At least this time I hadn’t fallen so far. I just wanted to ‘fix it’ so I could move forward. It seemed like an irritation. I didn’t want to ‘dwell’ and ‘analyse’ any more – I just wanted to ‘do’!!
Now it seemed like I had to find a ‘new me’ – what would that take? I had worked so hard all those years ago – it was like doing an intensive course in myself…. I thought I’d ‘finished the course’. Now I was returning to parts of it.
Karen explained to me that while I was so very aware of my issues, it was a completely different thing to actually ‘live differently’ – with a different mindset. She explained that I had critically examined my life – but I was still like an observer – I hadn’t been able to make the jump to a new outlook – and that was understandable. “It’s very hard when the parent is still alive – because you are still living in the story you were told all your life” she said.
I saw Karen every few weeks. I was sometimes annoyed that she seemed to be ‘pushing my buttons’ – getting me angry over issues with my mother. She came down hard on me – well I thought it was hard. I knew what she was doing – she could see my ‘block’ – and was digging away to remove it – like taking the lid off a volcano!!!
The lid needed to come off so I could start ‘moving’ again. I wanted to keep the lid on. I thought I’d been through all the anger – I just wanted peace. But I wasn’t peaceful. Ignoring it was only making me more messed up.
My mother was a good person, kind – and friendly to all those who knew her. She was always there to lend a hand when my children were small…. and she was the best Nanna. I didn’t want to go further in delving into this….
But my mother was emotionally absent with her own children – more concerned about ‘what others would think’ than the immediate family. Of course she loved us – but other people were put on a pedestal before us.
There were no hugs, no tenderness. We learnt that her worries surpassed any of ours. She had suffered severe post natal depression after having me – and I was minded by the neighbours for several months after she had a breakdown and wanted to harm me. She was forever ‘far away’ – she never really ‘saw’ me.
When our father died suddenly, when I was 11, there was no comforting, no discussing – and we weren’t allowed to attend the funeral…… All his possessions were whisked away – like he never existed. She was of course consumed by grief – but so were we. She didn’t notice our grief…… it was tough going….
In fact it wasn’t until around ten years before she died that she happened to say to me “When I saw the cardiologist, he was asking about your father and his heart attack. He said it must have been terrible – and very distressing for you girls. I told him I hadn’t really thought about that. Is it something you remember?” ……………….. My mouth fell open………… Something I remember?????………. Something I remember????? ………… Did she really think we just breezed along??? My world – and my sisters’ worlds had fallen apart the day he died. She never realised……
She was a ‘glass half empty’ person. I always just wanted to make my mother happy – but it was an impossible task. As teens we were told we just weren’t very important – others knew better – in fact we were doomed to have ‘bad luck’ …because that was our lot in life…. We were told to just ‘do the right thing’ and listen to the authorities – as they know best!! Mum struggled financially also ( a widow in the 70s didn’t get support). She was too proud to ask for help. Even though she worked full time it wasn’t enough to cover the debts. She got herself into sticky financial situations – we always helped her out from the day we started working.
Karen explained to me that all I had told her about my mother would put her into a category of personality disorder. I was stunned. This would have come about by her own upbringing and genetic makeup. She said it was important for me to see this – because then I could start to make sense of it.
I had talked about life long manipulation – it was subtle – but it was always there. It created a lifetime of guilt. Mum had always made up complex stories about things – and then genuinely believed them. They were all to cover her – to save face from some perceived threat. Many of these stories were only unravelled in later years.
For instance, when we were little, our own Nanna would show us three rings she wore. She pointed out which ones were for us. We would be in awe!!!! When our Nanna died Mum said her sisters took the rings and wouldn’t give them back. We were devastated – it was the sentimental value – they were a direct link to remember our Nanna. It was only in the last ten years of Mum’s life that she told me the truth – she took the rings herself and sold them – because she was short of money. I had spent all those years despising my great aunts for taking them…..
There are many stories like that – little secrets. Mum had cut herself off from her own family to cover secrets which she felt shamed her and we were told they were all ‘not very nice people’. It was only in the last years of her life we found out that wasn’t the case – but we missed out on knowing any of her family.
Karen wanted me to see a specific personality type – so I would understand that I’d had to adjust and use whatever necessary coping skills I could. She showed me literature on it. I could no longer ignore it….. there it was. In one paper I read, it looked like they were talking specifically about my mother!!
It’s hard writing this. Am I betraying my mother? I hope not. She was a good person – she was never nasty. As I said earlier, she was the best Nanna! – and she was much more emotionally available to her grandchildren. I see all this as a mental illness. But I’ve thought it important to include this as it’s all part of the journey.
One thing that was very important for me to understand was that I didn’t have firm boundaries – they had always been fluid. I had been well trained to put myself out for others, to take any verbal abuse, to ‘smooth it over’ and keep smiling. I could list so many episodes!!!
In one exercise, Karen got me to look down on my life now, as if I was in a helicopter looking down – what did I see? What did I think of it? Was I living how I truly wanted? No…….. I was living like I was forever waiting……. like I couldn’t truly focus as I was always ‘waiting’ to be ready to meet someone else’s needs and I was forever comparing myself to what others were doing. That’s how I had been trained from a young age. But since Mum had died – why did I still live like that? Habit… That was my ‘normal’.
The anger started to bubble…. I was angry with myself. I could see myself ‘putting my toe in the water’ of something I wanted to do – then almost running away – cowering. And I could see myself forever comparing myself with others – still looking for that normal life – trying to fit the ‘normal’ box – even if I didn’t want to!!!
Oh what was I doing!!!! At least I was getting back on my feet again – mentally (and almost physically). But I was a long way from my goal – at least I had finally ‘unfrozen’ and I was ready to get to work on the situation!!!
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