Opening My Eyes To Family DysfunctionHello,
A little about me: I am 33 – I have always been timid, and suffer from low self esteem ..which I have tried to hide. I tried in my life: i became a professional, moved out of home and tried hard to build an independent life during my 20s..but when i hit 30 i found myself single, in a really nasty work environment, having increasingly bad family problems, and having failed to maintain many deep/close relationships outside of my family and have nothing but dysfunctional family relationships to deal with.
It is only since starting councelling very recently that i have started to see the dysfunction in my family for what it is and how it has affected me as a person and my ability to build a successful life... and to start to not feel so hard on myself ..to realise I had a lot to cope with growing up and to start to take ownership for my life and rebuild... but its hard.
About my family, i realise that there are those who have far far worse situations out there..but the first thing my counsellor said was not to be hard on myself and to realise/ accept that i had a lot to cope with over the years... I have an older sister and brother (7 and 6 years older than me respectively) and we grew up with my mum and dad with what I saw, at the time as a relatively 'normal' family unit because our problems never seemed 'that bad' compared to some other situations you could imagine. That is how we were also brought up to think.
My dad was a good man, but weak- an uncontrollable binge drinker who had episodes lasting several days at a time. Sometimes every few weeks, sometimes less regularly,..but it was a constant problem until he got over it when I was in my mid 20s. He could neck a litre bottle of vodka/whisky in a severely short time and would hide bottles of spirits and drink fast and hard in secret, although it was very obvious as he would wander around blind drunk. But, he was not an abusive drunk. He was a 'harmless' drunk..except that he would miss work to binge, and when it was really bad we would be sent out by my mum looking for him...we were always tasked with finding him/ looking after him/ clearing things up...the really damaging part of it though was when he inevitably started to sober up after several days and went through the delirium tremens..and he would scream at night about how he was 'dying' , seeing ghosts, calling for 'help' ..late night vomiting , screaming, crying for his mum..our mum would lay it on us about how she couldn't cope..and at the very worst times regularly shoved him out of her bed and sent him to our rooms for us 'look after' him.
My mom herself, i think, was slightly broken by living with a weak husband, not only through the alchoholism. He was a weak father figure in many ways- a provider on a material level, but on an emotional level it often felt like we had to be the 'parent' to his 'child'... my mom turned to food to cope..and has been a compulsive eater all my life..something that, combined with knee problems since the age of 40 has made her , effectively , unable to walk far and so pretty much disabled for at least 20 years of my life..i always remember never being able to fathom her mood and constantly feeling guilty or like i needed to make her happy because she was obviously depressed.. although they are both good people, I just feel they where never there to provide the emotional support or skills I needed as a child to grow into a self respecting adult
Anyway, despite all this, i came out reasonably 'ok' for a while, i guess this was because..at least through my childhood, i had my sister and to a lesser extent my brother, as the sanity / role models in my life (we had very few relatives around as i grew up as they where mostly in other countries).... but that all changed as i entered my 20s..
the rest of the story of my dysfunctional family is too long to keep going on about..suffice to say that I know my siblings have struggled with self esteem too..but whilst they used drugs and alcohol addictions to bond and drowned out their problems during my early 20s, I grew increasingly distanced from them dispite desperately trying to stop this happening, and the subject of their spite for being 'different' amongst other things...and now my sibling problems are so bad/warped that I constantly feel the need to run from family of any kind, but havent the independence or strength to face it, though I am beginning to work through this through counselling.
My sister has pulled herself through..but for reasons too convoluted to recount, we are barely on speaking terms.. my brother is 40..and still living at home, with my parents ( and me) and he is the constant cause of many problems/ arguements etc..although fully functioning he has an alcohol /drugs problem he is living in denial about and it affects us all (although I too am a burden as I am not independent myself). But my feelings/ needs are discounted because his are 'greater' and it all is such a mess and affecting me deeply..
I feel isolated, and alone..but realising that I have been damaged by the abuse of living in a dysfunctional envirnment is beginning to give me the strength /tools to give myself the self-nurturing I need to rebuild my life. Talking about it helps, and it is only since seeking counselling that I realise just how much. I am beginning to see how my parents dysfunction has damaged us so deeply, and how my needs/ boundries growing up and even now are so overlooked and that this is a large cause for my self esteem problems. But more importantly that the power to fix this lies within me – not in other members of my family.
I still have some dark issues I am worried about voicing to my counsellor for fear of seeming mad, but hopefully this is something I can cope with eventually too. I think , no matter how old we are, it is important to have someone unbiased to help you see how unhealthy a situation might be for you- so that you can help yourself, and start to feel a sense of self worth that we all dearly deserve.