Guard down, guard up

Sometimes, I let my guard down.

Then, I am quickly reminded of why I shouldn’t.

It’s a complicated thing. The fear of trusting anyone, yet the seemingly innate pull to open up to someone. The desire to be alone, yet the need to be in contact with others. The want for a family, even when family has continually been nothing but toxic.

I made a mistake. I should have seen it coming; looking back, I don’t know why I even put myself in that position. But it’s that seemingly continuous push and pull of two opposing wants that seem to lead to these mistakes.

It was the right timing. I was vulnerable. I had just left to go across the county. I left everything and everyone behind. I was disconnected, not only physically, but emotionally as well. And I wanted so much to reconnect to something or to someone.

And I did. I got a friend request on Facebook from a distant cousin — my mother’s niece. Years ago, I would have immediately deleted it. In fact, I may have even had her and others blocked. But over time, I let my guard down. I let my fear dissipate. But, given the circumstances, I felt okay enough to accept her request. After all, I was nowhere near her or my mother physically. After all, this was someone who hadn’t seen me since I was 14 years old. After all, this was someone who my mother avoided having any physical contact with, someone who my mother spoke ill of (along with her sister and others in her own family). So how much of a danger could it have been? I added her.

I soon learned that was a bad decision. In response to my last blog, she posted several comments, all of which focused on how I was loved and cared for, how I chose to leave the home where I was loved and cared for, how my mother loved her children and wouldn’t ever molest them…you get the gist. I did, too, because I heard it before. Almost word-for-word, in fact. Because they were my mother’s words, her defensive speech. We’ve all heard it before.

I was trying not to engage, but I eventually gave in and defended the truth. I reminded her that she was barely in our lives, how the last time she saw me was when I was 14, and that she really couldn’t have had any realistic idea of what was going on. I told her that I could connect her with people who witnessed the reality first hand — not just of the physical environment we lived in, but of my mother’s inappropriate words and actions. I suggested she be open to hearing both sides, as it seemed she was taking my mother’s word for truth without taking any initiative to find out what existed outside of my mother’s words.

But my words to her didn’t get very far, because when I woke up the next morning, her comments were deleted and so was she.

I had a tiny bit of hope that a friendship could have existed before all of this happened, that I could be connected to a part of my family, even if it was just in this small way.

I’m not that hurt over it. I got over it quickly. I think what stuck out to me the most was just how gullible people could be, how easily they could drink my mother’s Kool-aid and believe everything she says just because she says it. I’m fortunate enough that many people didn’t fall for her lies. I just wish that more of those people were family.

I find the timing interesting. Adding me as a friend a week before my freedom anniversary. Waiting until that very moment to let it out. I highly doubt it was all just a coincidence. But it doesn’t even matter. My lesson has been learned.

In her last comment, my cousin talked about how my mother was sick and suffering.

Good. I’m not going to lie. Good.

And that’s even if she is really sick, because I really don’t think anyone is close enough to her to truly know.

But, I will not feel bad about my anger or my grief. She is in her 60s. She got to live. I am 32 and can barely make it a month without a stay in the hospital, dealing with health issues that people my age (or anyone really) shouldn’t have to deal with. I’m not going to feel bad for being angry at her. I’m not going to feel bad for hating her. And I’m not going to feel bad for not caring about her, because she sure as hell never cared about me.

Happy Mother’s Day, Self


Dear KJ,

I know it hurts your heart. Not just every Mother’s Day, but every day you wake up. What is written on your heart is pain, left there by the woman who was supposed to be your mother. I’m not sure that pain will ever go away. I’m not sure she will ever even acknowledge how much she has hurt your heart. But that’s okay. You realize it. You know it.

I know it’s hard. I know it hurts. But you’re still standing, broken-hearted, without a mother, but still very much alive.

The things in this card are things your mother should have taught you. A hug should have never been painful; it should have been full of love and care. But you have that now. It may have taken long, but now you have people to hug you without the pain and the hurt, rather with the love and support you deserve.

I know you still feel weak and lost. You are still trying to find your way in the world. Your mother should have taught you these things, but she didn’t. She didn’t know how to be a good mom. But that’s okay. You are learning now. You are starting to trust people. It’s not at all like she told it was, You can trust. Keep trusting. You may have had a late start, but you are making your way. You’re doing it, even without her. You had to build your own foundation, with the help of others, but it’s getting so strong and solid and stable now.

You taught yourself how to be strong. You had to in order to survive. And you survived. You stood alone most of your life, when your mother should have been the one standing beside you, it was just you. But you still survived. Because you were born with a strength that could never and can never be taken away. That strength came from within you, and now you are sharing that strength with the world. You are so so strong.

You had to learn ways to survive that no child should ever have to learn. She wouldn’t let you be successful, but look at you now. You’re in graduate school with a 4.0, you’re a successful writer, and most of all you are a beautiful person inside and out. And you did that all on your own.

She did not teach you kindness, only cruelty. Yet somehow, some way, you learned how to be kind, you learned how to love. You didn’t need your mother for that. You have others there to support you now. You had (and have) yourself. So many people have been touched by your kindness. Listen to them. Remember when Sarah told you how you were so intelligent and so caring and so kind, even when you came from a place where none of those things existed? It’s the truth. You did that. Somehow you did that.

You spent your childhood having no one care about you, having no one believe in you. But you cared, and somewhere deep down, you believed. That’s why you kept going. That’s why you tried to stay alive, even when it was so much easier and so much less painful to die.

There are angels on this earth. You are one of them. I’m sorry your mother wasn’t. You deserved that angel. You deserved that mother. But even though you didn’t have it, you did it yourself. You became your own angel, your own teacher, your own believer, your own mother.

You deserve this as much as anyone else. Love yourself. Celebrate the mother inside of you that you had to be when no one else was there, when she wasn’t there. You were your own mother. You helped yourself survive, through love and care. Remember that.

Love,

KJ Continue reading

Hold on, let go

I’ve still been struggling with the reality that I am without a family. Which is weird, because on some level, I know I never had a family to begin with.

Did I have a mother? Sure. Half of my DNA comes from her. She gave birth to me. But that’s where her mother-ness ends.

Did I have a father? I guess. It’s questionable where I share his DNA, but he was a man who identified himself as my father, so I guess he was. He provided financially for the family. And that’s where his father-ness ends.

Was I a member of that family? No. I was an involuntary member of my mother’s cult. I was a pawn in my mother’s chess game. I was a servant to the almighty queen. But I was never a real part of that family.

Yet for some reason, I am still holding on to the emotional connection to that family. In the absence of my mother, I have taken on her criticisms and her hatred and continue to punish myself, just as she would do when she was there next to me.

I give in to the voice inside of me that tells me I am nothing without her. I listen as she tells me I am worthless, that I will never amount to anything, that I can’t do anything right. I believe her when she says I will never survive without her.

It doesn’t matter that she is no longer with me, because her voice is still inside of me, programmed into my brain, telling me all of the things I’ve heard all of my life, continuing to poison my thoughts, continuing to destroy my sense of self.

So why do I keep listening? Why do I keep holding on to something so toxic and so damaging? Because it’s all that remains of what I knew to be my family. That toxicity is all I have left. In a sick way, I keep my family alive by continuing to act on my mother’s toxic legacy.

I find comfort in familiarity. I find validation for my mother’s truths in my current life circumstances. When something doesn’t work out, when I’m struggling financially, when I can’t handle my life, I tell myself “See, my mother was right. I can’t live without her.”

I’m so afraid of losing that last connection. As damaging as it is, I keep holding on. I keep giving in.

My therapist showed me this meme in session today. She said it reminded her of me. At first, the person is holding on to the rope, as it tears and cuts into his hand. Then, as he starts to let go of the rope, his hand starts to get better. When he lets go completely, his hand is no longer being damaged by the rope at all; he is free from harm.

therapymeme

I’m still holding on to that rope, so very tightly. I’m holding on to all the shit my mother programmed into me, even though it’s hurting me and causing me pain. My therapist is trying to pull me away from that rope, telling me I don’t need to hold on to that anymore, trying to stop the emotional bleeding I am putting myself through. But I pull away from her and instead keep holding on to the rope.

I need to let go.

I can’t be like her

I’ve written before about my fear of being anything like my mother.

That fear comes in all forms.

Whenever someone would comment about how much I looked like my mother, it made me sick. I would respond very calmly, “Please don’t say that.”

But they always continued to say it. Because I did look like her. And I felt the disgust and hatred and fear building up inside of me every time. I would run to the nearest bathroom and cry. I’m just like her. Other people are saying I’m just like her. It has to be true. I would punish myself for looking like her, as if it were something I had control of.

I hid my feminine attributes because I figured it would make me less like her. If I don’t look like a woman, I’ll be okay. I’d squish my breasts flat so I could look more like a boy. I’d wear baggy sweatpants and t-shirts. I changed my hair color and style (which didn’t work, because my mother would soon change her appearance to copy mine). I tried so hard NOT to look like her. I hated myself for being a woman because my mother was a woman. But that was something I don’t ┬áhave the power to change.

Even though now, I don’t have to deal with anyone saying how much I look like her, I am still reminded of our similarities in other ways. And I hate it.

I continue to try my best to be the total opposite of her.

I involve myself in relationships with types of people who I know my mother would never associate with.

I deny myself the privilege of having children because being a mother would make me my mother, and children don’t deserve to be hurt by me.

I have turned away from God because my mother continually paraded as a Christian.

It’s not even just the major things. I avoid her favorite foods and drinks: cookie dough ice cream, Dr. Pepper, Kit Kat bars. While I know eating and drinking those things won’t change who I am, a part of me believes it brings me that much closer to being just like my mother.I avoid things I really enjoy because they are things that my mother enjoyed. It’s not fair.

I was eating a chocolate Poptart the other day, and out of nowhere, realized that my mother also ate them quite frequently. I stopped eating it and threw it away, completely disgusted with myself. We like the same things. I’m destined to be just like her.

A big reason why I have problems with anger is because I associate anger with my mother. She would often fly into rages; it was her normal. So now when I feel angry, I connect that feeling with being like her, and I try to suppress it. Except that suppressing anger rarely works. Instead it builds up inside, and ends up exploding at some point. And then it proves the point. I am just like her now.

My mother: consumer of chocolate, soda drinker, Christian, woman, mother, narcissist, sociopath, child abuser.

Me: a product of my mother.

I don’t want to be like her. I can’t be like her. But I am.

She didn’t deserve you

I was feeling rather confident going into my therapy session on Monday.

After all, I made it through Mother’s Day relatively unscathed. I felt a small sense of pride in being able to handle the holiday as well as I did. Mother’s Day is one of, if not the most, difficult holiday of the year for me.

Mother’s Day is not a pleasant holiday when your mother is a narcissistic sociopath. Mother’s Day is a horrible, painful reminder when your own mother was also your abuser.

I felt like writing those cards to myself and to my egg donor that Saturday night really put me on a better path. I got out most of what I needed to say. I read the card I wrote to myself over and over, trying to absorb its truth. And I think, in some ways, I did.

I brought the cards with me to therapy on Monday, just in case there was nothing else to talk about and I needed to fill time (Who am I kidding – there is ALWAYS something to talk about and there is NEVER enough time). I mentioned them to my therapist. She asked if I would be willing to share the one I wrote to myself. I hesitated a bit, and then downplayed the whole thing as lame. After all, who writes to themselves? It’s such a weird thing.

I got over the weirdness and took my card out of my bag. I managed to read the card all the way through without getting overly emotional. I had already read it to myself so many times within the two days prior, that the words were starting to become me. I told my therapist how I spent the day, the positive steps I took, the negative ones I avoided. She was proud of me.

But even with all of the positive things I did on that day, I found myself still missing, still grieving the absence of a mother. I laid in bed that night and stared at a picture of my egg donor for a good half an hour or so. It’s the only picture I have of her. I found it on Facebook on another person’s page awhile back and saved it to my phone. I don’t know why I did it; I don’t need any pictures of that woman. But I can’t seem to find it in my heart to delete it. So I stared at it, and went through a plethora of emotions, from sadness to anger to just feeling…blank. Here was this woman who no one really knows, pretending to be normal and decent. She even cracked a quarter of a smile. It wasn’t genuine, but at a quick glance, you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference.

After a while, I made myself put my phone down. I was not going to torture myself any longer. It wasn’t fair to me.

I told my therapist about that moment, about all of the emotions I was going through, about my lack of understanding on why I did it. I told her about the card I wrote to my egg donor. My therapist then asked if I would be willing to share it with her. Whew. I don’t know. My emotions were running pretty high when I wrote it. It actually took me awhile to write it, as I would write a paragraph and then put it aside and decompress for a bit before starting to write again.

I took a deep breath, got the card out, and showed my therapist what I had written on the front of the card. A little twisted humor, maybe, but truthful humor at that. I started to read it out loud. As I got closer to the middle of the card, talking about how I thought something was wrong with me, I felt the emotions starting to come up. As I read the words I lived in fear of my own mother, I started to cry. I remembered what it was like to live in fear. As an adult, I realize how unfair that was to my child self. No child should have to fear their own parent. But that was my normal.

Through tears, I continued to read the rest of the card. By the end, I was a bit of a controlled emotional mess. I was angry, sad, lost, and empowered all at the same time. I was able to recognize that I didn’t need my mother anymore, but that didn’t change the fact that I needed a mother before and never had one.

I wanted it to be my mother that I was reading the card to. I wanted her to hear my words, to know how she has affected me. I wanted it to be her feeling for me, and not my therapist. But that will never happen. And even if it did, it wouldn’t matter. My mother is incapable of empathy. She doesn’t think she has done anything wrong. If it’s not about her, she doesn’t care. I can’t change that.

As I wiped my tears away, my therapist said “she didn’t deserve you.”

For how much of a decent human being I am, how caring and good-hearted I am, and all of that, my mother did not deserve me as a daughter. I never thought of it that way. All of this time I had been focusing on the fact that I deserved a real mother; I never thought that my mother didn’t deserve me. But my therapist. That woman didn’t deserve me. She doesn’t now.

She will never deserve me.

Mother-Yourself Day

I woke up Sunday morning to a card, a bouquet of flowers, and gifts wrapped with a bow.


They are gifts I gave to myself. They are the gifts I would have given on Mother’s Day had I had a real mother. But I never had that, so I had to improvise. In many ways, I had to be (and continue to be) my own mother. And I’m accepting that now. As much as I long for a real mother, the opportunity has passed. It’s my job now.

I went to work that morning with Courage by my side. He comes with me whenever I’m going through difficult times or doing something I’ve never done before. I didn’t know how my day would go, so I brought him just in case. He was a good coworker-for-a-day. I was able to keep myself together. I text an old friend Happy Mother’s Day without getting upset. My therapist sent me a text and it reminded me of my importance, to myself and to the world. I was okay.

After work, I changed out of my uniform, into a nice shirt, and took myself to an early dinner. It didn’t matter that I was alone. I knew I deserved something special. I knew I deserved to eat. I was going to treat myself, and I did. Surrounded by families celebrating the holiday, I sat at a table by myself, with Courage sitting in the chair next to me. I didn’t have to force myself to eat. In that moment, all of the conflict I usually experience around food was gone.

I sat and read the card I wrote to myself the night before.

K,

You are your own mother. I know it’s hard because the woman who gave birth to you did not know how to be a mother, or maybe she just didn’t want to. The reasons don’t matter. You have had to parent yourself. You protected yourself when no one else would. You are learning to take care of yourself in the ways your mother should have (but didn’t) take care you.

I know it hurts. It hurts in your heart. It hurts in your mind. It hurts in your soul. A pain you can’t explain, because your mother isn’t dead. But she might as well have been dead, because she was never really there for you, ever.No one ever taught you how to love because your mother never loved you. No one taught you how to take care of yourself because your mother didn’t any worth in you.

But here you are. Surviving. Trying to love yourself. Recognizing your worth. Seeing all of the things your mother refused to see in you. You’ve done a great job keeping yourself alive. You got out. You mustered up all of the strength and courage you could, even when no one agreed with you or understood, and you left your mother for good.

And now you need to keep mothering yourself. It’s time to take care of you. You deserve to be cared for. Whatever that woman told you was a lie. All of those times she hurt you, that had nothing to do with you. You were just a child. It’s not your fault that she could not be a mother.

Now it’s your chance to be a mother to yourself. You can do it. You deserve it.

This Mother’s Day was the first time I didn’t break down. I didn’t dread the day, because I made it about me, not the woman who gave birth to me.

Sometimes we have to break traditions. Sometimes we have to bend society’s rules a little bit. I am my own mother now. That other woman just gave birth to me.

 

An Open Letter to the Children of Toxic Mothers

If you are reading this right now, I want you to know some things.

Everything you are feeling is valid.

You are allowed to be angry. You are allowed to be sad. You are allowed to be frustrated, pissed off, and mad at the world. You are allowed to feel any way you want and need to feel.

You don’t have to love your mother. Despite what society tells you, some mothers aren’t all that great. Sometimes, they are downright toxic. They may have hurt you, abused you, maligned you, or made you feel worthless. These mothers don’t deserve your love and respect. They didn’t earn that yet, and they possibly never will.

You are not a bad person for not loving your mother. Sometimes, it takes as much strength not to love as it does to love.

And if you do love your mother, even after all she’s done to you, that’s okay, too.

You know why? Because everything you feel is valid. Your heart and mind know the truth; the truth that people on the outside can’t see (or choose not to see).

Never let anyone make you feel bad for how you feel.

Go ahead and let out that anger. Go ahead and cry. You are allowed to grieve the loss of the mother you should have had, the relationship you deserved.

You are not obligated to anyone but yourself. You don’t owe your mother anything, despite what she or others may tell you.

You deserved more than a toxic mother.

I know it hurts. I feel the pain every day. I feel the emptiness within my heart where my mother should be, but isn’t. It’s a pain that only those of us with toxic mothers can understand. It’s a pain that lingers and never quite goes away. A piece of you feels like it’s missing.

You can still find that missing piece. You can still find that love and care you should have gotten from your mother. Sometimes, you find it in other family. Sometimes, you find it in friends. It may already be within you. You just have to connect the pieces.

You are worth it.

Take care of yourself. Be your own mother. You deserve it.