Scraping the Surface

I saw my counsellor for the second time today. She asked how my week had been and if I knew what I’d like to talk about today. I explained how despite having seen 2 or 3 counsellors before I’d always refused to talk about my Mum so I said that for our sessions I know that I have to devote them to talking about her. I told her I really didn’t want to, that I’d rather talk about anything else but Mum, but I know I have to do it this time. Just saying it caused me to feel something I didn’t want to feel.

She asked me to start but I couldn’t find a starting point so I asked her if she could give me a prompt. She asked me to tell her about what Mum is like now,  before I knew it I was telling her about some stuff from when I was younger, the stuff that I’m always aware of and that I find relatively easy to say out loud without even feeling connected to it. It’s like I’m so used to that stuff that I am totally detached from it, I feel nothing, I am merely telling a story.

Pam asked me if Mum had ever said anything in particular that stuck in my mind. I said there were three main statements Mum made that have always stayed with me.

1. All men are bastards. Men only want you for one thing and when they’ve had what they want they don’t want anything else to do with you.
2. I wish I’d never had you children, you’ve ruined my life.
3. I can’t wait till you’ve all left home so I can have a life.

Pam said that these were very powerful statements, very damaging words to hear as a child. She asked me how I felt at the time. I have no memory of how it felt to hear that my Mum regretted having me and all I can connect it to is imagining me saying those words to one of my kids and I know it would destroy them on every single level. It would kill them. The physical and emotional pain I feel imagining saying those exact words to my kids hurts beyond words and Pam said that as a girl, hearing those words, that is exactly how I would have felt. Destroyed. Killed. Dead.

Pam asked if there were any more statements. I said that I felt there was more as I could feel something bubbling up inside of me but that I wasn’t able to retrieve it. She said it could be that it’s just too painful and she wonders if it would actually do me harm again to try and find out what they are. Pam commented on how angry I am with my Mum, a fact I didn’t really realise. I associate anger with shouting and explosive words and feelings but really anger comes in many guises and I can see that my anger manifests differently for me, most probably because it’s never been safe for me to express it. My anger seems to manifest as a tightening in my chest. I explained then about my asthma which had been present from a very young age, the nail-biting the hair pulling, the nervousness and the crying ~ all physical manifestations of a little girl in incredible pain.

I told her feeling so different to all my sisters that I was 100% convinced that I was adopted and it was only when I searched for my birth certificate that I had to believe it wasn’t true. I said how I still struggle some days to feel as though I belong to any of them as I’m so different to all of my sisters and my parents and I told her of the time I ran away from home because I was convinced they wouldn’t even notice and then when I was found and brought home all I received was punishment. I told Pam about the hair-pulling and how I got punished for that too and she said that all of these things would have had such a profound effect on me, causing me to learn to shut down as a safety mechanism. She said it was bad enough for a little girl to be feeling so stressed and hurt that she was pulling her hair out but to then be punished for it was devastating. She made me realise that nobody ever listened to my pain, no-one ever wanted to hear me and all they did was punish me for expressing it in the only ways I knew how ~ nail-biting, hair pulling. A total shut down was my self-preservation. It still is.

We talked about how if I were to connect to the pain of my childhood I may find it overwhelming and so that is probably why I don’t allow myself to feel it and why I can talk about it without even crying. I explained that I am scared stiff of feeling it again in case I start crying and don’t stop or in case I end up mentally on my knees or just going insane knowing that there is no-one to catch me if I allow myself to fall.  Mostly I am scared to live without the feelings, the hurt and the anger I have inside of me because it’s all I know and to express it, and therefore release it, would leave me feeling empty. I have nothing else to replace it with and being empty is far worse than being full up, even if it’s full up of bad shit. I also know though that all the time I am full with hurt and anger there isn’t any room for anything else, including love.

I started to feel really self-conscious then and told Pam that I’m actually a nice, calm, gentle, loving person much of the time and I didn’t like that she wasn’t seeing that. I said I fear that I am appearing hardened to her. Pam said the way I was presenting was actually of someone who is very strong. She said I would have learnt to have been strong because of my childhood and that actually without it I may have had a lot of difficulties. She said that the strength I learned in childhood is no doubt what’s made me a good Mum and is what has got me through the life I’ve had but there is a downside and that is not being able to allow myself to appear weak (to myself) therefore not letting in the feelings and not allowing people into my life easily. I know my strength is actually also my weakness. I know it serves me very well but it always fails me at times.

Pam got me to look back over the statements we’d written down about my Mum and to write a positive statement next to them. I really struggled with that. I didn’t really understand what it was she wanted me to do and she had to more or less tell me what words to put down. In the end I wrote:
1. Men are wonderful. They are loving, kind and patient. Men treat me with respect. (I explained that I’ve only had that belief since meeting Phil and no doubt wouldn’t have been able to write that had I not known him.)
2. I deserved to be in your life. I am not responsible for your pain.
3. I was relieved to leave home. I love being independent and I love being a Mum. I have a wonderful life being a mum and I can’t wait to live out the rest of my life taking my role as a parent seriously and being there for the kids whenever they need me.

When we finished Pam said she was slightly concerned about the anger within me and how I would react if I see or speak to my Mum. I explained that it wouldn’t be a problem as I’d held it in for so many years now that I’d become a great actress and that I would be able to push it all down and pretend it never happened. Pam urged me to write down anything that comes up until the next time I see her and she said that I may find things I’ve forgotten pop into my head when I least expect it and that feelings may arise that are difficult. I told her that I journal most days and she encouraged me to do this, saying she feels stuff may well come up now that I have started the process.

I drove home the long way so I could allow myself some time to process all that had gone on before I got home to the noise and busyness. I felt a little sad that I don’t have a space I can go to, to be alone and give myself time to work through this. That within a couple of hours the kids will all be home, all needing me for various things and my processing time will be pushed to the back of the queue.
Driving always gives me the mental space I need to process stuff, it’s always been my saviour when I’ve needed to think or clear my mind. As I drove I suddenly felt a wave of sadness wash over me and felt one solitary tear rolling down my cheek. From the sadness came the realisation that Mum has never and will never be the mum I want. The kind, loving, gentle, fun, supportive mum that I felt she should have been. She wasn’t ever one of those things and it makes me feel really sad that I will never experience the kind of love that I wanted from my mum.

I realised then that I am all those things to my kids because of her inability to be and I felt, for just one brief moment, gratitude toward my Mum for her behaviour and her actions because there’s a chance that had she been different to the way she was, I would have been different to the way I am and different may have meant I wouldn’t have been all of the above to the kids.

However, I’m not ready yet to be grateful and forgiving. I know that needs to come but not yet.

As I wrote this I was reminded of a quote I saved this morning which is so relevant ~ 

“Every addiction arises from an unconscious refusal to face and move through your own pain. Every addiction starts with pain and ends with pain. Whatever the substance you are addicted to – alcohol, food, legal or illegal drugs, or a person – you are using something or somebody to cover up your pain.”

The whole time I have been writing I have been shovelling chocolate into my mouth. Even though I am not hungry, even though I have heartburn, even though I feel full and stuffed and actually slightly sick, I have still forced more in. I don’t consider myself to have addiction issues or even food issues but there’s definitely something there that I need to look at. I think the feelings that are arising in me because of the counselling are so difficult for me that I’m doing everything I can to push them back down and it seems to have worked somewhat because nothing further is coming up as it normally would when I write. I have just denied myself the opportunity to learn, to feel and to grow and now I’m pissed off at myself for that. (As I wrote the words above, my inner loving adult stepped in and said, “Be gentle and loving with yourself. You’ve opened up a lot today. These things take time, allow yourself time to get used to this new stage. You won’t always stuff emotion down with chocolate.”) I feel reminded to be my own healthy parent and to embrace my little hurt girl again and give her the time, patience and love to work through all of this.

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