Please Stop This Atrocity
I made a sacrifice. I wanted to save the children I love more than anything from the abuse I was experiencing. It may have all been for nothing.
By taking over the parenting from my mother, I didn’t prevent my younger brothers and sister from experiencing trauma nearly as much as I hoped.
My sister was taken from my mother when she was a breastfeeding infant. You may have recently heard about this happening again. I was ten and the oldest so it didn’t affect me as severely. I have another brother who took his own life, so I would say he was also severely affected. But I want to discuss my sister who is still living.
If my sister and I were speaking to each other, I am sure she would be venting to me about her meltdown over what is happening on the border. It must be a trigger for her. The whole situation is triggering the hell out of me. Just knowing how much my sister’s separation during foster care affected her during those critical years of development I know how much those babies could be permanently damaged.
My sister has a personality disorder called borderline personality disorder. It was named borderline because the people who suffer from it are said to be on the borderline between neurosis and psychosis. Or in other words between the lines of depression and anxiety and having problems with delusions, grandiosity, manipulative behavior, and relationship issues.
The ages of birth to two years seem like they are just oblivious years. You could just do anything to those kids and they won’t notice or remember anything, right? But it is actually just the opposite. They are bonded to their parents. When they are breastfeeding, much of the time, they won’t take to a bottle. Little ones form critical attachments that underpin the basis of basic trust and attachment in relationships later in life. These are broken in my sister.
Her perceptions of reality are permanently skewed. Her mother “doesn’t love her” no matter how much her mother tries to prove she loves her. This past Christmas on Facebook when I made her angry, she wrote that I had “severely abused her” and publicly demanded an apology. This was devastating to me.
I had given up my youth to raise her in my disabled parents’ place. When my sister and youngest brother turned thirteen, I took custody of them. I was trying to spare them some of the actual abusive situation I had experienced ranging from belts to my ass, knuckles on my skull, and pulled hair to neglect.
I asked my sister to give examples of this severe abuse. She wrote “made me drive to our brother’s funeral” and “yelled at me that a dog was not cute on the way to aerobics class, and you would not let it go.”
At the time, I just got very angry. I couldn’t believe she was publicly humiliating me with an accusation of “severely abusing” her, especially in light of her examples. Especially when some male Facebook friend of hers I didn’t know jumped into the conversation and started telling me I needed to apologize to her for severely abusing her, too.
I wrote to both of them at the same time and said, “That’s it. I’m done.” I was. I wasn’t giving anything more to my sister. What she was doing to me was actually a form of abuse. Publicly humiliating me with these accusations. But it was typical of borderline personality disorder.
My best friend from graduate school sent me a text later that day. It was a beautiful thing for a friend to do. She had been by my side as I raised my sister and brother. She saw what my sister wrote on Facebook. She wrote,
“It is hard when we put ourselves in a position to care for our siblings. The expected gratitude is rarely expressed, but rather we are met with unexpected criticism of our mistakes (real or perceived). I too have been on the receiving end of similar blame. Rather than a failing, I think it speaks to our success — the sibling truly must have seen us as a parental figure to blame us as a parent rather than give us a break as one gives a break to siblings.
And finally, I wasn’t there for the doggy incident, but I was there for the suicide. You picked me up in your car before we drove back to your place to await the news together (My brother’s death wasn’t pronounced yet). Your hands were shakng so hard while you were driving that even on the less than one mile drive to your place, I was nervous that I should drive us. I watched you pull yourself together to wake up your sister and inform her of your brother’s death. You stopped your tears to absorb hers.
I think your sister was so immersed in her pain that she couldn’t see yours. And considering how badly your hands were shaking, it probably saved both your lives. So forgive yourself. You were both suffering.”
In the months that have followed since Christmas, I have been at my mother’s house for several weeks taking care of her after foot surgery. Without me to call during her bouts with suicidal feelings, my sister is calling my mother. When she called, I walked to another room to try and get away. But I could still hear them talking.
I don’t miss having to deal with her depressed phone calls. I don’t miss listening to her tell me about how she terrorized two employees of the school into quitting their jobs with her threats of lawsuits. This is behavior typical of borderline personality disorder as well.
The fact that she has this disorder at all angers me greatly. The story behind our foster care involvement is not one of social justice. It can be confusing. Two hyper-conservative, over-disciplinarians with mental illness get their kids taken away because of poverty, not because of physical abuse? Yes, because no one reported the physical abuse as abuse since it was defined as punishment.
So taking you away and putting you back actually made things worse? Yes. Because my mentally ill parents were still hyper-conservative disciplinarians but now they were traumatized, too.
Small Town Life Was the American Dream if You Fit In
What happened to my family in small town Iowa was the stuff of nightmares
But right now I want to focus on the present.
Of course, I cannot be sure my sister is feeling traumatized by hearing that a woman who was breastfeeding had an infant ripped away from her. I needed some time away from sister for my own self-protection. But I am almost positive she is hurting from what is going on.
I imagine my sister reads about a mother who tried to resist having her child taken before being arrested, and she thinks about her own history. Not only is the news horrifying on its face, the headline is pricking at her worst trauma. I would like to be there for her. But she is too damaged for me to interact with her without triggering my own feelings of suicide.
This is the damage of taking kids away from their parents. We are both suffering from it, I suppose. Please help stop this atrocity on the border. These are long-term consequences that my family is dealing with 35 years later. Don’t make other families deal with them.