I grew up going to a Roman Catholic elementary and middle school and got really great at feeling guilty for just about everything right as I was developing into my own person. That combined with an actual anxiety disorder and a constant set of little traumas from my parents has left me feeling anxious and guilty about pretty much everything in life. One of the biggest things that leaves me with that sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach is familial obligation.
I have been lucky enough to have a family that has repeatedly supported me through my coming out, through a series of big life changes, and many other things. Plus, being a solidly middle class family has meant that I’ve been financially supported through so much.
But while there are good things about my family, we aren’t perfect – although we seem to have perfected passive aggression and mild emotional manipulation. I don’t think my parents are deliberate or knowing in their behavior but there has been consistent gaslighting in my own life that has me wondering the strong sense of familial obligation I feel in the face of emotional manipulation.
While my own experiences are not the most traumatic nor are they anything in comparison to the traumas of others, I still wonder if familial obligation is worth the constant emotional turmoil, anxiety, and guilt. I love my family in the way that I assume many others feel about theirs but at the same time, I would feel very little hesitation about walking away with zero contact for some time if given the chance.
I spend a lot of time wondering if the way I’m being treated is in fact emotional manipulation. Some days I’m sure of it; other days I’m not. I spend a lot of time wondering if maybe I’m just misinterpreting things and if it’s worth putting my life on hold to help the people in my life. I wonder if my boundaries will ever be respected or if my words will ever actually be heard.
I often feel judged and guilty for putting up my own boundaries and wanting them to be respected. I wonder if I really am just being the same old difficult child I’ve been constantly told I am – for years people have said that I’m difficult for not being or doing exactly what my parents need and at this point I wonder if that’s me being difficult or my parents expecting an impossible thing. I’m always second guessing myself and it’s a rather draining experience. There are some amazing days with my family that make it easier to be around them but those are starting to be fewer and far between.
People say that it gets better but I can’t help but wonder when that’ll happen. My family has never been great at talking about the real issues between us – to the point where my parents nearly sent me an email about their divorce instead of telling me themselves. And I wonder if actually talking would make a difference in any regard – past attempts have proven that to not work.