It is Not Who You Are – It is What Has Happened to You

Originally Written 2013

 

I think this has to be my mantra for awhile. So often..and by often I really mean all of the time, when I have a panic attack, mood swing, intense anger, my rational thinking brain is reduced to a hellish tunnel vision on what is wrong with me personally. It is not only that I do not feel worthy of love, but it is a deep seated fear that those who do love me will soon see the “real me” and that love will surely go away.

I don’t know how to stop letting my father’s circumstances and addiction define me as who I am. I know I am not alone in this phenomena. Children who have lived this existence, I think, really struggle with the “Why” of it all. And I think it is widely accepted that children do not get or “deserve” an explanation into their parent’s behavior. In the absence of that explanation, children turn inward and the reasoning becomes blame. It must be me, it must be what I do, how I talk, act, look..It’s Me.

I still think that.

Never mind that Dan had insecurities of his own on raising a family, that he was angry with himself for not being able to rise above an addiction, that he had a past that he was as defined by then as I am now. There was never a conversation in my house where he sat his family down and said…”I know I am an angry person. But it is because of my shit. Not You.”  Yeah. That never happened.

It is very important to me to have that conversation with my son – I ask him if he knows I still love him even when I’m mad. I tell him that it is not about him – that I have big emotions. And you know what? He understands. It is truly amazing. And I wonder how different, if at all, it would be if there was ever a talk like that in my childhood home.

I don’t know if he’s capable of that conversation even at his age of 56. He still blames the world for his problems and he still takes it out on the family he has left around him…which isn’t many. He lives alone. He has chosen his path.

But here’s where I am conflicted: what I have learned in terms of communicating within a family unit is dysfunctional. I am passive aggressive, I navigate the room by sensing other peoples moods and body language and feel uncomfortable with direct, verbal communication. I never come right out with what is bothering me – I send my negative mood out in waves and nobody is exempt from being washed over. I feel like a monster when it happens. I feel like my father. And I don’t like him much so what is there really to like about me? Only it spirals much deeper than that.

And my husband, especially, has been the one to remind me that this is not who I am – it is a condition of what has happened. And I want desperately to believe it. In my empathetic moments, I apply this to my father – but I also believe that when you are able to take control, you have a responsibility to do so. And then I feel that the only real difference between me and my father is my will to be better. My husband disagrees. He tries so very hard to separate that notion and deep down, I know he’s right. We are two different people. But the parent/child bond is the cement upon which the rest of the foundation is built. How on earth do I take that a part?

I will admit that a part of holding onto this identity is actually a weird sense of  self-preservation. I feel that if I don’t hurt enough, and make it known to others that I feel this deeply in my pain…that it will disappear, and me along with it. That this will all have been for nothing.

So it begs the question: Who am I without my pain?

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