Family ties: how toxic family relationships really impact your life.

I came from a dysfunctional family, but yet again who didn’t? My parents divorced when I was 5, so I really don’t remember them being together. My parents were polar opposites so I’m still puzzled how they were ever a couple, but that makes sense for most of my adult relationships. My mother was a wild child, rebellious as hell; my father a strict Christian man. As I grew up I saw how their lives split into two very different paths. Life with my mother was chaotic and unstable, we lived with my Grandmother and my disabled Aunt. I remember being evicted from our beautiful apartment as the Marshall’s came in and took all of our belongings, losing all i had in minutes. We slept in front of our building that night as onlookers laughed and gawked. My mother’s demons became clearer as the years went on. My weekends were spent with my father where I had the best clothes, food and peace of mind. His strict Christian ways were nothing in comparison to the hell I was living with my mother so I decided to move full time with him. Testifying against my mother in family court, revealing her not so secret life of addiction to drugs and her abusive ways. This broke her heart and mine. But I felt this was my only way to make something out of my crappy life. I was 12. This is a lot for a child to deal with. When my mother got pregnant with twins, honestly I didn’t even know she was pregnant until we got to the hospital and my grandmother told me “say hello to your baby brother and sister”. Their lives were a lot harder than mine, I had my dad they did not. To this day they don’t know who their father is and that hurt me, it hurt me that I couldn’t shield them once I moved with my father. I never really was a child, i was forced into a parental role at a young age and knew things no kid should know of.

My father and I moved to Florida and lived with his mother, my grandmother in a beautiful community. I had the things I never had as a kid, And yet I was lonely as ever. I was his only child, very guarded and cut off from all of the family I was raised with. I would come to New York in the summer break, have a taste of freedom and bond with my siblings who became like my own children. I sent letters and boxes of things for them as often as I could. Because I moved around so much in my childhood I didnt have many friends, so I was used to being alone. Even as an adult I find comfort in being alone. Because of his religious beliefs I didn’t have your typical high school experience and became resentful to my fathers strictness and lack of emotion. He never spoke to me like a person, instead his connection to me was thru the Bible and church. He never held me when i cried. He always made me feel wrong, not good enough, damned to hell if i didn’t have his beliefs. He never spoke about feelings, or the trauma we had experienced. I felt if I didn’t leave his house I would never know who I really was or what the world was like, because to him nothing was discussed. My senior year I left home and moved back to New York to pursue my dreams and discover myself. I attempted to get close to the family I felt I left behind, but time had put a barrier In our lives. My siblings were forced to live a life of instability and I tried to be there for them, But because the world seemed so new to me I lost myself trying to find myself.

I became a mother at a relatively young age, putting my faith in love with a person I barely knew. I wasn’t taught what love was, that people were deceitful and said only what you wanted to hear. I felt alone and unguided thru life. My mother died of an overdose two months after my son was born, leaving my post partum self in disarray. My siblings displaced once again, dysfunction was all they knew. Because I was in such a toxic relationship myself, with a newborn I couldn’t take them in. I barely could afford having my son. No one gave me anything, I didn’t even have a real baby shower. I felt guilty for not taking them in, something I feel is still held over my head. However, because of their stories of struggle both of my siblings received full scholarships to great colleges and I felt a huge relief for them both. My constant search for acceptance , balance and love became more important to me than anything. I didn’t know what a healthy love was so I found toxic love familiar and comforting. I didn’t know how to be a friend because i never really had one. Years later I found true love with my now husband in a time where I thought it would never happen for me. It felt as though the universe had finally smiled on us all. But just as quickly as I felt that it was taken away, death, loss and heartache followed. Unfortunately life gets in the way sometimes, things are misconstrued because of the lack of communication and relationships fall apart. I tried to have a relationship with my siblings because they were the only real family I had left but it didn’t seem like it was going to happen now. My sister was very much there for me when my son was born, but when she went away from college I guess she held some resentment that I wasn’t able to help her as a mother would. But I wasn’t her mother, I was a new mother myself. I just had my second child and our bills were thru the roof. It’s hard for someone without kids to understand the financial burdens that come with that. I thought that my love for her was obvious thru the years, but somewhere along the lines the fact that she was in a better financial place than me led to our demise. When someone lends you money they resent you in some ways, me being older I was supposed to be in control I was supposed to have it together. But I didn’t. She gave me that money and I lost her in the process. I became a burden. I felt lonelier than ever. How did this happen? I went from having it all to losing it all in a matter of years.

Fast forward to now, my sister is getting married and She didn’t even call me to tell me. I found out thru someone else she was engaged. She sent me an evite to the wedding which in my book means she didn’t really invite me, yet she wants my kids to be a part of the wedding, ouch. She considers her friends her sisters, I asked myself how did we get here? When we finally spoke about it she told me she didn’t appreciate the way i spoke to her thru the years ( granted i have lashed out to her, out of pain in the past, for her absence in my life) and if it would’ve been her who needed help financially she didn’t think i would of helped her. That was such a blow for me, did she even know me?! Not everyone handles struggles the same, some share or overshare every detail of their life. Me i usually struggled in silence. To struggle financially is probably one of the hardest things about adulthood, one that not only causes shame for those who struggle but also strains so many relationships. When you’re raised in an unstable environment you grip to money as a security blanket. To have helped me in a time where i felt i had no one to turn to, was so comforting yet to her it seemed to have been a burden. At this moment I realized that my whole adult life I never spoke to my sister about my life in a way she would of understood. Because I’m not like them they don’t accept me for who I am, or even try to get to really know me. Because I had never been taught how to speak about my feelings in a healthy way. Because most of our lives we had been apart we had no idea how to be there for each other. You see we had such a chaotic childhood that we never received the fundamentals of how to communicate, how to love, how to forgive. People label you as insensitive or blame you for not knowing how to be a friend, yet they don’t realize you were never taught; it’s something you learn over time and it’s not easy. When you’re used to losing loved ones, your attachment to people becomes less, your needing people in your life becomes non existent and your lack of engagement becomes misunderstood.

I’m in therapy now, on anti depressants and have come to a great place of healing. The truth is, no one knows what you go through until they go thru it themselves. We all have trials and tribulations that no one knows about. To this day my father lives in another country and never tells me how he feels or even cares to have a relationship with Me or my kids. I’ve learned to let go and forgive these broken relationships because it serves me no purpose to hold on. My therapist told me that I should be the bigger person and go to my sisters wedding, even though I don’t know if I will. I don’t like being where I’m not wanted. Im someone who’s learned what energies work best for me. So though these relationships aren’t what I would like them to be, They have molded me to become the woman and mother I am today. I give my children the love and understanding I never had. I would never make them feel the way my family has made me feel. And because we walk in different paths, I wont hold it against them for the hurt they’ve caused me. I have finally voiced my feelings about the hurt they’ve caused and for now we are moving on, in our own paths not necessarily on the same frequency. We all have some sort of family dysfunction, we have the choice however on how we let it effect us. You can break the cycle and forgive so you can live the life you’ve always wanted. Because this pain can hold you back, shackled you. Free yourself, because no one can heal you but you.

NYC based Blogger and Podcast Host, Advocate for Empowement and Mental Health Awareness

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