Borderline and self-awareness, self-confidence and self-esteem

I grew up believing that there is nothing I can do well. The only thing I believed I was useful for was to give other people sexual pleasure. That’s sick, obviously, because I was a child.

Awareness of who we are grows through the kind of feedback we receive about ourselves. As a social species we use others as a mirror to see ourselves. By how they react to us, verbally and through behavior, we draw conclusions about ourselves.

My mother was unable to be a good mother. My needs usually went unmet. She was unpredictable, angry and often aggressive towards me. I concluded I was unimportant, unlovable, unable to do something right and that I deserve punishment just for being there.

My step-father’s interest in me centered solely around the sexual abuse. If I didn’t do what he wanted me to, he became violent. My mother often said that she only kept me around because I had made him “addicted” to me. I concluded that I had to earn my right to exist by making myself available for abuse.

At school I got held back because I did not learn. Teachers used to say that they are not sure that there’s anyone actually at home inside of my head. “The lights are on, but nobody’s home.” I concluded that I must be really dumb.

In the institutionalized years that followed people became annoyed with me very often after what had always looked like promising starts. I concluded that I may look worth saving on the outside, but that there was nothing inside of me that would keep anyone going.

As you may imagine, my self image was real bad. I didn’t like myself. Like, at all. The feedback I had received painted a very unlikable picture of me and I was convinced that it was true. Because as a social species we tend to take social feedback seriously.

Unfortunately we’re also not born with a way to tell whether the person who reflects an image of us back through feedback is a good mirror, or one right out of a fun house. Imagine you had looked into a distorting mirror all your life. How would you like the way you looked? And if you had grown used to always looking a certain, distorted way in the mirror because you never saw yourself in any other mirror, would you believe the reflection if it suddenly were different?

I went through a lot of unhappiness and trouble with the positive feedback I received after I met my family and came to live with them. Lots of fear that once they discover how terrible I really am, they will want to have nothing to do with me anymore. In lots of ways I have tried to force them to hate me and be repulsed by me. Sometimes I could not stand their presence. At the same time I am and always was mortally afraid of losing them. But I wanted to have it happen, because I was convinced that it was what I deserved and what was going to happen anyway. When things don’t match up, when everything is a mess, when you don’t know who or what you really are or are not, that’s what happens.

Lots of tears, tantrums, hugs, yelling, cuddling, passionate hating, ardent loving and most of all lots of patience later, I am pretty sure that my “self” I have been aware of, was really not very realistic but just the reflection of other people’s mental issues. I don’t feel horribly unlovable, useless and dumb anymore most of the time. I am starting to allow the thought that there are things I might be good at, that I can be a kind person who others like and some even love. That this is not just some con act, but actually part of who I am.

At the same time I do not have a lot of practice thinking those things and old habits die hard and I have moments where I get very confused and find it hard to assess who I am. What I am. What I can. That I am important to someone.

It helps that my family are aware. Sometimes my mom sings the Lumineers’ “Ho Hey” chorus to me. You know, the “I belong to you, you belong to me, you’re my sweet-heart” part. She does it just because. Just because she wants to. I really like that because it feels like she means what she sings and wants me to know.

What also helps is actually DOING something useful. I have started volunteering at my mom’s former psychiatric ward. She used to be the head psychiatrist there or something and it’s a kids ward. That they know my mom and trust her judgment is probably the only reason why they agreed to let me volunteer. Anyway, I am going there once a week to just be with a little girl they assigned me to and play. To just do normal stuff with her, so she gets to just play and relax and laugh. We’re friends. She loves my long blond hair and says that when she grows up she wants to be just like me. I always laugh and tell her to pick someone else to be like, not a girl who’s way too old to not have an education and stuff. But deep down I am starting to think that maybe it’s not the worst thing. Being me, I mean. Maybe not by everyone’s standards, but my own standards are modest. Or maybe not modest, but different. But my life is different from that of many other people, so what do I need their standards for, right? 😉

I think finding the right mirrors for myself and the right standards to assess my behavior and my “self” with is one of the keys for a better and more realistic awareness of myself and for becoming more confident and stuff. Also, it helps to actually DO things that I can then assess. After all, staying on the borderline isn’t much fun. Lines are narrow. Borders are boundaries. And while boundaries are not necessarily bad, I don’t want to live ON them, but within them. And maybe sometimes beyond. In a good way. And a feeling good about myself way.

So that’s where I want to get. Slowly but surely.

So raise your glass if you are wrong in all the right ways!

Life can be so tricky. But so good, too.

I just had an could-have-been-one fight with mom because she said I need to clean up my room before I do any more fun things, like be on the computer. I really hate doing that, so I tried to negotiate my way out of it, but since she will only let me delay it two times and this was already the third time, that was not very successful. So what happened then? Did I grudgingly go to my room to pick up clothes and shove the mess back into its drawers like a good daughter would?

Not really. I was more like “you are such a stupid bitch, I told you I’d do it, why do you push me so, why don’t you ever trust me to do what I say” (yeah, why oh why doesn’t she? – Don’t laugh!)

Did it work? Did she leave me alone? (Okay, stop laughing, I mean it. 😉 )

Not really. She just gave me her ‘pull the other one’ look because she could already tell I was not really losing it, just extremely unwilling to get started and looking for a way to make it someone’s fault. See, from there on we can go two ways. She can get angry and disappointed and hurt that I called her a stupid bitch. This is the path to a big bad fight.

But that’s not what she does. Like, ever. Or at least almost. I call her a good many things when I’m angry, but it doesn’t really reflect what I think of her and we are both aware of that. She does not enjoy the name calling, but I do not enjoy getting reminded of annoying things either. Kind of fair. We share the misery.

She chose the other way to go, smiled and told me she loved me, too, and made a silly little game of dragging, trailing and shoving me upstairs. I kind of enjoyed that part. And while doing so suggested a million and one way to make it more fun. And even though I was all “no”, “bad idea”, “I hate that” and “don’t wanna” about it, I liked it when she suggested we listen to some music. So we listened to some P!nk.

And it turned into fun! Go figure. Go get someone, and then sing-scream the chorus of “Raise Your Glass” into each other’s faces while raising your fists in the air! Really, do it! You’ll be amazed at how much fun that is! Especially if you are someone who’s wrong in all the right ways, too! 😀

So raise your glass if you are wrong
In all the right ways, all my underdogs
We will never be, never be anything but loud
And nitty gritty, dirty little freaks
Won’t you come on and come on and
Raise your glass!
Just come on and come on and
Raise your glass!

Thanks to my Mom

For Mom

For Mom

Thanks

Thanks, Mom, to you
for putting up with me another year
thanks are way overdue
you find my screws that disappear
and that’s why I love you.
(One of the reasons I hold dear
your love, at least, for sure.)

With Love,
Lola

The Day Christmas Turned GOOD!

I don’t have words to convey just HOW excited I am!! Seriously, I don’t! No fucking way in hell could any word be awesome enough, I’m so happy!!

So what happened?! First of all, we waved the family goodbye! They are good people and I love them. Really, I do. But loving all of them at once is a bit much. I’m better at loving them from a distance or one at a time, so I’m really, really, really relieved that they finally all hopped back into the cars they came in, and quite early in the day, too.

That made for a great start into the day! Seriously, once everyone was gone, I just sat down and listened to the silence and the familiar sound of mom doing the dishes everyone left her with after breakfast and it felt like finally, FINALLY after way too many days that stretched out like a mini eternity things are back the way they are supposed to be. So that alone was a top-notch start into the day.

It also meant Christmas was technically over. Good riddance and all that.

But THEN the mailwoman came. See, I’m curious and even when I never really get any mail, I always want to know what mail we do get. But instead of letting me take the mail with her, mom sent me away. She turned all “no, you stay in the living room today” and when I took offense and demanded she stopped this injustice, she just said “because I say so” with her ‘don’t you dare talk back now’ voice. Which almost ruined this perfect morning, because I got quite pissed at her over it.

So when she and dad came into the living room after the mailwoman was gone, I was sulking by myself in the armchair. I did my best to markedly ignore them, with mom having been so mean. But they came over and wished me a merry Christmas all over again. That was so weird and out of place that I forgot to keep sulking, because checking whether they had gone nuts took priority. Crazy family or what?!

Yet they were smiling and looked like they were serious, and produced from behind their backs a fairly big package. Not wrapped or anything, just a cardboard box.

Remember how I was disappointed because I was not getting the one thing I had ended up hoping to get for Christmas? How I had stupidly not even told mom (or anyone else, for that matter) that I was hoping to get that? The stupid disappointment that had sort of ruined Christmas before it even began, because nobody had known I was hoping to get that thing, and therefore ended up not getting it?

The thing was a doll that might have ended up at our house because a lady from the neighborhood had asked mom whether she had any use for it. I had caught a glimpse of the picture of the doll the lady had shown mom, more out of curiosity than because I care for dolls. But when I had seen the doll I had been caught by surprise, because hands down, the doll looks like little a plastic version of me. I kid you not. So when mom had told the neighbor lady she’d consider whether she wanted the doll, I had kind of started hoping that she’d say yes. And then I had started to really, dearly hope she’d say yes, because in my mind I had started picturing how cool it would be to make the doll, like, mini-clothes that are just the same as I would wear, and maybe put a pink strand in her hair like I have . . .

But of course I never told mom about any of it. That’s BPD for you. Surely everyone should be able to read my mind, right?! So when I had casually asked mom before Christmas whether she had decided what to do about the doll yet, and she said she had told the neighbor lady to rather make some child somewhere happy than have the doll gather dust with us, I was gravely, utterly, terribly disappointed. Devastated, really, because my little dear fantasy about turning the doll into a tiny version of myself just vanished into nothingness and I hated mom for not having thought of me.

Yeah. So guess what was in the box mom and dad produced from behind their backs.

ChristmasPressie1

Have I mentioned that I really, really love them? And not because they ended up spending all that money on the doll for me. That’s the part that makes me feel guilty, because I think for having been so stupid not to even tell mom, I shouldn’t be getting anything at all now. No, why I love them is that they noticed how disappointed I was and took it seriously. Instead of teaching me a lesson by saying “see, that’s what comes from not sharing your thoughts” they got me the doll and said “see, that’s what comes from sharing your thoughts”. I love them.

And I love the doll. Yes, that probably makes me a big kid, but I still love the doll. She looks like a mini-Lola. Her hair is the same color and length as mine, it slides over her eyes just like mine does and she has blue eyes, just like I do. Even the shape of her face looks similar to mine.

ChristmasPressie2

I adore her shoes and pair of jeans. The rest of her outfit I probably wouldn’t wear, but hey, I’m gonna change that! I’m gonna give her a pink strand of hair like I have and I’m gonna get her clothes I would wear. And then, I don’t know.

I’m so happy. Christmas turned GOOD. And I have awesome parents. I love, love, love, love, love them! Bring on the rest of the year and the start of the new one! 🙂

Just sad

JustSad

I am thinking of everyone directly or indirectly affected by the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School. May love go where violence raged so senselessly. I am beyond words. What a sad day.

How Commitment Made All the Difference

As I am reflecting on the progress I am now making, however slowly, I often look back at all the years that I spent in health care before. At all the years during which I went nowhere and the only thing I ever got was worse. So much that by the time I was chosen for family care I had been put on several psychiatric drugs, secretly self-medicated with benzodiazepines and alcohol, self-harmed almost daily and felt like my life was empty and basically over anyway.

I had been receiving therapy and mental health care for eight years by that point. I had lost track of how many therapists, case workers, social workers, counselors and doctors I had seen. Lost track of how many times I had failed. At everything. At life.

Looking back the turning point was my family care placement. Not because of the family care itself, I believe. It was a pilot study, and two others girls who I saw in group for a year hated their experience in the whole thing, one even dropped out. I believe the study has since been discontinued altogether. It doesn’t matter. It was not the thing itself that helped me.

So what was it that helped me? That I went off meds? That I went through a several-months-long benzo withdrawal and eventually came out okay at the other side? That I received therapy? Individual therapy? Group therapy? That my mom is a shrink who knows her stuff?

I suppose all those things contributed. Some more, like being clean now, that mom knows her stuff and that I finally found a good therapist. Some less, like group therapy or the previous therapists. But in themselves, I don’t think they are what made the crucial difference.

I believe that what made that difference for me was that my family committed to me. I don’t know what drove them to commit to a crazy person, but they are a good kind of crazy themselves, so maybe that’s why they did it. And what a difference it made.

What IS commitment, you might ask. It’s actually quite simple. It just means being dedicated to something (or someone). Like, truly dedicated.

I was not used to anyone ever committing to me. In the world as I knew it, bad people abused me or played games with me, good people tried to help me, but in the end good and bad people alike would move on. I provoked it, too. Abandonment issues and all that. I behaved in ways that were sure to annoy or hurt or alienate others. I played games with them when I could, played people off against one another when I could, or was just plain nasty. Anything that forced them to show their “true colors”, that they were going to abandon me, just like everyone had done before.

Contrary to everyone else before, the family that I got matched with was different. I behaved like I always did. I tried to push them away, tried to alienate them. I hated them and tried to force them into hating me. Into abandoning me. But all that I met was them sticking to me. Like super-glue. With sticky tendrils. The more I kicked, the more they stuck to me.

I hated it.

And at the same time I loved it.

I can still hear my mom’s voice in my head like it was yesterday, forever saying: “I can see it’s hard. I can tell you are not fond of me at the moment. I’m not fond of your behavior either. We are having a bad time. But we’re in it together and we’re going through it together.”

And they didn’t just say it. They meant it. I acted up so much they had to hospitalize me. But they stuck with me. I turned into 60 inches of unpleasantness. But they stuck with me. I ran away from them. But they claimed me back. And stuck with me.

Not in a self-sacrificing, guilt-inducing martyr way, but just in the hands-on ‘we-chose-this, and we’re sticking with through the hard parts, too’ way. And as time went by, I stopped testing their commitment so much and started to have some trust in our relationship. Me, who never trusted anyone.

That was the turning point for me. I started to feel like how I did actually mattered to someone. That they truly cared about having me in their life. That they are not giving up on me. That they put their faith in me and refuse to accept that I can’t do better. And that they care enough to patiently show me how to really DO better.

Mind you, I still have lots of moments where I hate them and doubt them and hate myself and doubt me and feel like they are going to want to get rid of me for sure. But so far each and every one of those moments has been one that eventually only reinforced that they will stick to me, for better or worse.

  • They place my emotional needs over their convenience.
  • They spend time with me when they could spend it on other things as well.
  • They listen to me.
  • They take me seriously.
  • They include me.
  • They don’t shove the responsibility for my behavior away from themselves, but teach me how to improve.
  • They are patient and catch me when I slip.
  • The stuff that I can’t yet do alone, they do for me.
  • They draw closer when the going gets rough.

That’s what commitment is. That’s what made all the difference. I started to commit to them to. And to myself. And my recovery.

On Comfort Food, an Eating Disorder and Exercising Moderation when using Symbols

Comfort food

As I am writing this, my mom is getting ready to make me a bowl of Cream of Wheat. All day long the stupid Cream of Wheat has been on my mind and the longer the day went on the more I craved it. So much that I eventually started to cry because we didn’t have any at home, like the world was going to end because of that.

Cream of Wheat is a comfort food for me. It’s what I used to eat when I still lived in my childhood home. It’s one of the good memories. On lucky days my mother used to make it for me when I was little. Nobody else ate it and she made it only for me. Probably only because she had to keep me fed somehow and it was cheap and quick to make, so when we had it, that’s what she made, but the reason didn’t matter to me. It was special. It was the best thing in the world.

If I could, I’d still be eating it way more often than I do. It’s what love tastes like to me. Love and being cared for and being lucky. And looking back on my life, there were times when it was the only thing I would eat. (Hello, eating disorder.) The staff objected a lot. But there were entire months where I rather starved than have anything else. And I mean anything.

I don’t have it nearly as often nowadays. Am not allowed to, because of the fine line between using and abusing something. I am prone to tilting toward the latter.

Unsurprisingly, comfort food is less about the food than what it stands for. It’s a symbol. In my case it’s a symbol for being loved and cared for, for a lucky day and being special. So you might wonder “well, those are good things?! So what’s wrong about having it? Treating yourself to good things ain’t bad, right?! After all Cream of Wheat is hardly bad for you!”

And I suppose that’s true. I guess the problem it is that it remains a symbol.

Symbols are nifty things. The best thing about them is that we can make them our own. We can be in control over them. I believe that is what temps me so much about it. I have the power to make Cream of Wheat, if I want to. I can determine when it happens, how it happens and in what fashion it happens. It’s safe. It’s independent. It’s controllable. Those are darn tempting things for me. I happily settle for that if I can.

So much, in fact, that I tend to reduce to it. And that’s where the bad comes in. While it is a good symbol for sure, it is, at the end of the day, only a symbol. It’s only Cream of Wheat. It’s what it stands for that I crave. What it stands for are the real things: Love. Being cared for. Feeling special to someone. Feeling lucky. Those are relationship things. All of them. So in reality relationships are where to look for them. Because while a symbol is better than nothing, the real thing is were true satisfaction and fulfillment comes from.

It’s easy to forget that, because the real thing is also scary and unpredictable and more intense and holds the power to harm or go away. That drives me toward the symbol. But at the same time I understand why it’s important to resist the tug and turn toward the real thing instead.

I guess that is why my mom insists on making me the Cream of Wheat, instead of letting me make it for myself. To get the relationship back in. And why she insists on my not having it too often. Like, every day. So I don’t pseudo-satisfy my emotional needs. And why she insists on figuring out what’s stressing me today. So I can learn to solve that, instead of blanketing it with porridge. Reasonable, I suppose.

But first I’ll have Cream of Wheat now. After all moderation doesn’t mean to dispense with it altogether. 😉  Yum!!

The letter I’d love most to receive

Dear Lola

Three days ago I wrote this letter to my birth mother. I’m not going to send it, because I don’t want contact and don’t even know for sure where she lives. Unless she made a u-turn in all aspects of personality, it would do me no good sending the letter anyway, because if she did react, her reaction would probably be just as unhealthy for me as receiving no reaction at all.

Even so, it’s hard to not think about the chance at hearing the words I have so longed to hear for all my life. That’s why I thought why not write those down myself. The one response from my birth mother that I would really, really love to get.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Dear Lola,

thank you for your letter. To say that I was surprised to hear from you would be an understatement. It must have taken you great courage to write down your thoughts like that.

I feel like there are so many things I should say, but words don’t come easily. I am glad you are in a good place now. I am glad to hear that you have found your family. And I am sorry that things are hard for you.

I know I play no small part in that. I can see now that you suffered at my hands. I was never a good or safe mother for you. Struggling to deal with my own life somehow, I had no eyes or ears or heart for a child. You were my daughter, but all I saw was work and an invader on the life I tried to make for myself. I was only a child myself when I had you, did not know about the needs a little person has and I was unable to care about anyone other than myself. Unable to see anyone else’s situation.

For this I am sorry. I am sorry I never protected you from abuse and pain. I am sorry I added to it. I am sorry I abandoned you. I am sorry I never even said goodbye.

There are a lot of things I could tell you about my own past and my own struggles in this world, but you are right in saying this is not about me, but about you. For this one time, it shall be only about you.

I was never able to feel love for you, but I want you to know that this was not because of you. I am certain that you were a very lovable child. I can see in hindsight how hard you tried to make it easier for me to love you. And how bitter it must have been that all you got was derision and hate. It was not because of you. It was because I was not in a place to love anyone. For that I am sorry. You would have deserved so much better than that.

What you deserve is the family you have now. You deserve a mother who loves you and protects you, and a father who knows that children, one’s sons and daughters, are not sex partners. I am sorry you had to wait so long for your family, but glad you have them now. Please don’t ever feel bad about enjoying being with them and giving your heart to them. I am not mad at you.

Please know that I am also not mad at you for rather living with them than wanting to get back in touch with me. You have your own life now and that is good. I am still not in a good enough place to be trusted not to hurt you any further.

What I want you to take along on your journey through life is the knowledge that I am proud of you. You survived abuse. You survived being with me. You survived being without any family at all. You survived being made to think of yourself as worthless and beyond help. That takes a strong person. I am proud of you for making it. For walking through this difficult life straighter than I ever could.

I hope that you can go and use that strength for your advantage and for your recovery. With the small part of me that is capable of thinking like a mother, I want nothing more than for you to have a good life. I want you to find contentment and happiness. I want you to become everything you are meant to be. Everything you want to be. The part of me that can think and feel like a mother will always love you from afar.

Happy Holidays,
your birth mom

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

My mom helped me word that. She also helped me cope with how much it made me cry to think those words up. I wish I could receive words like those for real. Mind you, I’m not having delusions, I know it will never ever happen. So I guess this will have to do. And I feel okay.

BPD – Black And White Thinking and Splitting

BlackAndWhite

There was drama at our house last night. Short story is that my brother dropped by unannounced over heartbreak because some girl dumped him and mom and dad were there for him. I didn’t find that cool at all, because it was my evening, too, and that’s not how my evening was supposed to go. The world became the blackest place and my family the worst family ever, I was sure that they loved only him and not me, and within half a breath my brother’s heartbreak was a breeze compared to mine.

It was probably a textbook example of black-and-white thinking and splitting. Things are either all or nothing. The one OR the other. Either my parents love my brother, or they love me. Either my evening is nice, but if something doesn’t go exactly as I planned or expected it, it’s a catastrophe. Either I love my family or I hate them, because either they are my perfect family or detestable monsters I’m not even related to. Plus: I must be horrible and unlovable for them to treat me so.

This is a Borderline symptom. Through black-and-white thinking, I split everything – other people, myself, situations, circumstances – into being either all-good or all-bad. And while I am feeling a certain way about it, it feels like the eternal, inalterable truth. Until some small thing changes it and the opposite feels like the eternal, inalterable truth. Needless to say that is not a good basis for relationships. It creates great amounts of drama. It sure made a mess of last night.

The result was that dad took care of my brother’s heartbreak and mom of mine. (Splitting turns around: Oh no, I was so wrong, she loves me, she’s there for me, she’s the most perfect mother ever!) And after I had calmed down and felt safe again we had a long talk about black-and-white thinking and splitting and all that.

We compared it to operating a 1000 watt light bulb. What I have is a switch that I flick either on or off. It’s either completely dark or I have to deal with a glaring floodlight. What I need is a dimmer.

Now the not-so-healthy part of me wants to argue: “What the heck do I need a fucking dimmer for?! A dimmer is bullshit!! How am I ever supposed to know anything for sure if I constantly have to adjust my dimmer to get the right setting?? I will forever be getting it wrong because how would I know when I have found the right setting?!! It’s a shit idea! I don’t want to dim the light and risk seeing too little. Or too much. I want to keep my switch! On, off! Safe!! Go to hell with fucking dimmers!”

Well, I suppose at least I’m in good company! Mom reassured me that everyone prefers switches over dimmers a lot of the time. She said it’s human nature to want to put things into categories and make generalized judgments. I guess that’s how I ended up with the so-called “sane” people putting so many labels on me in the first place! And I guess that’s how even on a really grand scale, the black-and-white thinking is popular. Think of “rogue countries”, for example. Hey, even I can discern that it’s hardly the entire country that is ALL rogue! I bet many good people live in and are a part of so-called rogue countries. Maybe they care for their own people! Maybe they even have good intentions carried out all wrong! I don’t know! So labeling the entire country “rogue” sounds like a judgment I might make when I’m rubbed the wrong way. Light switch off. Easy. Clean. Safe. So I guess I at least have plenty of company in my black-and-white thinking.

Not that that makes it any more healthy. Or helpful, for that matter.

Mom pointed out to me (like, only for the 1000th time) that black-and-white thinking makes me end up with serious misconceptions about the world. That people, situations and circumstances are too complex and multi-layered to do them justice with the on-off switch. That most things happen in between the extremes. That things can change or appear different to what they are. That sometimes the opposites can both be true at the same time without excluding one another. That the more skilled I get at operating a dimmer, the more true to reality my perception will become.

See, the splitting up things into one extreme or the other is a matter of safety. I grew up in a very unsafe environment alongside very unsafe people. For example my birth mother, if she was in a bad mood, she was in a really bad mood. It was a matter of survival to read the signs and act accordingly and immediately. Like, shit, she clanged down the pot lid hard – she’s pissed, she hates me, she’s a dangerous person to be around. Because she WAS a dangerous person to be around. For real. On the other hand I could not afford to hold on to my hate of her, of my considering her dangerous, because at the same time she was my mother and I depended on her. If she had a nice moment, I needed to react to that, needed to be able to appreciate and love her. All good. Those very real extremes CAN not exist at the same time within a child who is still learning to make sense of the world. So it was safer to only have one OR the other. Safer for my feelings, but safer in the sense of physical safety, too. I needed to either get myself out of harm’s way, or receive openly what I was given when I was given something. Without either I would probably not have survived my childhood.

I guess the problem is that the world of my childhood itself was an extreme one, and not how normal people operate. What I grew up to think of as normal, is really not. In normal situations, with people who are not deeply disturbed themselves, people use dimmers, not switches, to assess situations.

I’m still learning to do that. I guess I do have a dimmer of sorts now, because I can at least reflect on the matter (like I am doing here) and make sense of it. When I am emotional I still rather use my switch. The only real difference is that now my mom doesn’t let me get away with it. Yesterday when I split the evil, bad, rotten parts off to see only those, she did not let that pass, but immediately followed up on it. I went from switching one way (fuck her and the family) to switching the other way (I love her so much), but neither was really good, so she helped me calm down and we talked and she helped me find a more correct assessment of the situation.

Or staying within the metaphor: she took my hand, put it on my dimmer and helped me adjust it to a setting that did the situation more justice. Like she has done so many times now. But I guess it takes many, many, many repetitions. For now I am glad I can see good settings after she pointed them out to me. For the future, I hope I will learn to resist flicking the switch more often to play with the dimmer. I am practicing.

A Letter to My Birth Mother

Dear Mother

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Dear Mother,

you would probably be bewildered or feel bothered if you got this letter for real, plus I don’t know if you even still live where we used to live of if you’ve moved . . . so I’ll just put my words out there at nobody in particular. But they are meant for you.

In case you are wondering who this even is: it’s me, Lola, who you gave birth to 26 years ago this December. The girl you were “stuck with”, as you never neglected to point out, for 15 years. But believe me, I chose this even less than you did. I didn’t choose you to be my mother. I did not choose a sick pervert to be your husband. I did not choose to be conceived. Ending up with you and in the crap life you’ve made for yourself was just what I got dealt and have to live with somehow. So this is not really about you, but about me.

Every holiday season I think of you. Not because I choose to, either (trust me, I’d rather think of good stuff) but because I can’t help it. It’s been that way ever since I got removed from your life. I’ve been in a mental health institution of one sort or another year for year after that, watching pretty much everyone be released home for Christmas, even if it was only for a few hours, or if they were too unwell to leave, they at least got visits by their families.

Do you know how it feels to have nobody? To get a cheap card by a case worker, maybe, and that’s it? For me that put a razor sharp edge on every holiday light, on every decorated tree, on everything nice that Christmas could be so that instead of joy it gave me pain. It was nothing but a reminder that I was unwanted, unloved. Locked away and forgotten. Being the reason why poor staff who have to work on Christmas can’t go home to be with their families. One year it was only me and two staff. I took an overdose of pills on that day, only so I would get admitted to the hospital, where people worked anyway. So the staff could go home, because I couldn’t stand watching them be miserable at work only because of me. Because I had nowhere else to go.

But that’s not really what I want to tell you. That’s just to explain why I have been thinking of you every single December. Why I am thinking of you now.

What I really want to tell you is that it is not that way anymore. For once in my life I got lucky. I was offered a chance to participate in a pilot project for a study that aimed to compare the effects of home care in a host family in addition to therapy to a control group who remained within their usual environment. It may not come as much of a surprise to you that I got kicked out of that study for not sticking to the therapy rules, mother, as the one thing I remember you telling me the most was that I was a waste of time and a failure at anything I did.

What probably comes as a surprise for you, though, is that despite having gotten kicked out of the study, my family kept me. For no pay, nothing. They kept me because they wanted to. And you know what? They adopted me. Did you know it was possible to adopt adult people? See, I didn’t. But it is. I am officially theirs now. They wanted me.

I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t like my family. They are everything you despise and look down on. You’d call them square suburbians who have no idea about anything but rich-people whims and woes, out of touch with what “real life” is like. But you know what? They have something you never had, as long as I knew you. They have hearts that they know how to use. They are kind and compassionate and probably way too good for me, but even so they want me. They give me a second chance to grow up. And who knows, maybe I will.

I am not spending Christmas alone anymore. I am with my family, who love me. And I love them back, more than I can say. You don’t know how scary that can be, truly loving someone and being desperately afraid of losing them. Feeling like anything I could possibly give them back is worthless, because years spent with you made me think it is.

What I am giving my family now – my love, my heart, my best shots at stuff, my everything – I wanted to give to you. You have no idea how much. I loved you and wanted to make you happy and proud of me and I wanted nothing more than for you to love me back. Part of me still wants that, even after all the hurt. But you didn’t want it. I gave you the ticket to my heart, time and again, stuffed it in your pockets when you weren’t looking and put it in your hands when you were too drunk to notice. All you did was tear it apart. I fixed it as many times as I could to give it to you again, hoping this time you’d want it, but you never did. And after a while I understood you. The ticket to my heart had turned into such a miserable, crumpled thing from all the tearing apart, throwing away and fixing, how could you possibly want it?

Ticket To My Heart

What I did not understand was that even a mangy ticket to a heart covered in scratches and scars could be worth wanting. My mom wanted it. My dad wanted it.

I am in a good place now, mother. Maybe not yet emotionally, but physically. And I am recovering. I am determined to use this chance and prove your words wrong.

I still think of you often and even when sometimes it’s really hard to live with the imprint you left on my mind and my heart, I think part of me still loves you, too. Other parts of me hate you and feel sad and lots of other things and there is certainly no room in my life for you, but from a distance, I love you. Still. If there is any part of you, no matter how small, that can think like a mother would, maybe that part will be happy to know that I am okay.

I wish you no ill. There were times when I did, but I don’t anymore. I am incredibly sad for everything we lost and can never again have, and the pain of your abandonment still sears like a fresh wound on some days, but I am coping. I have a life to live now. And even when the holidays are still difficult, I am learning to enjoy them now, too. I hope the good starts to outweigh the bad eventually.

May the same be true for you, too.

Farewell from a distance,
Lola

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Related entries:
– some memries of my mother
– on what my mother suffered from
– on my family
– on why my mom is a “good enough” parent, and why my mother wasn’t

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