The birthday

I am the youngest of four children. The mistake at the end. I was a difficult birth, and apparently screamed non-stop for the first six months of my life. I was told this many times as I was growing up. It was usually in a joking way, although how you can joke about a child being a “mistake at the end” is beyond me.  These stories and jokes chipped away at my self-esteem, to the point where I soon realised that I was worthless and an annoyance.

As I grew up, the father’s drinking became more of a problem.  Those parts within who believe he abused us, link his increased drinking to his abuse of us.  Those who don’t believe he ever touched us, link his drinking to alcoholism.  No matter what the cause, his drinking became worse over time.  This meant that it wasn’t safe to bring the few friends I had, to the house.

What does all this have to do with birthdays?  Well, this environment set me up to hate my birthday.  My birthday was a chore for those around me.  That’s if they remembered it.  The disadvantage of having your birthday at the start of the month, is people often forget to turn over the calender.  So often, people forgot my birthday.  My favourite grandparents never sent me a birthday card on time.  I was the queen of getting belated birthday cards.  Don’t get me wrong, I appreciated those cards, but a part of me saw this as being yet another way in which I was inconveniencing those around me by existing.

As I was growing up, I did have birthday parties (I don’t remember them, but have photos as proof).  Usually my two cousins who were of a similar age to me, and sometimes someone from school as well.  But a school-friend was always dicey, as if my father was home, he would be drinking.  I always tried to protect the people I knew at school from my house.  They didn’t need to see the secrets.

My siblings both liked and hated my birthday parties.  It meant they got to eat all sorts of good food, but it re-enforced the concept that I was the favourite child – especially for my sister.  My sister’s birthday is very near Christmas; that usually meant combined birthday and Christmas presents.  She always got a party as well, but she always hated my birthday parties.  Well, she just hated me.

As my self esteem was chipped away, I gave up on birthdays.  By the time I finished primary school, I hated my birthday.  But there were still some parts who secretly loved them.  I think they used to call out the names of those who was having a birthday in the coming week at school assembly, I remember a young one beaming when our name was read out – someone saw us, someone cared!

By the time I reached my teens, birthdays were actively hated.  They were a chore for those around us, and another reason for the sister to pick on us.  On my 14th birthday, my sister didn’t want to go out with the family for my birthday dinner, she wanted to go out with her boyfriend (who was abusing us) and her friends.  She first told my parents that she didn’t want to go, but they told her she had to ask us for permission to not go.  Of course, we told her to go with her friends.  Why force her to be somewhere she didn’t want to be?

Just before my 16th birthday I was assaulted.  This was the last straw in ever wanting anything to do with my birthday for the teen and adult parts of me.  The birthday become a traumatic anniversary.  It was decided that it was best to ignore it and move on.  Over the years this worked well, the mother would still send gifts and occasionally the rest of the family would remember as well.  It became a habit to have the week of my birthday off, as I knew my functioning around that time diminished significantly. Quite often the mother would come up for a holiday during that week, which forced a level of functioning within the system, as a way of self-preservation.

Which brings us to this year.  This year, the mother didn’t come up.  This year we weren’t forced to function, and things fell apart.  Leading up to the birthday, there was lots of lost time and dysfunction.  Then on the birthday there was pain, lots of pain.  Not from the adult ones, but from the young ones who needed some reason to keep on living.  On our birthday, we got a supportive email from a friend, a present from the mother, and a manipulative email from our sister.

Apart from the manipulative email, we appreciate the acknowledgements we received.  But what really hurt the young ones, was that we didn’t hear from either brother.  The brothers were idolised by these young ones.  At times they were an island of safety in an otherwise chaotic life.  This lack of contact re-enforced our belief that if we were gone, no one would notice.  The entire day was spent trying to fight those messages.

I realise that this all sounds attention seeking; but it’s about us trying to work through what happened and why.  It’s about us being more in touch with those young ones who were hurt by the people they care about, not reaching out to them – and yes, we do send messages and cards to those people.  It’s about being perceived as a bother and inconvenience to those around us.  It’s about not having an adequate support system around us.  It’s about not believing we have any right to a support system, and being terrified to try to build one.

It’s about not being worthy of… anything, everything???

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18 thoughts on “The birthday

  1. CG, I soooo understand, on many fronts. My heart goes out to you.

    My father also had a drinking problem, and I was also scared to take people home. Usually it was ok, but I knew it wouldn’t be after any friends had left.

    As for birthdays, they are weird and freaky for people like us. For years I hated them, too and saw my birthday as an inconvenience for others. It’s not, though. That’s just the hideousness of the abuse we suffered coming back to haunt us again, and again, and again.

    You deserve a nice birthday. Have you thought of creating your own ritual around it, to try to get away from the past associations? You could buy (or make) yourself a cake, with frosting, and candles. Eat whatever you want to eat and do whatever you want to do. I’m sure that would make some of the little ones happy.

    I think you did well getting through the birthday. I hope you’re being extra gentle with yourself now. You are worth it.

    ((warm safe ones))

    • Thanks Kerro… A couple of years ago I tried to create a new tradition around the birthday, but failed miserably.

      Sorry, still carrying the “L” on my forehead.

      Take care,
      CG

      • Wipe that L off your forehead, or I’ll come and turn it into an E (for excellent person!!)

        Healing, as you know more than most of us, is sometimes about trying, trying and trying again until we find something that works.

        Just because your last tradition didn’t work, doesn’t mean another one won’t.

        ((lots of hugs)) to you

  2. I haven’t celebrated my birthday for about ten years now. The kids don’t understand why, I don’t tell them, but let them make me gifts and happily accept them. We do make a big deal about their birthdays, though, and I hope they know how appreciated and wanted they are.

    Have you thought about creating your own birthday? Pick a date you like and make it your own? Or make a special ritual as Kerro suggested?

    Lisa

    • Good suggestion Lisa, I’ll try 🙂

      I’m glad you enable your children to feel loved, appreciated and wanted. It’s amazing what a difference it can make in a child’s life to know there’s a cushion for them to fall back on.

      Take care,
      CG

  3. It’s really sad how your relatives treat you 😦 especially when you always send cards and messages and receive nothing. I’m sooo sorry for the young ones who are hurt 😦
    I want to repeat what Kerro has written: You deserve better, a nice birthday and you all are worth it!!
    I didn’t know the exact day of your birthday, but I hope you know, that fairies can fulfil wishes?? 🙂 (this is the meaning of the set on polyvore)
    We have a lot fairies at our home and each one stands for a special wish.
    Warm safe hugs to those who want them (((())))

    • Sorry LSC, this hurts so much. I hear the young ones defending the family and everything becomes a big jumble of messy emotions and battles.

      I appreciated your fairy set so much… it made us smile on a day when I didn’t think it would be possible to do so.

      Take care,
      CG

  4. I dunno what to say ‘cept I understand bout birthdays.
    I struggle terribly w/trying to have b-day celebrations for my IRL kids too. 😦
    Sometimes I don’t succeed. 😦
    Anyhow, the time passes and the guilt lessens until the next one.
    Despite the fact I hate bithdays and all my family knows it and so does nothing, I still have parts who wish there was something special for them. But other ones say NO!
    This stuff is all so confusing.

    That might be something to work on in T.
    How to establish IRL support.
    What is expected, how does one do it? What is being too much? What does support even mean?
    etc etc.
    Cuz I dunno this stuff either…
    And I think IRL, non T support is important somehow.
    TC
    Ones

  5. dear castorgirl, i can relate a lot to this post. i grew up with a severely alcoholic father and was uncomfortable bringing people over, worried he’d walk in on me and my friends drunk in his underwear and try to tell jokes and horrify me. 😦

    i was also perceived as “the favorite” by my brother who took his anger out on me. i grew up feeling terrified of my brother and guilty for my position which was supposedly so great. but it was terrible. i was not really a “favorite” in any good way. i got attention that was unhealthy and unboundaried. and wasn’t about “me” at all. i felt invisible and unseen and an annoyance and a burden. i felt like the best way to earn approval and love was to make good grades and stay quiet and out of the way and have no problems like my dad and brother. alcoholic homes really can push us into those roles, it sounds like both you and i had the lost child role.

    you know, i have always heard people say in a negative tone that someone is “just doing that for attention.” but that’s always kind of pissed me off. if someone needs attention, what the heck is wrong with that? how are they supposed to get attention if that’s what they need?

    of course we want attention. we need attention as human beings. it’s a natural need. children need feedback and mirroring. it helps us know we’re seen, and validated. that we exist and matter. by the time i was 18, i didn’t even know if i existed. really. if someone said my name while talking to me, i almost cried with happiness that they were acknowledging me. that they knew my name.

    i don’t see anything you wrote in your post as wanting attention in any sort of bad way. i think it sounds like you only want basic attention that we all want and deserve. the attention of acknowledgement and reciprocation. it’s your birthday. of course you want it to be a positive time. and you send birthday cards, of course you should get them in return. it’s amazing to me when the people who are supposed to love us most aren’t even capable of basic common courtesy. you have every right to be angry and hurt around your birthday. you have very sad memories and it sounds like you had new hurtful experiences this year not getting acknowledgement from people who are important to you. i’m sorry that happened.

    someone mentioned in a comment not too long ago about creating your own new birthday. picking a new date to build your own new positive traditions and memories around. that sounded like a good idea to me. though i’m not sure you need a new date to do that. but new memories that will help year after year to give you the things you didn’t get from your family that you should have gotten all along.

    and what you’ve done this year seems to me a good example of building those new memories. you’re reaching out here to build friendships and let people know who you are and how you feel.

    i certainly care and i’m glad you were born and want to wish you another happy birthday. you deserve it 🙂 safe hugs to you~~~

    • Katie,

      The “favourite” was not a good position to be in… it caused our siblings to resent us and often left us exposed and without boundaries. I too was that child who was quiet, striving for perfection and the A grade student… surely if I did that, then someone would see me? I realise now that this need for perfection meant that I often only received praise at school, which fed that need for higher grades.

      As you say, lost children.

      I have HUGE issues with the terminology “attention seeking” as it has such negative connotations. But, in reality, you’re right… every human being needs healthy, positive attention. We are social animals by nature, that means we seek validation and attention as a natural part of our survival.

      It’s interesting that you say that someone saying your name was so important for you. For me, my name was meaningless. Whether that’s because of the DID or not, I’m not sure.

      One way in which my need for attention drove my life, was that my Horticulture teacher in high school paid attention to me because I was the top of the class. This meant I continued with Horticultural studies, even though I didn’t really enjoy it. When I got to university, my Economics lecturer paid attention to me because I usually sat alone near the front of the class (due to isolation and being hearing impaired), this attention drove me to tailor my studies to Horticulture and Business.

      All of those studies set me up for my current job, but weren’t what satisfied me… what gives me my job satisfaction, is helping people. I know that’s also a fairly typical trait of a survivor – getting pleasure out of helping others, but it’s where I’m happiest.

      I’m trying to find new ways of doing things. What I’ve been doing hasn’t been working too well, so I need to try and find a way through.

      Thank you and take care…
      CG

  6. oops, i should have read the other comments first before i wrote mine. i see i repeated what other people said about creating the new traditions. and i understand how that has been hard for you. i just want to reinforce the idea that it’s not that you need to do this and if you don’t you’ve failed. it’s just that you deserve to be happy 🙂 you deserve birthday goodness. whatever you do is always fine. safe hugs to you about this issue~~

    and also, i saw that when someone pointed out how sad it is how your family treats you, that it made some of the young ones feel protective of your family. i can only imagine the reaction they might have to my comments about your family. i felt angry at them for you and protective towards you that they’ve treated you this way. but i want to say i’m sorry if my comment upset anyone in the system. i know it’s one thing for us to express our anger or hurt towards our own family, but when other people express those feelings, it can also feel like a personal attack and launch us into feeling defensive and feeling the need to protect our family. i know i always felt that way about my mother especially. i played the role of her “protector” since i was so young, it was really hard for me to even see or admit if i was angry at her. and if anyone else criticized her, it hurt my feelings. i felt like if i accepted other people trying to support or validate my emotions, i was betraying her. i felt that protecting her was most important. more important than me or my feelings.

    so i am sorry to anyone if i offended them or overstepped my bounds or triggered any unpleasant emotions. but also i want to say that i hope you feel free to express whatever negative emotions you have towards your family without guilt. because you are doing nothing wrong.

    wishing you all well~ sending safe and supportive thoughts your way~~~

    • Hi Katie,

      Please don’t apologise, there were no hurt feelings from what you have written. I know that there are young ones within the system who protect the family and their perception of what was a perfect childhood. But that doesn’t mean that there were also others who went “Yes, someone gets it, someone understands”. That’s why it becomes a jumbled mess 🙂

      I also played that protector role… I defended the family and kept the secrets well. I think that will be the subject of my next post… how we as children were forced into the position of protecting those who were meant to be protecting us.

      Take care,
      CG

  7. Oh! I hope you’ll get to have an unbirthday celebration one day soon. I started having them for my children when they were little so that we could ‘come undone’ and begin anew when the world seemed too messed up. I don’t know if my kids remember them–most of the celebration were very corny and didn’t include clowns–but I remember them, because the sillier they were, the better everyone felt. I got the idea from Alice in Wonderland (Disney version)… and since I was certifiably crazy already, I had nothing to lose.

    Sometimes, it helps to make fun of the bogus parts of cultural traditions… and just start over.

    ~meredith~

  8. CG you are so very, very special! You deserve to have everything you want, including a support system. I’m going to directly respond to your statement about your post being attention-seeking: Are You Kidding! The people who read your blog and talk to you here and follow what’s going on in your life do it because we care about you. That’s what these blogs are for, to talk things out and to get the attention that we need. We didn’t get the right kind of attention when we were growing up and we deserved better. You deserve better now too. The world isn’t perfect of course so we won’t get everything we need but using this place and the people here who support you is a great place to start right? I totally support the idea of you making your own special day or dare I say days, because why limit it to just one 🙂

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