WHEN WE hear the word “family,” a lot of us hear “the people who raised me” or “my immediate family.” In my opinion, not a lot of us think of family as people who are beyond those who raised us or are in our immediate family–especially if we were never taught to fhink that way.
I recently learned that there is a difference between who is family and who is bloodline. And for me, that difference is this:
Bloodline is what is in the DNA of every person on this planet. For example, if my father and I were to take a DNA test tomorrow, the results would come back that he is my father, no questions asked. I can mentally disown him; I never have to respond to a single thing he sends me via email, text message, or carrier pigeon. But the DNA will never lie. I do not consider him a member of my family, but he is a part of my bloodline, and I cannot deny bloodline.
People who are in the Bloodline category are people who are abusive, manipulative; they are bystanders while the abuse or manipulation of another family member is taking place. They are people who have benefited in some capacity from another family member’s abuse. The benefit can be monetary, emotional, sexual, in tangible items such as a car; food, shelter, water. Abuse can be physical, emotional, psychological, financial, sexual, or a combination of these. It does not have to happen only when the family member is a child, disabled, a stepchild, or any possibility you can think of.
For example, the abuse I underwent took place when I was in my early 20s. At 30 (basically), I am only beginning to see how much damage my bloodline caused me psychologically, socially, and financially because they chose to live a particular lifestyle that exploited the benefits of my disability, such as the use of public assistance programs. Because I was not well-versed in the ways of mainstream society, interacting with it was not something I did very well. Because those who were supposed to teach me how to interact in mainstream society did not, I am now only learning how to cook meals for myself and get things like Food Stamps, my learners permit (so I can drive), and assistance through OVR (Office of Vocational Rehabilitation). I once had to ask Siri how long did it take to boil water so I could make oatmeal. I truly was 29 years old and had no clue how to boil water. I can laugh now, but it’s not funny. My bloodline did not support my well-being, happiness, or health. I was allowed to walk around in ill-fitting, smelly clothing for years. I was allowed to eat hot dogs dailiy for years. Family does not allow that.
Family is the group of people that do not necessarily have to be biologically related to you, but they are people who you trust, who you generally get along with, and has some people you may even seek to emulate. For example, the people I live with on the homestead in Gaston, North Carolina, are my family. There are people I seek to emulate–or at least take on some of their habits and incorporate them into my daily life. My friends on the Internet are my family. My brother & his family up north is my family, though they are biologically related to me. My mentors in New Jersey are my family. I have known them since I was at least 13 years old.
My family is honest with me about what I can and cannot do at the moment. They work with me to help me achieve my goals & dreams. My family makes me laugh, smile, and cuss in jest. But sometimes they make me mad when they leave dishes out all night and the soap container is two feet away (just… wash the dish?!) or leave dirty dishes in the sink that I seem to be the only one who clean (can someone ELSE clean these?!). And I’m sure I make them mad (can she clean the floor? I’ve done it every day this week…!) and I can make them laugh too (I can land a funny every now and again!). But we generally get along, even though I am the oldest (I am your sister.) young person on the homestead right now. If we were happy 100% of the time, it would be weird. But if we were angry 100% of the time, it would also be weird. No one lives in those extremes all the time (I hope not at least)
When can you be sent to Bloodline Status?
PEOPLE CAN be relegated to bloodline status quickly in my book. People who are at bloodline status at the moment are there because they are my bloodline (they are related to me biologically, such as a parent, sibling–even half-siblings count!–or extended, such as aunts, uncles, and cousins), and because they have done some truly foul things to me that have stopped my personal and social development in its tracks and have put me in an awkward position.
But what about if a person who does you wrong was never biologically connected to you?
THAT IS a wonderful question, and I am very grateful you asked it. Those people just become those I do not associate with. Personally, I block them on social media, block their calls, texts, messages, and emails, and allow them to live their best life.
In the past, I was a very forgiving person; however, I am finding that the older I get, the less I tolerate. 2020 has been teaching me what I will and will not put up with. I have friends I have known since I was a teenager, and we don’t fight because we both have a mutual, sometimes unspoken, respect for one another. Other friends, I had to teach them how to treat me. Still, many more I just cut off because they were never going to get it. I am learning how to be a better communicator of my needs, which was not prioritized when I lived with my bloodline.
Now that I live in an environment that supports health, wellness, and self-care (“self-care is healthcare” my Grandmother always says.), I have been able to prioritize myself and in turn my healing, my growth, and actualy getting the support I need to be the best person I can be.
You teach people how to treat you
In an issue of The Essence of Life’s newsletter, Reflections on life lived & a lfe being created, I talked about how we teach people how to treat us. When the events of last December happened, I could have very well gone back to Trenton, New Jersey, lived with my parents, and lived miserably as I explained the heartbreaking situation to too many people who were rooting for us, potentially couchsurfing as I waited for social services to kick in, even spending a night or several at the Rescue Mission in the process. That was not a life I wanted to live. Luckily, I was allowed to stay on the homestead, and so my life was able to begin…. right as the Coronavirus pandemic hit the United States and made everyone else halt.
But, sure, I could have gone back North. Could have dealt with Corona disaster (Trenton was not doing well with it at one point, and my family is nothing but essential workers.), could have been dead. But I was too proud to go back North. I would have gone to Virginia, but Jersey was no option for me. Neither was back with the ex. You teach people how to treat you, and by that I mean I knew what he was capable of. I could have taken my chances with him–but if I woke up dead, that was on me. No one else. I deal with that.
But I chose to make a way in Gaston. And I’m glad I did, because it was here I learned the difference between family and bloodline.
My personal experience
When I first began thinking that I was being abused, the hardest thing was speaking about it. I was so afraid that people thought I was crazier than they knew. I was even more afraid of how it would reflect on my parents. I did not want to believe the overt, rampant disrepect that permeated my daily existence living with my mother. I did not want to rage over the facts that my sister got to get her clothing washed every week and I walked around smelling like a combination of piss, shit, sweat, and menstruation on a daily basis; that my sister could eat TV dinners and I got four hot dogs a day or nothing unless I found it. That my sister could sit around all day and do nothing while I bust my ass and got an education for myself.
For years I had bought into the mantra that you do anything and everything for family. Even while my “family” (bloodline) was showing me who they were as selfish people, I just wanted them to love me. As they laughed in my face, as they let me walk around smelling like a dumpster fire, as they did allowed me to be unprepared for life as an adult with disabilities. What they knew about Essence in her 20s was they had her by the balls.
At that time, I had nowhere to go, and no one to ask if I could stay with them–they would have to come in and pick me up, etc. I was not one to disappoint. I pushed harder to please–the harder I pushed to please, the worse I did. This mad me more reckless and desperate I could get to escape the cage I was in. In turn, I became more depressed, heard more voices, and ideated more frequently about suicide. Because I did not see these as “normal 20-something behaviors,” I became more and more silent about my actual problems. I began sitting in therapy sessinos in near silence. I began to eat less because my food was restricted: four hot dogs once daily; want more? you find it. If I volunteered after school, I was often the very last person called to eat, made to walk down the aisle by myself, got my plate as I held back tears. I stopped eating after that, and it was very easy to say that I was not hungry, or I ate at home before I came. My fingers began to get skinnier, my legs too. Everyone complimented me on my weight loss. Almost no one figured out that I had been walking daily for over three years (since age 16) and semi-unintentionally restricting my food intake–only to eat dessert, and then gorge on extra food from the event when I got home. I knew I would be walking it off throughout the following day.
MY 20S were so focused on pleasing other people sexually, emotionally, financially that I completely lost myself. When I tried to do things that made me happy, I was yelled at and belittled. So, when the Stimulus checks came, what did I do with mine? Not pay ahead my phone bill or rent. I helped out with food (because if I’m helping to eat it, the least I can do is buy more), and then bought books, clothing, and office supplies. (notebooks, pens, binder). The US Stimulus checks started at $1,200 for single people, and I’m a single person. I got mine, and I went to town (online) ordering all the stuff I wanted, buying food, and buying nothing else I needed. Then my tax refund came in. More clothing, more books, and a mini-fridge (I did need the mini-fridge). I had about $2,200 that I just partied with, basically. I have never had that much money in my entire life. No one got mad at me when I bought these items. No one yelled at me or cursed at me, did not talk to me for three hours, made me cry for a week. I’m pretty sure my Grandmother sighed and looked at my building, but she let me spend the money how I saw fit. She knew I never had that much money before. I was Hot Shit!
Not having support of your personal growth, support of your talents, and your achievements and accomplishments celebrated is disheartening. To see the disdain in my mom’s eyes every time I so much as exited my room to get something to eat, something to drink, or use the restroom. The this bitch every time I said hello, hi, or can I have some just crushed my already insecure, fragile soul. On top of having nothing I do be good enough… and then everything I endured up to now…. it takes a lot out of you.
If you think you are being abused, you’re not alone. If you can, read about abuse warning signs. Read about enmeshment (also called “emotional incest”). Coronavirus makes things very tricky right now in terms of getting away (in my opinion). But the things I wish someone had given or offered me at age 20 are:
- a safe place or judgment-free zone to vent/process in group setting
- love; self-love; being taught self-love
- knowledge of mainstream society
This is a list of suicide crisis lines & emergency numbers for many countries around the world.