Yesterday Nina was out with a friend all day and I was on leave, so I started the “house purge” – getting rid of as much as possible of the things my Mum has given me; things that suffocate me with guilt and pity and grief as I look upon them in my home. This turned out to be a bigger task than I had envisaged, and is still not done but a lot is now in the garage ready to go to the recycling centre and charity shop later on today. So many times I’ve wished I could cast the obliviate spell like Hermione in Harry Potter and erase all trace of me from my Mum’s life and mind, to make the pain of losing me and Nina disappear for her. Yesterday I wished I could cast the same spell in my own home, to make all the things she has given us and all the things that remind us of her disappear without trace.
She is everywhere. She was a huge part of Nina’s life for 8 years and the things she bought for her spread their net far and wide. I had to go up into the loft and sort through boxes of baby toys and other things. I didn’t look in the boxes up there from my own childhood and adolescence – too much at once, too much pain and loss and grief in one go – but I know those will have their share of cards from her and other mementos from times with her during my childhood and adolescence. A childhood where she tried so hard to get it right and be the good mum she never had, and yet one where I was engulfed and suffocated and abused and controlled all the same. And she tried again with Nina, to have the bond with her she hadn’t managed with me, a second chance at bringing up a child without screaming abuse nearly every day, and disappearing saying she was never coming back. The problem is she never realised Nina was not hers, and so told Nina awful things about me, told her she loved her more than I do, told her I was not a good enough mother. And she smothered and controlled and manipulated her too, the same way she did with me. She was frightening for Nina, she swung into screaming rages over nothing and emotionally blackmailed her, just as did with me. And so she lost her too.
I have been even more dissociated (depersonalised-derealised) this week than normal. I’m not sure why because I’ve felt okay, about the therapy break and things generally. Not great, but okay. So I can only imagine big feelings are bubbling under the surface, sensations and emotions I cannot access and that are telling my mind to disappear because I am not safe. And dreams, so many tangled trauma dreams every night I wake up feeling like I’ve not slept and have been fighting for my life all night. I guess in terms of the stress hormones pumping through my body as I sleep, it is as though I’ve been running a chemical marathon during the night. Anyway, so yesterday was cognitively hard, but I wasn’t aware of feeling anything. I just know that afterwards I was even further away than I had been at the start. When I meditated I was aware of some deep sadness somewhere shut away inside, but I couldn’t reach it even though reaching it would help to make me more present in my life. It is frustrating, to say the least, to not be able to access emotions even though I want to, even when they are making life so hard by keeping me in this horrible, dissociated, fuzzy, far-away state 24/7.
Even without obvious emotions it was tough though, seeing toys and books of Nina’s that used to be mine and not finding any happy memories attached to them. My childhood feels barren, cold and empty, the only fire coming from my Mum’s rage which she poured into me like lava whenever it became too much for her to hold inside. And it was tough seeing how much of Nina’s childhood became about my mum. I wasn’t really seeing my mum when I fell pregnant at 23. We had been completely estranged (my decision) and then I’d got drunk and phoned her crying and we had seen each other a few times, before and during my pregnancy. And then I was so ill after Nina was born that she ended up helping a lot. It felt healing at the time, as though we were moving on from the past and being offered a second chance. I’ve felt so guilty for letting Nina get close to her Grandma and then taking her away, but K has reminded me how natural it is to want our own mother when we have children and so I am beginning to forgive myself for this. And seeing just how much stuff my Mum has given us both, how impossible it is to actually get rid of all trace of her from our home, just underlines how present she was and how much she used stuff to manipulate Nina into loving her more and wanting her more than me. It is sickening how much stuff there has been over the years. We’d got rid of loads already, but still it is all around. I realised yesterday that however much I might want to, I can’t ever erase the imprint of her on our lives. All I can do is keep moving forwards with healing and filling mine and Nina’s lives with new people, new experiences, and a new way of doing things.
My Mum will have had to do the same as me, or will need to one day, and yet how do you erase the childhood of a daughter you brought up and tried your best to be a good mum to for all those years? She has kept everything, she is a hoarder having lost both parents by the age of 17, and there will be drawings and cards and books and toys, and just everything of mine that is still there – my piano, the bedroom carpet I chose, the bed her ex-partner got me before my A level exams to help me sleep better, family photos, the fragments of a lifetime. It breaks my heart, knowing she must look around her cluttered home and see so much that reminds her of Nina and I. My older (half) sister is thinking she will have to cut contact with my Mum soon too, even though they’ve always been more distant than my Mum and I. This is validating for me of course – it’s not just me, I’m not making it up – but tragic for my Mum. I cannot even imagine the pain of losing two daughters and a granddaughter because you are so damaged it makes you dangerous to be close to. I cannot imagine the shame and torment this must induce for her. Her pain is infinitely bigger than mine around this because I am building a future away from her and the trauma and toxicity of my childhood. For her it is too late, all she can do is look back and see the fucking massive messes she has made out of the lives of all three of her children. Her two daughters are not able to see her, and her disabled son still lives with her where she feels suffocated by him but depends upon him to validate her existence so she cannot let him go. I’m not sure she can really comprehend the struggles I continue to go through on a daily basis because of the abuse and neglect I experienced at her hands, but she knows on some level that my life has been filled with physical pain and other difficulties (even though she blames everyone else but her). How could anyone ever face up to that guilt, especially when the reason for it is having a narcissistic personality that developed around a core of shame in the first place? It is a massive mess. For her and my brother it is just terribly sad – what a tragic waste of two lives. What a lonely and empty way to end your days.
I do feel sad. Or I’m aware there must be sadness somewhere; no one should have to spend time trying to erase all trace of their mother from their life whilst at the same time feeling the heavy burden of that mother’s pain around their neck as a perpetual, guilty presence. But I also feel hopeful, despite the ever-constant dissociation that stops me truly living, about the future. I am letting it all go. I am moving on. It will take a long time but I am heading in the right direction. Today I feel awful – heavy and fuzzy and far, far away – but I have had days in my life where I’ve not felt this way and I have hope that it won’t always be like this. I will build a tribe of people around me and I am hopeful that in 20 years my own daughter won’t need to do to me what I have needed to do to my Mum.
Lately I so often find myself wishing that I had a Mum. This is something I couldn’t even admit to wanting until a few months ago, so huge was the shame instilled in me as an infant for needing a mother to care and nurture me. So when I think of the process I am going through at the moment, maybe it is no wonder I am so dissociated and emotionally cut off. This is huge. It is facing up to so much, taking in again, on an even deeper level, all I needed and never had. I do love my Mum and I hold compassion for her, but she is too damaging to be close to and so I will love her from a place that is distant in time and space. Even admitting how hard it is to let her go is difficult for me, because I have such a deep sense that I shouldn’t need a mother, shouldn’t ever have needed one. And this says it all really, doesn’t it, about the legacy of engulfment by a narcissistic mother. She shamed me for needing her and it is this that stops me being able to access this grief and pain and loss. Shame surrounds my need for a mother, covers my emotions in sticky tar so they cannot freely move around my body, and yet bit by bit that shame is dissolving and I am finding the real me beneath it all. Plodding onwards on this healing journey is all I can do, even on the days when healing of any kind feels so far out of my reach.