I’ve been doing healing work lately (again), around my dysfunctional childhood. Because I know that I have a lot of holes in my childhood memory, I contacted two of my cousins who grew up in the same town, though they are significantly older than I am. With the age difference, I hoped to glean a different perspective of my mother in particular. She was bipolar, and when she was manic, she would cut me down with a vicious tongue. When she was depressed, there were times she could barely function.
I asked them each if they ever saw behavior of my mother that they recognized as unusual or out of the ordinary. Did they see her bipolar illness? Were they cognizant enough to know anything was off with their aunt? Or did they even spend enough time around her to be able to see anything? It’s possible that things were kept from them.
By the time my parents got together, my cousins were teenagers. So they got to witness the short courtship, the wedding, and the subsequent births of my siblings and myself.
As I suspected, the first cousin I wrote to didn’t have anything significant to report, although he was sorry to know that my relationship with my mom had been so damaging to me. Soon after that, I wrote to his older sister, who is old enough to be a young mother to me. She suggested we talk on the phone, and we did. It was a fantastic conversation.
Because she is about 19 years older than me, she had a perspective of my parents generation in particular that was really helpful for me. She recounted a few stories about what it was like when our family would join hers for holidays (mayhem). And she told me a few stories about my mother, and a few more about our fathers and their brother.
As we talked, I debated telling her about my deep dark secret, but I felt in my heart that telling her would be safe. And it was. Besides, it’s no longer my secret. I didn’t create it, I didn’t cause it, and I’m no longer holding onto it.
She was shocked to learn that her little cousin had been molested by a brother, and had a child. But she didn’t go to pieces, and was able to hold it together and be supportive. When our call concluded, she said she’d keep my secret, but I told her she didn’t have to. I’m no longer keeping it, and she doesn’t have to. There will be more conversations.
Since that call, I’ve discovered that word is spreading. Family members are in shock, and will have to process the news as they can.
All I can do is answer my family’s questions (as they get in touch with me), and affirm that my goal is my own healing and peace of heart. Period. My intention is not to paint my brother as a monster, but rather as the lost soul that I believe he is. I’ve done a lot of healing work around my relationship with him, and have come a very long way. It is not my intention to stir up a hornet’s nest (although, shit happens when big secrets come out) or for family members to take up sides. My brother and I were both victims in a household that was dysfunctional in several ways. We coped with it very differently because we are very different people.
I have taken responsibility for my own healing and have come a very long way. And part of healing is leaving victimhood behind and taking responsibility for my life, knowing that I truly create my life. The game of life is not about pointing fingers and assigning blame, but rather learning how to roll with the punches with as much grace as possible.