Love your father even if he is abusive because at least he never laid a hand on you. Love your mother even if she’s had mental breakdowns in front of you since middle school because at least she gave you a roof over your head. Love your sister even if she ran away because at least she gave you good childhood memories. Love your brother even if he reminds you of your father because at least he is still alive, still here. But don’t love yourself because you haven’t gone through half of the things that they have. Instead, smile, laugh, pretend that everything is okay even if it feels like your world is falling apart.
It is possible to stop loving your family.
When all of the good memories begin to fade. When all that’s left are the bad because after awhile you notice a pattern. Loved ones leave you. When they disappear into the night and you follow after them each time, wandering through the streets; hoping that you can bring them home. But they never quite do because even after they walk through the door you know that this ‘home’ has ceased to exist. When you visit college alone. When you move out alone. When a visit brings so much anxiety that you feel paralyzed. When you no longer miss them. When you hug them and feel… absolutely nothing.
Maybe mental instability runs in the family.
To a degree, I believe it runs in everyone. We all just cope differently. For me, it was building a new persona for myself. Depending on who I met I would create a character; each with a different story. Of course, nothing changes the fact that throughout elementary school I lived a relatively happy childhood. Ignorance was, in fact, bliss. Nor do I take for granted that I was privileged to be the youngest and therefore given the opportunity to adjust. Did I grow up faster than I had intended? Perhaps. But did it also give me a stronger sense of empathy and resilience? Most definitely.
I do it out of obligation.
There— I said it. It is difficult to admit the truth when you mask the feeling with “love.” I know the difference, believe me. Because everything becomes a rational decision. Because you make your schedule so busy that you just don’t have time to call them. Because being at college feels safer than being at home. Because it hasn’t even felt like home since God knows how long.
Give it time.
It wasn’t until college that I finally opened up to them. I had no choice but to explain why I would get these panic attacks whenever I came back. They understood to a certain degree. Things like family vacations (which we tried, but had me throwing up from pure anxiety) won’t work for us anymore. Or correction, they won’t work— for now. I know, or at least I hope, that this is temporary.
Before, I spent so much time on trying to be their support system. I ended up crumbling under pressure. Before, I felt guilt eat away at me. By feeling useless, helpless, and worthless, I had lost all sense of self. Now, I need time to build myself back up.
Now I need to learn to love myself before I can love my family.