Moving Forward When I Still Feel Like The Bad Kid
This is a long post, I know, and I ask for the pardoning of such this once. I am feeling sort of between a rock and a hard place with my life, and I feel that making a shorter post would not do it. I appreciate the time taken to go through this...thanks.
My childhood was one that most of my less fortunate friends would consider comfortable. Mom always provided me with the necessities I needed to be OK. However, it was speckled with unfortunate events. Dad left when I was 8 or 9, and the divorce was very difficult. My parents did not talk to me and my sister about it before it happened, we just got picked up from school like usual and mom explained to us that Dad was not coming home. I don't remember exactly what was said in the car (I'm 22 now, so it's hard to recall), but I do remember having a lot of sleepless nights after that, and having dreams of Dad and crying a lot.
Me and my sister had to quickly adapt to weekend visitations and sometimes Wednesday ones, but this was difficult. We found ourselves meeting girlfriend after girlfriend of my father's while still feeling like dead weight at home, with my mom's second (and very abrupt, about four months after she and dad left) marriage being there and us feeling we didn't belong.
My mom and dad fought all the time, and still do to this day. Mom always regarded Dad as a dead-beat while Dad considered mom a psycho. Me and my sister often found ourselves in the middle, and we were expected to relay and provide messages to and from the parents. As kids, we didn't entirely understand our places and how communication worked. So, we naturally said the wrong things at times and we got harshly reprimanded for such on both sides. It felt like a losing situation most of the time, and that nothing we could say would be correct or right, according to our folks.
As a child, I had profound Asperger's syndrome, as well as Cerebral Palsy that I received at least two hours a day of occupational therapy for in school. I was extremely socially awkward and introverted, even though I loved the other kids and tried to connect with them. I was bullied a lot, and eventually, Mom (a special ed teacher in the school district I was in) decided to lead a lawsuit against the district for ignoring the issue. We won after a few years, but in the process, I was subject to several depositions (where I spoke face-to-face, without breaks, to my and opposing lawyers), each of which ended with me having anxiety attacks and breaking down, with the other lawyers continually trying to draw information out of me, even in a weakened state. The state swore the money over to my name, and Mom could not legally touch it without my consent, at 13 years of age. She was furious and I was often warned against requesting Dad's assistance in managing it. I felt, at that time, I did something very wrong and I deserved every bit of reprimand for something I could not decide for myself.
After my mom's second marriage ended (it was with an alcoholic military veteran), she wasn't home much at all, and spent a lot of time at the casinos or dating men. At this time I was 16 and I was dealing with a lot. I felt responsible for looking after my sister, pleasing both my parents, continuing to do well in school, co-lead a paintball team, and learning to cook just to make sure me and my sister had a proper meal each night. I was also having a lot of romantic feelings for my (male) friends, and I didn't understand them. I became anxious and angry a lot and found myself doing unhealthy things, like self-injuring and lying compulsively to keep up with the expectations others had of me that I couldn't meet on my own.
It was around this time where I became very close to my stepmother (Dad's fiancee, they still are not married for questionable reasons). I looked to her for guidance and trusted her more than God himself. Because she was a drug and alcohol rehab counselor at the time, I trusted her words absolutely, even though a lot of them were very harsh and hurtful (i.e., saying I was "a monster" when I had an outburst one time, and "selfish" when I got angry after Dad told me to consider others before myself). She often held her wisdom as being absolute while dismissing the views and methods of non-substance related professionals. A lot of times, she would say something mean and hurtful, and then allow me to cry for a while before attempting to clarify and passively defend herself.
When I turned 21, I snapped out of the spell I was in, and realized that all my healthy friends were not spoken to like I was by their parents. So, I left my stepmother's guidance and tried to get better myself, albeit not entirely constructively.
Despite my efforts, my sister is the one who turned out successful, married, owning a house, etc. I am older than her and I am still struggling to stay in college and find someone to spend more time with than in my bed for a night. I am doing my darnedest (with 10 years of therapy under my belt) to cope with my feelings and move on, but sometimes, it just gets too much. I still feel like that angry kid, at times, that was constantly silenced and ignored in my family.
My mom is trying to make amends somehow, by being supportive of my therapy and talking to me when she can. I look at this and I really do appreciate it, and it is what I wanted from the start, but I get angry inside every time I am told by someone I need more work while regarding Mom as 'that parent who got a bad egg'. I always feels like no one sees what actually happened, and thus points fingers at the hurt child who is being angry rather than at the parent whom I trusted as a child, and was constantly let down growing up. It just doesn't feel fair.
Aside from this, Mom doesn't see the slight need to change anything about herself, and refuses to go to counseling or anything, even though she has worse OCD and stuff than I do. Whenever my counselor (whom I am very close to, in a patient-counselor way, of course) instructs me to not think about the past and try to focus on my recovery, I immediately feel like I am being asked to forget about what Mom did and accept that I am an angry, flawed, wretched, and dark person.
I was intervened a while back for a money spending issue I was having, and when the counselor called me a 'difficult child', I got furious and left the intervention, after insulting the interventionist. The words that continually cycled through my head, during and after this, were "the nerve! To call me difficult after invading my home and not taking a single minute to learn anything about me..."
I was later spoken to by my grandma- whom I would do "anything" for because I love her too much not to- and she convinced me to get help by agreeing to pay for a program of my choosing.
At this point, I have fully recognized that my anger is harmful to me and others, and that it is holding me back. I really need to- and want to- abandon it and move on, and be a better son and family member in general. But, when I consider that acceptance would be one of the first steps to me getting better, I get terrified about the prospect of 'accepting' myself as a bad and dark person.
I already feel like the black sheep of my family, and the 'disappointment' to the elders in my family. In my eyes, stepping into treatment is the same as taking full responsibility for "everything" that has happened, and shouldering the anger of everyone and my own guilt, which has driven me time and time again to different substances and behavior.
I want to do "something" to get better, and I don't know who else to ask about what I can do. I came across this website and it seemed promising...I hope someone could take the time to read my post, and help someone who is really struggling and desiring to hurt no more. Thank you.
Response from Dr. DeFoore
Hello Jay, and thanks for telling your story here. I can tell that you're bright, and a very good person, from what you've written here.
You are to blame for absolutely nothing from your childhood. You are responsible for all of the choices and decisions you have made as an adult. Take no blame for anything about the way your family was, or what happened to you as a child. You were not a "difficult child" or a "black sheep." If you are a disappointment to anyone, that is their problem, not yours.Those labels tell the story of the family, not the child who is being labelled.
I think that if you do all of the exercises on this FAQ page and this one (to let go of parents), you will find some relief and resolution.
You can do this, Jay. You are worthy of a good life, and only you can create that for yourself.
My very best to you,
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