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April 7, 2019

Dysfunctional Families: Growing Wings
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 04:53 PM * 85 comments

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted a new entry to this community, and I know the comments on the last one have gotten unworkably long. I’m sorry. You deserve better.

There’s been stuff. There still is stuff. I’ll explain in the comments.

But I’d just like to point out that even with my highly intermittent presence, this community has continued, and continued to be a wonderful thing.

I’ll continue to be back as I can. But it fills me with so much delight to see the egg I hatched, the hatchling I fed, grow wings, spread them, and fly.

This is part of the sequence of Dysfunctional Families discussions. We have a few special rules, specific to the needs and nature of the conversations we have here.

  1. If you want to participate but don’t want your posts linked to your contributions to the rest of Making Light, feel free to choose a pseudonym. But please keep it consistent within these threads, because people do care. You can create a separate (view all by) history for your pseudonym by changing your email address. And if you blow it and cross identities, give me a shout and I’ll come along and tidy it up.
  2. On a related note, please respect the people’s choice to use a pseudonym, unless they make it clear that they are willing to let the identities bleed over in people’s minds.
  3. If you’re not from a dysfunctional background, be aware that your realities and base expectations are not the default in this conversation. In particular, please don’t do the “they’re the only family you have” thing. Black is white, up is down, and your addressee’s mother may very well be their nemesis.
  4. Be even more careful, charitable, and gentle than you would elsewhere on Making Light. Try to avoid “helpiness”/”hlepiness” (those comments which look helpful, but don’t take account of the addressee’s situation and agency). Apologize readily and sincerely if you tread on toes, even unintentionally. This kind of conversation only works because people have their defenses down.
  5. Never underestimate the value of a good witness. If you want to be supportive but don’t have anything specific to say, people do value knowing that they are heard.

Previous posts (note that comments are closed on them to keep the conversation in one place):

Comments on Dysfunctional Families: Growing Wings:
#1 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2019, 05:14 PM:

So, a brief explanation of my absence, posted with permission.
CW: suicide, self-harm
Spoiler: no one is dead

In October of 2016, my then 12 year old daughter came to me with a note—she couldn't bring herself to say it to me in person—explaining that she was not only depressed (which we knew, but not to what degree), but also harming herself and struggling with suicidal ideation.

The years since then have been spent navigating the various therapeutic options, helping her transfer to a school that might improve things, and riding a difficult and exhausting emotional rollercoaster.

She turned 15 earlier this year, a lovely young woman, with a remarkable artistic talent. And still-crippling depression and impulses to suicide.

The only way out is through. As her parents, we are doing everything we can think of. But it has required me to, with as much clarity and love as I can, carefully control what other commitments I can keep. I cannot promise that I'll be around any more than I have been. I'll try, and I am reachable at this username at this domain.

I love this community. I am, as I said in the OP, immeasurably proud of it and impressed by the people who make it up. My delight that my absence has not destroyed it is enormous.

Much love.

#2 ::: Melissa Mead ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2019, 05:35 PM:

I'm so sorry you and your family are going through this, and hope you all come through to better times.

#3 ::: J ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2019, 06:31 PM:

Our family has been on a similar journey; even the ages match. Much love and prayers, if wanted, from the other side. You can't go back, of course, but the vista does widen again.

#4 ::: Singing Wren ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2019, 08:40 PM:

Abi (and daughter): witnessing. I remember that age as being extremely difficult, without the added challenge of that level of depression. She’s fortunate to have such supportive parents, and it's only fitting that your focus is there, not here.

#5 ::: SpawnOfTheDevil ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2019, 09:31 PM:

dropped off this thread almost nine years ago, when my mom (with whom i'd had a mostly tolerable relationship) showed me that an accusation of racism is much, much worse than, y'know, actual racism. she said a racist thing. i said, whoa, that's racist, and she decided she didn't want me to come visit any more, and took me off her power of attorney, and lordess only knows how she changed the will. she did not invite me to visit for her husband's last days, and i know that pained him.

but i asked myself: if i could repair this rift, would i want to? are the visits not harder and harder (aging bites)? is it not wearing to be always prepared to fly in and fix whatever she's managed to break? do i think sainthood and wearing myself out for the unappreciative is so very inviting?

so i've let it go. we send each other cards on birthdays and holidays. we exchange token gifts. i make sure she has flowers delivered for mother's day and her birthday. other than that? nada. we were always strangers, and now we act like it.

i'm okay with that.

abi, i am sorry to hear of the troubles that have visited your family. i'm pretty sure, though, that being taken seriously, being listened to, being important enough to be taken care of, are all gifts your daughter needs, and that many of us in this thread are still repairing the absence of in our early lives.

holding you all in the light.

#6 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2019, 09:54 PM:

::Kermit flail!:: Hi, abi! Your post makes me very happy.

#7 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2019, 09:59 PM:

abi: Having now read your update: I can't say how glad I am that your daughter was able to come to you, and that you have prioritized her well-being. I delight in your presence here; I delight even more in reports of your parenting. Best wishes, know you have my support in your ongoing efforts.

#8 ::: Steven desJardins ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2019, 11:00 PM:

My wishes for good fortune and better days to you and your daughter, Abi.

#9 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2019, 01:45 AM:

Abi: I'm so sorry to hear of your family's difficulties. I'm glad you've been able to share that with us, and hope that you and yours have light ahead of you.

#10 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2019, 08:14 AM:

abi, what Jacque said @7. Glad to have you here, fully understand why your primary attention needs to be elsewhere, wishing the best for your daughter and all your family.

SpawnoftheDevil @5 with the exception of being unable to visit during your stepfather's last days, this sounds like a good outcome. Good for you for identifying what you were and were not willing to live with.

#11 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2019, 11:33 AM:

So, since we have a shiny new thread to play in, I have a question:

I have, over the last year, had two cases of that thing where you object to someone's (a man, in these cases) behavior, and they come back with, "Oh, just relax." Meaning they don't like that I'm objecting, and want me/my objection to just go away.

I know there's been lately talk discussion around that and related phenomena, but I find myself strangely bereft of vocabulary around this. Is there a name for this particular behavior? It seems related to but not the same as gaslighting. What are y'all's thoughts?

#12 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2019, 12:32 PM:

Abi @OP, witnessing. Your daughter comes first; we'll keep muddling through without you as long as necessary. But it's good to see your pixels, however fleetingly!

Jacque @11, again, this is not quite the right word, but perhaps my flailing will help someone else come up with it.

This behavior seems to me to be inextricably intertwined with privilege. The person doing it simply cannot see the ten thousand microaggressions that preceded his (in my experience, 90% of the time it's "his") comment or behavior, and can't understand why anyone would react so strongly to a "harmless joke".

Catcalled on the street? "Oh, you should take that as a compliment!" Unwanted hug or too-familiar touching? "But I'm just being friendly!" And so forth.

Utterly trivial anecdote; I play D&D in the same mixed-gender group I've played with for thirty years. In one linked series of games, I played a wizard character that was only sixth level while the rest of that particular adventuring party was about tenth level (we all have multiple characters in that world, and we they needed a wizard, however under-powered, for one particular quest); the leader of the group was introducing the party to an NPC and when he came to my character he said, "And this is Seamus. He... tries." It was legitimately funny. We all laughed, me included. But then, every single time I played Seamus, even in situations where he was balanced with the rest of the party, that "he... tries" joke came out. Every. Single. Time. It honestly started to hurt; it felt like my playing, not the character Seamus, was being mocked.

I said this privately to my husband (who plays in the same group) after a game; he'd been repeating the joke himself. "It's just a joke!" he protested, but after I fumbled to explain myself, he apologized and immediately stopped saying it. The other female players noticed my body language in reaction to the phrase coming up again and again and didn't repeat it after the first game where it was, to be fair, appropriate and funny. But the other three male players still say it sometimes, although I know my husband has privately asked them not to. It's made me reluctant to play Seamus.

For weird socialization reasons I haven't felt like I can complain publicly about this to the gaming group. I don't know why. Because I'd be whining? Because it's such a trivial thing to be upset about? Because it'll make me look thin-skinned and like I can't take a joke? Because if I leave it alone it's the character being mocked, instead of me? Until I started writing this post I haven't actually unpacked this....

Like I said, this is a trivial example. It's a game; it's not my parents or my boss or my spouse or anything that truly matters. And these are people I've known, some of them for thirty years, all of them for at least twenty years, none of whom would deliberately hurt anyone in the group. (So why can't I say anything....? I don't know.)

#13 ::: SpawnOfTheDevil ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2019, 01:41 PM:

otterb @10 thanks. i admit to channeling elsa at the top of my lungs when the movie came out: LET. IT. GO.

jacque @11: "just relax" unpacked:
"you don't matter. i do."
"my reality is the only valid reality."
"the natural order of the universe dictates that if anyone objects to me, they are the ones in the wrong."

so here's the thing: consequences are a gift. if you are kind enough to point out to somebody that they're being a dick, and they reject your gift, they have told you an important thing about themselves. you get to choose how many spoons they are worth.

when similar things happen to me, my face telegraphs my sudden realization: "oh, i get it: you're an asshole. all right then, move along. we're done."

#14 ::: J ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2019, 05:12 PM:

@Jacque no. 11, CassyB no. 12: SpawnOfTheDevil speaks truth @ no. 13. It's tempting to try to tackle the root of the behavior--to enlighten the person so they won't do that anymore. I shared a gaming group with one of those smirky-berkies myself, though, and I can tell you that as long as one person in the room thought he was funny (or not that bad, or that he would stop on his own eventually, or that I somehow had the power to make him stop by adjusting my own behavior and wasn't using it for reasons)...then he thought he was just the awesomest and anybody who protested being used as his straight man was hilariously square. This lasted until he decided to use the cops, those hilarious squares, as his next straight man, by removing some of the kibble from a cop car while it was parked behind the cop shop. When a judge told him he wasn't funny, it stuck. (The judge told him that the court was not pursuing a felony indictment only because he was obviously too stupid to understand that the world was not his oyster, but that was his one chance to quit clowning around.)

Barring your respective smirky berkies getting a similar slapdown from the Clue Bat, there's really no point in hoping that they will change. So your options are, as SpawnOfTheDevil says, limited to a more immediate response.

When you say no, don't even try to justify it.

"That's not funny. Stop saying it."

"I don't care if you think it's funny. It's not funny. Knock it off."

"I'm sure you think you're funny. Moving on." [Immediately turn to someone else to speak, or change the subject.]

Or, there's always the long, quiet, silent stare. Channel your inner large-cat-confronted-by-yapping-chihuahua.

If they play any card at all--"You hurt my feelings," or "You're just a square," or "Politics time!," your response is the same: "I asked you to drop it. Drop. It."

And if they won't, or if other people start to gang up on you...then it may be time to find another venue to do [thing].

Note that this does not apply if they are in a position of authority over you. In that case, if there's nobody to go to (their boss, for example), your only option besides gritting your teeth is to find a way to get out from under that authority.

Also, @Jacque in particular: In my opinion this is just plain bullying.

#15 ::: fagricipni ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2019, 07:31 PM:

(In the first story, X gets her-series pronouns; and Y, he-series -- Z is only mentioned once in the singular.)

I had a friend X tell me about how another friend Y was rude to her. I tried to explain to X that I didn't think that Y intended his actions in the way that X interpreted them. X wasn't having it, even when I used examples of the "shit-talking" between Y and Z; they were best friends, but from the words alone one might think that they were worst enemies. So I decided to talk to Y about it. (In retrospect, not telling X that I intended to talk to Y was probably not the right thing to do, but no harm came to my relationship with X from it.) At any rate, I figured that I could be gentle with Y about it. What I got out was, "You might want to ease off on the joking with X; you've kinda hurt her feelings." What I got in response from Y at that point was "Well, f*** her if she can't take a joke." At which point, I instantaneously gave up on trying to smooth things over between X and Y. It was hard for me to hold in my head that Y was unintentionally offending X when his reaction to being told that he had hurt X's feelings was to verbally aggressively attack the messenger. It is perhaps of interest to note that while I still consider X a friend, I no longer consider Y a friend; and part of it is my perception of a lack of empathy on the part of Y which he revealed that day.

(Forgive my use of the expression "offending party"; I haven't come up with a better short way to express the opposite side to the expression "offended party".)

I have contemplations on acknowledging intention and effects, but I don't know how useful it will be in any of the situations mentioned. I have seen situations where the offended party basically says that offending party's intentions don't matter to em; or worse refuse to accept any explanation of actual intention except that offending party had malice -- I am referring to situations where an honest unawareness of the problem is still a reasonable explanation. While the response of the offending party that I am about to describe is not always a reaction to "demonizing" of the offending party by the offended party, sometimes I think that it is. In contrast to the offended party saying that intention is irrelevant, the offending party takes the position that effects are irrelevant -- only intention matters. My own desire when I am informed of giving unintentional offense is to have my innocent intentions acknowledged, yet at the same time I care about the effects that my actions are causing; and if they are causing bad effects, I want to know this so that I can better achieve the more positive effects that I do want. Unfortunately, I have run in to a few situations where I have felt that the innocence of my intent was not only not acknowledged, but actively rejected: to those "messengers" their view of how social interactions should work is so ingrained in them as "The Right Way" that even considering that others might have differing styles is impossible -- I had to take what I could from the feedback about what effects my actions were having, and ignore their fixed assumptions about the intent behind my actions because they refused to consider even when given my explanation anything other than what they had already decided. Because in my discussion of my own experience I am mostly thinking of where the "messenger" was not the offended party and a third party was involved, I was more willing to filter out the "hostility" and use what was useful of the feedback. Also, a consideration for me is that it seems to me that one of the best ways to demonstrate innocent intent is to change the actions when asked; maybe, even some of the offended parties with fixed ideas about intention will change their minds upon seeing the offending party immediately change eir actions. But I can also see how someone who had innocent intention might be polarized in to the position of not being willing to make the effort to change eir actions for a person who refuses to acknowledge that eir intentions were innocent.

I'm not sure how useful my idea in the paragraph above will actually be: there are too many people who seem to want to do or say whatever they want without consequence to think that it is any silver bullet, but I know I would have felt less "slandered" had some people been willing to accept that the reason that I am choosing a different course of action in the future is that my intentions were never bad in the first place.

#16 ::: fagricipni ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2019, 07:41 PM:

As far as,

Catcalled on the street? "Oh, you should take that as a compliment!"

I'm male and I have on a couple of occasions been catcalled by women. Perhaps it's because I'm less confident in my ability to defend myself than the average man, but it's still an uncomfortable situation to me. I tried to take it as a compliment and maybe half-managed, but it felt more like teasing/bullying than anything else.

#17 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2019, 09:24 PM:

A dog humping my leg is just being friendly because he likes me. Why should I treat a human any differently from the unwelcome dog?

#18 ::: rooster ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2019, 10:48 PM:

I don't know how to deal with people, in general, but also this person, in particular:

He seems to want to be my friend. Invites me to things. Sometimes forcefully. "You're going to come to this thing, it will be good for you." Honestly, I'm grateful that someone wants to spend time with me.

He's delighted to find out that we have things in common, until I'm doing it wrong. "You do this thing, but never learned to do a related thing? Oh my god."

He's reminding me of an abusive ex of mine, who was only ok with me if I was willing to apologize for the things I love. I could like Star Trek if I wasn't One Of Those Fans. The bad ones whom he hated. I got sick of being insulted for existing and left him.

Now I have this new person, and it feels the same. Is there a way to deal with this without just ... cutting him out of my life? We have social spaces in common. What's going on? Why is he treating me like this?

#19 ::: Lobelia Potswallow ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2019, 10:45 AM:

Abi: I am so sorry for what you and your daughter have been struggling with. Both of my daughters went through similar experiences at around that age--the elder, with self-harm and suicidal ideation, the younger, with what the psych community quaintly refers to as "irritability", which led to all sorts of destructive acting out, and which was set off by a suicide cluster in her grade that took one of her closest friends.

Older daughter is now almost 30, got married this winter, and is as grounded as a human can be about her ongoing (tho' greatly diminished) struggles. Younger daughter is 23, about to graduate from college, and already working toward establishing herself in the career she has chosen. I note all this to let you know that with love and support, our kids come out on the other side, often stronger at the broken parts.

I also want to witness the terror and rage and helplessness that having a beloved child go through this can bring to a parent. Be as kind to yourself as you are to your daughter.


#20 ::: Lobelia Potswallow ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2019, 10:45 AM:

Abi: I am so sorry for what you and your daughter have been struggling with. Both of my daughters went through similar experiences at around that age--the elder, with self-harm and suicidal ideation, the younger, with what the psych community quaintly refers to as "irritability", which led to all sorts of destructive acting out, and which was set off by a suicide cluster in her grade that took one of her closest friends.

Older daughter is now almost 30, got married this winter, and is as grounded as a human can be about her ongoing (tho' greatly diminished) struggles. Younger daughter is 23, about to graduate from college, and already working toward establishing herself in the career she has chosen. I note all this to let you know that with love and support, our kids come out on the other side, often stronger at the broken parts.

I also want to witness the terror and rage and helplessness that having a beloved child go through this can bring to a parent. Be as kind to yourself as you are to your daughter.


#21 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2019, 02:24 PM:

abi #1: Witnessing. I've had my own struggles with depression (though a few years later in life), and both of you have my sympathies.

#22 ::: Clifton ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2019, 04:35 PM:

Moderators: I think Lobelia Potswallow might have inadvertently left a revealing URL linked on the above comments on this thread, and may want it redacted. Please handle as you see fit.

#23 ::: Jacque flags the gnomes ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2019, 06:13 PM:

for Clifton's @22.

#24 ::: Lobelia Potswallow ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2019, 10:58 AM:

Clifton@22: thank you! I was just worried about deleting the extra iteration... Typing while morning.

And thank you, Moderators.

#25 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2019, 02:59 PM:


You and your family are in my prayers.

#26 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2019, 04:45 PM:

abi: Huge sympathies for what you and your daughter and the rest of your family have been and are going through. My thoughts are with you, and a zen *****hug*****. Take the time you need, be kind to yourself - and many thanks for making the time to start this new thread.

All: I've been rather intermittently getting to the previous iteration and by the time I'd caught up on the comments was always way too far behind to comment. But I have been reading and witnessing.

Jacque @10: definitely a privilege thing. I've been on the receiving end of that myself. Sympathies.

Cassie B.: it's difficult, when there's something like that. I find it a lot harder to call out bad behaviour directed at me - easier when it's directed at someone else.

#27 ::: Nancy C. Mittens ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2019, 11:39 PM:


You have been in my prayers for some time now. I will add you daughter and family as well.

I wish I had more to offer you, for making this wonderful place.

#28 ::: J ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2019, 01:26 PM:

@rooster #18: I'm in the grip of a double-whammy sinus & migraine today, so pardon me if I make no sense.

First: I do not mean the sweet codswallop that some lady once told my old child sexual abuse survivors support group, that "we attract toward us the experiences we need in order to grow." That is self-serving bullshit devised by people who don't want to admit that other people freely choose to do bad things to third parties.

That said, it is true that we may subconsciously attract people who are, consciously or subconsciously, looking for somebody who fits certain criteria. They may be self-aware abusers who know how to push certain buttons and so look for them because they get a charge out of it. But usually they're--well, here's speculation about your current friend's thought process: "It's my duty to find and fix people who aren't as honest and forthright and with-it and together and certain of themselves as me." The underlayer of that being, "I am the pattern; people should be like me." And the underlayer of THAT might be, "I only know how to interact with people in the roles of controller or controlee, and I don't like being the controlee."

And that's where you come in. For whatever reason, you subconsciously send signals that to anybody else might mean "I am not an aggressive person, I don't like to argue or lay down the law," but to people who have their controlly pants on, the signals mean, "Aha! Here's somebody in need of the awesomeness that is my wisdom," layered over, "My opinions are best," layered over, "I gotta control somebody and rooster looks like a possibility."

How to get out of it? Explaining all of the above to the person who's trying to force their pattern on you is pointless; they either won't want to hear it or you'll discover that they have a "Please be my therapist and also my uncritical support system" mode and have switched to that.

First, try short responses. Don't explain or justify or argue. Just say the words. If they try to get you to make more words about your words (i.e. provide them with more to study in order to find an opening through which to get at you), say, "I've already said what I'm going to say," or "You asked and I answered, let's move on." If they demonstrate hurt feelings, that is not your problem.


"No, thank you."

"I don't want to."

"I'm not interested, but thanks for thinking of me."


"Not my thing."

"I have other plans." (Don't describe the plans. It's not necessary to actually have plans, other than "not doing the thing.")

If the controlly-pants person won't change out of their controlly pants, and makes a big fuss, and flounces off or comes after you, then you can switch to responses to a jerk, because they are no longer your friend: they are a jerk.

And if other people in your interest group come to you and say not to rock the boat: They started it. You ain't the boat rocker.

Also, it's very common for the signals we sent to come out of experiences in our past. Identifying the event, mapping the patterns the event set, and working on changing them is part of therapy (self- or otherwise).

#29 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2019, 12:13 PM:

rooster #18: All of what J said. Additionally, speaking from my Vast Age & Wisdom™, save yourself some time. If he smells abusive, tick the tickey-box & move on. (I just fired a new therapist after two sessions because it "didn't feel right" in some vague ways. Further communications have given me no reason to change my mind.)

If you say simply, "This isn't working for me. I need to move on." and he gets weird about it, that's good information.

If you're not already familiar, Captain Awkward is a gold mine of perspective, scripts, and boundaries around this stuff. The specific tags that may relate to your situation: "Abuse," "Boundaries," & "Darth Vader boyfriend."

J @28: codswallop

Such a great word. I agree that there's no Cosmic Attraction Spirit Energy bringing you challenges for your Spiritual Improvement. It has, however, been my observation that people (myself included) tend to be attracted to other people who will play patterns that are familiar to us, and which hold extra "juice." Often that "juice" is dysfunction that we were trained into growing up. As we work through the dysfunction (like learning to recognize it, in rooster's example above), the juice fades, to be replaced by new, (we hope more functional) kinds of "juice."

#30 ::: J ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2019, 01:53 PM:

@Jacque no. 29, also @rooster: I've also heard it called the normality filter. Our normality filters are calibrated by our formative experiences. We look for situations that fit through our normality filters, even if they are uncomfortable or actually harmful, because our experiences have taught us that these are normal. It isn't that we want them, necessarily; we just figure that that's how the world is supposed to work, like it or lump it. And recalibrating the normality filter is an important part of recovery.

I've certainly experienced that in my own life, particularly in my working life. I actually once quit a job in which I was given respect, dignity, and trust because it "felt wrong" and I was worried that I was "turning into a diva" and "acting spoiled." I immediately got a job that was so bad I ended up in arbitration for unemployment benefits. I freely chose that job because it "felt right." No, it fit into my normality filter. Guess how the people who raised me treated me...The good news, rooster, is that you can change the filter. I have changed mine to the point that the only cow orkers who leave me gaping without immediate response are the ones who do the same to people who have it a lot more together than me! :D

#31 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2019, 03:13 PM:

@J: Far more eloquently-put description than mine. Thank you. And I learned a new term today!

#32 ::: rooster ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2019, 08:00 PM:

Y'all make a lot of sense. Thank you. I don't want to give up the social spaces that we both occupy but I can dial back how much we interact otherwise.

How do you deal with, like, other people's normality filters? When they're like "this thing is not normal" and you're like "yes it is, for me it is." It always feels like gaslighting, to me.

#33 ::: J ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2019, 10:33 AM:

@rooster no. 32: It's useful to consider why the other person thinks that your experience isn't normal. Is it flatware thinking (paraphrased from C.S. Lewis: "The flatware our family uses is the true, proper, and normal flatware and everybody else's is weird and wrong"), or are they concerned because they see that your normality involves you being shortchanged or harmed?

#34 ::: Devin ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2019, 11:35 PM:


Or somewhere in between: "that's not normal flatware, why don't you use the big spoon/steak knife/whatever for that?" "Well, buddy, this is what I've got and you're right, it would be easier that way, but this'll get the job done."

#35 ::: J ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2019, 12:11 AM:


Part of my job involves bookkeeping, providing numbers for the accountant and Big Boss to crunch. I just found out today that Ex-Prez's executive decisions, if they had been allowed to stand, absolutely would have destroyed the non-profit I work for. It's all there in black, white, and glaring red: Our obligations are $N, our cash on hand and emergency savings total $N+X, and Ex-Prez's plans would have cost $(N+X)2. Even the plans she was legitimately allowed to make without consulting anybody, such as figuring out which insurance plan to choose, cost more than they should have.

Because of my limitations, I would have been out of a job, possibly for many months. If they hadn't hired Big Boss when they did, I would be up Shit Creek right now. I made sure to thank him.

Also, thanks to self-help groups like y'all, I did not react to the news with tears or instant gabbling rage. So, thanks.

#36 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2019, 08:24 AM:

J, glad to hear that bullet was dodged! Close call.

#37 ::: J ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2019, 10:34 AM:

Yes indeed!

My employer's fiscal year ends on March 31. Before then I had known in a general sense that Ex-Prez's ill-founded plans would have cost about as much as this non-profit has in its reserves, but I hadn't had a full picture of income, expense, obligations, etc. (Under Ex-Prez, the only figure ever checked before a decision to spend money was made was the bank balance--NOT the budget, NOT expected bills to be paid, just the bank balance!) Now I have the figures. Yiiiiikes.

#38 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2019, 11:35 AM:

J: Some years ago, we went through a variation on that theme at my HOA, except that the Level Heads came in after much of the damage had been done.

I rejoice in your sense of relief at having dodged a bullet—on more levels than one!

#39 ::: J ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2019, 02:40 PM:

Hey, anybody who might currently be in contact with Arachne Jericho, who posted at these threads years ago: Could you pass on that I'm thinking of her and she has my prayers if wanted? The blog she linked in her comments, and the blog she linked in that blog, were both updated more recently than her latest comment at DFD, but that's still not recent.

Her dysfunctional family has stuck in my mind as one of the most actively malignant, violent, and potentially murderous--counting both soul-murder and physical murder--ever described here. And her description of the way her formative memories affects her self-image sounds like me, cubed.

If you're still out there, Arachne, if you're still breathing in and out, you've won. Every breath a victory.

#40 ::: J ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2019, 05:56 PM:

For anybody in the U.S. who's not looking forward to Mother's Day: Witnessing. I wish I had words to make it better.

Treat yourselves kindly. Give yourselves what you were not given. You have the right to be comforted.

#41 ::: J ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2019, 05:02 PM:

Lighting a candle for Codemonkey as well. It's been about as long...Codemonkey, I hope you got out. And if you haven't, you still can. It is never too late to begin; you just begin from a different place.

#42 ::: HelenS ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2019, 08:42 PM:

I think I found Codemonkey, but I'm not 100% sure it's the right guy. If it is, reading between the lines he seems to be doing okay.

#43 ::: J ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2019, 09:30 PM:

@Helen S. no. 42: I'm glad.

#44 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2019, 05:06 PM:

I think this thread (on what happens *after* you escape the dysfunctional family/system/whatever) is really useful and on point for this group.

While frustrating that the "happy ending" of a movie (where the main character escapes the dungeon) is not the happy ending of life, being aware of this is really critical for not reiterating or repeating the patterns you despise. A lesson I learned painfully in therapy, but am incredibly grateful for having learned.

#45 ::: pericat ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2019, 08:56 AM:

abi: so glad to hear/read you again. I've been missing your online presence lately and hoping you were doing all right. You and your family have my best wishes for navigating such a very difficult place.

Cassy B. @12: I've had RP experiences that led to me crying myself to sleep that night; people can say, "oh, it's happening to the character, not to you!" but that's not actually true. I was thinking when I read your comment that improv works (when it works) because the actors pay close attention to each other, and work with what they each give. It sounds like some of the people in your party are paying that kind of attention to you in this situation, but some are not. Do you have a GM? If so, perhaps the GM could allow Seamus the opportunity to totally pants the next character who disparages Seamus' abilities. Or maybe something along those lines could be arranged with the connivance of those players who understand when a joke has gone stale.

#46 ::: J ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2019, 02:28 PM:

@Chickadee no. 44: I think this is very important to know and I'm glad my therapist told it to me early and often.

There is no reset button. There is only forward from where you are, who you are, when you climb out of the wreckage.

#47 ::: HelenS ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2019, 05:11 PM:

There are some things I don't like about how Tolkien handled the Scouring of the Shire, but the necessity for it? He was so right about that. Also the stories-never-end bit.

#48 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2019, 07:47 AM:

@44 and @46 Bujold, from Memory. Miles is getting advice on how to recover from a self-induced disaster, not one imposed by circumstances, but it still applies.

“You go on. You just go on. There's nothing more to it, and there's no trick to make it easier. You just go on."

"What do you find on the other side? When you go on?"

She shrugged. "Your life again. What else?”

#49 ::: Floofcatcher ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2019, 03:04 PM:

Abi - I'm reading this a bit late and I'm very sorry to hear about your daughter's troubles. This speaks to me very personally.

When I finally got my parents' attention regarding my depression and suicidal thoughts, I was 14, but it had been going on for two or three years. They were very loving and concerned and they arranged for me to see a therapist—once. Or maybe twice? It was all a blur, but anyway, either they had a disagreement with the therapist or they just couldn't afford him, because apparently nothing more could be done and so I got the impression that what I was supposed to do was wait it out and not talk about it any more. I did, and (obviously) survived, and the year after that was quite a bit better, so we never mentioned it again—until the next time, in college, when I needed to use their insurance to pay for treatment because it had gotten that bad again. There have been many next times after that, which they were mostly unaware of until recently, and we still haven't ever really been able to talk about it. And I think that's more or less because my mother also has had major depression off and on for her whole life, and never had any professional help, and doesn't think she needs it; it's just the family curse, what can you do. Maybe if it had been something completely alien to them, they might've taken it more seriously. But I'll never know.

Anyway, I guess what I'm saying is that it is terrible to have been fighting this for three years and still see it happening, but as I'm sure you know, your continued engagement and support is incredibly valuable.

#50 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2019, 05:41 PM:

Floofcatcher: Your story resonates with mine. I came up before depression was really even in the public consciousness as a formal diagnosis, and my mother's family history made her incredibly twitchy around mental illness in general. I was almost certainly deeply clinically depressed for most of my teenage years (at least), but I didn't dare bring it to her attention. Entirely aside from the likelihood of getting effective treatment (slim), her reaction would have been far more hazardous to my health than the illness itself.

abi's OP makes me fantasize, not for the first time, what it would have felt like to have a parent who was actually and effectively on my side.

#51 ::: J ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2019, 10:06 PM:

Diary entry from the other day: "Today I got two tweens and a teen to feed themselves and get themselves decent to leave the house despite summer-break-itis, shopped for a wide variety of rarely bought items around a large store, helped to prepare a large garden tub for planting and plant out assorted salad starts, made a square-meal dinner for five, made sure that my very sick relative got her supper, did two loads of laundry, worked on next month's events calendar, and looked after the cat. Nevertheless, I feel as though I didn't do enough. Man, my brain is a jerk." That's the first time I ever put it into words. Progress!

@Jacque no. 50: Me too...I was taught early and often that if I reported a problem, I would get one of two reactions depending on who I reported it to and their mood at the time: Oodles of affection and no help, or a cold reminder that nothing that ever happened to me could possibly be a problem to me, although my reaction to it could certainly be a problem to somebody else.

Learned that lesson so well that I had the same doctor for 20 years before I told her about my chronic pain.

#52 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2019, 10:30 AM:

From Andrea Bonior's Baggage Check column at Washington Post Express. Second letter at

I’m guessing that the seeds of self-doubt and hypersensitivity to criticism have grown over time because they’ve never truly been dealt with, and now they’re full-blown shrubbery that necessitates a backhoe to dig out.

I liked the metaphor - try to root things out when they are small, vs. waiting until you need a backhoe.

#54 ::: J ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2019, 01:50 PM:

@Quill no. 53: Definitely relevant. A significant percentage of the posts in the Raised by Narcissists subreddit (ob. disclaimer: is moderated) come from people who are trying to break free from that role. It isn't easy, because they are trying to undo a literal lifetime of conditioning.

RBN cross-pollinates with another subreddit, JustNoMIL (also moderated). JNMIL was founded specifically for people whose mothers-in-law behave like this--for people who feel like the side piece in a marriage between their spouse and their spouse's mother. There are more topics than that at JNMIL now, but "sonsbands," as they often put it, still feature heavily.

This happens a lot, is what I'm saying. It's a classic dysfunction. At the heart of it is the failure of the parent to actually raise the child. No, not every culture expects the children to grow up and leave, or even stop giving their parent(s) a veto--but at some point the child is supposed to at least expand their focus from the tight bond with the parent. (It's not always the mother--although, yes, it's nearly always the mother.) And the parent is supposed to seek interaction with their peers.

I think, though, that the article's explanation of Taylor's relationship with her mother as an attempt by her mother to avoid the pain of abandonment misses something. Plenty of people, faced with being left like that, will pursue rebound relationships with people their own age. Or they'll join groups that offer emotional highs from worship/demonstration/rescue work. Or they'll join exercise clubs to chase a high of another kind. Or they'll hook up in bars, if sex is their high. The point is, they'll attempt to avoid the emotional labor of dealing with it, whatever it is, by seeking the company of their peers.

People who commit emotional incest, though, are looking for something else. They're looking for the security of control. You can tell a child, whose social contacts you curate, any old bullshit, and they won't see through it. You can switch smoothly from needing them to take on the pain of empathizing with your adult issues to needing them to shush and go play now, and they'll do it. The child will never sit down across the breakfast table, look you in the eye, and say, "Honey...we need to talk.
Something has to change." And if, in adult life, they end up at DFD or RBN or JNMIL because the cognitive dissonance between their life with you and the expectations of their peers is too much, and they do try to have that talk? Then you can push their emotional buttons--which you installed.

#55 ::: hope in disguise ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2019, 02:40 PM:

I read this article and its preceding article the other day, and it hit me like a punch to the stomach.

Kaj describes:

I realized that I had a sense of unease, a vague feeling of shame… as if there was something shameful about me that I knew, but was trying to avoid thinking about. And I knew that I had felt this same vague shame many times before, often particularly when I was tired. […]

… there’s always an underlying insecurity, a sense of unease from the fact that anything might cause your attention to swing back to the [memories of being a terrible person]. You need a constant stream of external validation and evidence in order to keep your attention anchored on the examples [of being a good person]; the moment it ceases, your attention risks swinging to the [memories of being a terrible person] again.

My experiences are not quite as strong as his but it rhymes a great deal. I don't really like myself in a lot of ways and I do frequently feel like I'm avoiding... something...

I think some of it was accidentally exposing myself to an allergen repeatedly over the last week, because I'm not feeling it so hard now, but I did have a miniature emotional breakdown in the middle of Friday after reading those posts. I also realized that for most positive self-concept adjectives that one might use, I have a fairly negative or ambivalent self-concept. I think of myself as not-resilient, not-persistent, not-scintillating, not-dependable, not-particularly-likable. Most of what I have going for me in the self-concept department is that I know I'm intelligent. Hrm.

#56 ::: J ::: (view all by) ::: June 13, 2019, 12:05 PM:

So, I need to check my behavior.

Newly Teenaged Child had a birthday party earlier this week. One of NTC's guests (who walked to the party) showed up with his little sister, aged seven. No, she wasn't invited. No, nobody told us she was coming. No, the parents weren't there.

NTC informed me that the little girl's parents do this all the time. The mother is occupied with three even younger children and the father...I dunno what he the little girl is dumped on her brother, and the parents expect their oldest to tote this kid everywhere. Even to places where she wasn't invited.

Well, my main interest was in keeping the party going, and NTC's 9-year-old brother was also there, so I handed the little girl a balloon and let her run around.

But then, she started being bratty. Pretended to be hurt as a "joke." Interrupted other people's conversations. Whined and wheedled for a second helping of ice cream cake. Started reaching onto her brother's plate to grab his food.

I never know what to do in these situations, so (as usual for me) I emulated a movie. I put on my best Mary Poppins voice and said, "I'm sure that you can find your big girl manners, which do not include reaching onto other people's plates. I'm sure you have a chair, and you can sit in it."

And she did--but she was dripping tears and wouldn't participate in party games when invited to do so.

Was I mean? What should I do if this happens again?

#57 ::: crazysoph ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2019, 05:46 AM:

J @56

My own first reaction is you did just fine. Unexpected guests must know that being unexpected means perhaps having to make do.

My second reaction confirms the first: you were working on a party, true, on the behalf of someone else, but still your house, your rules.

And you let the little girl know that tears were not going to reset the boundaries you have every right to expect, and set, and (as she made necessary) explain.

Thank you for the riff on Mary Poppins - I'll have to remember that, for future reference.

Crazy(and, alas, none of those folks have the excuse of youth...)Soph

#58 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2019, 06:47 AM:

J #56: Agreed with crazysoph. Also, in context those tears sound downright manipulative to me. Good on you for not buying into it.

#59 ::: Devin ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2019, 07:52 AM:

Maybe manipulative, maybe not: if her family is such that a 7-year-old and a 13-year-old are considered an independent unit capable of looking after themselves, there could be a lot of things going on there. It does not sound like she is thoroughly looked-after even if all her basic needs are met, y'know?

Either way, I wouldn't put the tears on J, though. Assuming there was no bellowing or knife-waving involved, that sounds like a perfectly reasonable and even appropriately gentle reminder to mind your manners.

#60 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2019, 12:56 PM:

Inge's little girl was spending time with both households she was a part of. At one point, when she was around 5, at Inge's place, daughter started working up towards a tantrum. Inge told her, "Oh, stop. You know that doesn't work around here." Daughter deflated. Inge asked her, "Does that kind of thing work at your other house?" Daughter grinned and nodded.

Children are generally not stupid, and young ones tend to have very self-focused "ethics". They learn pretty quickly what works to get what they want, and apply it.

J, my experience of being in something like a parental role is very limited, but I think you handled that very well.

#61 ::: hope in disguise ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2019, 01:52 PM:

J: when I was 7 I probably would have cried upon a completely reasonable and gentle rebuke from an authority figure, as yours sounds like it was, and been unable to cope for the rest of the event. But that wouldn't make the rebuke unreasonable or the authority figure mean; nor would it obligate anyone to soothe me. I was just a fragile child (and am still sometimes a fragile adult). Something of that nature could have been going on.

#62 ::: J ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2019, 02:36 PM:

@hope in disguise no. 61: I was wondering the same thing.

In the moment, when I saw her face, I also remembered having that expression when I'd been going along thinking that I was doing something Okay, but then an authority figure used the Big Voice on me and I felt like I was being punished for not magically knowing rules that nobody had bothered to teach me. And I tried to figure out what could have made that better, back then...and just started hurting for that poor kid. I was the overlooked afterthought too.

Ofc. trying to explain that to a 7-year-old would have been either pointless or painful; I just invited her back into the party games, and eventually she started participating again.

#63 ::: hope in disguise ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2019, 04:27 PM:

What would have made it better, probably, was somebody teaching me (us?) the rules in the first place, in a way I (we) could understand, and gently making sure they really were understood. This would have been a job for parents, or a heroic cause for a teacher or peer to take up. For me, my parents were distracted at best and dysfunctional at worst, while teachers I think did not have the time(?), may have been content with my strong academic performance despite my abysmal social skills, and were definitely not obligated to step in. I don't think I managed to make friends with any socially skilled peers, either, who were willing or able to explain what I was doing wrong and what to do instead.

I'm glad to hear that she did start participating again, though!

#64 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2019, 05:15 PM:

J @56: Setting reasonable boundaries is never mean. In fact, if anything, I suspect you did her a favor, as your description of her behavior sounds to me like she's desperate for attention, and that in her family of origin, that means she has to annoy someone before it's forthcoming. The only rec I would offer, if this comes up again, is: try to catch her doing something right, and compliment her on it. Do so as often and as specifically as you can. "Wow, thank you for sitting in your chair! I know it's hard when there's so much going on and you want to take part!"

I infer that her refusal to join party games may be because, having been rebuked, she didn't know how to do so in an acceptable way. (It could totally also be manipulative—oddly, it doesn't read that way to me, though.) If you had the cycles free, it might have been worthwhile to get down to eye level and ask her what she would need for her to want to play?

#65 ::: KayTei ::: (view all by) ::: June 26, 2019, 01:30 AM:

@Abi, I am saddened to hear that your daughter is having those experiences, but grateful she has someone like you to support her. I don't know if it can help, but I've had suicidal ideation and self-harm impulses all my life and I've never acted on them - it's scary, but it can be lived with, even quite happily the rest of the time, especially with effective treatment. I'm hopeful your daughter will find her own safe path through this and will hold your family in my heart until that time.

#66 ::: J ::: (view all by) ::: June 26, 2019, 03:06 PM:

@abi no. 1: I concur with KayTei no. 65. I have intrusive thoughts and other "brain weather" even after a freaking shipload of therapy. My basic pattern is:

1. oh SHIT

2. Oh, that again.

3. Apply therapeutic measures.

4. Go on with life.

The key--and this is where therapy is almost literally vital--is to be able to lean back for a minute, to recognize, "No, this is neither an inextricable feature of my character nor an exterior force acting upon me; this is my brain doing a thing, like a charley horse. And it has passed before, and it will pass again." I had to have an episode in front of a professional who reassured me and handed me the tools I needed.

#67 ::: Nancy C. Mittens ::: (view all by) ::: June 29, 2019, 08:28 PM:

I want to thank everyone here, and especially abi, for founding this holiday and these threads. My dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer's, and my mom is ... difficult at the best of times.

Knowing you all are here is a comfort.

#68 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: June 29, 2019, 10:58 PM:

Nancy: Ouch, that's hard. Jedi hugs if welcome.

#70 ::: Nancy C. Mittens ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2019, 11:04 PM:

Jacque, very welcome, and thank you.

#71 ::: Nancy C. Mittens ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2019, 11:04 PM:

Jacque, very welcome, and thank you.

#72 ::: KayTei ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2019, 12:11 AM:

Nancy @67 Oh, my sympathies, that's tough. Wishing you comfort and self-compassion.

#73 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2019, 11:32 AM:

I just saw Into the Spiderverse again, and I wasn't happy with a lot of the emotional stuff.

Part of it is watching the heavy father material-- I know it's supposed to be cringeworthy, but it's painful. And (as I recall) the mother handling it as "he means well". Meaning well is better than meaning ill, but it's not a complete justification.

But also, and possibly worse, is the idea that becoming an adult is a matter of will and choice and it's a complete state change.

This is worse than training montages, which at least sketch the idea that you need to learn something.

On the plus side, I'm about 2/3 through Ferrett Steinmetz' On Sol Majestic-- emotional abuse is complicated, and so is recovering from it. It's also a good gaudy science fiction novel, if you can enjoy the kind with very little science in it, which I can.

#74 ::: crazysoph ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2019, 11:57 AM:

Jacque @ 69

I'm not crying, YOU'RE crying!!!

Crazy(okay, so maybe I am crying, too)Soph

PS because even if I am pretty firmly cis-het in my sexuality, OMG the support that mother gives her kid. Gave me some good fodder for mining my own childhood (still working on "the places that got hurt", to quote Peter Gabriel)

#75 ::: Nancy C. Mittens ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2019, 10:11 PM:

Thank you KayTei.

#76 ::: J ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2019, 03:49 AM:

Hey, so, I read something I shouldn't have and am now having a bad night. Just checking: If your adult son, who lives on his own, calls you in a panic because he's having a cocaine overdose, and you, his mother, tootle over there with your college-freshman and mid-high-school daughters in the car, that's not normal, right?

And if your older daughter then proclaims that she's not going to stay with him and your youngest says that she'll stay with her brother while you go to get help because the phone got ripped out of the wall after your son hung up, and you actually agree to this, that's not normal, right?

And if you then drive away leaving your youngest child to attempt to keep your suicidal raving adult son away from the knives/go frantically over CPR in her mind in case his heart really does stop, and somehow it takes somewhere between 45 minutes and 3 hours (I was too freaked out to remember this exactly) for emergency services to arrive from the hospital that's less than 10 minutes away, that's not normal, right?

And nobody ever talking about it again except for a casual mention that he's in rehab a few months later...that's not normal, right?

(And still feeling guilty, like being either allowed or very strongly hinted to stay was somehow my fault and I brought the trauma and terror on myself...that's not normal, right?)

(I can't remember parts of that night. I may have been the one to summon help. I remember, or think I remember, or maybe I remember trying to get out in order to do this, going to the neighbors and banging on their door after some interminable time stuck with my brother. If it happened, which I'm not saying it did, it would have been a monumental shove against a lifetime of conditioning to do no such thing. Certainly my mother didn't think of knocking on any doors even though you could throw a rock and hit neighbors on either side.)

(Did somebody yell at me for not calling earlier?)

(Did the people in the house have to figure out something was wrong, because by that point I couldn't even talk?)

I'm going to lie down as soon as I can, but right now I don't think I could rest. Damn I hate nights like this.

#77 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2019, 06:37 AM:

J #76: I'm sorry for your rough night. And no, your mother's response to the situation was in no way appropriate. Here's the Dysfunction Bingo squares I can see offhand:
(1) In deadly crisis, insisting it must be handled entirely within the immediate family.(*) Before cell phones, asking a neighbor to make a phone call was a thing. Even today, it still is, just rarer.

(2) Dumping the problem and its hazards on the kid who's too young to refuse, not to mention least-equipped to deal with it, and then leaving.

(3) Crisis and brother "disappear" afterwards, and are not spoken of afterwards, let alone any discussion with the kid who was dealing with the situation.

(4) Blaming the kid who was left to deal with it for their own suffering.

* Even (or especially) if the police weren't to be relied on ("911 don't go to Motown" or worse), there should have been some other family, friends, or neighbors.

#78 ::: J ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2019, 11:40 AM:

Thank you.

I think, looking back, that my mother's chief concern was that people might know that cocaine was involved.

Not that the man who could feel his heart trying to leap through his ribs might die, or that he might hurt his little sister during his paranoid/suicidal freakout. Just that people might see and disapprove.

#79 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2019, 12:42 PM:

J, trust your voice of reason. No, that wasn't/isn't normal or appropriate.

There's a CBC radio show, "Out in the Open", about things that We Do Not Talk About which we really should be paying attention to. Today's episode is a rebroadcast, "Family Tree" (podcast here) about people who have determined to -- as the show's description puts it -- branch out from the family tree. Interviewees include a guy who is determined to break the cycle of violence and abuse that he suffered ("when did this stuff become 'normal'?"), and a young guy who succeeded in graduating from high school, first one in his large family, despite everyone else telling him that there was no way he could do so. "Nah, you're gonna drop out, you're going to be a father at age 16, ..."

#80 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2019, 04:50 PM:

J: Well, first off, let's distinguish "normal" from "appropriate" and "healthy."

Speaking from the perspective of the fam I grew up in (and divorced as soon as I had the means), the cocaine part and the almost dying part is an order of magnitude beyond what I ever experienced. But the rest of it sounds like pretty bog-standard codependency. Especially the bit about "never speak of this again." Denial is not just a river in Africa, wot? I was schooled early that talking about my father's drinking outside the family was strictly Not Done.

Another metric I'd suggest applying: "acceptable?" And I'd say, most assuredly not.

#81 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2019, 05:07 PM:

From my generally typical and healthy upbringing, I can say that yes, that's messed up.

#82 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2019, 01:14 AM:

J: What everyone else is saying, and it sounds like you know it but just need the backstop: that's not anything that I'd recognize as either normal or acceptable.

#83 ::: J ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2019, 01:24 PM:

@David Goldfarb no. 82 et al: Thanks, and that's what I needed. My old programming ("you are to blame if you are upset or afraid, you are responsible for fixing anything that goes wrong, it's your fault if you can't instantly figure out how to do something nobody ever taught you, any claiming of child-status by child-you is/was horrifically spoiled and demanding behavior") is overwritten, but that doesn't mean erased.

#84 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2019, 10:12 AM:

J: Deepest sympathies. I'm going through a variant of that right now with the news cycle. "What do you mean you haven't figured out how to fix the climate crisis!?! You've known about this for forty years! What have you been doing all this time??!??" :-\ I know it makes no sense, but that doesn't help knock it back.

#85 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2019, 12:26 PM: do I keep forgetting about this....

Wandered into Ursula Vernon's Twitter feed. SO soul-healing....

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