Before anyone reads this: Please be aware I am going to touch upon the topic of mental illness, abuse and suicide, so if this is a bit much to read, please exit.
There’s a saying: “family is most important”. In my life, I’ve heard countless “blood is thicker than water” quotes and such, and I’ve seen people who are generally happy within their family. I’ve always admired the thought of family. However there’s a truth deep inside me that I was always so hesitant on revealing because I was so afraid of not being validated. I came across a lot of notes and journal entries I’ve written and being where I am now, I’m disgusted in the people I’m related to. Given, I’m only nineteen and I’m currently growing as a person, but I’m going to talk about people who are decades older than me, and that continues to disappoint me.
Makeup started as a tool for my insecurities. I was bullied in grade school and at home, I was told I looked like my father, and to avoid criticism and the sadness that my dad passed when I was two years old, I hid behind this mask of uneven eyebrows, horizontal winged liner, and the wrong shade of foundation. It makes me cringe but when I look deeper into it, there is someone in my life who started the criticism when I had started the puberty cycle: my landlord and my dad’s sister. I remember when I was 14, in numerous occasions, my aunt had said if she saw with eyeliner, she wouldn’t want to speak to me, she said my liner was “just as bad as Amy Winehouse’s makeup”, and another time, she just stared at me in disgust and refused to speak to me. It was my first experiences being criticized by her and so I asked my mom if what I was doing was right (here’s where my validation begins). My mom said I was fine and maybe she was overreacting.
Another night, I went to my aunt’s apartment to meet her new puppy. I had worn a tank top my mom had bought for me. Everyone was focused on the puppy and we were having good laughs, all except her, who approached me, said nothing, and grabbed my tank to aggressively pull the tank to my collarbone. This was something I had hid from my family until this year…
A year goes on and she decided, since I was a growing teen, she would mold me in her vision. She had shown me pictures of my older sister, which she deemed inappropriate, said I shouldn’t associate myself with her and bragged about how she blocked her and how I wasn’t going to be like her. School got rough, she was getting meaner, and I was constantly fighting with my family.
One day, my aunt had decided to tell me the story of how my dad passed away (I will not share because it’s my business), but it was something that made me hate myself a lot more. I saw that my family was more dysfunctional than I had thought and the more she kept saying things to tear me down, I was hurting myself. Physically and mentally.
January 2015, I wrote:
I’ve seen and felt so many things. Some good. Some bad. I’ve tried hard to escape this past because it’s too much. Everyone I thought I had trusted had turned into a silver spoon, trying to make me their vision of a perfect person. I’ve cried too much and bled so much. I don’t want to remember my father’s death. I don’t want to remember my mother’s pain. Nor my siblings’. I also refuse to hear anymore of my aunt’s judgment and I want to move past my own past. I can take so much until I’ve had enough. I can say my friends kept me sane. They’ve helped me understand myself just a bit. I’m choosing to leave. I’ve been through too much and I’ve decided this for a long time now. But where to go? My sister’s? A friend’s house? I know where. Maybe someone could tame me… One thing’s for sure, I’m leaving for one reason forever untold.
Eventually I was sent to a psychologist after writing that suicide note and was diagnosed with depression. Therapy was a very helpful place for me, and I will always be grateful for the things I’ve learned and grown past.
My therapists noticed that my makeup and my writing were the two coping skills I was using the most. Makeup went from a mask to a coping skill and I appreciated it. I felt myself feeling less afraid to ask for validation via cosmetics, and confident… Until I came home.
My aunt would make jokes about my face melting and when she saw I was growing confident, she tore me down by comparing me to other people. The worst part was that she’d talk about her experiences with my dad as a way to convince me to change. I hurt myself less, but it was an occasional habit. My mother took it upon herself to distance us a bit, even if we all live together.
As time passed by, I became a stronger person, but something in me knew my aunt had some spell over me. I hated that, and I mean HATED. My therapist and I came to the conclusion that my aunt had left some trauma on me. The family I had grown up with had felt tense, and it was because of the things she had said to me. It’s so shocking to me that I can remember every instance she gave me a mental breakdown. I wanted validation from someone similar, but I didn’t know who.
One day, I became friends with one of my cousins, who I vented to, but didn’t realize has some rivalry with my aunt. My cousin doesn’t like her for some unknown reason and my aunt dislikes her because she’s apparently “terrible”. My mom had warned me to be careful of my words, but my hunger for validation ignored her warning.
My aunt was territorial, secretive, and shady for the past year and I hated breaking down over her. She hated when I spent too much time with her grand-kids. She thought if she had said something about my cousin, I would spill drama. She also had a season of glorifying my brothers and pushing me to the side on purpose.
April 22, 2018:
I honestly thought I was able to push myself past everything and be a better person. I can be the bigger person… I think she placed a big hole inside of me, to the point where I cannot stand myself. It’s come to the point where every time she nitpicks anything of me or does something to shade me, I continuously hear another “you’ll never be good enough”. I can’t believe I let my guard down and let this affect me. I don’t want it to, but I guess my anxiety towards her never left and I’m still having breakdowns because of the things she says to people or to me that has anything to do with me.
She will never change, which I have tried accepting. I am living proof she can break people, however.
During the summer, my aunt had pushed my best friend to the point of moving out. She vented a lot to me and since I was her friend, I had contacted my cousin to help (since she had experience renting and my aunt didn’t). Little did I know my cousin had talked to my aunt’s daughter-in-law, who said some false things about me.
I woke up to overhear a conversation between my aunt and my mom. My aunt had told my mom of the false rumors to which my mom responded with, “you know April has experiences when she thinks you criticize her and she went to therapy to get help for depression?” to which my aunt replied with “I don’t know why she feels that way, I’m always rooting for her. I don’t want to be mad at her because she’s my brother’s daughter.”
Later that night, I ran into her in the front of my house. She gave me a dirty look and slammed the door on me… To this day, she’s been shunning me. It’s been months. I live with her to this day.
I had to pause one day and process what had happened. Someone who had mentally abused me and manipulated me had been told of my mental illness and because some rumors about me, she chose to ignore me. It hurts me because I suffer from that trauma, but it also disappoints me because adults decided to degrade me and use a dead person to excuse them from their own faults. It’s really disappointing to see people I’ve grown up around turn against myself and each other for their own personal gains.
Those people were supposed to set an example for me and their families but failed. I would love an apology, but I’m not going to wait on it. These people grew up in so much regret, shame, lack of self-love, pride, and ignorance, and projected all of that on other people. That taught me to be humble and to be the person who treats others as human beings and not just by life choices, skin tone, religious views, etc. I don’t see anyone as anything, in fact. I see everyone as a human being (unless they do something so wrong that it doesn’t deserve justifying).
Today, I’m still humble (although this blog post will make it seem hypocritical), and I really try to live the life I want to; because everything I do makes me happy. I share this story of my abusive aunt because I want to make my mental illness visible. I have validated that painful part of me but that doesn’t mean I don’t validate every good part of me. Aside from awareness, I share this because people like this don’t deserve to get away with issues like this. Someone who was supposed to be important to me degraded me for years and excused herself when she could’ve been the cause of my own suicide, and to me, that is disgusting.
I share this because I want my readers to know I am a human being who is learning to grow and I will make mistakes but I’m going to grow and learn to love myself and many others. You, my readers, are validated and whatever you go through, I hear you. Your troubles are valid and whoever is hurting you clearly isn’t complete and they’re not happy, because they know that you’re happy. Some people will not believe you at first (trust me, I know, it’s happened to me and it took a long time to convince my loved ones), but I, and more, will trust your worries. Find your family in the people who actually care about you. I believe in all of you beautiful people.
This is a brief note that I noticed when I was writing notes for one of my book characters: you clearly remember the negative things someone says about you more than the positive, and I think that’s disappointing from my perspective. I had expected my family life to be flawed but loving, but instead of remembering the love, I remembered the reworded “you’re not good enough”.
Here is why I say everyone is valid when they are going through something:
Positive things I’ve remembered being said to me:
“Your makeup looks good today”, “we’re proud of your work here”, “you’re a strong girl and you know it”, “you’re beautiful”
Negative things I’ve remembered being said to me within the last six years:
“You’ll never be good enough”, “I think your little brother will be the first Gonzales to drive” *slams car door*, “you’re eyeliner looks like Amy Winehouse”, “if I see you next time with that type of makeup, I’m not talking to you”, *stares in judgement at makeup as the eyeliner is literally one line*, “I can’t believe your older brother would turn in his paper and get everything done when you didn’t turn anything in. Why can’t you be more like your brother?”, “I don’t want you to be like your sister. She’s acting like a skank so that’s why I had to block her, you should do the same”, “that looks like a job for your brothers to do”, “you have to stop applying for things you know you might not get, especially a job in makeup”, “your outfit looks bad, I can see your ass”, “that lipstick is too dark on you”, “that one looks better than that dark lipstick”, “is your nose supposed to glow like that?”, “your father wouldn’t want that”, “your mother didn’t want you to do this or that”, “I don’t want her doing anything in my garden”, “I remember a time when your father…”, “Imagine if your father were here right now”, etc.