I had decided last year that I wanted to write about my personal history, and stay true to my experience while respecting the nuances. I feel like I did a good job in my initial attempt to explain the circumstances, but there’s always something that you can’t convey completely. Especially when the subject is so personal. And sometimes truths are uncomfortable for others to hear.
While there has been a lot of blame and anger involved in what happened when I was a child, I have always tried to avoid it myself. I’m not saying my attempts were successful- I am a human being. But to be completely honest, I have always felt that both sides failed me when it came to what was the important issue. I have also felt that people don’t recognize what the important issue actually was.
The child stuck in the middle.
Yesterday while watching some mindless entertainment, I heard someone say something completely profound: Children live the consequences of their parents’ decisions.
It’s more than possible that I have heard this statement before in many different variations, considering how many years of therapy I’ve been in, but for some reason it really hit me in that moment. And it got me thinking. The decisions the adults in my life made while I was small have had long lasting affects on every aspect of my life, even decades after I officially became an adult.
There was a clear and obvious feud between my parents and grandparents. The grievances have been hashed and rehashed multiple times, by both sides, in my presence, for most of my life. In my opinion, arguments and biases clouded people’s clear thinking, even before my kidnapping. So when the matter became about resolving these issues and forming relationships, I no longer actually had any real involvement in how the adults in my life felt about me before, or after my own kidnapping. I feel that they moved passed my disappearance in the aftermath of it all, and the issue itself morphed into something I had no part of.
My abduction happened because two very loving, overly biased people believed that they were saving me from a fate worse than death. They truly, honestly believed I was being hurt. They truly honestly believed the best course of action was to destroy everyone’s lives, including mine, and take off with me in an effort to save me from abuse and cruelty. Unfortunately, delusions are a thing. And while I love them and miss them both, my life was hard, and unfair, and wrong. I know that I will be disappointing a lot of people with that statement, but it’s true. They put a lot of pressure and guilt on me that I did not deserve. And in the end, they died believing they did what they had to. I’m still working through my life with them. I’m sure my therapist appreciates all the Christmas present money I’ve given him this past year.
I’m ok with people thinking it’s weird that I can still love them, even though they were basically crazy control freaks. I’m not ok with people shifting their guilt on to me, though.
I was a child.
After my disappearance, my parents had new partners and more children to raise. So they needed to find a way to still live, and cope, and parent, while dealing with the trauma of not knowing where their first child was. After a decade and a half I completely understand that you would need to separate the traumatized part of yourself from the functional part of yourself to keep your family going. To keep your job. To pay your bills. Life doesn’t stop because something cruel happened to you. And in a way, that in itself is a trauma that forces you to live without mercy. I could never judge someone for learning to live with a gaping wound.
And while I was growing up, amassing my own menagerie of unhealthy coping mechanisms, all I ever thought was that when I went back to these hurting human beings, they would just accept me and everything would be normal. It never occurred to me that the adults in my life would be just as flawed as me. That was my naive mistake, which I regret. It was unfair to all of us.
I’m the last person to accuse my parents of being emotionally mature. I’m pretty sure they meant it when they said they wanted me to come back, but in the end the same old feelings took over and once I hit that state line they suddenly realized they had no freaking idea what to do with me. And the decade and a half of avoiding the subject defaulted them into just avoiding me, altogether. Which undermined the help I truly needed to make a better situation for myself here. I don’t even think they realize it, even now.
They began to act as if I was optional, and I became desperate, and then disillusioned. I had dreams and goals I wanted to share with them as a family, but the more I pushed, the more they avoided me, or outright rejected me. Criticism was harsh, and after a while, I stopped hurting myself by forcing myself to be around them. My siblings, while having their own issues with them, were not treated like an option and I keenly felt the difference. I finally chose to let them come to me, and it has resulted in a ritual that has lasted for over a decade. No one speaks to me unless they need me to do a task, or it’s an obligatory holiday.
I was homeless for the span of two years, still working and desperately trying to find a place to live in an unfamiliar city where I had no friends. I lived on $7 a month to feed myself, after bills. Coworkers, and sometimes customers, would buy me food out of pity. I had to ask people if I could borrow their showers, as I had nowhere to practice basic hygiene. When I finally found a place to live, it was infested with roaches, and they would crawl on me while I tried to sleep at night. Through this all I never received one call or message asking me if I was all right, if I had eaten, if I had a place to sleep at night.
Living like this resulted in a major depression that resulted in two suicide attempts. I don’t know if my parents really know about that. My husband told me that he once mentioned it to my dad, but it hasn’t really done anything to change the way he treats me. As much as they may dislike each other, my parents behavior towards me is pretty similar.
After my brain condition diagnoses I had some small hope that they would wake up and realize that they were wasting time, and it would spur them to become involved in my life. Especially after I was told I needed surgery. My poor husband had to spend hours listening to my dad talk about himself while I almost died in surgery, and my mom didn’t even text me to see if I had survived. I was in the hospital for five days with no one going to see me, and I made a pact with my husband that if I was still going to have to be the one to make the effort while recovering from brain surgery, that by the time my doctor cleared me from recovery, I was going to start distancing myself.
My surgery was October 19th. My dad showed up on the day, which was nice, but only stuck around for a few minutes after I woke up and never came back. I had a 13 week recovery, which would cover three holidays, three birthdays, and end right before my own birthday. My husband got the occasional message from my dad, but it was mostly radio silence from anyone not an in-law. No one asked if we had enough food to eat, if I had been able to get my meds, if I was getting to my doctor’s appointments, what the doctors said. No one came to visit me to see if I was all right. I would spend the day all alone, waiting for my husband to come home from work to have someone to talk to, while being in terrible pain. I wasn’t supposed to be alone, so my mother in law thankfully helped me when I needed to move around to go to the bathroom, or I needed help. But I couldn’t even dress myself. I couldn’t put on my own shoes. Moving my head was completely impossible for months, and the times I would forget and try were horrifically painful for me. In this condition I decided to show up to Thanksgiving dinner to see if anyone reacted.
I honestly wish I hadn’t done that to myself. The experience doesn’t bear reliving. We didn’t go back for Christmas. Since then I mainly practice radio silence of my own because there’s no point in chasing the love of people that have done their best to prove to you that they don’t care if you are alive.
Now at almost 36, I look back on my long and ridiculously overdramatic life and I see the chain of events that led me to where I am. I wonder what my life would have been like if someone would have reached out a hand after I transplanted myself here, instead of having to face the massive struggle I did. There was a second chance to patch things up when I was literally dying, but no one seemed to really care. There have been so many times I have wanted to pick up the phone and try to talk to them about this, but what’s the point? Believe people when they show you who they are. I’m not sure what they thought they were proving, but it certainly wasn’t that they were better parents than my grandparents were. And that’s saying a lot.
I am a strange and sad product of the decisions made by the adults in my life. One half kept me a useless child until they died, and the other half couldn’t see past their own problems long enough to treat me like I wasn’t optional. So I viewed myself as useless and unworthy of any kind of respect. Even my own respect. And it took me almost dying to realize I am not who they see when they look at me. They see two dead people they cant fight anymore. So they fight me instead. But I never learned how to fight back. I only ever learned how to be silent. It’s the only weapon I have.
And I am so tired of being silent.
Self Portrait 2018