I didn’t really know how to title this post and I figured “your mom” jokes were still in from the 90’s, yeah?
This week’s therapy session inadvertently centered on my mom. She and I (her and I? I’m not sure) had a very strained relationship for a very long time – up until my early 20’s. In my freshman year of high school I attempted suicide and ended up in a psych facility because I had thoughts that I felt I couldn’t talk to anyone about, especially my mom. She’s always been a “suck it up, buttercup” parental figure and I resented that.
Today during therapy I said something aloud that I’ve never really allowed myself to before. I know my mom means well and I believe that she believes she’s doing the best she can so I’ve never told this to any exes because I didn’t want them to judge my mom based on a history that’s nearly two decades old. But today I was talking to Ms. Therapist who will never meet my mom and is paid to listen to this kind of thing and help me work through it so out it came.
When I attempted suicide at the age of 14 I felt that ceasing to exist was the only way to get the painful/confusing/sad thoughts I was having to stop. Looking back I realize that really, I wanted to do something that made my mom listen, that would hopefully make her realize I was in so much pain that she couldn’t ignore me. I ended up being Baker Acted (a mandatory 72 hour hold on someone who presents a threat to themselves or others in the state of Florida) and stayed in an adolescent psych facility.
I don’t remember a lot about my time at that place – random snippets here and there but one thing that’s seared into my memory is a visit from my parents. My mom brought me a nice bath robe (they removed the belt) and some books to read which was a very nice gesture. But (there’s always a “but”!) on her way out she said something about how my stay there was “costing her a fortune”. Ya know, paying for my own health insurance now, I understand that sentiment but I will NEVER understand how those words came out of her mouth at me in that situation. I wanted to SCREAM at her at that moment. I wanted to rage at her with a rant about how I felt like nothing but a burden to her, how she probably wanted to have babies and NOT actual children who would grow up, how I was so hurt that she never cared about how my day was at the dinner table every night, how hard it was to be a teenager, and how much I just wanted a parent to TALK to, how much it was killing me inside to have to quiet my feelings because our family didn’t do emotions.
As I got older I started forgetting a lot of the bad bits of my childhood. As I dated and made friends with people who had abusive or entirely absent parents I began to replace my resentment with gratitude for my emotionally stunted but overall supportive parents. Sure my mom didn’t dote on me but she didn’t beat me either.
Saying that story aloud in therapy today felt freeing. Ms. Therapist helped me work through it a bit but mostly I explained that I’ve moved on and accepted my mom for who she is. I can’t change her; she’s in her 60’s and I’ve only got a handful of family left so it’s much easier to move on than dig up the past and try to explain something I don’t think she’ll ever fully understand. In her mind she did an excellent job because in comparison to how her parents raised her, I had a cakewalk.
So there ya have it. The classic “mother issues” therapy session. No, I don’t blame all of my woes on my mom. I do believe my unease with letting people past my defenses can be traced back to how I was raised. I’m sure you can see how being the “baby” of the stoic family that doesn’t talk about emotions or ever cry could potentially cause one to shut people out. . . But I’m working on that! For reals.