Trigger warnings: this post mentions self-harm, suicidal thoughts, potential alcoholism and a description of a panic attack. Please don’t read this post if these topics make you feel very uncomfortable or trigger you.
On the morning of my English exam, I found out that my mum had told my sister that I’d used a dating app to talk to girls and that I’d met someone on there. It was only because my sister had started to use Tinder and was feeling really nervous /happy about it. I didn’t get angry: I just asked them to respect my personal boundaries. As I’m still feeling quite defensive about my identity, I wanted to be the one to tell my sister. After a brief argument, in which all of us got slightly irritated, it was resolved and I went on to do that exam. When I came home, things were okay – more tense, but okay.
A couple of days later, the day my exams finished, we were all talking again. I’d been talking to my sister about her dates that she was going on at the weekend, having a lovely conversation which made me feel more comfortable about opening up myself. When my mum got back, we were still talking about it and she was talking about the dangers of online dating. I started to react really badly, attempting to contradict her when she was talking about her friend who had got conned. Although I didn’t mean it, it came off as really argumentative and belligerent. What I was trying to do was to make her think about what she was saying. After I pushed too far, she got upset and said that she “might as well keep her mouth shut” and that’s when I completely lost it inside my own head. I went upstairs and was just washing my face when I heard them talking downstairs, again.
Like a fucking idiot, I listened. I can be really quiet when I want to be, utterly silent as I got closer to the top of the stairs, so I heard everything. My mum was really upset with me, explaining to my sister that it felt like she could never speak, that I was always arguing with her. I didn’t hear much of what my sister said because my heart was smashing in my chest and the worst sort of disgust was starting to grow. The instability that had been increasing steadily suddenly roared to life: I walked into my room and twisted my arms behind my back, wanting to tear at myself to make what I had done just go away and fuck off. I had no idea what to do – I couldn’t think past the roaring in my ears that had started as I’d slammed my door shut.
After a few minutes, I’d calmed down a bit and walked downstairs. I told my sister that I had heard what they had said and that every time mum talked about the online world in a negative way, it felt like she was disapproving of a central part of my identity. I started to tell her that I couldn’t have got through the last few years without people I’d met online but I got interrupted by my own tears. She was calming me down, telling me that mum didn’t mean it; that she was trying to communicate with me but that I often reacted as if she was attacking me.
I don’t remember precisely what happened for the few minutes after that. I know I had a panic attack, that I was gripping onto her hand and telling her I hated myself, that I had always done, and getting unspeakably upset when I didn’t think she understood. I vaguely remember hitting out at the arms of the sofa linking my hands together behind my back so that I wouldn’t be tempted to hurt myself. It was genuinely horrifying; I haven’t had that bad of a panic attack on somebody for months and I was terrified. When my sister suggested getting my mum, I practically wailed that I was scared and scared and scared; I couldn’t stop crying. This is when my awareness comes back a bit more because at that point, my sister had succeeded in stopping me from screaming.
Then, my mum came in and my sister initiated a family discussion. Without going into too much detail, because it makes me seriously anxious to remember the specifics, mum and I were telling each other how we felt. We came to the conclusion that I react out of anger a lot when mum doesn’t mean to upset me – she just wants to talk to me. I keep my emotions in too much and become defensive. By this time, I felt like it was my fault all the time and was yelling in my head that I was disgusting. Mum said that, in terms of the online stuff, that she was trying to protect us but that she needed to let go.
There is something my mum does which frustrates me, a lot. When I get upset with her for something, she just “backs down” but not in a genuine way; she uses phrases like “I should never have said anything”, or “I’ll keep my mouth shut”, or “I’m scared of you”. I told her all this, telling her it made me feel terrible but I don’t think she understood precisely. I wanted to yell at them, tell them that they had no idea how much their “casual” words affected me. That I wasn’t like them, that I couldn’t let things go, that them being silent to begin with fucked me up. However, I started to realise that they were right: I did react angrily a lot of the time and I wanted to stop it. I have so much locked-in anger and sadness that when it does come out, often, it’s not because of them – it’s because it’s built up for far too long.
At some points, I couldn’t actually speak or I couldn’t get my words out. I would mouthe “help me” at my sister when this happened, my hands opening and closing because I felt like I was choking. After one particular instance of this, I told them that I would take the anger out on myself and mum’s response to that was “so you self-harm now then?” That made it even worse but I reeled in my snappish response, instead telling her that what she just said made me feel shit. I was trying to explain to them that I passively wanted to die a lot of the time – not that I wanted to actively do anything, but that I wanted to disappear. Upon telling mum that I’d told her this before, she said she remembered and would ask me if I was suicidal (but only when we were talking about suicide anyway). In response, I said that I always said no because her version of suicidal thoughts is actively wanting to do something, so I wasn’t technically lying. Instead, I wanted to scream, “YOU ARE ALWAYS DRUNK WHEN I WANT TO TALK TO YOU MOST SO HOW THE FUCK DID I EXPECT YOU TO REMEMBER?”
We agreed to be more communicative. Thanks to my sister, I started to know what it was I was doing wrong and that my emotions can be overwhelming. In the days after, it was easier not to snap; it was easier to realise I was being unreasonable. It’s not perfect but it’s okay and yes, I still get violent flaring pieces of anger and I still can’t talk to them about it yet but maybe, when I don’t want to destroy my mind as much, I’ll start to have a go.
It’s really hard to look at it from an objective standpoint and to not get some of my residual anger out in a biased rant. I’m trying, though. I understand that I can be very mean sometimes and react without thinking but some of the things my mum says still very much upset me; I don’t want this to be a one-way communication. I know that my emotions right now aren’t necessarily the most constructive thing but I can’t be the only one trying as it would make me hate myself more, thinking that I was still doing everything wrong. I’m tired of that.
The last two weeks have taught me that neither I nor my family are faultless. We all have barriers to work through and it’s not going to be easy but it’s going to happen. This summer, I don’t want to argue or to be treated like a child; I don’t want to snap or become furious at the slightest provocation. I have to thank my sister for helping us all to realise what we’ve been doing to make ourselves unhappy.
I want to set my own boundaries; I want to communicate well. Unlike before, where everything seemed impossible, I think this might potentially work.
God, this post has drained me. I feel so upset from writing it but it’s also, strangely, settled something deep within me. If I get my unhappiness out on this blog in a helpful and non-destructive way, it might not transfer into me being a total nightmare. Then again, I don’t want to be too negative; I don’t know. It’s tricky. After this, I might just go and relax so that I can collect my thoughts without becoming overly anxious.
Thanks for reading this, if you got to the end. I know that I can be far too honest sometimes but if I can’t express things here,I can’t express things anywhere. I will be okay, though. If you’re struggling with something similar, hold onto the days where it’ll get easier. We can get through this.
Do you find that talking to your family can be really hard?
From Elm 🙂