Finally chased away the migraine that has been harassing me for the last few days so I thought I’d tackle the post about my family. It was obviously on my mind last night because I had a really terrible nightmare about writing about my family online. I get a lot of nightmares, it goes with having PTSD, and they usually have one of three themes – I’m either being chased and can’t escape (or similar things such as I can fly but can’t get back down to the ground), something bad is happening to people I care about, or I am being abused by people in my life and loved ones are joining in. All three come back to one underlying theme – me or someone I love being hurt and being helpless and not able to stop it.
Sometimes my nightmares don’t bother me too much, other times I wake up and feel so terrified that I struggle to breathe. Waking up from that dream last night was definitely one of those terror times. In my dream, my parents had read my blog and were angry and abusing me for writing about them and somehow had managed to turn John against me as punishment for writing about how they’ve treated me and the three of them and others were hurling verbal abuse and threats at me. It felt like I’d never wake up from this dream. But I did finally wake up. Usually most of my dreams fade away within minutes of me waking up, even the nightmares, but this one has stuck with me throughout the day. Thankfully the details of the dream are fading, but the feeling of fear is hard to shake off.
The truth is, my parents would verbally and emotionally abuse me if they knew I was daring to share about them online but for me, I need to as part of my healing journey so I will share and hope that they never read what I write. The thing is, I love them, and will probably be kinder than most people would ever be if they’d gone through what I’ve been through, but it can be hard for people to hear negative things about themselves when it is true. I know John would never listen to my parents over me, and he also knows I’ve told him every last detail of all the struggles in my life, even the mistakes I’ve made and where I have done the wrong thing, and he would never abuse me, but I think my nightmare comes from my experience with Andrew (my first husband).
When I first started dating Andrew, he saw how my parents treated me and despised them and would go out of his way to defend me. My parents hated me dating (and later marrying) Andrew and did everything they could to come between us to break us up. That only succeeding in making Andrew hate them more and pushed him closer to me. Eventually though my parents (my mother in particular) realised that antagonising Andrew only made us closer, and eventually my mother started doing the opposite. She would be really nice to him, when he was abusive towards me, she’d take his side, she’d convince him that I didn’t really care about him, and the more she was nice to him and fed into his paranoid delusions about me, the more she drove a wedge between us.
Ultimately I chose to end the marriage with him after he beat Sammie and refused to get treatment for his mental illness, drug use and violence, but I know Andrew, and I know if my parents had encouraged him to get help instead of encouraged him to treat me badly, things never would have got that bad with him. I wouldn’t change things – I adore John and if I was still married to Andrew, I wouldn’t have John or Rose – but I feel sorry for Andrew with the life he now lives and it’s not fair on Sammie how Andrew has treated her.
Funny thing is, when I was preparing this post, I didn’t even think about these things. It was supposed to be an introduction to my extended family and was pretty positive, but I guess the nightmare sucked some of the positivity, but not all of it. So here goes with the intro to my family:
I’ll start with my in laws. Unlike most people, I think my in laws are fantastic and I adore them. They’ve welcomed Sammie and I into their lives from the day John introduced us to them and they all adore Rose. John comes from a big family 5 siblings plus a few spouses, I think a dozen each of aunts and uncles plus heaps and heaps of cousins as well as his parents and his grandmothers. All of them are so friendly. We only get to see the extended in laws a few times during the Christmas holidays which is a real shame because I love being around them. I get to see my parents in law and siblings in law a little more often – we visit them in the middle of the year when I take Sammie and Rose to visit them and my family for the school holidays.
John’s family are quiet, intelligent and care about people. I’ve often wondered how my life would have been if I had parents like John’s parents. His dad is very much like mine but without my dad’s bad temper. And my mother in law is just awesome. I think I’ve mentioned her a few times. She’s visited twice this year and each time she’s been amazing, helping cook and clean and looking after Rose.
Then there is my family. I have one surviving grandparent, my mum’s mum. On my mum’s side I have my aunt and uncle and four cousins roughly my age, their spouses and lots of little second cousins for my girls. Unfortunately I don’t get to see a lot of them as they live in a different state, but I get to see them once, maybe twice a year. Sometimes we get to stay with them when passing through where they live which is always a great way to catch up with them. Sometimes I feel awkward around my mum’s family though because they all seem to have their lives so together. It seems the health problems in my mum’s family are only passed on through the female side. I wish I could be more like my cousins.
On my dad’s side I have my uncle, my aunt and four younger cousins. I’m lucky that I usually get to see most of them when we visit Brisbane twice a year. My aunt and uncle are no longer married sadly. I’m actually not sure what to write about it because I know family and friends who may read this blog one day know them and it’s not my story to tell, but I will share how it’s impacted on me. I know it’s impacted my aunt and cousins a lot more, but I would never try to guess their thoughts on it, and it’s their story to share. How it’s impacted on me is I feel let down. I didn’t have a lot of real life people I looked up into when I was young. I’m not into celebrities or sports players etc. I looked up to a lot of fictional characters but they are…. fictional.
When it came to real live human beings, the people I looked up to weren’t ones who were lucky enough to have money or sporting talent, rather the people I looked up to were the ones that seemed to have good character. So some of the older people in my church (mostly my grandparents age), a leader at a girls group who was like a second mum to me, and people like my aunt and uncle. I still look up to my aunt – more than ever actually. As a single mum of four kids, she does it very tough, but she still cares so much about others, caring about everyone she meets and tries to make a difference in the world. Which is why I feel so let down by my uncle. When I was a kid, I used to want to grow up and marry a man like him – he seemed smart, funny and most of all seemed to treat women and dating and marriage with respect. But he turned out to not be the man I thought he was and after my experience with my own first husband, I simple have no respect for people who cheat on their spouse and break up their family. It’s not fair on the poor spouse and it’s not fair on the poor kids either.
I hope family reading this don’t mind me sharing this much. Please let me know if it’s too person for me to share.
I haven’t talked about my cousins yet, and I was going to describe them as being pretty cool kids, but then I have to remember the oldest two aren’t really kids anymore. Anyway, they are all cool cousins to have. I wish I could see them more, but I am thankful we live in an age of social media where we can share on things like facebook and youtube etc.
Then of course there is my “family of origin”. I’ve already introduced my siblings – “Jessie”, “BLB” and “LLB”. I love my siblings to bits. Of course we have our disagreements – BLB drive me nuts with his view on politics. Its funny how our religious beliefs can be so similar but our political beliefs can be polar opposites in a lot of ways. Jessie drives me nuts by cancelling plans at the last minute and LLB? Well I just feel distant from him. Actually I feel the odd one out of all my siblings. I got married young, when my siblings were just kids themselves. I’ve always felt like the pseudo mother to them rather than a sister, their protector rather than one of them. I feel like the only one of my siblings who have ever truly stood up to my parents. My brothers do at times, but have never truly broken free like I have.
There is so much I’ll probably end up writing about my siblings one day, but I’ll just start with that. I think all of my siblings have been through a lot in life and are good people. I’d love to see BLB married and have kids – I love babies and ones you can give back when you’re exhausted are always good. And with Jessie and LLB, I’d love to see them finish their studies, get good jobs, get on top of their health problems, move out of home, meet nice partners, have their own families, but I think for now I’d just like to see them get on top of their health problems first. I worry a lot about them. They’ve been through a lot, some things the same as me, some things different, but none easy. The big sister in me wants to protect them still even though they are grown up. I worry because even though we are a lot alike, I feel like we have one difference and that is that I have an extra stubbornness that they don’t. Being stubborn can be both a good thing and a bad thing. But when it comes to dealing with depression and anxiety, I think stubbornness is a necessity.
I know they may read this one day, and I hope they understand. I wouldn’t want them to have to develop a hard, determined side to cope. Because that determined side comes from a gaping emotional wound that I wouldn’t wish on anyone. It is the wound of not ever having someone to protect you, no one to truly trust in times of need. Of course, now I do have someone – John is an amazing person who I know loves me and would do anything to protect me. But up until the last few years, I haven’t had that. It was until I reached my 30s that I’ve had someone I could truly depend on other than myself.
Don’t get me wrong – I have some fantastic friends. My best friend Shelley, is always there for me but a friend isn’t the same as family or a partner. I also have some other great friends too who I will talk about in time probably, but again, it’s still not the same as family or a partner. I also find with friends, even the super close ones, I can never fully open up to them because I don’t want to be a burden on them.
Families and partners can either do so much damage or so much healing. Thankfully in John I have found so much healing. And it means a lot that his family have all welcomed me with open arms even though they know I’m a broken person and that John deserves so much better.
Two people I have left out is my parents. I was going to share about them tonight, but I’ve been writing this post for several hours now and I believe this is my longest post yet. Things with my parents are very complicated. They haven’t always been there for me and haven’t always treated me the best, but I think they love me as best they know how. I’ve long forgiven them for everything they’ve done and I love them but am happy to love them in a different state and just see them a few times a year. They were really good recently, coming for Rose’s dedication and looking after while I was at work for two days. It just can be hurtful though when they go out of their way at times to say they are only helping out for the kids’ sake and not to help me. Or to say that since I got married (the first time), I am no longer part of “the family”.
But that is a post for another time. I love them and appreciate them when they help, but it can be hard dealing with the hurtful comments and all the conditions that help usually comes with. And sadly they will never see anything wrong with how they’ve mistreated me at times. Hence the nightmare I had last night. They would be angry to know I have said anything less than praising the perfect parenting they feel they have done.
So anyway, that is my family.