Hidden Guilt: The Gratitude Thread

Folks who engage with me on other social media sites – primarily Facebook and Twitter – have given me tremendous feedback and support to my post from a little over a week ago: Hidden Guilt: Growing Up in the Shadows of a Sibling with Severe Autism. I have not received much feedback or direct response on WordPress. Nevertheless, I yearn to continue to utilize this place, if anything, as a theatre for me to blatantly come to terms with traumas and torments that have been haunting my conscious for two decades. Maybe then, just maybe, one sibling or young family member out there can find some connection here and feel a little less alone.

One of the most significant internal struggles I’ve had since my diagnosis of MDD and CPTSD is navigating how not to continuously invalidate my own feelings, something that happened often living in my parents’ home and still continues within my family dynamics today. For as long as I can remember, my parents have tirelessly reminded me how lucky I am. And don’t get me wrong, I am incredibly lucky. I never had to worry about having a roof over my head; I excelled in a public school in one of the top public education areas of the country; my community was nearly violent-free and the drugs that were present were kept underground. Not only that, but I am a white, middle class girl with relatively high intelligence and an able-bodied skeleton capable of making many of my wildest dreams come true.

Simultaneously, I will never have the opportunity to experience ‘normal.’ Yes, I understand that ‘normal’ is a vague social construct or whatever other vague liberal philosophical bullshit people will likely pull out of thin air, but let us be real: there is a clear type of ‘normalcy’ when it comes to individuals’ physical and mental capabilities;

My family dynamics had an additional, endless, unpredictable dynamic to it. Going out to a restaurant entailed loud and violent outbursts; walking down the street biting or hitting; things were not allowed to be one inch out of place from where my brother would somehow like them or else he would throw  fit; going to the grocery store meant knocking over shelves and attacking employees.

All the while, if I ever uttered a single complaint, shower any minor discontent over the state of my brother, my family, my feelings were invalidated. I was automatically ungrateful for all of the privileges I had – physically, mentally, racially, economically. At best I was reminded at how much worse my brother and my life could be, at worst I was threatened to be thrown into the foster system to see how lucky I had it.

I was not aloud to cry, to show feelings of embarrassment, disappointment, or even fear. Yet I knew each time my parents forced these reminders upon me that they were right – I was incredibly blessed in so many ways – and yet why did that not mean I couldn’t be upset? Why did any dissatisfaction come off as being ungrateful? Certainly there must be a balance?

Over time, others have reminded me that this balance, this middle ground, does exist. I have yet to find it. To this day, I resist therapy partially because no matter how many times others tell me I deserve to get well and to be heard, I cannot help but feel like a whiny bitch with four years of a college education under my belt, food to eat, a roof over my head and various skills that just cannot seem to get over herself. I know logically that merely because my problems may be different than others and may appear less significant in comparison, does not mean they are not significant to me; I have the right to feel however I feel and to do what I need to do to no longer teter on the edge of this cliff. And yet I resist.

Of course I am grateful for all that I have, but why could I not grieve and struggle for what I had not? The Gratitude Thread I clung to throughout the violent attacks, atomic outbursts, seizures, and endless chaos thinned dramatically over time . . .

. . . but now it is the only thing I have left keeping me from falling into a void of darkness and despair.

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