A while ago I was having a hard time trying to explain my family relationships to my therapist. There are a lot of people involved in what happened and I couldn’t seem to connect it all into something coherent so that he was able to follow along.
After an especially frustrating session, I sat down with some coloured markers and a pen. I started with myself, a great big dark circle, and worked outwards from there. I tried to group the people by colour based on how I felt when I was around them; red meant unsafe, broken red meant parts of them were unsafe, yellow was neutral, purple was artificial and green was safe.
This is what happened….
Sometimes, I’ll take out the drawing and look at it. One thing that always stands out for me is that there is absolutely no green anywhere on my father’s side and a distinct line divides the two halves. When I think about my father’s family I feel anxious, like I need to find a way to sever any connection there is and cut them away like a cancer.
Other times, I’ll take the drawing and fold it along the part marked ‘the Great Divide’ to see if anything changes. The first thing that I notice? I only exist on one side and disappear from the other. It feels as if I don’t belong with my mother’s family, like there isn’t room for me with them and that they have left me behind. I’ll get the feeling that they are the good and I am part of the bad and that is why I cannot be with them.
My therapist said the drawing helped but asked me why there was a line coming off of my father, but not my mother. Truthfully, as I was drawing it I didn’t know what to do with her. I remember my father growing up and I remember all of the horrible things he did and the way he acted, but I don’t really remember much of my mother at all. I tell myself that she must have been missing because I don’t know how to make sense of her doing nothing about the things that were happening. It feels like she didn’t care. How does someone accept that their own mother would turn their back on them and pretend that nothing was wrong? That feels like very deep confirmation that you aren’t worth being loved and cared about. How do you accept that if it’s true? It hurts to believe that my mother failed to protect me.
I still don’t know where to put her all these months later. I won’t…..no, that isn’t the right word…..I can’t…I can’t let myself believe that she belongs on the other side, with those people who hurt me so much. The problem is, I don’t know if she belongs with me either. For the most part I put her aside because I just don’t know what to do with her.
The one thing the drawing showed me was that my core family (my father, mother and brother) was unsafe. My father was violent, my mother was absent and my brother was unsafe and abusive in all the wrong ways–physically, emotionally and sexually.
The events that took place between my core family and I have been one of the hardest things to come to terms with. For the most part I still cannot deal with any of it.