Minimalism, vanlife, traveling, solo female traveler, sober travel, traveling in USA, downsizing.
On my mother's 83rd birthday; I was on a zoom call with her, her boyfriend, my sister and my sister's husband. I angled the screen so no one in the family would see my nose piercing. When I wore a fake nose piercing 30 years ago my mother dropped, sobbing to the floor in hysterics. I wore long sleeves to hide my tattoos. Whenever she sees another one on me, she freaks out for days.
BUT I forgot to change my pronouns, which were visible on the screen as she/they. That, was a mistake I will be paying for, mentally and emotionally, for a very long time.
My mother has some good qualities and I love her. I hope this doesn't end up as a rant because it's simply the truth. As much as I try not to talk about my family or point fingers on my podcast and blog, after what happened yesterday, I realized that other people may have similar issues and perhaps it would benefit you to hear you're not alone.
Everyone in my family, as far back as I know, has been or is actively an alcoholic. Most partake in other drugs too but when you're actively using, no matter what the substance, the dysfunction is all the same. Both my parents are abusers, addicts, rageaholics and completely unconscious about their behavior. As I've mentioned before, I'm in recovery for drugs and alcohol. I've been clean and sober for 12 years. I've worked with a therapist regularly for 20 years. I will never not be in therapy and that's because I'm an abuse survivor, but the abuse continues and as long as my mother lives or I keep her in my life, it will never stop.
I finally cut my father out of my life over 5 years ago. He was violent and physically abused me, as well as mentally and emotionally. But my mother, I manage. Or try to. Some of the time, I can but as I've learned, you can't control other people so more often than not, she rages.
When I'm alone with her or on the phone with her she is often nicer to me. When her boyfriend is around, he is her punching bag. But for some reason when it's me and my sister, she slips back into our childhood remembrance (thanks lizard brain) and I become the punching bag.
If you've lived with a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde first of all, I'm so sorry. It's horrible, there are no two ways around that. Secondly, I can totally relate!
I currently keep most of my life under wraps from my mother, about 80% of it, maybe even 90%. She only knows a couple of things about me and even those couple of things were difficult for her to handle and accept.
I won't go into her extensive pathology but I will say that she still tries to control me and she doesn't accept me or truly know me.
So when she saw my pronouns yesterday on zoom she freaked out. Instead of politely asking about them, as a healthy person would do, she called me horrible, nasty names and ridiculed me–in front of the other 3 people on the call. She shamed me, made fun of me, laughed at me, snorted at me and rolled her eyes. When my sister tried to explain pronouns to her, she screamed "oh so this is the new thing for lesbians? that'll last five minutes and then it'll be something else."
When both my sister and I tried to explain gender fluidity and what being non-binary means and that it has nothing to do with lesbians (which is a dirty word to my mother), she waved her hand and dismissed us saying "I don't really care."
And that basically sums it up. She doesn't care. She doesn't care about other people's lives or their feelings. At least she's honest about that!
I survive the brunt of her abuse and I won't lie, it hurts like hell and it leaves scars. Deep, red, angry scars that burn and tear at my soul. Can I forgive her? Eventually. Do I forget? Never.
Does it reinforce my vigilance for self preservation? You betcha.
So what do we do when our family disrespects and shames us for who we truly are? I am 55 years old and decided to hide myself from them. Does it work all the time? Hell no but if I didn't, I'd have to cut them all out of my life and I'm not willing to do that right now though I may have to in the future.
Even before yesterday's family call, I had a really challenging week. I have been depressed and unmotivated. I run a writer's accountability zoom call. I've been hosting it, and paying for it, 7 days a week for over a year. There are several regulars and I considered them friends. They often talk about using drugs and alcohol. I usually don't say anything. I don't want to be a policeman or tell people what to do but the other day I jumped on and read some drug use talk. Because I was having a really rough week (and they were talking about my drug of choice that I quit 15 years ago), I got triggered. But instead of making an excuse or lying and leaving, I said something. I realized later I have become the "buzzkill" that I used to hate when I was using.
I know I can't control people but I also don't want to. I checked in with one person after I left and she said the others were surprised that I was upset and it came out the blue. I explained that I've talked to them about it at least a dozen times before but in retrospect I realize I should have just made an excuse and left instead of stating my truth.
And now I'm hurt because no one reached out and asked me if I was okay. When I hear that someone gets triggered from something I've said, I always follow up with them. But again, I can't control other people and I can't expect people who use (drugs/alcohol) to understand what it means for someone in recovery. I'm bringing this up because from where I stand, it's alienating and it's lonely. I'm not a person who gets lonely but it's the best way I can explain this feeling. I shared my truth, I removed myself from the situation, I called these people my friends, I shared all week that I was in pain and no one checked in which has been the story of my friendships this year. Not all, but most. A year ago I would have told you that I have at least five very close friends, people I called "best friends" who I thought were there for me no matter what and visa versa. Today I have two. But you know what? Two are more than enough and I'd rather have one or two genuine friends who offer unconditional love than a hundred friends who don't.
I feel it's important to talk about this. I didn't feel safe in my own zoom group anymore but not because they talk about using, because no one cared enough to follow up and ask me if I was okay.
I wasn't expecting an apology and I didn't even know I was expecting anyone to reach out until they didn't. What's funny/not funny is that it's been two weeks since I wrote this and I did cancel the zoom group, not just because of this incident though. I canceled mainly because I need my zoom room to be available for my own endeavors (ie: I used it today to record a snippet for an upcoming class I'm producing). But I checked in with one of the people in the group the other day about it, the one person I have considered my closest friend in the group and I mentioned I was having a really tough time. But instead of asking me about that or offering even one word of sympathy, they went on and on about their tough time. I offered them sympathy and then disengaged. Not everyone is capable of empathy and not everyone will offer what I'm looking for in friendship. What's important about that is that I recognize it and move on quickly, not a year later!
So I hope that by being honest about my feelings here it will encourage one of you to consider what another person may be going through and offer them love and support.
I am saying any of this to blame or tell others how to act or what to do. I can only take care of myself and if the way I need to that is by disengaging, then that's what I have to do for now. I know that in time I will find my tribe. I haven't yet and that's OK.
So if you can, reach out to someone in your life right now who may be suffering. Even a heart emoji or a quick text saying "I'm thinking about you", "I care" or "I love you" will touch their hearts and ease their pain in a deeper way than you can ever imagine!
Thanks for listening, it's greatly appreciated.
I'd love to hear what you're doing for self care, what you look for in friendships and how you show up as a good friend to others!
Hi, I'm Kimberly Anne! (aka K.A.)
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