R is for Resentment

r white woodI love my family. I do. But I also resent them. A lot. And lately it’s been really bothering me. I’m not quite sure why. Maybe because the weather’s changing and I’ve been thinking about how nice it would be to take a stroll with my sister-in-law. Maybe because I went a few days without a phone and realized that no one would have known if I hadn’t posted anything on Facebook about it. Or maybe it’s just time to get over it.

So, like I always do when I want to do something, I warmed up my favorite search engine and looked for anything I could find on resentment. I came across this quote:

resentment2

This pic was created at brainyquote.com.

It stopped me in my proverbial tracks. One of the things I truly value (and I know this cause I’ve gone over my values a couple of times in the last few months in counseling) is trying to do God’s will and grow spiritually. The fact that I’m disrupting my values by holding onto resentment gives my bone marrow frostbite.

So I sat there and thought about it. Why was I so resentful of my family? Here’s why…help

Somehow growing up I picked up the conviction that getting help by asking for it means less than if someone figures out that you need help and offers it. I’m not quite sure why I picked up that conviction, but I did. What’s worse, I typically don’t ask for help until the last possible second, usually right before disaster strikes. Like right before I slit my wrists.

Unfortunately, most of my family doesn’t think the say way as I do. Especially my brother and sister-in-law, the ones I feel most resentful towards. You see, I needed a lot of help the past year or so. As you may recall from this post, this post, this post, and this post, I was suicidal and went through a major traumatic injury. My brother and sister-in-law are the only family members who could help me (everyone else lives too far away) during those times and I resented it when they didn’t help me more.

What was I expecting from them? Well, when I got home from the psych ward, both times, I expected them to check in with me once in a while. By phone if nothing else. If I didn’t call or stop by, I expected them to call me or stop by my place (I live less then 10 minutes away from them). I didn’t receive any check ins. Ever.

After I broke my arm and was in a cast from my armpit to wrist, I expected a daily visit until I was able to do things fat ladylike pull up my pants up one handed and cook myself dinner. I got daily visits the first two days. I couldn’t pull up my own pants one handed for a month after I was released from the hospital (they kept getting caught on my fat rolls. Remember, I’m circus-fat-lady fat), and I couldn’t cook for two months. In addition, I was on pain killers for six weeks. Pain killers and a history of suicide…not a good thing.

The part that I hate most about how resentful I feel is that I knew I wasn’t gonna get any help from my family unless I asked for it. My brother works too much to be able to help me (he works twelve to eighteen hours a day, typically seven days a week. He’s been known to go three months without a day off). So it was my sister-in-law, a “Domestic Engineer” (aka housewife) who would/should be checking in on me. Now, don’t get me wrong. I adore my sister-in-law. She’s the best thing to ever happen to my brother and a wonderful person. She just believes that it is a person’s responsibility to ask for help; that one shouldn’t just help a person without that request. Her belief comes out of her own past of domestic violence and addiction. And that works for her. It just doesn’t work for me.

Why? Because when I’m deeply depressed, suicidal, traumatized, and in pain, I don’t ask for help unless it’s an

The Nightmare by Henry Fuseli 1781

The Nightmare by Henry Fuseli 1781

emergency (like gotta call 911 emergency). I can’t. And I mean that in an almost physical sense. I spent hours lying on my bed keeping myself alive by telling myself over and over that if I just stayed in bed, I would be able to resist the impulse to kill myself. That if I got up, took that step closer to the drawer where I kept my medications, I would take every single pill I owned in an effort to die. The thought of calling someone for help did cross my mind, and, in occasional moments of logic, I tried to get myself to do it, but I couldn’t. I remember the words piling themselves up at the back of my throat. And I couldn’t get them into my voice box and out of my mouth. No matter how many times I tried to get my hands to pick up a phone, they wouldn’t move. It was almost like psychological paralysis. It sounds dramatic, even soap opera worthy, but it’s true. I couldn’t speak, couldn’t move, couldn’t do anything other than breathe and fight the impulse to kill myself. All of my energy was used up in that fight. I had nothing left to ask for help.

So I didn’t get any help from my family. And the only family member in any position to help me was not pre-supposed to help without being asked. And I knew this. I knew it and yet it still hurt when I didn’t get the help I couldn’t ask for. It still hurts today. And so the resentment grows. And grows.

I haven’t spoken with my family in any way other than through social media in about two months. And I hate it. I miss them so much. I want a hug from my sister-in-law. I want to tease my brother and see that twinkle in his eye that makes him him. I want to hug their dog and chat about NCIS and their grandchildren. I want to find out what home improvement plans they are gonna tackle this summer. I want to see my brother and sister-in-law laugh and kiss and hug in that way that is their own.KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

But I can’t do it until I let go of this resentment that I know is totally irrational. I know that they were never going to be able to help me in the way that I wanted, or even needed, to be helped. I knew it wasn’t going to happen. I knew it. And yet I still expected and wanted it from them.

I suppose that ultimately what’s preventing me from letting it go is that I can’t forgive myself for expecting the impossible from them. I can’t forgive myself for needing help. And if I can’t forgive myself, how am I gonna be able to forgive them?


 

Blessings to you all.

Be well.

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S is for Sibling

s goldI have one sibling, an older brother. Growing up, our parents compared us to each other, often to his detriment. When he was born, there were complications. When I was born (three years later), everything happened perfectly. My brother was a fussy baby. I was quiet and slept right through the night immediately. My brother threw temper tantrums and ran away from home, repeatedly. I didn’t. My parents often said that I was the “perfect” child, the “good” one. My brother was rebellious, “bad.”

I still feel guilty about these comparisons and not just because they made my brother feel bad about himself. You see the instances that my parents claimed were proof of my “goodness” were really just proof that I kept my mouth shut. My brother wasn’t rebellious; he was just willing to say what he thought. Yes he was loud and occasionally violent about it. But he usually had good reason. When it comes right down to it, my brother got the short end of the proverbial stick. And then had that stick used upside his ass.

My brother was our paternal grandparents’ first grandchild. They lived about a half hour away and insisted that my brother spend as much time as possible with them. As a male child, he was a perfect way for my grandparents to try to fix whatever mistakes they thought they made with their only male child. By the time I came along, my brother was more their child then our parents’. I don’t remember a time when he didn’t spend most of his weekends at their house.

I was jealous of his relationship with our grandparents. I thought they loved him more than me. They never said anything, but I may have been right.

My grandfather often planned activities with by brother in mind. I was never invited. Never even asked if I was interested. My grandfather’s big hobby was model trains. I wasn’t allowed to touch them. My brother was allowed to touch, rearrange, and play with the trains. I have distinct memories of my grandfather driving away from our grandparents’ house with my brother in the car, leaving me behind in an empty house (my grandmother was at work). I was eight.

siblings

No this isn’t us.

My revenge was that our maternal grandmother liked me better. She said so. Out loud. With my brother in the room.

We always went to visit our maternal grandparents during our school’s spring break, which usually fell on or near his birthday. They lived on a farm seven hours away from us and talked with a southern accent. My brother complained about these visits every year. He hated that we had to visit on his birthday, that it took so long to get there, that there were strange smells and stranger people. Everyone always commented on how well behaved I was, how I was such a “good girl” for helping out our parents, how much I looked like my mother. I loved our visits.

The older we got, the less our parents compared us. It wasn’t necessary. My brother and I were stuck with the labels of “bad” and “good” child. Each year, our various resentments grew. He resented having to spend weekdays with our parents. I resented our paternal grandparents love for him. He misbehaved and was spanked for it. I kept my mouth shut and nothing happened to me.

He ran away from home at least once a year. Usually in the summer, which he wanted to spend entirely at our paternal grandparents’ house. He had to be bribed into going to our maternal grandparents’ house. I crept into the persona of “good girl” and rarely allowed myself to act otherwise. The shell of goodness felt safe, comfortable, even if it wasn’t always genuine.

Then my brother became a teenager. Our paternal grandmother bought him his first car and we rarely saw him. When he was seventeen, he moved out of our parents’ house and into our paternal grandmother’s apartment (our grandfather had died years before). I watched our parents endlessly discuss my brother’s rebellion. And I wished I was anyone other than what I was: a boiling mass of jealousy and anger within the façade of a “good girl.”

Then my brother became a father and a husband. An adult. Seemingly all of a sudden he stopped rebelling and became “good.” He got a job, provided for his family and treated our parents with respect. He didn’t go out of his way to spend time with them, but he no longer argued with them, no longer picked fights with them. Our parents began to spend hours discussing how much he’d changed. I was still angry, still jealous and still hiding behind my “good girl” façade. But now, no one noticed.

Years later, my brother and I discussed a little about how we were compared. He told me he had hated them. He said that he had always felt as if our paternal grandparents were his real parents. That our parents were just these people he was required to live with. I told him that I thought our paternal grandparents loved him and not me. I also told him how sorry I was that our paternal grandparents and parents used him as a way to work out their problems. And that I had grown up angry that everyone, our parents included, loved him for who he was, not for what he let them think he was.

You see, by allowing myself to crawl inside that “good girl” shell, I had prevented anyone from knowing the real me. I stayed silent whenever anyone said or did anything that I didn’t like or didn’t agree with. I rarely said or did anything troublesome because a “good girl” didn’t do that. But I wasn’t a “good girl” inside. And no one really knew me.

Looking back at all this, I also can see the seeds for what became my arrogance. Our parents called me their “good girl,” their “perfect” child. People, both related and unrelated, praised me for being there for our parents, for my polite behavior, for my “goodness,” even for my intelligence (long before I showed any signs of being anything other than an average student). Growing up I was constantly thinking I deserved things just because I was there. As an adult, I fight against the bitterness of not having my “goodness” acknowledged. I fight resentment every time I hear about special programs for people with kids or for veterans. Not because I think they don’t deserve it, but because I think “what about me? I deserve those things too!” I think I deserve them without working for them. Why? Because I’m me.

I’m me and I’m not a “good girl.” I don’t deserve to be handed things just because I’m alive. But I also don’t deserve to be labeled as any one thing. I’m not just a woman. Not just mentally ill. Not just fat. I’m all of those things and none of those.

I am a human being. A human. Being. And somehow my sibling learned those things long before I did. And without my shell of “goodness.”