Saturday, October 20, 2012

Labels and Options

We all have labels. Some we assign ourselves, some are given to us by others, with or without our permission. Gay. Straight. Christian. Pagan. Buddhist. Nerd. The list goes on and on.

These last few weeks, returning to therapy and processing my family situation, I'm learning that I am a "victim of abuse". I always hesitated to use that label for myself, because it wasn't physical - I was never one of those kids who went to school with "mystery bruises". I was never severely beat, even though my parents were proponents of corporal punishment.

But there are other types of abuse. Mental, emotional, spiritual. These means of abuse, I was a victim of. When something bad happened, I was told it was God punishing me for being a bad person. When angry with me, my mom would threaten to send me off to live with my birthfather - with the assumption that he would be a worse parent than her, and that he was so violent that it would basically be "good luck living long enough to turn 18 if you're with him". Even before I found out about my adoption, I remember being locked out of the house in elementary school, at night, in my underwear. I remember my mom saying that if she and my dad (now known to be my adoptive dad) divorced, it would be my fault.  I thought I had worked past these childhood issues, but it seems that the real, concrete possibility of contacting my father has brought it back to the surface, and made me realize I still have a lot of issues with forgiveness regarding what I went through.

Therapy is going tough, but well. In addition to the aforementioned, it's helped me realize that my father's reported behavior wasn't necessarily all his fault. It's likely that their conflicts were a two-way street. I'm not justifying domestic violence by any means, but my mother did have a role to play, for better or worse, and especially based on her behavior during my childhood, it's likely that she was not just an innocent victim. It's helping me learn to set boundaries - for instance, it's none of her business whether or not I choose to contact him at this point in my life, but if she does find out, how to stand up to her?

I think as time progresses, things are moving from "should I contact my father?" to "what the heck do you say to someone you haven't seen in 30 years?" and "how can I do so without totally disrupting whatever life he may have by now?"

In the meantime, I have learned a little more about that side of the family. It appears my father is somewhat into genealogy as well, as I believe I found some posts from him on's message boards from the late 90s, and a family tree from a user that may be him, last logged in around 7 months ago. Apparently his father died in his early 50s as well (seems to be the family trend to die before age 60); my uncle had several DWIs. I'm researching more into his criminal record as well, at least what is readily available. I'm hoping having this information will (1) give me more insight into what his life has been like the last 30 years, and (2) help me in my decision of whether or not to contact, and when. On the one hand, if he's a dangerous person, it may really be in my best interest to just continue to stay away. On the other hand, he's in Maryland, I'm in SC, and it's like the therapist said once: if he really were *that* dangerous, there would be protective factors in place, (i.e. he would be in jail), and I'm not going to necessarily go meet him alone in an isolated place, anyways.  I'm just ready to get this whole, 20 year bit of drama resolved once and for all, and finally move on with my life.

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