Tired of the Same Old Endings

“I’ve started to write short stories again – something I haven’t done since I was a kid.”

“How’s that going?”

“It’s disturbing, actually; the endings are the same even after all these years.”

“Like what?”

“Me in a straitjacket, completely mad.”

“Oh, I see!”

th-1As do I – there are never happy endings, just a worsening of the situation caused by my inappropriate actions.

I used to fear I was going insane as a child – not a far stretch considering that’s what happened to my older sister.  This conversation is with my psychologist.  Just when I thought things had settled out in my psyche, the dreams have started again – not so much nightmares as deeply disturbing.

I grew up in a house full of secrets, where chaos was the reigning element, and hope, if it dared rear its head, was quickly squashed.  As a child it was difficult to see a way out of the pain, other than suicide or extreme acts of violence.  I attempted neither – was the ‘good’ girl in the family – but it doesn’t mean I didn’t fantasize about it.

“I left home when I was seventeen!” I whine to my therapist.  “It’s not fair that I’m still struggling with this.”

“How have you been feeling lately?”

“Tired,”  a ludicrous comment (I have ME/CFS which is characterized by systemic exhaustion); “I’m sleeping more than usual, which is actually a good thing, given I don’t  sleep well with this disease.  Have lost interest in food…generally depressed, I guess.”

Damn! Depression is like that elusive fly that keeps buzzing around but I just can’t catch.

“You have lots of good things going on right now; is there something that has triggered it?”

th-2In fact, there is – a conversation my younger sister and I had around Mother’s Day.  While I have sought extensive help to support my healing process, my sister prefers to hold it all in, and then every once in a while bits spew out.  Her mini revelation was enough to ignite the dreams for me.

“I don’t have a conscious memory of what she’s talking about, but the dreams would seem to indicate I was affected too.”

“Do you want to explore it further, or do you think you know enough to move on?”

I had been doing quite well – had gained enough perspective to be able to extract past wounds from present occurrences – yet, in my writing, there has always been something else lurking – another layer of hurt.

“I just want to know that there is going to be a different ending!  I need to know that there is a purpose to all of this and that my life won’t end up tragically, but right now I can’t see any other options.”

And then it hits me – this is what I love about effective therapy – my upbringing was not about love and connection, it was about survival.  I did not learn the skills that I need to have a fulfilling life experience, thus the need for re-parenting.

th-3.jpg“Do you have a copy of Growing Yourself Back Up?

“I do!  Found it the other day when I was clearing things out!”  I’m feeling lighter now, having identified the current dilemma and having an action plan in place.

No matter how innocent, children take on responsibility for the dysfunction that adults dish out.  They absorb the abuse, violence, and imposed secrets as reflections of their own lack of worth.  Consistency, enforced guidelines, and predictable parenting help build a secure sense of self, and a foundation of confidence from which a child can progress.

“Try to see the good things that have come out of it all,”  my therapist offers kindly.

“You mean like resiliency?”

“Yes, that’s a good place to start.”th-4

Cutting the Psychic Ties

There is a woman following me around, stabbing me in the chest every time I go near my husband, so I go off on my own.  The pain is too much to bear.  th

“Why are you alone?” someone asks me.

It’s just easier that way.”

“Why don’t you stab her back?”

“She only wounds me, chances are I’ll kill her.”

***

“When are you going to cut the ties with your Mother?” my psychologist asks when I tell her this dream.

Of course, the woman attacking me is my mother.  She does it all the time concerning my relationships, especially since I’ve become ill:  You’re not cooking for your husband?  He has to do the shopping?  He’s going to get tired of looking after you! A man needs a wife looking after him….and so on.

Losing my independence was difficult; being told everyday that I’m not a good enough wife just rubs salt in the wounds, (or as in the dream, stabs).

“How do I do that? I’ve felt responsible for my Mom forever.  That umbilical cord is tough to break through.”

“Try putting her in a chair (figuratively speaking) and have a dialogue.  Imagine cutting the threads.”

Okay, here goes:th-2

Me:  Mom we need to talk about your continual criticism of me; it has to stop.

Mom:  What criticism?  I admire you greatly. When have I ever criticized you?  If I did, I certainly didn’t mean to.

Me:  Maybe you don’t hear yourself, Mom, but you question me regularly about my role as a wife.

Mom:  Well, I just worry that Ric will stay interested – he has to do a lot to look after you.  Men get restless, you know.

Me:  Do you know what Ric’s reaction is when you say these things?  He says:  “Tell your Mom, she is not speaking for me.  I’m not like that.”

Mom:  Well good for him; he’s a rare man.  You’re very lucky.

Me:  You are missing the point, Mom.  When you make statements like that you are projecting your own experience – and I know it hasn’t been easy for you – but not all men are like your husbands were.

Mom:  Do you really think so?

Me:  I know so!  Do you know that all my life you’ve told me I’m not good enough.

Mom:  Well…you’re different.  I just worry about you getting hurt.

Me (wanting to throw my arms up in exasperation):  The thing is that your words hurt more than any man’s can.  You’re my mom!  I need your support.  I don’t need you to agree with me on everything, I just need you to believe in me.

Mom:  (nodding, biting her lip):  You have made some poor choices…

Me:  We’ve both made bad decisions, Mom.  I am trying to break through those patterns – make a better life for myself, for my kids.

Mom:  You’ve always been smarter than me.

Me:  I am sorry about what you have been through, Mom.  You didn’t deserve any of that.  And I am amazed at how you kept going through it all.  You are an incredible woman.

Mom:  Obviously, the choices that I made hurt my children, even though I never wanted that.th

Me:  It’s inevitable Mom…and I hurt my children.  Blame doesn’t get us anywhere.  I just want you to know that I am no longer going to accept the negative comments from you.  When you tell me what I’m doing wrong, I will kindly turn it back on you:  “That’s your experience, Mom; not mine.”

Mom;  (nods in agreement).

Me:  And another thing, Mom.  I know that you feel loyal to your family, and want us all to be one big, happy extended bunch, but I am not going to fulfill that wish for you.  I am choosing to protect myself and my girls from them.

Mom:  I read some of your work, and it appears to me that you think you were abused.  You don’t really think that do you?

Me (insert exasperation again):  We were abused, Mom.  All of us were abused.  That was what it looked like.  Abuse happens when one person exerts power over another, be it physical, sexual, emotional, or psychological.  My whole life we lived in fear of Dad; none of us could breathe, least of all you.  That wasn’t love, Mom, it was control and manipulation.

Mom:  Yeah, yeah, I got that.  But he didn’t hurt you girls.

Me (saddened now):  He did Mom.  He hurt all of us.  I’m working through that, though.  Dad’s gone.  I just want you to know that I will not be seeing my cousin again, or go visit a creepy uncle.  You may okay with lewd behaviour but I identify that as abuse also.

Mom:  They don’t mean anything by it; they’re just being boys.

Me (steam rising out of my head):  No, Mom; they are inappropriate.  (What I want to say is that if they tried any of their behaviours around my girls, I would physically remove them from our presence; not to mention what Ric would do.)  I now you don’t get that – I tried to speak to your last husband about it –  but I am not going to put myself or my daughters in any situation that makes us feel degraded.

Mom:  When did Don ever make you feel that way?  He was just trying to be funny.  He liked you girls.

Me:  He also made highly inappropriate sexual comments!  (I can see I’m getting no where with her.  Denial is her pattern.)  Mom, I can’t change your viewpoint; it is what it is.  I am just letting you know that I am drawing a line.

Mom:  Ok.  I’ll try to do better.

****th-1

I can see why this exercise needs to be done without my mother present.  What I have to say could fatally wound her, and that is not the desired result.  I just need to be really clear that what she says to me is often a projection of her own agenda, and stop taking it so personally.

Hard to do though, when the child in me is still looking for the warmth and affection she missed out on.

Denial Is a Poor Example

“Your homework for this week is to write about the things your mother taught you,” my psychologist advised at the end of our session.

Memories have been resurfacing and along with them rage.  I am incensed that I was never protected from some of the things that happened to me.th

“Well, she taught me that I needed to sell myself out for love.”

“That’s a good place to start; see what else comes up.”

I mention it to my husband.

“Well, I could name a few off the top of my head.  I’ve tried to retrain you on a couple of things, like that you don’t have to ask me every time you want to buy something.”

“Well, I always thought that only the breadwinners hold the power (except that I have an income too, so that doesn’t make sense).  Do you mean that I don’t think women have rights in a relationship?”

“She is a good martyr, your mom.”

There’s all the things she’s said to me about not being loveable; and that I should have stayed with my cheating husband, because any husband is no better than no husband; and all those insinuations that I can’t possibly keep a man with the way I behave.

“She’s taught me that love is very conditional, and that if I assert myself, I may very well lose what I have.”

“I keep telling you I’m not that shallow,” my husband chides.

He keeps proving it to me too. domesticv1

Really, what she has been suggesting is that I am nothing without a man.  I have no social value, no reason for being without a ring on my finger.  Holy cow, that is warped.  And sad.

It’s not that I blame my mother for any of this.  She grew up in poverty, was raised to get married, have children, be subservient.  She didn’t know any different.  I, on the other hand, grew up in a time of more opportunity for women.  So why am I still so impacted by her?

Mom has always made excuses for the bad behaviour of men in our lives, as if they are beyond reproach.   She has denial down to a fine art.  When confronted about my father’s abuse, she’d say it didn’t bother her, he was just under a lot of stress.  When my uncles and cousins would drink too much, she’d say that their wandering hands and tongues were just them being boys. When I told her I broke up with a boyfriend because he almost raped me, she accused me of being a prude and told me he was a good catch.

Not once did she say:  “You don’t have to put up with that behaviour!  Value yourself!  What you have is sacred.  Your love and your trust have to be earned.”

Or any other bit of advice that might have set me up with healthy boundaries.

I am angry because I didn’t know I had the right to say “no”; was confused about where the line between love and abuse existed;  was grateful for the scraps I received; and set myself up for failure time and again.494705515e82363e8d2b1b8d10122ff9

I am fifty-eight-years-old, and only just now realizing that all this.  I guess better late than never.

Sure hope I haven’t neglected to teach my daughters right from wrong where their self-worth is concerned.

Hoping, Hope, Hopeful

After a six-month wait (would have been a year if not for a cancellation) I met with a new doctor yesterday.   I was hoping for a fresh set of eyes, and I got that and more – I came away with an action plan!

“Take it with a grain salt” my family practitioner had warned, but to be honest, apart from a diagnosis two years ago, there has been no followup testing, or treatment plans other than “resting” and that has used up all my “salt”.

The new doc practices Functional Medicine, which is a combination of traditional and alternative, and while some of his approaches do sound “out there” it is the first time I’ve felt a glimmer of hope.  th-5

He has sent me away to complete some blood work and we will reconvene in a month and set the plan in motion.

Unbeknownst to me (my brain has trouble connecting the dots these days), I had recently subscribed to another doctor’s website who practices the same approach:  Dr. Amy Myers.  I heard about her through a friend’s blog:  Jan’s Facets.  Suddenly, I feel like things have shifted:  hopeful!

th-4Downside:  treatments are not covered by health care, so this involves  financial output; I will think of it as investing in my future!

Let me know if you have experience with this form of medicine, otherwise, I’ll keep you posted.