So…. I’ve gotten a lot of emails asking me how the party went for my grandmother. You guys remember what I’m talking about, right? The 90th birthday party that was being thrown for my grandmother, the one I wanted to attend because I wanted to be there for her, but it was going to be incredibly awkward because I hadn’t seen much of my family in years?
Well, I didn’t go.
I was planning to go, but I literally couldn’t go because I was uninvited and told not to come.
Yep, that happened.
Why did that happen you may ask?
Yep, that happened too.
But honestly, whatever.
So let me tell you how things went down. My article about Christmas on welfare ran on the cover of Yahoo, someone in my family saw it (I have a pretty good inkling of who it was just based on the phrasing of a comment that was left on my blog and the events that occurred shortly thereafter, but I can’t say for certain). Among other things, the comments went on to ask how I could embarrass my family like this by "pretending" that I had been abused. I immediately messaged my surrogate mom (aka Frisbee Boy’s Mom) and Mr. Attorney Man and basically said “well, here we go!”
I sat back that night and imagined the whispers and shudders that were rippling across the interwebs of my extended family, and then I went to sleep.
Over the course of the next couple of days I continued to get nasty comments on the blog from my family, and then one night as I was sitting in bed, I got a text message from two aunts (yep, they collectively sent a text, because no one in this family can do anything alone) telling me that they had read my blog and that I was uninvited to my grandmother's party. They said “we just don’t want you to be uncomfortable,” but the tone implied that this was more about them being pissy, than any genuine concern for my feelings. At first I replied with a simple "OK!" because I really have no desire to get into it with them, but then as I sat and thought about it, I realized you know what?
This is exactly what is wrong with this family and why I wanted to get the hell out of it. So with that, I followed up on my original answer.
My text was never responded to, which I knew was going to be the case, but you know what? I actually didn’t expect anything less from them. This is actually EXACTLY what I would have expected from my family. Not a phone call, no actual conversation, no attempt to understand, not even a “wow I read your blog and I'm angry,” or a “what the hell, can we talk about this?” kind of thing.
A total exile.
Which is funny, because they are the ones that have been trying to get me to come back to the family for the last three years, ignoring all the times I've tried to tell them what has gone on in the past, or in my marriage. It was always me that was expected to set my feelings aside in order to appease my family, and nothing I said was ever understood beyond what seemed to them, to be my defiance to obey, and a long lasting grudge. The more I separated myself from my parents, the more my extended family resented me for it. Nothing I ever needed them to understand was talked about longer than the breath that they used to dismiss me with, and all the evidence of me screaming for a new life, was met with anger that I was making any noise at all.
Then, when I finally spoke up about it in a way that they could no longer ignore, banishment.
And that, THAT, is why I can never, and will never really be able to consider those people to actually be family, because that is not what family does.
That is a cult who is more worried about their reputation than the people in the cult. Those are people who would rather turn a blind eye than to try and understand something that they don’t want to believe is true; or even take the time to find out if it might be true, because if it is true, then what does it mean for the family?
You see the thing is, our brains are programmed to believe what we want them to believe. It’s why, when a tragedy occurs, that we have such a hard time processing it.
“This is not what I was expecting, this can’t be happening, how could this have happened? This isn’t happening; this is just a bad dream. Is this really happening?”
Our brains are programmed to believe and trust in the things that we have come to know and become comfortable with. Logical thinking is based on learned knowledge; knowledge that is based upon patterns, memories, and ideas that have become normal to us, and it is heavily based on what we expect to see.
We see what we expect to see.
So when we stray from what we think we know and the thoughts and ideas that we are comfortable with, our thoughts feel unbelievable; unbelief that is furthered by the difficult task of questioning ourselves and what we thought we knew.
“If that really happened, then how come I didn’t see it?”
“If that really happened, then why did I miss the signs?”
“If that really happened, then what else don’t I know?”
"I can’t believe it, so there is no way that it happened."
As Michael Shermer says in his book “The Believing Brain,” “We form our beliefs for a variety of subjective, personal, emotional, and psychological reasons in the context of environments created by family, friends, colleagues, culture, and society at large; after forming our beliefs we then defend, justify, and rationalize them with a host of intellectual reasons, cogent arguments, and rational explanations. Beliefs come first, explanations for beliefs follow.”
My extended family is going to believe what they want to believe, and any explanations for those beliefs will just have to follow later because first and foremost, they will defend what they thought they knew.
Which is sad because the evidence against their beliefs is all there if they had even bothered to look.
There is a reason why I completely and utterly cut ties with my parents. People, especially single mothers, don’t just cut off their support system unless they feel that they have a better chance at survival without it.
There is a reason why someone’s husband just up and disappears from not only his wife, but also his children, and his own family; and usually that reason has been playing out long before the moment that he left.
There is a reason why I am so wholeheartedly invested into the nonprofit that I started.
There is a reason why my platform is based upon shattering the stigma's of what we think an abuse victim should look and act like.
There is a reason for so many things that they just don’t care to know, because believing only what they see before their very eyes is easier than believing something that is uncomfortable to think about.
I would know, because in high school I told my aunt what was going on and instead of helping me, she turned around and told my mother. Obviously my mother did not confirm my claims, and that was the end of that.
Except that it wasn’t.
I went on to repeatedly try to kill myself, each time claiming that I could not spend one more minute with my parents, but it was easier for everyone to just believe that I had depression. I went on to call the police after yet another fight with my parents turned physical, but it was easier to just believe that I was troubled, even when I moved in with my aunts and showed no signs of this “troubled” behavior that my parents claimed I had. I then ran into the arms of a guy that everyone knew was bad news, but it was easier to believe that I was stupid than to understand that I had not been treated any better at home, and thus had not learned that I deserved any better. My husband disappeared and it was never really talked about, and when I disowned my family it was easier to just believe I was “acting out,” than to put the puzzle pieces together and figure out what was going on.
If a tree falls in the forest and no one was there to hear it, did it still make a sound?
If a woman got raped, but no one heard her scream, did she still suffer?
If a child was abused, but no one noticed, was it still abuse?
Blinded by happy family photo’s, family birthday parties, and Christmas around the tree, no one cared to look past that to the kid who had emotional and behavioral issues up to the sky, was incredibly awkward, just not quite right, and never seemed to be able to look anyone in the eye, because it was easier for them to see what they wanted to see rather than everything they actually had to look for. When I got married to a man who pretended to adore me just to hide his own failings, it further masked the traumas that were going on within our house.
The brain believes what it wants to believe; because questioning things that are uncomfortable, well that’s just too much work. When people are confronted with the idea that there are things that they may not have seen, and are asked to question their own memories, it’s hard, because “how could I have not seen this?”
“I could not have missed this.”
“Did I miss this?”
“Would I have missed this?”
“What else did I miss?”
“I couldn’t have missed this.”
“I didn’t miss this.”
And suddenly, after talking themselves out of questioning their own beliefs, everything is right in their life again, because nothing was ever wrong.
Their foundation is not shaken, their brain did not fail them, and in turn, they didn’t fail anyone else.
Because if it’s not true, then they didn’t fail me.
But perception is not always reality, and beliefs do not always make something true.
When I started this blog, I talked long and hard with Mr. Attorney Man about what it would might mean for me personally and professionally if my writing was ever connected to the nonprofit, or if my family found out. I knew that the subject of my writings might embarrass some of the people that I work professionally with, I knew that accusing someone of something might have legal repercussions to it, and I knew that the backlash of a very large family who is hell bent on protecting their reputation, would be a shit storm to deal with.
So I prepared for the storm.
About a year ago when my name started to become more well known and my blog started to attract more attention than I knew what to do with, Mr. Attorney Man and I started to spend quite a bit of time talking about the legalities of it all, what I could prove via documents. records, and witnesses if I needed to, and further, I started reaching out to people in my life and letting them know about this blog. I told my surrogate family, I told my friends, and eventually I told my nonprofit board members.
They have all known what I’ve been doing with this blog, and they have all been cheering me on. Many of my friends and nonprofit board members are my biggest blog fans, and I've been very blessed that they have all been so accepting.
In fact, people have been cheering me on for longer than I even knew and I have been utterly astounded at how many people from my church, my circle of friends, and people that I grew up with have come forward claiming “Ah ha! I knew it!”
They knew because instead of looking away, they looked closer.
And when my family found out last month, that storm came down hard.
But after a storm, comes the calm.
I am calm and I am at peace.
For me, it’s over.
No more hiding. No more trying to be anyone that I’m not, and no more trying to pretend that I’m OK. No more secret writing career, no more secret past, no more secret life.
This is me.
My extended family finding out, it was the end game for me. It was the final curtain in the performance of a lifetime, of my lifetime; the show of “I’m Alright.”
I was never alright, and now the show is over.
My family knows, the curtain has been torn down, and the final act has been played in “I’m Alright.”
It’s over for good.
This blog, it was always the beginning for me. It was where I started my healing, where I found my voice, and the place that I found myself. You’ve watched me from day one when I sat in my bed with my computer, recovering from a sexual assault, and questioning my entire life.
You’ve watched me as I found my voice, shed my shame (sometimes shed my clothing), found my parenting stride, stepped into the dating world, gotten my heart broken, fixed my mangled heart, started my nonprofit, watched it thrive, made great friends, and found all of you.
This is where I am.
And now my family knows.
I've spent the last several years tearing down the stage props from the performance “I’m Alright,” but as much as I’ve been trying my damnedest to raise the curtain on “It Is Not My Shame To Bear,” it was never totally all the way up, because there was still so much to hide.
I was still hiding from my family.
But today, the curtain is up.
As for my pen name, I will be keeping it because although some Internet people are hell bent on invading my privacy, I do have two children who I am not trying to fully and voluntarily parade around the planet, and I personally think it's an irresponsible move to offer up my personal information (which Mr. Attorney Man reminds me of on a daily basis). But beyond that, I no longer have to worry about what will happen if people find out, because aside from safety purposes, I'm not hiding from anyone anymore, and everyone in my life already knows that this is me.
This is me.
As for my family? Well, as I always welcome my new readers, today I would like to welcome my family.
Welcome family, as you can see, I’ve been writing about you. I’ve also been stripping, swearing, raising two amazing kids, dating, having the time of my life, and yep, talking about you.
I’m sorry that it’s not what you expected or what you would have liked to read, but what can I say?
This is my life, this has been my life, and I’m sorry that you never noticed.
I’m sorry that you never really knew me.
I'm sorry that you never really took the time to know me.
As for my mother, if you wanted me to write nicer things about you, well, then maybe you should have been a nicer person.
In life traumas will happen, maybe to you, or maybe to someone you know. They will feel horrific, unbelievable, and you will have a hard time grasping the reality of their truth, but that doesn’t mean that they didn’t happen.
Rape, it happens. Abuse, it happens. Children get abused, husbands beat their wives, people have affairs, spouses become drug addicts, fathers abandon their children, and situations occur that we would rather pretend do not exist.
They do exist.
Just because you didn’t see it, doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.
If someone refuses to believe that something happened to you just because they didn’t see it, then that is on them. There is no less truth to what you went through just because you were the only one who went through it.
You went through it, and you matter.
You are important, and so is what you are feeling.
Stand firm in what you know, and stand firm in who you are.
You are important, and what you went through matters.
It did happen.
It did exist.
And for anyone that doesn’t want to believe that?
Well that’s on them.
As for us, we have no shame to bear.
Welcome to the show people. I haven't always been alright, but I have no shame to bear.
This is my life, even if you're just seeing if for the first time.
Things in life do not cease to exist just because we refuse to believe in them, but refusal to acknowledge life beyond our eyes is a commitment to a closed mind.
I've never seen a dream, but the only way to make them come true is to acknowledge their possibility to exist.
I don't need to see everything in order to know that there are things in life that I have simply not seen. Like the wind, although I've never seen it, I've seen enough evidence of its impact to believe that it's real.
Abuse continues, because of its ability to hide in the places that we can't always see.
Abuse is silenced, because of people who refuse to believe.
I won't be silenced anymore.
Extended family, welcome to the blog.
I won't stop talking just because you want me to.
Things don't cease to exist, just because they make you too uncomfortable to accept.