We grew up in a very abusive home. Family violence was common as my mom stayed in the relationship for 20 years. As the oldest, when dad would come home drunk and bleeding, I was the first to be woken up. I called 911 and translated when the paramedics arrived. I was only 10 or 11 years old, but already was acting as the second in command at home.
I would go with mom to the food stamp office or to get the Gold Card. I would translate but never really understand what I was conveying to my mom. Because she would take me with her, I think I assumed it was my responsibility to take care of the family. So I just played the part. I would go to the food pantries at the church to get food or run downstairs when the bread truck came to the apartment complex to get bread for the family.
Whatever it was, I always thought “Well my mom sent me so I have to do it.”
I’m the oldest of five siblings. I’m also the only one who has gone to college. The entire family leans on me for support and guidance. Sometimes it feels like I am the caretaker for everyone.
I’ve had to work hard to learn that I don’t have to be everywhere and I don’t have to be everything to everyone. I’ve learned that I need to take care of myself first. I’m taking small steps to focus on me. I’ve started listening to my body. If I’m tired, I go to bed. If I need silence or need time for myself, I go for a walk. And I’ve learned that this is not being selfish. So often we think closing ourselves in our room and taking time for ourselves is being selfish. We are worried family members will say,“Oh what, you don’t want to spend time with the family?” But that’s not it. I just need time for myself. And that’s ok. Self care is ok.
I sometimes laugh and wonder, “the day that I pass, will my family know what to do?”
I sometimes think I am going to have to leave detailed plans for my funeral. It will have the ‘run of show’, music, and tasks laid out for every person to do. It will probably even tell them not to cry during the ceremony!
When that day comes, I wonder if they will think, “But she’s the one who always took care of things!”