It has been a tremendously long time since I have updated this blog.
To cut straight to the point, several significant experiences have happened over the past two years:
- I worked in an under resourced school with students (children) who carried immense traumas. Reader, you will be not be surprised to learn that my priority for the year I worked with my students was to ensure their social and emotional well-being.
- The children I am closest to in my life went through experiences somewhat similar to what I experienced growing up. It brought to the absolute forefront for my mother and myself the realities of how we coped and what we must do differently.
- My brother and I came to loggerheads, somewhat, and I told my mother the truth about my experiences growing up.
On that last point–after another troubling familial visit, I spoke with my therapist about the persistence of the ways in which my brother and I trigger each other when we are face to face. In the midst of our conversation, I made an offhand comment about how there was no need to involve my mother in it because she knew none of it.
My therapist balked. She had not realized that I had not told my mother about my brother’s violence. Realizing I had not told either my brother nor my mother about my perceptions of my childhood, we came to agree that–like many abuse survivors–I carried a fear of not being believed. It was a surprising realization on many levels, not the least that it was a symptom I had always been aware of, but never conscientious of when it came to myself. I have told so many people about my upbringing, but not those who could potentially argue against it.
Fast forward a couple days, and I find myself lashing out at my mother as she defends my brother over something banal. I walk away after realizing that this is my resentment resurfacing. I am irritated that she finds him to be perfect but incapable of hearing hard truths–that he is to be coddled. After a moment’s reflection, I realize that while my mother coddles my brother–I do as well. That is what happens each time I bend over backwards trying to mask how much fear he inspires in me and how carefully I comport my body and watch my words in his presence. It sinks in how I have been unfair to my mother. She was not the person who inflicted violence in our homes. It was my father and my brother. I felt that to remove that blame from her–it was time to tell her.
Telling my mother about the abuse was the best thing I have done for our relationship. I say this knowing that opening up about abuse to involved parties is not always the safest option–is not always the best choice for one to make. I have developed in a multitude of ways these past two years–since my past several entries. Working in an emotionally taxing job where students and co-workers are leaning on you for support can make you a much stronger and much more confident person, but there are more ways for you to develop a sense of security and foster a community of support. Only you can know if and when you are ready to disclose or take steps towards healing. I encourage seeking out resources on restorative justice for mediation in this process.
As for my story–I returned to my mother’s room and sat on her bed while she browsed the Internet on her computer. She could tell that I had something on my mind, and when I struggled to find my voice, she told me to use whatever words I could to begin. I told her in a sentence or two that my brother had mistreated me growing up and that that was why I had been so anxious–and remained so in his presence alone. That was all I could muster before bursting into tears. I was inconsolable in a way that I have never been before. My entire body was shaking. My mother immediately rushed to get me a glass of water, gave me a hug, said “Okay! Let me tell you what was happening to him,” and sat in front of me.
She took me through the peaks and valleys of trauma my brother (and my mother and I) experienced, but in doing so, she was able to give me a sense of what his behavior looked like on the outside. She recognized certain patterns in him, and–indeed–the way he would lash out at me, particularly pronounced to her when I was younger. It coincided with the way my father acted in our lives. My father was neglectful towards my brother at best, but when I was born he completely ignored him. Not only that, but he was physically abusive to my mother as well. It likely did not happen in front of my brother, but he was a smart kid, and being sent out of the apartment before an explosion was probably context enough for him to imagine what was happening behind the closed door.
I can not emphasize enough how healing it was to be believed immediately. She had not known the details, but what I told her made complete sense. My mother had done what she could to keep my brother from hurting me. I do believe that. But she worked 10-12 hour days and he was tasked with watching over me at home. I, in turn, while manifesting probably a myriad of red flags, also worshiped the ground he walked on. At the time, she probably presumed that as long as I appeared somewhat happy, there was no need to intervene. There was no way for her to know what to do. Telling her not only gave me the support I always wanted from my mother, but it gave my mother a more complete understanding of our family.
She told me: “You both were surrounded by love growing up, but you were both neglected. I can admit that.”
My relationship with my mother has transformed. No longer are we set off by each other. Things she says and my behaviors no longer cause us to travel down negative cycles that culminate in us saying devastating things to each other.
And with that, I now feel it opportune to shift my focus away from myself. I want to now think more systemically. I have potentially exciting upcoming news that will help me conduct analysis of the way an approach to the mental health of youth–particularly youth in structures vastly different from those found in the United States–is handled. Keep an eye out!