Finding out I had brain cancer and deciding to move across the country for a better chance at life had a huge impact on my family. We’re here, I’m alive, and I’m about as healthy as someone my age with brain cancer can be, but with that came with a lot of consequences.
Today I’m sharing one of the consequences of my decision, not from the ‘whether or not I should’ve done it’ perspective, that was addressed in my “Guilty…” blog. Instead, I offer it as an insight for others to consider how they see and treat other people, and as a reminder to myself in that department.
Here it goes: My youngest daughter, then eleven, didn’t want to move and leave her friends, the area, the seasonal weather, and didn’t want to start over. I knew this, but thought we could deal with it. We moved across the country and found out we couldn’t.
When we arrived, she flat out shut down and shut out. She had mixed feelings for me because she loves me and wanted me to have my best chance at life, but was legitimately angry because she felt that it took most of hers away. I had no idea at that time it was so extreme for her, and if I did, I have no idea what I would have done. But I did what I did, am healthy, but problems came with it and it wasn’t “happily ever after” for us.
My daughter was angry and certainly let it show. Everything she did, said, wore, expressed, looked at, et cetera was a giant, loud “Fuck You!” at her new middle school and often at home. She was angry that her life had been turned upside down, but then mad at herself that she was mad at me. It was a very hard time. She’s truly an old soul in so many ways, as well as pretty independent, so let’s just say that she was very clear and got what she wanted. No one she met felt comfortable or good around her and she was alone.
This went on for a long time. Isolating herself at school and only talking to others when necessary, staying in her room at home, and having a hard time taking on new activities were some of the results of her pain and anger. We got her counseling and she went for a while, then refused to go. We were afraid if we forced her, she would permanently fear counseling and not re-consider it in the future, so we gave her a slightly conditional out. She needed to spend more of her time outside of her room, outside of the house, and doing other things.
At first it was just my husband or me taking her somewhere directly and then right home. It was what she could handle but we saw she was perking up slightly. We slowly kept nudging for more and it worked. Over time she became more involved with others at school, and eventually made friends and started doing things outside of school. Her relationships became deeper and she braved leaving the tight confines of school-based interactions for personal friendships based on the broader scope of her personality, life, and interests. That took a lot of vulnerability and really paid off.
Unfortunately, she also started to see some consequences for her actions. People had formed assessments, made decisions, and taken actions that continue to hold their place even though she was clearly changing. Some people still saw her as her old self, the angry “fuck you” person they met.
Now, about three years after the move things still aren’t where I’d like them to be, but they’re consistently moving in the right direction. She is beginning to have friends over to our house, go places with friends, get invited to parties, all the things I never even imagined would disappear. But she is still in a very different place than she was before our move. She has more people and groups that interest her, but she already left her mark with them. She is insecure now but pushes herself to be brave and try.
Most of this blog has been about my daughter so far, because it provides a perspective to consider for my overall point. Sometimes people are so hurt that they shut others out or act in a defensive manner. If they happen to feel better in the future, it took a lot of work and vulnerability to get there. If you notice this in someone, and you, yourself are in a good enough place, please be kind.
I’m not asking you to take abuse or suggesting you push forward when someone gives you a hard no. I’m not saying that it’s invalid to not want to be around people who don’t want to be around you. I’m talking about acknowledging that some people have been through very difficult times and noticing when they want to try again for a positive interaction or healthy relationship. I’m asking, not just writing a question, but actively asking that you consider giving someone a second chance when they’re trying to climb out of their dark place and turn to you. Sometimes really bad things bring on a lot of hard work and lead to really good things. I’m happy that my daughter tried again and made some new wonderful friends. I’m also really happy for her friends, that they took an opportunity to be friends with her, a very, very special girl whose love runs deep.