When close family members are toxic

Very often I hear many expressions and quotes about family, such as being the most important thing in the world. For many people, family also means ‘home’, the place where you can find refuge, solace and warmth. You can also see it when, in debates about adoptive and birth families, the public always assumes that the concept of adoption equals foreign feelings, and sometimes it is shrouded in negative judgement, and birth family always equals good, positive and homely feelings. This is quite a social presumption that it is not actually based on evidence. Blood ties, for some people, mean NOTHING. And assuming that parents, grandparents and siblings are the best thing that can happen to anyone’s life is the biggest misinterpretation of modern times. Family is the people you choose to surround yourself of. It has nothing to do with ‘blood relatives’ or ‘birth family’, which is very often, more often than people believe,  a congregation of arseholes.


My ‘birth family’ has never been home. It was more a dungeon full of horrors rather than a place of warmth and refuge. It used to be the place where I dread going back once I was out for some reason. When I started going out with friends in my teens, I used to have stomach cramps due to the thought of going back home. Needless to say, I definitively left that ‘home’ when I was 37. Not brave enough? Too late? It is never too late to save your life, start believing in yourself and get rid of toxic people from your life.

I used to think I could flee from one day to the following since I was 13. I never did, I didn’t have enough guts to leave, nor I had any idea about where to go either. It was so terrible that it used to cause me ups and downs of various entity, sometimes explosions of anger, or entire weeks spent in grumpiness and a foul mood. Around this time, I also became anorexic. I felt ugly and fat and of course the rest of the world was rejecting me, my ‘body’ wasn’t fitting in. Nobody was there to explain to me that everyone was rejecting me because domestic violence brings a stigma with it, the victims are often victimised by the society too. Therefore, on top of everything I was not only abused, I was even blaming myself for it and I was also blamed for it, called ‘crazy’ because I was reacting to it. This is the same mechanism that deprives many victims of the chance of breaking the loop of violence and abuse, and it also discourages rape victims to report the facts to the police.

Society shuns the abused. Worse, it is also the main reason why the abused doesn’t break away from the abuser, victims have no support.

Mildly put, in the 1970s (and in the centre of ‘super-Catholic’ Italy) having a ‘conservative’ father who was acting like a Roman paterfamilias was even accepted. Correctional methods ranged from being beaten up if you were performing under expectations or you had done something against ‘normality’, to ‘yelling lectures’ about how you were a shame on your father because of this or that. Psychological and emotional abuse was a daily meal and my self-esteem and self-confidence were less than zero. Unsurprisingly, as a teenager and young woman I achieved zero. With hindsight I can say I was trying to get rid of myself instead of how to get rid of ‘them’. I totally hated myself. I didn’t have stability and I also had no idea how to achieve it. Until…. I went abroad for a long time. It was in 1996, when I landed in Paris, that I faced the issue, the real ‘me’ and I had to took the bull by the horns. With not much money in my pocket, I nearly stayed one year there, working as an au-pair and I was independent. I was also, first time in my life, happy… even if I didn’t have anything. But ‘family’ was calling and using a sort of emotional blackmail they brought me back, although at that time I didn’t see it as such. ‘Oh you’re the bad one leaving, you’re the black sheep who believes blood connections don’t matter’. From that point on, it has taken me more than 13 years to leave forever. I migrated in 2009 and never looked back.

Yet, was it over? Is the distance enough  to break the ties? The answer is NO. 2,000miles, 15,000 miles, even going to live on the moon is not enough. What it is ‘enough’ is deciding that you need to put a boundary between you and them stronger than the geographical ones. It’s saying NO countless times until you say ‘FUCK YOU’ and you shut them out because the more important thing is YOU and not them. When did I get to this point? Probably ten days ago, when part of my toxic family was here, my brother and my mum had come to the U.K. for the festive season (which became very ‘non-festive’ soon, as you can imagine). My brother is abusive and my mum is an enabler; having spent a life with two abusers, she’s not even able to discern right from wrong anymore. And she’s never been brave enough to break off from them. She separated from my father in 2005 but lives two houses down from him, in the same street.

My British husband found himself between two screaming, demanding and toxic Italians around and me who was not able to keep the mess under control. I risked to see him walk out on me because of this situation. On one side I wanted to please them, on the other hand the two demanding relatives were unappeasable, beyond being unpleasant, rude and impolite too. They rehashed the same crap, as usual. I suddenly understood that I gave them the power to ruin what I had built in the last few years; they were now affecting my new life. As a consequence of the above, I had a panic attack and thank God…. only bruises as an immediate result.

But after they left, on January 2nd, I understood that 2016 was the year of the change, of the big FUCK YOU FAMILY. I’ve been treated, for years, as the bad apple. I had countless issues in my life, in any capacity, because I was made out to be the bad one all time, you know… I was strong, my ‘broad’ shoulders could take everything. I lost friends because they were not accepted in my family and because it was causing discussions. I was considered bad and crazy because I lifted my head up and refused to put it down. Rebelling to everything in the last 40 years has caused me pain, heartache, health issues, informal disownment, disinheritance and a continuous sense of loss, like I was robbed of something every day. Indeed I was, I was robbed of happiness, dreams, hopes and also life. I’ve decided I am not going to be robbed anymore, it doesn’t matter if I seem mean and awful, if I’m considered crazy or evil. If it means I can stop them from affecting my life, I embrace their opinion of me. Yes, I might be strong, but I cannot be strong for everybody else. I need to take care of myself, my life and ‘my family’. I don’t give a flying fuck if ‘this’ family is not blood-related or even human (thinking of my kitties here), they can hurl their ideas and presumptions into a wall, shovel them where the sun doesn’t shine.

For sure, no matter what they say there won’t be another holiday together ever again, because I now feel sure and free to be happy; my well-being and happiness never included them and never will.