‘Break the Pattern Before it Breaks You’

If anything, COVID-19 has brought us back to where we belong – being at home and spending time with loved ones.

This just goes out to show that at the end of the day, “family matters the most” – something I read in a post before the lockdown was announced.

I was both infuriated and saddened by it. For all 17 years of my life, I have not really had a home – and this is more common than you think. I was, and still am, being brought up in an abusive toxic household, where every day is like walking on shards of glass.

What people do not understand is that in toxic families, every conversation is calculated and overthought. In my house, every other word can set someone off, every subject is a landmine waiting to explode, and happiness is an inane concept. Where I come from, calmness makes you uneasy because you are not used to it. So, you’re conflicted between appreciating it and being skeptical about it while waiting for fleeting domestic bliss to end.

I write this post an anxiety-induced breakdown and it is safe to say that I have had over ten of those in the past few weeks. What adds to the turmoil is the lack of mental health resources available – there is only so much a phone call can do. Every day is just the fear of relapsing.

As I bring up relapsing, it is not me who I am concerned about – it’s my mother, who has Alzheimer’s and is bipolar, and who has weighed that down on me all these years. As much as you want to be supportive and not resent your parents when they tread such a treacherous life path, what we often forget to do is emphasise that mental illness is not an excuse to dump your baggage onto someone else, let alone your kith and kin, and declare ‘deal’.

This is not just about me, this is about the bigger picture of constant glorification. The glorification of daughters, sons and non-binary folk who take all that their guardians throw at them, even if it is toxic and does nothing more than diminish their sense of self worth.

I am also guilty of such glorification because every time my mother beat me up, every time my head was swollen or my lips were bruised, I would turn soft when she apologised and forgave her. The domestic bliss would pass and she would repeat her patterns. I took it all while she took pieces away from me, bit by bit, until I grew up and figured, ‘Oh, I’m empty now’.

That was rock bottom for me, staring into an abyss and knowing you shouldn’t jump but the gravity pulls you down anyway.

Also read: Lockdown in a Toxic Household

My breaking point was when I read a book called It Ends With Us and there was one line that stood out to me in particular and it still does: “Break the pattern before it breaks you”.

I am not saying that I suddenly became brave and started resisting; it is a slow process, building your esteem up and standing your ground, it takes time, you unlearn habits – this constant habit of telling people “but it’s my mother”, “it’s family and they love me” – THAT is what I unlearned from my everyday life. Because to me, toxicity, regardless of where it comes from, is a definite no and I refuse to take it. Getting to the point of being able to say this has not been easy.

It has taken years and I am proud of it.

So when I saw that post, I felt threatened and outraged because of the unapologetic privilege that it reeked of, the emotional privilege that it carried.

We live most of our lives conforming to defaults that the world has set for us, and we do not even realise that we are conforming to them, that our minds are unconsciously generalising a lot of experiences, and conforming leads to making assumptions. We start assuming that everybody is cishet, we assume pronouns, and the icing on the cake is that we assume that everybody is deliriously in love with their families, that everybody is oh so happy to be at home. That infuriates me, the assumption invalidating so many experiences of abuse.

I have nothing against such privilege, I have nothing against healthy relationships with your family, what I do hold against the likes of said people is when they assume the responsibility to generalise and put everybody under one roof of sunshine and rainbows.

The reality, of course, is the opposite.

My mother had not physically harmed me in seven months of therapy, until last week, where she relapsed and punched me in the jaw. My trans friends are stuck at home with their families who turn a blind eye to their identity. Some are under the same roof as those who have sexually violated them, where they get thrashed and nobody raises a voice, under the same roof with the people who have constantly dehumanised them.

While you bask in the glory of your emotional bliss, remember that it’s not all sunshine and rainbows for everyone.

This is not a call for pity, sympathy and all of those temporary feel good emotions that one might seem to render – that is not the point I am trying to make here. I write for the collective cause of acknowledgement and sensitivity, I write for the elimination of privilege of making blatant assumptions, I write for the unlearning of habits that constantly demoralise someone’s trauma, I write for you to stop gaslighting victims, I write for you to deem all sorts of toxicity at par, I write for you to not take your privilege for granted, and most importantly, I write for the reminder that echoes –

“Break the pattern before it breaks you.”

To the ones who haven’t found home in between the four walls of common blood, today, I write for you.

Rida Fathima is a seventeen year old who always has too much to say and never enough to write.

Featured image credit: Julius Drost