Family Estrangement After Childhood Trauma

My friends from large families never understood why I don’t enjoy family gatherings. I don’t like crowds, even if I know everyone. I don’t see my family often enough to know any of them. This is my extended family, but what about the family I grew up with? I have my parents and two older sisters. I have not spent time with these four people together in over 15 years. That’s the last time I can remember the five of us together. Growing up with childhood trauma can cause one to isolate themselves. My family broke apart and never came back together.

My parents separated when I was starting my teenage years. My sisters and I were happy to see them get away from each other. I never realized at the time how abusive my father was. My oldest sister moved out and moved back in with my mother a couple times. She made her way into the world after some time. My second oldest sister, the middle child, she enlisted in the Army. A good way to get far away from home. I was alone for a couple years before going to college in another city.

I later moved to another state to finish my education and never went back home. I visited a few times, but never moved back. I never wanted to. After a while, I stopped visiting too. I rarely speak to anyone in my family; extended or other. I don’t know any of them well and have no interest in getting to know them. My life has improved without them. Still, my friends don’t understand my aversion towards families and gatherings. Growing up, these were times for arguments and sometimes violence. I have only negative associations with holidays.

I attempted to mend fences with my sisters and parents at different times. There’s some progress but the five of us will never be in the same room together. I’m the only one who hasn’t married and doesn’t have children. I almost don’t want to have a wedding, so I don’t have to invite anyone in my family. My broken family makes me feel I can’t have a family. This isn’t true but I can’t break the feeling sometimes. I struggle with interpersonal relationships. Distrust and pain filled my first experiences connecting with other people. This is something I’m still working on. I want to prove to myself that I can have a family.

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Talking to People is Getting Easier

I often struggle with talking to other people. I hate small talk. I don’t like talking to strangers. Once I get to know someone, I’m willing to talk to them, but not much. It takes a while to feel comfortable with people. If I had the choice, I would only talk to a couple of people. I’m told this is not healthy behavior. Part of it stems from my lack of trust in others. I have a few thoughts when someone approaches me. “Why are they talking to me?” “What do they want?” I immediately assume the worst.

This isn’t so much a lack of trust in all people. I’ve had the misfortune of being around people who wanted to use me as a means to an end. That’s been my experience when dealing with others. I assume everyone is trying to get something from me. I’m still baffled when someone says they enjoy my company. It’s hard for me to believe them. In trying to change this behavior, I started telling myself that it didn’t matter if they used me as long as I got something out of it too. I did feel used, but I enjoyed other’s company while I was used.

It was easier to think this than to feel used. It was a coping mechanism. I had to think of a benefit for myself to avoid the negative thoughts I often had. I fail at this sometimes. The biggest issue was not having someone to confide in or with which to vent. Sometimes that’s all I need to feel better about a situation. If I don’t feel close to someone, I don’t feel comfortable sharing my troubles with them. It’s a hard place to live. I’ve finally found a few people that care about me and want what’s best for me. I’m still not used to this.

I find myself having small pointless conversations with strangers and not feeling uncomfortable. Is this how normal people interact? Is this socializing? I’m never certain. I have yet to find someone that I immediately become friends with. I’m still distant with others until I get to know them. I suspect I always will be this way. My main point is it’s getting easier to talk to people, both strangers and my friends. I’m not sure if I’ll ever become a sociable individual. I’ll keep working on this, but I also like my solitude. I enjoy not talking to others. Will that ever change?

That Time I Almost Went to Disneyland

Growing up, my family never went on any vacations. One year when I was eight, we traveled to Tennessee for a family reunion. I didn’t know anyone on that side of the family and never made friends quickly anyway. I don’t remember any other time we traveled somewhere that didn’t involve moving. We lived in about six or eight different states before I turned six-years-old. We were always moving to a new place. My father worked for interstates as an electrician and we traveled to where he would work. We settled in Oklahoma and stayed for several years.

I thought my childhood was normal. As I got older, I repressed most of my trauma. Any memories I did have, I didn’t think were that bad. I thought everyone lived through things like that. I looked at photos a lot as a child. I’d see pictures of myself as a baby or toddler and never remembered anything from that time. Most people don’t remember being a baby. I saw pictures from before I was born. These were interesting because it was life prehistory. A time before life. More often than not, my family had to tell me who was in the photos.

One photo from the summer of 1986, the year I was born, showed two little girls standing in between their two parents. The mother was pregnant. The photo looked faded and old in the standard four by six size. They were my two older sisters and parents at Disneyland. There were other photos of the girls on various rides like the teacups. The rumor is they no longer have the teacups ride. At the time, the family lived in Southern California and would for another two years. In those first two years of my life, the family never went back to Disneyland.

I went through grade school hearing other kids talk about their time at Disneyland. I would joke and say I’d never been, but I had the food. They’d look at me in confusion. I would explain my mother was pregnant with me when the family went. They would nod and look awkward until the subject changed. I grew older and older sharing this same story. People would become enraged shouting how they didn’t understand how I had never been to the happiest place on Earth. Before now I don’t think I could have comprehended what happy meant.

I have ridden rollercoasters where they take your photo. My picture would show me grimacing. I didn’t think the rides were as exciting as everyone else. The rides which pushed the limits are the only ones I find exciting. The only rides I actually smiled in the photo. I can think of two. No more. As a kid, I don’t think I would have appreciated Disneyland for what it had to offer. I’m not sure if I will now. It’s rare to find someone in their 30s who hasn’t been to Disneyland. The closest I’ve found is someone was 25 or 26 when they first went.

I’m not saying my family stopped going on vacations after I was born because of me, but I am saying my childhood was not great and enjoying things can be difficult. I’m not sure when I’ll finally get to visit this magical place. Part of me wants to and another part cares less and less each year. I think I will go one day and it’s possible I’ll go alone. Just so I can say I did it. But I think the point of a place like that is to enjoy it with people you love. That’s the part I’m still working on.

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The Long Expensive Road to Recovery

I recently had my first appointment with a psychiatrist. I had counseling when I was six and again when I was eight but nothing since. There was a lot of trauma to discuss over nearly 30 years and this was the first session, so I felt I rambled a little too much. I was told this was normal for the intake. I think they got the overall picture but part of me feels like there were things I didn’t get to say. I had to remind myself there will be plenty of other sessions to discuss all the things.

This being the first time I’ve actively sought out help, I’m proud to say I did this on my own. No one told me to get help. There was no court order. I chose this. The was caused due to several factors. I now have insurance through my employer and therefore the costs are less. I could see my personal and professional relationships becoming strained due to some of my issues and I wanted to solve this before I caused serious damage. More importantly, I want those people to see I’m doing something to correct the problem. If others see an effort being made to correct an issue, I think they’ll be more understanding of what I’m personally going through.

Obviously, one session isn’t enough to provide a diagnosis. There are so many titles and subcategories and specific labels. They are leaning towards something in one of the traumatic disorders, but it will probably take a few weeks to get a firm diagnosis. This is just a label to me. Something to tell others. What’s important is the treatment. I can call this whatever I want, and it won’t make any difference if I don’t do something to correct the issues or don’t deal with the trauma on a conscious level. If anything, a name for my trauma and issues will only help me get disability from the state. Is that what I want? No, but I might have to in order to have money to pay for treatment.

This is the first step in a long journey. I don’t know how long it will take. If I focus on the finish line, I’ll feel it’s too far and give up. I can only take it one day at a time. One session at a time. This would be easier if I didn’t need a lot of dental treatment as well. I have almost $1,000 in dental costs I’m saving up for and now I need a couple thousand to reach my insurance deductible. Thankfully my insurance provides a Health Savings Plan that I can put money into but even that’s a long way from having enough money in it to cover all my costs. It’s so expensive just to be alive.

The One Thing That Keeps Me Going

More and more people tell me to do what makes me happy. Writing makes me happy. Whether I’m writing a poem, a short story, a novel, or blog journal post; writing makes me happy. Lately it doesn’t feel like anything else makes me happy. Nothing really. Sometimes coworkers make work fun but it’s not something that makes me happy. I mean truly happy like this is exactly what I’m supposed to be doing with my life. Something I feel within my soul reminding me why I’m alive and why I was born. Writing is the only thing that has given me that feeling.

I look back on things I’ve done and things I thought I enjoyed. I feel everything led me to this point. Everything made me who I am; who I’m supposed to be. This realization comes with one fear. I believe I’m supposed to be alone on this journey. Every experience, every encounter, every person I’ve met; it feels like it all is telling me to let go of everything and pursue this adventure alone. I don’t want to be alone. I’ve always felt alone. Why would the Universe tell me my journey is a lonely one?

I’ve heard people say writing is a lonely craft. That’s not true for everyone. Most writers have an editor. Sometimes it’s a close friend. Sometimes it’s a professional who becomes a friend. Some writers have a core group of people they trust to read the early drafts of their work. I’ve tried and failed to find this. People express interest but not much else. When I approach them with my work, I think they’re surprised like they didn’t expect me to follow through. So, I write five different drafts until I feel satisfied and either self-publish or submit to online magazines. I get many rejection letters.

Everyone says that is the life of the writer. Even the great writers had many rejections. Add those rejections to the personal rejections in life. I mean finding the courage to talk to your crush and getting rejected. I mean trying to make new friends and then they disappear and ignore all your attempts at communication. I mean the rejection one feels everyday added to rejections that say your writing isn’t good enough. All those hours you spent improving your story didn’t improve it enough. Rejection on top of rejection on top of more rejections. Not including rejections from childhood that stay with you.

Many writers struggle but most have a support system to help them keep going. Family and friends who tell them not to give up and keep at it. Never give up; never surrender. I don’t have that support. I share my writing and most people ignore it. I share a cat video, and everyone loves it. How do I keep going? The only answer I can think of is writing makes me happy. Nothing else in the world brings me that kind of joy so the rejections don’t break my resolve. I know I’m depressed when I’m not writing.

Writing gets my emotions out. Writing releases my thoughts so they don’t bottle up. It’s therapeutic. But it’s not enough. I’m seeking help but I still need a support system. I need friends and family. I gave up on my family years ago. I keep trying to find new friends, but I don’t think they want to put them time in on me. Maybe I’m too much for them. Maybe they think I’m a basket case. Maybe they don’t care about my writing or if I’m alive or dead. I’d have given up by now if not for writing. Sadly, writing has yet to help me pay the bills. I guess I’ll keep writing until it does.

My Mind Still Thinks I’m in Danger

When you grow up with an anxiety disorder, you don’t realize what kind of skills you’re developing. At an early age, I learned how to distinguish if someone was a bad person or not. Are they friend or foe? Growing up on the south side of almost any city will cause you to learn these skills willingly or otherwise. It was easy to see if someone was drunk, on drugs, or a mugger. I now avoid homeless beggars with a practiced indifference because I learned how to present myself in a way that projected, “I’m meaner than you. Fuck off!” It didn’t matter if I was meaner or not as long as they thought I was.

What happens when you integrate into everyday normal life where you have fewer threats? I don’t feel like I belong anywhere. No one around me went through similar struggles or battles. They lived a happy childhood with parents who didn’t verbally or physically abuse them. They have issues they are dealing with, but they have a support system to help them get by. They aren’t sitting at home alone rocking back and forth in an attempt to comfort themselves. They can make a new friend at the snap of a finger and not question someone’s trust. They can walk into a crowded room and thrive while I’m looking for exits, avoiding everyone, and trying not to hear and see every little detail in the room.

I can talk to anyone. I can jump into a crowd and find someone to chat with. I’ll know after a few minutes if I can get along with someone or not. I can make a new acquaintance. I rarely have the desire or energy for this. And close friendships? That part is hard. It takes so long for me to trust someone enough to let them in. Most people don’t stick around that long. I think most don’t want to. Some people, I see them as they are. They’re not bad people but they’re not good people either. I don’t want those people in my life. Other people drift away on their own.

I have no support system. I’ve never been close with anyone in my family. If I manage to find someone I can talk with more than once, they become my best friend for maybe a year or two and then life pushes us in different directions. Sometimes I wonder if the only reason certain people talk to me as often as they do is only because I always start the conversations. If I didn’t contact them, would they eventually contact me or not at all? Most of the time, the answer is not at all.

Maybe my standards are too high. Maybe I only meet selfish people so caught up in their own bullshit they can’t see me. Sometimes it feels like they see everyone except me. I want to be seen and heard. I want to feel close to someone, but I can’t be close to just anyone. I can’t let someone in fast enough. All I can do is sit back and hope someone eventually wants to make the effort. I’ve made the effort multiple times for multiple people. I feel I’ve always gone above and beyond and get nothing in return. I don’t do it for praise or status. I do it in the hopes that someone will do it for me. Karma. Treat others the way you want to be treated. I want to be treated with kindness.