Love Series: Love the Family You Have
Families aren't perfect, most of us know this very well. But did you know that the family you have can have a lasting effect on your psychiatric health and how we as adults view life? In a study done by The Indiana Journal of Psychology, they found that out of all the children that had any signs of adverse mental health issues (ADD, ADHD, trauma...etc), 89% of them had some type of disruption in their family structure. That's amazing to me how much the humans we don't even pick to be our family have a toll on us. Maybe you don't have much family, but you have friends that are your family, these units come with similar struggles. Like many others, I struggled with the family I was given in many different areas.
My top three struggles with my family were a constant battle. Not to say that was all that was wrong in my family but I think these are the main demons I had to battle with as an adult.
1. Parents Relationship Traumas
This has to be the most massive and most long-lasting baggage I carried from my family. I was a very curious child. I constantly wanted to know what was going on, how to take apart something, who people were talking about and how far I could push a rule. Which also meant I was always aware of the issues my parents had. I would have to say I truly started to comprehend the magnitude of their problems at the age of eight. I wish I could tell my eight-year-old self to stop... Just leave it alone and live in bliss instead, but that didn't happen, so I grew up seeing two people that had true love for each other but hated each other at the same time. I began to see the fights, hear the reason, learned about the cheating, the pains, saw the coldness begin to grow between them until one day all that was left was a shell. Everyone always asks me how my parents are, and I feel like I always want to give them the full answer, so I never get the question again, but I just say, "They are doing good." It's like an autopilot response. I was part of keeping that shell's outside looking good. I am really happy that my siblings didn't get to see what I saw, they were outside the shell, and that's how I liked to keep them. Time went on, and that became my norm, cold marriage, lots of lies and pain, but no conversation about it, just arguments. All this brought me to is to hate going home. To hate marriage and be triggered by lies. And after all that I had to love my family?
2. Sibling Preference
This was bad on my end. I was the problem. My sibling had not seen what I had seen, and so they were almost a different species from the same parents, yet I somehow blamed them for being normal. My dad had a better relationship with my sister because she didn't know what I knew. I knew all the things he had done wrong, and I was team mom. He knew this, so he created distance so he didn't have to face me and all that I knew. It was easier to get along with the kid that thinks your perfect. This started to create resentment in me. She got things her way. I had to work twice as hard for things that were given to her and for some reason that was her fault in my head. On the other hand, I was my mom's confidant, and I felt special for that, but I didn't see how it started to weigh me down. Along came my little brother who automatically became the baby and switched all mom's attention to him. Therefore I just became a big ball of resentment. After everything, I was never the child my parents preferred. Today I can say I love them so very much and I'll fast forward and tell you I have worked through these issues that were mostly created by the walls that I had started to build. But this truly made it hard to feel like I belonged for a while and in turn, made it hard for me to love my family...
3. The Mixed Up Roles
I am not even sure when this all started, but I know for sure our family structure was off. We had very mixed up roles that we were all playing. I would jump in and stop arguments with my parents. I had my parents call me to talk to each other when they were fighting... My mom was afraid of doing a lot of things, so we as children will find ourselves inclined to help her out in a parental way. My dad was emotionally unavailable a lot of times so we would find ourselves comforting mom or having to pick up the pieces and keep it moving. Then there were the times that mom was dealing with depression and I had to step up to help keep up the shell of the family we used to be. There was also the time I had to push my dad, to tell the truth about something that changed our whole family's dynamics. I also recall big arguments where my siblings would call me out on acting like I was their mom and they just wanted me to be their sister, ouch... Point being we didn't know what our actual roles were in the family.
It was all a lot, and this is not to say these are the worst things that can happen in a family, but these were the top three that made it hard for me to love the family I have. Family love is complicated, for sure.
So this is how the magic that changed everything happened:
God helped me to look past my pain and step into understanding where all the pain was stemming from. I got the statement "Hurt people, hurt people" and started to see what traumas my parents were dragging from their childhood. I heard the stories of my parent's parents and felt lucky to have who I had. This started to shift my mentality from a half-empty cup to a half-full cup. I began to see how the bad things that were going on in our family were shaping us to be better humans and better parents in the future. My parents are an upgrade to their parents, we learn, and we grow. Finally, I began to learn to set boundaries, and this sounds like a simple step, but it was the hardest. I had to say, "No" even when everything in me wanted to just do things because it was easier. God started to mold the situations to require us to step into our actual roles, and it was so uncomfortable but so rewarding in the end.
When I stepped back and looked at the big picture, we are so close. You see a picture of my family and my two divorced parents, and you would never think there is anything wrong because that shell wasn't a shell it was the love we have for each other radiating and that's all people can see. We aren't faking being a perfect family, and we just love each other so much you can't even see where the ugly is.
Side note: please don't think I have these awful parents that are good for nothing. They are amazing, and they have done an amazing job with us. These where just areas of struggles that stemmed from abuse, abandonment, lies, pains, and challenges they went through when they were younger. My parents are awesome parents, and they have given us 100x what they got from their parents, and now as an adult, I have so much respect for them and all they did for us. I would not be here or the person I am without them, plus they have grown up so much. I’m a proud momma. :P
The family or the friends you have that are like your family sometimes just need us to understand them, to step in their shoes and just love who they are as they are. Forgiveness is a big part of being family, and it is definitely a big part of healing. Take all the good and bad from your family and turn it into an opportunity to grow and to do better with your own family.
With love + mucho gusto,