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If I can tell you one thing: people do not change. You can put years into a false hope only to be met with harsh reality. You can’t make people become what you need them to be. It just bites even harder when it’s the people you love.
Church Before Family
My family was never normal, but then again, whose is? I only know my family and my truth, which resulted in my silent departure after 24 years.
I was in a toxic home with people who did everything in their power to protect the reputation of a man of God who didn’t seem to take any of his own sermons to heart. For years, I watched my father stand in front of churches, speaking to thousands of people throughout my life, telling them how to live for God and family. I sat there knowing that the man was the biggest hypocrite with fantastic public speaking skills.
I was raised by a man who would repeat the same line whenever I did anything to make him look bad. “If I can’t keep a house in order, how should I keep order in the church?” I was raised by a man who put his church before his family and especially before his youngest daughter. Having a pastor for a father is a life that only pastors' children would understand, and it's even worse when you don't even believe in what your father worked his whole life for.
I told my father I stopped believing in God when I was 19, and my family was broken after that. I was considered to be different when I was finally honest about how I felt. My parents would’ve been alright with me keeping a mask on well into my college years, but I never liked sitting at the front row acting like we were a happy family. I expressed how different I felt to a degree that my family considered the words "scapegoat" and "black sheep" to be banned terms in the house. I couldn’t express any of my truths without being silenced.
In this last year alone, I brought up suicidal thoughts to my mother. Instead of trying to communicate with her depressed child, she went on to yell and lecture to me about how I should use other words when talking about those kinds of things and that I was selfish for even speaking on ending my life. I couldn’t be straight forward and I couldn’t ever speak the truth freely.
They were so heartbroken by my lack of faith that they spoke to me less and said harsher things like:
“At least I’ll have one daughter in Heaven with me.”
All I ever saw in the churches I was forced into were endless lies and people pretending to care about each other's lives. Once the doors of our house were locked, then real opinions and mindsets were set free.
I couldn’t live a lie, and admitting that lie led me down a path I didn’t know I was walking down.
As a result of discovering that only one of their daughters was faithful, my parents started treating us in different ways that got more obvious over time. As a way to express their disappointment, my parents began to see my sister as the star child. The one who can redeem them.
They expressed their devotion to her by literally handing her a huge SUV, years of college paid in full, never having her go get a job just so she could just rely on their money. Those same things she was given, I had to work for just to even get half. My parents stopped being supportive of me, especially with endeavors involving college. My mother made it clear that I was not to go to college until my sister was finished, and she had a good four or five years left. They said if I went out of the city for college, they would refuse to assist me, but I stayed in town and never received assistance. My parents wouldn't even go to tour a college with me. My therapist was the one who drove me out of the city to tour a college with me.
My sister got away with things like theft. She was trusted to keep all of my mother's credit cards in her wallet, and she put my family in serious debt and lied about it for years. She would go on shopping sprees to get whatever she wanted, then come show them to me and brag. In one incident, she was caught 'cause she was bragging to me and I happened to discuss it out loud and she was caught stealing from our parent's credit cards. To this day, they let her keep them in her wallet.
She was permitted to treat me poorly, especially by my mother. I would hear my mother and sister secretly speak on me in such negative ways, just to act like no conversations were had about me. My mother let her speak to me in any manner and also say what she wanted. My mother would never check her or guide her to speak differently. My sister was always cold and selfish, and my parents let her be that way by giving her a comfortable life that she would be too scared to leave, all because the youngest daughter left and did things without any help of parents.
My parents both denied showing favoritism towards us, even to the point where my mother would storm out of the room at the mention of it. She always stormed out so she didn’t have to confront anything real. The truth is, my family was okay with giving one kid everything at no cost, and the other kid had to constantly work just to give herself a fraction of comfort.
I was working full time, was a full-time student, and I had healthy relationships, but still, the kid who lives in the basement and bums off credit cards is the star of the family. She was never kicked out during fights like I was, and she never had to worry about even having one night of peace. Her life was surrounded by the peace of mind that she was taken care of.
The favoritism went to a place that no one saw coming. After years of babying one daughter and neglecting the other, things got more physical.
My sister never dealt with our parents putting their hands on her, and you could guess, I have. My mother would scream in my face, threaten me, and shove me into furniture and countertops, challenging me to do something back. I never touched her, and a part of me wonders if I should’ve. Should I have called the cops? I was in my twenties at the time, and I was well within my rights to file a report, but why I let my mother get away with it is beyond me.
My mother was resulting in fake apologies and non-existent tears to say how she didn’t want to be this person, and how she didn’t want to be like her mother before her. But she was, and she just wouldn’t face that. She would turn around and keep doing it to me and only me. My father stood by her while she threatened me and put her hands on me and he did nothing to stop her or defend me. I never felt more alone than in that moment.
Both of my parents created a home where one child has one dynamic that is dependent and non-evolving. The other child had a dynamic where no adult handed her anything, and she had to figure out on her own that she needed to make her own money just to even get herself new jeans or shoes, while my sister never had to worry about an overall total. If it was expensive, somehow it would be worth it if she didn't have to pay it.
My sister was older but acted a lot younger. She never had a job, never had a bill to pay, and never had to juggle school and work. She never had to stay up past a late, grueling shift just so she could finish homework to keep up a grade point average. Her life has always been easy, and I never wanted my life to be easy. My parents couldn’t handle the fact that I didn’t need them, but didn’t understand that they were the ones who set it up to be that way.
I knew that if I stayed, if I kept having hope that they were good people, if I kept letting them put me in a position where I have to keep proving myself for nothing, I was going to become a person I didn’t want to be. I was going to be a drunk. I was going to slash my wrists open again. I was going to grow in hate. I was going to become a woman that I couldn’t stand. I knew that the moment my mom put her hands on me the third time in a few months. I told myself that if she touched me again, I would be finished.
One morning, I sat down to discuss some dark thoughts with my mother. I told her that they made me feel like the house would be happier without me. I told her I felt like everyone would be progressing more without me to hold anyone back. I told her that I felt like nothing in that house. My mother’s response was anger, rage, and later resorted to violence. I only wanted to tell my mother what was keeping me up at night, and it resulted in her telling me how selfish I was, how I only care about myself, that I can’t say dark things revolving around suicide.
She grew angry when I only wanted to tell her my feelings. She started to yell, storm out, and then come back to tell me how inconsiderate I was. I would defend how I feel, only to result in her yelling even louder. I stood up to leave while she was yelling and she got in my face.
“You think you’re so badass? Let’s see you do something.” And then she shoved me into living room furniture. I said nothing. I didn’t get up and hit a 60-year-old woman. I was shocked and hurt, but it also told me everything I needed to know. I told her I was done and that I give up. I said that I would be out of the house within the month, and I kept my promise.
This was the hardest decision I ever had to make. I lived in a home that wasn't proud of me, even when I worked harder than anyone in the house combined. I was in a toxic environment and I knew I would be bitter and destructive if I stayed.
Since I left, I have dealt with my family mocking me, harassing me, and they even broke laws because of this. My father trespassed into my apartment to confront me and I had to have the police escort him out. I have blocked phone numbers, emails, and any social media just so they would leave me in peace.
I have been baited for months and I have never spoken a word since I left. Every message, piece of mail, notes on my door or car... none of that has led me to respond, despite how heartbroken I am.
It's funny how you have never seen your parents go out of their way to attack and hurt someone, and the first time you do... it's you.
I have spent years trying to figure out why I wasn't enough. Would my life be different if I was religious and dependent like my sister? Probably. But I wasn't going to keep living a lie. I wasn't going to worry about appearances like pastor's families do. I wasn't going to pretend to be what they wanted and hide who I really was.
Now, I have not been destructive. I haven't harmed myself; I haven't gone on a binge with rum. I have worked hard and I have a life for myself that I always wanted without abusive people to literally hold me back from it. I am proud of what I have, and I will not apologize for what I have done.
I believe the term "family" doesn't mean you have to stay. If you are mistreated, abused, or neglected, the only way out is you. No one should stick around for abusive people just to say they have a family. It was hard to let go of family values and memories, and it was the best and worst thing I have ever done.
I learned to stop settling.
I learned to put myself first.
I learned that family is what you make of it, even if they don't share your name.
I learned time will heal.
I learned that family isn't everything.
I also learned that people do not change. You only change yourself, and for that, I won.
My family bet on the wrong horse, and now it's time for me to bet on myself.