Building a bridge

I don’t know when my mind changed. I can tell you the day I decided to reach out but I can’t pin point when that switch was turned on in my head.

I have written about my family problems before but I feel I need to recap for myself.

I am 28. My dad started having an affair whilst working away from home when I was 7. My dad continued this affair and when I was 15 a half-brother was born. My dad continued to continue this affair and built his new second family, moving them to the UK all whilst still married to my mum, but it all went south with my half-brother’s mum when I was 25.

I found out shortly after my half-brother was born. My mum couldn’t keep it a secret anymore and she needed to offload, which she did, onto me. However, she told me I couldn’t tell anyone. That I would ruin things. So I kept the secret. My dad didn’t even know that I knew.

My dad didn’t treat me right as a child but he’s tried to make amends the last few years. However, back then, I had so much anger and hurt and betrayal that I had to hold inside me. I couldn’t tell anyone. The only person I could speak to was my mum and, even then, only when she wanted to talk/rant to me about it.

A lot of things at home started to make sense. Especially my mum’s depressive episodes and suicidal thoughts. I know my mum needed someone and I have always wanted to help, but I now know it was wrong for her to place that type of secret and burden on a child. She told me but then wouldn’t let me express my hurt and anger because “I had to smile and pretend I was fine”.

I was so hurt and confused back then and I wasn’t allowed to process anything. I had to act like we were a big happy family. No one could know and I couldn’t understand. Dad didn’t treat me right so why would you stay with him once he gave you a ticket to leave? Why would you continue to put me through the pain he always caused me? Of course, I was told she stayed for me and my brother, but that’s not true. She stayed because she cannot leave. She cannot emotionally pull that trigger, rip that band aid off and walk.

My brother eventually found out maybe 7-8 years after I did. I was heartbroken to think I had lied to my brother for so long. But Once he found out, an unwritten rule was created – we don’t talk about it.

Dad has always wanted me to have a relationship with my half-brother. I never wanted one. I always said no. I have met him twice, once I reluctantly agreed to and once I was completely blindsided with. The child was stubborn, spoilt, and very demanding. It was hard to watch my dad fawn over this child and spoil him rotten when he had never done that for me. When I raised this point, my dad told me I was an adult now and it was ridiculous for me to be jealous of a 9 year old kid.

It wasn’t ridiculous. My feelings were and are valid.

Anyway, a couple of years have passed and around 3 weeks ago I told my Dad I wanted to speak to Jason and asked if he could give him my number and let him know he could reach out if he wanted to.

I don’t know what caused that switch but there are a few things that come to mind.

  • One of the times I met him, my half-brother told me he had no friends. I know how that feels. I know how lonely that is and I wouldn’t wish for a child to feel lonely.
  • I know what it’s like to have a dad like mine and, just as much as I’ve been hurt by my dad’s affair, so has my half-brother.
  • I grew up feeling unloved and unwanted. Even though no one actually said those words explicitly to me, it was a combination of words and actions that led me to feel two of the three major emotions that trigger my mental health. My half-brother might really feel unwanted if I reject him.
  • He’s a child. None of this is his fault.
  • I believe my mental health is strong enough to handle this.

So, I reached out. I text and I told him I’d like to get to know him better but that he also had a choice in the matter too and that if he needed more time then to take it.

He text me back instantly and we talked for quite a while. I had to remember at times I was talking to a 12 year old! But it felt nice and because my dad was not involved, there was no spoilt bratty stubborn child in front of me but a half-brother I was getting to know.

I told my mum that I wanted to explore a relationship with him. I don’t think she was happy. She’s become far more needy since I told her and I’ve spent so many years looking after her and others that now, in trying to look after myself, I tend to run away from people needing me. That’s a story for another day.

Reaching out or not. There’s no right decision. Not really. But something feels a little different. Like a switch went from “never” to “maybe” in the space of 3 seconds a few weekends ago and I guess we’ve just got to see where it goes from here.

Len x

@umbrella_adventures_

Avoiding Self-Sabotage

It’s a full on summer. That’s for sure.

I’m now seven months into what I feel is “recovery”. In that seven months I’ve been sick twice. Once at the start (i.e. when the seven months began) and once when I was incredibly drunk and fell into an old habit. I’ve still experienced panic attacks, I’ve still had the demon’s voice screaming in my head but I’ve managed to get through to the other end.

I’m sticking to my food plans whilst allowing flexibility and, as far as possible, I’m exercising for fun. I’ve started to accept the numbers on the clothes I wear. I’m more understanding of my large chest and the impact it might have on those clothes sizes and all in all, I’m starting to like myself a little bit more.

Although that voice to “be better” still echoes in the back of my mind, it just feels a little bit easier to ignore it.

So, so far so good, right?

This summer is supposed to be amazing. It’s my birthday, one of my best friends is getting married, I’m moving into my boyfriends’ flat…a trainee summer party and a department summer party…I’m going to qualify and as a result of qualification I not only have a qualification party but a 6-week “qualification leave” in which I refuse to spend more time in the UK than is necessary!

I’m spending three weeks in California, two weeks on my favourite Greek island with my boyfriend and my final week with my closest work friends in Italy. And I promise I am so damn excited but I’m also damn scared.

I’m nervous to not really be planning my meals. I’m nervous to be exercising less. I’m nervous to be in swimwear with my friends who I am bigger than. I’m nervous to be out of routine for 6 whole weeks.

California will probably be okay. I’m on my own for that bit and it’s going to be quite an active break. There will be plenty of hiking in the Grand Canyon and Yosemite, walking round Balboa and the Golden Gate Parks, kayaking and snorkelling on the beaches and generally just being constantly out and about. I know I can plan healthy meals and I know I need to eat to be able to take part in those activities. I also feel like I’ll have a bit more control because I’ll be on my own.

Ironically, I’m more nervous for being away with my boyfriend or friends. They are far more likely to  be beach/relaxing/celebration type holidays. That scares me. Being around skinny girls scare me. The idea of more food and alcohol scares me. The lack of exercise scares me. Ultimately, I am petrified of a potential weight gain.

I haven’t been on holiday without any ED symptoms since my ED began and this 6 weeks is looking like my biggest challenge yet.

The problem with being scared is that you run the risk of self-sabotaging. I do believe that the more I panic the more likely I am to relapse. But that’s what the Demon wants. It wants me to relapse so it can say “I told you so. I told you you weren’t strong enough to do it. I knew you were weak”. And that’s how easy it is for it to dig its claws in to my back and drag me back into that downward spiral.

So I guess I have to keep pushing on. I have to keep eating my three meals a day and exercising for fun. It is going to be so incredibly rare for me to get these 6 weeks off work ever again so I do have to keep pushing those ED boundaries and allow myself to enjoy this break.

To make happy memories rather than moping around with the dark ones. Because giggling on rooftop bars is way more fun anyway…

Instagram: @elenipapa92