Tag Archive | family roles

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.

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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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Where were you, mom?

A lot on my mind. As usual. A lot of back-story needed to explain this one.

My daughter’s party is over, and it went well, and the universe didn’t implode because I invited people into my house. I have to joke about it, but I want to make sure it is clear how big of a deal this was for me. When I first had my baby girl 10 years ago, I initiated play dates and invited other moms to my house. I can’t recall when or how it happened that I withdrew from everyone and made my home a sacred refuge, inpenetrable by the outside world. I just know that it happened.

It was such an unhealthy setup for me. For the first time ever, I had no need to deal with other people and so I often didn’t. I worked from home with a nursing or squirmy baby on my lap. I had no car. I loaded up babies in my stroller or sling and walked to the grocery store or the park – both just a few blocks away in my small town. I didn’t talk to anyone. Hubby worked crazy long hours to try and get enough overtime to support us. I barely saw him, and when I did, he was very tired. My babies were my only friends, well, other than WebMD and Dr.Sears and every other parenting advice I could find to make sure I wouldn’t mess up and kill my babies with something stupid.

I even took a break from therapy those many years while my kids were young. I was truly isolated. And at some point, I also don’t know how this happened, I let my Mother in. I mean she wormed her way into every thought of mine. She fed my insecurities and encouraged my negativity. Depression was all that I knew. Every cell in my body was sad and lonely and hopeless for it to ever be different. I lived to make my children happy, knowing I could never have it for myself.

Then my daughter turned 4, and I had my first flashback. I saw her, but I remembered me as a 4 year old, being tormented by my abusive father. Strangely, I remembered feeling pretty much the same way at age 4 as I did then – isolated, lonely, scared, and sad. I remember always feeling sad.

Not right away, but sometime in that year I returned to my therapist, and we started the long journey of healing from childhood sexual abuse and psychological trauma that was my past. With her help, I was able to eventually face each demon, name it, and remove it. She encouraged me to get out into the world and find joy for myself. She encouraged me to open up to Hubby and create a stronger relationship. She encouraged me to create healthy boundaries and get some distance from my mother.

None of this has been easy. Most of this has been heartbreakingly difficult. I have had to hurt people with my truth.

I am still confused about my mother, and what role she should have in my life. I know now that she will never truly be a mom to me, and I hate the part of me that still longs for supportive parents that actually want what is best for me.  I fear that is a hole that will never be filled, and will always hurt a bit.

After the wedding last month, my mom apologized to me for being a terrible mother. Her apology was in an email, but I know it was still difficult for her to write. I thought maybe, just maybe she could move on and start being real. I don’t why I thought that, and now I am almost embarrassed to have been hopeful again.

I finally found out what had been going on with my mom and brothers the weeks following the wedding. My mom lost it. she had a breakdown of sorts, as reality crashed in and she tried to take on the guilt and pain of allowing her children to be abused by our psychopathic father. She started cussing uncontrollably at my brother that lives with her. She started throwing away her possessions, one after the other, everything taken up to the curb. She said she needed a fresh start and wanted to remove anything in her house that reminded her of my abusive father, her ex-husband.

So it started with the dining room table. When I was about 8 years old, my mom started working at a fast food place to earn her own money. She saved her first few paychecks and purchased a nice table for 6 for our dining room to replace the table for 4 with the duct taped metal leg and the book under it to keep it from tipping over. I recall my father’s anger when he found out she had been shopping for a table without him. He went to the store and cancelled her order, saying that she had chosen the wrong one. He changed her nice hardwood table into a new formica topped one, he said this would be more durable. She had wanted a light pine tone, and he chose a dark, dark brown. She wanted slender, armless chairs to fit in to our tiny room, and he insisted on captain’s chairs for each end. But my mom was still to use her money for it, since she was the one that thought we needed it, but she was not allowed to get what she wanted. Years of bowing down to him made this no different – he was in charge, bad things happened when we disobeyed.

In the divorce, my mom fought for that table, feeling like she had won a trophy when it was given to her. But now, 25 years later, she no longer wants this memory and asked my brother to take the table to the curb.

Next was her living room. She had my father’s old recliner in there, something he had no room for when he moved into my brother’s house. That went out to the curb along with her vacuum (also used to be my father’s) and all of the video tapes in the cupboard that she no longer has  a VCR to watch them.

Next was her bedroom. Her comforter set was from a friend, given to her after the divorce, so that went out to the curb.

Next she threw away items that proved she had not been taking care of herself – so every towel with a worn spot, every sheet that lost its elasticity, and every garment with a hole or stain was tossed out.

She said she felt great to sit in the emptiness and purge the bad memories so she could start over. (I was listening to all of this on the phone. I had called her to let her know I had finished painting my mural and somehow I wanted to share my joy with her. One day I will learn this is not possible.) She also said people driving by were stopping and taking her items, and that made her feel good to be helping others who needed the things.

So what happens next? I bet some of you can guess, some of you know how dysfunctional families work. Who has always been the hero for my mother? Yup – my brothers. So for the next week I got emails and phone calls about everything my brothers were buying for her. They bought her a cherry dining room table with the chairs she always wanted. They bought her a new recliner, a new vacuum, new sheets – new everything. They swooped in and saved the day. No one was phased by her selfish temper tantrum. Not at all. This was normal to them, they all did what they always do, because it feels safe that way.

But wait – I’m not done yet. Here’s the real clincher, the whole point of my story today. In that phone call, my mother blamed me for her troubles with my father, and that it was my fault she had to associate with him and have all of his stuff in her house. I don’t remember verbatim, but I’ll try to quote her here.

“I’m done pretending to get along with that man. I don’t want to ever see or think about him again. Even if it is what my children want. For years I smiled and put up with him because it was what you wanted, because you insisted he should still be a part of our life. Well, no more. I’m done”

So if this isn’t clear, she is obviously referring to a 16 year old me. When I was finally brave enough to tell her what he was doing to me, and asked her for help. I wanted to be safe, but I could not bear the thought of ripping my family apart. And my father still had control over me. I was terrified of him and did what he asked. Oh yeah – and I was a kid. Don’t forget that part mom. It was supposed to be your job to take care of me, to lead the family, to show us what to do. So yes, I am fully aware that while I was living in denial of the horrors of my first 16 years of life, you added the burden of saving the family on me too. So kudos to you for blaming the 16 year old me for ruining your life. Mighty fine of you. And sadly not that shocking that you could create an entirely new delusional world to fit your needs and have you blameless and saint-like. Again. All is right in your world again. You cry and your sons buy you stuff.

I explained all of this to my therapist last week, and her jaw dropped. When she recovered, she asked me to say what I want to say to my mother to her. I thought for a bit, and I thought I would have so much. I thought I would have tears, but I only have anger, a sense of injustice. All it comes down to, then and now is a simple –

Where were you?

Where were you when I needed you? Where were you all those years? Where were you when we needed a mom? And now, still now, you choose to hide in your delusional world, and force those around you to see you as the victim and use their love to get what you want, feed your need. I’m sorry, but I won’t play along. I will never board your pity train. I wish you well – but from a distance. So many years I looked to you and my big brothers for clues on how to behave, how to survive. I find it amazing that you say you were all looking to me, and that I steered you wrong. That now, after all these years, it is still my fault in your eyes. But I know better now and won’t be falling into that trap again. Ever.

So I am moving on here too. I have been able to pull myself up from the abysmal pit of despair – without the support of my parents. I have been able to overcome fears and phobias instilled by my parents. I have been able to feel love and share love – despite my parents.  As much as I may long for a supportive hug from parents like I see on TV, I know that is not mine to have. I also know that I am strong enough to succeed without it.

It really isn’t about them any more. This is my story now. They may have written the first book for me, but now that I have the pencil, I’m erasing the twisted side-plots before they take over. The first book was about pain, isolation, sadness, abuse, depression and despair. This book I’m writing is about family, friends, hope, goals, hard work, progress, and growth. This book is about life, and all of its beautiful imperfections. Mostly though – it is about love – true, unconditional, spirit soaring love. And everyone knows that the powerful, cold hearted characters never win in a love story. Nope, the pure of heart underdogs are the winners, every time.

English: Halo

The saintly glow surrounding my mother’s delusional perfect world (Photo credit: Wikipedia)