I wasn’t raised in a dysfunctional family in the traditional sense of dysfunctional, I think. But I was definitely dysfunctional and so were most of my family members individually. My family was this bizarre combination of white trash and… uppity-ness? What’s the word for that? Trashy people who think they’re better than non-trashy people for the simple fact that they aren’t snobs. Like, we weren’t… trailer-park-trashy? My dad didn’t ride down to the liquor store on a John Deere or anything. No, we probably couldn’t have afforded a John Deere, anyway.
We were just maybe an upper-lower-class or very-lower-middle-class family. We were a lot like that awful show with that awful fat bitch, Rosanne. Nothing fancy, no brand new cars, an old, run-down house, bowling nights and all-you-can-eat fish fries and buffets. Red Lobster was eating fancy to us, and only when they had like all-you-can-eat shrimp or something on special. Dad working in a steel mill, mom managing a Kmart deli. No one in my family tree was ever real well-off. I come from a long line of poor white trash, but even poor white trash have a mad sense of pride for not being a wealthy snob. It’s weird as fuck.
(You can go back and read all about my fucked up childhood here if you haven’t already and really want to.)
It was highly dysfunctional in a lot of ways and especially because I was already suffering from mental illnesses as a very young child that were never acknowledged in any way by my family as actual mental illness rather than… misbehavior. I didn’t realize it until much later, but I was raised in a home where I felt neglected the majority of the time. None of my emotional needs were met in any way. Having a roof over their head and food in their belly are not the only thing a child needs to thrive and grow, but that was pretty much all I had. My physical needs met, my emotional and mental needs neglected and ignored. Not by every family member, but certainly by the majority of them.
The effects of this upbringing led me to be a people pleaser and romantic attention seeker. All I ever wanted was to feel loved and if I could just make someone happy enough, they would love me. However, people who were what I perceived as too into me were a turn off. I didn’t know how to accept someone who actually wanted to love me, no way, that shit has to be earned, I have to work for that, it’s not supposed to be easy, right? Because I had never had it freely given, I had never had my earliest, formative-years emotional needs met, because I had to work so fucking hard to get any kind of love and affection from my family (and was still always left lacking), I didn’t know how to accept love from anyone if it was freely given. That felt foreign to me and so I rejected those people.
Looking back on all my past relationships, I realize that my childhood led me to be attracted to emotionally unavailable people. Narcissists and sociopaths, people who required my validation, required so much of me before they could let me have a tiny trickle of the love and affection I so desperately craved. I was attracted to people who required me catering to them in some way or another. I was attracted to people who needed me to validate them, who needed me to be less than them in some way so they could feel good about themselves, who used my abusive childhood to manipulate me into being what they needed me to be. They knew who I was, they knew my history, they knew my illnesses, and they preyed on me because I was easy and vulnerable and all they had to do was tell me they loved me once in awhile and I would eat up any tiny bit of that attention I was allowed to feel I’d earned by being a good girl that pleased them.
Because that is the only type of love I’d ever known. Love that has to be earned, worked for, love you have to bleed and die for, lose yourself to become someone else for.
That’s dysfunctional and it ain’t love.
Last updated June 16, 2019