Siblings

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Short post today. I’m focusing on the family time.

It’s been so nice being with all my siblings. I didn’t think about it all that much before but I really enjoy having a lot of siblings. It’s the first and last time we’ll all be together for a long time. Everyone is going off in all different directions come Spring. We’ve been talking about a lot and filling in some gaps and missing pieces about our childhoods.

One thing I have found helpful about having many siblings is that they can corroborate your memories. It is important to me that I am always telling the truth about what my childhood was. And having siblings to talk to is a great way to be sure that I am not imagining things, as I have sometimes been told I was. It isn’t that I don’t trust what I remember, it’s just good to have more than one person agreeing that certain things did or did not happen.

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It’s funny how much my brother and me are alike. After talking a lot, my sister-in-law told me that I’m the female version of my brother. It makes me sad because for years he and I did not get along well, yet we were both going through pretty much the exact same things. We were standing around talking Wednesday evening and my youngest brother was surprised that he also struggles with many of the same issues. He kept shaking his head, “yep, that too. yep, that too.” It’s not a happy thing, but at least we all have a way to really relate to each other over all of the ridiculousness. It’s a built in support system.

It’s been a very nice Thanksgiving this year. Everything was relaxed and low-key. No uncomfortable silences. No awkward conversations. Excellent food. Great company. It hasn’t been like that in a long time. Actually I don’t remember a time when it was ever like that.

My brother got a new IT job that he’s always wanted. My sister is leaving for medical school in April. My other brother is joining the Navy in the Nuclear Engineering Program. I am so proud of them all. It’s great to see that even with all of the severe dysfunction in our family and the issues that we still deal with on a daily basis, we are still doing great things.

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One of my uncle’s that I haven’t seen for about 5 years told me that I look so young and that I have a baby face. He said, “I was expecting you to look old.” I guess that’s a nice compliment. It’s just fun having family around that I haven’t seen in a while and actually get along with. It’s also nice to come back, visit with some people that I actually want to see, and then leave again. It’s pretty much stress free and that’s my kind of holiday.

A Story of Mental Illness Part 3: Changing Seasons

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As I was driving to work yesterday I noticed that all the leaves have fallen or been blown off the trees. I think I dislike this very short-lived time of year the most because everything looks so ugly and bleak. Once the snow comes, everything is white and beautiful again. But those bare trees look so sad. They even look like they could be crying. Of course I think everything I see and hear right now seems like it’s going to cry because that’s all I want to do.

For whatever reason this year seems to be harder than last year. I am stuck again. I’m in that dark hole again. Maybe not as deep as before but I’m still screaming and no one seems to hear me. Do you know how frustrating it is to feel like you are getting better and that there is some kind of end in sight and then have it all come crashing back in on you? Do you know what it’s like to feel as if there is some impending doom ahead but you have no idea what it is or why it’s coming or when it will be over?

Sometimes I feel like my life has been perpetually in that state of ugly, sad, bare trees. It’s as if every once in a while the sun comes out and warms things up and the buds start to grow and then… some nasty storm comes crashing in and kills everything. And I am back to the bare trees again. So much has changed for me in the past six months and I am grateful for the growth. But I really wish life didn’t have to go and punch me in the face again when I was just starting to heal. I don’t think I am a very resilient person. I’m not sure how much more of this I can take.

I’ve had the chance to experience something that is rare and beautiful. Something that just makes sense without really knowing why. But it’s like the universe is saying, “look, this is what you could have, isn’t it nice? Hahaha… sorry but no, you can’t have it.” Maybe it isn’t meant to be. I love to write, but maybe I need my depression and anxiety for material. That’s not a nice thought. I don’t particularly enjoy telling people about it. But at the same time I think it’s necessary.

What is the point though in doing anything in life if you don’t have someone to do it with. Someone that makes you better. Someone whose presence in your life makes you feel like you could do anything. I think most people deserve to have that. Not everyone gets it. Although it is completely opposite of who I am-I am not optimistic-I suppose I should try to wait for the good to come back. It could come back. Honestly it’s the first actual real good thing to come into my life so maybe it really will come back. All of the good things that have happened recently are because of one person who kind of turned on a light bulb inside my head.

But I don’t understand why something good comes into your life and then gets taken away just when you feel like you can breath again. I’ve been running in the open, fresh air and gaining speed and strength and then something comes along and knocks the wind right out of me and I can’t even move anymore. I truly think that this really good thing came into my life at exactly the time I needed it to. It’s changed my world. But right now I don’t know what to do. I hope that this is just a really, really big bump in the road. I hate feeling helpless.

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I’d like to think that there is something for me, but maybe I need to learn patience. Or maybe I need to learn to just sit in the sadness and the grief because it won’t last forever and it’s what has been dealt to me right now. That is one part of yoga that I appreciate very much but also struggle with so much. That being still. Being in the moment you are in right now. Accepting that maybe in order to have the really good things, you have to experience the awful things too.

I think at some point I will have experienced enough pain and sadness that the good just won’t be able to do anything but come to me. It has to, right? I believe that bad and good things happen for everyone. I’m not certain that there is any kind of method to the madness. People who do everything right still get screwed over. And people who do terrible things and are terrible people still get good things that they don’t seem to deserve. But I kind of think that there still has to be some balance at some point.

Part Two

Part One 

Afraid of Hell

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One of my earliest memories is being absolutely terrified of burning in hell. I was 4 years old the first time I “got saved.” I folded my little baby hands and bowed my little baby head and prayed with terror in my heart that God wouldn’t send me to this frightening place called hell. I don’t understand why parents would want to terrify their child about hell. If they do believe in hell, it’s something that should be discussed at an older age. Even then it’s still terrifying. But terrifying little children is wrong.

I distinctly remember reading those Chick Tracts at a very young age. Those things are scary. They are not appropriate reading material for children. I wouldn’t even read them as an adult as some of them are quite disturbing. I do not like horror. And those tracts are horrifying.

I never really thought through it before (you know, being a robot and all) but I don’t understand the whole concept of hell. As a child, it was just terrifying so I never really seriously considered what hell is. It doesn’t seem to fit with who fundamentalists claim God is. I am inclined to think it is just a fear tactic to control people and/or force them into behaving the way fundamentalists think they should behave.

My question is why would the Almighty God create earth and man and then say, “see that beautiful tree over there… you can look at it all day long and admire its beautiful fruit but you aren’t allowed to eat it. If you do eat it I am going to send you to a burning pit of fire and brimstone that I created for you for an eternity of torment. Unless of course you believe in me and that I love you so much that some day in the far, far distant future I am going to die for you to pay for your sin of eating of that beautiful tree I told you not to eat of. Oh also, if you eat of that tree you will be responsible for birthing the sin nature of every single human being who comes after you. Ok? Got that? I created you because I felt like it and I created hell so I could send you there if you don’t believe in me. Can’t you see how much I love you? Aren’t I such a loving, caring and sacrificial God?”

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The God that I grew up knowing was scary. I very much imagined him as my mother or father ready to spank me for some infraction like not taking a nap. It sounds to me as if he is just playing some cruel game with his creation. I have heard it said that God is omniscient. So if God knows everything than he knew that the creation he was going to create would sin and that he would send them to hell for it. What’s the point then of creating it if not to play a cruel game to prove how powerful he is? Or so he can demand their love, obedience, faith, and loyalty just because he created them? I picture God sitting on his throne laughing at the fact that he created something, knew they were going to sin, and then forces his “love” on them and sends them to hell for not believing.

I have heard so many times that “God gave us free will.” But I don’t think that’s true. Yes, we are free to choose. But our “free will” allows us two options: believe in God and repent of our evil deeds which God knew we would do or be eternally tormented. He knew. He knew it all and yet he still created us and sends us to hell. That’s a conditional kind of love, if you can even call it love. It’s the kind that forces someone to love and believe in you and then punish them if they don’t believe. He just wanted to have a little fun. He wanted to play with his humans and then send them to hell for not believing in him. I know what some people will say. They say that God is a just God and he has to punish sin because he is sinless. Except no. He didn’t have to even create the earth or humans and as such sin wouldn’t exist.

My constant fear for a good 25 years has been the wrath that would be poured on me if I had one misstep in my life (things such as not attending church every Sunday and Wednesday or not tithing) My mother has done some awful things to me and yet I used to get in trouble for the stupidest things like being “rebellious” because I didn’t wear my hair a certain way.

That is what I lived with every day. On the rare occasion that my dad would give me a little more freedom to do something I wanted, the ensuing hours-long argument between my parents wasn’t even worth it. I became more and more withdrawn because I could not do anything right and I was sick and tired of hearing them argue about what I should and shouldn’t be allowed to wear, see, do, etc. I was certain that if I couldn’t even keep my bra strap from accidentally showing I must be doing a lot of other horrible things that I was going to go to hell for. So I got saved. Again. And again, and again, and again.

I think I was always confused about hell because my life was hellish. I didn’t understand that if I was going to go to hell some day, why God was also punishing me now for not being a good enough girl. Isn’t hell enough? Do I have to spend my entire life being punished and then also go to hell for not believing in him? Did I get saved enough? Did I believe enough? Did I love him enough?

I am so glad I’m not a robot anymore. I am the happiest I’ve ever been in my life. And it’s not necessarily because certain things are or aren’t happening. It’s because for the first time I feel that, as much as anyone can, I actually have some control over my own life and well-being. I am free. I can choose. And I’m not afraid anymore to do that.

Hurting

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I am pretty angry and hurt right now. Of course it has to be at this time of year. I am sure it is clear from my writing that I am angry, and I don’t have a problem with that. There is nothing wrong with being angry. It isn’t a pleasant emotion, but it isn’t wrong. And good things can come from angry people. My sister-in-law told me to spew away. Some things have come to light in the past few weeks regarding my siblings and I am heartbroken. Things were going on that I never even knew about. I am in pain. They are in pain.

I cry. A lot. Because I feel like I failed them as a sister. Our home was not a pleasant place to be and I tried to protect them and take care of them. But still a lot of things were going on that I apparently wasn’t able to stop. It doesn’t surprise me that I never knew. Because I never told anyone about my problems either and our family did not talk about anything. But it still makes my heart ache that I couldn’t help them somehow. I love them so much.

Another reason I am so angry is that my mother doesn’t understand who her children are or what they have gone and are going through. She thinks my brother is successful because he married a Christian girl and has kids, as if that is the magical formula for a happy life. She has no idea. She has no idea how damaged we are. She says she loves us a lot. And sends gifts. But she has no clue what we deal with every single day and she never asks. Because defending herself and defending homeschooling is more important.

I actually don’t think anyone ever asked any of us if something was wrong. I feel like someone should have noticed. In the past year or two my dad has sat down with us and asked questions and we discussed some things that he did that hurt us. And he apologized with no excuses or reasoning away. There is still more to be discussed with him but he is willing to do that.

I’ve tried to speak to my mother many times about what she has done but she avoids getting into any specifics and tries to use some generalized, insincere apology that I have heard over and over again. “I know I wasn’t the best mother and I am sorry for that. But no one is perfect.” An apology followed by a “but” is not a true apology. Yes, I know that no one is perfect. Everyone knows that. It’s not an excuse. Adults take responsibility for the choices they make that affect other people, especially their own children.

I don’t know how long it will take me to get there, but some day I suppose the pain will stop. Or at least subside. I am thankful that I have a support system that includes my siblings. I think it’s the only way to get through it all.

What are holidays really for anyway?

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I think I used to really like the holiday season. It’s been so long since I truly enjoyed and looked forward to the holidays that I almost can’t remember. There was a year here and there that wasn’t all that pleasant but my real frustration began in college.

We had ONE day off for Thanksgiving. One day. That meant that if you wanted to go home you had to miss classes and if you had already missed a few you would also have to get demerits. So the options were, stay there and eat Thanksgiving dinner in the cafeteria or attempt to get permission to go home (which often didn’t happen) in which case most of your time would be spent waiting at the airport and flying as well as missing classes and getting demerits when you got back. It was just one of the many ways the school held control over where their students were going and what they were doing.

I remember seeing a lot of students with their families down to visit them for Thanksgiving and everyone looked so happy and peaceful and thankful. I just wanted to crawl under the covers of my bed and block out the world. Me and my roommate used to sit crying in our room every year.

After college things were just so bad at home that Thanksgiving was rather unbearable and depressing. Thanksgiving just meant a lot of awkward sitting around with no one really saying anything. I always thought the holidays should be warm, you know. It’s the time of year that is supposed to make you feel connected to the people you love and should include quality time spent together. It wasn’t like that at all. We painfully sat in silence with a random whisper that never led to a conversation and left the tv on all day to numb the pain of not having that warm connection and to fill the space that would otherwise be deafening silence. I always used to think, “Next year. Next year it will be better. Next year I will feel warm and connected and loved.” It hasn’t happened yet.

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Last year I spent the holidays with my brother and sister-in-law and their babies. It was nice and I love them to death but I felt the ever familiar “I don’t fit in here” feeling. It felt as if I was intruding on her family time. She doesn’t think that at all. I am actually very close to my sister-in-law. But I still felt like the odd one out. I don’t like crowds to begin with, but I really do not like spending the holidays with people that I don’t know. It feels forced and uncomfortable and not at all what the holidays should feel like. I don’t think I’ve ever actually felt this way, but I have always wanted to feel that Thanksgiving and Christmas are sacred. Not because of the history that may be attached to these holidays but because it’s a time of giving. I like to give. It’s easy for me. I wish the holidays felt like something precious I want to hold onto, but they don’t. I hope some day that might change.

I also wish that the holidays weren’t so commercialized. The warmth I dream about feeling has absolutely nothing to do with receiving gifts or rushing through the stores cramped with strangers to find something to spend your money on. The warmth I dream about will come from having the people you love the most right next to you. I wish all the stores in the country would close for a few days before and after Thanksgiving and before and after Christmas. That’s how it should be. I always feel so sorry and sad for those people that have to work so people can spend more money instead of being with the people they love.

My heart is walking around outside my chest right now. I can’t wait to get it back. I wish it didn’t have to be like this at the holidays. The holidays are hard. They hurt more than they heal. Maybe 10 or 15 years down the road I’ll have my own family and then the holidays can be sweet and beautiful and sacred.

It seems as if the most heart-wrenching things happen around the holidays. I don’t understand why. It isn’t fair. I sometimes wish I could just skip November and December. It’s supposed to be a happy time. But I mostly just can’t wait for it to be over. This year I have to drive home for 5 1/2 hours by myself. I actually don’t mind road trips. But I hate going alone. There is way too much time to think about how lonely you are when your in the car by yourself for that long. If you’re feeling lonely and you want to feel even more lonely, go on a long road trip by yourself.

 

The Big Questions

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How do you deal with heartbreak?

How do you keep yourself from falling in love with someone? A really good someone?

How do you know if something is good or not? If it will last? If it’s worth waiting and fighting for?

How do you know if and when and why you should let go?

I don’t know if anyone has the answers.

Maybe it’s my curse in life. To be alone.

I’ve always been alone. I’m afraid I may always be alone.

I suppose a lot of writers are people who are alone.

Whatever I did, it must have been deserving of me being forever lonely.

Loneliness is my constant companion.

I’ve had little glimpses though of something that could be wonderful.

Something sweet and beautiful and life-affirming.

And he believes in me. The different one. The amazing one. He believes in me

That’s something.

But it’s always somehow out of my reach.

I’m standing at the bottom of a cliff reaching for the good things at the top.

But I have nothing to help me reach it.

Something is always snatching it away from me. Why?

I’ve heard so many times how “nice” and “good” and “kind” and “thoughtful” I am.

What good has it done?

Am I just supposed to hurt for the rest of my life?

I don’t know what to do.

I don’t want to lose the first truly good thing I’ve ever had.

I think I’ve been cursed with empathy and caring and kindness and love.

Because those things only seem to make me hurt.

If God is real I’m certain he hates me.

 I wish I could stop hurting.

Flashback Fridays

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I thought I’d throw in some flashback Friday’s every week to have something a little more lighthearted!

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Here’s me at 1 year old and my gorgeous little niece at 1 year old. (She’s 4 now)