I recently talked about an issue I was having with a friend who was (quite literally, as my therapist put it) playing devil’s advocate with my mother. I decided to write her a letter, since I couldn’t seem to find the words when texting her or talking with her on the phone. I mentioned the letter to my therapist in our usual e-mail updates this past weekend and she told me I could bring the letter with me to our session today if I hadn’t already sent it. So I did.
Hello. I hope you are doing well. You haven’t really text or spoke to me much and I’m not sure if it’s because you’re busy or because of the things I said about my parents a couple of weeks ago.
I need you to know that what my mother tells you is not the truth. It never has been; it never will be. She is using you to get to me. She is a dangerous person. Please be aware of that if you choose to continue to engage with her.
I spent 29 years of my life trapped in a family that treated me in ways no person should ever be treated. It took me years to gather the courage, the financial resources, and the strength to leave that prison. I have escaped. When you escape from a burning building, you don’t go back in; you’ll get burned. If I go back home, I’m going to be hurt again. I don’t deserve it.
I’m building a new life for myself now. I’m no longer under my mother’s control. I don’t have to worry about being attacked in my own home. I am free. I still live in fear, but hopefully that will change one day.
I need a lot of therapy and a lot of time to undo the damage that my family has done. Talking to them, seeing them, or visiting them will only set my recovery back. I don’t owe my family anything. They are dead to me. In fact, the only time I want to hear about them is when they die, so I can breathe a sigh of relief.
I just need you to understand why cutting my family out of my life is what’s best for me. I need you to support my decision and stop advocating for my mother. It hurts me when you do that because I feel like you are on her side. I can’t involve myself with anyone who supports her. I need you to feel what is in my heart.
I didn’t want to read it out loud. I told my therapist it was horrible. She asked me why it was horrible. I told her “It just is.” Then I took the letter from my bag and handed it to her. She took her time and read it through. She told me the letter wasn’t horrible at all. She said it was honest and real and everything I needed to say to her. She even got goosebumps reading one part of it. I still insisted that it was horrible.
“Why?” she asked.
“Because everything I do is horrible.”
It was such a raw response from me. I didn’t even think about it. I still have it programmed in my head that everything I do ends up being wrong. Sometimes I am able to override the programming; most times, I’m just too exhausted to bother and let the original programming run its course. It’s also extremely unnatural for me to assert my needs in any way, and this letter was doing that. I’ve lived my life for the last 29 years believing my needs were unimportant, because even my most basic needs were neglected. It’s difficult for me. People don’t realize just how hard it is to reprogram yourself when you’ve lived a certain way for so long.
We talked about what would happen once I sent the letter. I said I didn’t think it would matter; I still don’t think my friend would understand. I’m not emotionally ready to handle that reality yet. I’m not ready to grieve another loss. This woman was like a mother to me. I told my therapist I couldn’t go through losing a mother again. I already lost my real one (who was never there to begin with), and here I am about to lose the one I replaced her with. What is so wrong with me that I can’t even have a mother to love me?
My therapist and I both agreed that I wasn’t ready to send the letter yet. I don’t know when I’ll be ready. It’s going to have to be soon, because I know the issue is going to come up again. I can’t keep putting out fires. It’s exhausting. I’m not a firefighter. I’m just a girl trying to get by.
One thought on “Letter to a friend”
“People don’t realize just how hard it is” I do. I understand. And I felt every word, and understand the ramifications of speaking up. Speak up? Lose a family. It’s an unwritten rule put on a child who carries it through life to protect those who attacked her, and those who knew and didn’t protect her or speak up. And other family members know. And the child, now woman, took it all in as a child as if it’s all her. That’s what children do. Take blame. And it curdles, and grows, and becomes thick tangly roots that are very hard dig up.
I’m 62 and still find it hard, almost impossible to outline my own needs, erect boundaries, say NO! I spoke up recently and it’s my belief that the three brothers who I had a little contact with, because they were the only ones who hadn’t sexually attacked me in childhood, seemed to have cut me off. Maybe not. It’ hard to know because no one speaks of any real truths, and not a great loss because no deep connections really exist.
Yet so wrong. I have been quiet about the reality of my life and my tortuous childhood to protect them. To protect them from feeling ashamed of their brothers who did attack me. I protect them because hearing the truth is too hard or uncomfortable for them? Try living it. But people don’t want to hear unpleasantries especially those that may besmirch their own reputations or about a taboo subject no one wants to hear about or know about. So wrong.
So it’s good to write out your feelings. You wrote so eloquently, yet it is risky because it takes a special person to go deeper into a relationship and hear things they don’t understand or agree with, yet still maintain the connection. Your replacement Mom may be able to do just that, when or if you are ready. But it scary to speak. I was trained not to such a degree that when I do, it feels so out of place and wrong, when it it the very right thing for me to do.
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