Surviving neglect, witnessing abused and perpetuating violence.

December 18 2015

I have spent the majority of these 30+ years of my life actively hiding at least most of my story from the world. At least a dozen of those years spent trying to understand my own story. Recently, I’ve been thinking about ways to actually tell my story. All along I’ve wished to be seen and heard, though the thought of such vulnerability is terrifying to me.

I’m a survivor. I come from a family of survivors. I also come from a culture of abuse, a pervasive culture that appears to have a hold on the very core of everyone in my family across many generations. It’s strange, knowing my story has no exceptions while still feeling truly unique. I don’t remember the things I witnessed; I recall some of my own violent and corrosive acts; and I cannot explain how every single one of my cousins and I almost appear to communicate telepathically.

Perhaps even after over a decade of space and time and healing we are just so conditioned to think and experience in such specific ways that we just do - something that feels simultaneously acutely oppressive and significantly comforting. I decided to study psychology the first time I heard the phrase “cognitive dissonance.” I sometimes wonder how I will go through life once I no longer have these people in my life, even after years physically away from each other.

- Complex relationships with touch, with intention
- Nightmares of zombies
- Almost twin-speak type phrases
- Desires for entrepreneurship, coupled with a crushing fear of failure
- Triggers including practicing hobbies or physical strain
- Love of horror movies

So many things many – sometimes all – of us share, some more exclusive than others. It’s always surprising, but makes complete sense to learn of something new. I think one of the only reasons anything is surprising stems from the complete lack of communication we participated in and experienced throughout childhood.

I went to a workshop for survivors a few months ago. The last question we discussed was “What do you wish had happened?” This wasn’t about any abuse or neglect itself. The question was really: “What do you wish had happened after (or during) the things you survived?”

Discussion. Disclosure. Reconciling the multiple realities within which each member of my family lived. I do remember a happy childhood. There are some very wonderful things I was able to do, places I was able to visit, aspects of myself I was able to explore. I take none of this for granted. I am also proud of my resilience. Sometimes my cousins and I joke about how we wish we could be 8 again, without a worry in the world. The truth is that each of us had plenty to worry about back then. And now, as an adult, responsibility is *that* much more exhausting.

I do believe that had I understood the work I was already doing, even if that work never changed…had we been making conscious choices rather than reacting, even if that was just a fraction of the time…if my education and my family’s education encompassed feminism, anti-racism and social justice before half of us became parents, it wouldn’t have taken this long to start to feel like things *might* be ok. I’m so tired, but I’m hopeful. Years and years have made me feel stone, but within just months I’ve started to feel nostalgic and emotional sometimes by just a simple text message.

I wonder if anyone in my family is on this listserve… I guess I will soon find out.

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Boston, MA

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