I had planned on writing about something else today but then a note I had made a while back resurfaced and got my mind going in a different direction. One thing I have noticed with my life and also in the writings of the bloggers I follow is just how many people have dealt with estrangement or being abandoned. As well, many of these same people have been through it multiple times, just as I have. I can tell you that after a while, you start to wonder if it’s you that is the problem. I know there was a point where I did! For me, there is the multiple family estrangements and partial estrangements. I have had a handful of friends over the years that totally just dropped me and our friendship. I have definitely had a fair share of abandonment in my life. I had to take a serious look at myself – is it me? Am I the problem? The answer I came to is this – yes and no.
I think it takes courage to look at yourself and find your own faults. A lot of people can’t do that. But in order to heal, to recover from trauma, you really kind of have to be able to look at yourself. With all the bad things that have been thrust upon us, there is always something we could have done different, said different, even if it something quite small. Realize of course that this something may not have changed the course of what happened, but perhaps may have changed it a little, helped it a little. But we are all human and we all react differently to trauma. I can’t hold anyone’s reaction against them anymore than I would want them to hold mine against me.
The above quote caught my attention when I first saw it. It was a while after I started to think the problem was me. I saw this quote and started to analize the people who had abandoned me in my life. My parents (sexual and emotional abusers), my brother (sexual abuser), my sisters (abuse survivors who in their own insecurities, engaged in emotional abuse), and then there are my old friends who were actually all good people. One chose new, druggy friends over me after I had my son and wasn’t fun anymore. The other I never heard from again after I was supposed to take her jet skiing and I backed out because I had just gotten some bad news and I was an emotional wreck. Another became what I call a Jesus-freak (overly fanatic and therefore way judgmental of others) and I wasn’t righteous enough for her anymore. There were other minor ones but these were the ones that hurt the most.
As I considered all these people, I realized that, like the quote says, maybe I have just had an unusual amount of jerks in my life! Although true, I was also partially at fault. With my sexual abusers, I could have spoken up sooner. I don’t blame or fault myself for this one though. It’s amazing I spoke up at all. I reacted to my sisters and my old friends in the same way – I just shut down, fell silent and felt betrayed. You see, I tend to take things way too hard, especially with my low self-esteem. Mix that with the fact that I avoid confrontation and you have someone who will just let it roll when someone walks away from me. This is a fault to a point. This is where maybe I could have said or done something different. Perhaps after the incidents, I could have reached out to them and tried to talk it out instead of going into hiding, instead of feeling like they wronged me and it should be them that comes to me to fix it. They never came, not a single one, and I was too hurt to go to them. So was I the problem or were they?
Shame on them for their actions and shame on me for not being able to rise above it. I don’t know why so many people in my life have abandoned me. Maybe I am too trusting, maybe even too intense sometimes. Maybe I have high expectations of people and want them to care as much as I do. But maybe them walking away had more to do with their lives, their emotions, their realities, than it had to do with me. This is what I have been realizing lately.
Just for one example, take my sister Sharon, who was abused as a child like me. She and I grew up handling the abuse in quite opposite ways. Whereas I became weak and withdrawn, she became strong and outspoken, always having control. Maybe my finally standing up to her, the only person in our family to ever stand up to her, maybe that made her feel a loss of control and that made it easy for her to do what she did to me. I can’t fault her for how the childhood abuse affected her, but I can fault her for lashing out at me in cold, cruel, calculating ways. What she did to me was a conscious choice. Abuse most definitely affects us, influences us, but we are still in charge of, in control of, our own decisions in life. We can choose to be good or bad- she chose bad – I chose good. I could easily have done things to get back at her, but that’s just not who I am. I could never be happy with myself for intentionally and willfully hurting someone else, let alone someone I am supposed to love. So my sisters’ walking away from me seems to have had way more to do with her than it actually had to do with me. This is a valuable realization, for me and hopefully for those reading this. It doesn’t necessarily make anything easier but it does offer a bit of understanding.
It is never easy, being abandoned. It is so easy to look at ourselves and think there must be something wrong with us. The truth is though, it may not really be you at all. You may just have a few assholes in your life.