Is it possible that a family has something rotten at its core? My family has something like a horror movie woven into the cloth. I don’t want to use the word “evil.” More like diseased. But that sounds like an ableist metaphor.
Is this rotten-ness real, and if so, what do I do about it?
“Move away. Get away from it,” my spouse said.
Yes, I did move away–other valleys, other states. And emotionally I do that. But in a quest to be safe, I keep trying to find new ways to reach out to my family.
It might be different this time. I’m an adult and have way more skills. Maybe I can stand my ground, respect myself, and be ok this time, as I try to divorce myself from my family.
content warning: mention of violence including incest
My therapist asked me today what my role is in all of that. I’ve had many family roles.
- black sheep
- lost child
- silent one
- the fattest
- the one who gets divorced
- the one who moves away
- truth teller
- the crazy one
Do all families need a victim? Or we are all victims, if one of us is? I feel sacrificial, or a symbol. Yes, I’m being mis-seen and projected onto.
They look at me and see their failures. Also I look kind of like my mom. So they have to remember how they failed my mom also. She worked so hard to appear strong and independent. But we know independence is a lie. And it crumbles really bad when you’re dying.
The family’s curses are anxiety, addiction, incest, and cancer. My mom was multi-victim of all these.
When I try to figure out what to do, I list my options. I can try intergenerational healing. Or I can heal myself as best I can, and walk away.
I try to give up and have nothing to do with them, vow that was the final breakup with my family. Yes, sometimes it feels like an abusive partnership. I guess it is.
It was drilled into my head that family are the only people who will really be there for you. But from the very beginning, they were the people abusing and violating me.
The rottenness isn’t a little side thing that could be ignored or cut out. The rottenness is throughout, part of the functioning. The family runs on shame, guilt, denial, covering shit up. So many hearts are closed out of self-protection.
content warning: sexual abuse, incest
There are so many ways people violence one another. Sexually abusing kids is one of the rottenest.
Kids who are sexually abused are being taught with actions that our bodies are trash. That causes a lot of other problems. Why should I do anything for my health, when my well-being is obviously irreverent? My “no” never mattered. I didn’t understand my own body’s physical sensations, because I had been gaslit about them since I was a toddler.
We’re taught that the people keeping us safe are entitled to harm us. That puts weird ideas about power deep inside of us: This person is worth more than I am, so they get to use me however they want. I will let them do horrible things to me because I need lunch, shelter, my clothes changed. I’ll let them do horrible things to me because they own me, and fighting back doesn’t help anyway.
In my family of origin, I didn’t belong to myself. That lack of consent had bad results I’m still trying to heal and mitigate today. I’m a middle aged person learning basics about myself–my needs matter, my unique voice matters, my body matters as it is. My life matters.
Dear reader–I hope you grew up believing your life matters, your body belongs to you, your voice should be heard, and your needs are valid.
Not everyone in my family directly violenced or violated me. It’s a big family, and some of the women were truly kind. But all of my family was part of it somehow. They were other victims, they looked the other way, they enabled abusers, they abused.
It’s a terrible loop–the abused becomes the abuser. Some of us break the cycle, but at what cost? Few people care for us as we do the work.
Sometimes problems seem bigger than the people who have the problems. Problems can be greater than the sum of their parts. That’s what I mean about rotten. Feels like a force of its own.
It’s hard to explain, but maybe you understand. Dear reader–I hope you don’t understand.