(Note: Papabear received this letter before Christmas and replied to in private before writing the full article you see below. This letter is dedicated to those of you who may not have had the most pleasant of family experiences during the holidays. Family life can be tough, but if you believe in yourself and don't let others beat you down, you can surmount the pettiness and hurt. Remember, too, that a family is not just about blood relations. You can find or create your own family! And you can find and create your own happiness, as well. Bear hugs to all of you.)
I guess I should start off by apologizing for being such a boomerang, I honestly have no one I can turn to. And it’s just so nice to have one place where I know I will be listened too. Sorry to waste your time again. I'm not sure what the correct way to ask this is, but how do you know when to “give up” on your family and hopes of having a decent relationship with them?
I have had this problem for years. For as long as I can remember, I've had to struggle to “earn” a place within my own family. I just don't fit in. Even back when I was a child, I always felt like the outsider. When I tried to take part in family activities, they always made me feel like I was the extra, unwanted third wheel. And I don't know why, but things had been this way since I was a child.
I remember that I started to notice this around 6. I wish—from the bottom of my heart—I wish I knew what I did that was so wrong, so horrible that I was forever cut out of the family. I've been trying. I've fought for years to try and fix whatever it is that I've done, but it’s never enough. I've never done a good enough job, I'm never enough.
I just can't take it anymore, from 6 to 26 this struggle has gone on. I've given this 20 years of my life and I can't give anymore. I'm tired, so very tired, and I'm in very bad health. I have an auto-immune condition, and it just makes life harder. I'm sick and tired and I don't want to fight anymore.
I given my mother everything: my time, my energy, my money, and of course my love, with nothing to show for it. I know she’s had a difficult life and I’m sorry she had, but there’s nothing I can do about it. I am unfairly blamed for the difficulties she is currently having. I can’t do it anymore. How much more do I have to take before she realizes that I can’t be held accountable for what she does? OR what happens to her? I have no power in this life. I try my best to always help her, but when it doesn’t work out, I’m the one at fault.
My brothers have followed the same path, as well,. My oldest brother acts like I'm this hideous creature that should have been locked away and kept as some dark family secret. I know that I'm not perfect and I've made mistakes in my life. I know that having a physically disabled sister is probably deeply embarrassing, but I can't change what is wrong with me. He was always considered the “pretty” one in the family, and I'm sure it’s awkward to have such an unattractive sister, but until I can afford plastic surgery, there is nothing I can do.
My middle brother blames everything bad in his life on me. He dropped out of school because my mom was going to various doctors with me. She didn't believe I was sick and she didn't believe me when I told her what the doctors said, so she would come with me to get it straight from the horse’s mouth, as it were. He got a large sum of money from our father and is convinced I stole it, which I have not.
My youngest brother (and I'm sorry to say he is the only one I truly hate) just seems to exist to make my life more difficult. He is constantly making up lies for no reason at all! He told my mother I beat him and went after him with a knife, which I never did. HE also told her that I leave the house at odd hours and go places with strange men in cars, none of which is true. He’s constantly hounding me for the sake of it, made up these insane lies about my cats, and now I have to give them up because of him. He not only makes up these insane lies, but he has a fondness for trying to hurt them. I fear for their safety, and as devastated as I am about that, I have no choice. My mother refused to believe me and that he is lying. It’s like everything he says is gospel.
Now he’s on this kick where he has a childish tantrum every time I sit in the living and try to watch television. He used to have these tantrums every time I sat on the couch. It got so bad that I went out and bought myself a chair for the living room because I'm not going to sit on the floor. He's not a little kid; he's 17 years old and doesn't have any kind of mental or physical problem. He just likes making me as miserable as possible.
And the kicker is I’m constantly having fights with my mother because I spend so much time in my room. Where the hell am I suppose to go if he freaks out every time I sit in the living room? Is it wrong for me to just give up and walk away? I mean, it certainly seems like that’s what everyone wants. I really don’t want to cut them out of my life. It's a messed up thing to have to do. I really don't want to do this, but I've tried going to therapy and it didn't help. She denies everything and acts like the victim and has made it very clear she isn’t going to alter her behavior at all.
So what choice to I have? I'm tired of being hurt. I'm tired of wondering why I'm not good enough. I'm tired of wondering if I should just end it all. I just want to be happy, and I honestly don't think I can do that without cutting them out of my life, maybe not forever but at least for a long while. Sorry to write again and sorry that this is probably really long and probably hard to read. I was crying a lot when I typed this and I try to always write in proper English, I'm sure I messed up somewhere.
Thank you and Merry Christmas,
Galileo (age 26)
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I remember you writing a few months ago (http://www.askpapabear.com/letters/she-feels-rejected-because-of-her-disability-and-her-appearance) but you hadn't gone into such detail as you do here about your family.
If I could give you a big hug now, I sure would. I cannot excuse or adequately say why your family is like this to you, but they are not acting like family, in my opinion. Real family--and that is not necessarily blood relatives--love and support you no matter what. They don't treat you like this.
Psychologists and counselors call what is happening to you “scapegoating.” Scapegoating occurs in seriously dysfunctional families. There are a number of scenarios as to why this occurs, but in your particular case, I would say the key person here is your mother. She has “problems,” as you say, and probably low self-esteem. She is frustrated and angry with life, and to alleviate herself of the stress this causes, she has targeted you for the blame. The reason it’s you, frankly, is because you are seen as the weak family member and, therefore, an easy target who cannot or will not defend herself.
What happens next, as you have seen, is that your siblings pick up on your mother’s behavior, which indicates to them that they have her tacit approval to pick on you, too (especially the brother who is the “golden child” who can do no wrong). They become bullies, which makes them feel better about themselves because, hey, at least whatever things they are having problems with are way better than what their sister is suffering. You are, in short, a punching bag.
There is a very good article about this by Lynne Namka, Ed.D., at this website: http://www.angriesout.com/grown19.htm. Please read it.
If it helps, you officially have Papabear’s permission and approval to tell your family to take a hike. You are not to blame for any of this, so please do not blame yourself. A real, healthy family would love and cherish you without question. You, sadly, are living in a very unhealthy family.
You are 26. Would you be able to make it on your own or with some friends? If so, then that wouldn't be a bad idea at all. It would be a great idea, in fact. You need to get out of this bad environment. If I were in your position, I would do whatever I could to get out of it. And I would also do some reading on scapegoating (Namka provides some resources) and work on rebuilding my self-esteem.
This doesn't mean you have to cut out your family completely. You can always leave the door open on your way out, and if they choose to actually be family to you again someday, let them back in. For now, you need some distance. You need time away to repair the emotional scars they have carved into your heart.
I'm so sorry you're going through this. You don't deserve it. No human being does.
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