Over the last few days, I’ve been going back and forth in my head about what to write about. I’m truly very introspective and fortunately live in an inspired place—however, that has its challenges, too. For instance, on any given week, there are a million topics I could cover, but finding that one thing that really speaks to me in a real way can take a little bit longer.
Most of the time, the source of my inspiration comes from something that has happened or is currently happening in my life, and I usually feel very “sorted out” after I write about it. However, my most recent ordeal has left me stunned, reeling from the shock and ugliness I had to face.
It’s no secret I’ve spoken very candidly about the ups and downs of my family relationships. And it’s no secret I’m very happy to be an adult, because there is nothing I miss about growing up in my household as a child.
In addition to my God, husband and children, my mom is my world. She did her very best. The type of crazy I grew up with was rough and left me a very fragmented and confused young woman. There was always this need to be my family’s everything, especially when it came to my parents. I felt like I needed to solve every problem, always have the right answers and never mess up—ever. These dysfunctional patterns stayed with me all the way into adulthood, and even though I would take breaks from different members of my family, I would always go back, hoping that this time, things would be different. In the hopes of making things right over the years, I’ve apologized for things I didn’t do, extended myself in ways that have made me very uncomfortable and attempted to overlook and ignore my own feelings of hurt, anger and sadness.
To some, holding on to this fantasy is the only way to make it work. “I mean, it’s family,” right? “How could I cut family out of my life or walk away from a situation with someone who shares my DNA?” These questions leave most people trapped in destructive family relationship patterns for life. And that’s exactly what was happening to me. I was simply stuck between a rock and a hard place. My rock: what religion says is right. My hard place: societal/cultural views of how I’m “supposed” to deal with family. Let me explain further….
Having a religious background taught me that I need to forgive and forget 70 times 7, and that forgiveness meant reconciling the relationship as if nothing ever happened—which would be the “forgetting” part. What you should know is that this ideology got me nowhere, except for an insanity-producing spin cycle. In most cultures, family is sacred. The black community is no different, but it even extends into our community figures such as our preachers, celebrities etc. If you want to feel shame as a black person, you can do one of two things: admit to having a mental/brain illness or say you cut your family out of your life.
When I sought help via therapy six years ago, I decided then that I had to start divorcing the fantasy of what I wish I had and, instead, accept the reality of what I did have. THIS WAS VERY HARD, BUT CRITICAL IN MY BREAKTHROUGH! Did I have set backs? Yep (hence this blog). This acceptance meant facing the ugly truths of my upbringing and the effect it had on the person I became. It meant being ok with learning how to become a lone wolf, and understanding my brothers did not have the same experience or story as me. It meant speaking my truth in order to help save others.
Here’s the point: I have risked it all—family relationships and friendships included. Why? Because I wanted to live a life that was free from holding in feelings that were literally destroying me. I wanted to love and be loved. I chose life. I knew I deserved better than what some were capable of giving me. Accepting someone doesn’t always mean having them be apart of your life, regardless of how mean, destructive or dangerous they are. Clutch your pearls, gals—even as painful as the death of a loved one is. To grieve the loss of the living is tough. While we hope we can all have that meaningful reconciliation, it may not be possible. We’re all going to die one day, which drives the point home even further that we need to live intentionally, every day. Living intentionally doesn’t include toxic people. Nor does it include communicating with those who make us feel bad about ourselves.
Acceptance means “I accept that you are who you are.” It means “I accept I have no power to change you.” It means “I accept that we are not each other’s people, and if we weren’t related, we would never be friends.” Remember, acceptance doesn’t depend on the familial relationship.
To say I’m okay would be a lie… I’ll be okay is more accurate—every day, moment by moment, step by step. To say I forgive would also be a lie…to say God is healing my heart so that forgiveness is possible is my reality right now.
Living with a mental illness isn’t easy. However, I’ve made a conscious decision to be treated with therapy. I’ve also decided to make changes in my life, and, unfortunately, some people don’t get to be apart of that—even if we share the same DNA. I didn’t have a choice what family I was born into, but I do have a choice for how I live today. I do get to choose who’s in my life now.