Making Lemonade When Your Family Members Are Lemons

How someone treats you is more important than DNA.

When psychologists, doctors, police officers, lawyers, judges and every other professional who comes in contact with your family says that it is one of the most dysfunctional they have ever seen, you know it’s bad. I find it rather funny in a sick sort of way. The things my “family” members have done to try to hurt me can only be described as coming under the heading of “you can’t make this shit up”. After nine years of being obsessed about and stalked, it’s become sort of a dark comedy, where after a while all I can do is laugh at them. Trying to to figure it all out is pointless.

I know I am far from alone. A situation like what our family has been through brings out the very worst in some people. It’s a common story: A parent becomes ill and one family member takes on all of the responsibility for caring for that person. The rest of the family won’t help or cooperate (which they find a way to blame on the caregiver), but has a lot to say when it comes to money (because of what they think they aren’t getting, which of course they deny) and the false accusations start. Ours was already screwed up of course but as I have said many times, add money and serious illness to a situation already filled with greed, gambling addiction, untreated mental illness and hate and you end up with World War III.

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To protect and preserve my own sanity and that of my family, I cut off ties with almost everyone I am related to, except my husband and children. It should have happened years before but I didn’t realize how my “family” actually felt about me, how badly I had been treated behind my back, until they started acting horrifically to my face. Some family members had been treating me horribly since childhood but for various reasons, I hung in there, until I couldn’t anymore. They will never take responsibility for their behavior, since they are perpetual victims. I’m not complaining or feeling sorry for myself. I feel grateful and quite lucky for everything I have learned and the strength it has given me.

Even the extended “family” I knew all talked behind each others’ backs as soon as one of them left the room. They were jealous of each other because they were pitted against each other by their own mother, who they put up on a pedestal no matter how horribly she treated one of their siblings. They relished the opportunity to get involved in conflict and other people’s business. Their own lives were a disaster but they couldn’t wait to criticize others. The worst part was the fake smiles and being nice to your face, while you knew you couldn’t trust them for a second. They had been that way since as long as I could remember. Even as a child I recall sitting at my father’s mother’s kitchen table and having gossip start about their relative as soon as the door closed on their way out. I was disgusted by it then and still am.

I lived my life the opposite way. As a result of growing up in a dysfunctional family I became bulimic but it was the best thing that ever happened to me because at the age of 16 I began my recovery, without the help or knowledge of my parents. This was the start of my separation. I had never been like them. They saw it as a weakness and underestimated my strength, until I finally stood up to them and I was labeled as “crazy”. If crazy means only surrounding myself with people who truly care and who are genuine and kind, I’ll take it. If it means not allowing myself to be treated badly, I’ll take that too. I’m just sorry it took me until I was in my 40’s to do it.

I know many other people have had to make this difficult decision. For me it wasn’t difficult at all, it was a necessity. I know that there are people who think that just because someone is “family” you should try to have a relationship and try to make things better. They endure abuse and horrendous treatment just because they are related to the perpetrator and would feel guilty if they took a stand.

It has been incredibly freeing to finally make myself a priority. To decide that the way I was being treated was not acceptable and that I was no longer going to tolerate it, from anyone. Now my family consists of people who truly love and appreciate me. They are people I choose whether we share DNA or not. I don’t miss any of the hurt or confusion and I never will. I’m not angry because that would be a waste of valuable time. Being raised by people who were constantly angry taught me that it makes you sick and sickens the people around you. I believe that my mother became ill because it was the only way she could escape the life and marriage that made her so lonely and miserable. She didn’t have the courage or self esteem to do it herself. She talked about this several times after she became paralyzed.

No one should wait until they become sick to be free of people who cause them pain. It is important to listen to your intuition when it tells you that you matter and deserve better. You don’t want it to talk to you through debilitating symptoms and diseases like bulimia. Don’t wait to take care of yourself. I’m very glad I finally did.