Soulful Saturday: Family Frenzy

Hihi! How’s it going guys? Today, I want to talk about something very serious- after all, it’s Soulful Saturday! So, with a confident boosting ally, I have decided to talk about something very difficult for me to deal with… My family.

For those of you not in the know, my mother left me when I was about eight years old. Before she left, though, my relationship with my father was kind of rocky. If you look at us now, you’d never believe it- but, I was actually scared of my dad when I was a kid.

Why would I be scared of my father, you might ask? Well, for starters, he yelled a lot. When you have overly sensitive ears, loud people aren’t exactly people you want to be close to. It was 99% of the time towards my mother, as well. And that wasn’t the only thing I heard in their bedroom.

I heard fights. Physical fights. Because I grew up in an age where it was always assumed the woman was in danger of the man, I assumed my father was hurting my mother. Now, my mother did hurt me quite a bit as a child- mentally. She was never really emotionally available, and she neglected me quite a bit. But still, she was the one who was regularly home. My father had to work some hard hours depending on the job he was consulting on. So, the idea that my dad was hitting my mom stuck in my mind and scared me.

Here’s the catch, though. Dad never laid a hand on my mom. It was the opposite way around. My mother was the one attacking my dad. And this was just the first female role model I had that turned out to be messed up in this god forsaken family of mine.

If you read my Thursday post, you know I spent some time living with my grandparents due to my father needing neck surgery. By that time, my mother had been out of my life for a few years- and I’d gotten to actually know my father, and we became fairly close once I realized he wasn’t the scary monster I envisioned. But my grandparents were also pieces of work. My grandfather taught me where dad’s yelling came from. My grandmother yelled a fair bit too, usually at one of the men in the house. Grandma’s idea of boundaries was virtually non-existent. She’d walk in my room without knocking, keep the door open when she was on the toilet, etc. But that’s not why she bothers me.

My grandmother was a social worker. Her office was across from my bedroom- but the important part is she was a social worker, after retiring from nursing for a state-run hospital. She knew all sorts of stuff about medical and mental health issues. Her problem was accepting anyone in our family wasn’t perfectly healthy. Whenever it came up that I had mental health issues, as were diagnosed by my doctors, my grandmother would deny it being possible and say I had bad doctors. In some cases, I did have bad doctors- but it wasn’t because of diagnosing me. That’s not here or there, though.

My grandmother has always had this idea that she’s perfect and everyone around her has to think the same way she does. She’s always been narcissistic, especially in the aspect she treated anything that made me different like it didn’t matter or exist. She didn’t think it anything interesting that I talked to the trees- she just assumed I was lonely, not psychotic. Everything had a way simpler, wrong answer. And that’s just the beginning of my issues with her since she got Alzheimer’s (and refuses to accept it, obviously). But I wanted you to get a glimpse into how I was raised.

Now, to do this right, I need to tell you about a few more people that have come in and out of my life family-wise. My dad’s youngest sister, AKA my youngest aunt, took me in for six months during middle school. It was while my father was in and out of comas from blood ammonia he didn’t know he had to worry about, exacerbated by his new allergy to corn. When it was decided by myself and my aunt we’d go through with the idea of living together for a while, my grandma and aunt both told me they’d take care of talking to my dad about it. Know when he found out? The day of the court hearing to adjust custody so that my aunt could legally be my guardian when I moved in with her in California.

Now, a few things about my aunt: She had an eating disorder when she was young, became a doctor, and had a knack for schedules. Her idea for me was that she’d set me up with a full schedule so that I’d just be a little adult doing all I had to do and that was it. She didn’t understand I was an early teen, who needed attention and time to herself alike. She took my phone away so I couldn’t talk to my dad, who worried like hell because of it. She wanted me fully immersed in my new, busy life. And I appreciate her efforts, and some of it was really fun!

But really, she wasn’t someone who knew how to take care of a mentally ill teenager. The ‘therapist’ she brought me to should’ve been helpful, but instead my aunt turned it into family therapy where she just told the psychiatrist all the things I needed to change and he just told me to do them without listening to me at all.

After I hit my rebellious phase and my aunt realized she had bitten off more than she could chew, I was sent back to New Jersey… and within a couple years of my dad and I moving out of my grandma’s place, things with his older sister got a little out of hand.

In middle school, I’d been in a group for kids with divorced parents. I continued it in High School. I found it really helpful and so, when we were asked people we think it could help, I mentioned my cousin, whose mother was getting divorced just recently. (By the way, the ex-husband is the uncle that sexually harassed me to the point I won’t go to grandma’s if he’s possibly there).

Now, my eldest aunt was someone I admired when I was young. She liked to say she was my second mother, and I was all for it since I saw my cousins, especially the one closest to my age, as siblings. I’d sometimes call him big brother, even! But that divorce was just the start of my aunt going a little crazy.

My aunt and cousin heard about the fact that I, in a confidential group, shared that the divorce was happening. I saw how it affected my cousin, who would come to my room crying and trying to understand the feelings inside- he knew I’d had them once before, so he knew I’d be able to be there for him with understanding. But the moment I mentioned him in that group, my aunt and cousin lost their minds. I don’t know who mentioned to him that I’d recommended it, but clearly confidentiality was blurred. But the chaos with this part of the family doesn’t end there.

One day, still during high school, I was at home having my in-home therapy session for the week. Then, all the sudden, I heard a ton of yelling from our front door. My dad had offered to give her a present of something like 400 bucks for home depot on a gift card- but she demanded, quite strongly, that he give her way more than that. She was broke, or so she claimed (we found out later she’d hit grandma up for way more money just before this!). She wouldn’t leave us alone until dad gave her another card. When she left, I had a panic attack… She was yelling a lot, and it scared me. After that happened, we started to distance ourselves from her- mostly because the moment she and my dad get in the same room now, sparks fly.

I’ve since seen my aunt, but to be honest, I don’t feel comfortable around her even when dad isn’t around. I went to her house earlier this year because, as I found out, my second oldest cousin who’d been living in Israel moved right down the street from my aunt, and their kids often were at my aunt’s house to play. I went there to see my brother-like cousin, who I’d since gotten through the hardships with, and to meet my cute second cousins. My aunt made me nervous, but she was fairly tame. Without my dad there, there was no arguments about the stealing that happened- I didn’t dare to mention it.

I have plenty of other stories about the craziness in my family, but I don’t want to numb your eyes or mind. Perhaps next week, I can continue to tell you these tales of my youth, of my family. If that’d interest you, let me know!

Normally I’d prompt you guys to comment your own stories, but today’s is pretty personal and I don’t want to push anyone on it. So today’s prompt is just what I said before. Should I continue to share about my family? I have plenty more material where this comes from! Well then, until next time!

Throwback Thursday: Extreme Snow-Tubing

Good morning everyone! Today, I’d like to thank my new friend Sophie for inspiring me to write this post. That’s right, you read it in the title: I’m an ‘extreme snow-tuber’. Okay, so I’m not actually into extreme sports… or sports. But today’s post is about one time I basically was in one, according to my teacher.

It was around the time I was in 10th grade- my special needs school took all of us kids to a mountain on a snowy winter day. I can still remember the snow crunching under my boots, and I remember having a friend pull me across an ice patch so I wouldn’t fall, only to lead to him falling.

But honestly, what I remember most about that day is what’s made me decide snow-tubing isn’t for me. And it starts at the very start of your usual snow-tubing adventure: going up the lift.

If you’ve never been snow-tubing, you probably don’t know what the lift is like. Basically, you get in a tube and it’s hooked to the top with something akin to a bungee cord. Well, halfway through my ride on the lift, something unusual happened- my cord came off the powered rope thing that pulls us up. And so, I suddenly went sliding down the lift path, bouncing against all the people behind me in a frenzy.

That wasn’t the end of it, though. Shortly after that, a teacher grabbed hold of my tube and helped pull me up. I was so happy not to be falling down that bumpy path again! But when we got to the top, where we get our tubes taken off the lift, there was a bump… and it made her lose her grip enough that I went tubing out of control like an air hockey puck, bouncing off my classmates like you couldn’t believe.

The third time was the charm. I finally made it up that god forsaken hill, and I was ready to tube. I got in my tube and slid down as gracefully as one can in an inflatable rubber tube. But when I got to the bottom, I realized something.

That wasn’t fun- it was terrifying.

I’d gone snow tubing before, mind you. This wasn’t my first rodeo, but it was my first time going down the lift instead of the hill two times in a row. Or at all. I had plenty of pain in my butt, and decided enough was enough. I turned in my snow-tube, and had the principal helping my shaky body to the lodge.

He returned after he knew I was safely inside, but I wasn’t alone. My teacher was there as well, as if she’d been waiting for me. Having seen the whole thing, and seeing me shaking, I think she knew what was going on in my mind. So, with a smile and a laugh, she told me, “Don’t think of it as a bad thing. Just think of it as extreme snow-tubing.”

And that’s what I do now. I avoid snow tubing, mostly because I can’t afford it, but the memories still haunt me and make me uneasy. Getting back on a snow tube is a lot like getting on my bike since I was hit by that car in 8th grade. It’s terrifying, and it leaves me feeling shaky and stiff, both at the same time. I can’t imagine going down that slope again, and I can’t afford it anyway… But I’m happy to skip it. It’s a memory I laugh at now, but somehow, it’s also a memory I can never get over…

Tell me, friends. Do you have memories like that? The ones where you were hurt so badly it traumatized you almost, but you learned to laugh at it and maybe even fight through? I’d love to hear your thoughts, your stories, and any tips you may have for me to overcome this fear. But most of all, I just like hearing from you guys in general. You’re all wonderful- never forget that.