I have a ton of unresolved trauma that I don’t know how to deal with. I just don’t. Because I’ve been through it all. Therapy. In-patient hospitalizations. Medication, including antidepressents, anti-psychotics, mood stabilizers. The only ones I can remember by name (because there were a LOT of different drug cocktails I was given over the years) are zyprexa, depakote, and prozac. Those were the ones that I was on the longest, but others were added here and there. The anti-psychotic actually made me psychotic. Like I won’t pretend I don’t have delusions here and there still, but never to the level that I did while I was on the drugs. And I’m a lot more self-aware off the drugs. I have the ability to use some logic and go “wait…bitch, stop it, that isn’t real” and it might still FEEL real, but I can talk myself down to a much greater extent. I had no ability to talk myself down or recognize that I was losing touch with reality when I was on all those drugs.
The worst part of having lived through such a fucked up childhood is that I don’t know if I have mental health issues because of that or if I would just have those issues anyway.
I’ve had acquaintances make comments like “People who have really been abused, don’t talk about it. If somebody talks about trauma, then they’re lying.” Which is some Kafkaesque shit that I don’t even know how to start unpacking.
Yes, I’m very open about and vulnerable on the internet. It’s the only place I can be. It’s not like I can just go around talking about this stuff in real life.
“What are you doing for Christmas, Jyvur?”
“Oh, going to my in-laws’ house. We always go to their house. His parents are so nice. What about you?”
“And what about your family? What will you do with them for the holidays?”
*Internal panic! Do I lie or dodge? Let’s settle for….truth without too much detail!*
“I usually get together with my grandmother after the holiday. I bought her some slippers and a candle. She’s just like me, so she’s pretty easy to shop for.”
“What about your parents? Do you have siblings?”
*Internal screaming. What the fuck? Now I have to lie! Okay, okay, say something vague so she backs the fuck off* “I’m not close with my family. I haven’t seen them in years.”
“Why is that?”
*Glaring* “I’m gonna go do something else. Bye”
And that is an actual conversation that I had at work about three years ago. People pry like motherfuckers. And of course, I’m not going to just pop off at work and talk about everything awful that happened to me as a kid, or the fact that being around my family at all as an adult fucks my head up a TON and puts me in a horrible emotional state.
I talk about this stuff online because it is the only place I can.
Every day, I go through life with all this horrible stuff in my head and I just have to keep going, even though some days it feels like everything horrible is STILL happening. It feels like it’s still echoing inside of me.
The time my mom almost beat our dog to death in front of me. The time she burned my younger sister and her skin kept peeling off and she had to go to the hospital. All the times she told me she hated me, that a demon was attached to me because of my terrible energy, that she didn’t know how I was her kid when there was so much so much wrong with me. How I had to take care of my infant sister or nobody else would and she was a baby and I was seven, but if I didn’t, she’d stay unfed in dirty diapers for days.
And it stays all pushed down deep inside of me and I don’t go near it. Until something goes wrong in my life. Literally, anything that is emotionally difficult for me causes this like eruption and all these emotions attached to this trauma just BAM!
I don’t understand why I’m like this, but anything upsetting happens and I’m overwhelmed by all the emotions about my family and everything that happened all over again.
So I’m over here fully acknowledging that I should be able to find some way to let go, to get past it all, but I have absolutely no idea how to do that. I did the mental health stuff. I did the church thing. In my 20s, I was very rah-rah Christ, with my little highlighted Bible and Bible study several times a week. I did the holistic thing. Yoga, barre, meditation, eating healthy.
Nothing has worked.
I’m sad or angry or just generally distraught a lot of the time. The best way I have of dealing with it is distraction. I’ll admit, I’m way too addicted to the internet. It’s a problem. It distracts me. I find communities to lurk in and weird niche rabbit holes to fall down and indie books to read, and I have a weird little Machiavellian streak where I like to fuck with people and troll. It’s all just noise and distraction and stuff to think about. The internet puts a lot of noise into my head and the noisier it is in here, the less room there is for all the awful stuff.
But the internet addiction definitely backfires on me sometimes. Like the whole thing that ended with a dude using a sock puppet account to fuck with me. I’m actually amazed. A lot of people in the writing community know all the gory details of that situation, including everything I did that led up to it, and somehow people still have some respect for me. I don’t understand but I think that’s pretty cool.
I think I write so prolifically for the same reason. The more I’m writing, the more my brain is distracted. I’m just constantly, desperately looking for some noise and distraction.
But I Did Find One Strategy That Worked
I went no contact with my family.
Well, with my mom.
I had to. Because I’m so fucking desperate for some little scrap of affection from her. I always have been.
I didn’t live with her until I was six. She was around here and there, before that. But she was so mysterious. She had a room full of stuff at my grandparents’ house where I lived before I was six. I used to go through her stuff. I used to think about how cool she was. Sometimes she would show up to my kindergarten class to break me out to play hookey. We’d go to the Ground Round and share popcorn shrimp.
I thought she was so cool. I thought she was so fun. I thought she was so goofy. I thought she was absolutely the most fascinating adult I’d ever met.
Where my grandparents were very strict Catholics, all buttoned up, spending Saturdays mowing the lawn or clipping coupons, my mom was WILD. She wore fishnets and a leather jacket and Harley Davidson boots. She had a friend with a “grown up store” full of pictures of naked women. All her friends were guys and they played Dungeons and Dragons with lots of sparkly dice and stories about elves and warriors and mages. She loved to paint and would give me paintings of my favorite cartoon characters for every birthday.
Then…I went to live with her. And she hated me. And she hurt me. And when she told me I was disgusting and ugly and horrible and had a demonic entity attached to me, I believed her.
People can be so wonderful at a distance. Then you really get to know them.
But it doesn’t matter that she did so many awful things, I’m pathetic around her. I’ll do anything to impress her. And she uses this against me.
I’ve changed so much, since that awful time, all those years ago in the 1990s, in this little gray house, where all of that stuff may as well have never happened, because nobody is sorry and nobody wants to talk about it. I’ve changed so much, except when I’m around her. I’m the same first-grade kid desperate to make this cool, fun woman love me, feeling like there’s something wrong with me when I can’t.
The best thing I ever did was cut my mother out of my life.
And my mom’s wife came to see me once. She said to me, “She’s your mom. You only have one.”
I know. I know I only have one.
But she doesn’t get to make me feel small and horrible for my entire life.
I don’t think I’ll ever stop mourning the relationship I will never have with her.
I can mourn it without living inside of something dead, hoping it somehow, someday, is resurrected.
She will never love me. And it might feel like that’s my fault. It’s always going to feel like it’s my fault. Logically I know it isn’t.
She will never do anything for me, except insult me, wound me, spread lies about me, use my biggest insecurities against me.
So I’m very glad that I finally realized I can’t allow her space in my life. I would give that advice to any other adult survivors of abuse. Cut your family out. Drop them. You can love them from afar, because loving them up close is dangerous for you.
But I wish I could have kept my siblings in my life.
It wasn’t very long after cutting my mom out of my life that my relationships with my younger sisters started to suffer. My mom amped up this campaign against me, telling all kinds of stories. And my family, including my sisters, already thought of me as “the crazy one.”
It’s like once I stopped pretending everything was fine with mom, my sisters stopped pretending everything was fine with me, with each other.
I miss them so much sometimes. So much.
I often talk about them like they’re still in my life. But they aren’t. It makes me feel close to them still to act like they are.
I always know what’s going on with them. Because I check up on them online. I look at their pictures. I stalk their social media accounts. I’ve found several of their anonymous accounts.
I was telling a friend of mine about my very bad habit of cyber-stalking people and she admitted she’d done the same thing to someone in her life, and she talked about this tech-trick she had. I don’t have any tech tricks. I don’t know how to find an IP. I barely know what that is or what it would be good for. I follow breadcrumbs. Most people are very sloppy online and leave lots of breadcrumbs. If you pay enough attention and follow every breadcrumb, you can follow them all over the internet.
My sisters are, I think, the first people I ever did this to. I look at all of their content and then I sit in front of my laptop and cry. I cry because (fake names) Mary was like my baby and I fed her and put her to sleep every night. I cry because Carly was my first best friend and when I was seven and she was five, we stacked a bunch of tires and climbed them, and I loved Irish Step dancing and she loved tap dancing, and we’d both practice in the garage every Friday, and we would lay in the top bed of our bunk bed and watch Cartoon Network, and she never minded being Ken so I could be Barbie, and I love her and I miss her and I can never ever ever just take it all back…
“You’re crazy. I hate you. You’re so dramatic.”
It’s totally fair. I wish I knew how to fix it though.
But maybe like I can’t have my mom in my life, they can’t have me in their lives.
Carly makes movies. She’s far more successful in her craft than I am in mine. She’s brilliant. She turns 30 this year. I haven’t spoken to her since she was 27.
Mary is a real hustling little entrepreneur.
I wonder how things might have been. I wonder about the timeline where we’re all a happy family and love each other.
I guess it couldn’t ever have been that way though. Because it all started a long time before me. I started way before my mom was ever an emotionally-unstable pregnant teenager. It started way before that little gray house in New Jersey where so many awful things happened.
It started, probably, before my grandmother hated my mother and compared my mom to her brother every day and told her every day that something that was wrong with her. It started before my grandmother married somebody she didn’t love, because she was fat and thought nobody else would have her, and before my grandfather started getting physically abusive with her. Maybe it started even before my grandfather’s mother fell in the bathtub and died when he was seven, and he found her and ended up in foster care, and ended up in trouble with the law as a teenager, and finally ended up in the military-the only real place for an orphan from Boston to grab ahold of a middle class life. Once he told me that he’d never stop feeling guilty that he spent so long playing marbles outside, because if he’d gone inside sooner, she might have lived.
Where did it start?……
I don’t know.
And I don’t know how to stop it.
I don’t regret cutting my mom out of my life. I don’t blame my little sisters for cutting me out of their lives.
Family is the most painful and terrible thing in the world. You have to protect yourself from family.
You feel like you aren’t whole without one. But with one, you feel so out-of-control it’s like your body is going to fly into a million pieces and you feel sick and hate yourself all the time.
Not being whole sucks, but it’s a lot better than the alternative. Incomplete is better than completely broken.
Cutting off toxic family is like cutting off a limb with a horrible infection. You’re going to feel the absence of that limb for the rest of your life. But at least it isn’t making you sick anymore.