Guard down, guard up

Sometimes, I let my guard down.

Then, I am quickly reminded of why I shouldn’t.

It’s a complicated thing. The fear of trusting anyone, yet the seemingly innate pull to open up to someone. The desire to be alone, yet the need to be in contact with others. The want for a family, even when family has continually been nothing but toxic.

I made a mistake. I should have seen it coming; looking back, I don’t know why I even put myself in that position. But it’s that seemingly continuous push and pull of two opposing wants that seem to lead to these mistakes.

It was the right timing. I was vulnerable. I had just left to go across the county. I left everything and everyone behind. I was disconnected, not only physically, but emotionally as well. And I wanted so much to reconnect to something or to someone.

And I did. I got a friend request on Facebook from a distant cousin — my mother’s niece. Years ago, I would have immediately deleted it. In fact, I may have even had her and others blocked. But over time, I let my guard down. I let my fear dissipate. But, given the circumstances, I felt okay enough to accept her request. After all, I was nowhere near her or my mother physically. After all, this was someone who hadn’t seen me since I was 14 years old. After all, this was someone who my mother avoided having any physical contact with, someone who my mother spoke ill of (along with her sister and others in her own family). So how much of a danger could it have been? I added her.

I soon learned that was a bad decision. In response to my last blog, she posted several comments, all of which focused on how I was loved and cared for, how I chose to leave the home where I was loved and cared for, how my mother loved her children and wouldn’t ever molest them…you get the gist. I did, too, because I heard it before. Almost word-for-word, in fact. Because they were my mother’s words, her defensive speech. We’ve all heard it before.

I was trying not to engage, but I eventually gave in and defended the truth. I reminded her that she was barely in our lives, how the last time she saw me was when I was 14, and that she really couldn’t have had any realistic idea of what was going on. I told her that I could connect her with people who witnessed the reality first hand — not just of the physical environment we lived in, but of my mother’s inappropriate words and actions. I suggested she be open to hearing both sides, as it seemed she was taking my mother’s word for truth without taking any initiative to find out what existed outside of my mother’s words.

But my words to her didn’t get very far, because when I woke up the next morning, her comments were deleted and so was she.

I had a tiny bit of hope that a friendship could have existed before all of this happened, that I could be connected to a part of my family, even if it was just in this small way.

I’m not that hurt over it. I got over it quickly. I think what stuck out to me the most was just how gullible people could be, how easily they could drink my mother’s Kool-aid and believe everything she says just because she says it. I’m fortunate enough that many people didn’t fall for her lies. I just wish that more of those people were family.

I find the timing interesting. Adding me as a friend a week before my freedom anniversary. Waiting until that very moment to let it out. I highly doubt it was all just a coincidence. But it doesn’t even matter. My lesson has been learned.

In her last comment, my cousin talked about how my mother was sick and suffering.

Good. I’m not going to lie. Good.

And that’s even if she is really sick, because I really don’t think anyone is close enough to her to truly know.

But, I will not feel bad about my anger or my grief. She is in her 60s. She got to live. I am 32 and can barely make it a month without a stay in the hospital, dealing with health issues that people my age (or anyone really) shouldn’t have to deal with. I’m not going to feel bad for being angry at her. I’m not going to feel bad for hating her. And I’m not going to feel bad for not caring about her, because she sure as hell never cared about me.

There’s no goodbye forever to that

I came home from work today and checked the mail. There it was: the packet I knew would eventually get here. I knew nothing of what was inside, other than a letter.

I came inside and did what I normally do. I washed the dishes, fed the cat, and took out the garbage. Then I came upstairs, changed, and checked my e-mail. I wasn’t feeling any type of way. I was in a good place. I had a good day at work. I felt okay enough to open my mail.

There was a brown envelope inside. I pulled everything out. There was my birth certificate. My old social security card. And a bunch of cards and notes from my First Communion. It was sort of an odd assortment.

Of all the things that were supposedly saved, of all the things that could have been sent, I get a pile of religious bullshit. I’m not a Catholic. I was never a Catholic at heart, only by parental indoctrination.

Then I see papers folded up with my mother’s handwriting. I waited a few minutes, then I started reading the letter, part by part, along with my friend.

Here are the important things you will need in your life no one was keeping them from you and you never asked for them. They were kept in a fireproof box so if there was a fire they wouldn’t get destroyed.

As for the story of your lip I was working that night as almost every night at Kmart till 10:30 PM. That night there was a really bad storm you walked into the door of the bedroom dad called me at work but Kmart would not let me leave so him and R drove to St. Mary’s Hospital in Hoboken at that time we had HIP insurance and that’s the hospital you had to use. The HIP health center was in West New York, NJ cause that was the only place close they had. No one was trying to hide anything to doctors because no one had anything to hide you weren’t abused you were at doctors for checkups as a child needed you never were rejected health care. And no one lied where you were born. You were born in St. Mary’s Hospital in Hoboken, NJ cause as I said that was the hospital used on the HIP health plan.

You have nothing to fear I’m not coming after you I have no desire too. You made your decision to disown your family and thats your decision and if thats what you wanted then so be it. I know your plans were encouraged by your friends and a certain family relative who’s name I will not mention because if certain family members knew this they would not be happy and I am not out to ruin peoples lives so that secret I will die with. But do tell me why did you come to the hospital to visit me while you were telling people how happy it was with me not in the house and how they recommended you toss my stuff out to the street. Was your visit to see if I was dying??

You broke your fathers heart when you left because of the way you left and the lies you told him when you did walk out. He didnt care much about himself or anything after that.

As for your brother and the truck its not paid for by your father’s life insurance. You failed to forward the registration to him when it went to your new address and motor vehicle would not renew it unless you were there with your ID. The loan company’s advise was to take you to court and sue you for title take over is that the way you would have wanted to go. He went to car dealer and they suggested refinancing so he did in his name alone. The jeep is considered paid off because the one dealer paid the finance company off but your brother still has to pay what was left on the jeep plus the other truck. Instead of it being repo’d and your credit n his being ruined cause he wasn’t going to pay for something he couldn’t drive. This way this benefited you it shows on your credit report the truck was paid off which gives you a better credit score and your not attached to the family anymore which you wanted. But you did not forward him the registration and this was the only sensible thing to do. So you are totally free from your family now no strings attached this is what you wanted.

I asked (my friend) to forward these things to you because I don’t want your address or anything from you ever.

So you dont have to worry anymore with anyone coming after. No one has that desire to contact you especially not me

Have a happy and good life. Good bye forever

Your Mom,

Lori

P.S. Your Dad was your real father there was never anyone else in my life but him.

You have your freedom as you always wanted and the responsibilities in life that come with it.

And the finance company gave the dealer your number and address that they had on record not your brother.

Not entirely what I expected from her, I will admit. I expected a lot of heavy and outright denial and anger. Instead, it seemed like a lot of random defenses to things that were and are really unimportant. I thought this letter was going to crush my emotions. I didn’t even cry; I actually laughed at some parts. The letter is such a textbook example of a narcsoc.

Here are the important things you will need in your life no one was keeping them from you and you never asked for them. They were kept in a fireproof box so if there was a fire they wouldn’t get destroyed.

Important things? My birth certificate, okay. But nine or ten First Communion cards? Why do I need them in my life? They serve me no purpose other than a reminder of someone I was forced to be, a person who I have not been for a very long time now. And I have nothing against religion. But being religious isn’t about going to Church every Sunday and sending your children to the best Catholic schools and nailing up crosses in your child’s bedroom to remind them that Jesus is watching. By the way, if Jesus was watching me (supposedly) be bad, was he also watching my mother rape me?

Those cards could have burned in a fire, along with everything else. I don’t care.

As for the story of your lip I was working that night as almost every night at Kmart till 10:30 PM. That night there was a really bad storm you walked into the door of the bedroom dad called me at work but Kmart would not let me leave so him and (my brother) drove to St. Mary’s Hospital in Hoboken at that time we had HIP insurance and that’s the hospital you had to use. The HIP health center was in West New York, NJ cause that was the only place close they had. No one was trying to hide anything to doctors because no one had anything to hide you weren’t abused you were at doctors for checkups as a child needed you never were rejected health care. And no one lied where you were born. You were born in St. Mary’s Hospital in Hoboken, NJ cause as I said that was the hospital used on the HIP health plan.

I knew it! I knew I walked into a door. It makes all the sense. Let’s be real. Your child suffers a pretty severe injury and your job wouldn’t let you leave so you stayed there? Your child is supposed to come first, last time I checked. But that was never the case, so why would this instance be any different.

It’s really helpful to know that we had HIP insurance and that I went to Saint Mary’s hospital. Because it was important enough that it seems to be the focus of an entire page of the letter. Why so much focus on the unimportant details of the situation? Deflection. The hospital didn’t matter to me. The insurance plan didn’t matter to me. THAT’S NOT WHAT MATTERED.

And yes, I did go to the doctor. Because physicals are required to attend school — I couldn’t go otherwise. That doesn’t mean I was medically neglected. I was. There is no doubt about that.

And I was abused. There is no doubt about that, either.

You have nothing to fear I’m not coming after you I have no desire too. You made your decision to disown your family and thats your decision and if thats what you wanted then so be it. I know your plans were encouraged by your friends and a certain family relative who’s name I will not mention because if certain family members knew this they would not be happy and I am not out to ruin peoples lives so that secret I will die with. But do tell me why did you come to the hospital to visit me while you were telling people how happy it was with me not in the house and how they recommended you toss my stuff out to the street. Was your visit to see if I was dying??

I disowned my family, yes, but it was well after my family had symbolically disowned me. Because you sure as hell don’t treat family like I was treated.

My plans were supported by the people that truly loved and supported me, the people that wanted better for me. My amazing support group. Great therapists. Awesome friends, both online and offline. And yes, some members of my family did support me. But I want to make it clear, these people supported my decision. It was my decision to leave. Not a family member’s. Not a friend’s. It was my decision.

Not out to ruin people’s lives? She already has. No favors are being done here. Anyone in their right mind would support my decision to leave. They would be happy to know I was supported. I never disowned the people that didn’t hurt me. None of this is a secret. It never has been.

Out of the month or two my mother was in the hospital, I visited her once. Because my father made me go. I just got out of my third inpatient psychiatric hospitalization. I didn’t want to be in a hospital at all, let alone near her. Trust me on that.

My mother referenced a post I made on my Facebook. Creepy. She really had to have someone dig for that one. A lot of effort. Sad. They certainly did recommend that. And many were also hoping for my mother’s sickness to progress. I won’t deny that. I wanted her to die because I didn’t think I would get my freedom any other way.

You broke your fathers heart when you left because of the way you left and the lies you told him when you did walk out. He didnt care much about himself or anything after that.

I didn’t kill my father. My father had high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, a history of blood infections, lymphedema, three heart attacks, and congestive heart failure. He had been dying for a very long time, and honestly, he lived a lot longer than he should have, given his conditions. He had given up on life long before I left. He talked about wanting to die every time he ended up back in a nursing home. I didn’t break his heart. His heart was already broken.

I left in a way that was safest for me. I left with two bags, and I left most of my belongings behind. That was hard for me. I wish I could have just said “I’m moving” and taken all of my things, but that would have never been allowed. I lied to live. Don’t dare put his death on me.

As for your brother and the truck its not paid for by your father’s life insurance. You failed to forward the registration to him when it went to your new address and motor vehicle would not renew it unless you were there with your ID. The loan company’s advise was to take you to court and sue you for title take over is that the way you would have wanted to go. He went to car dealer and they suggested refinancing so he did in his name alone. The jeep is considered paid off because the one dealer paid the finance company off but your brother still has to pay what was left on the jeep plus the other truck. Instead of it being repo’d and your credit n his being ruined cause he wasn’t going to pay for something he couldn’t drive. This way this benefited you it shows on your credit report the truck was paid off which gives you a better credit score and your not attached to the family anymore which you wanted. But you did not forward him the registration and this was the only sensible thing to do. So you are totally free from your family now no strings attached this is what you wanted.

I’m not even going to attempt to try and understand half of what this is supposed to mean. How is this important? Of all things to care about, the jeep is not on my priority list. But yet, over a page dedicated to the jeep. My mother and brother didn’t do me any favors. They didn’t take me to court to sue me for my own jeep. Congratulations. Such great people. There’s no mention of the attempt to fraudulently sign my name to the papers. Let’s just focus on how much of it is my fault and how they helped me out so much by doing this while still being burdened by paying two vehicles (yet not having both) and not with my father’s insurance policy (right). Okay then.

And his credit was already ruined, which is why the jeep was in my name in the first place. He had no credit. No one in my family had credit. This was not a martyr action. This was not moral.

It’s what I wanted? No. It’s not what I wanted at all. I wanted a family. I wanted decent parents. I wanted a fucking mother. I wanted a fucking childhood. I didn’t want this shit. Fuck you. This wasn’t for me. You’ve done nothing for me; you never did and you never will.

I asked (my friend) to forward these things to you because I don’t want your address or anything from you ever.

So you dont have to worry anymore with anyone coming after. No one has that desire to contact you especially not me

Have a happy and good life. Good bye forever

Well, we all know this is a bunch of lies, considering the gravestone posters she mailed to me not that long ago. None of these sentences are true. She searched for me specifically to send those gravestones. That’s contact. Where’s the goodbye forever?

And I am having a good life, as much as I can. I have great care for the first time in my life. I am surrounded by people that love and support me. I may not be happy all the time, and that’s okay. I am trying to have the life I deserve, the life I was never allowed to have before.

Your Mom, Lori

I don’t have a mother, nor did I ever have a mother that deserved to be spelled with a capital M. I am my mother now. My friends are my mother. Not this person.

P.S. Your Dad was your real father there was never anyone else in my life but him.

You have your freedom as you always wanted and the responsibilities in life that come with it.

And the finance company gave the dealer your number and address that they had on record not your brother.

I know I have my freedom. I deserve it. What I don’t deserve is the struggle. I don’t deserve having to go to therapy multiple times a week because of how fucked up I’ve become because of the shit I went through. Because of her. Not me. I am the one paying for her mistakes. I am the one being punished for her sins.

And there we go, the final sentence. About the jeep. A sentence that doesn’t even make any sense. Because my brother had my phone number, and so did she. I’ve had the same phone number I’ve had for years. I never changed it. That was the point. They told people they tried to contact me, but I had changed my number. I never did. They lied. They’ve always lied. They are still lying.

And this letter shows that. In so many ways. I don’t think she understands how obvious it is in her writing. Her deflection. Her avoidance.Her focus on unimportant details. Her lack of acknowledgement. Her denial. Her displacement. Her distortion. Her playing the victim. Her blaming the real victim.

I wish I could say goodbye forever to my pain, as easily as she said goodbye forever to me. Unfortunately, while she may be gone, I will forever have to live with what she did to me.

There’s no goodbye forever to that, is there?

Disaster

I envy my mother.

She hid who she really was so perfectly. She was (and still is) a brilliant actress. No one suspected she was abusing her own children. They only saw what she presented to the world.

She was a true Catholic woman who went to Church every weekend.

She was a devoted mother who was involved in all of her children’s activities.

She was a kind, good-hearted, charitable person who never hesitated to give what she could to others.

The truth was that my mother only went to Church because membership was requires in order to get discounted tuition for the Catholic schools she sent her children to. Her stoic Catholicism  disappeared once her children finished school. The schools she sent her children to, not to give them a better education or strong faith, but because it made her look good. Bad parents don’t send their children to private school, right?

The truth was that my mother was involved in every activity not because she was devoted, but because she needed to be in control at all times. She was a Girl Scout troop leader not because she believed in what the organization stood for, but because it put her in an easily obtained power position.

The truth was that my mother brought gifts and donated to charities because it made her look good. She would buy lavish gifts for friends and extended family with money she didn’t have to spend. We’d often sit at home with no power because she spent all of the money she had buying things, and had no money left to pay the bills. But that didn’t bother her, because no one saw that our power was off, but they did see the nice things she bought for them (and for herself).

As an adult, I envied my mother’s ability to present whatever she wanted to the world, even when it was a lie. I could never do that. I wore the truth on my face without even trying.

But I’ve come to realize, I am pretending just like she did. I am hiding behind a false presentation I give to the world.

People see that I have it together. I go to work, I go to school, I write. I’m functioning so well. People read my articles, they see what I’ve done and they look up to me.

The truth is I am fucked up. I can barely get out of bed most mornings, and even though I manage to make it to work, it sucks up the little energy I have. I don’t even know how I’m making it through school because I have no fucking clue what’s going on. I know I’m reading English, but it might as well be Chinese because I just can’t understand it. I write articles that give people with DID hope, showing them that they can live a normal life, when I am spending so many of my days in a black hole of hopelessness, questioning if my life could get any more fucked up than it already is. I tell people to accept their diagnosis, while I wake up and tell myself I don’t have DID. I’m a fucking hypocrite.

And in the moments that someone sees that I am not together, I pretend like I am. I don’t want them seeing the mess that I am. So I tell them I am okay. I put on a smile. I do my work. They think I’m okay. There’s nothing to see here. Please go, and care about someone who matters.

People see that I look better. I’ve lost so much weight, but they assume it’s okay because I’m overweight. They give me compliments about my appearance, and tell me how great and healthy I look. I smile and thank them.

The truth is I am not healthy. I’ve lost so much weight because I starve myself. No one thinks anything of it, because they only think eating disorders happen to skinny people. It’s just like childhood. You don’t look like you’re starving. Oh, but I was. And I still am. The only difference is now I am the one in control, not my mother. I learned to shut off my hunger like a switch. If I don’t feel it, then it’s not a problem. I am in control now.

And in the moments that someone shows concern about my eating, I eat for them. I take their offers of food. I act like I enjoy it. Then I go in the bathroom and throw it all up. But they don’t see that. They see me eat and they think I’m okay. There’s nothing to see here. Please go, and care about someone who matters.

People see that I am planning a future. I’m working hard. I’m continuing my education. I’m going to therapy in order to heal. I must be working towards a better life.

The truth is that I’m just going through the motions. I am not planning my future any more than I am planning my death. I’m working because I have to. I’m going to school because I need the money. Therapy isn’t going to heal me. You can’t heal a person that’s been broken so many times, just like you can’t repair a shattered mug. I’m not working towards anything. I’m just waiting for the end.

And in the moments when someone sees my hopelessness, my depression, I tell them I’m fine. I tell them they’re wrong. If I were so hopeless and so lost, I wouldn’t be working,  going to school, or going to therapy. If I were so hopeless, I would have killed myself already. I make valid points. They think I must be okay. Please go, and care about someone who matters.

I am just like my mother. I’ve become so good at acting normal, that no one can see who I really am.

A fucking disaster.

Failed dreams and a graduation

I technically graduated college in December of 2015, in the middle of the academic year. There was no celebration. I got my degree and award in the mail and that was that; I didn’t think much of it. In many ways, I still felt unworthy. I felt like I didn’t truly earn it.

At that time, I had no intentions of attending the graduation ceremony that would be held in the Fall. It wasn’t local, it was nearly a year after I finished, and I’d have to go alone, because I had no family. The whole thing seemed like more of a burden than anything.

It also wasn’t how I dreamed I would graduate.

Growing up, my academic prowess was the only good thing I had. I was intelligent, and it was consistently recognized. While in high school, I had dreams of going to an Ivy League school. I dreamed I was going to graduate as valedictorian. I dreamed of finally being free.

Going to college was supposed to be my ticket out. I applied to colleges all over the country. I got accepted into some of the best schools. I had full scholarships. Any reasonable parents would have been thrilled at their child’s achievements, and thankful that scholarships would relieve the financial burden.

But my parents weren’t reasonable. They took my achievement as an insult, that in some way the acceptances and awards made me think I was better than them. I never said or acted like I was, but that didn’t matter. Nothing I ever did was good to them, even when it was good to everyone else.

My college dreams fizzled away.

My mother started hiding my acceptance letters. I found a collection of them after I had graduated from HS, mysteriously “lost” in a convenient, hidden away pile. Every letter was an acceptance. Every school I applied to was ready to welcome me. Yet I ended up at a school I never wanted to be in.

I was disillusioned to think that my parents would ever let me go away to college. I couldn’t even leave the house. I didn’t have any choices. My mother decided my college career for me. I had to go to a local university, one that I could still be within my parents’ control. My father drove me to class, and picked me up as soon as I was done. I didn’t have any freedom, but I should have known that was going to be the case. I was foolish to think otherwise.

Even though I hated that school, I made the most out of it. I excelled once again. In my second year there, I was already receiving honors. I was top-ranked. My picture was in the papers. I was on track to be valedictorian. A part of my dream started to come back. I can still be something.

And then I lost that dream again. I forfeited my scholarship and gave up my academic achievements when I dropped out of school with a 4.0 GPA. My father was sick, and it was selfish of me to think of my education when my family was struggling. It was just another failed dream.

Whenever I thought about this recent graduation, all I could think about were those failed dreams. I should have been graduating at 22. I should have been up on stage, making my valedictorian speech. I should have been surrounded by family and friends who were just as proud of me as I was of myself.

Instead, I’m graduating at 30 years old. I won’t be making any speeches, and there won’t be any family in the audience cheering for me. I am alone. Why would I want to celebrate that?

But part of me did want to celebrate. Part of me knew all it took for me to get my degree.

Through it all, I finished with a 3.9 GPA. And when I say all, I mean it: several long-term hospital visits for pneumonia, a surgery, and four psychiatric inpatient hospitalizations. I had no breaks. I couldn’t take any sick leave. I had to get it done. I wrote my thesis in the midst of my escape to freedom. Through the chaos, I still did it.

I earned that degree just like I earned my freedom.

But I didn’t want to celebrate alone. I had no family. My new friends were too new. My old acquanitances were distant. I didn’t think it was possible, so I gave up my plans. Then, just weeks before, I decided I needed to do something positive for me, and this was my chance. I (hesitantly) asked my best friend from my old life if he would like to go, and to my surprise, he said he would. So I spent the last two or three weeks scrambling to get everything together.

This Saturday, my friend and I traveled to my graduation ceremony. It was overwhelming at first. Within minutes of entering the arena, I started to panic. There were hundreds of people around. I was in a new place, and the noise was so loud I couldn’t even hear myself think. I had to calm myself. I tried to find a spot away from all of the people. I wanted to put on my headphones and drown everyone and everything out, but I couldn’t. I wanted to cry, but I couldn’t. It took everything in me not to have a meltdown right then and there.

But I got through it. I put on my cap and gown, and my honor cords, and walked out to the arena. I tried to look down at the floor instead of up at all of the people. It was the only way I could stay calm. I thought about what name I should use. Do I use my old name, or my new name? I hate my old name, but it’s still my legal name and the name I went to school with. I can’t just go up and give an alias.¬†

I debated with myself for an hour. I finally got up on stage, walked up to the microphone, and announced both of my names. It felt right that way, recognizing both who I was and who I am becoming. I shook a few hands and made my exit off of the stage. It was done.

I sat and waited for the other graduates to finish, not really feeling anything at all.¬†Then the president of the university made his final speech. He took time out to acknowledge and thank students’ families for helping the students get to where they were today. I watched the audience as mothers and fathers stood up to be applauded. Then spouses, brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, etc.

In that moment, I realized I had no family out there for me. Not just at graduation, but in the years leading up to that very day. My family didn’t help me get an education; they took it away from me. My family didn’t push me to succeed; they wished for my failure. Everything I did was on my own. I never had support.

I started crying because I realized what I had lost. I thought about all the shit I went through getting to this point. I thought about all the slaps to the face, all of the put-downs and the insults my mother threw at me just because I was trying to be a better human being. I remembered how my mother used to always tell me, “You think you’re better than me? You think you’re smarter than me because you went to college? You’re nothing.”

Her voice replayed in my head just as if she were there, sitting in the chair next to me. I stopped crying. I wanted to yell, but I knew well enough that my mother wasn’t actually there to hear me. Her voice wasn’t going away; it was like a broken record repeating the same part over and over. I couldn’t take it any more. I wasn’t going to let her ruin the moment.

As I stood up to take the final walk down the aisle, I closed my eyes and answered my mother’s voice back, in a way I could never answer her back before. I am better than you. I am a better person. I am a better human being.

I always was.

Dear Brother Explained

The other day, I posted a letter I had written to my brother: Dear Brother.

It wasn’t very well thought out. It was Sunday afternoon, and I found myself still struggling with my emotions about the situation that happened on Friday. I felt paralyzed by them, in a way. I couldn’t get anything done because my mind was set on thoughts about my brother. I needed a way to get my feelings out, because they weren’t serving me well by being bottled up inside.

I walked to the card store, still not set on what I was going to write. I walked through the card aisles, and came to the sympathy section. Loss. That is exactly what this felt like. My brother was still very much alive, but everything else about him was gone. My image of him: gone. My hope for him: gone. I lost him. He died in my heart.

There were only five or six cards dedicated to the loss of a brother. I picked up each one and read it. Unfortunately, none of them captured the type of loss this was. Then there was this card, describing the brother I always wanted: a brother I could depend on, a brother I could share good memories with, a brother I could love.

I started to cry as I looked through the card. I knew this was the right one. I put it in the envelope, wiped my face, and went to the register to purchase it. I left it in the bag until I got home, because I didn’t want to get emotional in public. Even so, I was already going through some of the things I wanted to write in my head. It wasn’t until later that afternoon that I sat at my desk, pulled out the card, got my pen, and wrote what I needed to say to him.

Even though I knew this was going to be just another card left unsent, like the cards I wrote to my father and to my mother, I found it oddly therapeutic. I didn’t need him to respond. I didn’t need him to give me an answer. I just needed, for myself, to say what I needed to say in the best way I knew how: through writing.

I didn’t always feel this way towards my brother. In fact, I struggled with feelings of guilt over leaving him behind. Every so often, the guilt would come back full force. It got especially bad after my father died. I knew that with my father gone, my brother was the only person my mother had left. I was scared for him. But there was nothing I could do. I couldn’t financially help him — I am barely surviving myself. I couldn’t risk my own safety by directly reaching out to him, because his closeness to his mother made it too dangerous to even attempt. I was (and still am) a mess myself. I needed to focus on me. I didn’t have the energy to devote to his cause. And I felt horrible for it.

Then the situation on Friday happened, and everything changed. I realized he didn’t care about me at all. He never once called me, but he still had my number. He couldn’t even contact me himself to ask for what he needed; he had someone else do it for him. And he didn’t even need to do what he did. He wanted to trade that Jeep in so he could pretend like it never existed, just like my family pretended like I never existed.

He could have offered me back even some of the money I put into buying that Jeep. Instead, he used all of it to get something bigger and better. The money from my father’s life insurance? Nothing. My brother and his mother have kept it for themselves. Because that’s who they are.

I realized that my brother is just like her. He is an adult. He can make choices. He chose to spread lies about me after I escaped, just as his mother did. He could have denied it, but I know that would have been hard to directly defy her. He could have said nothing at all and been okay, but he instead chose to fuel the fire his mother set for me.

He could have reached out. He knew my phone number, and my e-mail address. His mother would not have found out. But he chose not to try.

My brother could have just paid off the Jeep. Money was not an issue. Instead, he chose to trade it in, and trade it in for something better. There is something symbolic in that. He traded in that Jeep just as he traded me in.

My brother could have gotten away. He always had more financial resources than me. He worked full-time for a long time. I figured out a way to get out. He could have figured out a way, but he chose not to. He could have taken my father’s insurance money and left, but he chose not to. He chose to stay with his mother.

Together, they have chosen to take what isn’t theirs. They are opportunists. They are takers. They are liars. They are users.

My brother is just like her. Her training didn’t work so well on me, but it has worked on him. I didn’t see it before. Well, no, I did. The truth is that I didn’t want to see it. I wanted my brother to be a true and good person. I wanted him to be the brother I needed, the brother I always wanted.

But I realized he’s not that person. He never was, he’s not now, and he won’t be able to be. I can’t change him. I can’t show him something he refuses to see. I can’t save him. So I have to let him go.

It’s another loss. But sometimes, losses are for the better.

 

Hold on, let go

I’ve still been struggling with the reality that I am without a family. Which is weird, because on some level, I know I never had a family to begin with.

Did I have a mother? Sure. Half of my DNA comes from her. She gave birth to me. But that’s where her mother-ness ends.

Did I have a father? I guess. It’s questionable where I share his DNA, but he was a man who identified himself as my father, so I guess he was. He provided financially for the family. And that’s where his father-ness ends.

Was I a member of that family? No. I was an involuntary member of my mother’s cult. I was a pawn in my mother’s chess game. I was a servant to the almighty queen. But I was never a real part of that family.

Yet for some reason, I am still holding on to the emotional connection to that family. In the absence of my mother, I have taken on her criticisms and her hatred and continue to punish myself, just as she would do when she was there next to me.

I give in to the voice inside of me that tells me I am nothing without her. I listen as she tells me I am worthless, that I will never amount to anything, that I can’t do anything right. I believe her when she says I will never survive without her.

It doesn’t matter that she is no longer with me, because her voice is still inside of me, programmed into my brain, telling me all of the things I’ve heard all of my life, continuing to poison my thoughts, continuing to destroy my sense of self.

So why do I keep listening? Why do I keep holding on to something so toxic and so damaging? Because it’s all that remains of what I knew to be my family. That toxicity is all I have left. In a sick way, I keep my family alive by continuing to act on my mother’s toxic legacy.

I find comfort in familiarity. I find validation for my mother’s truths in my current life circumstances. When something doesn’t work out, when I’m struggling financially, when I can’t handle my life, I tell myself “See, my mother was right. I can’t live without her.”

I’m so afraid of losing that last connection. As damaging as it is, I keep holding on. I keep giving in.

My therapist showed me this meme in session today. She said it reminded her of me. At first, the person is holding on to the rope, as it tears and cuts into his hand. Then, as he starts to let go of the rope, his hand starts to get better. When he lets go completely, his hand is no longer being damaged by the rope at all; he is free from harm.

therapymeme

I’m still holding on to that rope, so very tightly. I’m holding on to all the shit my mother programmed into me, even though it’s hurting me and causing me pain. My therapist is trying to pull me away from that rope, telling me I don’t need to hold on to that anymore, trying to stop the emotional bleeding I am putting myself through. But I pull away from her and instead keep holding on to the rope.

I need to let go.

Compliments

I have a hard time accepting compliments.

When I say I have a hard time, I mean I have a really, really hard time.

The topic came up in therapy on Thursday. My therapist gave me a compliment and I just started deflecting it in any way I could. I had just done the same to a friend earlier that day. I told my therapist about it, and of course she wanted to delve deeper into why I had so much trouble with them.

It’s not that I’m not used to receiving compliments. I’ve received them all of my life, for varying reasons. It was something else entirely.

As my therapist started questioning, I started thinking back and connecting the dots. I started remembering things I thought I had pushed down deep and far away. Things I did not want to remember.

So much was going on in my mind, and it must have shown on the outside. My therapist asked what was going on; my whole demeanor had changed. I didn’t want to talk. I didn’t want to say all of the shit that was going on in my head. I wanted to feel, but I didn’t even know what to feel.

“My mother gets mad when people say nice things about me. She yells a lot.”

It’s something I dealt with my whole life. If it was something she couldn’t take credit for, or if it was something that took the attention off of her, my mother would get angry and I would end up in trouble. When someone would compliment my hair or my looks, my mother did what she could to make me ugly. When someone pointed out how smart I was, I was accused of thinking I was smarter and better than her, and I’d get knocked back into place.

As I sat there, muddling through the shit going on in my head, I started to dig my nail into the skin between my thumb and forefinger. I didn’t even realize I was doing it at first. After a few minutes, my therapist noticed and asked me to stop. But I couldn’t. I had the strongest urge to hurt. I needed to feel pain.

Eventually I pried my hands apart and sat on them, hoping it would stop the urge. I told my therapist that I needed to hurt. It was almost instinctive.

I sat there, awkwardly sitting on my hands, half listening to my therapist and half talking to myself in my head. I couldn’t focus. I wanted to cry. I wanted to scream. I wanted to hurt something.

I tried to listen as my therapist talked about why I could have been needing to hurt. But nothing she said was making sense. I didn’t need to hurt because I felt like I deserved it. I needed to hurt because that’s what I associated with compliments. I needed to hurt because that’s what my mother did to me.

I finally found the strength to mutter out the words “mom hurts.” My therapist asked if I meant what I meant, that my mother hurt me, and I told her yes. I told her some of what happened. And then I started to cry, because I realized just how much the shit my mother had done had affected me.

Of all the things my mother had already taken away from me as a child, she took away the good words people had offered me. She took away any opportunity I had to take in others’ positivity. She turned what should have been happiness into pain.

Pain became a conditioned response. I experienced my mother’s narcissistic rage so often that I just automatically associated compliments and positive comments with the pain and hurt that she inflicted on me. Even in her absence, I am continuing the same response I’ve always had. Except now I am the one inflicting the pain.

I tried to pull myself back together and stop crying. I felt ashamed for crying over something I should have known better about. But I wasn’t crying entirely because of that. I was crying out of grief. Just when I thought my mother couldn’t take any more from me than she already had, she struck again.

I was crying for the little girl who couldn’t feel good about anything. I was crying for the little girl who had to shy away and not be noticed for fear that she would be hurt.

I was crying for me.