see me

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“There are things still left to say
I’ve got phrases, I’ve got phrases
There are things still left to say
I’ve got phrases, I’ve got phrases
You’re afraid
What are you afraid of?
Anyway
Should I explain myself?
I’d rather read the dictionary
Why does everybody else
Feel closer to me than
I can feel to them
Though my reticence was necessary
Do you really know me well
Do you think that we are friends?
Are we friends?” ~ Mal Blum, Things Still Left to Say
“I fall down but I get up. I’ve been here so long, feels like nothing anymore. I’ll think of you. Don’t brush me off. Both got bruises on our knees. Don’t waste your worries–not on me. I don’t belong, though it helps to play along…Why can’t they see me when I’m right here.” ~ Mal Blum, See Me
(This post heavily influenced by Mal Blum’s Pity Boy EP that you should definitely go listen to. Right now.)
My birthday was last Friday and it felt rather anti-climatic. My wife had knee surgery and I worked all day. I am 28 and I feel…unbothered by others’ opinions of me. And believe me, my biological family always has A LOT of opinions of me on my birthday. So, I’m thinking about codependency quite a bit, toxic familial behaviors, and what it means to be seen.
Codependency is one hell of a drug and it’s a drug fundamentalists hand out like candy. By the time we grow into adults, we don’t know how to detox. One thing I’ve learned through lots of therapy and lived experience is “If it feels like a trap, it most definitely is.” My parents expected me to “need” them and rely on them forever and now that I became my own person and created my own family, they don’t know what to do with their manipulation and control.
Learning how to take care of myself has been one of the hardest things. Mostly because it was never something I was supposed to do outside of someone else’s control. I used to think it would destroy me not to have my parents in my life. And yet, they always made me feel their needs were more important than mine.
My wife tells me frequently: “In this family, you always have a voice. This isn’t a dictatorship.” I hope one day I will fully believe her.
It is telling that I used to have nightmares where I would be speaking but no one in my family could hear or see me. By the end of the dream, I would wake myself up screaming. Then I realized the most terrifying thing about that was that it was true. My voice was never heard and I wasn’t truly seen.
Codependency rooted in trauma is also exhausting–both in processing and recovering from. Its effects seem lifelong, and for so long it was a matter of survival. My brain and body are still in survival mode. And god, I am so tired of just surviving. Of simply existing. Existing at some point felt like a burden because I was constantly being reminded of my place in the world and it didn’t involve being myself.
So, in this, my twenty-eighth year of life, we’re kicking codependency’s ass and saying what we want and need. Easier said than done. But I am ready to be seen. And heard.
Part of writing is the being heard part. I keep writing myself into existence and figuring out who I am. The weight of existing shifts a little. I have to wonder if my story matters. If anyone is even listening. If the story of my wife and I will be told to others or does it die with us? Does this family story get to be told? Do queer folx get to do more than survive? The emotional labor we have to keep putting out is exhausting.
So here’s to not seeking approval from anyone. Here’s to being seen and heard. Here’s to living (and not simply surviving). Here’s to us. Because our stories matter and we have the right to tell them.