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Dealing with a toxic family dynamic + the process of unlearning

What’s up my peoples. Thanks for tuning in.

Mentally and emotionally, I am a completely different person from who I was when I was 18. My internal transformation began when I was maybe around 21. It was during my 3rd and 4th year of college and I realized just how alone I was in this world. It was both a good and bad realization. I realized there wouldn’t always be someone there to help me. There wouldn’t always be an easy way out. On the other hand it also made me realize I didn’t have to answer to anyone, and I could be exactly whoever or whatever I wanted to be in this life. All of this happened after a ridiculously challenging 3rd year in school. I decided to run an exterior house painting business while also going to school full time and somehow holding down a part time job. It was a year after my dad went into a diabetic coma. I had moved to an on campus apartment. My friends were few and far between and It felt like I was embarking on a whole new life. The house painting business pushed into the summer, but I was not doing well at it. I ended up having to quit because I didn’t get enough jobs or workers. I ironically ended up getting an interior house painting gig (which tbh I had never painted the inside of a house in my entire life), but I never back down from a challenge so I found a couple friends to help me out and went at it. I ended up getting kicked out of that job too because the homeowner overheard a friend talking about our lack of experience. Lmfao.

One thing I’ve come to realize is that a lot of the decisions I made in my 20’s had a lot to do with making sure I was financially stable and stayed as far away from negativity as I possibly could. That didn’t mean I was a bright and sunny example of positivity either. I can be a very aloof and steadfast individual, but like I said it’s a learned response to whatever life is throwing at me, especially if it’s something I don’t exactly know how to process. Taking on that job was a good example of that.

I was broke and alone still at school which becomes a ghost town in the summer and I needed to stay busy and make some money. That’s how I saw it, but my friends just wanted to help and hang out. My brain computed it as a survival tactic. What I and many people just don’t do is tell the truth about what they’re going through. I don’t even think I fully understood what I was going through, I just know it definitely cost me some happiness back then.

Fast forward to my 4th year in school I was living in the nicest apartments the school had available, I was only taking 4 classes and it gave me great time to heal.

What am I healing from, you ask? The weight of my family. I’m not able to reminisce on every instance of toxic family dynamics, but I’ll give on now and more in future posts. On Christmas break of the previous year I went back to my dad's house in GA. He worked the whole time, and didn't find it necessary to celebrate the holidays or my birthday. The thing that exhausted my spirit was three things, my dads irrational temper and need for control, the fact that I had to bail him out of jail for “accidentally” picking up furniture off the side of the road that wasn’t actually on the side of the road, and his new gf, (turned wife, turned ex-wife right before his death) coming in the day after my birthday which made my dad think he needed to be even more rude to me to look good for her…It was an emotionally overwhelming break that I didn’t understand or know how to verbalize until this exact instance. When I was driving back with friends from the airport to go back to school all I could do was curl up in a ball in the backseat and sleep for the 5 hour drive. Later, my friend told me my actions were childish. Little did they know or could even understand the confusion and pain going on in my mind. I was recuperating so I wouldn’t bring the negativity back to what I considered a safe space, school. The same friend also told me my family didn’t love me. Lol Well, though disrespectful as fuck, it did feel a bit true given the things that happened after that. My family would never say that though. They would just bring up all of the things that they did for me when I was a child and ignore all of the ways I have had to “pay” for their love and help. More examples to come. A lot of abuse is subtle and can escalate if you don’t pay attention to the signs. A lot of what I’ve dealt with is emotional, which society tends to not give enough attention to, but it’s just as important as any other. It is the beginning of other forms of toxicity because it makes you numb to what is being said so you linger in the relationship and give the person time to have the audacity to do more.

I’m telling this story as a precursor…a foreshadowing for events that have happened in the last 2 years that allowed me to shut off communication with the majority of my family indefinitely. People don’t care what you’ve been through or why. They just like to judge and spew their opinion just to feel a little bit more superior. A lot of people also just hide behind their own pain. Instead of healing and helping others going through something similar, many just continue a toxic pattern. That’s what my family does. I’m sure it feels like I’m putting my family in a bad light. I am. Lol but It’s also important to realize the pattern is what is ruling behavior. I am talking about them as people, but in reality it’s the toxic pattern that is the problem. That is what needs to change.

Unlearning toxic behaviors isn’t hard, but it is a process. Like I’ve said in previous blogs, making the decision to do so and acting on it is the first step. These are the things I’ve unlearned:

  1. Being a people pleaser and overachiever because I was told I needed to be achieving in order to be loved. I also had to do exactly what I was told or there would be consequences. I’m still learning to listen to myself and do things even if it upsets others.

  2. Just because someone is an elder doesn’t mean you have to tolerate their disrespect.

  3. Other people's interpretation of the world doesn’t have to be your own. Do what works for you.

  4. You don’t have to tolerate family mistreatment

  5. You don’t have to tolerate mistreatment from anyone

  6. You don’t have to dim your light to please others.

  7. I am enough exactly as I am. I don’t need to fake anything in order to go out into the world and thrive

  8. You don’t have to fake anything to exist in your own home either, if you do it may be time to reassess your environment

  9. Don’t let others wrong opinions make you feel negatively

  10. Failure is not a bad thing. Fail early and often, learn from it and try again.

  11. Making bad decisions is a tough lesson, but beating yourself up about it only makes you have low self esteem. Same as above, learn and move on.

  12. Your job does NOT own you.

  13. Speak up! If you don’t speak up for yourself don’t expect others to.

  14. Insults and “play hitting” are not ways to bond with someone (my father and I would play fight all the time when I was a teenager. One day I pulled a wrestling move on him, he fell on my knee and sprained my ankle. I had to wear a boot for 2 weeks. Another time, to avoid being picked on I just grabbed my dad’s finger way too hard and he had to go to the doctor. Turns out it had been fractured). If you want your kid to be tough, find a more emotionally secure avenue.

A lot of the lessons come with the aftermath of having faith in yourself to make the best of a tough situation, because some of the outcomes of unlearning are messy and can leave you in survival mode. Looking at all that you gain from choosing yourself can help you through the process of healing and unlearning. Life changes can be so good. Throw society's opinion in the trash and live your life.

Last note, someone once asked me, “even amongst the BS you turned out just fine didn’t you?” lol. Depends on what you mean by fine. I’m human. That’s one of the only descriptors that won’t change. You don’t have to be defined by what you’ve been through, but you don’t have to pretend that you’re fine either.

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