Reflections on Life Thus Far

My life. My story: Exploring mental health, spirituality, meditation & random thoughts I have

Denial of Reality


I know I’ve written about this subject to an extent before on my blog but I wanted to expand on it a bit. My whole life I have had an inability to rationalize and normalize abnormal behaviour. It seems the rest of my family is pretty adept at it but I am not. I grew up in an atmosphere of chaos and recognized it instinctually that my family wasn’t normal. Maybe other people have this experience too and just don’t talk about it. But the people in my family seem rather good at ignoring abnormal/unhealthy behaviour writing it off as no big deal essentially. I just don’t understand how they do this. How do you see someone in a state where they are not functioning well yet nobody will admit to it.

My mother had Alzheimer’s disease and died but for many years she functioned poorly yet my family ignored it. They

Healthy brain (bottom) versus brain of a donor...

Healthy brain (bottom) versus brain of a donor with Alzheimer’s disease. Notable is the “shrink” that has occurred in Alzheimer’s disease; the brain was decreased in size. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

only admitted there was a problem after mom was to the point she couldn’t find her way home if she walked further than the end of the street. Only when she had lost significant portions of her grey matter did they accept mom was ill. WTF?! She was ill for a long time before then yet they chose to put their heads in the sand and pretend it wasn’t there.

Okay, you can say it’s normal for people to be in denial about a family member’s illness if they are an enabler or used to it. But I’m talking about family that were not around often and had fresh perspective yet still chose to ignore the obvious. Or was it only obvious to me? It would seem you need to be knocked over the head with a hammer in my family before you admit to problems existing. My sister and I both saw how ill mom was but we didn’t have any power so it was of little consequence our recognizing anything amiss.

Is it just a natural way to cope denying there are problems in your life? Or is this just something dysfunctional families do? My family is most definitely dysfunctional. What is your experience?

©Natalya, 2013.


Author: Natalya

Blogging my thoughts and feelings about mostly mental health, meditation and spirituality(non religious). Hoping to connect with other interesting people in the blogosphere. *The name is Russian and is my pseudonym.

11 thoughts on “Denial of Reality

  1. I know something about dysfunctional families and you have my sympathy. It seems to me the word ‘ignorant’ is not about just being unintelligent or whatever, it’s about consciously ‘ignoring’. They’re rejecting the thing rather than trying to understand it – it’s easier for them that way (they think).

    • Thanks tiramit and you have my sympathies too for coming from a dysfunctional family.

      Yes, I think you’re right about the ignoring and believing it to be easier than trying to understand the issue.

  2. Dysfunctional – you know until I read this I hadn’t really put my brother’s behaviour into this category (just called him an ignoramus and a wuss – in my head) but this is it, totally. He couldn’t or wouldn’t acknowledge that Mum was ill, (she had emphysema and chronic asthma, but that was the easy part), then Dad got Myeloid Leukemia and he wouldn’t accept that. In fact all three of my brothers went into denial right up to the point where they had to go into hospital for the last time and they couldn’t ignore it.
    The strange part was that afterwards, they painted themselves as great humanitarians, always being there, visiting (read going for a free dinner each week) and I thought I was the one who was crazy!
    I came to the conclusion it was just an inability to deal with something they found difficult. Unfortunately I see it in so many places these days that I wonder if normal truly exists, but that’s just my cynicism at work. Perhaps being the eldest I have more of the “black and white” attitude that many Yorkshire people have.
    I’m glad your sister was able to see and understand also… people whether in families or not tend to be a funny bunch, don’t they?
    Susan x

  3. Interesting indeed, Natalya. I’m always happy to meet someone ELSE from a dysfunctional family!
    Denial is damaging.

  4. I think it’s definitely a coping mechanism and the more you do it, the easier it becomes to just act as though some bizarre behavior is normal. Working at a psych hospital, I see this a lot. People have to recalibrate their idea of “normal” so that they don’t have to confront the harsh reality of life being difficult or disappointing or in need of intervention.

    I imagine it was rather lonely to be the only person in your family who recognized that their was a problem :-/ Just know that your thoughts and observations were perfectly valid… Watching a family member suffer from Alzheimer’s is very difficult and I’m sorry you had to deal with this without support from the people in your life.

    • Thank you, Aussa! You have helped me with your explanation regarding denial and bizarre behaviour. I hadn’t considered that about recalibrating one’s idea of normal to fit your reality. That makes sense. I always struggled to comprehend how my family could deny such blatant dysfunction.

      It’s still lonely being the only one to recognize the abnormality. I don’t really have many family members I can keep a relationship with.

      • It’s definitely a type of “loss” to realize that our family is not meeting those family-type needs/living up to the definition of what they’re supposed to be. Hopefully you have other people in your life whom you can trust and be vulnerable with and who understand you? I know that this has often been my own saving grace.

      • You’re right there! I feel like I’ve been grieving for most of my adult life. I’m 31 but I felt at 18 there wasn’t much hope for me having a relationship with my family. We have a relationship but it’s a pretty crappy one! Mostly, I just confide in my counsellor as I don’t have many friends (offline real world friends). Getting healthy has meant the few friends I hung out with are no longer around.

Your Considerate Comments Are Always Welcome....

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s