At some point, my parents of origin decided that they were okay with only one child.
It wasn't me.
(Content note: Mental illness, toxic families, restraints, and spoilers for season three of Steven Universe.)
One of my brothers got special treatment, recognition, and praise, and sometimes got holiday gifts of the things that I'd said that I wanted. He always had a better computer, and he always got more help than I did with achieving his goals, like employment and moving out.
I think that he was as mentally ill as I was. But where my mental illness led me to do things like write heartbreaking journal entries and spend whole days laying in bed, wanting to die, his mental illness was expressed in more socially acceptable ways. Like bullying, gaslighting, and using guilt trips and physical intimidation to get his way.
In our family, being depressive and dysphoric was a dead end, but treating others as things was the road to success.
Was he actually mentally ill? I don't know. I talked with him recently, bringing up examples of things that he'd done to me and asking if he regretted any of them. It turns out that no, he doesn't. Like always, it was okay for him to treat me badly. There were things that he regretted, but they were things like "I blew up at a friend when I was mad at you for hurting my D&D character."
The one thing that suggests some kind of illness, in my mind, and not just maladaptive (adaptive?) behaviour he'd gotten away with, is the fact that he didn't remember the context for why he'd blown up at his friend. His memory just sort of elided the argument with me, in which he was childish and petty and demanded that none of his privilege over the other players be threatened.
Which, that's basically how all our RPGs went if he didn't get his way.
I think that's how all of my FOO members learned to treat me. My father of origin was prevented from going on a mission (a coming-of-age thing in Mormonism) because he masturbated, so when he found out I'd learned to he terrorized me. My mother of origin would cry in front of me, or lock me in my room and break dishes on the floor, if I didn't give her the emotional validation she was promised for having a kid. And my other brother would turn games into hours-long arguments, or even threaten me with a knife, if I was "stupid" enough to disagree with him.
I internalized the message that I was broken and worthless, and everyone used me as their emotional dumping ground. If anyone in my family felt inadequate, they could get a quick high from having me listen to and accommodate them. And if that didn't work, there was always bullying to fall back on.
In return, I got bug- and mice-infested room and board, and constant reminders that I was a disappointment who was going to be left on the street any day (now that I was an adult). I still remember my dad telling my mom "hey, did you know that [Golden Child] has a blog?" and them getting excited about the stuff he was writing, while blowing me off when I reminded them I'd been blogging for years. "Figuring out why I hurt and am different" wasn't a thing they were proud of me for writing about, I guess.
Let's stay on this miserable planet together
Some days, I feel like if I just explain everything better they'll understand. "Hey, did you realize you were treating me as an object instead of a person? I'm not sure that you were aware of this."
I don't think they know how to relate to me as a person, though. I think I can only ever be a source of emotional validation for them, whether willingly or not. And when I'm honest with myself, I don't think they were ever that good for me, either.
In short, we were bad for each other ...
... even though we tried to pretend otherwise.
I'm really grateful for the portrayal of Lapis Lazuli's toxic relationship, in Steven Universe. She still hated herself for "being a monster," months later, but also knew that she didn't have to convince her abuser of anything. Or spend her whole life trying to be what they wanted from her. Thanks to the support that she had from her friends, she could just end their relationship if she wanted, and spend time instead with people who actually valued her.
And so she did.