I have been thinking today that my family was very ill. I think about things that might be memories, and I realize if they are true my dad was very, very weird. Diagnosibly weird, like had delusions. I realize that actually I have protected myself from knowing things about my family for so long that it is actually quite difficult to tell if what I am sure happened was all that happened.
What I mean is if my dad behaved in near-psychotic ways from time to time, I wouldn’t know. There are these quite gaping holes in the autobiography I created for myself as I was growing up.
It’s scary to think this, because of course no one else can corroborate for me what did or didn’t happen. Did my dad really insist on family sex nights? Yeah, I think he might have, but there is no way to actually know, and if it didn’t happen, then I am as delusional as I think he was. I feel a lot of shame about what I think might have happened.
My new take on this is shame is there to let me know I understand this was wrong. It isn’t what dads are supposed to do. So, from that point, what I try to do with the shame is just take it for what it is. Yep, what happened was wrong, and my family was very, very sick and it might be that some people would judge me for the sickness of my family.
What I don’t do is engage in a debate about this, because there is nothing to debate. Instead of thinking my emotions are about facts, I think now they are about perceptions and different people have different perceptions. It’s good to consider those perceptions—if I didn’t think anyone would hold that perception or that a particular person would have that perception, I think about that. But basically I think our minds run away with us, because we have disconnected from our felt emotions, and we are left to focus on this evidence of the emotion instead, which are the thoughts.
Debating about it kept me mired in fighting with my feelings. When I thought it important to not feel shame because what happened to me wasn’t my fault, then I engaged with this struggle with myself to stop feeling even harder. It wasn’t productive. It’s more productive to take note of the shame, essentially just thank it, and move on with life.
The unsettling thing about this is that I do something of the opposite with C. I tell her all the time that she is good, and that she isn’t bad. I don’t know what this does to her. It feels like she needs a part of herself that has internalized my view of her: that she is loveable, imperfect, but loveable. But it might just feel like one more thing that is not acceptable about herself, which is how it felt to me.
Anyway, what happens from there in my head and heart are that I feel more open. I feel sad, but like it was safe to be sad and that I could reach out, at least within myself. That seems positive.
I have been reading some things about schizophrenia, just thinking about my dad and what his life might have been like when he was a child. No ability to trust, is what he makes me think. I don’t know that it did anything, but I ended up veered over into DID stuff.
I watched something, and I thought, “That’s my mom.”
Well, I don’t know if it really was exactly DID, but it seems like it was: the extremes in personality and in mood have that quality to them, trauma-based and very confusing for a child. One of the thoughts I have had recently is that I relate more to the idea of being “stolen” than being abandoned. I mean, being in the US and separated from C makes me feel stolen, or that she has been stolen. It made me think my feeling about my mother is that she was stolen, which is how switching might feel to a child. It might feel an alter had come and stolen the mom you could relate to and who felt safe.
Connected to that, I have been thinking that actually I do have her as a continuous object in my mind. I did attach to her. The problem is she is almost an unbearable object to have in my mind. The perspective about myself I get from her is: I hate you, you are the cause of all my problems, you are malignantly evil and dangerous. And yet this thought about her trauma symptoms and the way they played out with me is that she didn’t hate me all the time. She hated me when she felt rejected or ashamed. But it was almost like that was more extreme, so that must be the truth. This very shaming voice inside me, that’s my mom when she felt distressed and threatened.
It also made me think of this need to check on the object, and a lack of trust that the object will remain there: if her reactivity made her seem like different people to me, it would make sense to internalize that as a need. Everyone has that need to some extent, I think, but this seems to still align together in some way. There is stuff from my dad that fits in with that too, but they are older sensibilities. I wasn’t witnessing murders when I was two, but I was witnessing my mother’s breakdowns.
I think this is really the story I needed to hear from myself: my parents were very, very ill, and it made me sad growing up. Sad and angry. I was sad and angry that I could never have a happy, care-free childhood, that I could never trust anyone to take care of me or even necessarily to function as adults. I felt ashamed of my family, because in the 70s and 80s when I was a child, there was so much stigma around mental illness. My dad was doing seriously fucked up things, my mom was crazy and it wasn’t necessarily that I was at fault, but that I was a part of this very bad thing. It hurt in so many ways.