Thanks for the spectacularly beautiful, charitable and loving email you sent me for my birthday. Even one of my professors was flabbergasted by your "calculated cruelty." I don't know if that cruelty is due to your mental illness, or because you're a vicious human being.
Not attending my graduation. Wishing me "Happy Birthday," specifying that I wasn't really born, indignant that I'd given Dad my address; invited him to my graduation, but not you. How the hell did you figure that out? Did you simply assume?
You informed me that you didn't want to spend YOUR Mother's Day near Dad and, as I'd invited Dad to graduation, you wouldn't come. Obviously, your Mother's Day, your happiness is more important than the graduation of the daughter without whom you wouldn't have had a Mother's Day in the first place.
Maybe there's a reason I didn't give you my address. Maybe I don't want a sappy Hallmark card from you; it wouldn't be from your heart.
I don't want to cut off communication with you, but of the four times I've spoken with you on the phone recently, I've hung up the phone in tears twice.
Whether you mean what you say, or if it's due to your mental illness, I'm not sure. I do know this: I'm not obligated to subject myself to your cruelty. Which leaves me one choice: cut off communication with you.
I do not want to do that.
I want a "normal" relationship with you, Mom. Whatever the hell "normal" means. Don't tell me it's a "relative" term; that's a cop-out. I know, I use that cop-out all the time, but there is a "normal" way to treat your adult daughter, and there's a way that's not normal. It doesn't matter why you treat me in such a "not normal" way - it's still wrong.
In high school, I remember that I couldn't go for a bike ride unless it was to run errands. Very rare were the occasions you'd let me ride my bike with my friends, just for fun - especially after high school, that year I spent vegetating, because I hadn't made any plans. Maybe subconsciously I knew that leaving home would be a step from which I couldn't look back.
Maybe I don't have an eating disorder per se, but I have serious food-related problems from growing up with you. Allow me to illustrate.
I don't know how many times, I'd find you lurking behind the pantry door eating. When I'd come across you, you'd pretend you hadn't been eating. You'd hide your eating even during an episode of low blood sugar - a legitimate reason to eat.
Normally I'm fine, but there was that Christmas Party at my professor's house, full of people I didn't know. I was nervous so, steadfastly, I insisted "I wasn't hungry" and refused to eat. Sound familiar?
And, just this afternoon, my friend was asleep on the couch, and I was hungry. I didn't want her to wake up to see me eating food - food I'd bought with my own money - I wasn't eating her family's food or anything. I just didn't want her to see me eat.
I have a sweet tooth, too. I inherited yours, which you, of course, as a diabetic, deny you have. Still, I feel guilty even eating chocolate purchased with my own money: my friends may think I'm a gluttonous pig.
And how I loathe shopping - it reminds me of the days you'd create a scene at the store; especially about prices. You were sure someone was following us around; telling me how much the price was for you alone. You believed you were getting "over-charged." Countless scenes you'd create, calling me a liar, threatening me with a time-out.
We always went over receipts: I had to read the item and price immediately after checkout. Sometimes, if I were lucky, it'd wait until we got home. When I did, you'd accuse me of lying or stealing from you.
Maybe other blind parents have the same problems, but I don't know how many times our ride didn't show, so we'd have to catch the bus or hitch-hike home.
I hate clothes-shopping. Partially because of the scenes in the stores, and are your own clothing choices - probably related to your fear of spending. You cling to money because it's the only stable thing in your life.
I hate it when my friends go through the free pile and find clothes for me - probably because we got food and clothing from charity after the divorce. I don't know if our lack of money was your fault or not. You didn't make yourself mentally ill, but if you hadn't been mentally ill you wouldn't have divorced Dad as you wouldn't have provoked his anger.
From what Dad told me, from what he wrote in the letter to your sister (which I found) that he'd written before the divorce, he said he "didn't want a divorce: he wanted to keep the family together, for my sake." Maybe he recognized the harm divorce has on children.
In the book, Fatherless America, by David Blankenhorn, he states:
"An extended visit with the father means a week or so of conflict after the child returns."
Maybe that explains my temper-tantrums. Maybe I was angry all those times Daddy never showed up. I remember waiting in our "parlour" for him. Not just for our every other weekend visitation; the Wednesday night visit, too. That period of time he was "traveling" across the U.S. for his job - I only put traveling in quotation marks because you claimed that he was really in prison.
We said night prayers together during that time. We'd kneel by my bed and pray for Daddy, because you wanted to show me you weren't angry with Daddy for leaving (even though you kicked him out; you called the police!) or something equally demented. Only now can I see how angry you are. Or is that your paranoia? Because Daddy seems pretty chill - he doesn't want to see you, but he tells me to pray for you; to love you because that's all I can do.
Do you pray for Daddy any more? Not that he needs prayers more than you. I know both of you were at fault for the divorce.
O, blast it all, I'm not trying to get into a moral discourse about who was responsible for the divorce - I'm trying to say that you acted more like an adult back then. Maybe for the five years between the divorce and the move to California. For the past 11 years, you've been so angry at Dad. He's the "bad one" - spying on you, drugging you with sleeping pills, in cahoots with your older sister.
Between the ages of seven and twelve, I knew you were, at best, imagining things when you told me that people were spying on us, following us, recording your conversations.
You were convinced we had been forced to move to Burnett Avenue. People had worked on the house, designed it specifically for us - even thought it wasn't supposed to have an attic. You were convinced it did (Google tells me it did not), that people lived up there, eavesdropped and spied on us with video cameras. You'd show me things - papers I needed to read to you - holding them under the table so our spies wouldn't "see," you'd whisper, even though we were alone in the house.
I had conversations with the other little girls in our home-school group; telling them that my Mommy slept with her purse, convinced people took food from our fridge and papers from her purse. I think, you thought others could read your thoughts.
So many normal parts of growing up that I couldn't participate in. Partly because you were blind and parents didn't trust you. I had no sleepovers - not at my friend's house, not at our house.
Why did you take me to that psychologist after the divorce? Was it my temper tantrums? Rocking in the bed? At night, while I was sleeping, I'd get up on all fours and rock back and forth. Google tells me that it's called "body rocking" and part of sleep-related rhythmic-movement disorders.
I don't remember much about the shrink - I remember the waiting room where I'd read age-inappropriate magazines about pregnancy and childbirth. I'd been exposed to age-inappropriate stuff on the Internet - you didn't put a filter on the Internet.
I don't remember much about our visits; we played games like Jenga. I'm sure she asked questions about how I felt about Dad and the divorce; I don't remember. I know I drew lots of pictures. You were sure that Dad was eavesdropping on your conversations with the counselor.
Big news: I was just chatting with Dad on Facebook and Dad didn't know about the counseling. He says you weren't very informative about what you were doing with me.
Why didn't you follow the visitation guidelines after we moved to California? It's been several years since I've seen the divorce papers, but I know there was a clause about summer visitation should the custodial parent move out of state. Guess you thought it was okay to ignore that even though Dad still had to pay child support.
On Tuesday, January 9, 2001, you filed a notice with the court that you were moving. Four days later, we flew out to California. You didn't give Dad much notice.
You, of course, now away from the controlling powers of the courts, blatantly ignored the stipulations of the divorce decree about summer visitation. I saw Daddy for a few days around my twelfth birthday. I did not go back for my summer visitation.
The next time I saw Dad - Thanksgiving 2008 - was after I'd moved out and gone to college 2,500 miles away.
Do you remember how much contact I had with Daddy during those seven years? For a while - as long as you were okay with the amount of your phone bill - I talked to him on the phone for, probably, less than half an hour every other weekend. When the phone calls stopped, we'd email - at most, twice a month. Don't tell me I'm "making that up" - I looked at the old emails - that's how (in)frequent they were.
Do you think that was healthy? Do you realize how important the presence of a father is in a girl's life? I didn't have Dad around during my teenage years, the most critical years (according to many) - but you don't believe in all that "psychobabble."
Now, Daddy's role in my life. According to the above-mentioned professor and several reputable websites, “The biggest influence on a girl’s self-esteem is affection from her dad. To boost a girl’s self-image, have the father provide physical affection.”
Dammit, Mom - I grew up without that! Maybe that's why I’m always putting myself down, something my friends have pointed out. I look in the mirror and say, “you’re fat and ugly."
The characteristics of low self-esteem include (per Band Back Together's Self-Esteem Page):
- Self-degradation and criticism
- Hypersensitivity to criticism from others
- Difficulty making decisions
- Difficulty with setting goals or working toward achieving them
- Motivation that is out of sync with abilities
- Defensive attitude
- Hostile nature
- Excessive feelings of guilt
- Poor self-care
- Compulsive people-pleasing or care-giving
- Susceptibility to peer pressure
- Distrust of others
I don't want to blame everything on you - I'm not a big fan of what you call "psychobabble" - but you've gotta admit that growing up a mentally-ill mother might have some effect on me. Not that you'd ever admit that you're mentally ill: you’re perfectly normal; it's everybody else - the people that spy on you, lie to you, steal from you - who are crazy.
I hate that word.
I flinch when I hear it. It hurts like HELL to hear it applied to you. I know it’s true, but it still hurts to admit that you're mentally ill. I mean, you’re my MOM. There is something to be said about honesty, about not deceiving myself.
If I'm going to be honest with myself, then I have to admit that you are mentally ill.2 Comments