When I was growing up, I heard one mantra over and over. Blood is thicker than water.
I was told that family comes first. No matter what. No questions asked.
However, as I got older, I questioned this idea. Does family always come first? What if this means putting yourself on the back burner constantly? What if it costs you your happiness?
When is it okay to close the door on your family?
I grew up in a dysfunctional family. I had to be the adult, even as a child. Substance abuse, domestic violence, homelessness, poverty were all prevalent and rampant in my household. I grew up fast and hard. But along with growing up quickly came this notion that I had to protect my family at all costs.
Eventually, I left home, got married, and started my own family. It wasn’t until I had my children that I realized that I never truly had parents. I strove to be the mother that I always wish that I had. I also realized that I continued to shove myself into a tiny box to make my family happy.
If I dared to talk about my accomplishments, they accused me of bragging or thinking I was better than everyone. To call out one family member for a hurt was to bring down the entire family’s wrath upon me. So I stayed silent. I allowed myself to be made smaller.
Until one day, I wasn’t content with that.
I wasn’t okay with staying silent when I heard family members use racial slurs. No longer was I going to look the other way when I knew they were talking down to me to make themselves happy.
Needless to say, this did not go down well, at all. In fact, it was downright nuclear. They called me names, called and texted me angry messages repeatedly, and blasted me on social media. They spread lies about me to other family members. All of this happened because I finally stood up for myself.
So to protect myself, to allow myself to heal, I went “no contact”. I have not spoken to my mother or any of my siblings in over two years. I had to end what had always been a toxic relationship.
And for the first time in my life, I feel free.
I didn’t come to this decision lightly or alone. Seeing a therapist has been one of the best things that I could have done regarding this. Having someone, who is not a part of this situation at all, give insight? Well, it’s been eye-opening. It’s also been incredibly validating for me. I did not realize just how toxic my relationships with my family members had become, or how much it was starting to seep into every part of my life.
It also brought clarity that my family’s behavior had nothing to do with me. At the end of the day, it didn’t matter how much I bent to their will; it would have always been something else. It was okay to put myself first.
Now, going no contact has been painful in so many other ways. My children will probably never know their cousins from my side of the family. I will probably never talk to my mother again.
There are days where I wish I could have went low contact, but I know my family and I know that it just wouldn’t have worked. They already had no respect for my boundaries, and that wasn’t going to change.
I know that now, I’m a much happier mother than I was at that point in time. My children are now getting the very best version of myself. At times I wish I had done it sooner, but I also realized that it was better late than never.
If you are one who is deep in a toxic relationship, with a friend, with a parent, with a partner, know that it’s okay to say enough. Your feelings are valid, they are important. Don’t allow yourself to feel smaller on the account of someone else. You can limit the relationship, you can walk away; just know that you have power and it’s okay to put yourself first.
It’s okay to be happy and free.
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