There’s this world, in my head, where I have an idea of how I’m doing and what I’m like. In there, I’m strong, healing really well and am a thoughtful sort of parent.
Then there’s another world I crash into every now and then. A few days ago my daughter said some things that reveal how she sometimes sees me: scared, anxious about everything, taking stuff too seriously when it’s just no big deal. She said that when I react with anxiety or a panic attack, or feel unable to leave the house, or need to get home now, I cause her to feel scared too.
I’m her barometer for the world – are things okay or are they not?
It seems I behave as if things are not.
Hearing this over breakfast, man I felt like a shit mother. I thought, but I’ve been doing so well and I put so much effort into making things right for my children, how can she have this impression? At first I couldn’t even fathom what she meant – couldn’t think of anything I’d got so wrong it would lead to this distress.
So it’s hitting home – again – that healing is ongoing, and that I’m not entirely managing to be the mother I want to be. It tips me upside down to realise my own impression of me isn’t too accurate, but what my girl is seeing and experiencing is real, no point arguing. As she told me, my 12-year-old girl, with hesitancy and difficulty, I was quite still but my brain was whirring: I’ve fucked up … I’ve fucked up. Then, mostly all I felt was how utterly vital it was – for her well-being – to allow her to speak, and to not reject what she was saying.
The progress I’ve made in healing feels enormous to me, but to the rest of the world I guess I still look like a frigging mess. Thus my wonky definition of healing: I am coping really well.*
*(As long as I don’t have to have a good relationship with anyone, or leave the house, or answer the phone, or meet strange men, or suddenly change plans).
Aaron’s just pointed out that what I have successfully created in my attempts at healing is a solid, hopeful base to work from, which is more than I had before. Problem is I want to stay on my nice home-base. I don’t want to face those other things but I need to because I don’t want my girls thinking I’m ridiculous, and I want to be capable of helping others who were hurt. Those are the things that make me think all this grief is worth something. But even writing I can’t keep tucking in cosily makes me want to snuggle in again … I am the Queen of Cosy.
Something good: My daughter recognised my anxiety as problematic, and she felt able to let me know she didn’t like it. She hasn’t mistaken all my crap for normality, and I haven’t made her think she’s in the wrong. Her sense of who she is and what is right, is strong. Thank God.
That’s worlds apart from my childhood where my mother had me well and truly convinced our dysfunctional family was normal. She never apologised, never owned her dysfunction, and therefore I believed the problems were mine, that I was not right somehow.
Too many upside-down worlds. It kills me that I sometimes put my crap onto others. Choosing to take the fall – to hold what came from generations past, try to work it out, and ultimately prevent it from getting to our children – is massive. It hurts like hell to take this pain and not let it flow on into the damaging treatment of our children. The instinct to release the pain by lashing out, by continuing the dysfunction, can be overwhelming.
But there are ways to do this. If we find them, our children can grow up feeling intrinsically okay in the world.
That’s what I want to do, even if I keep losing my way and need wake-up calls. The paths I’ve found which help me include counseling, dance, yoga, creating new brain pathways, grounding, writing, telling people my story, staying close to good friends and asking for help – all of which I talk about in other posts.
I’ve had to make healing central to my life – it’s what I do. Anytime I put something else first, I crumble.