One of my co-workers is best friends with one of my cousins. Yesterday we went out to visit my co-worker and my cousin was there. We have not remained close over the years and it was interesting to see where she is now. This was the first time I had seen her in over 7 years and the time before that was even more.
My past was very troubled as a child growing up and I have scars which I will bear for the rest of my life, both physical and emotional. It is the emotional ones that are the hardest to deal with. When looking at my own past, I cannot help but see the ways that it is tied to my other family members. I am not going to get into all the details of her past, as that is not my right. All I am going to say is, nobody would have judged her if she had curled up in a ball and become a drug addict or committed suicide. Her struggles are far worse then I could imagine.
Well it seems like us French Canadians are a pretty tough bunch. Despite my past I am an active member in my workplace and an outspoken social activist. My cousin has a good job and leads a productive life. It seems that members of my extended family go one of two ways after surviving to adulthood. They either become alcoholics or workaholics. I became the latter in an attempt to break from my past.
In the 1950′s in northern Ontario, being a French person meant that you would never really be anything beyond a general labourer. It was and is a form of racism that exists in a primarily English speaking country. My dad ran from the French and would not even teach us the language. I picked some up by osmosis being around my grandparents and other family. This type of closed off culture also leads to secrets. My grandfather on my dad’s side was a horrible man. A raging alcoholic that abused his ten children for entertainment purposes. My father attended his father’s funeral to see him dead. He left a legacy of damage that has trickled down through the generations.
Today I feel depressed. Thinking about my childhood almost always does that to me. I will be ok, but I am sad that I never really had a childhood. I suffer from PTSD and seeing somebody that really knows me and where I came from triggers me. I have no mask of normalcy with my cousin. She knows the reality, as I know hers. She can see me and the scars. She knows what caused them at least in part. Neither of us know the whole story, but we both know enough to be uneasy. She has now met my son and partner. I have met her partner. We were vulnerable and for abuse survivors, it is hard to be vulnerable. My family is very large, but none of us know each other. It saddens me to think what could have been without the substance abuse, child abuse and sexual abuse that happened in my past, but then I realize that I am the person that I am in part, due to the events that have forged me. I am proud of what I have accomplished and hope to accomplish.