Today is the birthday of a family member that I have had zero contact with in years. She is family, however we had an extremely toxic relationship. After years of trying to just deal with it, I walked away.

This meant that my daughters no longer could see this family member or her family. This meant an end to certain gatherings and events. Ending this connection was the ending of an era. I knew this. Perhaps that was why I put it off for as long as I did. It hurts. D- and A- both remember her and ask about her. Q- has no memories of her or her family. I feel as if my girls are suffering by losing part of their family and it was my choice that lead to their suffering. Does this make me a bad mom?

This family member is not a bad person. She has mental health issues that she is in denial about. Most of my family believes very, very strongly that mental health is something you can ignore and it should not be talked about. The family follows the belief that depression is a choice, bi-polar is not real, anxiety is just being weak, it is not ok to show emotions other than anger. This is what I grew up learning and seeing. This is why I believe she is not a bad person, she just needs help. Our personalities conflict greatly. We have different values, different standards. I do have a low opinion of her. She was mean and hurtful. She threatened me, she threatened other people, she gave D- nightmares at one time. By threats, I mean she actually threatened me with physical violence. Since I have a terrible temper, I faced her straight on and dared her to swing at me. She decided to walk away.

While I was in high school, she would find any reason she could to call me dumb, stupid, lazy or useless. She even tried to get me fired from a restaurant I worked at because I requested the weekend off to attend prom. When I got married, she called me stupid because I did not insist on a pre-nup that guaranteed me alimony no matter what. She refused to come to my wedding. When I had D-, this family member told me to put her up for adoption because I was going to be a terrible mother. She also told me I should never have more children because the world does not need anymore of our family bloodline. When I went to college, she said some of the most vile things. Most do not need to be repeated. When I earned my first degree, she said it meant nothing. It was a useless degree that would not get me anywhere in life and I was a failure.

The list goes on, but I think the point has been made. She is a negative person. In all of my memories of her, she has always put people down. Every person she meets, she finds some way to trash them. Three years ago I finally walked away and cut all contact. Other family members decided to cut contact with me because of it. The belief is that you do not walk away from family no matter what. Ironic, don’t you think? I do not share this belief. Yes, she is family. Yes, I care about her and wish her only the best in life. No, I will not continue to deal with such negativity.

I have spent my entire life being put down by everyone that is close to me. Some people have since passed away, others I have walked away from. This has left me with almost no family. Growing up, my Dad kept me away from most of the family. It wasn’t until after his death that I started to interact with them. And within a few years, there is no longer contact. I always felt alone and lost growing up. As if I needed to know who my family was. For many years, I was angry with him for keeping me away from everyone. Now I know why he did it.

To this family member, happy birthday. I have no idea where you are or what you are doing, but I hope you are finding some joy in life.