Pretending

I haven’t spoken to my mother much since my sister was murdered over a year ago. Honestly, that started a month before my sister died. I tried to talk to her about things I’ve learned in therapy and she hung up on me.

So I don’t talk to her.

Talking to her means I have to pretend. That I don’t know what I know. That I don’t suspect what I suspect. I have to pretend that my mental health issues are genetic and not environmental. That environmental doesn’t just mean the 2.5 years we were homeless. That environmental means my entire childhood.

I am having a hard time with her entire side of my family. Interacting with any of them means I have to pretend. With my uncle it’s that my grandfather, his father, didn’t have a drinking problem. That the “don’t worry” attitude my grandfather had wasn’t supplemented with cases of beer and Seagram’s 7. Talking to my grandmother means I have to pretend that I can’t see how she still to this day treats her son much better than she treats her daughters. How that dynamic was toxic on top of the already toxic environment of living with an alcoholic father. It means pretending that my dad was the sole cause of our homelessness.

Being with my mother’s family means pretending that all mothers do the best they can for their children. It means pretending that my own mother and my grandmother didn’t make grave mistakes in raising their children. That they didn’t put their own wants and needs above their children’s. That it’s bad parenting decisions, not genetics, that are the cause of my mental health struggles.

I feel near constant guilt for anything my mental illness has done to my children. It is so heavy at times that I can barely function. Having any contact with my mother’s family means I have to pretend that a mother cannot do damage to their children. I know that’s not true.

I cannot heal while also pretending to not be damaged. So I stay away.

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