Part of coming to terms with PTSD and Anxiety, part of understanding your own narrative and why you are the way you are, involves looking back at the past. Instead of focusing on the experiences you yourself lived through, one focuses on the more immediate past of the family as it helps provide a stronger foundation of understanding. Think of it as a magnifying lens that reveals the multiple layers beneath the persona that often gives first impressions.
For instance – if one were to look at my family at first glance, they would see:
1.) An upper Middle Class, lower upper class family.
2.) Affluence in as so much as there isn’t a need to go without, and elder family members are seen to.
4.) A network of close friends and family
However if you were to take a step back and start examining the history of my parents, there are other details that would come into focus – particularly under a lens of objectivity. Some of this I may have even covered before in an earlier entry; but, it needs repeating.
My parents came from very dysfunctional families.
Both my father’s parents were heavy drinkers and smokers with a love of food. When my father was young, my great-grandparents stepped in to help raise him and his older and younger brothers. My grandparents were in University, going for their Masters or Doctorate. Sounds like happy yuppy-ville, right? Only, not so much.
My paternal grandfather had at one point gone out of his way to round up my father and his brothers and tell them that he never wanted to be a father, and that they were to call him ‘Bob’ and not ‘Dad’. While honest – that is one of the most emotionally damaging things I imagine a parent can say to a child.
There were times when the electricity was shut off because my grandparents spent the money out drinking, or had simply forgotten about it because again – they were drinking. If this extended to the electricity, it stands to reason there were other associated issues with food, and other bills. How much of this was my grandfather versus my grandmother just being out there with him, I really can’t say. I wasn’t there.
I will note that my paternal grandfather died before I was born from a ruptured esophagus that resulted from being an alcoholic.
My mother was the first born in her family. My grandfather had knocked my grandmother up, and was going to run out on her, while still enlisted in the army following WWII. My grandmother’s father decided to point a shot gun at my grandfather and said, “You marry her, or you can spend time in Military Prison.”
It was quite literally a shotgun wedding, and my mother paid the price for it. As the first child she was the one who bore the brunt of my grandfather’s animosity and the post-pregnancy crazy of a borderline if not completely schizophrenic mother. At one point the words ‘two by fours’ and ‘steak knives’ were used when Dad, Mom, and I spoke briefly of this.
But – with each child that followed my mother, my grandfather mellowed. This, coupled with the fact that until my mother moved out at the age of 14 she helped my grandmother raise her younger siblings, meant that the younger siblings never saw the level of abuse or ‘mean’ qualities from my grandfather. In short – the man she knew and the man they knew were two very different people.
(My grandfather was a womanizing ball room dancer, dealing with Gods know what kind of trauma after being deployed as a combat medic and ambulance driver in WW II. At least, that is what I have been told he did while enlisted. I’m not sure how to go about finding this out in detail; but, I remain curious. Knowing how dysfunctional he was and how his perception of his treatment of my mother was very – very different from the experiences she related to my father and to me, makes me question his sense of reality at the time he related it all to me.)
My mother and father first met shortly after she started to live with an Aunt and Uncle, when she was around fourteen or fifteen years old. They started dating then, off and on, too. Shortly after high school graduation, they married the day before my mom turned nineteen, via eloping as my paternal grandfather didn’t approve of her. (That is how she perceived it. He was crazy liberal in some ways, from what I’ve been told; but, really peculiar about wanting women to not have their ankles showing, and not wear pants. I often wonder if it was more the marrying so early that he objected to.)
The reality is that my parents already came from dysfunctional families;but, they found love and something so very special within each other. So much so that they built a family of their own. I’m sure that they planned to give their children the love and lives their parents couldn’t give them. And to that extent? They 100% succeeded. However, that does not mean things were any less difficult or that life was perfect. They both came from dysfunctional backgrounds and as such there were habits and tendencies that helped shape the environment in which my older brother and I was raised.
This is just a brief background of what little I know of their lives before they married. It seems strange at first glance to be sharing these personal details with the public; but, again, I am hoping that by going through this process of trying to understand my own narrative – it will help others consider doing the same. The foundation is important because it provides a trail to follow.
In my next entry I am going to focus on the number of transitions they experienced before I was born, as two of them were particularly instrumental in shaping how I was raised. One event in particular is of import as it gave way to what I believe amounted to being raised in a household affected by PTSD.