My Mother is coming…
This is so typical. Because of my depression and PTSD, I often experience unexplained physical pain. This runs the gamut from your average nagging headache to the most incredible migraines as well as Fibromyalgia. That’s always fun because I never know where it’s going to hit me or what part of my body might become incapacitated for hours or even days. And most times it comes out of left field, or at least I thought it did. It is likely my fight or flight response, which has a mind of its own and reacts to perceived threats of which my higher order brain isn’t even aware. And that definitely happened this week.
We’ve been planning for months now our families annual 4th of July party for this Saturday the 2nd. The party moves around and this year I’m hosting. It’s a lot for me to take on..20 or so adults and about 18 kids. I must feed and entertain them all Saturday and in the meantime I can barely make dinner during the week. But I’m pushing through because that is what we do! On Tuesday though, I started feeling it. I couldn’t turn my head from neck pain and I started having a headache that right up until this moment feels like it is blinding me in my left eye. I couldn’t keep dinner down two of the last few nights and just wanted sleep more than anything else. I couldn’t understand why though. My husband is doing a ton to help and this year we are making everyone bring a dish of food or desert. So I have some work to do but it’s certainly not overwhelming.
Given all this, I went to my Doctor to discuss it and of course she worked it out. She just looked at me knowingly and said, “But…your Mother is coming, isn’t she?” Oh Dear God, Yes, my Mother is coming. She’s coming today in fact. She’s coming a day early to “HELP” me. She’s helping me so much I can’t get out of bed.
My Mother is a/the trigger for my PTSD. She is only “a” trigger because there are others. She is “the” trigger because she and my Dad were the original triggers (he is gone now). And because she will not accept this fact or change her behavior at all, she continues to be that trigger. I cannot be in her presence for very long before she says something that, maybe to the outsider might sound innocuous, but to the child in my head is defeating, dismissive…even soul-crushing. My mantra is “Your mother cannot love you, but it isn’t your fault.” That helps. I tried visualizing with my therapist what my Mother might say today or tomorrow that could make me fall apart. We visualized the words just bouncing off me or running right through me with no effect. It was great for a bit…and then I saw this look on Mother’s face in my mind’s eye. It was a look she uses often to express her utter contempt. A look of disgust and total disappointment. It blew through all my imagined protections and immediately withered my spirit. My therapist said it was the shame I carry because my Mother couldn’t love me. I’m still blaming myself. That is truth. That is the ugly truth.
But it’s worse that that. I broke into tears because I know I have used that same look with my children. I didn’t even realize it until that moment in my Doctor’s. All these years of therapy and all these years of swearing I’d never be like my Mother. All these years of doing everything I possibly could to NOT be my Mother and I knew it in an instant. I use that same look to shame my kids. And the self-loathing was so overwhelming for a few moments that I couldn’t breathe. I was literally swallowed by such guilt and shame I could not breathe.
My Doctor said that in the course of 3 minutes we went from what my Mother does that makes me feel depressed to beating myself up again and that I cannot keep doing that. Easy for her to say. I said I had to immediately start watching my every word and now my every gesture with the children…they deserve better. The Doc said, first you have to get past this weekend with your mother. One step at a time. Maybe her train will break down and she won’t make it??? I couldn’t be so lucky. Nope, I’m going to have to deal with her. I can’t cut her off…the rest of my family would be horrified. They don’t know, nor could I ever explain how awful she can be. She manipulates everyone who didn’t live in our house when I was growing up. So to keep relationships with them, I have to keep her too. But God knows I could live a much longer, much more peaceful life if I didn’t have to deal with this. Sick for three days before and probably a week after. I have to get away and meditate or pray or something while she’s here. That or they’ll be way too many cocktails in my immediate future. If you’re read this and you pray…say one for me. Or just send me some good thoughts. I need all I can get.