All the events, and stories, and jealousy and anger and manipulation and blaming and lies that got us where we are today, were set in motion 40 years ago or more.
I was a kid. I was a helpless baby at more-or-less the start of it, when my mother was hospitalized. I was only 6YO when it culminated in The Divorce.
It was a horrible, stressful time for the whole family. Mom and the kids hated actually living with Dad day-to-day. They all missed their previous location. Dad had a new job, an important job. And there was a new baby. These three things alone would cause a great deal of stress.
If you look at the Holmes-Rahe Stress Inventory there are a few more things to add to the list:
- Change in health of family member
- Pregnancy / Gain of new family member
- Sex difficulties (I’m going to lump “being a teenager” in with this one)
- Change in financial state
- Change to a different line of work
- Change in number of arguments with spouse
- A large mortgage or loan
- Change in living conditions
- Change in work hours or conditions
- Change in residence
- Change in school/college
- Change in recreation
- Change in church activities
- Change in social activities
I’ve kind of lumped these all together — for instance, Dad had the job change, while the kids changed schools — but no matter whose point of view you take, they total well over 300, which is the lower limit of the high-risk category.
OVER 300 POINTS: This score indicates a major life crisis and is highly predictive (80%) of serious physical illness within the next 2 years.
Frankly, it isn’t surprising that someone got sick, although Mom’s illness wasn’t physical, but mental. And you might be able to count my sister’s suicide attempt as “serious physical illness”.
What did the teenagers have to cope with? New schools, no friends, no teachers or mentors to confide in — just a bunch of nuns and priests who would probably advise them to “pray about it” and “be obedient” if they were consulted. I think you could just about count on being invalidated if you went to them for help and understanding.
Mom is too sick to talk to, and she can’t be held responsible for any of this anyway. They hate Dad and are used to blaming him, but that’s no longer safe because now they are dependent on him for everything, not just money. And of course they are not allowed to be mad at God or blame him for anything — remember, “He doesn’t send you any more than you can handle!!” 😀
It’s bad enough that they are already feeling like outsiders at school: now they have to take turns staying home from school to run the house while Mom is sick. But it can’t be Mom’s fault she is sick…
…it’s the baby who “made Mom sick”.
Side note: You know, I’ve always kind of accepted the responsibility for that part. I always accepted it was the fact of my birth that made Mom go crazy (although obviously still not my responsibility).
It’s only recently that I found out it probably wasn’t — Mom was probably schizophrenic all along, and was at high risk for post-partum psychosis.
What actually made Mom sick, if you have to assign the cause to a chain of events, was her refusal to have a medically advised hysterectomy, coupled with her refusal to accept sex as a normal part of marriage. I’m pretty certain she thought the jeopardy to her health that would be caused by additional pregnancies could be easily eliminated by simply eliminating sex altogether. Her insistence on following church doctrine became her excuse: can’t have a hysterectomy + can’t use birth control + can’t risk another pregnancy = Voilà! A “get out of sex free” card!
This is similar to what I believe was her real reason for not learning how to drive: that too was a “get out of doing something for other people” card.
But that bastard husband of hers, who was supporting her, still wanted some. A pregnancy resulted. “Look what your father did to me.”
What’s comical about this to me is, isn’t avoiding sex in a marriage just as much going against god’s will as using birth control? I mean, it IS birth control. Yet somehow abstinence is considered an OK method of birth control to use, even within a marriage. SMH.
…it’s the baby who “made Mom sick”.
This stupid baby with diapers to change, who is just a bunch more work, and really, really easy to label and blame as the cause of all their problems.
It makes sense that my sister is the one who holds this grudge the most deeply, because obviously she was the one most affected.
As a girl, and the oldest, she would have been expected to do the bulk of the mothering chores. It was her senior year, yet here she was living the life of a teenage mom, without even having the benefit of having had the sex to go with it. And if she attempted suicide, obviously she was deeply affected.
I wonder if my sister looks at me and thinks, “Look what my father did to me.”
A friend once pointed out to me that if things had been normal, if my mom had been healthy and done her job and not enmeshed and parentified my sister, if she had been free to be a normal teenage girl, my 17YO sister would likely have loved me to pieces. If you don’t think that realization broke my heart, think again.
To all this injury, add the insult that Dad and I went on to have a loving relationship, and instead you probably have a recipe for the kind of relationship my sister and I have failed to have.
A helpless baby who couldn’t fight back was the only safe place to dump all that shit. I became the scapegoat for them, as my dad was for my mom. They had her example to learn from, after all.
I know of one other family who had a similar situation. A knitting friend told me once about a family she knew — they were cousins or some such — with a lot of children, spread out over a lot of years, such that the oldest children were almost adults when the youngest child was born.
The youngest sibling was a woman who was now estranged from the rest of the family, because she was universally considered by the rest of them to be the cause of the mother’s death.
The woman who told me the story said that nobody ever talked about what had actually happened, so for a long time she had assumed the mother had died in childbirth, or shortly after.
At some point she found out that the truth was that the mother actually died SIX YEARS LATER.
It had nothing to do with the youngest child at all. Yet the rest of the family somehow found a way to make it her fault. It was probably their way of coping with the senselessness of what was happening to them.
Their scapegoat was only 6YO, and she couldn’t have fought back against the blame that got heaped on her. She was a safe place to put their psychological garbage, their difficult-to-deal-with anger and grief, because she was too young to do anything but accept it.
No wonder they never talked about what actually happened, because the truth would destroy the warped story that they concocted to make themselves feel better. And no one would then want to admit how unfair it was that they blamed this child her whole life for things that weren’t her fault.
And no wonder that poor little kid is estranged from the rest of them now. That’s what happens when the helpless baby finally starts fighting back against the injustice of what has been heaped on her.
All that shit, years and years of tiny little things said and done, or not said and done. Hugs not given. Phone calls not made. Letters unanswered. Outreach ignored. Happiness for another’s accomplishments eclipsed and snuffed out by jealousy. Criticisms made, trust betrayed, snide remarks, bullshit apologies or none at all, excuses made for the fucked-up behavior of everyone else but me and Dad — we two who never, ever get defended.
Love not given.
Acceptance in the family withheld, always out of reach. Just being born wasn’t enough –in fact, being born was my original sin, and keeping me out of the family is probably my well-earned punishment for that.
It all comes back in one big wave of shit, sparked by one unforgiveable-because-still-unapologized-for incident (which conveniently allows people to easily invalidate it all, and me, by saying, “Geez, is she STILL upset about that?”)
And you get this blog to go with this fucked-up family, these broken relationships. That’s the only part I’m responsible for. If they hadn’t done what they did, and failed to do what they failed to do, I wouldn’t have anything to write about.
The rest of these things are entirely the result of other people dumping 40 years’ worth of pain, trauma, and emotional garbage on someone else, instead of working through their own shit like responsible adults. And now it’s come back home to roost.
It’s a shame for them that their target grew up to be wise enough and strong enough to figure out everyone’s bullshit. And I know it won’t truly change anything with my siblings, but I’ll be damned if I don’t fight back somehow, and put all this shit right squarely back where it belongs.
They have admitted that they were angry. They never asked themselves what they did with that anger. They transferred it to me and never, ever looked back. It is a high, stinking pile now, but that’s what happens when you don’t go back and clean up after yourself.
I know my writing won’t change my siblings, but it is changing me, and healing me, and that’s worth doing.