Growing up I had two very different experiences with two very different relatives. It is only now that I am thinking about them both that I have realised how they have shown me a lot about society as a whole.
One relative was a drug abuser. Any drug. All drugs. It didn’t matter. Alcohol, cannibis, heroine You name it. After years of drug abuse etc the relative is highly unstable and is very unpredictable. They have lived a mostly nomadic life and have left relationships and destruction in their wake. Probably one of the strangest factors to this story is how the rest of the family responded to them. This person has been supported, accepted, welcomed, tolerated, excuses made for them, money given to them and a life time of enabling and denial. No one ever speaks of the elephant in the room when it comes to this relative, despite whatever violent acts they committed on their drug induced sprees.
Mostly I avoided them.
Their family were so intent on not being embarrassed by committing them or ‘dealing’ with them in a responsible manner that they have helped this person on their way to oblivion. Very, very sad.
Another relative was labeled a hypochondriac very early in life and although they have had a lot of operations and visits to doctors, very little empathy or tolerance was every shown to them. In fact they were mocked.
“Off to the doctors again are you?..” People would ask with muffled sarcasm. I recognized very early on in life that the most undesirable thing you could ever be in life was sick. You were more of a burden and an embarassment than the most violent drug and alcohol abuser!
I look back on this now and ask myself if all this misguided thinking was due to the prejudices of my family, my small town roots, where being a drinker and a fighter was a natural passage to manhood, or was it a reflection of a sick and small minded society in general?
I am sure by now that I have taken over the ‘crown‘ of being that sickly, attention seeking, hypochondriac relative. I have caught whispers of how my battles with illnesses and diseases have been embarrassing to various family members. Only at this time of life, instead of feeling sad and rejected, I just feel pity and sorry for my accusers. There is something about a long term health issue that brings out the bravery in you and the ‘… I can’t be bothered with the little things…’ In you too.
I am not sure how I would have handled it though if I was younger and still in that environment?
If I been sick and still in that environment I think I would have probably felt just as isolated as I am here away from everyone. At least here I don’t feel the rejection as acutely.
When I started joining groups I felt the awful pain and loss that many others like me were going through within their families and friendships. I felt the loss of dignity and self belief. The feelings of worthlessness was palpable! … But why?
Has society lost its grip on reality so much that we are condoning this behaviour and these prejudices?
If government policy is any indication of the way the country feels towards the sick, the elderly, the poor, the immigrants, the minorities and the indigenous, then we probably can see these feeling being ratified and these prejudices increasing.
Society opens its hearts to those who have been hurt or injured playing the sport of their choice or for injuries incurred in the pursuit of fun and pleasure and for the many injuries or consequences that have come from their poor choices. However we remain heartless and indolent to those who are suffering due to no fault of their own. Ie. The sick, the poor, the war torn.
Perhaps if I had hurt myself riding motor GP I would have been raised to hero status?
I shake my head with sad disbelief!!
I must also note here that there ARE relatives who have been very supportive and enlightened in their attitudes. I do want to recognise them and I guess we are all different.
Perhaps had I not moved, travelled, experienced the world, learned, grew, expanded my heart and thinking, I may have stayed a victim, myself, of these small minded thoughts and behaviours. Thank goodness I didn’t.
Although I would rather not have become sick to have my education expanded, I am glad that I am still learning and growing regardless of being sick. Maybe being on our own has also made it more possible?
Living on our own, as we are, we have to be accountable for all that we do and how we behave. And there is nowhere to hide or people to hide behind. It’s both lonely and freeing.
Although at times my husband and I miss the support that a supportive family could give, we have never been convinced that it would have been offered. Hence we remain alone in this city and many miles from the closest relative. This impression has also been supported by the comments of fellow sufferers whose family live minutes away but they have struggled alone for many years and decades. They avoid family get togethers as it is most often the source of great pain and bigotry.
I can’t ever erase the painful stories that many have shared from my memory. They are nothing short of emotional abuse and a sad indictment of some families today.
Nowadays people’s impressions of me (family and sufferers) are almost irrelevant compared to my impression of how much I have to battle and stay in the fight. I can’t afford to give them the power of derailing me and toppling me from what I know I must do just to keep going.
The other thing that needs mentioning too is that we are taught our prejudices and our values from our elders and it can be passed around families like Sunday roasts. I am sure that a lot of the things my own family did and said were as a result of what parents and mentors thought and said, but they also need to change and be modified as we grow and as we learn more. We take on the role as our own moral guardians once we reach a certain age and with this in mind we are responsible for the world we make.
I have learned that there are worse things than family secrets… It’s family ignorance.