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. 

Friday, October 13, 2017

I'm Needy....

This is not something I am likely to admit to myself, never mind broadcasting it to the world, and yet here I go again, getting WAY too personal, sharing things better left unsaid, if "they" are to be believed...

Actually, "they" are who I have to thank for understanding that I am "too needy".  They remind me of it with every loss of friendship, every unacknowledged greeting, every eye-roll....some have even SAID it to me... "You're too needy.  Stop being so needy and you'll have more friends."

Ok.  Right.

I like to think that I am a normal human being, in need of adult interaction and connection with people in the form of friendship.  I like to think that my tentative steps into the sea of people are the same as any other person's....if that person is introverted and has a bit of social anxiety....

However, I DO know that I am different.  I was raised in a sheltered environment, and often deprived of the depth of connection that children everywhere crave.  Maybe that is where my neediness came from.

And my social anxiety gets in the way of my reaching out to people that I would LIKE to be friends with....in addition, I was taught that I was a bother, so I don't want to foist myself on these amazing people with whom I would like to be friends.  Frankly, I am scared that I will (once again) prove that the LIES I was told as a child were actually truth, that I don't have the ability to make and keep friends.

So, I perceive myself as needy.
And I perceive myself as broken.
And I perceive myself as unworthy of the friendships that I crave.

I will not, however, apologize for my neediness. 
You see, I believe God made people for connection, for relationship, and part of that was putting within us a NEED for friends, for deep connection, and specifically for a relationship with Him. 

The problem is that parents teach children how to be in relationships...and not all parents do a stellar job of that.  So the children who come out of homes who are deprived of this piece of their training have difficulty making or keeping friends, and are often perceived by others as being needy....because they ARE.  They NEED friends.  They may NEED to be taught how to be friends.  They definitely still need love, and companionship, and friendship, and connection....no matter how they are perceived by others. 

Another piece of the ability to make friends is a broken understanding of friends...say, I have a friend...they think we have a really good, perhaps deep connection...and I think that they perceive me as a bother, and are tired of having me around.  So, maybe I have a LOT of people who consider me a really good friend, but I don't feel like I have anyone, because I can't feel the connection. 

Frankly, thinking through this helps me understand why I have such a hard time KNOWING that God loves me, and wants the best for me....  now maybe someone can help fix this for me??? 

Friday, August 25, 2017

From the perspective of one of my TCKs....

Third-Culture Kids are, in the words of Wikipedia:
Third culture kid (TCK) or third culture individual (TCI) are terms used to refer to children raised in a culture other than their parents' (or the culture of the country given on the child's passport, where they are legally considered native) for a significant part of their early development years.
The most common TCKs are children of missionaries, ex-patriots (aka, ex-pats), and military children, as well as children of the adults attached to embassies.  

I have 6 TCKs, also known as "military brats".

So how many brats are there?In the United States today there are approximately 700,000 children ages six to eighteen classified as military youth. The truth is that no one really knows which is surprising for a country obsessed with polls and statistics. No one has kept a running count of the number of children raised in the U.S. military. The Department of Defense (DoD) school system approximates that since 1946 it has educated four million brats overseas or about 20-30% of the total brat population. One guesstimate would be a total of at least 12-20 million brats.

‘This wouldn’t include the children of National Guard, embassy and Foreign Service personnel, DoD civilian employeesmissionary families and mobile corporate families,’ notes Jump Cut journalist George T. Marshall, ‘ – all of who share more in common with military brats than with their fellow citizens.’ (source)
While we live in a community of military families, our children go to schools with a LOT of non-military-affiliated people...and there is the rub.  

Because so few Americans actually serve or have served in the military, many of their children have NO CLUE as to the culture or experiences our children have grown up experiencing.

One of my children was interacting with a friend in the past few days, lamenting the loss of yet another friend who didn't "get it"...and wrote some profound words describing it....

"They don't understand, they don't get it.  They're the ones who are constantly hanging out with someone new every day, while I'm stuck at home, sitting by myself.  That's what makes me feel like the replaceable one.  They just don't get it...they don't understand what it's like to constantly have to try and make new friends just to have them s**t on you.  They don't get having to move every few years to a completely new place with no one you know.  They don't get not knowing the culture or the area or anything about this new place you're just thrown into.  They don't understand having social anxiety and not being able to start a simple conversation with someone no matter how badly you want to. They don't understand having the people that mean the most to you live on the other side of the country or sometimes the other side of the world...they don't understand how f'ing easy they have it.  They've lived in the same place their whole lives, the same house, the same neighborhood, the same people.  They have everything handed to them, and it's so frustrating that they don't see how much it hurts when they talk about how they got to grow up with someone, how they get to know every inch and crevice of the city they live in.  I feel replaceable because I am, people do it all the time.  I leave and move out of state, not by choice but because I'm forced ot and their lives go on, they don't miss me, they don't try to visit, they don't get excited when I visit.  I'm just a memory to them.  My whole life I've been second to everyone...everyone who I think loves me, everyone who I think is my friend.  They always find someone who's better.  Because that's just me.  Replaceable.