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Coming to Terms with Family-from a Person with a Dysfunctional One

It’s unrealistic to say that your family is perfect. What is your definition of perfect? Having a mother and a father and one other sibling? Having a dad who works more than a mom, a dad who can grill in the backyard and make corny jokes? Having a mom that is sweet and demure, a mom who is leading every school bake sale?

Spending time with my family, my mother and sister (along with an assortment of animals courtesy of my sister) is something that has deepened my understanding of the future for me. I have no place to go, except for driving aimlessly in my car, wearing a mask and entering a grocery store, or taking a walk around my block. Thus, I have spent time with my dysfunctional family.

Now, I love my family. I admire my mom for being a single mom, raising my sister and I to know we don’t need a partner and that we can accomplish anything. I admire her for keeping a good connection with my dad so my sister and I could still have a father figure in our lives. I admire my little sister for saying how she feels, and for using various means to creatively present herself.

There is a “but” coming, though. But, my family has had its challenges and negative traits. All three of us are mentally ill, and my sister’s mental illnesses have brought us to be in and out of multiple hospitals and treatment programs. We have all been emotionally volatile and had issues crop up that escalated to having people run out of the house and be gone for days.

This isn’t an article airing my dirty laundry with my family. This is an article about coming to terms with family members that you love dearly and want in your life. I’m currently in a 12 step program that focuses solely on this, with a therapist who guides me through it all.

Coming to terms with family, to me, means setting up boundaries and reflecting on your feelings and actions. It means beginning the process of healing, whether it be on a memory or feeling attached to a family member. Having an open conversation about your boundaries with family members, and following theirs. I know that it is hard to recognize, but understanding that you cannot keep blaming them for instances. That you have to take responsibility for your actions, for your words, and for your role in the situation.

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It sounds so easy when I lay it all out like that. Emotional intelligence is something that we are told to use in our relationships, romantic or platonic. Yet, with our family members, the people who are related to us by blood or marriage, who are the ones we need to count on as always being there and loving us, we don’t put in that effort. Or if we do, we tend to give up the first time our boundaries are crossed or we feel hurt. I’ll be the first to admit that I have to wake up every day, and tell myself that I want to have a better relationship with my mother and my sister. I just don’t want to prioritize them over myself anymore. I don’t want to feel like I have to fix everything, or be defensive when I feel attacked. I don’t want to be emotional after someone yells, at something that is not my fault.

These are things that I’m un-learning, things that I am beginning to understand, and vices that I am trying to overcome every single day. I’m no expert, no professional. I’m just a person who wants to have a better relationship with my family members and a healthier relationship with myself. I don’t have it all figured out, and I don’t think I ever will. I just know that I’m moving forward, and I’m becoming a better person every day.

Picture Source: Emma Bauso

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Mia Boccher
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I want to share my words and take in other's.

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