When I think about the family, I get a very dark, foreboding feeling. I am not the most intuitive person. So this might be big.
My brother Bob has a diagnosis of cirrhosis. He is already starting to have hepatic dementia. When you start to have symptoms, that means it is “decompensated” cirrhosis. The liver isn’t doing much of anything. The median life expectancy for such persons is 2 years. Median is not average. Outliers mess up averages. Median means half live longer and half live shorter than that.
Bob comes into Michigan and looks at our oldest brother Dave and says, “Bro, you don’t look good. That ain’t fat. Your liver has stopped working.” Bob is referring to Dave’s distended abdomen. The technical term is “ascites.” The liver is no longer filtering abdominal fluid and so it accumulates. It is a very late-stage manifestation of cirrhosis. Bob has stopped drinking and looks astonishingly fit, better than I have ever seen him look. Dave is finally out of denial and says that he may as well continue to drink because it is too late. When someone who is terminally ill tells you that you don’t look good, that can have an impact.
Then you have Ma’s behavior. She demanded an apology from me this past week. She needs to correct her behavior now. This minute.
As my brothers continue to die from alcoholism, they will be hospitalized at various points. And Ma will want me to go with her to visit them. Not. Gonna. Happen. Not unless she starts treating me a whole lot better than she has of late. Theoretically, Dad could go with her, but he has limited sympathy for my party-animal asshole brothers. They made their choices and it is time to pay the piper. Actions have consequences.
Worse than all of this is the fact that, in a few years, Dave and Bob will likely be dead. I will be her only living child at that point. She will want a relationship with me. I will have a list of non-negotiable demands that she will have to fulfill before I even contemplate having a relationship with her. Even then, the answer will probably be no. Right now, abandoning her the way she has abandoned me is extremely appealing. Sounds like fun, even. This is why I might not be the best choice to go on a hospital run with her.
Ma is angry and only looking at how hurt and angry she is right now. She is stranded in the “eternal now” and has no concept of the future. That is part of what makes her so painfully immature. She is lashing out at me. What she does not comprehend is that her behavior today has an impact on my behavior in the future. The best indication of future behavior is relevant past behavior. That is a Dr. Phil-istic truth.
Linear time is real. All learning and growth occur in linear time: past, present, and future. Trauma and extreme youth trap people in the eternal now. Babies have no past and do not possess the neurological hardware to conceptualize a future. Action, time lag…and consequence are how the real world work. The “eternal now” is New Agey-garbage that prevents learning and growth. If everything is fresh and new, you are not likely to realize that the situation you are in is exactly like the previous 285 situations you have been in. You somehow keep putting yourself in the same stupid situation and keep getting the exact same stupid result. This is the kind of stuff that has conservative Christians rightfully laughing their asses off at those “stupid New Agers.” I say this as an ex-Christian.
Maybe it was Einstein that said that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. We all do it. I believe all humans make mistakes, but if you continue to make the same ones, people will start to distance themselves from you. Why? Because, for some reason, you are not learning. Did your momma drink while she was pregnant with you? People start seriously looking for an explanation of why the old brain cells just don’t seem to be firing.
If Ma wants to lash out at me, she does so at the expense of me ever wanting a relationship with her again. Period.
Given my family’s lack of communication, my gut feeling of doom has no immediate factual basis. My knowledge is limited. I just have the feeling that this is going to be one cold, dark, gloomy winter, regardless of the weather.
Today, in the mail, I got a postcard from my mother. She was offended that I sent a thank you note to her for the birthday check she gave me and signed it, “Love, Cindy.” She thought it should say, “Oops. Sorry. Cindy.” That’s right: she seriously expected an apology from me for saying the things I said to her.
You see, on August 28th, two days before my birthday, we went out to eat at a restaurant for a “birthday brunch” for me. She was going on and on and on and on about my oldest brother’s drinking himself to death and how awful it was. Something inside me snapped and I went off on her. I told her that she almost killed me in the accident and that, when I asked for a ride home from the hospital (after spending six hours in the ER she landed me in), I was told by Dad to call a cab. I was furious. A lifetime of frustration came out.
She wants an apology. She will die before she gets one from me. Seriously. Not. Going. To. Happen. EVER.
In response, I sent her and Dad their Christmas card with an explanatory note. I also sent a Texas Roadhouse gift card worth $50, but lost the receipt. That is the perfect metaphor. I pay full price and have no acknowledgment for it. The explanatory note explicated how concerned she is about my brothers killing themselves with booze, but Cindy can find her own way home from the hospital they landed her in, apparently.
I told her I do love her, but an apology will never occur. I don’t hate my parents, but their priorities have always been clear. I am not a priority and any pretense of such ended this past summer. Dad calls me “his favorite daughter,” but I can find my own ride home from the hospital. I wonder who his “favorite daughter” really is, because his complete lack of concern raises the question of her identity. It is clearly not me. Their pretense of caring about me has ended. The mask is off. Nothing they can ever say can change anything they have actually done. Their actions scream louder than any words.
She is lashing out and wants me to apologize for my “inappropriate” (in her delusional mind, I am sure) behavior in telling her my true feelings. She is hurt and wants me to restore the relationship, at the expense of any shred of self-respect of mine, of course.
Problem? The relationship is not worth restoring. She is not worth my time and energy. A relationship where I am seriously expected to apologize for their bad behavior is worthless to me. Better off without it.
I believe that my family truly wants me back. I have a role to play in that family: Scapegoat.
Getting that note from my mom today demanding an apology from me was a total affirmation that walking away from the family was the best choice I have ever made in my entire life. Best. Choice. Ever.
I am trying to feel “normal”, whatever that means.
When I feel fear or that “fight-or-flight” mode, I do relaxation exercises….Then I fall asleep.
I need some energy to function. This re-regulation of my nervous system is going to be work.
I remember, many years ago, when I realized that the purpose of jiggling my leg was to keep myself awake. It was so subconscious.
I am working at minimizing the toxic shame I have always dealt with. How anyone with a Master’s degree can have so little self-esteem on a regular basis is a testimony to my dysfunctional upbringing.
This is why I am dealing primarily with the feelings and not assuming that anything external can make a difference. Nibbling around the edges has accomplished nothing. I still kept wanting to end myself. So I am dealing directly with my neurology.
Nothing else is worth doing.
I am trying to have compassion on myself “no matter what”, as Cheri Huber would say. Easier said than done.
From Pete Walker’s Complex PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving: “Perfectionism also provides a sense of meaning and direction for the powerless and unsupported child.” (p. 177) “Toxic shame is the emotional matrix of the abandon depression. It is also the glue that keeps us stuck helplessly in flashbacks.” (p. 175) This book is recommended by the Crappy Childhood Fairy, who shows you how to re-regulate your nervous system, for those of us that feel triggered by pretty much everything.
Yesterday, I lost an envelope with $200 in it. This is a human error. I am trying not to beat myself up for this. Simple mistake, right during holiday season. Trying not to hate myself.
Perfectionism and shame are nothing but our inner critic run amok, while trying to eke out some miniscule amount of control from our lives. To say they don’t succeed is beyond obvious. Like so many childhood coping mechanisms, they are toxic in adult lives and will destroy your emotional competence.