Embracing dysfunction


Well-Known Member
I have had a major change of heart during last years, especially during the last. I come from the dysfunctional family, in fact a long line of dysfunction of all sorts. My mother and basically everyone from her side are dead, but my dad is alive. My relationship to him has always been spotty. Their marriage was short lived and there were long times during my adolescence I didn't have much contact with him. We grew closer, when I became an adult, but he ditched me when he remarried around the time P C was born. After that it was almost a decade of no contact and after that, we had some very sporadic contact. He wanted more, to be part of my life and get to know my sons and last fall I made a decision of not let my fear determine my decisions, not to shy away from life and attachments. I consciously decided that I wasn't that weak any more, that I would need to stay guarded, detached and uninvolved. While that was something that had became easy for me, it wasn't what I wanted from life. I didn't want to stay far and watch when others lived the full life.

You have to understand that most of my life that had been my goal. I wanted peace, safety, to be able to control life. Being very choosy on who to let close to me, being very hesitant to attach too much to anyone but the few, keeping life at the arm length. Again and again I always took a safe choice. Only very few time I let my guard down and because some of those times ended to spectacular failures and heartache, I became even more guarded. I indeed made a comfortable life for myself. Nice, safe and if boring at times, that wasn't so bad. But when the time flew I started to feel like I was suffocating myself. Watching difficult child, who never seem to make a safe choice, made me feel my lack of breathing space even more. It took some soul-searching to understand, that my situation wasn't anything that others had put onto me, but my own choice. And that it was something I could undo. Striving for picket fences, normalcy, detachment and safety was my choice and also mine to undo, when that detachment started to cost me too much of my humanity. Nothing stopped me from being a little brave, letting some of my guards down and live and let myself get reattached to full life in all it's glory and grue.

So I decided to brave out and re-establish my relationship with my dad. Let my heart out and attach even though I full well know who and what he is. Though I did find out that he had mellowed a little due age like many with Borderline (BPD) do. And he isn't substance abuser any more, but is a mostly moderate drinker though he still binge drinks at occasion, but so does everyone else around here. But even that doesn't end to month in gutter and soiled pants, like it used to. And he isn't using at least much other drugs. Certainly not amphetamine or things like that, that used to make a real number of him. Don't get me wrong, he still very much is who he is and I well know that he still runs hot and cold and I can turn to 'enemy' any time and then he will again ditch me. But I accept that and don't let my fear of hurt drive my decisions. Right now I get something out of this relationship, when I just let myself get attached and it is certainly worth the heartache later.

During this newest period of contact with him, he has first time began to tell me about there he has come. Till now my knowledge of my background was mainly from my mother's side. Only thing I knew about my dad's side, was, that it apparently was not pretty and he was in no contact. Now that I have found out more 'not pretty' is a brutal underestimate if there ever was a one. I'm not stupid enough to take anything he says with face value, but everything I have been able to check out, has turned more or less true. And even that is enough. My family in his side is so full of tragedy, dysfunction and hurt, that if you would write it into a book, it would be seen as phony and manufactured, because not so much tragedy can fall to one family. If on my mom's side the dysfunction has always lived side by side with achievements, on my dad's side those highs have been few and far between.

Dad doesn't have that many lining relatives either, but he has wanted to reconcile also with them lately and I too have met some. Can't say I would have a good rapport with them, for them I'm a stuck-up rich b***'*h who even happens to belong to minority they despise. While I do live in one of the most egalitarian countries of the world, there are some socio-economic differences also here and my parents come from opposite ends of the spectrum and my husbands family is comfortably in upper middle part, and there is some difference even now. Dad's talents enabled him to move upwards, but rest of his family didn't have luck like that. I can't say I would have that much in common with his relatives I have met, but the whole history of that family, in all it's dysfunction and heinousness is something I have learn to embrace and esteem. Tragedy of it all, but also the ability to keep going on, put other foot in front of other even through the darkest nights is something to admire. While I wouldn't wish that hard life to myself or anyone, I have to hail for the courage some of them have. To live fullest even through the horrors one doesn't even want to think about.

One of the people I have met is my cousin. We are about the same age, she has been married three times, widowed once due suicide, her son is in prison for murder and other of his daughters died when her drunk boyfriend drove out of the road in high speed. She is hardened and certainly not a nicest person you will ever meet, but she still has courage to live. She isn't playing it safe or building safeguards around herself to prevent life hurting her. And I have to admire that courage and will to live. She may not think much from me, but she is an inspiration for me. I'm done with playing it safe and keeping my distance. I don't want to turn ice block on the top of the mountain so now I strive to let myself stay open, accept the possibility of hurt and allow myself to stay attach even when i do know I will burn.
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Suprisingly enough I have found that opening myself up has really changed my life. I have people I can call any day of the week and they would help me out. I have friends over to the house atleast once a week. I have an active, if small, group of friends. We support each other. We work together on neighborhood stuff and in general we have fun.

The best part is that the people I have met are all so different. One is young and never wants children, her house is perfect and she is proper. One is a stay at home mom who has three girls and her house is a total mess but her girls are happy kids with minor issues and she is the one I am closest to. The final one is a stay at home mom whose kids have some pretty big issues and other than her being way to wrapped up in the kids at times she likes to party and is a fun person to be around. There were a few others in our group but due to moves with the military they aren't here anymore.

They are all different. From different backgrounds, from different religions, and definitely from different beliefs. BUT they are perfect because we all fit together for some reason.

I wish you the best getting to know your family. Mine is similar in that my moms side has had some major issues with money and mental health and tragedy. My fathers side of the family has had minor issues, mostly little family squables, and not much else. I detached from most of my moms family a long time ago because they detached from us. To be perfectly honest I just dont feel all that comfortable with them. They all grew up together and I was excluded from that for almost 15 years. I feel like an outsider around them. My dads family is much more familiar and comfortable for me.


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dtsc, I don't know the post you are answering. I can't see it. However, your post is wonderful.

I too have opened up to people whereas in the past I have had to keep my family issues to myself. I mean, the few I even approached a bit looked so horrified that I backed down.

I have found wonderful people to tell who are right here on this board and I feel I know them better than some in real life.

I have also found "safe" people in Al-Anon and in a woman's group I go to for therapy. Sometimes strangers at first turn into your best friends and advocates and you can also be there for them. Cool, isn't it?

My goal in life is to experience the serenity I have found. I have people who share my DNA, but, except for my son 36 and his son, no interest in being abused again. My real family...husband and kids are a Godsend. I was truly blessed to have them in my life. I think it is great that you sort of made your own family with friends.

If you don't have trust, you don't have anything. I choose to be with those who will be good to me and me to them and to live a peaceful life. Since turning fifty, my life totally changed for the better when I realized that I do not need to be abused.

I am glad you feel at least comfy with your father's family. The more positive light in your life, the better it is when the going gets tough.


Well-Known Member
Dstc, for me playing it safe did work for a long time and I certainly get why I felt it necessary. And it was. My childhood was turbulent, I needed that safety and predictability. And to get that, I did have to cut some less safe and predictable people and things from my life. Of course the time I played it safest was a time my children were young. I wanted them to have very different childhood than I had, but now that they are grown (my littlest turned 18 just few days ago) that is not needed any more. And I have matured and got stronger. I can handle things better than when I was young so those walls I built are not necessary any more and I start to see what I robbed from myself by building and up keeping those walls.

I have had some close friends for a long time, but those too I safe even if we do have different life situations, different opinions and so on. We do share many of the core values. With my dad and his family I'm opening myself up to something really different, really foreign compared to my set of beliefs. I don't find it likely that I would form much of the real friendships with my cousins for example, our lives and values are just so different, but just accepting them to be part of my life, to get to know them, gives me the whole new outlook to life.

While it makes sense to distance yourself from sources of hurt, I never really stopped to think what doing that cost me. Sure, it gave me some peace of mind, calmness, predictability, serenity, if you will, but it also robbed me of living a full life, being actually attached to living. That is too high cost for me, and I have consciously started to rip down those walls and let a life in and thus far I like it. I really do.

Scent of Cedar *

Well-Known Member
I am happy for you, Su Zir. It is a funny thing that, as I became healthier, I decided to take a stand against my family of origin. I am happy with that, but I can understand your decision to want to explore your family, when you have been so long without them.

I am happy you were able to see your father.

Your writing style seems to have become more open, and feels warmer too, SuZir.

It is good to reclaim our lives, to rediscover and enjoy things we thought we'd put aside. I still find it surprising that, while I decided to turn away from some things in my life, your choice was to include those same kinds of things, in yours.

And both of us are healing, and are stronger, better people for those changes.

Good for us!




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To be honest I think we all cycle what we need from our families throughout our life. There was a time when my mom was a huge part of her family then about 10 years where they were not a part of her life at all. Now she is back to being part of it all again.

For me I really hope there comes a time when I can be healthy enough to be closer to my family. Right now I haven't forgiven them for some of their actions. That seems childish at times and then at other times it seems like the smart thing to do.

I guess the best part of growing up is that I am now able to look at them as people instead of as authority figures I have to relate with. I can walk away from the ones who aren't healthy for me and keep the ones who are.

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I have always been good at taking distance. I was very, very young, when I had to take a role of a grown-up of our little family of me and my mom and her changing husbands and SOs. I'm smart, meaning I have both higher than average IQ and I'm pragmatic and functional. I was that from the early age. It made it possible for me to do quite well in that grown-up role long before I even hit my teens. But it of course left it marks and being a realist and pragmatist turned to cynicism and even certain callousness (and of course made me rather neurotic control freak.) My grandparents gave me a chance to be a kid every now and then, but if I had access to them and they to me was up to my mom's whims. I grew up to be rather jaded person with strong desire to those white picket fences that represented safety and normalcy to me. And while I have said earlier here, that I lack the intensity my parents and difficult child represent, I have enough of that to make things I really want to come true.And I certainly has never let any messy emotions to come between me and what I want.

I don't mean that I wouldn't have emotions, I certainly do. I love my husband (but yes, wouldn't have chosen him if he wouldn't have wanted and been able to provide the lifestyle I wanted), I'm very attached to his extended family (mostly, I really don't like very much his mother, but I'm little bit attached to her too, and even more to how my husband and others love her) and I have few close friends I love dearly and other friends I like a lot. I love our dogs (though here come that callousness again, I'm always the one, who decides when it is time to euthanise a dog in our family. husband would always want to postpone and hope miracles and just wait for a bit if it would turn better again.) But in the end there are only two people I have fallen in love without any qualms, without question and throwing my whole heart totally in. And neither of those relationships certainly are between equal parties so even in those I have only given one facet of me to the table. At least till now, maybe a decade or two from now those relationships are more equal and I have to put more into them.

But the thing is, that I'm now in so much stronger footing in every way than I was in my twenties, that I can open up a bit. I can make myself vulnerable without having to be afraid that I will not be able to stand the consequences. I'm certainly not starting to wear my heart on my sleeve and my brains have not stopped working and I'm as much realist and pragmatist as ever. I do for example know that my dad is a lying and liar who lies, runs hot and cold and all around miserable SOB and I may end up to his bad side at any moment or he may ditch me for a decade again without any warning or any wrongdoing from my part. But I also know that if and when that happens, it will hurt, but it will not break me, so it is worth taking a risk. I'm unlikely to get a happy ever after with him, but if I can get good few months or years or just few good moments, that is more than nothing.

Peace, quiet, serenity and all that don't sound that enchanting for me either. That may be due my age. I'm just few years older than you daughter SoC. At average I have about half of my life still ahead of me. I'm far from ready to be sidelined. There may be a time when I'm ready to be happy in my rocking chair, but right now I 'm still ready to dive head first to life at it's fullest. I have been having a mid life crisis for couple years now. I had my kids very young in my societies standards (average first time mother is 29 around here if I remember correctly), many of my friends are still having babies and while not wanting to start all that again from the beginning I'm as ready as they are to still start a new. I have done many other decisions to that avenue lately. I started my PhD program this year and I'm currently in process to change my plans for that from being something like a hobby to going more all in. Many of my fellow grad schoolers may be ten or fifteen years younger than I and my age certainly is a handicap if I end up going all in to academia, but to me it begins to seem more and more worth the risk too. In fact I should probably send a little thank you prayer to DDD about that. We had some conversations this winter that really made me think about all that again and made me decide that I wasn't going to stand sidelines next 40 years. So I have done concious choice to open myself up and take more risks both in my professional and personal life.

Part of changing my point of view especially to my dad is also age related. I'm coming into the age where roles are starting to shift between parents growing older and their adult children. I see it happening with my friends too. Many have worries with their parents and roles are shifting so that they start to be the caretakers of their parents instead of the other way around. I have been a caretaker a long time, but now it starts to feel more natural. When it was plain wrong, that I was a caretaker of my mom and dad when I was seven, now that I'm getting close to my mid forties, it starts to feel like it should be. We are finally in 'normal situation' with my dad, our roles are not upside down any more. I'm not yarning him to fill a role of dad in traditional sense any more. I have given up ever having a 'dad' like that, I have grieved never having one and I'm ready to move on. I don't need him to be 'the dad' for me any more. And when that need is gone, even though it went unfulfilled, we are meeting in totally different grounds. It is of course bitter-sweet, but it is, what it is.
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And other, totally off topic question I have had in mind to ask from you Dstc many times: How have you ended up with a Norweigian Elkhound?

It is of course quite popular breed in my neck of woods, but it is considered to be a 100 % working dog, while being a nice companion in the side. No one takes one, if they are not avid hunters. We ourself have a dog with bit similar character, Lapphund that has many characteristics common with Elkhunds (both Norweigian and other Scandinavian similar breeds) but that is originally a reindeer herder. My father in law does have a Norweigian Elkhound though. Lovely dog, but 100 % hunting dog, lives to work and has no trouble hunting elks for 12 or 16 hours in row (in fact the trouble tends to be in getting him to leave the workplace and to come home to eat and sleep.) Friendly, stable and steady character is truly lovely, but I would really not want to come up with activity for him if there weren't hunting. And they tend to enjoy their own voice too (though, so do Lapphunds, you can bet that no one comes to our yard without us knowing, not a human being or a squirrel and I have had to draw a firm line to flies and bees. And that took some work too.)


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Odd that I read this. I have recently began talking to my mother again despite her HORRID choice in a husband. My daughter actually convinced me to. I am still standoffish because I am still very much disturbed that she would stay married to that POS, but I know she really wants to see her granchildren and great grandchild. So we will be seeing her this Saturday when we get up to Massachusetts. We are meeting for breakfast and then going to an aunt and uncle's house for a mini family reunion. My sister is following in my footsteps and is joining us with her baby boy that my mother has never met. We are now trying to get our brother to join us as well. I know my mother will not be around forever and I don't want regrets. My mother is so thrilled. She cannot wait to meet Connor and Jason...


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And other, totally off topic question I have had in mind to ask from you Dstc many times: How have you ended up with a Norweigian Elkhound?

We got Luna at an animal shelter. Her parents and her brother were all put to sleep for being extremely aggressive. She was so timid that it took hours for us to even be able to pet her. Once I saw how scared she was I knew I had to help her. I didnt know anything about the breed at the time but I had dealt with aggressive/problem dogs before so the shelter thought we were good candidates. We had to go through a home viewing and multiple questionaires before they would let us have her. In the end we just never played aggresively with her so that she didn't have any reason to show aggression.

Anyway she is very vocal which kind of drives me nuts but other than that and the shedding she is a wonderful dog. She used to jump alot but now that she is older that doesn't happen anymore. She is great with other dogs and loves my kids to death. Her aggressive meter is non existant with people but she is an alpha dog with other dogs. We aren't hunters so I dont know about that but she is a lazy thing. LOL I can imagine she would be a wonderful running dog or hunting dog because she has amazing stamina.

On a side note she has the most jacked up teeth ever and looks like a maniac when she is panting so I call her Looney Lulu all the time. She also grunts when you pet her. I swear she sounds like she is getting the worlds best massage when you are petting her.


one day at a time
Suzir, thanks for your posts here. I like thinking about what you wrote and what truths there may be in your writings, for me.

I grew up way way too soon as well, had to as the oldest child of four, with one child who was sick her whole life and died at age 23. My parents were very preoccupied with keeping her alive and keeping the family going, so I had to grow up quick and be a very responsible Mother's helper early on.

Earlier in my life I resented it and I had to work through it in therapy for years but now I see that it was what it was and it created some very good qualities in me as well.

I became a fixer and a manager and wow, I could fix and manage most anything. I was good at it.

But it doesn't work with addiction, so I met my match in that with my husband (now ex) and then my son.

The whole trip has been very good for me and I am a much better person today. I like myself better. I feel much more at peace inside. More complete and less anxious and more accepting of myself and other people.

So that leads to a realization---in sync with you here---about accepting that the world is full of dysfunction and hurt and instead of rejecting it outright and trying only to be with people who are "safe", instead what about going into each relationship clear-eyed, with good boundaries, to see what MIGHT work.

We are all such struggling human beings, and life is chaotic and messy and forward/backward.

I have no desire to be immersed in a world of hurt, and I am very much a feelings person and feel things deeply, but I can also see the yin and the yang of it so much more readily these days.

I too have no desire to be cold, hard and callous. I would rather feel the pain of broken trust than to have not put myself out there to trust.

Good things to ponder, Suzir. Thanks for your willingness to share openly about this.