Secrets are insidious.
When you grow up with domestic violence or sexual abuse or any other form of abuse there is an unwritten rule that you don’t tell.
Growing up I assumed that what happened at our house was normal. Kids got the strap at school so it kind of was normal but there was an underlying tension in our home that I felt keenly, like you were waiting for the other shoe to drop.
That tension has never really left me.
But it’s the secrecy, that unspoken rule, that what happens at home doesn’t get discussed outside. EVER.
I broke that rule.
It took me until I was an adult, with kids of my own, who had already grown up and left home.
Sure, we had talked about it amongst ourselves. When we were kids. When were twenty-somethings sitting around drinking coffee on the deck on a summer afternoon. And we all agreed that confronting the parents was just not an option.
They were old.
It wouldn’t make any difference and why put them through it.
Until one day it all came to a head.
One of my sisters and I had fallen out over some ridiculous thing ( as you do) and hadn’t spoken for years
( as you do). We had emailed back an forth. I had apologised ( which to this day she still denies me ever doing). Numerous times but to no avail.
But now I was getting married. Happy days!! ( not quite)
My Mum wanted to know who I was inviting and why I wasn’t inviting my sister.
Long ( painful, agonizing) story, short, my sister came to visit ( so much, much more to this but hey we all want to get to the end right?) . Words were spoken, back and forth and then she hit me, hard across the face. In my home. With her daughter and her fiancée standing right there. And then she left.
Then I got the letter saying my parents wouldn’t be coming to the wedding.
So, ( oh fateful day) I rang them to ask why, WHY? they found it acceptable for her to come into my home and hit me.
Ahhh then it came out. she had lied and said I wouldn’t let her in the house and blah blah blah, all so very tedious to report now.
And then out of my mouth came the words “Well I guess coming from a house full of anger and violence, you would think it was ok”
Cue much spluttering and denial and “You take that back”etc and then I hung up. Knowing I would probably never talk to them again. And I was right.
Oh there have been many angry letters demanding that I go and apologize, calling me all sorts of names. I haven’t replied.
It has divided the family and sent me into a deep, deep depression. Everyone is taking sides ( whether they think they are or not). I have been told, in no uncertain terms that I am no longer part of the family and with each passing year that becomes more true.
My brother ( who bore the brunt of the anger)was diagnosed with cancer late last year ( I found out weeks later) and now he has gone through several rounds of chemo and still the rift is too deep and wide for anyone to breech.
I found out this week that after nearly a year of chemo my brother had packed his bags and disappeared. That was sometime last weekend. I found out on Wednesday.
Why so many days after he went missing?
Because I no longer count as family.
Because I broke the rules and spoke out about what happened in our family.
Because I upset my parents and they are old. Funny thing is they are never going to get any younger because, well they had to be older than me to have me in the first place.
Because secrets are damaging and the more secrets there are the more you have to hide. And we musn’t upset the parents because they are old.
Well guess what? The last time I checked we are all ADULTS and capable of dealing with life’s situations. Only apparently that doesn’t apply to my family where we still tiptoe around in case someone, some grown ups feeling gets hurt because heaven forbid we should upset them. Even though growing up in that house, with that anger, just barely concealed beneath the “normal family”veneer damaged all of us ( though we aren’t supposed to talk about that either).
So secrets are dangerous things and if you are not careful they may just overtake your life.
Or get you kicked out of a family for voicing them.
And even writing this I worry about the rifts that may occur if someone reads it but you know what ? It is better to let it all out, shine some light and love on to the gaping wound , and let it heal. One way or another secrets need to be heard,
IF you or someone you know is living with a secret that needs to be heard please contact Women’s Refuge 0800 733843 in New Zealand or
Domestic Violence Hotline in the US