Walking Away From Family…
Have you ever had to say goodbye to most of your family—the family who raised you, the family you loved? It was not easy, but it was necessary for my own mental health. Recently, the day came when I realized that my family was making me ill and sad.
I have six golden rules by which I live life. One of them is, “Cut ’em loose if they make you unhappy”. I find that rule useful in both my professional and my personal lives.
With family, things are complex and different; there are no sharp scissors. However, there is guilt. The Ten Commandments bid, “Honor thy Mother and thy Father.” My father is deceased; he was a good man, and I was his little angel (I miss him).
Having been raised Catholic; I was oozing guilt, passivity, and lack of autonomy. I dare say that Catholicism, inadvertently, espouses domestic violence based on the tenet “turn the other cheek”.
What if domestically abused religious women took the tenet literally? It does make one wonder about the role religion plays in domestic violence and other forms of abuse where the victims stay with their abusers.
I believe that religion laid the foundation for me to tolerate the psychological abuse of my mother and other family members who feared her and are now deceased. I should add that my mother grew up in a poor and abusive environment in Jamaica. Her mother died of TB, and was raised by her mother’s sister (my grandaunt) who also did not complete high school.
Together, they ruled with iron fists. Any object they could carry would be thrown at you in anger. The scar on my left thigh is a constant reminder of those days.
Religion is a complex, adaptive process that fills many important roles in human life—hope, resilience, connection, guilt, passivity, suffering and violence. Religion is tightly woven into many cultures and can determine cultural values, beliefs, and even, identity. Religious fervour can become a secondary symptom of severe depression, alongside psychosis, severe anxiety, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder. However, religious fervour can also be the primary cause of psychopathology independent of other mental illnesses.
In Jamaica, as a little girl my first revelatory moment was my recognition of the importance of religion to hope and life. The Catholic religion is part of my social fabric; destroying it, destroys me. However, I learned that to remove that part of my life could become a positive action. Every Easter we are given the opportunity to die with Christ and be re-born. In other words, we let die old, destructive ways, and give birth to new positive ways of living.
Walking away from my family released the last shackles of Catholic guilt and unleashed a new voice of reason…