I think the primary challenge to the new blogger (at least one as anxious as myself) is getting over the fear that someone they know — friends, family, or coworkers — might read their writings and judge them, perhaps harshly. Anyone who has blogged for more than a few months knows this is an unfounded fear: most people don’t actually give two shits about what you’ve written let alone recalling the fact that you’ve been writing in the first place. I recall my cousin asking me about this blog a year or so ago: “So you’ve have, uh, what’s it called? A blog? And you write? That’s really cool. I haven’t actually read any of it yet though…” Yeah. No shit. No one in the family does and I’ve stopped worrying about them reading it a long time ago. I feel like I can bash them all I want and no one would ever know.
This post will be a little different though if you read the title again. My parents do “follow” this blog on Facebook even though I don’t think they’ve read a single thing I’ve written. Ever. It seems fitting for the topic at hand, doesn’t it? Despite not reading anything I’ve written, I think them seeing a big, fat, blue and white banner saying MY PARENTS SUCK might get them to change their minds, if only temporarily. I’m not going to post this on Facebook. I’m not scared they’ll read this, I’m just worried that if I write this in the frame of mind that they could read it I might not be as open as I would be otherwise. And if they do read it? Who cares? It might do them good to read it and especially so if I wrote it as blatantly truthful as possible because I thought that they wouldn’t read it. So this will just be a secret between myself and those who find it themselves.
I don’t think kids realize how much their parents affect them growing up. I’ve always felt separate and unique from everyone else and being a child was no different. I’ve always felt like myself and never considered that my family/parents where shaping me as a person. Obviously being around parents/guardians as an impressionable kid will change you, it just never felt like it at the time. As a child you also have no outside perspective as to how other parents really are. All you are aware of your narrow personal situation are are hopelessly ignorant of other families. You don’t realize that other families can and are horribly fucked up or immensely better than yours unless you have knowledge of them. In short, being raised in a fucked up home can easily lead you to think the situation is normal. You grow up inevitably altered and perhaps even damaged without even being aware of it. It’s scary.
As an adult I’ve grown to appreciate how many flaws probably stem from the damage my parents inflicted, usually unintentional damage. And I want to stress that we (my sister and I) didn’t not have a bad upbringing with a capital B. No one was molested, abused, or tortured. We never starved. We never suffered. But I think this made it harder for me to accept the damage; by not having a Bad upbringing how much damage could’ve been done? It doesn’t take a dramatic event to mold you though. The small and nearly imperceptible hits you take daily slowly bend and form you even if you’re unaware of it.
My mom was crazy. Unhinged. Angry. Depressed. Memories are vague from my childhood but she would always be yelling at us. Tell us how ungrateful we were and how we didn’t do anything to help out around the house. Her anger was always relegated to yelling and despite constant threats to “beat our asses” she was rarely violent. We’d usually laugh it off because she was never a threat. A dog with a fearful bark but no bite. My dad and her would scream and fight at each other and I vaguely recall her grabbing knives a few times, but usually would just throw random shit at him. He never seemed to do anything bad to her, but I later come to understand what I had missed with age; my dad wasn’t a saint.
She was very selfish and self-centered. Everyone had to cater to her. She is still this way although she has improved immensely over the years. But she is still a fucked up person. You always need to do the work, or to have an understanding of her unique situation; she always needs to be catered towards. If she owes you money, for example, you need to drive to her house and get it yourself. And you need to be grateful that she even paid you back the money! “I hope you’re happy” she has said to me a few times upon paying me money for our mutual phone bill. Yes, I’m serious. She also “borrowed” $200 from me once and upon nagging her for a payment, she wondered why I didn’t want to help her out and wasn’t grateful for her raising me. It wasn’t the point, I said, a loan was a loan and you can’t just change the terms of what was agreed upon. I still don’t have my $200 either…ANYWAYS…
Apparently she struggled with mental illness and depression the entire time we were kids (and still does), but it always seemed like an excuse. She’d endlessly bitch, yell, complain, and scream at us and justify doing so with her depression. If you tried to argue any opposing point of view about anything she’d usually break down crying, play the victim, and talk about her depression. Always on the attack until you attack her and then she is the victim. And endless “woe is me” story. You literally cannot tell her she’s wrong in a firm way without her being a victim. Considering the previous paragraph, depression always seemed a way for her to make anything instantly about herself. She was the one hurting, no one else understood this, and to hell with anyone else suffering: it was her that needed the most help.
My dad was much more “normal” I guess, but his demons and flaws were just not as obvious to us kids. I remember writing a paper in fifth-grade calling him “my hero” and also remember my mom being ultra-pissed that I wrote it. “He’s not a hero, you don’t know the bad things he’s done.” I attributed it to her being mean and pissy (like always) but surprisingly she was onto something. Dad is fucked up, and maybe even more so than our mom. We just didn’t know it really. Mom was openly fucked up whereas dad wasn’t.
He sometimes would drink and would become mean and violent. He’d throw shoes at us. Always the loving father sober he would be transformed by a few drinks into a total asshole. He told us many times “I never wanted you guys anyways” or something along those lines. When we’d get upset by it he’d claim that “drinking made him tell the truth.” It’s one of those things you don’t think sticks with you, but apparently when you write a blog post about it decades later it still hurts. LIke, shit, that was really mean. I was really hurt by it. Luckily he didn’t drink that much, maybe once a month if I could guess. But when he did drink things weren’t good.
That was a classic sign of my dad’s flaws: being too hidden to be honest with himself or others. He’s still that way too, maybe even more so. Passive-aggressive as anyone could ever be. He never directly insulted you or had an opinion as most of his actual opinions and thoughts were hidden behind jokes where he could say what was on his mind and laugh it off if challenged or questioned. Anything emotional was hidden. I’m assuming this is why he’d be a dick when drunk. Everything came flooding out and you couldn’t really blame him because he kept packing baggage deep within himself. And this is why my mom would be immensely mad at him; he would say smart-ass “joking” remarks that were very incendiary towards her, and her being fucking crazy in the first place would totally lose it. He’d pick at her, subtly insult and provoke her and all of this went right over the heads of the short and ignorant children that we were. Dad wasn’t evil, but as mom was well aware he wasn’t a saint either.
I’m certain my dad’s emotional immaturity stems from his mom’s — our grandma — death from stroke when he was twelve. I assume he was faced with some serious emotional shit and coped by just stuffing it deep inside and ignoring it. He had a slew of brothers and sisters and being one of the oldest required him to grow up quickly and act as a parental figure. As I’m talking about myself being fucked up by my childhood situation, you also have to realize my dad is also fucked up from his childhood situation. You can’t blame him I guess. I guess you can’t blame anyone really. It’s one big giant chain of fucked up people raising fucked up kids. And so on.
And now onto myself. How am I fucked up? That’s hard to answer because knowing yourself is hard to do, at least it is for me. I struggle with depression, maybe some genetic holdover from my mom. I don’t know. And my depression is usually hidden, tucked away, and kept quiet possibly due to my mom’s bombastic treatment of the subject. Remember depression was her go-to, catch-all reasons for everything. It didn’t feel like serious depression even if it really was. It seemed like something she’d bring up to win arguments or to get us to do things. She never tried to get help (that I recall), making it seem even more trivial. I guess I’m totally opposed to this. I see depression as a serious thing, so don’t want to bring it up to strangers and coworkers every day or to play the victim all the time. In a way I probably keep it too hidden and end up being more like my dad. Shit.
Most of what I learned through my mom was an opposite reaction to her. She was open about mental illness to a degree that trivialized it; I keep it hidden because it’s a serious subject to me. My mom would also yell and act generally crazy while I try to remain calm and logical. She was/is also terrible with managing money, and as a response I ended up being super talented at managing money; this still leads me and her to arguing like the examples above. I do have her mouth, as you can fucking tell from my writings, but otherwise she taught me who not to be and it probably worked out for the best honestly.
As for my dad? I think I have the same “opposite action” thing going on from him, especially lately now that I’ve realized the ways he is flawed. As stated my dad avoids problems by not acknowledging them. He recently had a pulmonary embolism where his breathing became worse and worse over a few weeks. A few weeks. Just avoid the problem until it goes away, right? He’s also terribly overweight but doesn’t seem to care about it, not enough to change his habits at least. He’s also diabetic but doesn’t give two shits about insulin and checking his blood sugar as well as he should. It’s the same emotionally: closed off and not acknowledging any issues whatsoever. So as a reply to this I’ve been trying to be much more open and receptive of my problems. Realize the problem, make a plan to solve the problem, fix the problem. It’s easy and the hardest part is realizing the problem in the first place.
On a more visceral level I think I’m so terrified, anxious, and frightened because of my upbring. Once again our parents arguing was never an obvious problem at the time, but something seems to have been carried into adulthood from the fights. One scenario really stands out. A few years ago my dad moved in with my mom to help her pay for her house (yes they are divorced and yes they did move back in for financial reasons and no it did not work well at all) mostly because she’s bad with money. They somehow got into a yelling argument just like they did decades ago and something deep inside me appeared. A visceral terror and fear of people arguing. The precipice right before a simple disagreement turned into full-fledged yelling, and possible knife-grabbing and waving and object tossing affair. I felt panic and on-edge and tears creeping around inside my eyelids but adult me was able to choke the feelings back down, but in the moment I felt like I was instantly teleported back into my eight or ten-year-old body feeling as helpless and terrified as a child me would feel. When you have those memories from childhood hidden deep down inside you where you’re not even aware of them, is it that hard to imagine that they might also be the source of anxiety and fear that seem to haunt me daily?
I also have very strong beliefs about my upbringing and my inability to persevere in the face of difficulty. I totally blame them for how I am with this aspect of my personality. I had very good grades as a kid. I was smart. I was the kid the teachers would “want an entire classroom of!” or some bullshit like that. I didn’t have to try hard to succeed at school or anything academic. My entire life in school was one of ease — no effort, no motivation, no difficulty — and I’d be rewarded anyways. They also kept telling me how smart and talented I was and how I could do anything I wanted to do if I just applied myself! Bullshit. This is my biggest regret about my childhood and what I blame my parents for the most: I didn’t learn how to persevere.
I know they were trying to be supportive to their kids (maybe as a reply to their own parents’ lack of support?) but that’s how you scar them and cripple them as adults. Before this blogging ordeal I never tried anything difficult that was outside of my comfort zone and in some ways I think I enjoy blogging so much because of the challenge to persevere in the face of zero obvious progress. I never experienced failing over and over until I succeeded because I never had to do that as a child. By endlessly encouraging me as a child they crippled my ability to weather defeat and learn perseverance. I learned that I didn’t need to take chances. I’m a softy. I can’t take rejection or failure. I can’t hear criticisms. And damn is it a struggle to unlearn things you’ve had beaten into you for literal decades.
This was a really long and rambly post that probably didn’t offer any readers anything in return, but I wanted to vent a bit. How have your parents (or other adults) fucked you up? Did they do it in small and subtle ways like mine did despite having an average childhood? Do you have strange personality quirks that you’re not sure where they came from? Did you have a good childhood and your parents actually didn’t cause you much harm? Are you a well-off and well-rounded adult? Or did you have a childhood from hell where all you learned to do was be beaten and insulted day after day? Where your adulthood is mostly a struggle to live and deal with all the trauma inflicted upon you?