Family is an enigma to me. We were always loud and wild Democrats who believe in what’s good in the world.

Baby boomer Democrats. The kind who still follow Bill Maher after he so casually dropped the N-word on HBO. The kind who want equal rights without equal responsibility. The kind who destroyed the economy for my generation and then say we’re lazy and not hard-working enough to survive.

The kind who helped shape me as a human being (personality disorder and all) and then tell me that I don’t act the way a normal person should act. My mother has “gently suggested” (though I say “intimidated me with”) long-term psychiatric care. I say that admitting abuse and being questioned whether it actually happened or if I’m fabricating it is more bizarre to me than having the visceral reaction to injustice that I have.

We moved far away from my family when I was nine. My biological father had gotten badly burned in a house fire caused, from what I can tell, by drug money. He became severely disabled and a few years later we were moving across the state with my new stepdad. It. Was. Terrible.

My brother and I became each others’ best friends and mortal enemies. We hated each other but mom and Greg weren’t around a lot. Physically sometimes but emotionally never. They only had eyes for each other, completely forgetting that two YOUNG children were involved and needed parenting. We would fist fight in the living room while my stepdad avoided and ignored and my mom advised us to “work it out amongst ourselves.”

I learned that physical violence was how to “work it out”.

At 16 I told my mom I had a girlfriend and that I was bisexual. Her response was to get angry and advise me to call my gay uncle to explain to me that bisexuals aren’t real. (Yeah, THAT kind of Democrat.)

By the time I was 16 I had already mainlined heroin a handful of times. I don’t believe in God, but I hands down can tell you that if there is a heaven, it feels like being on heroin. By the end of my 16th year I was in love with my first boyfriend. Who was 31 years old at the time.

I went away to college instead of getting married and having kids. Tim is to thank for this. He’s a racist Florida hillbilly but he didn’t want kids and he’d just gotten out of a marriage so he wasn’t to quick to get married. He freed me.

College life was amazing. I was able to express myself and my ideas without fear of being shamed or ridiculed. I met the dearest friends I have to this day while I was in college.

And I was hella promiscuous and confused about my sexuality and I DID sleep with multiple women on my journey but for some reason it always felt like I was faking being interested in them. Because bisexuals aren’t real right? And I VERY OFTEN confused sex and love because I didn’t know there was a difference!

I don’t want to write anymore about this. But to say that I am starting to realize that “family” does NOT have to be your butthurt uncle who took you off of his Apple+ account because you asked him to respect your personal struggle.

Family is not your gramma who flat-out denied any abuse when confronted with it. Until THIS YEAR I was advised not to speak openly about my abuse for fear of hurting Nana’s feelings so in a show of defiance a few months ago I just called her up and told her point blank. She denied it, which is fine I guess, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. I just wanted to show my mom and my uncle that people can hear things and not believe it. That doesn’t mean it isn’t true.

Family is NOT your first childhood memory being your alcoholic father beating your mom against the door of the trailer.

Family IS paint balloon fights I would host at Riverside Park.

Family IS my friends driving 8 hours to Illinois to pick me up after my first arrest (the person who called the police exonerated me because they only wanted me to get help).

Family IS my ex giving me a place to stay, for free, to get back on my feet.

Family IS my aunt offering support in a time where I am very seriously considering suicide. Even when I annoy, upset, or confuse her. Even when I purposely push her away.

And family is Wes driving me every weekend to the jail to serve my time and not judging me for what transpired to get me there. It’s me not freaking out when he screamed in my face to just please punch him. It was us, hurt and broken and just trying to find some sense of peace together.

I never learned how to properly treat “family” and I explained this to Wes’ best friend and our former roommate when, after an argument, I said, “I’m very sorry. This is how I learned to fight with family growing up and so for me it’s normal to call you hurtful things and then just pretend it never happened hours later.”

So, if you still want to be family with me: I love you, but I’m hurting. I don’t know how to “be family” in a healthy way.

But I want you around.

But I’m slowly learning how to be ME, without the pressure of family telling me what I should or should not talk about.

I’m suicidal. And if getting my truth out to the world means not killing myself, I will tell whoever wants to listen. Because it happened and I am a human being who deserves love and respect. And so are you.

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