I wanna be big and let go of this grudge

Don’t you just hate it when you spend years helping someone you love escape an abusive relationship (and protect her, and care for her kids, and scoop her off the floor and dry her tears) and just when she starts to feel whole again, she reconnects with her abuser? I would hate that too…if it wasn’t me who did it.

In the fall, I dropped by my parents’ apartment one day while I was driving by. I hadn’t seen them in 3 years. I was in a deep depression, feeling very alone and really needed someone to be really happy to see me. They were.

Since then, I’ve met my mom for coffee, introduced her to my kids, and started talking to her on the phone once in a while. At first, I was able to set and maintain very clear boundaries with her. I just ignored the potentially hurtful things that she said and focused on the positives. But I feel that my boundaryis beginning to slip. I feel I am being pushed too close to her spider’s web.

The borderline witch persona inside my mother peaked her head out last week. I shouldn’t have been surprised… but it really gets me every time.

I was hurting and asked her to help me in a way that I needed, rather than the way that she wanted to be seen helping. This triggered her rejection sensors. From there, she went into survival mode and (as always) kicked me when I was down. #storyofmylife.

I desperatly want to repair my relationship with my mom. I want to help her feel less alone, less lost. But she hasn’t changed. The behaviours that pushed me away (and tore me apart) are still engrained in her. I know now that it’s not her fault, that she has a serious mental illness and that her motivation is self-protection and not directly intent to hurt, but that doesn’t make the slaps sting less.

By going back to my mom, letting her into my new life and into my head, I think that I may have hurt the people who have really been there for me throughout these impossible years. I imagine that they feel frustrated, used and see me as ungrateful. They all worked hard with love to help me escape my abuser just to have me turn around and jump back into the lion’s den.

The people who were there for me- I can count you on one hand and I don’t thank you enough. IJ, HB, SA, SJ and (of course) OA, you kept my life together while I fell apart. You all became a team with a mission to save my kids and protect me from myself. You made sure that I had a life to come back to. For that I am eternally grateful. Thank you.

I didn’t mean to choose between hurting you and trying to heal my mother. But at first, it felt so good to see her. It felt good to be kind to her. It helped me see that there were good things that I learned from her and could share with my kids (reading, academia, traditions, cooking badly). Her superficial good lured me in and I forgot why I had pushed away.

I began to feel guilty for abandoning her. I began to feel responsibility to help her heal, to teach her to be the person she thought she was. I felt a need (an urgent, pressured need) to ‘fix’ our family and bring all of my siblings back together with her. I thought that they were all just waiting for me to come around (they weren’t).

I see now that the strength and empathy that I felt towards her was actually only possible because I had cut her out of my life and my head for so long. Her absence made me forget that she is a dangerous and manipulative person to be around.

I want so badly to be a good person who can be kind to her old, sad mother. But she just won’t let me – she can’t keep the witch at bay.

As always, Alanis Morisette articulates my deep feelings:
“I want to be big and let go of this grudge that’s grown old. All this time I’ve not known how to rest this bygone. I want to be soft and resolved, clean of slate and released. I want to forgive the both of us.”

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On the futility of writing

On the futility of writing

A few words from Doris Lessing’s book The Golden Notebook.  Written in 1962. Still relevant.

‘Why can’t you understand that,’ I said, really wanting to make her understand, ‘that I can’t pick up a newspaper without what’s in it seeming so overwhelmingly terrible that nothing I could write would seem to have any point at all?’

I feel this so deeply.  I find it even hard to convince myself that there was a point in what she wrote. Here I am finding solace in her words 50+ years later.
Here is the next part of the passage:

‘Then you shouldn’t read the newspapers.’

Perhaps I can explain my ‘writer’s block’ through this other passage of Anna’s conversation with her therapist:

‘So the diary you started has remained empty?’ ‘No, I stuck in cuttings from newspapers.’ ‘What kind of cuttings?’ ‘Just things that struck me–events that seemed important.’ She gave me the quizzical look, which said: Well, I’m waiting for the definition. I said: ‘I glanced over them the other day: what I’ve got is a record of war, murder, chaos, misery.’ ‘And that seems to you the truth about the last few years?’ ‘Doesn’t it seem to you to be the truth? She looked at me-ironical. She was saying without words that our ‘experience’ has been creative and fructifying, and that I am dishonest in saying what I did.

I said: ‘Very well then; the newspaper cuttings were to keep things in proportion. I’ve spent three years, more, wrestling with my precious soul, and meanwhile…’ ‘Meanwhile what?’ ‘It’s just a matter of luck that I haven’t been tortured, murdered, starved to death, or died in a prison.’

And this is as close as I can get to writing today.

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Writing lines. 34 years.

Yesterday I wrote 1 line. One blank line.
It was all I could muster.
On my birthday, I had wanted to celebrate me. To celebrate my more than just survival this year, my growth, my success. But I guess there were none to celebrate.
Instead, I spent the day in bed, alone. Quiet. Trying to protect my loved ones from the typhoon of me. Trying not to make the mistake that would hurt them more.
34 years old. Seems young to me. This life is mine to live. But I waste it.
I am weak and stupid. I let fear block my way.
I’d like to re-join the life that I was building but I can’t find the way.
I let fear keep me inside. Alone. Quiet. Disconnected.
What am I even so afraid of?
Last month, it all seemed so clear, so possible.
Then the slide began. I could sense it coming.
Like the smell of the sea before a storm.

At least I’m looking for a lifeboat.

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Come what may

I’m scared to write. I don’t know what’s going to come out. There are so many clearer ideas in my head lately*.

I feel a bit like I’m standing at the edge of a diving board and my life is the swimming pool. I came up here because I wanted to dive in. But now that I am finally here, I am faced with how terrifying the dive might be. And I’m scared that once I set on this path, I won’t be able to unknow or unfeel this life. If I leap, I can’t turn back. Like you can’t stop a dive once it’s started.

Jumping would mean that I am really closing a door on the life I thought I would have. The life I thought I would have when I was a teenager. The life I thought I would have when I got married. The life I thought I would have a few months ago. There’s a ‘whole new world. a new fantastic point of view.’

I also started very intensive ‘integration therapy’ twice a week. It’s very intense and powerful. We are trying to find and nurture my sense of self after trauma. We are trying to strengthen neuropathways that I didn’t even know I had. And through this I am discovering my “inner wise woman” – my sense that I exist as a whole and complete person with wants and needs. (wow. I can’t believe I wrote that. I’m so not quite there yet.)

So, here I stand on the edge of the diving board, wanting to dive into my life and give it my all. But scared. Scared of the leap. Scared of leaving behind my precious coping mechanisms that have kept me ‘safe’ all these years. And most of all, scared of the pain of love. Scared of the intense pain that I would feel over love lost. Scared of the intense vulnerability that comes with all of this.

But I have to try. I have one shot and I might as well make the most of it. I know that I won’t really regret trying even if I fail. But I will regret sitting idly by while my time ticks away. (like my dad did…)

So I’ll raise my mason jar of coffee with milk and maple syrup in a toast to myself. Here here! To trying to join in this thing called life.

L’chaim. To life!

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*I stopped taking daily seroquel and replaced it with abilify in my medication cocktail. The sedation that I thought was the illness turns out to have been (obviously) the sedative that I took each day. I’m able to stay awake past 10pm and the idea of travelling to a different time zone is now a possibility again.

Mad libs of abuse

Abuse is a funny sort of thing. I mean not funny “ha ha”, but more like funny “oh”.

I met a great person in a trauma survivors group. As a youth, she was beat up by her mother. A lot. The more she cried, the harder she’d get hit. So she learned not to cry. She learned to avoid looking weak at all costs. She couldn’t hide the scars on her body. So she added her own markings to her body- tattoos, piercings. But still, she could not cry. She learned that it was okay to show her scars on her body but she would never look weak or cry.

Now me on the other hand, my mother would push until I cried and then she would leave. The fight was never over until I cried. But if I ever showed my scars/pain in public, she would attack me even harder. So I learned to make sure things always looked ‘normal’ but I knew that it was okay to cry.

Let me try to write this like a mad lib:

My mother attacked me when I ______ (acted weak/ acted strong).
When I cried she would ______ (hit harder/ back off).
So I learned to survive by acting _______ (strong/ weak).
She wanted the public to think that I was ______ (weak/ strong).
She thought that my _____ (visible scars/ emotional numbness) was evidence that I was ______ (that I was weak/ that I was strong). She was wrong.

My mother created a narrative of me and adjusted her actions to fit it.

My mother thought that scars and bruises would show that I was weak. I will show her that my scars make me strong and tough. I will own my scars – not her.

My mother thought that hiding emotional reactions would show that i was strong. I will show her that hiding emotional reactions is weak. I will own my emotional reactions – not her.

Let’s add another option to our mad lib:

My mother attacked me when I ______ (acted weak/ acted strong/ never).
When I cried she would ______ (hit harder/ back off/ hug me).
So I learned to survive by acting _______ (strong/ weak/ authentically).
She wanted the public to think that I was ______ (weak/ strong/ me).
She thought that my _____ (visible scars/ emotional numbness/ being) was evidence that I was ______ (that I was weak/ that I was strong/ loved).
She was _____ (wrong/so wrong/ kind).
My _______ (scars/ emotional numbness/ feeling of being loved) make me _______ (strong/ weak/ free).

FREE.