Mental illness. I am finding myself stuck on this first sentence as I go to write about something that has impacted my whole life, a shadow that I felt was cast upon me by someone else's demons. Growing up with someone who is mentally ill, I am finding it difficult to speak, and that it in itself speaks volumes, that someone who likes to talk as much as I do, has trouble putting voice to this, because the truth is I always thought I was going to be judged by their damage. Being a kid in "A House of Weird" leaves an indelible mark and the shame trigger can get tripped easily. People would mistakenly, albeit very kindly and understandably, feel sympathy, because I didn't experience a memory or moment that most kids have growing up. Here's the reality, the experience of having a functioning parent is not one you miss because you simply didn't have it, but you may know something isn't right. I did. It got me in a lot of trouble, because I was one of those kids who didn't always keep their mouth shut. Something about what I was being told and what I felt didn't match, and before I shut down I was hardly good at shutting up and going with the program. Now, I am going to use the word crazy and continue to throughout the blog. It fits. This isn't about a person it is about behavior and if someone is acting batshit crazy then I am going to call a spade a spade, I am not going to tap dance so that I don't offend, because meaning gets lost. You may be seeing why I got in so much trouble, I called crazy out on crazy's shit, and crazy doesn't like being confronted with reality. That takes a toll too. See, to perpetuate a crazy cycle the person paints themselves as the perpetual victim to justify any and all behavior no matter how unacceptable or abusive. If you are a kid growing up in this environment you start to believe you are the bad and selfish person you are told you are on some level, and it becomes what I call a shame trigger.
It sounds so matter of fact right? This person's crazy why would you believe them, but in a House of Weird nothing is cut and dry. Let me give you an example: you are fourteen, your mother has a horrific headache and takes some heavy duty pain medicine, is sleeping, and you know to disturb her would make the headache worse, and let's say she had said she didn't want you to go to the store. Ok, pretty straightforward and easy so far, well, your aunt comes over and says she wants you to go to the store with her, you tell her what your mother says, but she says decides to overrule and insists you go. So you do and buy some food for the house. When your mother wakes up and goes to the kitchen she sees the food she is furious! She says you are a liar, a sneak, intentionally deceived her thinking she'd never know- you try to explain- your aunt tries to explain- it doesn't matter. You feel riddled with shame even though you don't understand what you did wrong, you don't want your mother to think you are a liar and sneak, but she is threatening you with all sorts of consequences for something you didn't even know you did wrong, and you are only a fourteen year old kid. It isn't so black and white then, not to that kid. Not when that is the only mother you have, it will take years of work to be able to separate that out.
So what's the upside? Well the truth is we aren't somebody's shadow, we don't have to be haunted by their demons. I will be as real in this blog as I am with the people on my table, there are days, moments where I feel that shadow, but then I feel grateful, and not for growing up in bullshit, but because I found my voice and use it, I wrote about "The House of Weird" and the hope and strength that exists from knowing someone else's weird doesn't define me. For finding and connecting with people who don't judge me, and the truth is people who love us don't judge us, they accept us and they see us for where and who we are. The story of growing up in it is a story of survival not a story of shame. There are still times when I get texts, phone calls, and have conversations that are as crazy as when I was a kid, and yes they still impact me. The difference is I have people to go to and I took the tools I have learned and decided to give them out. This isn't about creating the perfect life it is about understanding it was never about me, so there was no need to own but I can hang up the phone, not respond to texts, end conversations, and create safe healthy boundaries. It has taken being able to talk about it, say "this is crazy", and that kid knew it, but had nobody who would lIsten, I work with people everyday who face this same sort of pain to bring light to the shadow that shame casts. The courage it takes to say I am not going to own what isn't mine is huge and coming from a House of Weird it is truly stepping into the light.