icon: "tenebrous (a shadowy orange-light photo of my face, looking down, with an achingly sad expression)"
possible tw/cn for childhood neglect and abuse
Yesterday I was watching a documentary with this family whose kin had died at age 19, and they saved all her art and poetry and they had several small boxes of artifacts she had created. Suddenly it hit me that if I had died at 19, I would have died having never really been loved or known. I spent 2 years dealing with the sexual abuse I endured as a child, but I never worked through the neglect. it doesn't seem like a big deal logically, yet it hurts so much. And it just hits me out of nowhere especially when I see a family treating the "weirdo" in their family like they matter and are welcome and loved as-is. When I see someone being valued by bio-family for who they actually ARE, it just rips my heart out.
My family would have thrown away my journals and poetry like old homework. They would have invented lies to tell about what I wanted to do and who I wanted to be, because they never had any interest in the truth. They wouldn't have had anything real to say about me at the funeral because they literally didn't know one thing I was passionate about. They wouldn't have even invited the people I loved to my funeral because they didn't know who those people were and they didn't care. They preached that family is the only thing that matters and none of them valued friendship and they probably didn't notice or care that I did.
So watching this other family handle the artifacts as precious, honored items, I just started crying because I felt so sad for rejected and neglected child-me, and I can't imagine what it would have been like to grow up feeling that loved and accepted. I was certain that I had been an accidental pregnancy, because I felt so unwanted. But apparently they did want a baby, just not really this one. They wanted someone they could sculpt into their ideal person, and I have never been sculpt-able. It wasn't enough to control my actions; they wanted to control my mind and they resented me for not allowing them to do that.
I almost never disobeyed them -- I didn't even passive-aggressively disobey by following orders badly -- but they called me "rebellious" because I didn't want to do what they wanted. Even though I literally always did my best with any chore they assigned me. When I would clean the kitchen they never thanked me for doing such a thorough, perfect job, always picking up the jars on the counter just in case an errant crumb had rolled behind -- instead they complained that I didn't do it fast enough (while my next sibling would do a half-assed job and they would say nothing).
I now realize that at least some of my parents' greater care for my siblings was guilt about the trauma my siblings went through, but that doesn't erase the years of watching them get what they asked for for Christmas while I almost never did. I still remember how much it hurt to open the right size package for the computer program I asked for and find something completely different, clearly from the clearance rack, and then see my next sibling open something much more expensive. Trying to act grateful and not hurt while I felt like they were saying "you just don't matter as much to us, but since we're not saying that out loud, you can't get upset." Then opening some awful gendered present -- perfume, or fucking plain colorless delicate jewelry -- which I had been very vocal about hating, and literally never wore. They didn't give to the person I was, they gave to the person they wanted me to be. And the person they wanted me to be was a girl who wore floral scents and subtle jewelry and was grateful for whatever they bothered to pick up.
They literally never expressed any pride in anything I did until I won some award in senior year of high school for my SAT score. And that, I knew, was because they were taking credit for it. One of them would talk about how they found out about the last retest date just in time (for me to win the award) and the other would talk about how they drilled me on the practice tests. Neither of them said anything about my efforts on those tests, just bragged about their input. I got a perfect score on the English section, but they never mentioned that. If they knew me literally at all, they would have known that I wanted to be a writer, and they would have told me that this was proof I could do it.
They loved to tell me how smart I was, but only ever as a reason for something they were demanding of me, never as a reaction to something creative or intellectually rigorous that I did. I got to the point where I hated being called smart; if I am clever, it is an accident of biology and no achievement of mine. You might as well praise me for having brown hair. But my actual achievements did not matter to my parents. So I guess, at least my parents helped keep me from becoming an elitist by highlighting how wrong it is to praise someone for their intellect rather than considering their efforts.
They loved to tell me how pretty I was for having long hair, when they weren't busy calling me names for being fat, suggesting that I should never have treats, and buying me weight-loss meds. Getting a doctor to lie to me about how digestion works so that I would wait many hours between meals, which fucked up my metabolism of course. Telling me my clothes were too tight, my jewelry too gaudy, and that I had to wear a bra at home because it was "too distracting" to my male sibling. The fact that it was my father who told me this made me feel dirty and violated; I wasn't just a person being comfortable at home, I was being looked at as a sexual object by my relatives and to protect myself I had to wear a bra even in my pajamas. Before that moment I never felt even self-conscious without a bra: after it, I never felt safe without one (unless I was in a nudist-friendly space).
Ugh. This just gets worse the more I think about it. Mostly my parents neglected me but when they did turn their attention to me it was never a good thing. I worked to be invisible throughout my teens and it wasn't difficult because they preferred it that way. I honestly felt far more like the hired help in my own home than I did when I actually worked as a live-in nanny. The first time I ever got thanked by someone I lived with for doing the dishes was when I was working, which is when I realized I was literally never thanked as a child. And I did my best with chores as a child partly to avoid getting hit but partly I think because some little part of me never gave up hope that if I did it just right, they would appreciate me.
I keep trying to end this post but there is no end. it's just a terrible knot of unresolved pain.