Ready for heavy? Let's dig in.
Growing up, life was a struggle. It wasn't all dark corners and horror stories, but it was rough.
My mom was/is extremely insecure, immature, violent and angry. Like everyone, she had reasons for her baggage. Valid ones. Unfortunately for me and my sisters, she never chose to deal with her demons.
When it came to parenting, she couldn't find it in herself to put her children first, instead viewing us as competition -- we took attention away from her needs, she wasn't willing to share my dad with anyone. Our youthful "neediness" (aka needing a caretaker) struck a raw nerve in her, the one that reacted with anger, physical and verbal abuse.
My sisters all had different ways of dealing - my oldest sister felt like a failure. The second became a mother to the rest of us, the third simply turned off feelings and stayed below the radar. My coping mechanism was probably the worst for my mom's fragile personality - I chose to challenge, question and push change. This angered my mom and led to abuse of one kind or another, which led to more of me fighting back and saying I didn't deserve to be abused. Which...well, you get it, wicked cycle.
I knew instrinsically the abuse was wrong. Nor was I buying that I was as bad as she said I was. But still? I wasn't able to stop myself from internalizing the way she saw me.
In her words:
Worthless. A bitch. Mean. Fat. Ugly. Combatitive. "Brutally honest". Unntrustworthy. Unlovable.
I couldn't fathom a family life where every day wasn't underpinned with stress, fighting, namecalling and hatred. I never knew until college that other people's mom's didn't call them a "fat ugly bitch". It was a joke that she once swung a 10 lb. block of cheese at the back of my head and I nearly blacked out.
I remember when she finally put down her boxing gloves and stopped throwing plates, books and wine glasses at me. It was when I was big enough to hit back. It happened twice that I socked my mother. I hate that I had to resort to violence to dissolve that part of our dysfunctional relationship.
Sadly, it didn't stop what I continue to think is the more painful scars - the verbal abuse. I had enough resolve to survive the physical piece, but the verbal abuse just gets in there. Sticks in crevices of your memory and can't easily be excised.
It's been my focus as a married adult to deal with my anger, to deal with feeling unloved and to slowly attach and develop bonds of trust with others. I've come a long way. The world's not at bay while I look through cynic-tinted glasses anymore.
Recently, tho, I've taken two steps back. I'm overwhelmed by the challenges and unrooted. I'm hearing her looped voice in the backdrop that says I'm useless, that I'll never do things right.
I know there's something I'm supposed to take away from understanding all these pieces about her, and about me. Intellectually I know I'm lovable, that I deserve love and that, in exchange, I am capable of giving love to others. But right now it's the most vulnerable place in the world to give my love to another.
I keep my mom in my backpocket when I struggle with these issues.