This should be me! – a.k.a Gone Baby Gone

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

There was a terrible situation yesterday night. I went to the kitchen with mom and in passing I looked through the door to the living room and caught a glimpse of a scene from a DVD dad was watching, Gone Baby Gone. I have no idea what was going on, but the scene was in this shabby house with a woman who was, like, a drug addict or a boozer or something. You could see from the way she looked and talked and behaved that she was really fucked up, unstable and unpredictable, able to turn violent and stuff.

It was the way my mother used to look. Except my mother had brown hair and that woman’s hair was blond. Like mine.

The resemblance to how my mother had been was horrifying. My heart beat like crazy, I felt frozen to the spot, instantly detached from reality, and I couldn’t look away from the screen even though what I saw made it worse.

Mom noticed I hadn’t followed her into the kitchen, so she came back and got me. She’s really quick to pick up on stuff like that, so I never needed to explain what had happened, she could already tell I had been triggered and was in a bad place. So instead of taking me to the kitchen, where we might have overheard stuff from the DVD, because the living room is right next to the kitchen, she took me back upstairs, and helped me come back to reality and calm down.

Which worked for a little while, and we snuggled, but then I got this thought that this woman I had seen should be me. I mean, really, it should. That was exactly the kind of home where I had grown up. Our house had looked cleaner, because of my mother’s OCD, but the whole atmosphere was exactly the same. I got this overwhelming feeling that this was the life that had been planned for me. That this is what I ought to have become: A fucked up drug addict and alcoholic who has a shabby home and a pathetic, miserable life.

But instead of that, I live in this really nice house, with people who I’m not even related to yet call mom and dad, exploiting them, messing with their lives, taking all those things they give to me that I don’t deserve, because the life that I was chosen for was never this life, but the kind of life I had seen on the TV screen.

The noise in my head was unbearable: This should be me. My life should be like that. How dare I exploit good people. I deserve a life like that, not the life I live now. I took something that I had no right to have. I should get punished. I must leave them. I do not deserve people who love me and care for me. I should be doing drugs and alcohol and have a shit life, just like my mother had . . .

To cut a long story short, the night turned into drama. I wanted to hurt myself and screamed and cried and it took a long time until I calmed down again. Most of it is hazy to me, but I think dad stopped watching the movie when I started screaming and helped mom with keeping me safe, because I have half a memory trying to kick him because I was so angry that they wouldn’t let me leave. Which in turn meant that I woke up several times during the night in a panic over losing everyone. Mom didn’t leave me during the night, so it was okay-ish, because I wasn’t alone, but this morning I feel exhausted, because of the bad night and waking up early, and awful about giving everyone such a terrible night, after it turned out to be me, who ended up “gone baby gone”.

Feeling exhausted and guilty is a dangerous mix for me, so that even when it has the potential to make me feel even more guilty, I’m also grateful that mom keeps me close by today. Crisis watch.

Mom insists I skip today’s part of the Sexual Healing Journey and I can’t argue that. I’d be a mess today. So instead I’ll do something a little more uplifting and try to make a list of things that I like, to get my thoughts (and hopefully my feelings, too) into a good direction again.

I hope you all had a nicer start into your Sunday.

The Sexual Healing Journey, Chapter 3, Part 2

SexualHJ_03_2

After yesterdays part of the journey about understanding sexual abuse, today’s part will cover overcoming blocks to recognize sexual abuse. And this part, too, is still part of chapter 3 of my journey, so I’m still busy “acknowledging the abuse” here.

Overcoming blocks to recognize sexual abuse.

The book mentions three common blocks that can make it difficult to acknowledge sexual abuse, and deals with each one more in depth. The three blocks are:

Block 1: Feeling unsure how to evaluate a particular experience
Block 2: Feeling confused by the special nature of the abuse
Block 3: Holding on to your own personal biases and discounts

According to the book, each of these three things can prevent people from acknowledging that sexual abuse took place. So I guess my challenge today will be to look at each of those blocks and see whether, and if yes how, they apply to me. Stop reading, obviously, if you are uncomfortable with the mention of sexual abuse and sexual abuse related stuff.

Block 1: Feeling unsure of how to evaluate a particular experience

Piecing together the memories of abuse that I have, I can conform that it’s not always easy to decide whether something was actually sexual abuse or not. I mean the really explicit stuff that I recall obviously was, but what about when my stepfather had me sit on his lap while he was watching TV and pulled me against him, stroking me? I have plenty of memories of watching TV like that, trying to focus on the TV instead of him, because I didn’t like it and was afraid he’d want to ‘play’. (That’s what he called the sexual abuse, he called it ‘play’ or ‘playing’)

So nothing really happened many times when I watched TV with him, but I was thinking of the abuse all the time and constantly stressed because I never knew whether we were going to end up ‘playing’ this time or not. Was that, in itself, already part of the abuse? Is that a memory of abuse? Or was this just my stepfather actually trying to be nice? I have a couple of memories of this nature, where I don’t know if it counts as sexual abuse at all or not, because nothing really happened, except within myself. But then, oftentimes sexual stuff, like thoughts or so, happen to me while I am with my family now, too, and I’m 100% certain that they are NOT being sexually abusive. So… confusing. Which leads to:

Block 2: Feeling confused by the special nature of the abuse

The book says that especially when sexual abuse got labeled as something else (like “medical checkups” or, I suppose, “play”, like my father called it), or when it happened gradually or was indirect, like by passive exposure, it can be confusing and hard to tell whether something was abuse or not. For example it took me a long time to realize that my stepfather making me watch child porn was sexual abuse already, even though he didn’t touch me and let me have candy, which was rare for me to get. But I think while those two blocks still exist for me, it is really the third one that I struggle most with.

Block 3: Holding on to your own personal biases and discounts.

See, in hindsight I can tell that I was brought up, basically, in a way that aimed at getting me to go along with sexual abuse. I never really resisted, and . . . gee, this is hard. As in really hard. It’s so embarrassing and makes me feel so guilty. I’m with mom and she assures me it’s fine, but even so it’s hard. But I guess I’ll bite the bullet and say it. I wanted it. Kind of. I mean not really. But then real enough. For one thing my mother accused me of “wanting it”, and hated me for “stealing” my stepfather from her. And for another he kind of made it in a way that had me end up asking for him to continue. He always made it seem like I had a choice. For example I have this memory of him touching me, like in the porn he had showed me, and then asking ‘do you want me to stop?’. But I didn’t say ‘yes, please stop’. Ever. I don’t think I ever really said it. I remember crying and feeling awful, but I don’t remember ever saying I didn’t want it. The only thing I remember is the question “do you want it, too?” and that my answer was always yes. So instead of feeling abused, I feel horrible and guilty and like I invited and deserved what happened and really have no right to feel abused.

And while I KNOW that’s not true, and it’s helpful to read in the book that of course it still was sexual abuse, and rationally know that playing along was probably my safest bet at survival, because my stepfather could get incredibly violent if he was cross, try telling my feelings that. Not in situations such as now, where I’m relatively calm and feel safe and contained and okay, but in situations when I’m emotionally upset. In those situations I feel like it’s me who is a dirty whore, bad and deserving of only the worst, and like I have no right to whine or blame anyone besides myself, like everything is my own fault.

Hm… I kind of feel like this was a pointless post today. I didn’t really learn anything new. I knew all those things before. I don’t feel particularly connected to my words either. I’m toying with the idea of pressing delete, because I was only rambling, because what I know and what I feel don’t really match, and while my feelings still have those blocks, my thoughts don’t anymore. I don’t know. Whatever. I’ll post it and hope tomorrow’s part of the journey will be better. Next up will be memories.

~~~~~

ADDENDUM: mom just read what I wrote and asked me whether I feel ‘all there’. I don’t. I think my emotions dissociated away while I wrote. Which might be why I have no connections to my own words anymore and I feel like the post is insignificant rambling. So I guess I’ll try to sort the dissociation out somehow now.

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Missed the past episodes of the journey? Here they are:

A project for 2013

The Sexual Healing Journey Begins, Chapter 1

The Sexual Healing Journey, Chapter 2

The Sexual Healing Journey, Chapter 3, Part 1

 

Book source:
MALTZ, Wendy (2012): The Sexual Healing Journey. A Guide for Survivors of Sexual Abuse; Third Edition; Harper Collins. New York.

 

Have a Merry Scary Christmas

ChristmasTreeLightning

Christmastime is a bittersweet and challenging time for me.

On the one hand I like stuff like Christmas lights, and how pretty and sparkly and festive everything looks. I like that mom makes Christmas cookies and that there are stockings and we make gingerbread houses and in a way I also like that I see my siblings and that everyone comes home for Christmas.

At the same time, every year anew Christmas brings a merry bunch of challenges. I can name those more easily than the nice things, in fact. The most important ones for me are:

1. Painful feelings. Ever since I can remember Christmas gave me a feeling of want and need and missing out. On TV, at school, at stores, everywhere are pictures of what could be and should be. Suffice it to say that Christmas never even came close to living up to that at my childhood home and that I always felt abandoned at Christmas. I can still feel it today and it’s a weird, painful feeling.

2. Missing my birth mother. Well, okay, maybe not missing HER, as in her real self. More like missing what could have been. Mourning that I don’t even know if she’s still alive. That I lost her for good. I guess a piece of my heart still belongs to her, for what I always wished we would have had, and Christmastime reinforces that she’s not there for me and never was. That hurts.

3. Flashbacks. I can only guess that Christmastime must not have been all that merry for me in my childhood home, because random Christmassy things give me flashbacks of the real scary, threatening kind that give me physical sensations and feel like I’m about to get killed. I absolutely DREAD those flashbacks. If I could get rid of only one thing, this would be it.

4. The house bustling with people. I kind of like that everyone comes together and that everyone enjoys seeing each other and being with the family. I like that there are proper family dinners and that things are quite like I always figured they were supposed to be. But having all those people around stresses me and the Borderline part of me wishes they’d never show up in the first place, because for sure everyone will like everyone else better than me and mom will forget I’m even there when she can also be with them.

5. Family traditions. It makes me sad that my family has so many of their own, that I am not a part of, because they have a much longer history together than with me. It’s not so painful in everyday life, but on special occasions like Christmas I can feel it clearly. It makes me feel like I’m not really a part of the family in the same way as they are, even when mom assures me that they all started out the same way when they were born into the family. I guess having been “born” into the family only three years ago, I still have a lot of catching up to do.

6. Gift giving. I really wish we could skip that part. I have a persistent voice inside my head that tells me I deserve nothing, can give nothing that would be of value to anyone and that whatever people give me, they don’t mean it, and that if they act like they like what I give them, they lie. With my conscious, rational mind I know that’s not true, that it is just what I was trained to think when I was little, but shaking the feeling off is a whole different matter!

What makes Christmastime scary on top of the unpleasant moments is that any of those things can pop up anytime, with no or little warning. Right in the middle of something nice or fun, any of those nasty crap things can strike like lightning. (Get my picture up there? 😉 ) There might be a brief rumble in the skies that makes me aware it’s coming, then it strikes. That makes me reluctant to enjoy myself and Christmas in the first place, because all the time I run the risk that something crappy spoils it all – for me and then for others as well when I act like the crazy person or become bitchy or make a scene.

But I am determined to try really, really hard this Christmas to make the best of it. I even feel like I am reasonably well prepared for the crap parts. That is new. And also I really, really want to get to a point where I can be aware of the crap and feel the crap, yet not get thrown off track completely, so that I can still see good things as well. Who knows. Maybe this Christmas.

Making a Roadmap to a Life that Matters

Wait?! What? - Where the heck am I again?!

Wait?! What? – Where the heck am I again?!

“Why are you even here?”

I have asked myself that countless of times. Looking at the facts doesn’t draw a good picture. I have BPD, which means I’m often a nuisance to those around me, hinder them, or demand they place my needs over theirs. I have PTSD, which means I struggle with shit healthy people don’t even think about. I avoid half a trillion places because they are triggering, I dissociate and am not even a proper part of the world when I do and I haven’t dealt with at least two thirds of my traumatic memories yet. I have no formal education to speak of and no degree in anything. The only thing I’m certified is crazy and dysfunctional.

Looking back, I can’t separate the individual occasions on which my birth mother let me know that I am the reason for her misery. That I was the worst punishment God ever cursed her with. She used to say that, word for word. Then she got a chance to get rid of me for good with minimal effort on her part – and jumped at it, never to be heard or seen by me again.

How she felt about me was how I felt about myself. I had no idea why I am here at all. The only reason why I am still here is that I stopped caring about much of anything and just drifted on, numb with occasional bouts of emotional crisis, wherever life took me. For eight years.

Until my new life began. Not really because I chose it, but because it chose me. I was still drifting.

Since then, however, I ran aground. With all the good and the nasty that brings.

Now, two days ago, I was sick, my mom and I talked. About lots of things, but what I am thinking about now is that she said “you matter” and “we’re glad to have found you”. And you see, she has a way of saying things in a way that I can believe them. Even good stuff.

The sickness bug is gone (thank God) but her words have stayed with me. And I have realized that it’s nice to feel like I matter to my family, but that I’d really like to know WHY I matter. I want to feel like I have a life that matters by my own standards, too.

So I figured I need a roadmap to a life that matters, because I tend to get lost on whatever way I want to go. So far I have put on my roadmap:

1. Going after what I’m positively passionate about, so that there’s meaning in what I do. Right now, it’s blogging. I’m passionate about how people with mental health problems get treated and the many stupid/ignorant/unhelpful attitudes people have. Also, about the things that help me get better. About the things I have learned. I’m pretty passionate about those. I want to share them. Blogging is a way to do it.

2. Going the right way, not the easy way. The more I think about this one, the more I realize there is a huge pull in society in general towards the easy way. People want outcomes, but they don’t want to be bothered with getting there. Mind you, I’m one of those people, quite often. What gets sacrificed is quality and having something proper. Take convenience food. It’s quick and easy. Hey, you can even have it off paper plates so that you won’t have to bother with the dishes. But is the food good quality? And can you truly feel good about yourself, knowing you burden the world with unnecessary waste for no other reason than your laziness. Everyone can answer that for themselves. The right way is often the harder way. But also the one that leads to something that matters.

3. Finding out what “right” is for me – positive principles to live by. This one is probably the hardest one for me, because it’s in direct competition with BPD. Being borderline makes me rush judgment and draw faulty conclusions to act upon. Positive principles require me to do the opposite. Virtues such as honesty, self-control, persistence, kindness, generosity and patience don’t come easy to me. Like, at ALL! But I want a life that matters in positive ways, so this is where I feel my “right” lies.

4. Keeping in mind that a roadmap is meant for a journey, not a destination. If I were there already, I didn’t need a map anymore. I need the map because I’m not there yet. In fact I’m far from there. Far from making the right choices, and choosing the right path, even when it’s a hard and long one. But that’s exactly what a roadmap is for. So I can look at it when I err or stumble. So I can keep track of where I am, even when I went the wrong way. So I can get back on track. Even when I need to do it a thousand times before I get anywhere.

5. Recognizing the good things along the way. If a map is not so much about the destination as about the way – and I can already see that the way is a long one – I might as well treat the way as if it were the destination and appreciate the good things that make going it worthwhile. For a life that matters, finding meaning in what I do is a good way to start. Meaning in the successes, when I manage to walk on the right path. But also meaning in going astray, like figuring out why I got lost and how to get back on a better path.

I want a life that matters. I want to be here to show that I can use my life for something good after all.

My Childhood Home

My therapist thinks it is time I start to collect and organize my thoughts regarding my childhood a little better. She says it’s important for people to have a coherent life narrative, so they can make sense of their history and ultimately move on. She likened life to a book with many chapters where the story only makes sense and feels fulfilling when the chapters are in the right order, when all the important chapters are there and when they feel like each integrates into the rest to make up a proper narrative instead of a jumble of random pieces.

I struggle a lot with that. I have lots of forgotten memories and my life feels less like a proper story and more like a bulletin board with various snippets on it. Instead of a sequential order, everything is kind of there alongside each other. Which means that I tend to get disoriented in time, making the past feel like the present, for example. So I can see how working on a coherent life narrative is probably a good idea.

For starters my therapist suggested I focus on matter of fact things, as I remember them. So I suppose bringing the memories I have of my childhood home together to make one picture might be a good starting point.

I remember our home to be a small one story house squeezed between other houses that looked the same. It had a front and back yard and both were full of junk, stuff like a broken down car on blocks instead of tires, metal parts, dumped furniture and other large trash. Except to the front where the road was, the lot was fenced in by a tall wooden fence, much taller than I was. That’s the part that I remember well, what was outside.

Inside is trickier. I spent some time trying to put the pieces together and draw what I remember and this is what I came up with:

ChildhoodHome1

Where the red line is, that’s where the front door was in my memory. You stepped into the living room and it was divided into the part with the sofa and a part where a table was. Opposite the front door was a door that led to the master bedroom and my room and a bathroom.

What I remember was that the floor was light brown and somewhat speckled. I think it was a linoleum floor. In my memory there are no rugs. I don’t think there was one. My mother was obsessed with keeping things neat and clean and linoleum could be wiped down, so I suppose that was why it was there.

The sofa seated two and was green. Green corduroy, I believe, with a large white doily over the back. I remember because I used to stare at the corduroy to escape my body, in favor of getting lost in the pattern of fine lines. To this day I hate corduroy. I’m certain the doily was my mother’s doing.

The wallpaper around the entire house was blue and patterned. I believe it even was a little darker than in my picture, and I never liked it. I don’t like blue as a color.

And then there’s something that is curious and that I can’t quite understand. In my memory there were two tables. One was in the living room, right there where drew it in the picture. It had four reddish chairs with metal legs and what I believe was a grey Resopal tabletop. That table was where we ate. But then I remember a second dining table in the kitchen. That one was round and also had four chairs.

I don’t know why I remember two dining tables. Some memories make it seem like they existed at the same time, and I suppose they must have, because while I clearly remember there being a round dining table in the kitchen, I don’t remember ever sitting at it. I only remember eating at the other table. The only thing I remember my mother doing with that round table was wiping it down, actually, or sitting at it while she drank.

The kitchen was behind the brown beaded curtain. I remember it being small and off limits for me. I only entered it when I had to. If I didn’t have to, I would only ever pull the bead chains aside and peek in.

Against the wall behind the dining table that we actually used there leaned a narrow sideboard. I don’t remember what it was used for, only that there was another doily on top of it on which stood a little bowl with a lid. The bowl was where my stepfather put the money he gave my mother.

But what I remember more clearly than the sideboard is the picture that hung above it. It had geese on it and they were flying over reeds or cattail or something. The way I remember the picture it was mostly in grays. I didn’t like it. I think I was envious of the geese who could fly, but since they were frozen in mid-flight, they also annoyed me. I used to stare at the picture when we ate at night, because when my stepfather was home my place at the table was opposite the picture. Strangely, I only ever remember sitting there when he was home. When he was not I used to sit with my back to the sideboard. My mother’s place was always at the end of the table that faced the kitchen, and my stepfathers place was on the opposite end. That never changed. Only I seem to have switched places depending on whether my stepfather was home or not. I wonder what sense to make of that.

The way they had divided the table – my mother at the kitchen end and my stepfather at the other – was true of the way they divided the house, too. In my memory the kitchen was where my mom lived in the house and the sofa belonged to my stepfather.

Because of my mother, the house was always kept meticulously clean. As cluttered and messy as the front and back yard were, inside the house it was the opposity. Nothing was ever lying around. My mother allowed for no visible mess whatsoever. The only thing that always lay around was my stepfather’s pack of cigarettes. My mother smoked, too, but she kept hers in the kitchen, I don’t know where.

That is what I remember our house to have been like. The rest, the master bedroom, my room and the bathroom, I still have a much harder time remembering. I recall snippets, but somehow they don’t go together to make proper pictures yet. So for now this is all I can describe.

I must say that it feels weird and vaguely threatening to go there again, even when it is only in my memory. I can feel that there are lots of shadows lurking there, threatening shadows. I suppose they are memories of other things. Bad things. But for now I feel safe enough, so all is well. And who knows, maybe it is time I face the shadows, little by little. I want to try to.

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!!

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

Feeling inadequate

 

Feelings of inadequacy are something I continually struggle with. Whatever I do, I can’t help comparing it to what other people do and feel like I don’t measure up to that. I use other people’s reactions as gauges too, and somehow they never (seem to) react as positively to me as they do to others. And if I do, by exception, get a positive feedback, I only wait for it to go away again, for the other person to see she was wrong.

My conclusion is that I must be stupider than most people, with less interesting things to say, less abilities, less charms, less charisma, less personality, less value and less worth. That whatever I do, I will only ever be at the bottom of the pile. That there I have an aura of ‘she’s laughable, ignore her’ around me that other people will recognize before long. Even when I compare myself to other people with mental health problems I come off badly. Like even by those standards I am inadequate.

Sometimes I wonder if those feelings are the direct result of rejection and abandonment. My mother cut ties from one day to the next, surrendered her parental “rights” (burdens) and that was that. I meant nothing to her. She jumped at the first chance to get rid of me. And while I know – in theory – that that says more about her than about me, my feelings are not as easy to convince. Even as a daughter I was inadequate. So much so, that my mother, who I had lived with for 15 years by the time, didn’t hesitate to throw me away like trash.

I guess that is probably why I can’t get past feeling inadequate. Why whenever I compare myself to others, they come off so much better. Why so many things come across to me as evidence that people think badly of me and wish I wasn’t bothering them, even when I try to be nice and helpful. Then I withdraw, because my feelings are hurt and at the same time I don’t want to bother them with my presence anymore, knowing they will be happier when I’m gone. And if someone wants to reconnect, I make it hard for them. Turn them down. Try to drive them away and alienate them with all my might. Make them hate me. To validate the way I feel, and to keep myself from getting hurt again. Unless I am beyond caring and offer myself as a willing victim for whatever it is they think I deserve. Easy prey.

The results of feeling inadequate.

What’s in a name?

I just happened across this website that suggests ‘Lola’ is a slutty name. That it shouldn’t be a first name but one to only use if your personality is ‘Lola’. I wonder when your personality is Lola. When you’re a whore? A stripper? A porn-star? A pet name for Lola would be Lolita – most people probably have some ideas that they associate with that as well.

Sometimes I wonder why and how my mother chose my name. Her name was Loretta, so maybe something starting with ‘Lo’ and ending in ‘a’ rang familiar to her. Or did she not think of that at all? Everyone called her Etta, so maybe she wasn’t even aware of the similarity. Maybe she just opened the newspaper one day, read the name somewhere and figured it was as good as any other. Or she heard the Kinks song, shrugged and reckoned ‘transvestite, daughter, whatever, it’s a name’. Sometimes I like to think she chose it deliberately. Most of the time I can’t imagine she attached meaning to it. She never called me by my name either. The only things I remember her calling me were ‘hey you’ or ‘stupid’ or ‘dirty slut’ or variations thereof. So who knows, maybe it was even my step-father who named me. Maybe because he was already thinking along the Lolita angle. He used to call me that and I hated it. I cringe when I hear it and want to puke. That’s not me.

My sister (one of the two I have now, I don’t have biological siblings) once asked me if I liked my name. I guess I like it okay. I like it when people use it to address me. I like it when my mom says it. In fact, I think I like it since my mom says it. She makes it sound nice. She says it in the same voice she uses to call me honey or kiddo or sweetie. It’s like she claimed my name and gave it new meaning. Like she claimed me. In my ears my name sounds different now than it used to.

I guess this post has no real point. Just random rambling about how weird it is that we end up with a name that someone else chooses and that can take on different meanings along the way. So what’s in a name? What you put in it, I guess.

Why my mom is a “good enough” parent, and why my mother wasn’t

I happened across this thesis yesterday and although I only skimmed it, I found something interesting about how parents are supposed to be “good enough” parents. So I asked mom and she said that’s a concept coined by a psychologist named Winnicott and it means that parents don’t need to be perfect, never making mistakes, but that they need to be “good enough” in order for the child do develop in a healthy way.

I thought that was interesting and decided I want to compare the parenting my birth mother did and the parenting my mom now does and see what I get. I’ll write my take on my mother’s behavior in blue and my take on my mom’s behavior in purple.

So trusting the thesis being a good enough parent requires parents to:

  • To teach and guide

my mother – teaching and guiding, I don’t know if that applies to her at all. Does it count if you are taught something by learning to fear the consequences if you don’t do it? The only thing she deliberately taught me was that everyone who didn’t take advantage of someone else when given the chance to get away with it was stupid.

my mom – she takes lots of time to teach me things. Perfectly ordinary things, like how to attend to my personal care, how to use a washing machine or how to cook something, but also things like how come I tick the way I do, how to make sense of my own behavior, that of others and everything. And she does it over and over again, even when it’s the same thing she showed or explained to me ten times already.

  • To instill morals, values, beliefs, ethics

my mother – she instilled the belief that you’re dumb if you don’t cheat the system, take advantage of people or cut them bad deals or lie when you can get away with it. And that it’s okay to take your anger out on others.

my mom – it used to annoy me how ethical she is. If she gets her change and the cashier gave her too much, she always alerts them. She’s all about treating people well and being honest and all that. I used to not get it. Why put myself at a disadvantage when the other won’t even notice? For quite a long time I accused her of only doing it to hone a holier-than-thou attitude, so she can feel morally superior. But I was wrong. Especially lately I got to realize that she does it because it feels good to treat others well, because it makes it easier to feel good about yourself and… hm… I guess because it’s the right thing to do. Sounds weird coming out of my mouth, but go figure, now I actually think so.

  • To discipline

my mother – her idea of discipline were threats and punishment in any shade you think of. I was mortally afraid of irritating her and provoking anger, so I was probably very well behaved, but not out of anything but terror.

my mom – I can’t recall a single event where she punished me, but at the same time she attaches great importance to discipline. If we make agreements, she expects I observe them. And if I don’t, she will follow up on it, will try to figure out how come I didn’t and what I need in order to have an easier time observing the rules the next time around. It’s very important to her. It’s only the minor rules that she lets slip sometimes, stuff like not having candy before dinner.

  • To set limits

my mother – she was setting limits alright. Lots of random limits. Whatever she said was a new rule or a limit. It was kind of confusing because whatever angered her was overstepping a limit, and what she demanded changed depending on her mood, so I was always on guard about it. Stuff that was okay to do yesterday, that she even asked of me, I would often get punished for doing the day after.

my mom – she is also setting limits alright. But they don’t change and most of them make sense, because she takes time to explain them to me, so we’re usually in some sort of agreement over the rules. But yeah, I live with lots of rules and limits. I don’t have many of the liberties other people my age have, but then, I don’t have the emotional or social skills most other people my age have either. So it’s kind of okay, because the rules and limits keep me safe. I guess that’s what it’s all about.  

  • To follow through

my mother – she was actually fairly predictable in the negative regard. If she said I was gonna pay for something, I was gonna pay. In the positive regard, not so much. If she had a good moment, she would sometimes promise me something, like that she was going to get me something from the store, but she almost always forgot about ever having said something like this, or laughed at my disappointment, saying she’d only been kidding me and how stupid was I to have believed I’d be getting something. Most embarrassing memories.

my mom – I have yet to see her not follow through with something. She doesn’t make promises she can’t keep and she doesn’t ever forget any single thing she said. She must have an elephant’s memory or something. It’s me who forgets stuff, but never her. So yeah, whatever she says, she will follow through with it, and if she does change her mind about something, she always explains to me why and makes sure I’m gonna be okay with it. Crazy, but that’s her.

  • To listen

my mother – she didn’t think I had to say anything worth listening to. “You shut up” was her standard response, even when later it was “why didn’t you fucking tell me?!” when I would have actually had something important to say. So no, she didn’t listen very well.

my mom – yeah, she listens. Even to stuff I don’t say or don’t want her to hear. She even keeps on listening when I run off at the mouth and swamp her in verbal diarrhea. She alerts me to my nonsensical nonstop talking and tries to get me back on a more normal track, but even so she listens, if sometimes with a pained smile.

  • To protect and to keep children safe

my mother – she didn’t protect me any. Not from my step-fathers abuse, not from anything. She was threatening and dangerous herself.

my mom – yes, she protects me. She enforces rules that protect me. She knows many of my triggers and takes them into consideration when we plan something. She even doesn’t allow other people to mess with me. She also makes sure I feel safe around the house. That she is a safe person, my safe person, is probably the most important thing about her. I feel safe when she’s there.

  • To help the children internalize skills such as trust

my mother – not at all, the only thing I learned from her was to trust nobody and nothing

my mom – we’re working on trust every single day. We discuss it, she makes a point of being trustworthy and she encourages me to trust others and helps me figure out what makes people or situations trustworthy and what doesn’t. So while I’m still nowhere near having internalized it yet, I hope I’m getting there.

  • To help children feel safe by instilling self-confidence and use of adults

my mother – the only thing she instilled was self-hate, low self-esteem and a belief that adults are dangerous and other people are out to get you anyway

my mom – she tries her best to improve my self-confidence by showing me how to be successful at doing things and by encouraging me to try out things and calling to my attention the things I am good at. And with the safety, I already wrote about that. I use her to feel safe a lot.

  • To provide unconditional love

my mother – she didn’t know what love was, much less unconditional love, unless maybe for my stepfather. She loved him like he was the best person ever, whatever weird reason for. But other than that resentment and hate was her thing, not love.

my mom – I almost don’t dare write it out, so as not to jinx it, but I think she does love me unconditionally. Of course she disapproves of it when I behave in a bad way, but she still loves me. I don’t always feel it – no, actually, I often don’t feel it, because I can’t believe it – but she says she does, and acts like she does and I’d like to think that she does. I feel a little bit safe enough to believe it, too. Sometimes.

  • To provide consistency, predictability, reliability

my mother – no consistency, predictability and reliability at all, except for negative stuff. That always came.

my mom – very consistent, predictable and reliable, even when I try my best to force her into giving it up at times

  • To be aware of and open to what the child needs

my mother – she was only aware of herself and what she needed

my mom – she’s often aware of what I need before I even know that I need anything. She talks about my needs and taking them seriously and giving me what I need all the time, too. Way more than I wish she did, sometimes, but that’s the side of me talking that wishes I didn’t have any needs at all. So it’s good she does it.

  • To provide the basic needs

my mother – she used food, clothing, warmth and shelter as things to manipulate and punish me with. Letting me stand outside in the cold, not giving me food etc. were her ideas of “fun” sometimes.

my mom – she provides for all basic needs. There’s always food, she makes sure I eat enough, she makes sure I wear appropriate clothes that keep me warm and all that.

  • To pass on traditions, culture, prayer

my mother – I don’t know if she even had anything she could have passed on

my mom – yeah, she passes on those things a lot. Traditions around holidays or birthdays are what comes to my mind the most. I have big issues with holidays and birthdays, but somehow as her and my family’s traditions become familiar and “traditional” (as in having a history with them I can look back on) it gets a little easier.

  • To teach about issues such as sexuality, oppression, etc.

my mother – she didn’t speak about those things. Not that I can recall.

my mom – we talk about those things when I can do so in a healthy, safe way. She made sure I know the facts about sexuality, for example, which I must admit I was not very familiar with, other than how having sex works.

  • To develop a secure attachment

my mother – she was not someone anyone could have a secure attachment to. She didn’t want me to attach to her either. She wanted me as far away from her as possible

my mom – she is someone to securely attach to, but I struggle a lot with those relationship issues. So working on those is probably what we do a lot of the time that we spend together, and I can see that she spends a lot of energy on making sure that we’re emotionally in touch and that I feel safe in our relationship. Relationship trouble always takes priority over other things.

  • To model healthy problem solving and feeling management techniques

my mother – she modeled how to drown problems in alcohol, but hey, too bad, they know how to swim, which of course I only realized after I had started drinking, too. Drinking, manipulation of others and violence were about the only problem solving and feeling management techniques I learned from her.

my mom – yes, she models healthy emotional skills and all that. And when she makes mistakes, she says so and apologizes and I think that she’s able to model all those healthy skills is what makes her a safe person to be around. I know I can be unstable and put an emotional burden on her and act out and all that, because she knows how to handle it. She doesn’t lose her cool and doesn’t fall apart over it, making it safe for me to put my mess in her face, plus I can see how she handles it, which I learn from.

Whew, I think that was the longest post I wrote so far. I don’t know if it’s even meaningful to anyone but me, but in case it may help someone else to consider those categories, I’ll post it. 🙂 It helps me to remind myself of those things. It helps me to realize why it’s okay and a healthy thing to love my mom and to still need her so much. And it helps me to realize that maybe it’s not all my own fault that I am so messed up, but that maybe my mom was just not good enough and caused a lot of the crap, too. And it helps to realize that the things that my mom now does, and that I sometimes feel are restrictive and all that, that she does those for a good reason and that it can help me get better, because that’s just the kind of things a good enough parent does.

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