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Mother's Day Special: PTSD and estrangement of family

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Mother's Day Special: Eastern Cultures, PTSD and estrangement of family?

got to pay the money back....

First off: This is an f'in LONG-ass post that you will have to read EVERY SINGLE WORD of to understand properly. If you choose to reply, NO flaming or condescending "constructive criticism" responses. Keep in mind I am discussing some fairly heavy PTSD issues here and I might blow my top (worse than usual) if struck wrongly. Genuine, heartfelt advice (even if it's contradictory to my point), though, is welcomed if you are comfortable giving it. I am also open to support on the side of what my tdoc and I both feel, although I don't feel that my parents need to be bashed per se, as I myself will be doing that enough in this post. Please do NOT bother replying if you feel you cannot reply in a kind, useful, and sensitive manner.

Quote:

NEVER attempt to change others. You can only change yourself. And leave those offending others if it's that bad and they refuse to change themselves. -- From my current tdoc, who focuses on self-improvement (unlike the family tdoc, who focuses on 3 idiots in my house trying to get along, which may involve attempting to change others, albeit indirectly).

Both tdocs are, of course, born and raised Americans with American parents. My personal tdoc has had some experience with American PTSD patients of Eastern background (like me) and understands that the emotional economy of the typical Eastern (incl. expatriate/Western-relocated) household focuses on guilt and manipulation through distortion of self -- moreso in South Asian (Indian) families than in families from other parts of the continent. Specifically, parents are distorted into the perceived independent self of the child(ren). This becomes suckier if you're an only child. I hurt my mom's back during delivery and she had fertility issues in general (when I was 4 she had a miscarriage), so I obviously can't blame her for not wanting another child.

As for me, I went through some extremely rocky times from emotional, financial, and medical abuse/triggers, especially the first 10 years of life. Parents who wouldn't buy me anything (I mean, all the way down to a monthly packet of M&Ms) since they were so poor. And no, they never told me we were poor (I learned this fact when I was 18, and have felt a little better about my childhood, although I still feel very deceived and am still mistrusting of them). Also, my mother was a borderline bipolar HFA-Aspie bitch whom my father never bothered to rein in, as he worked 80 hours a week as a postdoctorate fellow (until I was about 10). Out of the many fellow expatriate friends we'd had within a 5 minute drive or 30 minute walk, she never bothered to consult with any of them on how to sanely deal with an equally insane child. My "aunt" (really my father's best friend's wife, who for some of my childhood lived a walking distance from us) seriously berated my mom on the dishonesty I was given and lack of help sought, although this was not until 2006, a little late (and actually, I was a bit upset at my aunt for pissing off my mom, as well, you know where the guilt and anger ultimately landed on, and also, my aunt is extremely "NT"-thinking, and is an idiot in general).

I learned something interesting today, as well. I know my mother was married just before she turned 18 (!), and no less, to my dad, who was 12 years older (and unsurprisingly, still is). She'd kept me under the impression that her father (extremely abusive HFA/bipolar/borderline/WTF/etc. like she and I are) wanted to get rid of her ASAP (he didn't consider her the "golden child" of her litter of 4, apparently!). Today, I heard another story.

"I couldn't stand the abusive jerk your grandfather was. He loved my younger sister much more than he did the other 3 of us. I wanted out as soon as possible, even if it meant crossing two oceans and starting a life with an older man I barely knew. I'm the one who initiated my mother's search for a good man for me to marry."

Now, note that my mother is a severe pathological liar (not as in "little white lies" or exaggeration, I mean more like completely hiding important things such as the fact that her father was a suicide and telling complete lies about what teachers said about me for the purposes of manipulating me into what she wanted me to be). (What she wanted me to be I have no idea, but I think she got inspirations from her father.) However, given how I felt about my parents when I was that age, my mom's explanation for why she got married at 17 is a completely entertainable thought.

What the hell does this have to do with anything?

Well, as you know from above, my mother abandoned her father, and she maintains that she has no regrets about leaving him and never seeing him again (he committed suicide when she was 23 and I was 4, before our first "family reunion" trip to India in 1991). The reason her father committed suicide (my mother and father both maintain this) had nothing to do with my mother, but God knows what Grandpa was thinking up there. Given it was Grandpa, it could have been anything, including bitterness at estrangement from my mother.

How does abandonment/estrangement fit into here?

Well, for one, it's inappropriate in Eastern cultures, my mother's actions 28 years ago being sodded. (Assuming she was telling me the truth, which I don't know.) Probably was part of the reason Grandpa did himself in (although the de facto story is currently that he was having some serious job issues and was insane to begin with).

Family relations in my family, as with other Asian families, work through guilt and manipulation -- on the assumption that the way to solve disputes is to actually manipulate and change the person, if not at least guilting the person into changing. Anything similar (e.g., stating how one's emotions are like and even more innocuous things) are taken as such, and sometimes more severely than outright manipulation. Open discussions of emotions are unwelcome and are taken very insultingly as signs of rebellion from the underlings and make family relations worse. My parents get very angry when I tell them how I feel when I'm insulted, and they take it even worse when I walk away (this is tdoc's advice!!!) from any of their statements that strike me as nasty. (By nasty, I mean "you're irresponsible and don't know the value of money!" and degrading things of similar caliber. There is no way I can take these words with a stolid face.)

However, if I subtly in a passive-aggressive manner manipulate my parents (e.g., blaring angry/angsty heavy metal music with lyrics about hating parents, about wanting to get out of the house, and even about wanting to die/commit suicide), it quickly calms them down and seems to put them "on the same page" with me with a calm sense of understanding. Perhaps my methods are not-so-subtle, but indirect and not face-to-face, you get the idea. Just as I cannot maintain a stolid face when faced with their brand of criticism, my (to me) unusual brand of reprisal paradoxically seems to help them understand me better and functions as an "instant antidote" to our fights. Not an appropriate placebo for love, I know, but what do I do when they will not change themselves?

Back to estrangement, yeah. I am expected to be out the door within 3 months (or much less) with a decent well-paying job (if not, we have a FAR more major issue!!!!). MI and me in the workplace? I've learned to control myself... I've found that it'd be difficult (especially in industry [vs. academic/university work]) to have anybody more abusive than the bitchy clone of my mother that I had in Maryland and the miserly condescending groaning clone of my father known as my "uncle", Dad's (unsurprisingly) best friend of the past 35 years. My biggest concern is my more "physical" illness (latent blood-borne infection and weak immune system in general) and the fact that I may be with little notice disabled out of work with no source of income (although I do know how to manage symptomatic infection and do not foresee ever going into another permanent 24/7 state of fever *knocks on own head*).

Nonetheless, I am starting to realize that I need to be prepared to completely abandon my parents (as in after moving out, change phone number and even my own legal name if need be!) because I cannot change their ways and their ways are "toxic" to me and bring me down into that pit of despair. I am almost 26, and I think it is time to consider this option. Many on CB (especially PTSD victims, unsurprisingly) have/had indeed already abandoned their parents around this age.

Jobwise, M&D were not all too supportive of me when I got fired in Maryland (the best I got was from Mom and was on the lines of "ohhh no, my little baby boy's such a sensitive little flower!!!", and at my next job underneath my father's best friend, my father was downright apologetic about "uncle" and would criticize me even further when I would inform him I had issues at work. I stopped complaining to the parental units about work within a few months of beginning my job down in Georgia, knowing that it'd be counterproductive (honestly, I only had CB to bitch on about all that!).

The money? They can have it back with inflation and interest added on, providing I can afford it. They can take me completely off of their will (they claim I'm on it, though even as a team M&D have been known to lie). Their meaning of love is financial and room/board support and does not jive with my meaning of love (i.e., emotional support and consideration, even if I have to put all my health expenses on credit), and it seems that we both are physically incapable of changing our brains to accommodate the other's view of love.

My own personal experience/s with "running away" from my parents? Well, I did it once in 2000 (when I was 16-17 and starting college) and again in 2004 (moving to the West Coast to be away from them) and again in 2005 (moving to Maryland and then Georgia). The boomeranging parts suck bigtime, trust me. They did support me when I moved back each time. (However, at those specific times, I'd not have cared if my other option were to die. ;) I had planned a year in advance that if my illness had not remitted by March 23rd, 2009, that I would duly do myself in on that date, which marks the second anniversary of me being unemployed and a burden on my family. :))

This time, I'm 25, an adult, and willing to pay for my own past and future transgressions. I will have some sort of reasonably-paying job in the future and will be moving out of the house -- however, due to the economy and the fact that my part of my US state is actually bucking the unemployment trends, I am VERY likely to be living within 25 miles of them. If need be, I can pay my parents back in FedEx cash payments ("whether they like it or not"); I assume I owe them something on the order of around $200k of 20 years' worth of food, shelter, tuitions, and misdirected emotional support.

And many of y'all know about the post I did on worrying about my father's "dementia complex" and me being (excuse the pun) somewhat "fatherly" and selfish/overconcerned/overbearing with Dad about it. He does admit he's having some pretty bad memory issues. But hell, he's pushing 60, and that is to be expected as one reaches that age. Nonetheless, I hate to say this, and I am not directly wishing harm upon people, but at this time I could not care less if he went into full-blown Alzheimer's and Mom went and offed herself.

Either all the above crap, or I can play their little passive-aggressive games all the time (these hurt me quite a bit) just to get along with them and make them happy and willing to support me in times of need when I leave. Maybe I should steel myself in playing these games that seem to work so well (my tdoc is of course, VERY much against this).

I know all of the above is stereotypical ranting from me (hopefully it's coherent, I spent like 3 hours writing, proofreading, correcting, and removing gratuitous anger from it). But whatever, fuck it all. More corrections/additions/etc. when I feel like it, already spent too long on this shit.

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Ah yes, and before anybody asks, the above wasn't written "in a moment of passion". It reflects clearly my opinions of the past ten years or so. Right down to not caring if either of them were to die. In the genuine sense, I can name 50 people who care emotionally (and some who could care financially) about me way the hell more than they are capable of.

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I wish you well in the job hunt. It's a rough time to be seeking.

Moving's a good idea. Getting the "head space" to really figure out what kind of life YOU want, what kind of energy, what kind of people, etc, that support a healthy life for you - because when you're healthy, and self-caring, then you have energy to give to others, and that's how you build a strong support network of friends and "adopted family."

And after a period of this lifebuilding, you'll be able to re-evaluate whether you want your parents in that life or not. You may, you may not. From here, you can't really tell, and it's not really important. Getting OUT, getting the healing process started, that's paramount.

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Have you ever been involved with any peer support-type boards for American children of South Asian parents? I know there's a lot of mental illness involved as well, but from what you've said the cultural conflict in your situation is also huge, and I don't think I remember you mentioning getting support from people in a similar situation. (You may have, or may not have found anything helpful, and I've just forgotten.) I don't have any good advice for you on your own situation but it might be helpful to connect with other people in similar situations (or maybe even other people who've gotten through similar situations).

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i know your tdoc wants you to take a very American approach to interactions with your parents. but i can't help thinking that if the passive-aggresive stuff works so well with your parents, it's likely that that is what they understand, on a deep level. i don't think they 'get' the American way of thinking/doing. if the passive-aggressive stuff, and you are cognizant of what you are doing and why, i don't see anything wrong with it.

i don't see it as manipulating them; i see it as 'speaking their language'.

Bluelikejazz was talking in someone's blog about the 'languages of love'. her point was that people show love/caring in different ways: service, gifts, time and emotion. besides the cultural stuff, i think it sounds like your parents speak a different language than you. they speak 'gifts', like financial support, and you speak 'emotion', like active emotional support<----this is hypothetical. i'm not sure about this, but it may be something for you to think about while trying to tease this whole mess out.

i really don't have a good answer for you, but i'm willing to be a sounding board and bounce ideas back to you. i know damn good and well that 3 years under an East Asian manager does NOT equal decades of living with two of them, but believe me, those years affected me. i'm amazed you didn't off yourself, them or run away and cut all ties with them. honestly.

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I think you just won this thread, reddog... hehehe

The maxim of "Don't stoop down to the level of your problem", IMO, needs out.

Speaking their language, as you say, I think will make things better. Especially w/music (my mom likes a few of the songs I do).

(n.b. to self, this will also have utility at our particular church/meetinghouse, going to have serious discussion with the pastor next week!!!!)

Also, thanks to the rest of y'all for the resources. =)

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"manipulation" and "passive-aggressive" are pretty loaded words, used in a context where direct communication is the norm, even to authority figures.

Maybe think of it as indirect vs direct communication. You've found indirect communication is better received, then I say go for it.

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"manipulation" and "passive-aggressive" are pretty loaded words, used in a context where direct communication is the norm, even to authority figures.

Maybe think of it as indirect vs direct communication. You've found indirect communication is better received, then I say go for it.

Yeah I think I was being a bit too general there... you're right, "indirect communication" is a better term, and I think I'll discuss with my tdoc the idea of going for it......

(Also.... I call it "third party communication" -- be it words from a licensed tdoc or angsty lyrics from The Exies -- somehow manages to bear more cach

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One would think that "tensions" would cool-off after a few days after a "moment of passion". But no. The story gets worse. FAR worse.

VIOLENTLY worse. Yes, now we're crossing into PHYSICAL abuse territory here.

Not just physical abuse in general.... I mean physical abuse about 24 hours ago. As in around the morning of May 12th, 2009.

And the abuse, this time, wasn't delivered by the woman known as my mother. She's friendlier for now.

It's the other half. The half with the money. I.e., the paternal half. The extremely "neurotypical" (I hate the term but it fits) who blindly listened to his financial advisor and put his nest egg into high-risk funds that not only crashed in 2001 with a certain infamous blockbuster SSRI drug losing its patent at that time, but also other risky stocks that took a huge brunt the past year or so.

In the morning, over coffee, I informed him of this issue. Specifically, the fact that TEN years prior, I had advised him of the impending patent loss and to sell (even with the cashout penalty it would have been roughly a 50% gain on the options - probably on the order of six figures (it's not my finances, so I have no idea).

And note that you shouldn't attempt to change your father's financial decisions.

Needless to say, his financial nest egg collapsed by about 50% (I hope it grows back over the next few years before he retires). That's what he has been telling me at least.

In any event, as we sat in the living room over coffee and I had informed him of this issue (and possibly tactlessly telling him that he, like me, did not know the meaning of the value of money), he, how do we say, uh, "lost it" and threw (or should I say shot) his ceramic cup of boiling coffee across the room. I think he was aiming for the brick mantle footing on the fireplace (on which I was sitting), but it instead went a bit higher, shattering right up against the bricks next to my head. Splinters of ceramic went everywhere (as did the boiling hot coffee) . Fortunately, nobody was physically injured (so perhaps this does not qualify as physical abuse, but hey, whatever -- my personal policy is that if objects are to be thrown in anger, they should be thrown away from people to shatter. Unfortunately, behind my father was the precious bright white porcelain tile grout that he didn't want to stain. I'm not entirely certain that was the reason he threw the cup where he did, but it's amusing to think of.

Within a half second, he stated that he wasn't proud of the event. And I knew he meant it, deep down in his heart. He was choking up in tears, I can tell you that. He knew it was inappropriate to throw fragile objects filled with hot liquids at his own son. I've forgiven him for that one (I mean really, we all "lose it"...)

But in the context of that particular fund (a portion of which was trusted to me and/or him this year), I could have had some of that money for the biotech startup (specializing in craniorectal extraction for academic researchers) I wanted to do with a few friends of mine. (My so-called "uncle" may also play a part here at some point in time, and he has a very well-known history of blowing up at people, say oh for example... ME.)

Anyways, that money could have gone towards getting me out of the house and giving me a "startup" apartment, and thank God, it actually is (once my father saw some sort of light; bandwidth/frequency/spectrum unknown). So we're moving (literally) in that direction. I've been up for more than 48 hours in a row now in a semi-hypomanic irritable existentialist crisis, so I'll end it here. More details when I get the time/energy to put them in.

--LM

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All of you need to grow up !!!!!!

Glad you got that off your chest!

If it helps, I think everyone grew dang near 16 months.

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