As horrible as my parents may sound at this juncture, I think it is only fair that I point out that I was by no means an angel. I was anti-social, sarcastically blunt, and just as emotionally distant as my father, which it turns out is the fuel that fed his wrath; my father and I are cut from the same acerbic cloth. A point that should have been self-evident when my siblings dubbed me “Rexella,” the inglorious, feminine diminutive to the Tyrant King.
Life with me could not have been easy for anyone in my family, I was told this often enough and perhaps I should have paid it more heed or maybe I had paid it too much. I smirked constantly, my feeble attempt at a smile (INTJ’s will understand this). My parents claimed they valued honesty above all else and yet, I was cited with brutal verbal assault and intentional cruelty when voicing my views on…anything. I was remorseless and cold because I apparently never cried, not when I got into trouble nor when bad things happened. I cried, just in private.
The truth is, I was under a great deal of pressure and not knowing there was a family history of mental illness, I chalked it up to typical teenage angst and with all the radical changes happening in our family I was spiraling dangerously out of control and everyone was clueless (myself included). To me, life and my parents, were unfair. No matter what I did, or didn’t do, no matter how hard I tried, I simply wasn’t good enough.
My brother, got along well with everyone, out of the three of us, he came the closest to having a perfect parent-child relationship. He was (still is) the Golden Child; otherworldly and ethereal, exuding love and joy despite the fact that he has had his own (physical) burdens to bear. He spent the majority of his childhood in and out of hospitals since birth.
My sister, being very much like my mother, had a strong bond with her, and a so-so one with our father although they were capable of conversations that didn’t end in war. My father and I didn’t have conversations, I was either spoken to (preached at), yelled at or we exchanged a couple of blunt, monosyllabic grunts at each other and quickly moved in opposite directions.
My mother, micro-managed literally everything…from what, when and how much I ate, which, according to her, was always too much; to what I should wear, how I should talk, walk, sit, smile, or who I should be friends with and what extra-curricular activities I should pursue. She was like an overzealous stage mom with a child that has no talent; overcompensating and smothering.
She had also assumed the role of mediator to the two tyrants long before I had left the fold and it was made official; explaining my father’s displeasure in me and to my father the fact that I had been informed as to what I had done wrong and how I could rectify it. Translated it went something like this:
“Sweetie, your father and I are worried sick about you. You have no friends, you work all the time. He is angry because he is worried that people will think he is a bad father, I told him he has nothing to worry about but you know how he is. I think it would be really helpful if you could go out to dinner with us on Sunday night. Let’s go get pizza, doesn’t that sound fun? It does; Right? They have a salad bar there. Sit up straight dear; and smile, you always look so cross. You will never get a boyfriend looking like that. Just the other day, your father mentioned to me that he was worried that we were never going to get you married off, which reminds me I should invite that nice O******H family, from church, to join us Sunday night, they have a boy about your age…. Oh yes… pizza, it’s a great idea, that’s what we will do. You’ll see, it will be great. Your father loves you, and so do I, but we wish you would listen a bit more. You could be more like you sister and brother. You’ll try, Right?”
…to my father in my presence: “We talked dear, and she understands.”
I was never privy to any of the in-depth conversations between my parents concerning my behavior, they were held in private but I highly doubt that my father’s issues with me had anything to do with what mom and I discussed. These were my mother’s concerns and hers alone. I thought marriage was an outdated, defunct institution that should be done away with, right along with politics, organized religion and the educational and healthcare systems.
Long before I extricated myself from my family hell, I had so firmly detached from my emotions that I had become numb. I wasn’t sleeping much, and I had started cutting myself, mostly upper thighs and forearms, places that were almost always covered or had a valid excuse for sporting a cut. The reason for cutting is a peculiar one.
I had reached a point of disturbing emotional upheaval, couldn’t process it, couldn’t escape it, and so I shut down, hence the numb feeling. That numbness, is terribly frightening and so you do things, like self-mutilation, in order to feel…again. Cutting allowed me to feel pain (physical) and when it started to get to an emotional pain response I would panic and shut it all down again. It is a vicious cycle and the cycle has as much to do with control as it does pain and to a stable person it makes absolutely no sense what so ever. When feeling like the world is out of your control, control what you can…delusional logic.
I never had any “me” time, I was either at work, or at home (school being there now) and mom was always running the show at home, which was chaotic for me. The only down time I had was at night after everyone was in bed. I would wait until the house was quiet and I would sneak into my closet and cry, or cut myself and sometimes both. Things that I had enjoyed were no longer allowed. My mother had taken a part-time job at the restaurant I worked at to help ends meet; my home life infiltrating my work life.
I was paying for my private (homeschool) tuition and half of each sibling’s tuition. I was paying for gas, maintenance and insurance on the car that grandpa had loaned me (he had used mine as a farm vehicle before I got my license and it was in bad shape by the time I got it…still drove it for a year). I was helping with the cost of clothes, shoes, school books, supplies and groceries too. I even gave mom money for their trips out to eat, even though I was either working or grounded and therefore seldom able to attend. I didn’t mind that. I did mind that everyone else had something that lessened the crap that was going on.
I had work and school and I no longer had college to look forward to. My brother was entirely too young at this point to have a job and although my sister was old enough (towards the end) she didn’t have her drivers license and therefore was exempt from work. She helped mom in the house but so did I and my sister was usually at a friends house, where she was rebelling by egging the police department and getting caught with boys and I was getting blamed for it. My sister was making out with boyfriends in our living room and yet I was the family jezebel.
My father was starting to talk about me paying rent for my room and the food I ate, which angered me and looking back I am not sure that he even realized that I was already helping out with groceries or funding their dinners out as a family.
My mom joined the anti-abortion coalition at church and we opened our home to an unwed pregnant teen. I now got the added bonus of watching a complete stranger fill the place I should have had in our family unit. I watched my family fawn, and smile over this girl while I received ten-point sermons on the evils of fornication and threats of rental agreements.
I was angry, hurt; I hated life and everyone in it and if God existed, he was going to wish he had never created me. I wasn’t a stable person and I was to find out later that this was my bipolar point of origin and the beginning of several episodes that would change my life forever.
Photo: Passages, Laxmi Niwas Palace, Bikaner, Rajasthan, India taken with Nikon DSLR5300 by Pamela