As if this week wasn’t hard enough with the anniversaries approaching and moments of all-consuming grief over the suicide of my friend Jess, last night there was a boundary breach in the estrangement from my Mum which has left me absolutely reeling and stunned. I collected Nina from a friend’s after school and in the car she told me ‘something bad happened today’ and proceeded to tell me that my sister’s friend’s son is in her tutor group at school. Having worked out who this boy is I was filled with horror and turmoil and panic. It’s not just the son of one of my sister’s oldest and closest friends, it’s someone my Mum taught during her A levels and who her and my brother spend quite a lot of time with still. Apparently the boy, Oscar I’ll call him, had got Nina as his secret santa person and his Mum had recognised her name. Oscar and Nina sometimes played together when they were little and his family have my brother over quite a lot because he is disabled (and abused) and doesn’t have much of a social life. Oscar was boasting to Nina that he sees her Uncle G more than she does, and said ‘you betrayed your Uncle G’. What the fuck? K and I did a phone session this afternoon and, as she pointed out, those are not the words of an 11 year old boy; they are my Mum’s words, clearly overheard in a hushed conversation between my Mum and his Mum.
Nina was mostly okay last night. She was worried what they must think of us, and I said that Auntie K would have told her friend how difficult things were for us all. Nina asked why Auntie K still sees our Mum and I said ‘because she feels too guilty not to’. She asked if I felt guilty and I admitted that I do. She said ‘I don’t!’ and I breathed a sigh of relief – she used to, she used to worry my Mum would kill herself if we didn’t see her as much as she wanted us to. The main reason I cut contact was to save Nina from the crippling guilt and obligation I grew up with, and to spare her from taking on responsibility for my Mum’s pain and unhappiness the way I did and the way she was starting to, so to hear her say this meant that I have at least succeeded in this. Nina also said that another boy then came over and said ‘I know your Uncle G too, from baking class’. I know nothing more about this though, and I don’t know if my Mum and brother know this boy knows Nina yet. I suspect if they do they will befriend this family too. It is so sick and dysfunctional and invasive. My Mum is impossible to fully escape from. She is everywhere. Her pain and emptiness is everywhere.
I was so shaken by both these pieces of news, knowing that as soon as my Mum found out she would worm her way into Oscar’s family even more, desperate for a connection to Nina. And it would be another route for us to hear about their pain, my Mum and brother’s, when we were least expecting it. I chose that school, in a village far from where we currently live, precisely because I wanted a clean start away from any connection to my Mum, and somewhere that means we can move to a little village and not worry about bumping into her anymore. I cried in the kitchen for a while and text my sister in a panic begging her to tell her friend not to tell our Mum Nina and Oscar are in the same tutor group. I told Nina my eyes were watering because of onions and my cold. And I reached out to K via text. We had already met yesterday for an extra session, and had talked a lot about Jess and I had cried a lot and expressed frustration that my Mum is so present this weekend because of her birthday, even though I wanted it to be all about Jess. K had said if I needed it we could do a phone session over the weekend. She said she thought I would be okay because I seemed to have my feet planted on the ground despite the pain, but that she wanted me to know I was being held this weekend. So I reached out to her and she replied to say we should talk it through by phone the next day.
This afternoon she text to say we could meet if I would prefer, but I have a horrible cold and didn’t want to infect her, so we arranged to work by phone. We spoke for an hour and I cried and cried. She was so reassuring and validating, and she really understood why this was such a big deal. She let me voice all my fears and worries and frustrations and she heard them all. We talked about how intolerable it was seeing my Mum, we talked about all the alternatives, we talked about why I want to stay here even though from the outside it must look crazy. I sobbed and wailed how it shouldn’t be like this, how I pretended family wasn’t a big deal, but how it is a big deal and for so many people family is just normal, there in the background, a source of support when needed and something that it just simple and taken for granted. “Why can’t I have that?” and “why do I always have to pretend it is okay when it isn’t?” I said how nuts it must look to others that I don’t just run away from this city, and we talked about what it would be like if I moved away, how this would be the flight response and not really a genuine and freely made move. We talked about how hard it would be for me to manage to move to a different area with no support when I have such a big career and huge emotional and physical health difficulties, and K mentioned also that I am making big progress in therapy lately and this does feel like another huge reason to stay.
As we were drawing to a close she asked me to write this evening. She said to journal about all the positive reasons I had named to stay here and not send Nina to the school around the corner and to email it to her. So I did, and I will post it in a minute, because it feels really important to keep in mind that although I feel stuck and trapped and unable to escape my Mum’s tentacles, being here is still a choice. I have a choice and I choose to stay here and heal. My head and jaw ache so badly this evening, and my chest is wrecked and tight and bruised from grief and crying and the cold, but I feel better having cried it all out to K and thank goodness it is only 2 days now until I see her again. She is so kind to me and it hurts that I can’t understand why she chooses to be there for me. Yesterday I was crying about Jess and it hit me that my Mum lives a 10 minute drive away and “she should be here!” She should be there to help me at this difficult time and she isn’t, even though she is so close and she could be. When Jess died she yelled at me that I was going to spoil Christmas. When I think of all the awful things she has done to me and Nina I know I have done the right thing cutting contact, but it still hurts, and it hurts knowing that people who don’t even know me think I have betrayed them. What about me? Why is my pain so invisible? Why is K the only one who really sees how hard this is for me?