Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Silence

An episode of The Fosters annoyed me today.

In a previous episode, Jude (Hayden Byerly) suddenly stops speaking. He's diagnosed with elective mutism, and the plan is to be patient and understanding towards him.

There's a really sweet scene at the beginning of "Mother" where Jude's sister Callie (Maia Mitchell) acts very understanding and tells him not to let her or anyone else pressure him to talk. I thought about how that was so nice and how I wish my family members were like that.

But then....

Towards the end of the episode, Callie tells Jude he has to talk to her, and the other people who love him, because not doing so is selfish.

What!?

No!!!!!

Okay. Maybe we should give Callie a break. Because the reason she says this to Jude is that earlier her other brother, Brandon (David Lambert) pushed her to stop keeping her rape a secret.

Yeah. How many women (or men) have come forward about rape and not been believed?

In season one, Callie herself was actually punished for coming forward about the rape.

It is not selfish to want to keep things to yourself...even your whole voice.

For personal reasons, I really could not stand Callie calling Jude selfish. Then the episode pisses me off, because her insult works. Jude starts speaking again. 

I really don't like the idea that the show is pushing—that we can cure people of their emotional problems by calling them selfish.

Fuck that.

Anyway, I took the episode personally because I have closed up at times.

I don't go completely silent.

But I do go through phases where I keep things to myself. I avoid talking about myself.

This comes from years of experiencing things like emotional invalidation, minimizing, gaslighting, blatant disinterest, misunderstandings, etc.

A couple of summer ago, I was very upset.

A new cat had found its way into our lives. No I was not upset about the new cat. That was a very happy thing.

But....

I felt Annie was too young to be left alone while we all went to the lake house. Someone needed to stay home with her.  The fourth of July weekend was approaching. I suggested to Tim that we split the weekend up. He spend a couple of nights; then I spend a couple of nights.

Tim got very tense and talked about how he needed to be there to cook the vegetarian part of the meal.

I was quite taken aback by this, because, besides me, there's only one other vegetarian.  (And now I'm thinking, couldn't he have also made something ahead of time and then just had someone reheat it).

Tim changed his tune slightly in the days approaching the weekend. But it was too late for me. The thing is, I already had a huge amount of insecurity about my family preferring Tim over me.  I mean not from this one conversation but years of things said, not said, done, and not done.

What I really wanted was for someone in my family to question why I was the one staying home with Annie and not Tim. No one said anything.

Now, to be fair, it wasn't in the plans for me to be completely absent from the lake house. Tim picked me up for an afternoon visit.

I was not doing well on that visit.  Annie was in heat, and that was very stressful. I was still very hurt by the fact that Tim was getting all the nights at the lake house, and no one seemed to care. I was dealing with my new neurological symptoms. And on a lake house boat ride, my sister said something that really hurt me and stressed me out.

I ended up crying at the lake house. Sobbing.

It was not a good time for me.

I went home.

My mom texted me and offered to pick me up the next day if I wanted to come back to the lake house.

I texted back and told her maybe but that my brain and emotions were not doing well. So..also maybe not.

I very stupidly expected her to text back and be a sympathetic listener.

She didn't do that. She responded by saying, Let me know if you need a ride. Love You!!!!

On the surface that sounds very nice. She offered to give me a ride. She says she loves me. What's there to complain about?

But...well, below the surface was my problems and feelings being ignored.

The next day I kind of bitched her out about this, and I really let my feelings out. I talked about how the Tim thing really hurt me. I talked about how the family often acts that Tim is more important to them.

I also talked about how the family is often asking Tim to do them favors, and how, when at the lake house I asked Tim to do me (His wife!!!) a favor, I was mocked.

The message I was trying to convey to my mom is that A) With my family, I should come before Tim B) With Tim I should come before the family.

I am not self-centered enough to think I should come before everyone in the whole wide world. But with certain people I should come before other certain people.

Make sense?

Well, somehow this message got completely twisted. From what I could gather from future angry messages from my dad is that me feeling not-loved-enough somehow turned into me accusing my parents of treating Tim like a slave.

WTF????!!!!!

Between the dramatic text conversation with my mom and the angry email from my dad, we went on a cruise where, I might have imagined it, but I felt a coldness from my parents. Well, the fact that my dad later revealed he was angry about what he thought I said during the conversation, I had with my mom, makes me think it was probably NOT in my imagination.

OR maybe not, because sometimes I have very suppressed anger towards someone, and I feel completely fine towards them until we get in a fight that suddenly reminds me of the suppressed anger.

So...I don't know.

Anyway, I became so frustrated by my parents twisting my hurt feelings into a criticism of them not treating Tim well enough that I suddenly decided to become estranged from them.

It was a fairly mild estrangement that lasted about 2-3 months. I still wished them a happy anniversary. I still said happy birthday to my mom and gave her a gift. I didn't completely shut them out of my life and I wasn't completely cold towards them.

I give a range for the ending, because it didn't suddenly end over night. It just slowly faded.

In October I went to my sister's 40th birthday party.  My mom and I had a hug there.

I spent a night at the lake house over Thanksgiving. I didn't totally kiss and make up with my parents. But we were civil with each other.

In December, my niece had surgery.  My dad and I lifted a lot of the ice between us via conversations about Apple Pay and vending machines.

A short time after that, I started having conversations with parents again. One such conversation was about a parenting issue I was having.

On a later date, I talked to them a lot about my neurological issues.

The estrangement was very much over.  Not only was I no longer estranged with my parents but I was (stupidly) opening up to them.  I was letting down my guard and letting them in.

Then about six months after the end of the estrangement, I got angry with my dad. Throughout the non-estrangement months, I had told him a LOT about my neurological issues. I wrongly believed he had listened and understood. But he said something that made me see he had NOT been listening well. He had totally NOT understood.

We got into a fight about this, and my dad then told me he was worried about my estrangement from the family AND criticized me for not talking about my child as much as my sisters talk about their children.

Here I am upset that my dad didn't listen well enough to me and he's complaining that I don't talk enough???!!!!

Why the hell should I open up to him or my mom when I did so for months, and he labels that time as me being estranged?  Did he not notice I had been talking to the family a LOT for the last several months?

It takes courage for me to share my feelings with my family, especially my parents. Because opening up to my parents is like putting quarters in a slot machine.  Once in awhile, they SEEM to be listening and understanding. On rare occasions, they will say something wise and comforting. But most times, they end up making me feel invalidated, angry, and hurt.  And well...really. When I win, it's more like winning money in the slot machine; then later learning out the money has poison ivy oils all over it.

It might SEEM like they're listening and empathizing/sympathizing. But later they'll say things that make me realize they totally do not get it.

Note: I have poison ivy rashes right now, so that's why I'm using that analogy

Anyway, I spent months of not being estranged from my parents. I spent months bonding with them, talking to them, etc.  And all my letting down my guard and opening up seems to have been for nothing.

So yeah. It really rubs me the wrong way when someone is labeled selfish for being silent.

Now if someone becomes silent, or holds back, because they WANT something and are trying to get what they want with a manipulative silent treatment?  That's very different. That IS selfish.

Holding back, though, because you're scared, insecure, distrustful, etc. that is not selfish.

And sometimes opening up to certain people is NOT courageous. Sometimes it is foolish.