I feel like I’ve been healing and purging myself of the past lately. And by “the past”, I mean the child abuse I experienced. My friend Ash pointed out to me earlier today that I’m too hard on myself, and that I don’t think I’m a good person. This is odd, yet true. I mean, on the surface–even to myself!!–I seem so confident. But on some hidden level, I don’t believe it.
I still remember when I was around eight years old, my mom would find me in the house, have some sort of mental collapse, and blame me. As she’d sob on her hands and knees in front of me, begging me to help her, she’d say, “You’re manipulative and sadistic. You enjoy upsetting me. You’re doing this to me on purpose. You’re playing the ‘let’s upset Mommy today’ game and winning.” I guess I never stood a chance at having any self-worth.
That’s the issue–self-worth. My self-esteem is fine. It’s my self-worth that’s shot to hell.
How do I overcome that? I know rationally (as anyone would) that that’s no way to talk to a kid, and that it’s not even true. I wasn’t manipulative (any more than any kid, maybe even less so) and I certainly wasn’t sadistic. But she convinced me that I was. I had a good vocabulary, if nothing else. I knew what she was saying.
It’s the curse of the narcissist (her). She wasn’t looking to be lifted up or cheered. She acted like she was, but she wasn’t. She wanted to be miserable and to pull me down with her. Then when I’d resist her by whining, or by insisting she was wrong about me, or by trying to get away, she’d spank me.
It’s amazing I don’t hold any grudges against her, but it’s hard to hold grudges against your parents. They’re flawed but loving (at least in my case) and do the best they can (not that that’s any sort of excuse).
Then I became a shrieking monster. I’d throw these shrieking tantrums whenever she’d come near me. As best as I remember this started when she was trying to put a shawl on my head for a school report, and the shawl was fuzzying up my braids. She was in hysterics over it, concerned that I’d get a bad grade, and it would destroy our lives. (For third grade? You really can’t make this stuff up.) And she was on her hands and knees in front of me, trying to situate the shawl, with tears streaming down her face. She was in total hysterics. I reached a boiling point. I couldn’t keep her energy inside of myself, so I started shrieking like a maniac. And I kept shrieking for many, many years. Aside from occasional ugly crying, I don’t do that anymore and haven’t in ages… decades? But it reinforced the belief that I was evil. I felt angry all the time, and that anger and the rage within me convinced me that I was dark and evil as a child. But I wasn’t. I was so pure and holy, only I couldn’t see it. I screamed to purify myself and purge myself of her energy, which I couldn’t contain for her. And I had to learn to master my temper, which never would’ve been a problem if not for her. Done! No more temper.
I’d watch The Incredible Hulk as a child, and I could relate to his temper. I felt like I was the title character. Anyway, this is all old news. But I grew up and didn’t realize I was a good person until near the end of college. My campus counselor had her hands full with me. My mother, ladies and gentlemen, sought to destroy my inner purity, and she came close, but she didn’t ultimately succeed. I think this is why I’m so childlike at my age, with my love of rainbows and unicorns and colorful things. I’m still at the age where I don’t want to have my purity of spirit taken away from me or corrupted, so in that sense, I’m still and forever eight years old. Nothing wrong with that. It might be how I held onto the purity I had before it was beaten out of me. I’m not sure. I mean, my life up to age seven/eight was idyllic, and then it wasn’t. Overnight, it became nightmarish and destructive to me.
Anyway, healing, right. I had no therapy this past week, but I was dealing with other stuff, so it worked out. I’m going back this upcoming week, and we might start the EMDR. My dad’s paying for it, which is nice. And I’m almost on chapter 5 of my memory book.
I’ve been happy to have my mom out of my life since my birthday. I feel like a period of healing is overtaking me, and maybe even more and better things than just that, and my mom–God bless her–has no place in my life right now. The woman can’t stay on her
best good behavior to save herself. She darned well knows it, too. She didn’t create any drama when I wrote her off after my birthday. She just sort of knew she’d become too toxic to tolerate, and that was that. (Does she actually deserve credit for that? Not sure.)
Her energy was all wrong for me as a child–technically, at any age, her energy is wrong for me. It’s intense and dire, like, if this one little thing goes wrong, our lives will be ruined. My brother and I tasted Comet once, as in we put a tiny drop of it on our fingers and tasted it. My mom found out and hugged us close and told us not to be afraid of death. [Facepalm.] She said there would be angels there to greet us. And then the sobbing started. My brother and I glanced at each other and rolled our eyes. Lesson learned. Don’t taste the Comet.
Another time, when I was around eight also, she feared I had intestinal parasites, so she shoved folded tape up my butt and made me fall asleep that way. You know, to catch the worms and verify their presence. She took every parenting thing too far and made it traumatic. What you’re supposed to do (I think) is check your kid’s underwear for worm eggs. But as with all things, she had to make it as traumatic as possible. That was always her style. Like, “Hmm, how can I use this opportunity to traumatize my kids?”
I’m not sure what the overriding spiritual message is. I should love myself despite her shenanigans? That’s fine, but how do I accept that she’s a deranged, broken fiend? I’m not sure what the point is. But I do know that I came into this particular lifetime to master self-worth. So there it is. Had my childhood been lovely, I might not have this setup to be able to overcome and show mastery of self-worth.
Also at the age of eight, I had to overcome horrific nightmares about fire, and also bedwetting. I blame my parents for both. I’d dream I’d woken up and was in my room but there were flames all around me, and I knew I was about to burn alive. And then my parents attached some sort of alarm to me that went off whenever I’d wet myself. It was downright medieval, but it worked. So there’s that.
I don’t think the lesson is to set boundaries with my mother. Just take my word for this: with her, it’s impossible. It’s just impossible. [Shaking my head.] I don’t even expect that of myself, even though I do fully want to master self-worth.
I mean, remember when I kept dodging her digs on a road trip back in 2015, and she got so frustrated that she held me hostage? And I had to call my dad to come and save me? Yeah. See, boundaries don’t work with her. She has an underlying vicious, cruel streak. There was this other time around then when I was mean to my sister, so she left my mom’s gathering. I felt guilty about it. Then my mom came out on the porch, where I was hanging out with my stepsister (who I love) and my stepsister’s mom (who’s no longer with us), and she gave me this huge guilt trip over it. I tried to apologize, but she was in high form.
After she stomped back inside, ever the martyred victim, my stepsister and her mom exchanged a glance. Prior to then, I’d tried to warn my stepsister about my mom, but my stepsister had been like, “Oh, your mom seems nice! You must be mistaken,” blah, blah, blah. Well, that was one problem solved. And then my stepsister’s mom looked at me and said something riotous like, “All families have their drama,” cluck, cluck, cluck. And I found it oddly comforting, as if she was saying, “Honey, your mother’s batshit crazy, and I’m sorry I just witnessed that.”
Who knows? Maybe that’s exactly what she was saying. My stepsister might know. But after my mom went back inside, they both had expressions on their faces like, what the freakin’ hell did we just witness here?! And they were just staring at me, agape.
I should have smiled and said, “Welcome to the family.” Damn! A missed golden opportunity. I do love my stepsister. Even though her dad, my mom’s husband, is dead, she’s always my family.
My favorite anecdote from the abuse files is the time I was in the mental hospital, and Mother called me on the phone. Those of you who know this one can skip ahead to the sinister laughter. A nurse approached me and asked if I’d like to talk to my mom on the phone, and I said, “Sure!” I was in twelfth grade at the time, I believe.
The nurse stretched the phone out of the nurses’ desk and handed it to me.
And we had screaming through the phone. The nurse had been walking back to her station, but she turned and stared at me. I pulled the phone away from my ear. More screaming. “How dare you ruin your family like this, you ungrateful brat!!” See, my mom was always on her best behavior whenever anyone was watching. She had no clue she had an audience other than me.
“Uhuh,” I agreed. “Uhuh, right, okay…. sure… bye.” I handed the receiver back to the nurse.
Not fifteen minutes later, the nurse pulled me aside and said, “We were going to recommend that you go home tomorrow, because you’ve worked so hard and have been doing such a good job; but if you want,” and she winked at me and lowered her voice, “we can say you’re still having problems and keep you here another week.”
Hell, yes, that place was POSH. Are you kidding me?! The cafeteria food was divine, there was a game room, snacks, an upper-class hotel vibe, a huge-screen TV, and arts and crafts. Freakin’ nature hikes! Helpful videos about being assertive and checking regularly for breast cancer! Other kids my age who understood exactly where I was coming from! We had instant rapport with each other! I was all over the nurse’s offer. And my unsuspecting mother had to foot the bill for it.
[More sinister laughter.]
To this day, I don’t think my mom knows that she was overheard, or that I got to stay in that heaven for an extra week because of her bad behavior. But I could be wrong. After all, I put it in my novel, Unraveled, which she’s read. (“Why do all of your novels have mean mommies? These characters aren’t based on me, are they?” “No, Mother, of course not. Where would you get an idea like that?” [Innocent face.])
Anyway, I’m fully ready to heal and move forward with my life. That sounds good, right? And I will find a way to do so. I’m very determined. And I’ll find the love that I want, too. I truly believe that.