I had an appointment with my therapist yesterday, and among the things that we talked about was, until recently, my inability to draw boundaries with my family, and how their reactions to these boundaries made me feel guilt and anxiety.
I talked earlier this week about being raised in a big Italian Catholic family and how the expectations was that family comes first, no matter what, and that everything that you do reflects on the family. You’re expected to take care of your elders, and when one of them tells you to do something, you do it. Even if you don’t want to, it goes against what you believe, etc. So needless to say, starting to put some boundaries in place has been hard. I don’t talk to anyone in my family past my parents, brother, and occassionally an aunt and an uncle. I literally have no, or very limited (Facebook) contact with anyone else. And I’m totally fine with that.
I’m the kind of person that doesn’t love someone just because I have to, or should. Just because they’re family doesn’t mean I automatically love them. I love the people closest to me, the people that really know me and I them. The idea that I should love someone just because we have shared DNA just seems a bit odd to me. Sometimes I wonder if it isn’t because that idea has been shoved down my throat for 38 years. Sometimes I wonder if I’m a bit of a sociopath. But I prefer to love someone for their actions and deeds, not just because they exist.
One of the other things that we’ve talked about is how I’ve broken boundaries this year and gotten away from my family’s expectations and done what I want to do, look how I want to look, etc. I’ve gotten flack from it, sure. I mean, my mother is the first to say, “I just don’t like it. Can’t you wear something different?” Or, “I’m still not used to your hair. Can’t you change it back?” (Spoiler: I’ve had black hair since March. She just doesn’t like it.) But we talked about the fact that I’m much happier this way. I’m finally starting to feel comfortable in my own skin. And I don’t want to go back to looking how I’m expected to.
But both of these things have had an effect on my mental health. While the changes have been largely positive, there are still things that bring my anxiety. For example, my mother is used to, and expects, to have a lengthy conversation with me at least once a day, generally when I’m on my way home from work. But I’ve started just not calling her. Sometimes I’d really much rather listen to a podcast or a playlist. Of course I then hear “I didn’t talk to you yesterday, is everything ok?” I hedge around an excuse and change the subject. Does something have to not be ok for me to not call you? Sometimes I just want some me time when I’m in the car. Especially after a long day at work – sometimes I just don’t want to talk!
But once cell phones became a thing she always called my grandfather on the way home and they’d chat. But I feel like she’s trying to force a closer relationship than what actually exists, that she wants what she had with her dad. But I don’t want to give her that.
Between you and me, I want desperately to pull away from my family a bit. Put some distance there. They’re smothering, they’re loud, they’re abrasive, and in terms of world views, I just don’t share the same ones that they do. If I could figure out how to get out of holiday dinners, I would. I would be much happier if it was just us, having a nice dinner, watching the Doctor Who Christmas special, etc.
I am a very insular person. I’m an introvert. I don’t like big gatherings, and quite honestly, I don’t like being around kids. At the end of the day, I just want to be left alone. Mike recognizes this and recognizes that I need my space (part of the reason he helped get this office off of the ground so quickly). My family doesn’t. They want to be in your face constantly.
Sometimes I have to laugh that I am so different from my family. But in some ways, it’s kind of the same as me rejecting the church and declaring myself an atheist. I have rebelled against everything I grew up being taught, as much as I’ve been able. The perfectionism that was ingrained at a young age isn’t going anywhere, but I’ve pushed back against ideas of family, faith, politics, lifestyle. It’s like a teenage rebellion that came around 20 years too late, but has a bigger scope because I’m independent.
I’m lucky in that I have a lot of people that support me, even if other people don’t. And for that, I’m thankful.
I hope you’re having a good day. Stay safe, friends!