My family means everything to me. My family means not much to me anymore. And yet they mean everything to me. I love them and I hate them. But I love them more. Without them I’d not know what to do. But sometimes I don’t know what to do with them either.
Can you tell that family is a complicated matter for me?
Part of it is that my family history is really messed up. I was born to a mother who was too young and too troubled to want me or know what to do with me. On some days I hate her for preferring booze over me any time. On other days I miss her. Terribly. Or what she could have been. I guess that is what I miss the most.
I don’t know my father. At least not my biological father. My mother got married to a way older guy just before she had me, and he was not a good person. He was abusive and hurt her and hurt me, but she was addicted to him. The worst times at home were when he was out of town on jobs, when all my mother would do was clean the house, drink and find fault with me so she could lash out. Once he got home again my mother was a lot better. Despite his violent nature, she felt safe with him, I think. It sounds a bit weird but I am really nobody to comment on other people’s weirdness. Not even my mother’s. Which does not keep me from doing so when I’m angry, of course.
Anyway, I don’t have any siblings, so whatever they did they focused on me. My mother with blaming me and my step-father with abusing me. I have no recollection of a time when I was not in some way involved in sexual stuff with him, so I figure it must have started really early. The sexual abuse was also the reason why I got taken away from my family by child protective services just after I turned fifteen. I have no idea who instigated it and what exact reason for, but one day I went to school and never returned back home. Just like that.
My mother surrendered her custody rights thereafter. From one moment to the next I had gone from being part of a family, no matter how dysfunctional, to being nobody’s business anymore. Okay, the state’s business, but that doesn’t count, because the state is not a person.
Long story short, I spent the following years in and out of children’s homes, psychiatric hospitals and several government run group homes. Sometimes I shacked up with acquaintances. I was using and did a lot of shit to get by somehow. On my way I gathered more psychiatric diagnoses than I can remember. Maybe I should have made notes.
My life turned around when a social worker was looking for volunteers for a pilot study on family care for the psychiatric population. Having nothing to lose, I volunteered and was partnered with a family who took part in the project.
Another long story short, what was just another family became my family. They are good people and while crazy in their own ways, they are – on the whole – pretty functional. Life with them was a whole other challenge at first, but we grew together and somehow I ended up loving them. I became theirs and they mine. Needing people to belong to, a family, really knows no age limit.
Maybe one reason why they can bear with me is that my mom is a psychiatrist. She used to work with people like me and she’s able to understand my struggles. She’s willing to struggle along with me, even. Small miracle, but on most days I can actually believe that she’s being genuine and not just faking it for some weird reason. Anyway, she and dad have three grown kids, kind of my siblings now, two sisters and a brother. They’re all doing pretty awesome themselves, away from home at university.
So they are my family now. They adopted me. We share a last name now. I am theirs and they mine, but at the same time I am still my first mother’s daughter – even when she did not want me anymore.
As a result I feel like family is one of the more challenging things in my life. I’m like the odd puzzle piece that happens to fit reasonably well with a different puzzle than it originally belonged to. But I am also still tied to my first family and the long time I spent on my own, all of that being my emotional luggage that I trail behind like a bag of stones. So whenever I think family, my thinking is very conflicted.
My family now is what keeps me going, what gives me hope and helps me recover and thrive. But my family now is also what reminds me of my family past and what triggers me into hate and anger and despair at times. I love them and hate them and love them at the same time and hope that they can continue to take it. Even when I push them away.
They are the most precious thing in my life. I’m thankful that I found them. I wish everyone that they find their family, too, no matter how old they are. Everyone needs a family. Just remember that they are not always the people you grew up with.