For me, like Simba, the past is something to be feared. But that isn’t to say that I don’t spend a disproportionate amount of time dwelling on it.
A major contribution to the state of my Mental Health is conflict, which certainly features greatly in my past. Not conflict in which I was ever necessarily directly involved, but conflict between my parents, conflict amongst my peers, even, to a certain extent, conflict in the News. There always seemed, seems, even, to be war, displaced people/refugees, famine, disease…somewhere in the World. Conflict inflicted upon us as we eat our evening meals, the horror of buildings torn from the roots by explosions, guilt-evoking images of starving children…I digress slightly. I need to focus more on me, the things that more directly impact(ed) on my own life.
Growing up, my parents fought and argued A LOT. To clarify, there was never any violence, or other form of physical abuse – I really want to hammer that home. But at every turn, it would seem, there was some kind of verbal onslaught going on in the background, and this would always seem worse at certain points in time; Christmas, New Year, summer holidays. Worse still was the, what I now recognise as, pointlessness of it. There was never any real reason for any of it; my parents were, and still are, loyal to one another, there were no skeletons in any closet anywhere. The subject of an argument was always petty, trivial, but tempers would flare and the situation would escalate.
However, point or no point, it happened. I have memories of leaving the house with one parent, terrified that the other would be gone before we returned. Memories of my Mum packing a suitcase, intent on leaving. Memories of eventually reaching a destination hours later than expected (because my Dad would always get lost!), everyone fraught, Mum yelling that she just wanted to go home. I used to keep track of the number of consecutive days on which there was ‘peace’, desperate to make a week, a fortnight, a month. My last memory of major conflict in the house was Christmas Eve 2010, my Sister’s last Christmas at ‘home’. I can’t remember the cause, the reason, but there was an argument. I recall sitting alone in my room, crying and snotty, hyperventilating, scratching the surface of my skin with a pair of scissors, angry at myself for not being strong enough to just leave, for still being so dependent (despite everything) on my parents.
What I don’t want, though, is for you to think I had a miserable upbringing. However misguided, my parents were good parents. My Sister, Brother and I were/are loved deeply, we wanted for nothing and were brought up to be well-behaved, mild-mannered, grateful, people. We can depend on one another, we do depend on one another. I suppose what I’m getting at, and what I’ve already said, is that I dwell on the negative things – the conflict especially. I have a slideshow in my mind, on a continuous loop, and it replays everything bad that has ever happened to me, over, and over…
I don’t know why I ponder these things so much, and for so long. Perhaps it’s the nature of my anxiety to fret over things that can’t be undone, things most likely long forgotten by everyone else, to allow myself to become agitated about things that no longer matter. I by no means hold my childhood accountable for my current challenges, but these same challenges have been known to cause me to almost regress to my childhood at times; to ‘want my Mum’, to eat or drink things that remind me of being young, to go and sit in the library because this is somewhere I loved as a child, and I feel safe there. My past and present are impossibly tangled, interlinked, so that nothing really makes any sense.
There are a couple of things to note now. The first is the mention of my last memory of conflict in the house, in 2010 – 6 years ago. My illness/condition finally took the feet from me around 7 years ago. Since this time, our little family has gotten closer and closer. My parents have done things for me that no parent should have to do for their child. They’ve been there, unfalteringly, every step of the way. We’ve cried (a lot) together, we’ve laughed together, the journey has been theirs as much as mine. In view of this, I have to let go of what came before because, when all is said and done, they really stepped up to the plate when my life fell apart.
The other thing is that, if I take myself out of the equation, my parents are what I perceive to be ‘happy’ today. As life has progressed, they’ve faced things that are only natural; the death of my paternal Grandparents and other elderly relatives, my Sister being diagnosed with a chronic illness, my Siblings and I graduating, my Sister getting married, buying a house, having a baby – things both Earth shatteringly sad, and things that bring sheer joy. As they’ve faced these things, they’ve pulled together admirably. Over time, their relationship has seemed to evolve, by some sort of Natural Selection process, such that the strong qualities shine through. They seem to have learned how to live with one another, how to fit one another.
Writing this post has been a bit of a journey of its own; I had no idea where I was going with it after the first sentence. There is a lot for me to digest, to come to terms with, to accept, but I guess the main message to myself is that I need to concentrate more on now, that, as Rafiki said, ‘it doesn’t matter, its in the past…’