It came up at Thanksgiving while the family was together in Chicago. My mother told me I should stop speaking so poorly of myself, because it worsens my perspective on life and she thinks I’m such a good and sweet girl. I had to examine why I did this to myself. I’ve always been critical of things in life, not in a cruel way, but I like to ask for the why’s in life. I do that in myself as well, and to be truthful, humans are very broken, and of all the people in the world, I am the most informed of my own brokenness. I live in this body. I hear my own thoughts. All of them. Terrible and otherwise. So it is easier to be self critical, especially when it, whatever it was, has always been my fault.
My older brother had an anxiety disorder while we were growing up. If I ever became upset by something he did or said it’s seem to be the cop out that saved him and wounded me. We had to walk on eggshells a lot with him. Social interactions were only with certain and safe people so we didn’t trigger a panic attack for him. If my brother ever hurt my feelings he often had as severe of a reaction to my hurt reaction and generally speaking even though he did something that upset and hurt me I often got in trouble for triggering him, even though I was the wounded victim. My mother would often say “You chose to let him get to you. Consider the source. He can’t change he has a condition. You have to choose to change your attitude.” Then my younger sibling began emulating my older brother’s anxiety and doing much the same. As the only girl and the more emotional one of the three of us, I became an easy target. “Don’t let them get to you.” My mother would say. “They’ll never change.”
Still, I felt that my parents were telling me if I was getting hurt it was always going to be my own fault. Which now as an adult I realize isn’t true. Yes, I was a contributing factor. Sometimes I tried to swing back. To hurt back. I did become part of the cause a lot of my own messes, but with my brothers, since my younger one realized he could emulate my older brother and get away with the same thing, I could never win. I had to change and it was all on me. All of it. All. Of. It.
Well they grew up and they did change, and it made me more bitter about it all.
My husband and I have been trying to spend more time doing evening devotionals. Recently we had been reading 1 John 4 and verse 18 came up, which talks about there being “no fear in love” and describes that perfect love casts out fear. I started thinking about how I love people (very imperfectly) and often times I am afraid more or less of the people I claim to love. I try to find ways of being supportive while struggling not to hurt people’s feelings but still tell them what I see in their lives (which can often be very messy and painful for people to hear) but also not treading too near enabling people. Which often happens anyway before I even realize I’m doing it. All this resulting from walking on eggshells as a child with my brothers.
I’ve been examining all these things a great deal. In doing so I have discovered that I have not loved my two siblings very well. In fact I find that I am more afraid of them than probably anyone else in the world. When we get together with the family, I get so anxious I gouge wounds into my scalp and pick at the scabs when I get anxious again. While my siblings have grown up considerably, and aren’t as bad as they used to be, I still feel the wounds of childish and foolish things that we’ve done to hurt each other and it’s really hard to bounce back from that part of my childhood.
This has been a huge wound in my life. One that my husband and I cried over at great length together just the other night when he brought up what my mother mentioned at Thanksgiving again, and every emotion I held back that night poured out of me in tears and foolish sounding explanations. He just held me and cried too. I felt badly afterward, even though I knew he would have scolded me for feeling badly. I’m still trying to navigate it all now and figure out the next steps.