Old, scarred but a survivor

Hello everyone,

I am new here and I do not know where to start. These are the moments where I look back at my life and think that I have actually been quite lucky to make through so many things and bad moments.

I am 29, daughter of an alcoholic mother since I cannot remember when. My family is a shambles: my parents got divorced when I was around 8 but to be honest I can never remember them getting on much and my first childhood memories are of fights, continuous arguing and of my father sleeping out of the house, who knows where. One day he left, I still remember him pronouncing the words "I am getting a divorce" and my mum saying: do not worry, he always says that. But that time it was true. The divorce lasted ages, I think it mentally consumed my mother and I think that was the time when the alcohol barged in, to never leave us again. Things were strange, my mum had continous mood swings, there were issues with the social services. I also remember her having a very bad moment and being taken away from the police. A lot of things I must have removed them from my memory, a kind of self-defense. Over the years the more my mum becase unreliable in the house the more I started taking care of things, without anyone asking, it was either that or things would just be left. I grew up fast, there was no choice.

Then when I was around 12 my mum decided to go back to her home country and take me with her. I went with her despite hating her for taking this decision. At the end of the day I had always thought that between a totally absent father and a mother who was present every now and again I was better off with the second. I also thought that a change of country may have been the solution to all her drinking and give her that happiness that she needed. How wrong I was. Years passed by, I was teenager and I hated my life. I had great difficulties in adjusting to a new country even though I was lucky that my mother had taught me the language since I was little. And let's face it, being a teenager is awful even in the happiest of families. Things were bad, my mum was violent, I was scared, she shouted awful things to me, I never want to see that much hate towards the entire world. In any case I carried on, because again there was no choice. I have always had good results at school and I enjoyed studying. At the end of my high school my teachers encouraged me to continue with university. I was battled, I wanted to leave and run far away but then who would take care of things at home. I also had a minimum amount of pride to understand that I was good and I wanted to show that I was worth something at least academic-wise. My mum did not want and did not have the means to support my studies. I managed to start various odd jobs and pay for my tuition and therefore attend the university in my home town, still staying at home with my mum. I started to be a bit proud of myself and feel independent from the everyday downs that my entire situation had made me use to. And most importantly I started to make real friends, those who accepted me regardless of my silence and of how I constantly refused to drink. I started to open up with them. And they did not look at me as if I were a weirdo. I felt for the first time accepted.

During my university studies things at home got really bad. At the same time I needed my space and I could not sustain all the scenes that the alcohol caused at home. I needed to sleep during the night to get up early in the morning to study or to work. But my mum was totally deaf to this. I called the police several times, the ambulance too. I slept at friends. I asked for help to a mental health system that simply answered that their hands were tied and that only when my mother asks for help for herself can they do something. I gave up on the health system and felt neglected and betrayed as if I, the one who had always done the housework, who never caused any kind of problems, who paid bills, who never complained and always ploughed on, was the one without any kind of rights. 

Then things that were bad got worse. I called the police, one Summer night of 5 years ago. They took her to the hospital, and sent her back the day after. She hated me for that. I touched rock bottom and went to bed, wanting to never get up again. If these were the rules of the game called "life" I did not want to play anymore. My friends were allarmed and dragged me out of bed. I recovered. Slowly. And I managed to contact a psychologist who works in a community in a local village on the outskirts of the town. They adopt a kind of systemic approach to drug and alcohol related problems which involves the entire family or "system" which the person who drinks belongs to. I told him he was my last chance. He looked at me and he said "let's see what we can do". I had never heard anyone say anything like that. He invited me to the evening communities where the families reunite and put out their experiences. I started talking, I felt understood and listened to. I started changing. I understood what was wrong in the entire system of my family, I understood the idea of role change and I started changing my behaviours and I stopped taking the decisions that my mum should have. I was taking away her spaces and stealing her role. I stopped checking the cupboards for alcohol and  started thinking more about myself and taking care of myself. It took me at least 2 years to develop a good level of awareness of the complexity of these kind of problems and understand to what extent I can affect the entire system. You can't get someone to stop drinking but you can contribute to feeling better yourself. The idea was to try and covince my mum to come to the meetings. This never happened but it does not matter. She has not stopped drinking, she may have reduced her consumption but what is certain is that the awful scenes at home with her shouting and screaming are much rarer now. I think that the fact that she sees me as more independent and taking a bit more care of myself and not so much of other things related to the house has been very positive for her. In any case I feel as if I were a survivor.

In the last years, a lot of things have happened. I completed my masters degree at my university and I got accepted for a PhD there. During that period of time I had some problems with the professors, I did a visiting period in the UK and I recieved an offer to move there and continue my PhD. Many were my doubts but I finally left home and I feel it is better for my mum too. She knows that I left for a better job opportunity and not to get away from here. Strangely enough our relationship is better on the phone. I do not phone that often, but at least it forces ourselves to say things and to talk, even about petty things, which is a great improvement in comparison to some years ago where there was an icy silence in the house. Sometimes on the phone I know that she is drunk, and maybe I am a bit selfish but if I am far away it hurts less when I do not see her in certain states.

Generally I feel that this is a new start. I feel like a survivor. And I know that things have been worse. But on my down days, once every so often, I think things through and I feel as if life has always been a struggle. Do not get me wrong: I am happy and I would repeat the choices I have made. At times it is difficult though, I have good friends here but it is not completely the same. They are not like my good friends back home, those that understand your silences, those who you don't have to explain things to because they know. I suppose that is the price to pay...and opening up is a tiring but good exercise. I just have to get used to the idea. 

My major issue is that at times I think that I am inevitably broken inside. Sometimes I would just like to have a blank slate and be like everyone else. Everything I have been through has made me tougher, stronger, more sensitive and sensible, a reliable friend with a good mental balance. But, I do not know, sometimes I feel different, external to those everyday petty concerns and at times tired and thinking that things are always a struggle for me. I am not a happy-go-lucky person. I am concerned that the scars of all these last years will stick forever, wounds that will never heal. I feel broken. Scarred for life. Eternally wrong for this world. Just a misfit. Maybe I am just recovering and the healing takes a long time. But I am worried. I am totally unable to have a long term relationship. I have no boyfriend or I end up falling in love with the totally wrong people. I have no self-esteem for that sphere of life. And now, that I am away from home and from all the worries that were there I feel this concern even stronger. I just am not made for relationships. I am not an interesting person, not pretty and not attractive. I do not flirt nor do I throw myself onto males as other girls do and I do not drink for the fear of becoming like my mum. I probably do not even believe in love since I have never experienced it, there was no time and so many other things to take care of. I am picky with people and find it difficult to trust. Regardless of all this, strangely enough I have loads of friends.

I know I shouldn't complain, things have been much worse and I should be grateful that I have pulled through. But I look at my other friends, in couples and with partners. And I just think that it is not fair. People like me, who have never had a proper  family, but will never have one because they are broken inside.

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