Thursday, August 13, 2009

Feeling Like I Don't Belong to a Family

So through the years I have felt like something is missing. I felt like I have been searching for something from my mother and Dad-- some sort of answer. And recently I had an epiphany: I don't feel like I belong to a family. I feel like I am an adult orphan. Prior to my parent's separation (You Dropped a Bomb on Me), I felt like I belonged to a family: my Dad, mother, brother, and me. Additionally, I had a deep relationship with my maternal grandparents, which both passed away (1977, 1977). Shortly after the announcement of my parent's separation (1979), that feeling of belonging started to erode away.

Before my grandparents' passing (Fly to the Angels), I was my happiest when I was with them. I had some of the best childhood memories with them, and I still carry their love with me to this day. I always was so upset to part from them. I would choke back the tears and try to hide how very upset I was to say 'goodbye'. I remember this happening every time one of our visits ended, and I have never understood why (they were about a 2 hour drive away). I have my suspicions why, however.

I was born to my 'birth' father. When I was a baby (only months old), my birth father gave up his rights and allowed my mother's new husband (her high school sweetheart) to adopt me. My birth father's mother & father were told to say goodbye to me as they were never to see me again. Somewhere during this time, my mother lived with her parents, where my grandparents took on a very emotional & parental role in raising me. I apparently called my Grandfather 'Dada' and he loved me with all his heart. When my mother married my Dad, they moved me about 1,000 miles away. I was told that my Grandfather was very torn-up about me moving away, and I know how much I adored him, so I am sure I was upset too.

With these two events happening in such proximity in my first two years of life, one would have to surmise that the separations had to have an impact on me. Attachment for security and safety reasons is occurring in infants and toddlers during these times, and possibly I had some residual effects from being separated from three very important people in my life.

Years later, my parents moved me (and my newborn brother) back to the same state as my grandparents. As I said earlier, I had a very strong connection with them until they passed when I was around 11 years old. A year after they passed away, my parents separated. In such a short period of time, I lost my beloved grandparents and my parents divorced. A divorce is not necessarily a damaging or traumatic event for a child if handled responsibly, lovingly, and with consideration of the children. My parents did not do any of the sort, which given that they are the personality types that are seen in courts battling for years and years, their negatively toxic and dysfunctional behavior follows suit (Narcissistic Borderline Couples: mother = Borderline Personality Disorder; Dad = Narcissistic Personality Disorder).

During the separation & divorce, my parents used brainwashing and alienation in an attempt to distance us from the other parent. My Dad was the first to use this parental alienation-- and was very adept at wielding the guilt and scare tactics. He successfully made us scared of our mother, and eventually, we moved in with him. The Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) was so damaging that my brother and I have taken decades to sort out what actually happened to us during this period of our lives.

When I went to visit my mother at her apartment, she instigated getting me in touch with my birth father (another attempt to hurt & alienate my Dad). I felt like an outsider, looking in at the father that could have been-- the father that allowed me to be adopted by another man and never having contact with me ever again. I have always felt like this relationship was decided when I was an innocent little baby-- the man that was my birth father disowned me. Why my mother wanted (and still to the last time I spoke to her in 2004) me to pursue a relationship with this man other than to hurt my Dad is beyond me-- possibly to right her wrongs? Possibly because she threatened him in some shape or form so that he would go away for good? What kind of man is that... who would leave his new daughter to another man!?!? Evidently, I didn't belong with him or his family.

Shortly after the divorce, my mother remarried my Dad's friend who had two children (one the same age me and one the same age as my brother) and then my Dad remarried a lady with two children (5 and 7 years younger than me). Two "ready made" families in a short time was a difficult adjustment (one + one = three more). My brother and I barely had time to digest our grandparents' deaths, much less the separation & divorce-- and much less the needs, wants, and expectations of all the players in these newly formed families.

My Dad's attention sharply turned to his new wife's needs, and from my point-of-view, he turned his back to my brother and me. The needs of my stepmother and her two kids (mostly her youngest, a girl) took precedence over my brother and my needs. I felt like an outcast in my own home-- and I eventually moved in with my mother (Moving on Over). My brother followed suit shortly thereafter.

In my mother's home, we were constantly having to pay the price for "choosing" my Dad over her (Run Forrest Run). She emphasized how much hurt she endured when we were living with my Dad, how we crushed her heart. She was mad at us kids, not accounting for the fact that we made our decisions as CHILDREN and were emotionally abused by our Dad. I again felt like an outcast in my own home-- not feeling like I fit in. I was the step-child of my step-father. When we went over to my step-father's mother's house, I was a step-grandchild. And above all, I didn't feel like I had a authentic and real relationship with my mother. I felt like all she was attempting to do was get back at my Dad by using my brother and me as tools to hurt and alienate him.

Throughout my 20's and 30's, if I had a relationship with one parent, I didn't have a relationship with the other. My Dad came up to one of my jobs in the late 1980's telling me that if I reconciled with my mother that he would disown me. He also told me on occasion that if my mother "died tomorrow" that he "wouldn't shed a tear". The parental alienation continued from childhood and teenage years into adulthood! And no matter how I tried to create meaningful and unconditional loving relationships with either parent, I was constantly left feeling empty and dejected. With both parents, I don't feel like I belong. "Children of divorce spend a lifetime, not just a childhood, negotiating the widely divergent worlds of each parent, a task that is emotionally exhausting and leaves the child feeling like that football—flying free, with no clear sense of belonging in either world. " Elizabeth Marquardt

If I was with my mother, she would constantly remind me that she is the "only one" that I have-- that my birth father and Dad wouldn't "take care" of me. I have been independent since I left for college-- why do I need to be taken care of? Just another attempt by my mother to alienate me further from both men and illustrating how the fear of rejection and abandonment define Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD).

Another interesting point is that my mother would make comments that my brother is "only" a "half brother" (note that the fact I had a different father was buried for as long as I can remember, but once the information could be used by my mother for her gain, she spilled it out there). As a result, I would get upset and mad at my mother. Why would she purposely want to belittle my relationship with my brother? I believe she further wanted to reinforce that she is the only one I have, like I mentioned above. Whatever the reason for her comments, I now know why the comments would upset me so-- I felt a strong bond with my brother. I felt a belonging with my brother. No matter what happened with my parents, no matter what was the status of my relationship with them, I had my brother. So when my mother made attempts to take that last bond of our intermediate family away from me, I reacted.

If I was with my father, he never had time for me-- no simple conversations of how my life is going, no concern over how my jobs are progressing, no getting to know who I am. He has forgotten my birthday year after year. Whenever visiting at his house, I always felt like an outsider looking in-- I didn't feel included, I was criticized, and I was judged. He walks away mid-conversation; he interrupts to tell an unrelated story; he doesn't care. He is a true narcissist in that he caters to the ones who 'need' him and stroke his ego. Even in a house full of children that are his step-children or children of friends, I am treated lower than the rest-- invisible.

I would always leave his house disappointed and heartbroken as I always maintained high hopes of building a meaningful relationship with him like when my parents separated. The funny thing is that my brother and I have been searching for' that' Dad for decades. We haven't found him or that relationship again because it didn't exist. 'That' Dad was a fake relationship derived from manipulations and brain-washing of PAS. And once the outcome was in his favor (custody of the two kids) and he was remarried with a new family, the Dad that we knew during those divorce times was gone.

Recently I had the opportunity to spend some time with my aunt, uncle, and cousins. I searched for my aunt for almost a decade (my mother's sister that my mother has been estranged from for 25+ years but maintained contact with my Dad), later finding out that my Dad did know how to contact my aunt but hid the information from me. During the time with my aunt and family, I felt included & important, part of something bigger than me, and the unconditional love & support that a family gives. The experience really touched my heart. Parting was so very difficult and when I got home, I had this constant craving to see them all again very soon (they live across the country). I haven't felt this connected and complete in a LONG time-- and I hadn't cried during parting like that since saying goodbye to my grandparents in the 1970's.

So through the years I have felt like something is missing. I felt like I have been searching for something from my mother and Dad-- some sort of answer. I haven't been able to put my finger on the feeling until just the other day when I was looking at my daughter and feeling such pure love and joy looking in her eyes-- I belong with her & my husband, she & my husband belong with me, I have family across the country is very loving & supportive- WE ARE FAMILY AND I BELONG. I haven't had that since I was 11 years old.


  1. I feel exactly the same. you put words to it. I feel like an adult orphan. I experienced the same tear away from my grandparents to live with my dysfunctional mom and dad at a very young age. My mom has undiagnosed BD (or at least everything you're saying in this blog applies to her) and my dad has his own host of issues I've yet to understand. Ha, after idealizing him to survive, I think I can finally peel back the layers to see him truly as another aggressor. And move on. Thank you for your post and bringing clarity to my situation. Especially understanding bd, hyperawareness as a survival mechanism, and trauma. Your blog has been invaluable to the start of my journey. Thank you.

    1. You are so very welcome. Have a very happy New Year :)