I’m in unknown territory in terms of the emotional work on my past that I have never previously delved into. The words are hard to find because I feel guilt and a sense of failure, which I typically do not expose. I keep the walls high around this way of thinking and rarely expose my weaknesses.
The truth that my mom is imperfect is extremely difficult for me to write about. She raised me in a way that her needs came before mine. I remember things about her life during my childhood more than I do about my own life. I have selective amnesia for most of middle childhood, ages 5-12 but I remember my mom’s divorce from my father, the jobs she had, the therapist she relied on, her pursuit and attainment of a Master’s degree. What do I remember about myself? Not much except I tried to be the best at everything to hide my sense of inadequacy. I was competitive. I was the fastest girl. I was also the tallest girl. I was one of the best in gymnastics, the high bar (due to brothers) and I could always make people laugh. I hid my lack of self-esteem by portraying a person who was better than others. I grew up with this false identity.
My last post recognized my mom’s shortcomings. I’ve been trying to meditate and learn to just “be” with the idea that Little Me didn’t get what she needed and a void was left behind. My goal is to fill the emptiness so that I feel whole and worthy of my own love and acceptance.
I’m doing pretty well with this grief work on my own but this morning I made the mistake of saying something to my mother during a phone call. My sense of remorse is enormous.
I’m fully present and aware of how badly I feel to call my mom out on her narcissistic traits.
I want to drive 300 miles to be with her, to show her I still love her, despite what I said.
I wish I could take it back.
It is my fault. Not hers. How dare I blame the person who raised me!
A mother can do no wrong. It is the child’s fault. I am and always will be a burden my mother had to bear.
What happened on the phone?
My mom and I were talking about menopause and her memory is failing, given she is almost 80 years old. She has rheumatoid arthritis and had knee replacement surgery last month. (You get where I’m going – with all these things wrong with her what possessed me to speak up about my own little issues.)
I tell her I am having hot flashes and migraines, all due to menopause. She says, “I don’t know why you are having all of these problems, my menopause was fine.”
“Oh, no, it wasn’t. You were on hormone replacement therapy from when I was in high school until the 90’s. That was 15 years, at least. You don’t remember your menopause because you took hormones.”
Gulp, I did not just challenge my mother, who lives in a state of denial and believes she never had any troubles in her life. I have played that game long enough, of believing I have the problems but she never did.
Quickly, I try to set things straight by reminding her that her Dr at the time recommended she get on hormones due to calcium loss and the fear of osteoporosis from low estrogen levels. I gently tell her, “I know it was a long time ago and you may not remember.”
That sets her off and she justifies her need for HRT by reminding me, “I was dealing with a daughter who was kicked out of school for smoking in the bathrooms all the time and she had to be taught by this crazy lady.” [True, I was expelled for half of my junior year of high school and my mom found an old lady to tutor me so I didn’t fall behind. She puts a lot of pressure on academic achievement so for her to have to attend meetings with the school principal and superintendent because of her out-of-control daughter was too much for her to handle].
I tell Mom, “I was really angry in high school. I know it was hard for you but would you rather be the person watching a teenager with anger problems or be the teenager living with that anger? I think it was harder to be me dealing with all of that rage.”
Mom replies, “I don’t know why you were so angry. I had you seeing a nice therapist once a week.”
“I did see the therapist and that was good you sent me there.” Truthfully I don’t recall her name or anything that occurred in her office. But, I do give my mom credit that she taught me to seek outside help.
“I wasn’t ready to talk about the real issue at that time. That’s why it didn’t help.” Mom and I both know by “real issue” I mean the sexual abuse by her first-born son, my brother, upon my prepubescent body but neither of us say “incest” aloud.
I talk in the safety of the third person and say, “Children don’t expose their pain until they feel safe and it wasn’t until after college that I spoke to a therapist about that.”
My mom’s head is spinning, I can tell she has lost focus and doesn’t know what to say. I quickly feel I’ve overwhelmed her and I say, “I apologize for bringing all of this up, I was just talking about menopause.” Her response is, “it’s just stupid.” That’s the stroke, the surgery and her recent move speaking because she never used to say things offhandedly that don’t make sense.
I feel bad that I put my needs first and now I try to back pedal. Be a good daughter. Ask about her. Talk about her wonderful new retirement home. The superb dining service they have. She tells me what she and the three others at her table had for dinner last night. I agree her new residence is like a 5-star hotel. She talks about the “culinary arts school” nearby and that she has a reservation for dinner tomorrow night. She tells me about the colleges her new friends attended. Her safety is in intellectual pursuits and knowledge and I play along. I agree that all of that is wonderful, blah, blah, blah.
But, I can’t take back that I told her my high school years may have been difficult on her but they were worse for me, living it.
I cannot believe the overwhelming sense of guilt I feel.
I should be helping her as she ages and begins to lose her full physical and intellectual functioning.
Wow, this sense of shame and remorse is so powerful I can’t stop it. I hate myself.
My mom couldn’t help me then and we know she can’t help me now. Why did I even speak up? I love my mother and I didn’t want to cause her pain. Speaking up was a bad idea, it only hurt both of us.