Friends and Family
Posted by motherofrage
3rd Feb 2015

I'm struggling with family obligations, which feel like they are going to squish me. I'm due to go on a family holiday in 6 weeks time, with my parents, my brother and his family, and my husband and young child. "How lovely!" people say, and most of the time I just smile as best I can and change the subject. Some days ago I tried to tell a friend that I'm not remotely pleased about the prospect, hoping for some understanding from her. The last time I'd seen her I'd gathered up all my courage and told her what very few people know about me: that I've been seeing a therapist, because long ago, when I was at primary school, a stranger abused me, sadistically, telling me that he would hurt my mother if I didn't cooperate. And I badly wanted to earn my mother's love, so I cooperated as best I knew how. Some time later, despite having been threatened not to, I cracked and told my parents what had happened, and was taken to the police to report the incident. But after that nobody ever talked to me, or let me talk about it, again. I was told not to think about it anymore, to forget it had happened at all. And my friend nodded and said that yes, that's what people used to think in those days, and that I'd have to come to terms with it all. It wasn't the horrified rejection I'd feared, but I was disappointed that she seemed to think it was all quite simple, really, when to me it is absolute torment, and has at times taken me very, very close to wanting to be dead. So this time I tried again, thinking that perhaps she'd understand my unease at being cooped up with people who have made it quite clear that they don't want to know about the difficult things in my life. And my anger at having been effectively blackmailed into agreeing to this proposal because it is their wedding anniversary, and it matters to them to be surrounded by their happy family. All this not long after I finally broke 40 years of silence to tell them that I am seeing a therapist because I am unhappy, and struggling to cope, which was met with complete denial by my father and the suggestion that I should just go to my GP for some pills from my mother. Again my friend thought that my parents' desire for a show of harmony is entirely understandable, and that I've no right to be a spoilsport. Except that I am really not happy at all. I lived a long stretch of my life trying very hard to forget that it was quite possible for someone to just pick me for his plaything, rip me apart and walk away, and that this didn't seem to trouble anyone. And I still do, a lot of the time, lock it away, out of mind. But I have a child now, and it dawned on me that the cost of my compliance with my parents' inability to deal with my pain has been loneliness and isolation, and that I need to do something about this if I don't want to pass my own social inadequacy on to him. By protecting everyone else from the horror of that attack, I've ended up trying to bear the shame and guilt and fear alone, and I've come to believe that something must be badly wrong with me for this to have happened to me, and that it is too risky to let anyone close enough to see that. Therapy is slowly, slowly changing this, but I am still very alone with the feelings of intense anger and of despair that have been unleashed since I've started to look at all the poison in my mind. I badly need friends around me, but I have never trusted people enough to have been able to build real, dependable friendships. And my family? Well, at the moment they are very much part of the problem. The holiday might well end in all kinds of things being dragged into the light, and I am wondering whether my ongoing dread of being an ungrateful, bad daughter will ever give way to the sense of outrage that I usually keep deep inside; whether I can believe that my anger is justified, whatever others may think.

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