I now realise that I want, or expect, my mothers reactions and feelings towards me to be black and white. I want her to care, or not care… love, or not love… nothing in between. I don’t understand the ambiguity of her reactions to me. I don’t understand how she can come up here when I ask her to support me; but then treat me with casual disregard in other ways.
I need her to be the bad guy, because then I have somewhere to direct my anger. In many ways, she is a safe outlet for that anger (the anger for the father is too immense to go near). I acknowledge some of the anger directed towards her is justified… she suspected that I was being hurt, but did nothing; and she can say the most cruel and thoughtless things. But she doesn’t deserve to be the sole beneficiary of the anger that I direct outwards.
My mother was brought up in a house that was dysfunctional – Granddad had at least one affair, and brought a woman pregnant with his child into their house to live for awhile; and Nana had Parkinson’s Disease, so my mother had to take on extra responsibilities from a fairly early age. Her marriage to my father was also dysfunctional. She knew this fairly early on in the marriage; but in those days, you didn’t divorce. Divorce would have been seen as a failure – when she was still married, Granddad told her that at least one of his daughters got it right.
So, she comes from a history of dysfunction. She has superficially sought help for the issues that arise from that dysfunction; but didn’t see it as worthwhile, so never went too deep. This means that her ability to change is minimal. Over time, she has come to accept my mental health issues with a little more understanding… she’s now less likely to ask “when is this all going to be over”… this indicates that she can change, or at least lower her expectations of me.
In many ways, my relationship with my mother is all about my own failings. This is the reason I react to her thoughtless words… I used to be the perfect daughter, and I no longer am. I don’t have the ability to compartmentalise my reaction to her, as well I used to. When she is around, I can usually do it… but I’m now aware of the consequences of bottling all of that hurt up and putting it away. That’s not to say that I lash out at her, I don’t… I just shut down while she is around. It’s a very compartmentalised way of interacting with her. It may sound harsh, but it’s probably how we’ve always interacted, I just wasn’t aware of it.
It was Mother’s Day here yesterday. I was in a dissociative fog for most of the day… I reached out to my mother, but it wasn’t a good interaction. I was expecting a level of interaction that will never be. I need to understand that. I need to understand the ambiguity that comes from being human… It’s not a personal insult when she cuts off our Skype call to talk on the phone to my brother, it’s just how she is. She will never change, so I need to change my reactions to the hurt caused.
It’s this sort of relationship that makes me realise how far reaching the effect of any abuse can be. My mother never had the skills to make the lives for her children better than her own… I don’t think she realised that there was anything better. That’s probably the saddest part of this whole situation, my mother will never know anything better. She escaped an abusive marriage, but never addressed the underlying issues which drew her to that abuse to begin with. This is why healing is so important… learning to change the way we view the world. That takes time, effort and perseverance… some days, those qualities seem in very short supply.