Sunday, August 12, 2018

On Belonging and Home

Today I am struggling with hurt and anger and loneliness. 

I am TIRED of feeling left out of life.  Like, I know we have all these great, wonderful, grand adventures, moving around, experiencing life in different places every few years, but I am seriously envious of people who live in one spot for years on end, and have family and friends nearby that they have been able to know for years, and who are their support network, and KNOW them without having to work to develop that in every new place. 

I am TIRED of being the outsider ALL.THE.TIME. 

I am SAD that my children who are trying to raise support don't have that built-in support network that their securely-planted friends have had all of their lives. 

I am ANGRY that I wasn't able to deeply connect with other military wives, and have always felt like an outsider there, too. 

I know that our family doesn't fit the typical MK/PK/TCK pattern, but living this life IS a third culture adventure that has third culture effects on all of us, and it makes me sad and angry, and feeling more and more like an outsider in life. 

I want to BELONG somewhere...but the itch to move on is always there...and that paradox is so painful some days (like today). 

Days like today are such potent reminders of what we don't have...a permanent, secure, abiding home...and a reinforcement of the hope that we have for our promised HOME. 

Until then.... 

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

I missed out

There are so many different ways that having a parent with a mental illness impacts the children's lives that it would be impossible to list them all.  Suffice to say that every part of life, physical, mental, emotional....all feel the impact of the parent's illness.

For me, I can count the things I missed out on....

I missed having a loving relationship with my mother.  Let me explain...I THOUGHT it was a good relationship...until I started seeing others' relationships with their mothers, and realizing how one-sided ours was.

I missed fun...don't get me wrong.  I had some fun...but it was strictly (VERY) regulated.

I missed friendships.  I had a few...which were VERY limited due to my mother's reticence to have anyone visit our home.

I missed out on differentiation in my teen years....

I missed out on following ANY dreams...mainly because the dreams were squashed so early that they didn't ever have a chance.

I missed out on getting into trouble...legitimate trouble...not trouble with my parents, but truly doing anything that might be considered trouble-worthy in any other family in our church.

I missed out on freedom to roam, freedom to be me, freedom to be unencumbered.

I missed the chance to explore who I was because I ALWAYS had to be/act/do as she determined.




Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Weariness

I was just re-reading an article by another military spouse, and one sentence she used jumped off the page at me:

I am weary of not being honest about it all.

I find myself identifying with her words.   

I'm weary of the military life, and yet I am proud to be a military spouse. 

I'm weary of moving, but start feeling claustrophobic and anxious to move if we've been in one spot for too long. 

I'm weary of everything being identified by my husband's military service, when I am a person too, and have things to do that are important and make a difference. 

I'm weary of the opportunities missed because we move so much. 

I'm weary of the friendships that haven't gone deep because we haven't had time for that to happen. 

I'm weary of feeling like I don't matter...only he matters. 

I'm weary of fighting to get things done that should be easily accomplished. 

I'm weary of having to explain everything all over again to a new doctor/dentist/physical therapist/counselor, etc. 

I'm weary of being the "new kid" at church, at work, everywhere....

I'm weary of starting over, and over, and over, and over.....

I'm weary of feeling like all of this is somehow my fault...like I should either "suck it up", or make him get out...

I'm weary of being measured against the wrong standards every stinking time...and coming up wanting. 

I'm weary of being weary, and not feeling like I can be honest about it because I am going to get flack from EVERYONE any time I say the actual truth.  There's so much more...but I already can hear the push-back from what I have said so far...and I can't deal with it because I'm weary. 

Thursday, June 28, 2018

The unavailable mother

Often, when I speak of my experiences growing up, I see in people's eyes the disbelief, and sometimes they voice skepticism.  The mythical expectations that all mothers are caring, loving people who have the best interests of their children as their main focus means that disbelief is always a response experienced by those whose experiences are outside of the "norm". 

So, what is it really like to grow up with a mother who is unavailable because of her mental illness? 

She is unable to be available as a mother, grandmother, mother-in-law, or wife...never mind friend, sister, or daughter. 

In my house, the unavailability added up to a lot of isolation from outside influences, from extended family.  It meant that she was unavailable to be emotionally available to me, as a child, teenager, or young adult.  It meant that she often "checked out", escaping from reality into books.  It meant that her expectations of our behavior were to make HER look good...to reinforce her personal appraisal of herself as brilliant, the perfect mother.  She was unavailable to transport us to any events, unless those events made her look better. 

It meant that any infraction was met with harsh punishment.  Humiliation, beatings, kicking, pulled out hair, further isolation....all were on the table as regular punishments.  No matter that the punishment didn't actually fit the crime...if I were in the wrong, I made her look bad, and that was unacceptable.  She was not in touch with what it meant to have an actual long-term relationship with her children. 

As an adult, this unavailability has played out to mean that none of her children spend any time with her...she has chased us all away with her unrealistic expectations, attempts at control, and over-the-top negativity. 

While others have mothers that they can ask for help, can be friends with, can discuss their lives....I have none of that.  She is unavailable.

She has refused to take care of herself, so not only is she unavailable emotionally, but she is unavailable physically.  She is slowly killing herself, all while attempting to portray herself as the victim.  She has allowed her anxieties around other cars, and fear of my father's driving isolate her further.  She no longer can drive herself, but refuses to go any distance with anyone else at the wheel. 

*******
My mother is currently 73 years old. 
She has Type II diabetes, had triple bypass surgery, and (by dint of her refusal to eat healthily or take her medications for the diabetes) has developed some form of dementia. 

I am currently 49 years old. 
I have been working toward healing from the abuses of my childhood for more than 15 years. 
I recognize that she can no longer hurt me.  The sad facts of the matter is that a mother's mistreatment lives on in the head of the children they raise, and come back to haunt them for the rest of their lives. The words planted in my head that said so much about what she thought of me have formed the base upon which my lack of self-esteem was based.  The terrible names she spat at me in times of her rages live on in my head.  NONE of them are true, but they are part of the fabric of me. 

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Life as an Adult Child of a Narcissistic Parent

I’m thinking through and working through the full impact of having grown up with a narcissistic parent. As part of that process I want to communicate the things that are different for a child raised by a narcissist. 

Imagine with me that at some point in your life, suddenly you realize that everything you know about yourself and others is upside down, off-kilter, or has huge holes in it.  When this happens will depend on how isolated your parent has kept you, and how healthy your outside exposures were as examples.  What exactly does this mean?  It means that suddenly you have to figure out who you are, who your parents really are, how the world actually works, and what is truth.  

In short, you cannot trust anyone or anything. 

You start to recognize that the “truths” your parents taught you were, at best, missing pieces. These truths involved their history and accomplishments, your own abilities and skills, your identity, perceptions of others’ actions and speech. They may have taught you to think poorly of others...racism, elitism, cynicism, and rampant negativity may have formed the foundation of your childhood.  

As the actual truth of what you were taught begins to dawn on you, you may struggle to figure out who you are.  

Looking further, you may realize that everything you believe about yourself is somehow a product of what your parent has brainwashed into your head.  Even if you remember times when you had thoughts about yourself, your future, who you are, what you liked, etc., now every one of those has been skewed. 

*********************

At some point in my teen years, I started to recognize that my homelife was not normal or happy.  I recognized the overt physical abuse, but it took me MANY more years to see the psychological abuse, and I am still processing the full impact of these things.  

I was diagnosed in my early 40s with PTSD, which was amended to Complex PTSD as that diagnosis became a thing...this was a DIRECT result of how I was raised.  

Today, I am happy to say, I rarely have the nightmares associated with PTSD, nor am I as "on-guard" as I once was.  Much healing has happened, but the aftermath of the abuse is still present.  I still have a LOT of questions about myself, who I am, what I might have been able to do, and what to believe about what I was told as a child.  

Sunday, April 1, 2018

On Easter, and Baptism, and Internal Conflict

Today is Resurrection Sunday...the day all of Christianity celebrates that our Messiah was raised out of the tomb, and lives again.  Here, at our new church, and also at other churches we have attended, there is the additional excitement of people declaring their decision to follow Christ through the Sacrament of Baptism. 

This day always holds a lot of conflict for me. 

First, the name.  The Western world's fixation on Easter, and the images immediately conjured up of bunnies, and brightly colored eggs, and candy, and families dressed in their finest Spring attire has bothered me for a LONG time.  I am celebrating what, exactly?  I know what *I* am celebrating, and it has NOTHING to do with bunnies, candies, eggs, and new clothes.  Whatever the origins of the name given to the day, I prefer to call it Resurrection Day, as THAT is what I am celebrating. 

Second, baptism.  The Sacrament of Baptism is a beautiful, meaningful way to say to the world, "look, I am a new person...THIS is what Jesus' death and resurrection did for me.  I am turning control of my life over to Him." 

Finally, internal conflict. This is where things get messy.  I cringe every time baptism is brought up, and happens in a new congregation...because of MY baggage around this sacrament.  See, I have been baptized 3 times.  The first time, I was an infant, and it was not a choice I made, but rather one made by my parents.  The second time, I was 13 years old, and was following the proscribed way of joining the church...yes, it WAS my choice, and I HAD made the decision to follow Christ, and to turn over control of my life to Him.  The third time is the one I have a LOT of angst around, as I still feel like it was forced on me...I was NOT happy about it, I was NOT making a new decision, it was NOT a new signal of my decision to turn my life around.  No.  None of that.  Rather, it was a church that decided that the MANNER in which I was baptized at age 13 was not the "correct" method, and in order to be part of that congregation I had to be baptized their way.

I have tried to talk about this, and people seemingly don't understand my conflict.  There is nothing about my part of that service that makes me happy.  I feel like I was forced into a corner, and that how I was expected to act was wrong.  Forcing someone to be baptized conjures up images of the forced conversions to Roman Catholicism...not of a mother being backed into a corner in the 2000s. 

And that is where my conflict lies.  I love the relationship available to me through Jesus' death and resurrection, which we have set aside this day to celebrate.  I value my opportunity to declare to the world that I am a new person. 

I do NOT value being forced into doing something I think is unnecessary, and pressured to act like I am happy about it. 

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Things I do differently

To be sure, I AM my mother's daughter.  I inherited her metabolism, the Mongolian eye-fold, and a love of reading from her. 

I AM definitely my father's daughter, also... though I didn't get the Wegener's Jewish nose, I do see him when I look in the mirror. 

I learned many many things from my parents. 

I learned about farming, and butchering, and milking cows, and how to drive a stick-shift (first on a tractor!).  I learned to can produce, and to freeze it, and to process the meat we had just butchered.  I learned who to go to for help in my math (Thanks, dad, for carrying me through Trig!!).  I learned to love animals, and quiet outdoor spaces, and unpolluted night skies.  I learned how to pinch a penny until it screams....and then to pinch it a bit further.  I learned a lot from my parents. 

I also learned some negative things.  My husband reminds me often that we can always learn from people, even those with whom we DEEPLY disagree. 

In that vein, I learned how not to parent.  I learned how to drive my children away.  I learned an up-close-and-personal definition of mental illness.  In short, I learned that I wanted to do things differently than my parents did...at least some things. 

In order to accomplish that, I have parented differently.  I have intentionally built positive relationships with my children, with the aim that they WANT a relationship with me, and with God...instead of having one out of fear.  I have tried to instill in my children the idea that it is a show of strength to recognize one's limits and to ask for help when it is needed.  I have worked to admit my faults, mistakes, and blunders, and to ask for forgiveness.  I have worked (with the amazing help of my husband) to give my children freedom within limits, so that they have room to grow and to learn on their own. 

I have done a LOT of things differently...this is just the beginning.