Hi all. I have come to a major realization over the past week that's been a long time coming. I have decided to stop communicating with my family of origin for an extended period of time, if not permanently. A few people are excluded from this, namely, my mother (although she and I have had problems, I have set boundaries with her and we are on maintainable terms now), my grandfather, and one cousin who I have reconnected with and have a growing healthy relationship with. I wanted to share my experience and plans here, because Groupthink has always been a very supportive place and healthy sounding board for me, and I know from reading some posts here that some of you have been in similar shoes. Backstory below.
My whole life, I have been the black sheep. Starting from about age 5 on, I have been treated differently from the other children/cousins. I got punished more often and without reason or explanation. If I ever made a mistake, I was shamed and guilted for months and treated like an outcast. My grades were never good enough. I was never nice enough. I was never thin or pretty enough. I worked my ass off to be the best at whatever I did to earn my family's approval, but it never came. If one of my other cousins did something wrong, it was because I had "rubbed off on them" or provoked them. I know the origin of all of this. My mother had problems with drugs and I was sent to live with my grandparents when I was 4 after my father OD'd and died. My grandmother was not happy about this and made no effort to hide her displeasure or disdain towards me. The money problems my grandparents had were, in my grandmother's eyes, my fault, because I existed and needed food/water/shelter. I know for a fact that my grandmother's seething rage at my mom for making the choices that she did spilled out and over onto me, and I took the brunt of her frustrations. I will never forget being in a dressing room in JC Penney at 8 years old and her telling me that no one would ever love me or want me because I was so selfish and bad. She was the only real mother figure I had at that point, and she was completely emotionally disengaged from me, and would complain about me nonstop to just about anyone else that would listen, namely, my aunt and uncle.
Thus, my aunt (mom's sister) treated me in a similar fashion. On a family vacation when I was 10, I forgot to get something out of my bag that we needed at a rest stop. I remember my aunt telling me that she wished she could strangle me and that she should have never brought me along. When I was 12, she told me that my mother had aborted several babies before she had me, and that my father had to beg her not to terminate me, but in my aunt's opinion, she probably just should have never had me.
As a teenager, I watched my cousins get these glowing reviews from everyone about how great they were all doing, such great athletes, so popular, so fit, so wonderful, so smart. Nevermind that they were all drinking underage and sneaking out of the house at 4am to have sex with their girlfriends/boyfriends. I had been conditioned by fear into never stepping out of line. Hell, I figured that if being an honor student, award winning singer, and in gifted/talented programs got me the kind of verbal abuse and neglect I was dealing with at home, I sure as fuck better not doing anything to draw anymore negative attention my way. I shrank myself as small as I possibly could to not be noticed. I became withdrawn and terrified. I had panic attacks constantly and my grades started to become mediocre because I eventually just gave up. Why try, if nothing ever pleased anybody?
When I was in junior high school, my mom moved back in with us. She was on and off rx painkillers that she obtained from doctors by faking injuries, or stole from my grandfather's stash (he is/was a big barrel chested man and had multiple surgeries on his back and both knees due to being a marathon runner in his younger days, so he always had high powered, rx narcotic pain meds around.) My grandmother was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer when I was 18 and had to be on an oral morphine solution to deal with the pain. My mom stole it from her, I walked in one day and saw her drinking straight from the bottle. My aunt was the only person that I knew to contact, because my grandfather was so deep in denial. She told me to collect my things and move in with her.
When I lived with her, it was basically a higher stress, more concentrated version of the same intensely scrutinizing, hateful, total lack of acceptance I had gotten everywhere else. I was in immense pain and emotional confusion from watching my grandmother, whom I'd had such a hard relationship with die slowly and painfully, and knowing that my mother was not healthy or sane enough to offer any kind of support or even be around period. In spite of that, my aunt was basically ruthless with me. She criticized me non stop, picked at my appearance, called me a slut when she found a receipt for condoms in my purse (I was 19 and in a committed relationship) that she had gone through without me knowing, and would rip me out of bed in the middle of the night to scream at me over little things that I had done wrong...the bathroom wasn't cleaned the way she liked it. I overdrew my bank account by five dollars. I went over to my friends' houses more than she liked (they were my only safe haven and comfort at this time.) There was never a healthy, constructive, patient, compassionate discussion about expectations or how I could do things differently. It always just boiled down to me being a worthless garbage human being. Nevermind that I never had anybody teaching me how to be part of a family, ever, or treating me like I belonged somewhere. Nevermind that I was grasping at straws just figuring out how to function with everything I was going through. One day she just flat out threw me out on the street. It was a few months after my grandma died and I was deep in a pain spiral. She decided to go check in my bank account and found I had spent my small savings (a few hundred dollars) from my part time job on clothes and time out with my friends. I won't deny and say that that wasn't totally smart, but when I look back at where I was through eyes of compassion I see that I was trying to assuage my agony the only way I knew how. I was putting a bandaid on a bullet wound by buying myself things and eating dinners out with my friends. This is what literally got me homeless. She literally chased me out into the middle of the street screaming that day and I had no where else to go but with my mom, who was living in a 400 sq ft apartment and was barely 6 months clean.
That was about 8 years ago. In the time since then, I put myself in therapy. I got on different medications for anxiety and depression and weaned myself off of them over time as I worked my ass off at learning constructive coping skills. I went through an emotional intelligence course that helped me build self esteem and understand why I had such a deep hatred of myself. I had been conditioned through years of neglect and emotional torture into thinking that everyone else's problems always stemmed from me. I never had anyone in my family advocate for me in a truly healthy, mature, supportive way. I taught myself how to do everything- how to get and keep a job, how to make friends (my family tried to poison that too, saying the time I spent with them was unhealthy) how to maintain a living space, how to budget, how to cook, how to clean. Nobody taught me. I taught myself, it was fucking difficult and stressful, and I finally realized that I'd had a choice in all of that and the fact that I DID choose to work on my issues, in spite of all of the messages that I got that my life was worthless, is something worth celebrating immensely. I never got tied up in drugs or alcohol and I never got seriously tied up in a bad romantic relationship in a way that was permanent. I have an extremely positive group of people in my life now. My friendship circle is big, strong, healthy, supportive, and built on mutual love and respect, NOT codependency or rescuing. If the roof caves in now, I know I have people that are down for me 100%. I'm in college now and I'm an honor student again, and I hope to be a clinical social worker in 4 years time, advocating for people who feel like they have no one else on their side. But I would be lying if I said it's not extremely difficult to forget where I came from or the lies I was told about myself for so long.
It seems so natural now that I have written it all out, that it's time to cut ties completely. About a year after my aunt threw me out on the street, she gave me a non-apology and I felt pressure from within myself to take it and act like everything was cool and keep showing up to family birthdays and holidays. I could go into all of the drama that has ensued in the years since then, but I'm sure you all can guess what it constituted. I got "disowned" two or three times whenever I stood up to her bullshit. My cousin's wife has fallen in line with her and has a boatload of passive aggression towards me, mainly because my cousin and I were really close and I have a strict policy now of not keeping silent on other people's immaturities or crap treatment of me. So, when my cousin's wife takes swipes at my appearance/weight, makes rude comments about my style of clothing or personal habits, or tells my cousin that he's not allowed to drink at family affairs because it "makes him more like (my name)" I (respectfully, in a calm, adult, authoritative tone) call her out on it, and she doesn't like that, which adds to my glowing reputation.
I. Am. Fucking. Done.
I am done with angry, tense holidays. I am done with dreading Christmas every year where everyone around me is showered with gifts and praise and I get pajamas that are three times too big and have a 70% clearance sticker still on them. I am done with gossip, lies, and people who refuse to look at their own shit. I refuse to be the whipping post that allows everyone else to not examine their part in what went so horribly wrong in this family.
No invites to my wedding if I get married. I will have a ceremony somewhere far away where they would never think to travel...if it's even mildly inconvenient for them, they wouldn't show up anyway. No more smiling like everything as fine through a dinner three weeks after I got out of the fucking hospital with pneumonia and not a single one of them showed up to see if I was okay there. No more. I have fought so hard to be where I am and I feel like I sell a little piece of my soul every time I allow them to participate in my life. I can't do it. This is the time of my life where I have to protect myself and do whatever I can to achieve my dreams, and I seriously believe right now that if I was drowning in a puddle, these people wouldn't do shit to save me.
I just spent the last week in Germany visiting a family that one of my friends has known for most of his life. You've never seen such a loving, happy, warm group of people. The parents are in their 60's and the children are all in the late 20's-early 30's with kids of their own. The children come visit every day. They all eat dinner together. They all laugh and play together. They enjoy each other's company and time. You really get the sense that even though they are not perfect, they love and accept each other unconditionally. I want that someday, but I am not deluded enough to think it's possible with who I am blood related to now. I am tired of fighting for something that isn't going to happen and always being the bigger person.
Honestly, I can't even say that I'm sad. Not even a little. Maybe I will be in time, but for now, I am just relieved, because this has been a long time coming.