I am devoted to this blog being about healing, not abuse porn. That said, sometimes to talk about healing I will have to talk about hurting. Please consider this sticky post a trigger warning for every entry for childhood abuse of all kinds. If you are having a difficult day, this blog will still be here tomorrow! Consider looking at this picture of a kitten, instead, for now. Be kind and compassionate to yourself.
I am still really very glad that I went out to my little sister’s place, even though as I predicted it would, it triggered a flare-up of my autoimmune problem. I’ll be out of commission for a few days.
Her thoughtless repetition of family patterns and the fact that she doesn’t remember how I helped her when she was very young were not the worst things in the world and really if I had no baggage from them I would have just rolled my eyes.
Patterns she has broken (some far more successfully than I have):
- Kid-hitting & other physical abuse
- Yelling & emotional abuse
- Sexual shaming & abuse
So, you’re a little superior still and think you know what’s best. Ya still done good, kid. DAMN good.
Distance. Perspective. Good stuff.
I’m in the airport waiting to come home from taking care of my sister and her kids.
I’m not sure if I have enough distance to write about this in any coherent fashion, but I sort of want to.
I was of help. I cooked and cleaned and did laundry and kid wrangled. I did not fall apart. She was appreciative. I practiced basic self care like showering and getting adequate caffeine and I only forgot my meds once.
She did the thing my family and so many other children of alcoholics do: she has had serious surgery and she would not ask for help and I had to twist her arm to accept help. She pushed herself too far. She could not imagine any way I could relieve her stress, so I had to imagine them for her.
This is the sister I feel the least connected to — I am 7 years older than she and we live very far apart from one another. I was hoping to feel more of a connection.
This sister is a good, kind person. A good mother. She cares about the environment. She’s practicing urban agriculture and has the sweetest, happiest chickens in her back yard. Her house is delightful. Her children deeply loved and cared-for. Her calm with her very young children takes my breath away. I am in awe of her and wish I could be more like her. In many ways, she has taken all that was good from our childhood and re-created it for her children, without the bad.
At first, I thought she really had. Completely.
Then she started making judgmental comments about my use of caffeine. Advil. Allergy medications. They are all ‘drugs,’ equal to any and all drugs of any description or derivation. And even though I had told her that the heat might trigger a flare-up of my autoimmune disorder, every time I turned my back she turned up the A/C. Not because she was cold or because she could not afford the electricity — because she thought I was being ridiculous. (I had it set at 76 degrees, in case you all think it was down at 50 or something.)
This is part of what my family did. Casually. Unthinkingly. Trampling on other people’s stated preferences, even those that are health-based. Because we knew better. We were the tough, the practical. If someone thought they needed that allergy med, we knew they didn’t REALLY. If someone thought they need the temp at a level we didn’t personally agree with, they didn’t REALLY. Or if they did, their needs really didn’t matter more than our need to do things ‘right’
It’s a subtle level of casual disregard that probably wouldn’t bother me if I hadn’t been subjected to it (and if I hadn’t bought into it) for so much of my life.
Being judgmental of everyone for completely judgment-free decisions is another things I bought into and dealt with, as well.
Then, she said the single worst thing she could possibly say to me. She said that when we were young, she had been ‘beneath (my) notice.’
She doesn’t remember. She doesn’t remember me bathing her. Checking on her injuries. Teaching her how to brush her teeth. Yelling at my parents when I uncovered horrific neglect. Checking to find out if she’d done her homework before she went out to play since no one else would.
She remembers none of it, and this fact flows neatly into my fear that I didn’t do enough for her. It kills me. I don’t even know how to deal with it, just now.
So I’m going to download a wonderful historical novel with vampires I’ve been wanting to read and I’m going to sink into it on the flight home and I am not going to think about this again until I want to.
Tomorrow is the 10th anniversary of my beloved father’s death.
This is the sister I know the least about. This is the sister who knows the least about me. We have always held each other at a cordial distance. I hope it’s cordial. She is so quiet and plays her cards so close to her chest I don’t really know.
I am a nervous flyer in general; being late and missing flights is one of my strange preoccupations and I am always a wreck until I’m sitting at the gate waiting for them to call. I am also disabled and each airport treats us differently. And the flight is at OH DEAR GOD NO o’clock in the AfuckingM.
I also have an autoimmune issue that kicks in with exhaustion symptoms quite often in the heat, and I’m going from a relatively cool Northern city to a very hot city, and she REALLY needs my help.
I am always convinced I will let my sisters down. I was her mother figure when we were younger as she didn’t have a real one, and the dynamic is quite a strain. I wasn’t a very good mother to her. While I realize it wasn’t my job, I still wish I’d done the job better. Protected her. Taken her with me when I moved out. Noticed how neglected she was more than I did. So much remorse and guilt around this particular sister.
Also, I am always wary of discussions with any of my sisters that might veer motherward.
My family also always bought the stoic, never show weakness thing, so I’m going to have to be vigilant in forcing her to take my help, and I’m going to have to hide it if I feel remotely tired in the least. That part is going to suck, because I also have to balance it with self care, such as making sure I eat, stay hydrated, and stay as cool as possible.
And I think I need to plan on falling apart when I get home; my last visit with another sister, the depressed re-entry caught me by surprise.
I am not good at self care. AT ALL. I am not good at it. Hopefully this week and its aftermath will help to teach me.
I rarely start a blog post with a definition, but this one’s important and it’s rarely used nowadays this way outside of psychiatric circles:
Psychiatry. an expressed or observed emotional response: Restricted, flat, or blunted affect may be a symptom of mental illness. . .
In this particular case, my ‘affect’ is not blunted but heightened. It is that of rage. Even when I am feeling irritation and thinking that I am expressing simple irritation, I appear to be enraged to others.
I’d thought that I was getting better this way, but I just hurt my uncle a lot in what I thought was an eye-rolling FB exchange and which he thought I was so furious with him that I was on the verge of cutting off contact.
Some of that’s on him, of course, and the fact that this is how my dysfunctional Irish-American family acts when we are angry with one another in general: to stop speaking, and so of course he fears I might be doing that, but when EVERY interaction that feels mildly unpleasant to me is perceived by the other party as devastating, it’s important to look closely at my own actions.
I really thought I was getting better that way: appearing more relaxed and non-threatening. Guess not. Frustrating, but good to know. Then I can address it.
I won’t link to it here, but my editor interviewed me this weekend about a short story that was clearly about enduring and surviving child abuse. It went live today. I was honest both about a good parenting decision my mother made (which I may have made too big of a deal about) and also that I’d had a flashback that prompted the story. Anyone who is paying attention to that interview will know I was abused as a child, and anyone who also reads the story will probably figure out it’s my mother.
Baby steps — but steps — toward never self-censoring again.
I’m scared, though.