(*Edited, content added)
I have debated whether or not to write this post - but I decided to after a conversation with the aforementioned mutual family friend.
I'd like to think my Aunt 'Lizbeth would approve, considering that she, too, lived in reality rather than seeing only what she wanted to see about people.
I've also included a letter I wrote to my family, which I asked the aforementioned family friend to pass along to them, and a screen shot is attached below.
However, what I'd also like to say in just this post is this ...
One of the many reasons I'm estranged from my family is that with the exception of just a couple of us, my evangelical-based family sees things in either/or, good/bad terms, very black-or-white thinkers - in psychological terms, it's called "splitting."
"Splitting" is seeing all situations, other people, and themselves in either/or, all good or all bad terms - the inability to see gray areas in situations, as well as that other people and themselves are a percentage mixture of good and bad.
"Splitting" - if persistent and chronic in adulthood, when not temporarily induced by trauma - is the hallmark of a having the traits of or a full-blown Cluster-B personality disorder.
As a result, they also tend to see only what they want to see about people rather than the whole person.
As a result of this "splitting" - everyone gets placed onto either a "good" list or "bad" list by the most powerful (or most bullying), biggest "splitters" of the family - and no matter what you do, once placed on either list, you can't get off it. (Not a literal written list, of course, just conceptual one.)
If you're on the "good" list and you do something horrible, excuses are automatically made for you or your behavior is blamed on the people on the bad list or their influence on you.
If you're on the "bad" list and do something wonderful, either you must secretly have a selfish, evil motivation for it or it must be a fluke.
(A few people they just aren't concerned or interested enough to split over, but typically, they split everybody.)
In fact, two people could exhibit the exact same misbehavior, but if on the good list, they're immediately excused (enabled) - if on the "bad" list, they're just evil and there is no excuse.
Worse, the few that did not think in black-or-white terms were too afraid not to go along with the others.
So they'd do things like ... privately tell you they knew the things they were saying weren't true and that it wasn't right to treat the people on "bad" list this way, but they didn't want to fight with "the mouths" - so when with the rest of the family, they'd go right along with it - sometimes even blaming you for stuff that they, themselves did..
Sort of like in junior high, and you're that weird nerd kid that some of the popular kids are friends with privately, but in public, they go along with the bullying and say nothing - even help bully you themselves - never admitting you're secretly friends and that they actually really like you :/
Additionally my family has to have a victim in every disagreement.
It can't just be viewing a situation from different perspectives or two people disagreeing - somebody must be the completely innocent victim of an "evil" somebody else.
So - how do you get on the "good" list?
By allowing the loudest "splitting" family members in charge of "the lists" to do and say whatever they want, and by all means, never telling them "No, I cannot do that" or "No, that is not okay," and sometimes just "No, I don't agree with you."
Also by using Christianity and your addiction to - erm, I mean "love of Jesus" - as an automatic "get out of jail free" card to avoid any accountability for anything - you couldn't possibly have done any wrong when you love Jesus that much, right? ;)
How do you get on the "bad" list?
Now, of course, they would give you a laundry list of supposedly "bad" things they say you did - which they usually made up completely, twisted entirely to make you sound evil, or at the very least, they failed to mention their contribution to the equation - telling only a version of the story which stars them, as the innocent victim ;)
HOWEVER - the REAL reason is - standing up to them instead of playing along/kissing ass, and telling them "No, I cannot do that" or "No, that is not okay" or "No, I disagree with you."
Also this could happen by challenging their idea that maybe God isn't who they say he is ;)
Guess which list I was put on? ;)
Enter me, who despite growing up in a family of "splitters," somehow, by the grace of God realized very early on that people are a mix of sinner and saint, good and bad - that people don't fit neatly into one box or the other - and we love them anyway as ourselves, because we also don't all fit neatly into either "good" or "bad" boxes :)
Thus, I couldn't understand why certain people - certain wonderful people, like my kind-hearted, loving, step-cousin, Ann - was put on the "bad" list - who later became a drug addict - and yet still had a compassionate heart of gold.
Fast-forward to age 16, during a family therapy session, three years after my parents' divorce - which, mind you, was being inappropriately and unethically facilitated by my mother's childhood friend from Lexington, in training to become a therapist at the University of Cincinnati - I got tired of my mom doing all the talking, every story starring her and my Dad, when this was supposed to be family therapy, without ever once revealing her own penchant for physically, verbally, emotionally, and religiously abusing her children - especially me, as the family scapegoat.
I got tired of protecting her by helping her hide that dirty little secret for her, so we could focus on my dad's abuse of her - so I finally lost it.
And when I blew and spilled her dirty little secret, I blew big, right out in front of God and everybody, tired of keeping secrets for her.
My sisters gasped.
The family therapist (again, my mom's childhood friend) gasped.
Her supervisor, behind the two-way mirror came out and gasped.
Then her superior shamed me for being disrespectful, rebellious. and borderline verbally abusive (okay, that part was true) - then slapped a diagnosis on me that day.
There was no consideration at all that I had sat there very quietly and well-behaved, validating every word of my mother's stories, until that moment.
There was no consideration that I was a 16-year-old, essentially still a child.
There was no asking me where that came from, nor what I meant by my mother's abuse of her children.
There were no discernible trained-therapist "de-escalation management" techniques, which should go something like "Okay, this isn't going to work, for your family, or for me - please sit down, use your inside voice without swearing, and rethink your approach - how can you express these same perceptions, thoughts and feelings in a way that's not insulting, doesn't put them on the defensive, and that they can hear you better, that encourages actual discussion, and that's more respectful? Can you describe what you mean by your mother is also abusive while still being respectful?
None of that - just shaming, immediate disbelief, immediate diagnosis.
A diagnosis which I've since been quadruple-checked for and do not have, just PTSD - and actually my lack of "splitting," like the rest of my family, should have been a dead giveaway, to any good, non-biased therapist that I did NOT have that disorder.
That is because "splitting" - or black-or-white thinking - is essential or "core" criteria for being diagnosed with any cluster-B personality disorder - splitting MUST be present.Then again, we are talking about my mother's childhood friend conducting the session, which was unethical and never should've been allowed, due to potential personal/subjective bias.
But the problem here was that I refused to "split" like the rest of my family - especially unusual as a teenager, a stage of child development when "splitting" would've been normal - so the most psychologically remarkable thing about this incident actually was that I didn't "split" - which even any mediocre, non-biased, mentally healthy therapist should've caught.
Unfortunately, I later began seeing my mother's childhood friend, or her supervisor, on an individual basis - because those were the only two therapists my mother would allow me to so see without her present, saying I would "manipulate" anyone else to believe me about her abuse.
I continued to see her family friend as my private therapist when I moved to Lexington - who told my mother everything I said - at the local clinic here in Lexington until she went into private practice, years later.
It wasn't until another therapist at that same clinic, after she left, went back and traced the origin of that diagnosis given (because she wasn't seeing any elements of the disorder after a year of therapy) and discovered the unethical /biased origin situation, and took the diagnosis off me - apologizing profusely for that happening and being allowed at that clinic.
But by that time, in my late-20s, I believed them - more on that below :(
So essentially, at age 16 - despite a horrible approach - I was the first family member to break the only real "curse" that exists in this family - which is the "splitting" curse and placing people on those damn good or bad lists lol.
However, don't imagine that I received any flowers for it, especially with THAT approach lol.
In fact, it put me in a very awkward position with my family, both my mom's side and my dad's.
This, of course, sealed my fate on the "bad" list for life, as well as for becoming the family scapegoat :(
Even though others have since tried to tell her the same, I was the first on her side of the family to ever do so - so she wrongfully equates that with "siding" with my dad and being like him, because her brain can only process two sides in either/or - there are only two sides, not middle ground, and you must pick a side, in every single situation.
She completely missed the point - which is that I can empathize and don't have to take a side on every single issue - and that they BOTH needed to start taking responsibility for their own actions without always blaming the other one - and I told my dad the exact same thing.
*That of course did NOT mean she deserved to be physically abused by my father - it means that she learned some of his tricks and engaged in her own physical and emotional abuse on her own children, in effort to completely control them, including what they thought, after he left - particularly me, the family scapegoat - for which she needed to take responsibility without blaming Dad.
*Also, "loving the whole person" does NOT mean you should ever enable someone in harmful behavior, nor does it mean you continue to allow actual physical or verbal abuse of yourself - it means you set boundaries to keep yourself safe from it, but not to stop loving them - even if from afar sometimes ;)
Regardless, we're all human - which means we don't fit into neat little "good" and "bad" or "sinner" or "saint" boxes - we're all both and we all fall short of the glory of God, and it is only his grace that redeems, not our works.
Now - enter my Aunt 'Lizbeth and this new revelation, which although exciting, I imagine also hit a couple of members of my family like a bombshell, who had canonized Aunt E into sainthood ;)
Last night, our mutual family friend texted me and told me she gave the picture of the letter to my mom and that my mom thanked me. She also told me that my mom received her own letter yesterday.
I then told her about the "lamp" incident, forgetting she's not open to things like that.
First of all, I hate text as a general form of communication, things get misinterpreted easily.
So not meaning anything by it - just out of concern for my spiritual safety - she said:
M: "Scripture tells us not to communicate with the dead."
Me: "Oh, no, I didn't "conjure" like witchcraft, M - I prayed to God that Aunt E could hear me first" - (100% true, I did ask God first.)
"You know, I read somewhere recently that 95% of people, from every culture, "talk" to their loved ones after they pass, it's part of the grief process - whether they truly expect them to hear them or not - for closure - to say goodbye, ask why, or say their sorry. "
"And the bible says not to 'conjure' using 'witchcraft' - it does NOT say 'don't communicate all with the dead" - there is no scripture disallowing you from saying "Goodbye" or "I'm sorry" or even asking "why" to loved ones" after they pass - it's a natural part of the grief process and some would even say it's necessary for closure.
"In fact, the bible is pretty silent on the afterlife and the idea of "ghosts" - and there is no instruction to say you can't ask God to send them a message for you."
"And IMO, if heaven is a place where all your dreams come true, then my ideal heaven would be a place where I could come and check in on loved ones, now and then, be with them during tough times for comfort. "
"In fact, what kind of heaven is THAT if we're disallowed from checking in on loved ones?"
"And sometimes, I think they just "show up" without even asking, when something's coming - because I KNOW my grandmother was with me during some tough times."
She texted back that she believes God can relay messages as well as the saints are among us.
So all was well, but without meaning to, this statement flipped me back into one of the reasons I got on the bad list from my mother, starting at age 5.
As part of her mental illness, my mom came downstairs after praying, while I was playing Candyland with my older sister and our friends - and informed us all that "God just told her I was a witch and had a demon in me that she must remove" - and then proceeded to repeatedly bash my head into concrete, until it bled.
I was age 5, mind you.
My older sister said this never happened - so for a long time, I believed I imagined it - until a childhood friend confirmed it.
In fact, it was one of the first things she brought up when we reconnected when I was still on FB in 2016, because she and her older sister were there when it happened - and again, she brought it up - she said both my parents scared the living shit out of her lol
I cried for like, two days over this - because it DID happen, I didn't "imagine" it like my mom and sister said!
(Ah, they learned gaslighting well from my Dad.)
In fact, that time, though my dad was worse with physical abuse, he was the one that stepped in and pulled her off of me because, as S said, she would've killed me.
When more lucid, she forgot she said that and denied that ever happened - but she'd revisit it if we disagreed on something.
And though my family and other people know that's ridiculous, I guess the power of suggestion still makes people wonder what I must've done that that was so bad/was wrong with me at age 5 that she would say that.
Believe me - I've spent my entire life and years of therapy trying to figure that out.
In fact, before this person met me, she was told that about me and initially believed her - and now laughs when my mother says that, doesn't engage in the conversation.
However, growing up, the biggest problem was - I began to believe her - plus, again, she manipulated childhood-friend therapist (the only one I was allowed to see) and a whole army of charismatic church members who believed she was a prophetess of God saying so, so I was "prayer blasted" more times then you can count.
Of course I didn't engage in witchcraft - even though IMO, the charismatic version of "prophecy" and prayer against/power-over others' free and witchcraft incantations are exactly the same thing, to me, just using different labels.
But I was what you might call "spiritually sensitive" - which also meant that I called BS with my mom in some of her "God said/I'm a prophet" moments - which of course went over like an anvil.
Thus, for a long time, I believed the label myself - that I was on the "bad" list and there was nothing good enough I could do to get off of it, no matter what I did, that I was a demon, that I was irredeemable.
So I then started to feel overly defensive, though I know my friend didn't mean anything - it's just that triggered me, it took me back, without meaning to.
In fact, I later ended up to doing some "grounding" exercises learned in therapy, reminding myself of where my life is now and that I don't live there, in that, anymore - and my wonderful husband helped by saying:
Mark: "Okay, enough, stop this now, snap out of it - no good can come from this. You don't live there anymore and have to play by their rules and listen to them, remember?
"You are NOT a witch or demon-possessed - God didn't tell your mom shit - your mom is mentally ill and had too many enablers!"
"You're a spiritually sensitive, compassionate, loving, kind person - TOO kind for too long, in my opinion, with abusive people who made you the family scapegoat, following along with your mom's "diagnosis" - who flipped it back on you if you ever stood up for yourself. THEIR loss is MY gain :)"
"Like you said, M didn't mean it that way, she's just concerned for you and I bet she has no idea it accidentally flipped that old switch unintentionally, and she'd feel terrible if she knew she were taking it on yourself in this way - and I KNOW Jesus doesn't see you that way."
"Regardless, you don't need to self-examine and scour yourself for hours about whether or not you're a witch or a demon anymore - just finally throw that tape playing in the trash, it has no merit whatsoever."
"Come on, you finally got away from them, you don't live that life with them anymore and are much better for it - and you don't ever have to go back - you're here with me, who truly sees you and loves you, and our dog and horse - and we're going to North Carolina on vacation soon."
"Come on, think about where you are now - think about sitting out on that deck with Brookie and me, looking at the mountains again, how close you felt to God, right?"
God bless my husband, I love him so much :)
And he's right - I'm 100% sure M would feel badly if she knew it hit a trigger, so I won't tell her - and she doesn't read here or spend much time on the internet at all.
I love M very much and though we don't always agree on faith and politics, we have a very close, very special friendship and she would never, ever intentionally trigger me :)
M didn't know my Aunt Elizabeth, she died before M and my mom became friends, so she was dependent on Mom to tell her.
The thing is, I wasn't sure how to tell her this, but Aunt E wasn't exactly the things mom was saying about her, in my opinion.
M: "Your mom said she loved Jesus."
Me: "That's true, but not so much organized religion ... as you know, Mom sees what she wants to about people, right?"
In fact, there are a couple of things about my Aunt 'Lizbeth my grandmother told me that the rest of the family doesn't know. My grandmother said she tried to tell my mom, but Mom wouldn't listen, preferring to canonize her into sainthood.
We knew these things and loved Aunt 'Lizbeth anyway - because that's truly loving someone.
Well, my grandmother did NOT tell me she actually had a child she gave up for adoption, but a couple of other things - including her addiction to phenobarbitol, which she obtained during the war, which she started using to help her cope with malaria.
In fact, my grandmother and great-grandmother had to put her in a "kick house" to get clean, which she did - but this is the reason she could never be a nurse again.
Thus, I wrote the following letter to my family, asking my friend to pass it along if she wouldn't mind. She hasn't replied yet:
In case he print is too small to read here, here's what it says ...
Aunt Elizabeth was a highly intelligent, compassionate WW2 Army nurse - AND she had a child out of wedlock with a married man and a one-time drug addict, which prevented her from ever being a nurse again - the latter two issues plaguing her with guilt for the rest of her life.
This doesn't make her a bad person - it makes her a human who went through horrors of war we can't even imagine and coped with it in the only way she knew how. Yes, she made mistakes in life just the rest of us, just different ones.
Yes, Aunt "Lizbeth "loved Jesus" - but she was also a heavy smoker that later didn't attend church regularly - and can you blame her, after the harsh judgment and shame she received instead of extending grace and mercy to her?
With this in mind, as you meet her daughter, please don't just see what you want to see - try to see the whole her and love her anyway.
Please allow her to see things differently - to be a Christian in her own way or maybe not even a Christian at all. Maybe allow her to have made mistakes or not in her life, just like you. Maybe you won't agree on everything and that's okay - perhaps agree to disagree, and realize there doesn't always have to be a victim.Most importantly, as exciting as this news is, remember, this really isn't about us - it's about this poor woman who didn't even know she was adopted until nearly 80 years old, in poor health, wanting more information about her biological family.