Okay. You probably think, ‘You’re 58 years old. Can’t you just get over it and move on?’ Get over what? How do you get over something you have never really understood? What if it’s impacting how you see yourself every single minute of every day of your life? I thought I understood why I have my set of problems but it turns out it’s really more perverse than I used to think.
I knew my father was mentally ill, an alcoholic, a wife beater, child abuser, pedophile, a felon, and more. Years in therapy taught me that. I knew I resented my mother for not protecting my 4 siblings and I. She and I have had more than our share of arguments and disagreements.
I recall at one holiday gathering where she looked at me with her most disdainful twisted face and growled, “You just have to say it don’t you?” Well yes, I do. We were all supposed to forget in that moment that the bully of a son she idolizes had pushed his first wife down a flight of stairs and she lost a baby because of it.
The truth has always mattered to me. I don’t feel the need to protect anyone else’s version of reality. To this day she maintains a fantasy about herself that I don’t share. It reminds me of the words to an old song, ” You made me this way. You otta be sorry♫” Blunt is something she forced me to be.
In our extremely dysfunctional home I had questions that were answered with words that didn’t match what I saw with my own eyes. One thing is said and another is done. It’s very confusing, especially to the overly bright child that I was. Sometime ago, I decided not to lose touch with reality like the rest of the family did. This totally makes me an outcast. But there is more.
Aside from keeping me clean and fed… Wait. That’s where it stopped. That is where the mother love ended. In fact, I’m sure I fed myself plenty of times too. I was out of my family home the week before my 16th birthday. Home was not nurturing but a dangerous place to live. I like to say it was safer playing in the middle of Telegraph. Telegraph is an 8 lane highway with a sizable median strip in the middle. Danger on both sides.
Strangely, I think my insane father probably saved me from total devastation up to a point. He was and still is blamed for everything bad in the family. Sure he did some really awful things, but he did pay attention to me. He shared his thoughts with me, he was affectionate, he showed me how to do things, and it never seemed to matter that I was a girl. I could do anything according to him. That was a gift. It was also a survival skill. It made me less dependent than the women of my mothers generation. Less like her. I did not want to be like her.
So in the middle of the chaotic mess called ‘family life’ where Dad was an unpredictable childlike alcoholic, where my severely ADHD brother was constantly adding to the circus atmosphere by being belittled and beaten by my dad, my sister was hiding in a dresser drawer or behind the couch, and my youngest brother at the time was taking bully lessons from Dad. Daddy’s boy. Oh and I was having so much anxiety my stomach hurt and I had nightmares.
Where was Mom in the middle of the chaos? She was no help at all. She did nothing to save us. But let’s get down to the finer points. Hidden behind all of that confusion was a woman who used her husband as an excuse. Then in later years my brother the heroin addict was a good excuse, and now that he’s dead it’s my youngest brother with schizophrenia. An excuse for what? An excuse for her rage. Read on. How sick do you have to be to keep such sick, angry, dangerous men at arms reach? At least as sick as Dad.
In the meantime, I think I just wanted what every kid wants and needs. Love, care, attention. You know, all those things that give you a sense of security and a sense of self. You could blame the chaos we lived in as the reason I didn’t get anything I needed from her but the truth is, she never had it to give. I know this because I have tried countless times throughout my life to engage her and it’s never worked. She does not like me. I have always walked away feeling wounded every time.
As recently as a few weeks ago I went to visit her and she again showed her rage at me. I grabbed my purse and keys and quietly walked out her door. I am done. I won’t be going back. I don’t need her anymore and she certainly never needed me.
Somehow after that day I came across a book by Peg Streep called Mean Mothers. It basically explodes the myth that all mothers are saints. If nothing else it’s given me permission to move toward learning how to like myself. What a relief it is to know I can work on putting aside all that hurt and move forward with my life. I don’t have to see myself through her distorted lens anymore.
I wondered for years what my dad’s mental health diagnosis actually was. He was diagnosed in the Army as a pathological liar and I was told by a professional that was 1950’s speak for sociopath, so that was the bigger answer. He was also an alcoholic/drug abuser which I think was secondary. I also wondered about my mother’s diagnosis because I wondered about myself. I have narcissistic traits. Dad definitely had narcissistic tendencies. He manipulated and used people. I have read extensively about narcissism. I have decided that I have entirely to much empathy to be a narcissist. My therapist agrees. For me it’s some learned survival behavior. I own it.
Narcissists need people to supply their ego to keep their fragile false self-image intact. Sam Vaknin author of Malignant Self Love-Narcissism Revisited wrote about what he called the inverted narcissist. Here is his definition, “Inverted narcissism is a combination of covert narcissism with co-dependence. The inverted narcissist depends exclusively on narcissists (narcissist-co-dependent). The inverted narcissist craves to be in a relationship with a narcissist, regardless of any abuse inflicted on her.”
So to go back to something I said earlier, ‘the truth matters to me’. This fits in snugly with why my mother did not love me. She really had no use for me. I am not a narcissist and don’t comfortably feed into the lies in her sick system. I insist on the truth and the last thing she wants is the truth. She hides behind some really sick men and blames them for her lifelong drama. I never really fit-in there. The stork dropped me at the wrong house.
Now that I have uncovered my mothers modus operandi (method of operation) I can start to move forward, and put aside my self-doubt. On a very personal level it’s a really exciting event and a true cause for celebration. I can be who I am, my better self, and that’s enough. It’s not that I wasn’t lovable. She just couldn’t love. It’s freeing really. I feel lighter already. I can now take care of myself because I am deserving of care and self-love. It’s like learning to walk again. Baby steps. I know it isn’t going to be that simple or easy.
Can you truly get your mothers voice out of your head? My biggest issue has been self-care. The way to self-acceptance is not to focus on my mother, but instead on myself. It’s not about her anymore, it’s about me. That’s why I have not written here today describing all of the countless situations in which she has hurt me. That would fill an entire book. In as much as it’s possible, I will be working on myself, not her. I will heal myself with the help of the people in my life that really love me. That is the truth.