I read a blog post yesterday that really resonated with me. It talked of people who are professional "untanglers". These amazing people are PAID to take tangled balls and bunches and skeins of yarn and untangle them. This is something that many of these professionals thoroughly enjoy doing. The blog author was linking these untanglers with people who have suffered abuse, and whose lives are completely tangled up.
My life has long felt like a tangled mess. I grew up in a home with an abusive narcissistic mother and a father who is an enabler. I attended church and school in a setting where women were voiceless. I was bullied because I was different.
And yet, when I left home and went to college, I thought I had a healthy home life. After all, there was no drug abuse, no alcohol abuse, no divorce, no physical diseases, and no involvement with the law. Thus, we were an exemplary family.
It took me another 20 years to see the rotten underside for what it really was.
In the mean-time, I couldn't figure out what was wrong with ME. Why couldn't I make friends? Why was I so different from everyone else? Why was I depressed? Anxious? Deathly afraid of abandonment? Why did I have so much difficulty controlling my temper? Why was my self-esteem so terrible? Why did I have so much difficulty making decisions?
In college, I met so many amazing people. People with goals and plans and loving families and friends. I actually had friends. I enjoyed time with people who were not sheltered and isolated and abused and told they were worthless...and I started to have hope.
This year, 24 years after I graduated from college, and 2 years after finishing graduate school, I made a discovery. This discovery probably would have taken a counselor very little time to put together, but because it is an intimate part of ME, it has taken me all of these years to recognize.
There is a term in psychology for when a parent (or any person, really) sees another person as an extension of themselves, and, forcibly or not, embeds themselves so deeply into that person's life that neither really knows where one person ends and the other begins. That term is enmeshment.
I recognized in November of 2015 that there is a reason I have long felt like a tangled mess. My life was so deeply tangled up with my mother that I was not allowed to individuate....another psychological term that means I was not allowed to be a separate person from my mother.
Over the years, we have gone for periods of time of not speaking with my parents, in an effort for me to be able to learn who I am, and to learn to be able to say "NO" when the need arises. The first few times it was excruciatingly painful...I felt ripped apart, with tendrils hanging raw in the wind. Each time we have made this effort, I have grown and healed some more.
Now, I have words for what has happened.
The enmeshment, the lack of individuation...the physical and emotional abuse, the control.
Now I can recognize how God has brought me, step by step, out of the pain, and how He has been with me, doing the healing the whole time.