I wasn’t the first to be cut out of the family. It seems to be a theme in my lineage. My eldest brother was honored with the title of outcast over ten years ago. It may be longer or shorter for all my memory serves. It has been long enough that his presence is a distant memory of weekend visits; during which he would bring my little niece to stay with her grandparents.
I thought of her as my baby. I was only 22 when she was born and she represented the baby that I couldn’t keep and was terrified to reveal its termination. I always thought I would be a mother. I dreamed about it all my life. As a kid I wanted six, two more than my parents. As I got older I revamped my wish list to four and then finally to twins. My grandmother was a twin so I was sure I would have a pair of my own.
As years passed I told myself that the reason I had no children was due to not meeting the right guy or not having enough money. Today I realize, after much research showed me, that it is not uncommon for adults who suffered verbal, physical and sexual abuse during childhood to have a hard time believing that they could protect their own offspring from the demons that are hidden in our DNA.
As I dug deeper into my quest to understand CPTSD and family trauma, I found that there are two forks in the road to take. One group represents those like me who are terrified of the responsibility and the second group of those who are adamant that they will prove to do it better. This group tends to put unrealistic expectations onto their children; to be a shining example of how much better they were than their parents. My parents fit the second group.
When I got pregnant I was too young to be a mother and chronically single, not to mention I had one more year of college to finish and big dreams of being a huge movie star. I felt the energy the moment the egg became an entity. It was a weird but awesome sensation of an alien being implanted into my body. I was pleasantly comforted at the thought of my womb participating in the quintessential thing that made me woman.
The joy faded quickly when I knew I couldn’t survive the shame and disappointment on my dad’s face along with the inability to admit that I disagreed with my mother’s theory that only the men in the family were aloud to have sex before marriage. So I happily kept my secret safe while playing dress up with the baby girl that would mark all the important moment that “would have been” in my own life. I felt like god was rewarding me for not bringing a life into this world that I would not have been able to care for.
Those seemed to be the good ole days. The ones when I was the hero for showing up for the family to babysit, cook, clean and do it all with a smile. An audition for my own life, praying for them to anoint me fit to belong to the real world. My eldest brother had gotten the part of hero for doing the impossible. He had a promising career in the music industry, a glamorous wife and a perfect child. I don’t think, just like me, he ever could have predicted the tremendous fall from grace he was about to endure.
I was kicked out of the family much much later and find it ironic that I partook the very same character bashing that I thought was so justified at the time. I snickered and sneered in gleeful comradeship around every holiday table while staring at the empty seat he once possessed. Nodding in tentative agreement each time he reached out with flowers and cards each mother’s day and father’s day as the lady of the house spoke a convincing and dramatic dissertation on how wronged she was by an ungrateful misfit. I can’t exactly remember what he did to cause such venom. I do know that I was just glad to be a part of the group, led by the people who I looked up to the most.
I suppose they would have many conniving stories about how awful I am and how I betrayed the family by thinking that I did not deserve to have my dad, who had never laid a hand on me before, to grab me and knock me to the ground with no remorse. I mean I must have done something to provoke it. Maybe what I was wearing, but I will never really know what I actually did. I have to assume he just snapped and blocked it out of his executive function.
During that time, only a few years back right before covid, I was actually feeling quite accomplished and good about myself. I had gotten myself a place to live and successfully navigated balancing multiple jobs, creative pursuits and had a solid following showing up to an open mic that I hosted monthly. Not everything was perfect, I had some challenges letting go of a significant relationship and gotten myself into a few bad business deals, but I was learning how to set boundaries, appreciate myself and keep moving forward. I even found the courage to stand up for myself in a court case that I won but took a toll on my social life. The point was I found my voice and decided to no longer be a doormat while maintaining honesty and integrity.
I stood alone in most of my convictions but for the first time in my life I was honoring myself and teaching people how to treat me. Then it got very ugly and like all ugliness I fell into a dark hole that I never thought I would get myself out of. I took it out on some very good friends who thankfully have been able to understand and forgive me. A grace that has helped me to forgive my abusers willingly. I was naive to the concept of narcissistic abuse and the retaliation that happens once you expose the secrets that leak poison into the household. I was raised to believe that the truth may hurt but it sets you free. I was also raised to believe that parents say what they mean and mean what they say. Like I said I was naive. I opened my mouth and got shot in the foot. Things don’t turn out like the ending of a movie.
The road to forgiveness has been long and hard but ultimately I finally understood that they can’t do it any better. The need to protect the ego is a fierce battle that can’t be broken unless constant digging is undertaken. My life karma set me off at an early age to undercover the reasons why my grandparents showed very little loving care and regard for the emotions of the little ducklings they brought into the world. Self-actualization was a quest for me and I assumed everybody did the same. A happy loving family was my life goal that I was determined to win. I did not know their were forces stronger than me that was programmed into the cell memory.
It is quite common for adults who are raised by un-recovered parents who where raised by alcoholics and care givers with mental illness to deny that they have anything to heal. The bones carry patterns from generations long dead and often it goes under the radar and only becomes exposed when challenges arise. That challenge showed up when my second eldest brother was recently diagnosed with stage 4 prostrate cancer. When I was a little girl I watched a lot of after school specials and hallmark movies. In those stories when tragedy happens the entire family goes through an emotional rollar coaster that in the end it brings them closer together. They realize how precious life is and how important it is to love each other. I always thought I had one of those families.
I wore rose colored glasses and in fact when friends, elders and professionals would point out the unresolved issues that caused my depression and eventual suicidal idealization, I was defensive and deflective. There was no way because we were ‘different’. The difference ended up being the text book gaslighting into a hypnotic trance that taught me to never question authority even if what they do is inhumane. What does trauma have to do with a roof over the head, food on the table and fun vacations.
It was a great childhood, which is why I also couldn’t quite understand why silly things like sexual violation at 7 and 12, hair pulling, bullying and rage would over shadow all the good times. I authentically did not get it. I felt it was my fault and eventually believed I deserved to be a nothing. The holographic nature of my romantic relationships only pointed to something being wrong, but still I couldn’t bring myself to say that they missed the mark. I was the ultimate hypocrite. Judging others and their stunted attachment to this one and that one and how in the world can they “not” kick em to the curb… snap snap. Humble be the eyes of the lord and the heart of the fool.
As I sit here and mourn the theoretical death of my family, I am also grieving being left out of the preparation of the possible death of my second eldest brother. The brother who is my twin. The famous one. The one whose sister I am and not the name I was given. Not an age twin but a face twin. The one who could never bare to look at me without disgust and a sarcastic put down. The one who shunned my boyfriends as an act of brotherly love and left me out of his circle for my own good. The one who lashed out the hardest at me when I revealed what my father had done to me. He saw himself as protector of the family and that job included, first making sure the eldest couldn’t come back into the fold, and next that I would never see my nephews again. I guess he made my folks proud for defending their name.
Misguided it may be, I am glad that after suffering the worse trauma from my mother’s rage and my father’s neglect, that he has come to a place where he can draw pride from honoring their name. I’m not sure quite what to feel. As my abuser I am numb to his suffering, after all I was isolated and sick and vitally suicidal for a year while the world was in shutdown. Nobody knew or cared if I was dead or alive. Days would go by without even one phone call. Paranoia took over and made worse by false friends appearing real and real friends appearing false. A tunnel of darkness sealed in my world with my only solace being writing and the babbling brook outside my door.
I want him to be well. The revenge I used to play out in my head has faded and I pray to god to know that it was just anger in my heart and not intention. I want him to heal, not because he is a good person but because I witnessed how he got there. I know his pain and I know why he blames me for my mothers constant comparisons of us as children. He was the rotten egg and I was the one who could do no wrong. I seemed to get everything and he seemed to get nothing. He wasn’t supposed to amount to anything as the foul mouthed pain in the neck that you can’t take anywhere. I was just scared enough to be the good one. The docile one. The sweetheart who keeps her mouth shut and the floors clean. The cosmic joke is that while the black sheep thinks the golden child is blessed with a never ending flow of love; the truth is we suffer the same. My pedestal only lasted as long as my parents could manipulate the one acting up into submission. My suffering was just as real but with a better outfit.
As an adult I had thought; just like the movies, and moreover what the gurus and yogis say; the truth with set you free no matter how painful. I lived by that code that honest emotions make relationships stronger when there is a will to see it through to resolution. I didn’t know that the opposite party had the right to not participate. I got that memo a bit late. Not everyone wants to heal and not everyone can forgive real or perceived wrongs. That is a truth rarely emphasized and seldom prepared for. So as enemy number one, I am in a panic contemplating the idea that if he dies what would unfold of me going to the funeral. It would be unreasonable to not consider it, even though the denial gene in me would gladly bow out. Thinking about my beautiful nephews and knowing what they would have to face would be too gut wrenching to skip it all together. I need his eternal spirit to know how much I care even if I have to face the gossip and glares to accomplish this. Luckily my eldest brother, already an outcast, will be there and I can now take the chair next to him. The one that me and my family would never go near and would point and jeer at from across the room. Maybe it isn’t tragedy that brings us closer together, but coming together as common misfits left alone in the cracked corners of the family.