First off, for some added information and context I recommend reading another post of mine, if you haven’t already, before reading this one. Click on the link. Something Slightly Related to Quarantine
I decided to write this post mainly because I promised one of my brothers I would explain to him the depth and details of my family issues (I’m sure you didn’t skip the post I asked you to read first for more detail and context, it really will help you to understand this post). I also decided to write it for my own therapeutic value. And, as my regular readers already know, I choose to bare my soul to the world via this blog to reach out to others going through similar or the same mental health and physical health issues I am, so we all can understand that we are not alone; and that chronic illness and mental illness are not to be shamed or stigmatized. We are stronger for our struggles, not less because of them. And, lastly, because it is easier, and better, I think to write to an unknown audience rather than speaking directly to my family members about this. Speaking directly to my family would mean having to use words such as “you” which can unintentionally bring up feelings of blame and defensiveness, which I completely do not intend to do here. I do not blame, fault, or feel harmed in any way toward or by my family.
No, I am not ashamed to let you all know I have family issues, virtually everybody does. Family is hard game.
Before I actually dive in, I must point out that by no means do I intend to be rude, mean, or anything malicious toward my family. This is an unavoidably emotional topic and, sadly, mostly negative emotions, so I can not avoid pain and heartache, I am sorry. I love my family, but love doesn’t erase pain here in reality; here in reality love tends to amplify pain. We wouldn’t hurt nearly as deeply if the pain came from someone we don’t care about.
Obviously this is all being told solely from my point of view and personal experience. I am sure some of the things I say here about how I feel and why, etc., will be all new information for my family. My siblings, I think, do not realize how little they actually know me. I have always felt that they do not value me and have little to no interest in really knowing me and have taken little effort to know me. I am not being cruel, this is my experience, but mostly just my feelings and intrusive thoughts (at least I hope so). Part of my mental illness includes self-loathing, self-harm, and unwanted intrusive thoughts: “I’m not worth loving.”, “No one cares about me.”, “No one wants me around.”, “I’d be better off dead.”.
Try living with those thoughts and beliefs in your head nearly 24/7 since virtually the day you were born.
I spend everyday in complete fear that I will be misunderstood. It has happened to me many, many times and lead to hurt and anger to all parties involved. There are two types of misunderstood I mean here. 1.) Someone just taking something I said in a way I did not intend. And 2.) The worse one for me. No one ever understanding me, at least not at the depth or level I need them to. I’ve spent my life feeling like a stranger in my own family. It seems they all either just can’t fathom who I am, or they just don’t even try to.
Again, no cruel speak here, The rational me knows these thoughts and feelings are untrue. But the monsters in my head beat into me that those thoughts are true.
Another reason I feel like a stranger among my family is that most of my family members are extremely opposite to me. They are conservative republican, christian, heterosexual. I am liberal democrat, atheist, bisexual. These are not the only differences that make waves, but the ones that tend to make the noisiest waves.
Growing up, sometimes I would be told straight forward that I was in the wrong for believing something I believed. But most of the time I felt like I was a bad person, or dumb, because I felt, believed or was something my family thought poorly about. I would hear conversations, comments, etc., on these topics.
When I was young I just stayed quiet about my differences. My family is the type of family (as many are) that dealt with conflict by avoidance. Just don’t talk about it, don’t acknowledge it, ignore it. Don’t make waves. So I did just that, I stayed quiet.
This is probably why I never felt known or truly seen in my family.
I even took it a step farther for most of my childhood. I tried to be what they were. I tried to think like they thought, believe what they believed. I wanted to be “good”. I love them and I wanted to get along with my family, be comfortable with them, and accepted by them.
That didn’t work out. I ended up with worse depression, anxiety, and impostor syndrome, and I’m sure all of this fed my rebellious nature that I had already developed due to my type 1 diabetes diagnosis (whole ‘nother story there). Of course, as a child I had no idea I suffered from any of these conditions, I just thought it was the way things were. This was life. No one in my family thought anything about my mental health, mental health was treated the same way as conflict, an avoided topic.
All throughout my twenties I slowly realized what individuality was, and that there wasn’t anything wrong with the real me, I am just different from my family, a different mindset, different values (not totally, but enough), I’m different from them in many ways and it doesn’t make me a bad or wrong person. They are each their own, and I am me. I stopped trying to be what I am not. But I didn’t stop being quiet around them, I still felt a sort of shame and wrongness about myself when I was around them; only when I was around them. I continued to feel like a stranger in my family. I continued to think they had no interest in knowing the real me.
In my early thirties I started to be much more comfortable with the real me. I was completely open and honest with my friends and acquaintances, and it felt super nice, it felt so right. And I was completely accepted, comforted, and even celebrated by them. And I happily returned the favor. With my family I started to slowly relax my quietness about myself. I felt no need for ceremony or “coming out” or anything like that, my attitude was more of a “when it happens it happens” kind of thinking.
From my early twenties through to now (cough, 41) I have kept my family at a distance, except for my mom, I could never live without my mommy nearby to see or to talk to. I rarely talk to her about avoided “conflict” subjects, I’m scared to death to hurt my mother. But the rest of the family I keep at a distance, I could only handle occasional and short interactions with them. My explanation for doing this summed up is because while visiting with family I am glad to see them, glad to be with them, I love them dearly, but soon the talk begins to smack of our differences. I see, hear, and am reminded of how much I do not fit in with these people. My feelings of strangeness, black sheepness, and the totally untrue shamefulness of me grow and grow. I feel tired and drained and I just want to go home to my safe place. Although I mostly have a wonderful time with my family, I almost always come home depressed, anxious, guilty, and terribly frustrated. All-in-all this keeping them at a distance and only interacting once in a while worked just fine for me for twenty years.
Now, however, with all the very loud, in-your-face political frustration going on, and the pandemic, and the racial inequality issues, and the LGBTQ issues all raging and raging and raging, My family issues have been stinging me right and left. I know my family has had no problems on their end, because they have each other and share mostly all the same beliefs and stances. I am over here standing alone among my family. It quickly begins to feel like me against all of them. I’ve never felt like I was against my family, just different from them, but now, with so many immensely important issues and choices we all have to face and make very soon if not right now, I can’t help but feel like it is me against them.
I profoundly dislike feeling this way.
So, over the past several months I have been feeling more and more extreme depression, anxiety, and frustration when I interact with my family members. It’s draining me and hurting me very, very much.
The other day it came to a head and I had an epiphany. I can’t stay quiet anymore. If I keep biting my tongue around my family I will end up biting it off. Considering they don’t want to hear my “shit”, and this is all tearing me to bits from the inside out, I decided to cut ties with many of them.
It’s broken my heart to do so, but another thing I’ve finally gotten through my head recently is that I am by no means required to harm, hide, or change myself for other people, no matter how much I love them. I am learning how, and starting, to put my needs and health first.
You may recall in the other post related to this one (the one I strongly recommended you read first) that I said I love my family and would never give them up. I do not want to give up my family, I truly hope this cutting of ties is not permanent. Maybe the work I am doing in therapy will heal me enough to ask to interact with them again. I love them dearly and already miss them.
On a last note, my intrusive thoughts are screaming that my family is very happy I have cut ties, they feel they can now relax and be truly happy without my shitty ass around to fuck up their good time.