Dear Family, (on behalf of anyone harmed by mental illness diagnosis)

Dear Family,

Those of you who are left….This includes my two siblings and their spouses. As for my extended family, I never ever hear from them. It is as if Julie does not exist and is dead. I am not. I suppose they are pretending I am. I suspect they darned well know I am not dead, but feel very guilty they have not been in touch and cannot think of a good enough excuse not to have at least written to me or attempted to contact me in some way. I have tried, but since my extended family has common enough names I cannot locate them. I think they know darned well about my blog by now. Somehow, my brothers found out. They weren’t too thrilled when they did.

What’s the word for it? Julie’s pissed off. And rightfully so.

Anyway, as for the immediate family, I have a few things to say. I have tried to confront directly. It takes a lot of guts to say, “Hey, why did you ignore me for two decades?” You bet it does. For the first decade I was asking myself why, and couldn’t come up with a decent reason so I let it slide. Besides, those therapists kept saying that I was mentally ill, after all. You can’t expect normal people to “accept” a mentally ill family member so easily, those therapists claimed.

Really? That excuses everything. Sure it does. A brain disease. Like hell.

So all those years, I believed I was subhuman, inferior, unworthy of being included anyway. I didn’t think I even deserved to ask to be included. After all, my brothers were doing classy things, far too sophisticated to include a defective and immoral person like me.

Julie’s pissed and is not afraid to talk about it now.

I was treated just like that. Unworthy. Lazy. Don’t even bother. Just a waste. Only worth the “groups” I had to go to. Bingo. Mini-golf. Just sitting and vegging and watching the tube.

I have indeed confronted my brothers, but I find it difficult to get up the guts to come up with the words.

Where were you all those years?

Instead, I hear about the one or two times they didn’t show. Or about the one time I myself canceled. About how it was MY CHOICE to not see them. They always bring it back to me, trying to explain one or two particular times, but cannot explain two decades. Why? Because what they did is plain inexcusable.

Yes, tossing out a family member is inexcusable. While yes, we do have choices, and we aren’t legally obligated to care for our family members forever, to turn one’s back and THEN LIE about it is just plain cruel. They repeatedly point out the times they did see me. All I recall is the begrudging way they acted. Like they really didn’t want to. Their damn duty.

See, let this be known: Those of you who have relatives who are deaf or demented also will know, they will perceive when you see those visits as “duty.” They’ll know when it’s tokenism, and I knew all along, too. I sensed the reluctance all those years. It wasn’t something they could easily hide from me. Just because I had a diagnosis slapped on me didn’t make me incapable of perceiving such things.

“Aw, do we have to visit Gram again?”

For those of you to whom this applies, Gram knows. Even if she never ever heard that whining from your kids, she knew the reluctance and if I can speak for her now, SHE IS PISSED.

I hope that each time you spend Gram’s money that you inherited, you think of that. With every dime, think of how hurt Gram felt when she knew you didn’t really care. You were only showing up because you felt you had to.

Same with me, and same with anyone out there who shares these thoughts and feelings. Same with anyone out there who was forced to live a marginalized life or ignored by their own family or forced into homelessness or kicked out or estranged or rejected or unloved or forced to spend holidays alone. Same with anyone left out in the cold. Same with anyone knocking down the door right now.

I have gone to lawyers and even to shrinks. I have pleaded on Facebook before I dropped off Facebook entirely. “Please bring my family back.” I have a feeling these things cannot be remedied, though.

I have asked people with degrees or anyone my brothers might consider an authority figure to go to them and simply demand that they change the way they are doing things. However, this might put such a mediator in an awkward position, and I wouldn’t want to do that. I can only leave this out there, and hope at least for an apology.

Feedback and comments welcome!