Help My Mama

I think that my mother really tried her best to love me. And she still does. Unfortunately, she’s had her own childhood trauma holding her back, combined with over 50 years of marriage to a narcissist. She never had a chance to be loved in a normal way but she tried so hard to love me and my sister in a way that she never got. I have even more compassion for my mother today and it inspires me to spend more time with her while I still can.

I avoided my mom for a long time because I had so much anger inside of me for the way I felt abandoned and dismissed by her when I was at my lowest points in life. She seemed to always just detach from me and from afar wish me well but never stepped in to help rescue me from the drowning waters. I almost hated her for doing that to me. I tried to be kind and compassionate and understand all that she had gone through in life, but still I had to protect myself from ongoing pain.

As I get older and begin another leg of my recover journey, I am realizing that she herself has been drowning all these years. After suffering abuse as a child and witnessing violent domestic abuse of her mother by her father, she ended up in a relationship with a narcissistic man, my father, at the tender age of 17. She became a mother soon after and by age 20 she had two babies, all while working outside the home and working towards getting her high school diploma.

My father was a wild, charismatic, arrogant and selfish young man who saw no harm in continuing his way of life that including wild parties late into the night, hauling babies around from place to place. He didn’t care that my mother would be exhausted from working and dealing with two infants and then having to drive him around while he would get drunk. He somehow manages to provide financially for his family, but he was never home to provide emotionally to any of us.

My earliest memories of him include his incessant teasing that included him putting me into a headlock with his legs and refusing to let go until I cried. It was a game to him and he seemed to enjoy watching me in discomfort. Our home was constantly full of his drinking buddies and the only time he would pay attention to me was if he needed me to grab him a drink or perform some cute kid party trick to entertain his slovenly buddies.

To survive my younger years, I escaped every chance I could. I spent a lot of nights away from about age 3 and on – either at my grandmothers or my best friend and neighbours. It was only there that I received the kindness, attention and nurturing that I needed and was so desperate for. I had mastered being the “perfect” child as early on I was a people pleaser to avoid being punished by my father. People enjoyed having me around as a kid as I was easy to look after. I was just so happy to be with “normal” people and feel loved. (Now I did NOT know that then…..)

But to get back to my mother. I hope to make the most of the years we have left together and I am not willing to let my father stand in the way any longer of that relationship. I will find ways to improve my relationship with her so she can start to know what it feels like to be loved.

It’s never too late to heal.

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The Narcissistic Father

Over the last few weeks, I have been doing a great deal of soul-searching and thinking and it’s only now that I’ve come to the understanding that I am a child of a narcissistic father and this has impacted me more than I realized. My father always had to be the center of attention (still holds true today) and it didn’t matter at what cost. Things had to be done his way or they wouldn’t be done at all. He would excessively tease and torment his girls to the point that we would either leave the room in tears or lash out at him in anger and then be punished. He had no empathy for anything that we went through and little to no concern for our emotional well-being.

I’ve held him on a pedestal for so long now, that I compared every man in my life to him thinking that he was the type of man I needed in my life, only to now discover that he’s the exact opposite of what I needed. Today, as my eyes are opened to the revelation of what he truly is, the pedestal has crashed to the ground, him along with it.

Some examples of his abuse included:

– he would belittle the people in my life as a child who showed me unconditional love including my grandmother. He was threatened by them.

– at age 9 he moved us 3000 miles away from all that we knew partly because he couldn’t control his partying and running around; only to discover that he was having an ongoing affair with a woman in the place we moved to. He had little patience or even acknowledgement of my pain and grief of losing those close to me and him not being able to fill that void

– he never attended important school events or praised me privately for achievements

– when I expressed at a young age I was feeling alone and depressed he called me “fucking stupid” and punished me

– he has never told me he loves me unless he is intoxicated

– he’s jealous of any time or affection my mother tried to give me

– he insulted my friends and partners

– he mocks my children

– he expects that I will drop everything when he needs my assistance, but is often unwilling to help with even the most minor of tasks himself

– I always feel like I “owe” him

I am only just now realizing the damage that this has caused. Now, I need to take the steps to heal this damage through education, therapy, and setting boundaries. I am worthy, and worth loving.

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The Universe Within

When you start the recovery process again after a setback, it’s like starting back at the beginning, only this time you have the advantage of knowing what didn’t work the last time. It’s almost like reliving the moving Groundhog Day over and over as I have hit the reset button so many times in my life that I’ve lost count. Go through life’s shit storms….zap! My brain loses it…..reset! Start over.

I secretly envy those people who don’t have to constantly hit the reset button. Those people who set goals and achieve them. Those who face adversity along the way, but they deal, and they stick to their plan. I’m so not that girl. I have had idyllic goals in my head my whole life, but they always felt like daydreams to me. I would lose myself in the imaginary stories of being a career woman as a child….but I had no concrete “plan” or wish for myself.

When my friends were deciding on careers for themselves, or even marrying and settling down to that life, I was lost. I worked to survive, and partied to escape the loneliness and emptiness that I couldn’t stop feeling inside. I couldn’t see a future for myself or decide on a plan because I had no idea who the hell I was. Again, I envied those around me who could follow through on plans and who knew what they wanted and were progressing through this bullshit thing they called life.

At age 22, the role of motherhood was decided for me. The only option I ever considered was having this child – finally! I had a reason and a purpose and someone to love and who would love me unconditionally. THIS would be the thing that I had been missing all my life! I planned and I nested and I excitedly prepared for his arrival. And in those moments they placed him in my arms. I felt love and purpose.

But the emptiness and the loneliness never went away. For years my children gave me purpose and motivation but eventually that was not enough for my mind. After years of repressing emotions and pain, my mind broke terribly apart, along with the little world I had crafted of glass and mirrors. Shattered and broken.

Since then I have tried to put the pieces back together but it’s impossible to do. Some pieces go missing. Some broken beyond repair. Some never meant to be mine again. And I’m back to square one….the beginning of where do I start? Who am I? Where do I belong?

I need to create my own world and fill it with the things and people that I want in it, instead of constantly trying to contort myself to fit into everyone else’s world. The ones who love me will accept me for who I am now, untethered and unashamed. I now know that the universe truly lies within myself.

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Ignoring The Flags

I came to the realization today that my relatively impulsive decision to quit my comfortable, secure and routine job to take on a more challenging role was more of a symptom of my upcoming mental breakdown than a sign of stability. Looking back, I had continuously ignored the many yellow and then red flags that’s appeared on my path. Had I not been caught in the whirlwind that is alcohol and depression spiralling out of control, I might have paid better attention. Ongoing and unresolved emotional stress had been eating me up inside and instead of turning to the took I had learned in my years of therapy, I slipped and chose what was for me the easiest way. And that was to withdraw from the world and wrap myself in the cocoon of isolation and comfort myself with alcohol and sadness.

I was wearing the mask for the world to see and it was exhausting. I began to withdraw even further from seven those closest to me. I was lost in an alcoholic haze most evenings and a robot in a job that I didn’t enjoy. I was now starting to suffer the consequences of my harsh decision and my mind couldn’t comprehend what I had done to myself, yet again. The endless tears began on a Thursday and didn’t stop until late Sunday evening, followed by three days of zombie like sleep. I had a close call again with Suicide but called for help from a friend and supports were there.

Moving forward, as part of the next stage of the recovery journey, I need to let others know what my flags are so they can be my watch party and intervene earlier. I’m learning to trust them and that they will keep me safe when my brain is telling me different. It’s hard to tell them my flats because they’re often embarrassing or shameful, and I’ve spent most of my life hiding them as I’ve tried to appear “fine” to the world. But I’m finally getting to that place where I realize that the “world” that I care about and what they think is actually just ME.

I live with an illness that makes me want to die. It’s not an easy thing to live with. It’s hard to wake up each day and be optimistic that maybe today will be THE day I have gone through all this suffering for to experience and going to bed feeling defeated. To feel like others around you have this secret or special skill to live differently – like the way you’re supposed to – and you just are wrong in some way and don’t fit in. To feel an emptiness even when among a room of your closest people. To have moments when you are in so much pain that you lie on the floor and you wail and the sounds coming from you echo your of pain, fear, loneliness, and grief.

I don’t write to seek your pity. I write in hopes you understand someone in your life who may be suffering. Sit with them in their pain and sadness. Go into the darkness with them. Share your light. Be kind.

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No Surprise

Today is a sad day for me. I’m not depressed or anxious because of my mental illness which is usually why I experience sad days. Instead it’s because I was let down AGAIN by people I love. Not only people I love, but by people for whom I would do anything for – and have shown that to them over and over. I guess I was wrong for wanting, and even expecting that they would naturally want to reciprocate. After a night and morning of soul searching and reflection, I’ve come to the conclusion that they just aren’t wired to do things the way I do. Does that make it acceptable? No. But it does make it somewhat easier to understand.

However, having the ability to understand doesn’t take away the hurt. For most of my life, I have strived to gain the love, acceptance, and approval of those I love. I needed it to validate my existence in this world – a world I often feel distant and excluded from. Why am I here? Is it my destiny to go through life feeling lost and empty?

These feelings stretch long back into my childhood. I always thought there was something wrong with ME, wanting this validation and love. But as I get older, and somewhat wiser, I am realizing that it’s not that I expect to be loved, it’s that I DESERVE to be loved. Unconditionally. I am a kind and generous person who loves fiercely with those closest to me. And it’s not too much to ask to have the same love bestowed upon me in appreciation of all that I do for them.

Underneath the sadness is a great deal of pent up anger and frustration. I have never handled the emotions of anger easily as it makes me uncomfortable and afraid. Anger was never an emotion that I was permitted to feel – in doing so I often suffered great consequences. From an early age, I learned to suppress my anger so not to have what little love and affection I was shown taken away. This has carried on into my adult life and it’s something I continue to struggle with.

It’s just not fair that those I love not only can expect my generosity, kindness and support, but that they have come to take it for granted, without offering the same in return. I’m a simple girl who doesn’t ask for material things – I just want them to make me a priority in their lives and to occasionally make sacrifices to accommodate me.

I don’t know how the next few days will unfold as I do plan to finally try to express my feelings of sadness and disappointment. I expect that I will be met with resistance and denial and there may even be some attempts at gaslighting to make me feel like I shouldn’t be feeling the way I do.

But I deserve more. So much more.

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As I sit here this evening, once again reflecting on life, I realized that I finally feel like I am at the point in my life where I believe that I have forgiven myself. For most of my life, I carried around guilt and shame, decreasing my own worthiness. I succumbed to the idealization that I was a horrible person and had wronged so many in my life. I accepted blame that was not mine to own and I heaped loathing upon myself for wrongs I never did.

Getting to this point in my journey has not come easily and not without its setbacks. For the last twelve years I have struggled to push myself forward, despite the many times I felt myself stumble backwards. I had the idea that my recovery would be like a continuous linear increase as I moved from despair to any sort of peace. Much to my dismay, I would find myself making huge strides after attending whatever therapy program I could, but then experience a relapse in my depressive symptoms. In those times, I became despondent and suicidal and the self-loathing returned with a vengeance.

I’m grateful that I’ve had a number of consecutive months without experiencing any serious suicidal ideation. By serious I mean the thoughts that are accompanied by a plan. I don’t know that I will ever stop having the thoughts, but at least the planning has eased up. When I find myself considering what action I would take, that’s my cue to get into my psychiatrist immediately. I accept that I will have to remain ever-vigilant in my life long battle with depression, but I also accept that I can relish in the times that the clouds lift. It’s those times when I replenish my soul and build strength for the next episode.

Forgiveness begins with myself.

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Master of My Path

I’m not sure if I’m embracing this idea because I’ve matured and as a woman in my mid-forties, I honestly believe that what others think isn’t nearly as important to me as what I think, or if I’m far enough along in my mental health journey to finally understand this. I think it’s likely a combination of both but whatever the reason, it is incredible!

Like most women, I started worrying about fitting in around the age of 10. For me, that was when my body started to change and adolescence began. I always felt like I was too fat, or ugly compared to the girls around me. I hated the feeling of always wanting to be something I wasn’t and I spent the next 30 years trying to do that. First, I wanted to be the cool girl in school. And then the hip beautiful young woman in my early twenties. When babies came along, I wanted to be the perfect mom. I needed to be the best employee. The problem was, I didn’t know how to be me.

After enduring a psychotic break at age 32, I began a journey to recovery that has involved multiple hospitalizations and countless hours of therapy. When I broke, I shattered all of my facades, and had to build myself back up. But I learned along the way that it was important to build myself the way I wanted to be.

It hasn’t been easy and I have had setbacks along the way, but today I am more self-confident and accepting of myself for the person I am right now. I don’t need the opinion of others to justify my existence, just as they don’t need mine. I don’t need the approval like I used to – the only one who needs to approve of my choices is me.

I know that I will continue to accept myself for who I am and set goals that are important to me for change. I am the master of my path.

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