I didn’t make this choice to hurt them; I made this choice to save myself.
I don’t have a biological family.
Well, I used to but I don’t anymore.
They sucked so I disowned them.
Harsh words, I know.
If you’re shocked, you’re not the only one. Many tragic things over the course of my lifetime have led me to this point.
Since birth, my parents made it very clear I was an unwanted child.
My mother has a severe mental illness that resulted in her taking out her every frustration on me for as long as I can remember. At three years old, my mother locked me in my bedroom by myself like an animal for hours at a time when she didn’t want to “deal with me.” Terrified, I would oftentimes hide in my closet just to escape the overwhelming enormity of how alone I felt. My father, dealing with his own mental issues, was so disconnected from reality that he was unable to see that what was occurring around him was child abuse.
Growing up, I was taught by my oh-so-loving parents that not only was I a bad person, but I was “not as easy to love as your brothers.” When I turned 18 and they finally kicked me out of their house for good, I was left with nowhere to go except for into the arms of the only person I thought truly wanted me, the person who would become not only my husband and father of my children, but my next abuser.
When I realized the mistake I had made in marrying my newfound “protector” and the situation became increasingly violent, I reached out to my family hoping with all my heart that maybe, just this once, they’d see my worth and help me escape from an awful situation. In response, they all but demanded I stay married and told me that whatever was going on in my marriage was my fault and responsibility to fix.
In an ironic twist of fate, my husband was the one who eventually left me; he disappeared into a life of drug abuse and promiscuity, abandoning his children and shattering everything that made up who I was in the process.
I was broken, destroyed, and desperate for help, but according to my family, my husband leaving was all my fault.
Their reasoning: If nobody had ever wanted you to begin with, why would he?
Left alone with a toddler and an infant and no job or money, the only time my family came around was to remind me of how worthless I really was. Because of my husband’s control over me, I didn’t have a college degree or a career to fall back on. I was alone, penniless, and completely in the dark about how to even begin rebuilding a life for my children and me.
I was brought up to believe that you never turn your back on family. I learned that family is blood and blood is thicker than everything. Truly, I believed in all of that … until I didn’t.
Because what is a family if they do nothing but tear you down, constantly hurt you, lead you down a destructive path, and endanger your dreams? What do you do with people you’re societally trained to “love” that bring nothing but pain into your life? The people who hold you back instead of lift you up? What do you do with this so-called “family,” the very same family that has hurt you—physically, emotionally, spiritually—since you were born?
In my case, you disown them.
This wasn’t a decision I made overnight. This was a choice based upon years of abuse and torment. This was a decision I made when I realized the life I wanted was incompatible with the environment my family provided. If I ever wanted to make decisions that were based on the belief that I deserved better than abuse, then I needed to start making decisions without the input of my family.
I wanted a biological family more than most people will ever know, but wanting a family and actually getting one you want are two very different things. In my case, I had the façade of a family in the form of shared genetics, but I never had people who filled those familial loving roles: a caring mother, protective father, brothers who had my back. My mom and dad are just names on a birth certificate, two people whose home I happened to live in. They may have had the title, but they never really worked the job.
It sounds like a sad tale—and in a way, it is—but if you want to feel anything for me, feel happy for me.
Because in return for disowning my biological family, I gained a real one. No, I don’t have a mom who I can call when I need help and I don’t have a father who who would drop everything for me. I don’t sit around a Christmas tree with my relatives or share triumphs and resignations with my siblings, but what I do have are people who love me unconditionally, people who choose to love me for no other reason than, well, me.
To be fair, after 31 years of abuse, I’m not an easy person to love. I’ve built walls so high that only God himself can see over them, yet everyday my new, non-biological family is willing to climb them. They patiently remain camped out on the other side of the wall, never forcing their way into my life but rather acting as an ever-present cheerleading squad, encouraging and embracing me when I need them.
They care for me because they want to; they want to be around me because they genuinely like me. They have proved time and time again that they’re in this relationship for the long haul—through late nights and ugly cries and shared secrets, even the unflattering ones—and they love me unconditionally.
Now that’s what a real family is.
We may not share the same DNA or come from the same culture/religion/background/
I’m glad I disowned my “family,” because it gave me the chance to share my life with people who really wanted me, who really loved me; my new family.
Eden Strong blogs for YourTango.
This originally appeared on YourTango. Republished here with permission.