Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Open Letter to the Chapman/Doggett Family

(Note: Corey is exempt from this letter. Corey is welcome to read, but I will always be here for him, because he has repeatedly demonstrated a kindness and selflessness that is almost supernatural. I hope that he can make his own break for freedom before you all get a chance to tear him to pieces, because I have never met a more caring, loving, and kind young man in all my life.)

When I was a little girl, I was taught to believe that family is everything. Family comes before all else, and that when a family member is in need, you should give up everything and come running.

I believed this lie from the bottom of my heart. While it is not the only lie that I believed with whole-hearted conviction, it is probably the most hurtful. To think of how many times I have bragged to friends about how my family takes care of their own, it makes me a little sick.

For those of you who have been too self-centered to notice, for the past 2-3 years, I have been engaged in a fight for my life. The core of my problems have stemmed from a recurring suicidal depression, interspersed with periods of quasi-mania. I have no doubt that a qualified psychologist would have diagnosed me as bipolar. The point is that through all of this, I have tried to stay strong and deal with things the best way I know how. I don't want to be a burden. I don't want to be another crazy Chapman. I have only rarely asked for help, and only when there was truly no way that I could find to help myself. (For that matter, I think Aunt Nell is the only one I have asked to help me, prior to recent events. She has always been kind to me, even if her son and husband have not. Most of the rest of this letter will not apply to her. If anything, Aunt Nell served the same function in the past that I have served in recent years. That is, she has been the person everyone turns to for help, but that everyone quickly forgets as soon as their own needs are met.)

Meanwhile, during this time, I have never failed to answer the phone when one of you called to talk about whatever stupid problems you were having lately. I was happy that I could provide a place for you to vent. In a way, I guess it made me feel useful in a world that increasingly seemed to find no value in my existence. I made a valiant effort never to judge, to see things from your perspective, and to always be kind and considerate of your feelings, regardless of how racist, rude, or selfish I felt you were being. I glossed over the fact that I never received a call just to ask how I was doing. I attributed this observation to paranoia or depression, and tried to disregard any hurt that may have been caused.

I have repeatedly taken the needs of the family as a whole into consideration when I made plans for my life. For my troubles, I've been yelled at, abused, manipulated, had my apartment trashed, and generally been made to feel like a stupid and worthless person for ever bothering to exist.

Maybe it doesn't seem like I've given much, but in the context of what I have to give, it's everything. How many people are there in your life that you would climb in a dumpster for, for example? Not only climb in a dumpster, but spend hours and hours picking through the most disgusting garbage for? Rotting meat, toilet tissue, used feminine hygiene products... I dealt with all of this just to make someone I loved happy, without an expectation of repayment or compensation of any kind.

Last month, for the very first time in years, I asked for real help to achieve something that I really wanted. I didn't feel that what I was asking was huge, but if someone had said 'no', I would have taken it at face value and moved on. (Hell, one of the people to whom I refer actually offered their help without me having to ask.) For the first time in my life, things seemed to be going off without a hitch. This time, it seemed that there was some truth in the statement that "family sticks together."

Unfortunately, it all fell apart. It wasn't just that I was left to fend for myself with whatever friends might be willing to take me in with little to no warning. I could have handled that, and would likely have just berated myself for handling the situation poorly. What really opened my eyes? It is the petty, selfish, manipulative, and overall mean things that have been said to me during one of the darkest times in my life. I jumped into the safety net that I had always believed to exist, only to find that it was gossamer. So I fell on my ass and it hurt. No big deal, I've survived worse. What I can't tolerate is that the people who are supposed to love me unconditionally have been extremely hateful and ugly to me while I struggled to stand up and walk again.

Maybe I would have forgotten how all of this hurt. Maybe I would have allowed myself to be convinced that I was the bad guy. That I wasn't deserving of kindness. That I was really the one being a thoughtless, terrible person for daring to be imperfect. Maybe I would even disregard the fact that only Corey seems to care where I've ended up. But out of the blue, the father that I've never known shows up. The father that never knew me, has no clue what's going on, or why I'm in trouble, emails me and offers to let me live with him and his family.

This man that I've been raised to believe was a shiftless, unreliable person has shown up in my hour of need to help me, without condition or expectation of payment. His wife, who has no reason to want me around, and a pretty significant reason to be resentful of my very existence, has hugged me and let me cry on her shoulder. They've been kinder and more understanding than anyone in my position has a right to expect.

It's a disorienting thing, really, to realize that the reason your father was never around was not because he didn't want to be, but because your crazy family repeatedly chased him off for daring to be human. I never believed it before, but actions speak louder than words. And now a lot of little puzzle pieces that never made sense before are suddenly falling into place. The Chapman/Doggetts are very good at walking the walk, but very few of you are able to talk the talk, and you've shown time and time again that while you may say you want me around, it's only when I'm cleaning your house, helping raise your children, giving you a place to stay (with no consequences if you walk away leaving piles of garbage and ant nests all over the floor and in the furniture), or generally having very few needs of my own.

I can no longer be this person that you want me to be. If you cannot be kind and considerate to me when I stumble, why should you have the benefit of my presence when I'm standing tall and able to help you?

In conclusion, I can no longer consider myself to be a Chapman/Doggett. I don't know yet if I will come to consider myself a Cantwell. Who knows? But I'm willing to try. And if that doesn't work, I'll build a family that deserves me, because frankly, you people do not.

To be clear, I don't wish any of you harm. I hope that you are deliriously, wonderfully, blissfully happy for the rest of your lives. I love you all, and you have no idea how much it hurts to realize that my unconditional love is not reciprocated. Unfortunately, I cannot live your lifestyle and stay psychologically healthy.

Good luck, and may you have a happy life.