Thursday, March 10, 2011

A Family Affair

This is something that most child abuse survivors can relate to: a crazy, messed up family.  It's been on my mind off and on throughout my healing journey that being "screwed up" seems to be a family affair.  But I guess it's these types of environments that create the proper breeding ground for abuse and dissociation.

Both of my mother's parents were/are dependent on drugs and/or alcohol.  At this point my maternal grandmother has disappeared and no one in my immediate family has heard from her years, so I'm not sure what her standing is with substance dependence.  During my childhood I remember seeing her drunk off her gourd, throwing pill after pill down her throat.  She eventually went to rehab, which seemed to actually do some good.  My maternal grandfather manages to get drunk at every family occasion, falling over or tumbling down stairs, acting like an idiot, the whole deal.  For this reason, I refuse to touch alcohol or drugs of any kind.  I don't want to risk it.

In my extended family, there are several children with severe problems.  Three siblings were severely neglected, one had all their baby teeth rot out of their head, a baby had raw skin in its fat folds from being neglected and never cleaned and he had fetal alcohol syndrome.  They told social services that their parents put cigarettes out on their bodies and hit them and that there was no food in the house, but they were not removed.  The oldest girl (about 5-6 at the time) showed many signs of sexual abuse.

These kids' father's father (confusing I know) was convicted of sexual assault and was accused by one of his daughters of sexually abusing his children, but it was not taken to court.  I was exposed to the three siblings mentioned earlier's father and father's father throughout my childhood on a regular basis.  I don't know if I was abused by them (my memories are hidden from me by dissociation/alters), but it wouldn't surprise me in the least.

Another child in my extended family was put into therapeutic foster care and threatened to kill her family, held knives to their throats, the whole deal, when she was only 8-9 years old.  She also shows signs of sexual abuse and reactive attachment disorder.

My brother has had experiences where he lost time, which were chucked up to unexplained seizures despite the fact that no medical cause was ever found.  My mom frequently jokes about her "other personality" having done or said something.  I'm not sure whether or not this is just a joke or if she's hinting at her own truth (I suspect the later).

Anyway, I could go on and on, but my point is...living in a messed up, screwed up family is challenging and it's something that many child abuse survivor's face.  Having no "safe" family members is extremely stressful and the perfect breeding ground for dissociation.  Families like mine also show the importance of breaking the cycle of abuse.

I guess it makes me sad to not have the normal family experience that other people have.  Even abuse aside, it would have been nice to have a kindly grandmother or have my grandfather teach me to fish or go camping.  Instead, I lived in fear of everyone in my family and spent most of my childhood isolating myself for my own safety.  Sometimes I feel really alone in this even though I know many other abuse survivors feel this way too.

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