12%, and his heart function about 35%. So my alarm bells go off, and I scream a bit louder than I intended to my brother, “You are not considering this are you? Do you have any idea how much he would enjoy watching your girls make his bed? Even if he never touched them, he would be thinking so many things, and this would open the door. You CAN NOT let your girls go over there – PLEASE!” He said he wasn’t going to let them, at least not when dad was home. And he thought maybe he’d send his 6ft tall 16 year old son instead of his daughters.

But the truth is, I am powerless here. I can scream, warn, jump up and down, but in the end it is up to my brother’s to take my advice or not. That 1st brother has 2 small children in his house, and he lets a sociopathic pedophile move in with him. 1st brother was typically ignored by my dad, or ridiculed for not being brilliant like me and 2nd brother. So we think he is enjoying this attention from dad now, and feeling like a hero for taking in a sick parent. Problem is, dad is so sick, not just emphysema, and his sickness could really do some damage on his little family, which is already so vulnerable since his wife left him 2 years ago. I can see so clearly that my dad is preying on him in a time of weakness. But we can’t get this brother or my mom to see reality. They see a weak old man in a wheelchair and think he could not possibly hurt anyone. But I know better. He is already manipulating them and changing them, so slowly they can not see it for themselves.

But the realization yesterday, that 2nd brother and I are approaching sanity, and keep getting closer to some semblance of a sibling relationship – well that part is quite good. It all started with this brother and some wake-up calls last year.

And wow how different my life is now. How different I am. And I love it. Life is good. It will just be better when the emphysema finally wins and their is 1 less abuser in the world. Only then will we all truly begin to heal I think.

My Mom, so much to say about my mom

My mom. I always have to pause and gather my thoughts when I think of my mom. That is the most complicated relationship ever imagined, let alone lived. Me and My mom.

Where to start? I already explained how she got suckered into marrying a psychopath at age 19, how my dad emotionally abused her until she believed every rotten word he said, that she was stupid, fat, ugly, etc. And then he started in on us kids, all in a different way.

So after 26 years of marriage, my parents divorced. I was 12, and my dad wanted me all to himself at that point, so he threw out my mom. He even told her that he was closer to me than her, and started this disgusting jealous rivalry between us, where she would tell me she used to be young, thin and pretty too. Ew. Until I finally told my mom what my dad did to me every night, when I was 16. And her world came crashing down.

She was in her 40’s, trying to get a decent job with no real education. She found out her husband did not love her, that he abused her children, not just her, and that she did nothing to stop any of it.

Let’s back up some and examine some of my mom’s parenting skills. My mom always took me shopping for formal dances, and I now think it odd she always made sure we completed the outfit with matching silk lingerie. And whenever I was home with a boyfriend, she would encourage me to wear pretty outfits, take lots of pictures of the 2 of us, and then announce she was leaving for an hour, and repeat she would not be home for at least an hour. Never did she come home early. It was like she was giving us permission to have sex while she was gone, which is of course what we did. WTF? As a mom now, I can not begin to comprehend her behavior. She was happy when at age 17 I moved in with my boyfriend, who is now my husband. No one ever said, woah, aren’t you a bit young?

So fast forward through many years, my mom lives with and takes care of my brother with schizophrenia. She wants to retire, but can not afford to do so. She complains daily of her aches/pains, many real, some imagined. And we talk now, and mostly I enjoy talking with her, but never do I take her advice without examining it.

And now, she understands I don’t want to see my dad and that it upsets me that she and my brothers have some sort of fake la-la-land relationship with him that is so unhealthy for all of them. And so my mom leaves gaps in her stories, like “Your brother has lots of errands to run today and then is going to the casino (leaving out *with your dad*)”

And I guess I am fine with this new arrangement. Don’t ask, don’t tell, I can’t control them, so if they choose to have dinner with a psychopathic pedophile, well I guess they can choose to do that. Leave me out of it.

My mom used to say I confused her, because in my twenties, I used to have that same fake la-la-land relationship with my dad, before therapy, before processing every memory, before moving on from the abusive past. Before. And this is now. I have moved on, and no one else did. My brother has panic attacks so severe he goes to the ER sometimes. This brother allows my dad to live in his house.

I try to let go of all of that, and just enjoy the happiness in my part of the world without letting their world get to me. And mostly I do now. I am happy despite all of them.

Extended Family Dynamics for an Abuse Survivor

Blogging in between visits with my therapist gives me a platform to organize my thoughts and see multiple options.

I still struggle with my role in extended family situations and feel that my past holds me back from doing things I otherwise naturally would, and I am honestly not sure the best route to take yet.

Specifically, My abuser, my dad, is still alive. I have barely any contact with him, only the extended family get-togethers where most people do not know about the abuse. I was unable to (personally) tell my Aunts, Uncles, Cousins what my dad had done. And now that 20 years has passed, it seems pointless to blurt it out now.  The fact that I was sexually abused by my dad is just a fact, like my name, like my dazzling green-blue eyes, just a part of me. But that is not how others react to this fact, and I don’t know who to tell or how to tell, so I tend to remain quiet. But if someone were to ask me why I don’t talk to my dad, well I’m not sure what I would say.

I have avoided many family reunions with my dad’s side for many years now, knowing he will of course be there, and I don’t feel close to anyone else there either. I know he has put his magic spin on things to them, that I am selfish, ungrateful, and think I am too good to see them. I know he tells them he chooses not to associate with me, not vice versa. I know they think what a shame to have such a dishonorable daughter. (OK I don’t know any of these things – I assume them)

My dad’s sister has been battling cancer. I was never exactly close to this Aunt, but I do love her. My only memories of her when I was little she is cursing and blowing smoke in my face as she tells me to go play outside or tells dirty jokes to my dad. That’s how I remember all of my dad’s siblings, beer-guzzling, overbearing, chain-smoking, crass. She is currently in the hospital in a different state, and my heart is torn. I’d like to go see her, out of respect, and out of love, out of some sense of obligation, but mainly just to show her she is loved.

But the questions have already started from the cousins in facebook chat.

“When is your dad coming out?”

“I don’t know”

“Can you ask him and let me know? We’re trying to plan how many visitors are here, ICU rules”

“No, I don’t talk to him”

(big long pause) “Oh.”  “Well my dad said your dad is coming out tomorrow, are you guys coming with him?”

“I don’t know what my dad is doing, but my brother was thinking of going on Friday”

So what happens when they ask *why* I don’t talk to my dad? I don’t want to start any drama and take away from the supportive environment around my Aunt. My Aunt’s husband works in a prison for sex offenders, and I have heard him talk about those evil prisoners, and I’m pretty sure he would kill my dad right then and there. He is one I think that believed the rumors, used to dealing with psychopaths on a daily basis he saw through it a bit. But only a bit. I do think he would scream and possibly hit him. The old man in a motorized scooter, so weak from end-stage emphysema that he can no longer stand. Right, he looks dangerous. No, it would be ugly, and no one needs that.

And why did I write that chat that way? Looking at it now I wonder if I was trying to get her to ask that question? Do I want to *accidentally* share this news? Do I really want to tell but not have it be my fault? Hmmm. Impromptu chats have a way of showing true feelings perhaps, since we have less filter when we speak spontaneously, and without the voice to convey meaning, it can easily be misinterpreted.

It seems to me the more loving choice to my Aunt right now is to offer my love from afar. I have not seen her since my wedding 13 years ago, and have not spoken to any of them other than occasional facebook updates from the cousins. And yet I feel torn, and of course guilty, because it wouldn’t be a day on this world without me feeling some guilt.

Am I protecting my Aunt and cousins by not going, not telling them. Or am I protecting myself from further drama and trauma? And if so, is that actually a good thing?

I know I would go to the funeral, (which barring a miracle, seems likely at this point) but I also know people don’t tend to talk at funerals like they do sitting helplessly in hospital rooms. My Aunt currently can not speak, and can barely move. She communicates through hand squeezes, my cousin said. So other than my guilt, I am not sure what going to the hospital would help.

Is it helpful or hurtful to disclose past abuse to the extended family of the abuser? I don’t want to make choices based on fear, so I need to examine this choice carefully, as I have many fears.  Am I afraid they will not believe me? Yes. Am I afraid they will believe me? Yes. Am I afraid they will be angry at me for not telling them? Yes. Am I afraid they will cause a scene? Yes. Am I afraid it will cause stress to my sick Aunt? Yes.

Closing sentiment is directed to my dad- Screw you abusing A-hole that has made every decision in my life so difficult and putting this choice to disrupt or to not disrupt, to shatter or not shatter the worlds of people I care about onto me through your own cowardice, denial and psyhopathic ways. I should not have to think twice about visiting family or expressing love. My whole life you have been in the background, limiting my ability to feel love or show love. Everything I loved when I was little was hurt or taken from me – my mom, my brothers, my pets, my friends. So if I love my Aunt from afar, you can’t steal it from me.

**UPDATE – Based on some comments, I need to be clear that I already told the people immediately around me about what my dad had done –  20 years ago. I did not call everyone I knew or that knew my dad and tell them. Word got out when the police and child services came to question him at work. Believe me, I knew his anger all too well at that incident of how I *embarrassed him and ruined his good name*. Word got out. My dad used his powers of persuasion to convince everyone I was insane and just asking for attention. I am not holding in deep dark secrets. I can see how it appears that way after reading this 1 post. This is so hard to explain in a few words. His family lives in a different state, and even when I was little I saw them maybe once a year. After I got away from my dad and got married, I have lost touch with most of those people, choosing not to visit when my dad would invite me each year to various family events. I have no idea what they think they know or don’t. It was not my responsibility as a hurting teenager to broadcast his wrongdoings to the world. It was my responsibility to heal. Why is the man not in jail? Because no one thought I would survive a trial process. But it wasn’t my choice, I was a kid. So I hear my Aunt is suffering, and start having awkward conversations with cousins that may or may not recall something they heard so many years ago. I really don’t know these people, and my fear is more that I will be unable to hold my tongue and cause pain and drama and draw attention away from my Aunt. I assume my dad uses my absence of proof I am cold and uncaring. I have no idea who thinks what and I guess I just don’t feel the need to know. If they choose not to heed my warnings, there is nothing more I can do.

Ugh, this is too hard to explain. Unless you were abused from birth to age 16 by a psychopathic pedophile.

Manipulation or not, sometimes I just don’t know

One of the leftover issues from growing up in an abusive home, is that I do not trust anyone, ANYONE, and that I am always looking for the hidden manipulation behind the actions of others.

My gut reaction to events can sometimes be complete misinterpretations based on my past experiences.

Easter Ukrainian Postcard

This Ukrainian card would have been easier to understand (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A few days ago I get some cards in the mail. My mom has sent individual, non-holiday cards with cash inside, saying to “use the money to buy some new shoes or something else you need” to all of my kids, except for the youngest, a preschooler. I search the mail, retrace my steps, just in case I missed one, but I don’t see it. So, of course it would be ugly to hand out gifts to all but one, so I say nothing about the cards.

And then the analysis starts. Why did my mom do this? Does she think the youngest is too young to get money? Does she think he is too young to notice the slight? Did she want to cause trouble for us? Did she want me to call her? Did she forget about 1 kid? Was it an honest mistake? Does she think I don’t have money for shoes? Why does she have to stipulate how the gift money is used? Is this an Easter gift in disguise? Did she send cash because I often rip up her checks, knowing she makes very little money and supports my disabled brother? Did she send these to all her grandkids, all 15 of them?

So what to do? I don’t want to accuse her of anything, but I want to let her know what I have. I send a quick email thanking her for x cards. She responds with, uh-oh, where is the last one? She says she mailed them all at the same time and hopes I got the mail and not the kids so no one feels left out. I am flooded with relief.  Sort of.

I still feel funny about her generosity, I don’t understand why she is sending large amounts of money. It was $20 for each kid, that’s a lot of money for a child, and all together a lot for her to spend. She has in the past used money as forms of affection, to ‘prove’ her love, so I am not totally off base here.

Then I get an email from the brother with schizophrenia, the one who does not understand my dad is a monster, inviting us all over for Easter dinner, says dad is preparing it all. Luckily, I already had plans with in-laws, so I did not have to lie to him, or worse yet, I didn’t have to attend. These invitations always come from my brother, because my dad knows I will flat out refuse any offer directly from him. So yes, he uses my brother as a go between, hoping I won’t want to hurt the brother’s feelings.

So I am so used to being manipulated that I just come to expect it, and look for it even when it isn’t there.