I have never felt like a part of my family.
I lived in Colombia for 10 years with my amazing family of cousins and uncles and aunties, a very loving grandma, and a great number of family friends.
I had no knowledge of my family that lived in London, or that I even had family that lived in London, until the day that I moved. I was 10 years old, and I was in the company of strangers… My grandma, my aunty, my two cousins, and my uncle. This was my family now.
10-13 years old:
In the first years, I became close to both of my cousins, one was a year younger than me and one was five years older. For some reason, my grandma treated them a lot more different than she treated me. She played with them, bought them presents, talked to them, got to know them, all that loving grandma stuff! My grandma tried some of those things with me, but I could tell it was a chore. Any present wasn’t personalised, she didn’t joke around with me, and I knew that she knew nothing about me. She would use me to make my slightly “chubby” cousin feel better, making fun of my weight – at this point I was very underweight.
13-17 years old:
In the middle years, I became quieter, I didn’t speak to even my cousins. Our friendship had faded because that’s when I started to develop “the anxiety” which, in all honesty, had been there since the start. I physically couldn’t bring my words out, and especially not in my new language, I was very self-conscious of them criticising my English. So I stayed quiet. At this point, I was so alone and I had no one to talk to that “the anxiety” became more serious, and it was not just anxiety anymore.
17-20 years old:
Fast forward a few years: I am now in my late teens. The dreaded late teens where you don’t feel like a part of anything. Not feeling like a part of your family is one of the worst feelings you could have on top of that. I was completely alone. My parents were out working hard so I barely saw them, I still couldn’t speak English to my cousins, and the rest of them? They were still strangers who I barely knew and barely knew me.
When I turned 17 I finally found a friend. A best friend who was also my boyfriend. I was so excited to meet his family and finally feel like a part of a family. That didn’t happen. However, it is not something that I was too upset over. This was the moment that I turned my thinking around and I decided to stop thinking about the terrible relationship I had with every single member of my family. Instead, I looked at what I could do better.
It wasn’t until I was 19 (2 years ago) that I could finally speak to my cousins in English. I remember the exact date and time that I did it because of how physically painful it was to get the words out. But I had to do it. I thought to myself, what’s the worse that could happen? I just pushed the words out despite the physical and mental pain it brought me.
I am 21 years old
About 2 weeks ago I sat down with my cousins and just talked about our day. (in English) We laughed and shared everyday things. Like a “normal” family.
About 1 week ago I went shopping with my grandma for some shoes she wanted to send to someone in Colombia. We went to sit down in Nandos and ate together, just the two of us. She then bought me some socks from Primark. It was scary to me, but she asked me about my life, and she is now the only family member to know anything about me running a blog. She also hugged me and called me “mija”.
I see my parents more or less every day now, I feel less alone, and they have finally found stability.
As to the rest of my family, I now speak to them too, and I am not afraid anymore. I share things with them that I could have never imaged, like how my day was. Even the simplest things I couldn’t do before.
For a lot of us, especially dealing with mental health, feeling like a part of your family is hard. Feeling accepted in your family is hard. Sharing things with your family is hard. Some days, like today, I still feel that I am not a very important member of my family. They would never notice if I wasn’t there, and I do believe that’s true. But I am here, and now I have to make the most of it.
What helped me deal with this is to realise that they have their own struggles and their own ways of being. People are allowed to make mistakes, they’re allowed to be themselves, and they’re allowed to have their own comfort zones.
I now realise that my grandma is naturally not a very affectionate woman, and she simply probably needed more time. My cousins are naturally very critical, but they are also very accepting and caring. I only learned this when I decided to open myself up more, as hard as that was.
I also learned from this that I am going to try to have the best relationship with my own future family. I want to have a big family so I can finally feel the love that I missed out on. I won’t forget the family that I have now, because after all, they are still my family. But this family, it’s going to be mine, and I’m going to be a part of it.
I know this is not an uncommon feeling, and all I can say is that if you have ever felt like you were excluded from your family: I understand you and I am sorry you felt like that.
If you ever need to talk to anyone about this I am more than happy to have a chat, my DMs are always open x
(p.s. Here’s a cute little picture of me back in Colombia. How about those 90s kids eh?)