It's been three years since I got out of the psych ward, and through steady effort I've managed to fix a lot of what was wrong with my life in 2011 that led me to where I ended up. It took me a long time to get to that place; it's taken a long time to get as far out of it as I am. There's still a lot of work to do, but it's getting done, and the place I am now is vastly superior to any place I was ever in before.
Part of the process has been for me to periodically revisit the blog posts from that time, and read through what was happening and what I was saying, and remember what I was going through, and compare it to what I've learned since then.
The most important thing that I learned was that one reason I ended up in the psych ward was that I am afraid of my siblings.
For years I've let them do whatever they want, talk to me however they choose, treat me however they like, all without saying anything. My sister, in particular, flies into a rage the instant I so much as say "boo" to her, and by now it's a conditioned reflex for me to cower. For quite a while my brother made it a habit to make masturbation jokes at my expense (yes, in front of our mother--real classy), which at least was an improvement over my childhood when he consistently referred to me only as "shithead".
In recent years, then, I have been harangued because I went to a graduation party but didn't stay long enough; then because I decided not to go to one. When I politely declined my brother's self-invitation to visit at Christmas I was accused of "shunning" them.
...by the same person who has never, never, ever invited me to anything other than his kids' parties and major holidays. A trip to Great America? Skiing in Wisconsin? A day at the lake? No--but if I don't show up for a graduation party I am the lowest of the low.
The same person, I might add, who skipped his last aunt's funeral because "it's spring break" and "she knew we were going". She died at about 2 PM and they got on the road that day after 4 PM; they were in Arizona on the day of my aunt's funeral, riding motorcycles in the desert. That is perfectly acceptable, apparently.
Last year was tough, financially. Several times during the year I told my siblings that I wasn't going to be able to pay the entirety of the property taxes on the bunker, as I had hoped to. I told them explicitly that we were going to need help.
In November, then, we got an e-mail from my sister talking about "the co-owners" and saying that they'd been more than "understanding", but now we were faced with a choice: pay the entirety of the property tax now, move out by the due date, or sign a rental agreement "at market rates" to ensure that the property taxes were paid. (I solved that issue, and the denouement to that story is a whole other situation.)
It was convenient for them to be "co-owners" when a bill had to be paid; but a month later my brother told me, "Ultimately, we are the only family we've got," when he wanted us to entertain him and his family on Christmas. Where was all that "family" stuff earlier? Why are we only "family" when it's convenient for them? Where was "family" when our sister sent us her ultimatum? Why didn't he stand up and say, "Hey, wait a minute, let's not be so draconian." Unless, that is, he was complicit? (And then be surprised we didn't want to see them for the holidays?)
The house is far from rentable condition. Both bathrooms need work and it needs painting and-and-and; they couldn't rent this place out "at market rates" without fixing it up and no one has expressed any interest in getting that done. No one's said to me, "Hey, we want to start getting the house fixed up." What they have done is to make vague threats and otherwise do nothing.
So after the e-mail ultimatum, then my brother called me the next Saturday and said, "I'm on my way down there so we can discuss this" and then was put out when I told him that both my wife and I had to go to work and weren't going to be there. From the way that conversation went I realized that they had (clumsily) tried to implement a "good cop bad cop" strategy.
Here's a better strategy: "Look, we know that things have been pretty rough for you, but this bill must be paid. When can we sit down and discuss how we're going to fix this, and avoid similar problems in the future?" Instead of doing something like that, they decide what's to be done and it's up to me to toe the line.
That's kind of the problem.
So in May of 2011, one reason I was stuck in that avoid-avoid conflict--couldn't do the job in Rantoul, couldn't quit--was because I was afraid of how they would react, especially my sister. That fear was part of the reason I cut myself: I needed an escape hatch not just from my own expectations but from the fear of how my family would react.
It's why my brother telling me, "We'll get you the help you need" was so surprising. That's not how my family functions; the cajolery and the implications that I was just being lazy were much more typical, as was his final appeal to authority ("I'm a doctor and I've studied this..." and the implication that I didn't know what I was talking about because I was a layman who was merely experiencing clinical depression).
It's part of a larger pattern: they are successful and rich, and I am not, so therefore they are much smarter than I am, and I should therefore shut up and do as I'm told. (Basically an extension of "you're the youngest so shut up etc".) And whenever I try to change that, the reaction is always immediate and hostile, because that sort of reaction has always (or almost always) cowed me and forced me back into line.
Well, it's time for that to end. It's past time for that to end.
The only way to end it is for me to stand up and say, "No," quietly and firmly. (And not so quietly, as needed.) I do believe I've taken the first step on that road today. It was not easy, but it was not as hard as I'd feared it was. The latest imbroglio, ultimately, is entirely about them flexing their muscles and making me hop to their tune. Well, I don't have to do that, and as infurating as they may find it, I refuse to do it any longer.
My sister was furious that I did not knuckle under, not to the temper tantrum, nor to the screaming, nor to the guilt trips, nor to the victim card, nor to any of the other tactics she always employs when someone dares to say "no" to her. I offered her a perfectly acceptable and reasonable alternative to her plan, and compromised with another perfectly acceptable and reasonable alternative...and even after I had agreed to the latter she still revisited her usual tropes in an attempt to bring me to heel. By standing up and saying, "Look, I don't care how mad you get; this is what I'm willing to do," I think I have taken an important step forward in my life.