Tag Archives: family

Drowning in Triggers

It feels like they’re everywhere right now.

My mother wants to talk about Ferguson and how people just need to take personal responsibility because clearly that would solve all the problems.  My sister the cop posts an “I support Darren Wilson” badge on Facebook.  She wants her department to have more riot gear to crush the race riots she thinks are inevitable.

These are two people who know–know–what cops can and will do to people who can’t defend themselves.  They’ve seen it; they’ve lived it.  Just like I have.

My father, my mother’s first husband, was a cop.  He sexually abused and raped me for sixteen years.  He hit me.  He nearly drowned me in a bathtub when I was three years old.  He regularly suffocated me, though I don’t know whether it was to keep me quiet during the abuse or to make me think he would kill me or both.  He put his gun to my head more than once.  He made me watch him kill my dog.  He forced me to choose whether he’d rape me or my sister.  He let his criminal justice students rape us too.  And he taught me that no one would ever believe me if I told because he was a cop and I was nothing.

My mother doesn’t know the details, but my sister the cop does–she lived it too.  I sheltered her from as much of it as I could, but she still got hurt badly.  She was the one who told, originally.  I would’ve gone on denying it forever because I needed to have one parent who didn’t hurt me, but once she disclosed, I had to support her.  She’s my sister.

We tried to have him investigated–well, my mother did, really.  I don’t recall her ever asking me or my sister if that’s what we wanted.  It was a complete joke.  No jurisdiction wanted it.  The abuse occurred across three states and several cities, so no one wanted it.  Everyone said it was someone else’s jurisdiction because who wants to investigate the cop-turned-criminal-justice-professor?  Finally, the Iowa State Police took the case.  They wouldn’t talk to me at all because I’m crazy.  They interrogated my sister, who would’ve been 16 or 17 at that point, until she threw up in a trash can.  They polygraphed my father, got an inconclusive result (OMG, a cop might know how to fake the notoriously unreliable polygraph?  Inconceivable!), and dropped the whole case.  Welcome to the Blue Wall of Silence, where victims don’t matter because cops have all the power.

Do they really not see the connection?  Do they really not think that giving people nearly unlimited power over people’s lives, freedom, and even bodily integrity with almost no oversight is dangerous?  Do they really not understand that the system that let Darren Wilson shoot Michael Brown and abuse protesters and journalists is the same system that let our father get away with raping us for 16 years?  How can they not see that?

I feel so, so alone in all of this.

And then there’s Bill Cosby.  Another upstanding citizen who gets away with sexually assaulting women for years because he’s such a nice guy and has influence and power.  It’s all the same: the victims don’t matter because the rapists are such nice guys, you know, aside from all the rape.

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Trip Anxiety

I’m starting to get anxious about the trip.  I’m trying not to obsess over it, but it’s hard.

Mostly I’m stressing because B won’t be able to go with me.  When I thought about the trip, I’d planned it with him.  I’m afraid that without him, I’ll lapse back into the person I was seven years ago when I was last there instead of the person I am now.  He’s the only one who’s been around for that shift, and I’m afraid that being surrounded by people who haven’t really known me since then will drag me back.

The person I was when I left was miserable.  She hated herself and spent most of her time and energy trying to destroy herself.  She nearly killed herself so she wouldn’t have to feel anything but that self-hatred.  She couldn’t even consider that she might matter, that she might deserve to live and be safe and happy.  She was desperate for approval and love that only came if she was perfect, but she kept killing herself to try to win that love.  She was doing the best she could in that situation, but she was miserable.

Now, I’m so much better.  Yeah, I’m dealing with some pretty serious depression here lately, but not like it was before.  I don’t want to destroy myself anymore; I want to fix myself, even on the days that I don’t see any way of doing that.  When I imagined this trip, I imagined seeing all these relatives at the wedding.  Naturally, they’d ask what I’ve been up to.  I imagined telling my very Republican family, “Oh, I get Democrats elected.  My record is three for three, and I’m now working on getting a governor elected who defeated DOMA and defended buffer zones, and the first lesbian attorney general.  What have you been up to?”  (As I paraphrased it to my former therapist, “I work for the Democrats, so fuck all y’all.”)

Now, alone, I’m less certain I’ll be able to hang onto my present self.  I doubt I’ll slip all the way back into full-blown self-destruction, but it would be easy to start letting my family bully me and not stand up for myself.  That’s the pattern I’ve enacted with them my entire life, so it’s hard to pull the wheels out of those familiar ruts.

I’m worried people are going to be judgmental.  My bridesmaid dress is sleeveless, so a lot of my scars will be showing.  And I’m probably going to have to use my cane at the wedding, and I may even have to have a chair or something if I can’t stand up for long enough.  Certain family members have not been very understanding of my difficulties in the past.  One aunt called me up out of the blue about a year and a half after I moved to Massachusetts.  I hadn’t talked to her in 2 or 3 years, but she decided to call me and lecture me about how my problems were a choice and I was hurting the family.  And then there’s my grandfather, who I can easily imagine mocking me for needing to use the cane, or accusing me of faking it and being over-dramatic.

My youngest sister told me the other night that she’d already planned to run interference for me if people were being assholes.  I love that kid to death.  We also had a conversation about how I could just whack people across the shins with the cane to shut them up.  I mentioned wanting to find a way to electrify it so I could zap them if they were being assholes, but then I’m not sure the TSA would let me take it on the airplane.

And I don’t know what to expect when I go to Florida to help my mother.  Both my sisters say she’s a lot less crazy now that she’s remarried.  (Well, Middle Sister phrased it as “…now that she’s getting laid,” but you get the point.)  And most of the time I’m there, she’ll be at work, so I can knock out some chores and then go to the beach or kayak with the manatees.  So I think that should be manageable.

But I’m still afraid of losing myself when I go back to Birmingham.  I’m trying to calm myself down about it and convince myself that being aware of the potential for that problem will let me guard against it.  I’m trying not to let myself worry obsessively.  I’m trying to make plans to do fun stuff with people I like so I have an excuse not to spend much time with my extended family.  My sisters and I are getting matching tattoos, Little Sister and I are going to the zoo and the hands-on science museum where I used to work (possibly with Mother and Fake Stepdad, too), and Little Sister and I are going to hang out and smoke some pot.  (It’s medicinal!)  I’m going to get together with my best friend from high school, meet her daughter, cuddle with her kitties (she breeds and shows GORGEOUS Bengals), and do some yarn shopping.  I might get together with some other people, too.  So I have some good things going.  Hopefully it’ll make the trip okay.

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I went and bought a suitcase today.  Actually, a three-piece luggage set, which at regular price was $199, but I got it for $70.  Pretty great deal.  It’s just weird to buy luggage.  It struck me as something real people do, and I’ve lapsed back into feeling like I’m not a real person.  Does the fact that I now own a matched luggage set make me a real person?

I’m not sure that will make any sense to anyone outside my head.  I’m not entirely sure I’m capable of making sense.

It’s all surreal, you know?  I’m really dysfunctional; I hardly leave my bed or get dressed or brush my hair or anything.  But at the same time, I’m planning for this big trip all on my own.  Going back to where I grew up, to most of the people I grew up with.  And I don’t know how I’m going to do with it.

I still sort of think of Birmingham as home.  It’s a little confusing–I never intend to live there again, I never really fit in anywhere there, but I’m still fond of it.  But I haven’t been back there in seven years, and there are a lot of bad memories there too.  And some bad people.

And then–Florida, with my mother, to help her after her neck surgery.  I volunteered for that: why?  I thought I was past trying to be good enough to make her love me, but is that why I’m doing it?  I’d prefer to think it’s mostly selfish, that I wanted to spend time at the beach and I volunteered because she’ll be at work most of the time, so I’ll get to do what I want.  I don’t know which is true; it’s probably a combination of both.  But it disgusts me that I’m weak enough to still go seeking her approval by playing the good daughter.

I think a lot of the confusion is because there are so many parts with conflicting feelings.  Cognitive dissonance, because it doesn’t make sense together.  Luckily I’ve gotten good at ambivalence.  I can hold multiple contradictory beliefs or wishes simultaneously, and I don’t know if that’s a good thing or if it just means I’m extra crazy.  It probably doesn’t matter which.

I’m not making sense, am I?  I don’t think I’m making sense.  Part of me cares, but most of me doesn’t, anymore.  I don’t know what I’m talking about.  I don’t know what I’m writing.  It probably doesn’t matter.

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Better Plan

New plan for the wedding: my mother and stepfather are paying for hotel rooms (one for them and one for me) so that none of us have to stay with my grandparents and deal with the assholery, especially since Aunt Bitch is staying there too.  After the wedding, I’m going to go down to my mother’s house in south Florida because she’s having neck surgery shortly after that and needs the help.  I’ll stay for about a week and then fly back here.

I still have to figure out how I’m going to get to and from the airport near here.  Bradley, where I’ll be flying from, is about 40 minutes away, but I’m sure C or somebody else from my former program will be willing to give me a ride there and then pick me up when I get back.

B is buying my ticket to Birmingham for me because I’m short on money.  I’ll pay him back at the beginning of the month once I get my social security, and I’ll buy my ticket home then too.  I’ll have no money to spare next month, but that’s okay.

This is a much better plan than staying with my grandparents and Aunt Bitch.

Now I just need to find someone I can borrow a rolling suitcase and a garment bag from.  All I have is a duffel bag.  I can’t carry that these days, and besides, it would mess up my pretty dresses.  I’m sure I can find someone to borrow luggage from.

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I have to.

I think I’m going to have to call my grandparents and ask if I can stay with them for a week for the wedding.  I really didn’t want to do that, but it’s the only way I can afford to go to my sister’s wedding now that I have to buy a plane ticket.  I can’t afford a hotel too.

For those of you who don’t know, I’ve barely spoken to my grandparents in the past 8 months.  See, they funded my treatment for a long time–it’s expensive, but my grandfather is the VP of Investments at a major brokerage firm.  They’ve got plenty of money to spare.  I have mixed feelings–I’m grateful that he funded my treatment, but he also interfered a lot and yanked me out of the only program that was really helping me.  And then, at the end of last year, he cut me off.  I went from having an apartment he paid for and treatment where I saw someone every day to basically nothing.  I had to move into a one-bedroom apartment with two other people because the only money I have now is the $700 a month from Social Security.  My treatment team is no more–now all I have is ICM, who’s totally useless.

(BTW, she apparently is on vacation this week and didn’t bother to tell me.)

See, my grandparents think I’m faking my illness for attention and using it as an excuse not to grow up and take care of myself.  By that logic, they assume cutting me off will cure me because I’ll have to stop faking it.  Clearly that’s working great.

I’ve always had a complicated relationship with my grandparents.  When I was a teenager, I bounced between living with my mother and living with them.  That had a lot to do with their relationship with my mother and my relationship with my mother.  They think she’s a bad mother, and in a lot of ways, they’re right–but I think she got that way mostly because of the damage my grandfather did to her.

See, my grandfather is a narcissist.  He’s very focused on achievement, and it only counts if it’s what HE defines as achievement.  I grew up listening to him mock my mother for being a special ed teacher: “Those who can, do, and those who can’t, teach.”  In front of her children.  He also likes to debate, but she doesn’t, and he bullied her.  She’s one of five children, but he’s always made it clear that she’s the one he doesn’t approve of.  I have a lot of sympathy for that, for her as a child, but I don’t have sympathy for her choices as an adult because she verbally and emotionally abused us and neglected us.

My grandmother, on her own, is very sweet and caring.  But she won’t stand up to my grandfather, never has.  I’m not sure if she even has her own opinions.  Most of her life centers around taking care of my grandfather–cooking for him, cleaning for him, doing laundry for him, ironing his underwear for him (seriously), sewing for him.  She’s never had her own job.  She seems happy with it, though.  But I sometimes want to shake her and scream, “Be your own person!  Have your own opinions!  Have your own life!”

The last time I talked to them was on my birthday, at the beginning of June.  Before that, it had been at least six months.  I figured since they weren’t giving me any money, I was no longer obligated to talk to them.  My grandfather has made it clear that I’m the family fuck-up and have no value in his eyes because I’m not working or achieving anything, so I didn’t really want to deal with it anymore.  When my grandmother called me on my birthday, we talked a little, and then she gave him the phone.  We went from “Happy birthday” to “When are you going to get a job?” in less than three minutes.  I blew it off with excuses about my physical illness, but it really hurt.  He knows how to turn me back into a little girl desperate for approval and love that are extremely conditional, and that pisses me off.

But I don’t have another choice.  There’s no one else in Birmingham I can stay with.  I can’t afford a hotel and a plane ticket.  So I’ll have to put up with the shit from my grandfather and the silence from my grandmother.  They’ll probably think I’m being overdramatic if I need to use my cane or it I’m sick or in pain.  I’ll have to deal with knowing I had to ask them for help again.  I really, really hate this.  I wouldn’t do it for anyone but my sister.

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Something Is Wrong

I don’t know what it is, but I know something is wrong.  Deep inside, with other parts I’m barely aware of, probably.

I thought I’d managed to calm myself down after the panic attack.  I thought I’d be able to sleep–god knows I’m exhausted.  I barely slept last night, was on my feet all day, and then had a long panic attack.  I was almost asleep, in that in-between, twilight stage where you know you’re still awake, but you’re only slightly aware of it.  And then, out of nowhere:

What if my sister invites our father to her wedding?

And suddenly I was wide awake.  I tried not to be.  Tried to put myself back in that twilight state because if I can do that, I can usually get to sleep after a while.  But my mind was already racing.  Physically, I couldn’t get comfortable.  Most of the joints on the left side of my body are hurting, and I keep flip-flopping between too hot and too cold.  I can’t regulate my body or my mind.

I’m not afraid of him.  I know he wouldn’t dare to try to hurt me.  I’m not even convinced he’d be physically able to.  And if he tried, I know I could do way more damage to him than he could ever do to me–my years of martial arts training greatly increased my confidence in my ability to use my body as a defensive weapon if I need to.

I don’t even think I’m afraid of flashbacks and memories.  Maybe a bit, but not a lot.

Strangely, what I am afraid of, so afraid of that I can’t sleep now, is what everyone else will see.  I’m afraid they’ll think I’m rude if I don’t speak to him or acknowledge him.  I’m afraid everyone will see straight through the tension and know what he did to me.  I’m afraid they will judge me.  I’m afraid that however I choose to handle it will be wrong.

I’m probably stressing myself out over nothing.  My sister hasn’t said anything about inviting him.  We haven’t spoken about him in years.  Then again, that doesn’t mean she hasn’t been speaking to him or that she hasn’t or won’t invite him.  I mean, if I were getting married, I’d want my daddy to be there, and I think we both had to get really good at separating our daddy from the man who raped us and sold us and threatened to kill us.

My sister was the one who first disclosed the abuse.  I was 19 and in a state psychiatric hospital.  My mother and grandparents had gotten tired of my problems and sent me off to live with my father, and after a few months, he had me committed.  I remember my mother calling me at the hospital and telling me, “He’ll never hurt you again.”  I was so dissociated and so deep in denial that I honestly had no idea what she meant.  I had to ask who “he” was.  I think she must’ve gotten me released from the hospital, and then I was back living with her, 500 miles away from him.  I don’t have any memory of how that happened–there was a lot of trauma and dissociation happening during that hospitalization.

My mother pushed and pushed for a police investigation.  Nobody wanted it because my father was a cop, and they kept saying it was someone else’s jurisdiction because the abuse happened across at least 3 different states.  She never asked if I wanted the investigation.  I never considered whether I wanted it, honestly.  I was too dissociated after the trauma of the state hospital, and I let my mother do what she wanted because it was one of her rare Good Mother periods.  (Probably because she got to play the martyr, her favorite role: that poor woman who had no idea what terrible things her husband was doing to her daughters for 16 years.  But that’s a different post.)  The investigation was pretty much a joke; nothing ever came of it.

Several months later, my sister recanted her story.  That was hard for me because it was her disclosure that had let me begin to remember and acknowledge what he’d done to me, the reason I’d suffered so long, the reason I was never quite right.  I felt hurt, but I never got angry at her.  One day, she asked if I could drive her to the bank to make a deposit.  I caught a glimpse of the check: several hundred dollars from our father.  I don’t know if it was a one-time thing, although I suspect it was not.  I don’t know if she extorted him or if he offered to pay her off.  Really, I don’t even know that the money was at all connected to her recanting the abuse allegations.  I never even told her I’d seen the check.

It sounds unbelievable, but I don’t remember feeling anything about it then.  All I remember was curiosity about the arrangement–intellectual, but not emotional.  In the two years after the state hospital, I don’t remember feeling anything, so I blame dissociation.  Several years later, when I was discussing this with my therapist, she used the word “betrayal,” and I remember feeling surprised for a moment.  Until she said it, it had never occurred to me that someone in that situation might feel betrayed, although it made sense after she said it.  But I don’t think I ever felt that.  I remember telling my therapist that I hoped my sister had extorted him and that I hoped she still was.  I said she deserved as much money as she could get out of him–he could never pay off what he’d done to us, but she might as well get something useful out of the whole thing.  I even remember feeling a little envious that she’d thought of it and had the guts to go through with it.  Even if I’d thought if it, I would never have had the guts to actually do it.  Even now, I struggle to trust my memories, and extorting my father for what he did would require complete trust that my memories are real.  I’d also have to be unashamed enough to be willing to out him publicly if he didn’t pay, which I couldn’t do.  I know the shame belongs to him, but it’s so deep in me I don’t think I can ever root it out.  And I envy my sister a little because she could do what I wouldn’t have the balls to do.  She got her own piece of sideways justice, and I never will because I’m not brave enough.

I don’t even know how I got from the beginning of this post to here.  I think I’m half-dissociated.  I’m fighting urges to cut, to OD, even to go out and get drunk.  (And I’ve never been a drinker.)  I just feel like I can’t stand to be me right now, any of me, all of me.  I want out, and all the distractions in the world aren’t helping.  Seriously, I’ve read two entire novels tonight and watched 5 episodes of “Supernatural.”  Still can’t get away from this…this…I don’t even know.  This SELF.  I need an altered state of consciousness.  I can’t even name what it is I’m feeling right now, but I know it feels intolerable.  The physical pain is really not helping either.  Every time I move, my body screams at me.  Only the left side, though, for some weird reason.  My neck and shoulder, my lower back, my wrist, my hip, my ankle.  I don’t know what the hell that’s about.  Tylenol isn’t helping, and I’m out of opiates since the assholes at respite stole my last two oxycodone.  I keep considering buying pot, except I don’t know who to buy it from or have any money to pay for it.  I guess if I take enough Benadryl and gabapentin, I’ll get some sleep eventually.  I don’t know, though.  I’m feeling kind of out of control, and I’m worried that if I start, things could spiral.  I’m not suicidal, but sometimes that’s actually more dangerous for me because I do more and more damage to try to numb out and end up doing way more harm than I intended.  I don’t know what to do.  I don’t know how I feel.  I want somebody to save me but nobody can.

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Alone

I’m feeling very alone tonight.  Needy.  Childlike.  I don’t like it.

I think it’s all the bureaucratic crap I’m dealing with.  I feel like I’m trying so damn hard to make my life work, but the people who could help don’t care and are only interested in figuring out how to deny me help.  I feel like they want me dead.  I’m not having serious/active suicidal impulses yet, but the thoughts are definitely there: “You could get out.  You don’t have to deal with all of this.  Nobody should have to live like this.  It’s okay to give up.”  And those thoughts feel like compassion for myself.  Like kindness.

I want someone to help me.

No.  What I want is for someone to take care of me.  I want to be a child again, but this time surrounded by people who actually love me instead of people who say they love me but hurt me instead.  I don’t want to be a grown-up anymore.  I don’t want to have to worry how I’m going to afford food or pay my bills.  I don’t want to have to decide between freezing and spending $500 to fill the oil tank or buy pellets for the stove.  I don’t want to have to fight to get mental health services I clearly need.  I don’t want to have to worry which medications my insurance is going to deny this month.

I want to be a kid.  I want all those things to never even enter my mind.  I want to not have to worry about anything.  I want someone to hug me and scratch my back and play with my hair.  I want someone to cook my meals and fold my laundry and wash my dishes.  I want to have friends and never even think that they all secretly hate me.  I want to believe that the world is beautiful and I’m full of infinite possibilities.  I want to be held and cherished and loved.

But I’m just alone.

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Sister/Sister

My sister is getting married in August, and she’s been texting me pictures of wedding dresses all day.  She looks happy, healthy, wonderful.  I can’t help but envy her a little.

It’s a weird thing, almost a role reversal.  See, she’s two years younger than me, and I spent most of my life taking care of her and our youngest sister.  Our parents were not exactly what you’d call good parents, or anything vaguely resembling it.  I tried, with only limited success, to shield her (both my sisters) from our father’s sexual abuse and our mother’s emotional abuse.  A therapist once asked me if I was proud that I’d basically raised my sisters, and I realized I was.  Both of them turned out happier and more stable than me, which I consider a big success, given our circumstances. 

My middle sister, the one who’s getting married, is the most stable and successful of the three of us.  She finished college in four years, got a BS in criminal justice, and is now working as a police officer.  She’s been with her fiance for around three years now, and they’ve even successfully raised a very cute pair of puppies together.  I’m proud of her, and I’m so glad she’s happy.

I guess it just makes me feel like a failure.  I’m the oldest, so I should’ve gotten my life together first.  I shielded her from some of the abuse, but she still got a lot of it.  Our histories aren’t that different, but she’s dealt with hers a lot better than I have.  What do I have to show for my life?  No college degree, no job, a complicated-to-the-point-of-inexplicable relationship with B, very few friends.  My closest relationship is with my toilet, for god’s sake.

I know I shouldn’t judge myself against anyone else, but let’s be honest–everyone does it.  It’s even harder not to judge myself against her since we share the same gene pool and the same home environment.  It’s especially hard because our roles in the family have shifted somewhat.  I used to be the overachiever who never got into trouble, and she got drunk and did drugs and slept with a lot of guys.  (She was always our mother’s favorite, though, and all her mistakes were overlooked.)  But now she’s successful, and I’m not.  The contrast makes it harder.

I’d never want to take away her happiness or success; she absolutely deserves it.  I love my sisters more than anyone else in the universe, and I’d do anything for them.  But I want to be successful and happy too.

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I Don’t Play the Piano

When I was in seventh grade, my grandfather bought my family a piano.

None of us played the piano.  None of us had indicated any interest in learning how to play the piano.  My grandparents had a grand piano in their living room, but in my entire life, I’d only seen it played when my cousins and I would tap out “Chopsticks” or “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.”

Still, my grandfather bought us a piano and had it delivered to our house.  My sisters and I took three, maybe four years of lessons, but none of us was very good–probably because we didn’t have much interest in learning to play.  We rarely even practiced.  I tried to be a good pianist because I thought it would make my grandfather happy, but now I know I could’ve gone to Juilliard and still not have been good enough to win his unconditional love.

I told A that story in therapy this morning.  We were talking about my family, particularly my grandfather, in terms of them cutting me off at the end of the year.  I talked about my grandfather’s pride in being uncompromising and his certainty he knows what’s best for everyone in the family, and I felt like I was being unfair, only talking about his meanness.  I said he could sometimes be kind, or tried to be, but it’s like he’s so used to being mean that he doesn’t quite know how to be nice.

“It’s like he’s got all this money, and he’s trying to be nice, so he buys you something–but it’s not something you want or like, but you don’t want to tell him that.  So then you have this piano that’s just there, and you don’t know what to do with that,” I told her.  “But usually the piano is only metaphorical.”

I talked about how my family sees me as this manipulative person who fakes mental illness so she doesn’t have to be self-sufficient and threatens suicide when she doesn’t get what she wants.  They really think that I’m a bad person.  I don’t see myself that way anymore–at least, not most of the time.  But it hurts to know that’s who my family sees when they look at me.  Physical pain like a knife stabbing into my sternum.  That’s not me they’re seeing.  I’m not a bad person, and I don’t play the piano.

Now, after that, I’m feeling sad.  I used to think I had this close, loving family, because that’s what they told me we were.  Even now that I know better, know how toxic it was, I still catch myself idealizing the family I used to have.  I want so badly to have a family that loves me, and it feels unbearable to realize that I never will.  But I finally believe (most of the time) that I’m worthy enough not to go back to my family for the scraps of love I might get along with the emotional abuse.

I just wish it didn’t hurt so much.

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Round and Round She Goes

Today T accused me of being a Republican.

 

Those of you who’ve known me for a while know that I’m loudly liberal, but I come from a very conservative family.  I worked on the last Presidential campaign as well as the campaigns of two Democratic senators from my state.  I’m about to start a political organizing fellowship for a liberal lobbying group.

 

“You’re secretly a Republican,” T told me.  “But only in regards to yourself.  You think you don’t deserve any help.”

 

Shit, I thought.  She’s right.  I’m secretly a Republican.

 

She’s right: I don’t accept help well.  I feel like I don’t deserve to have needs at all, so I definitely don’t deserve to have those needs met.  And the worst of all is when I need help to meet those needs.  When I need help, I’m slammed with massive amounts of shame.  I feel worthless, needy, manipulative, incompetent.  I feel like it would be better to die than to need help because if I let myself need, I’ll become a black hole that swallows up everything and turns it into nothing.

 

I’ve gotten slightly more comfortable with having needs.  At one point, I nearly starved myself to death to prove I didn’t need anything.  I pushed everyone away from me and wouldn’t let them care about me.  I took care of everybody else because if I was busy it was easier to deny my needs, and if I was helping other people, it gave me permission to exist (but only a little bit).  I’ve improved and gotten a little more comfortable with my needs–but I’m more comfortable with it in the same way I’m more comfortable with getting attacked by a mountain lion than by a grizzly bear.

 

It’s so tied up in guilt and shame, and it’s now become an endless chicken and egg situation.  In the beginning, though, I think the shame and guilt came first–but the shame and guilt that comes to mind with this is from failing to meet my sisters’ needs, so I’m not entirely sure the guilt and shame came first.

 

With S, my middle sister, who’s 2 years younger than me, the guilt is for not saving her from our father.  I remember a number of times when he abused both of us together or made one of us watch him hurt the other, but the memory I can’t get rid of is from the summer I turned 11.  He wanted me to choose whether he’d hurt S or me.  I couldn’t choose, so he held a gun to my head.  I wanted to tell him to hurt me because then S wouldn’t get hurt, but I was already in a lot of pain and didn’t think I could take anymore.  I chose S.  He made me watch him rape her, and I’ve never forgiven myself.  I know on a logical level that there was nothing I could’ve done, but I still feel like I should’ve saved her somehow.  In my mind, this is THE representation of my father’s abuse, and if I could’ve saved her in this one moment, it would’ve saved her completely.

 

With E, my youngest sister, who’s 6 years younger, the guilt is for not saving her from our mother’s verbal and emotional abuse.  When all three of us were living at home, I was the bad kid, S was the perfect kid, and E mostly got ignored.  When I left, E became the bad child, the focus of our mother’s rage.  My mother put her in a different high school every year, so her GPA was crap even though she was smart, and then my mother sent her to a wilderness “treatment program” because she didn’t accept the way our mother treated her.  E hasn’t told me much about what happened there, but what she has said sounds pretty horrific.  She wasn’t allowed to speak for the first 2 weeks, they took her asthma medication away, she got double pneumonia and was still forced to do a lot of physical activity outside in the winter.  One of the other kids there lost a toe to frostbite.  If I hadn’t left, I would’ve kept being the target.  I spent years shielding her from our mother’s abuse as much as possible, but then I left her there to deal with it all alone.

 

In both cases, I put my needs above theirs.  It’s human nature, the biological imperative for self-preservation, I know.  I would never judge someone else for doing those things, but the rules are different for me.  If I hadn’t prioritized my needs over theirs, they would’ve been safe.  I didn’t abuse either of them, but I feel like I’m not much better than our parents.  In both cases, I knew they’d both be abused, and I let it happen.  Yes, yes, I know I was only a child and probably couldn’t have stopped my parents from abusing them if they wanted to…but I was never really a child.  I had to be the grown-up in our family because my parents sure as hell weren’t being adults.

 

I feel guilty for putting my needs first, so I try not to have needs.  I have needs anyway, which fuels the guilt.  Then I feel even more like I shouldn’t have needs.  Round and round she goes; where she stops nobody knows.

 

And on top of all of that, now I’m a secret Republican!

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