Ok, I’ve been working on understanding my life, how I got to be the way I am, and what I can do to overcome my issues. The following is part of an ongoing practice of letter writing, writing letters to people in the family, giving myself the chance, the right, to say everything to my mother father and brother, that I may never actually say in person. Some will say this is TMI, “To Much Information.” I understand this, so if you’d rather, then feel free to not read the rest of this post. Some of what I write here I’ve known for some time, some of it is fairly new revelations. It is all as accurate as I can make it. I am not looking for excuses, I am not looking for pity. I’m just getting this stuff off my chest.
How I became the bad guy.
Our family was dysfunctional, although I’m not quite sure what is a “functional” family. We lived together because we were family but the relationships between the family members were not healthy. That is because the people in my family were not healthy, emotionally or otherwise.
The problems with our family dynamics were taking its toll as I attempted to develop from child to adult. Not only was I having difficulties with being depressed and socially isolated, I was also having a difficult time reacting to these issues in a positive way. Like they say, abnormal behavior in an abnormal situation is completely normal. But my family, especially my mother, did not see it that way. Instead, she labeled my odd behavior, like attempting suicide, as a threat to her and the family. On returning home from the Grand Canyon where I failed at committing suicide, she asked, “Why are you doing this to us?” “Us” meaning her and my father. I didn’t say anything. I didn’t have an answer because her assumption that my suicide attempts were directed at them was erroneous. I was looking for a way to end my emotional pain. But really, I didn’t have an answer to that question because I did not have the language necessary to describe what was really going on in my head. Even if I knew exactly why I was behaving this way, my vocabulary lacked the words to properly express it. Conversations about how people really felt never took place in our family. Actually, there was an unspoken rule that such things were never to be discussed. This was mothers rule. It is an incredible understatement to say that my mother had emotional baggage.
One of the things my mother has never been able to discuss is her unhappiness with her marriage to my father. Though she never talked about it, all the signs were there. This all became clear to me when I went to stay with my parents for a couple weeks after my wife and I decided to divorce. My mother asked me, ‘what is it like to get divorced?” It wasn’t just the words, but also the way she asked the question, I could tell that she had spent a good deal of time considering it for herself.
Mom didn’t have a job after marrying dad, his one income paid for everything the family needed. It really was a different economy back then. Besides, working outside the home really wasn’t anything a married woman did. Mom carried with her many of the common social taboos of the times. But I also think my mother liked being a “kept woman,” so to speak. She scoffed at women’s liberation. She was a status quo kinda girl. So, it didn’t take long for her to become dependent on my father for everything.
As mom grew in her unhappiness with dad, I was having my own problems. Since mom couldn’t bring herself to admit her unhappiness with dad, I became her whipping boy/scapegoat. As mom had problems with dad, and yet could not bring herself to deal with dad, she took her frustrations out on me. This method was all the more convenient for her because my problems were an easy, believable target to project onto.
There was something else at play here in the family dynamic that I learned about when I was sent to a shrink for a year after I had an emotional breakdown in high school. I really didn’t get much out of those sessions, except mom had a competition issue. She really needed to be the center of attention in all things. Whenever something of importance happened in the family, she felt the need to draw the attention to herself, even when it really had nothing to do with her. She always found a way to be the one to announce things, and to receive the attention. Regardless of who in the family had done something, she made sure she was the one telling other people, and that other people were responding to her for it. Even things like my attempting suicide, she saw as competition for attention.
For her self centeredness and inability to properly deal with her own unhappiness, someone needed to be her fall guy, and I was it.