My mom has been dead for a year and a half, I think. I'd been dreaming about my parents latedly. Most dreams are about only her. Other days I wake up and suddenly remember she's dead. It just randomly hits me. This has been going on for months but it seems to be slowly disappearing.
I thought I'd be “over it” by now. Not in a crass, cruel, oh-I-didn't-love-her-anyway kind of way. But because she was sick and in pain for so long that I thought I was mourning and preparing myself before her actual death. But I suppose that was wishful thinking. Hoping the pain wouldn't be so bad when she was gone. Hoping I wouldn't dwell or hurt or...feel anything, really. Because who the fuck wants to feel that shit?
My feelings about my mom are...complex, to say the least. My childhood memories are mostly comprised of her screaming. If I dropped something, knocked something over, made a mistake, the screaming was immediate. I couldn't do anything without incurring her wrath. When I was 15 I was a teacher's aide and I accidentally knocked a glass of water over on her desk and it soaked a lot of homework that had been turned in. I panicked. I was so scared of what her reaction would be that I rushed out of the class and hid in the bathroom. Eventually, when I returned, I told her what I'd done. She simply told me where the paper towels were and then helped me blot up the spilled water. At that moment, I realized how insane my life truly was.
Her rage is all I remember of her until a several years before her death. The screaming. The rage. The loss of control. She was banned from grocery stores and restaurants because of screaming and swearing at my dad, other customers, and/or employees. She looked evil, unbridled hate just pouring out of her. I couldn't go places with her because I was too afraid of what would happen. The times I was with her when it happened, the humiliation was overwhelming. I'd beg her to calm down - my face burning red and stomach in knots - to please keep her voice down, but all that did was cause her to direct it at me temporarily. I was always so embarrassed when passing neighbors, knowing they could hear the daily, constant screaming. The worst was when an acquaintance and his family moved in next door. The way it was set up, there was, literally, six feet between our homes. They lived there for several years. They were friends with some of my friends. God the humiliation. I knew they heard every moment of the insanity. I was so embarrassed I wanted to die. I had worked so hard to keep people out of our house because of the filth and hoarding but this was something I could no longer hide from friends. This was out of my control.
For so many years I couldn't handle loud or sudden noises. I shook when people raised their voices at one another. I still can’t handle confrontation of any kind. I still don’t know how to express my anger so I just turn it inward.
We had a really good relationship the last several years. It was night and day. We never fought, she helped me, she took care of me physically, she loved me. I don’t know why that switch was flipped. The only thing that was different was I had moved out for a couple of years and then came back home. I wonder if the realization that I could leave and choose to never come back was what changed her. She could no longer threaten me.
She knew I was purging in elementary school and blew it off. She knew my father abused me physically and didn’t even look up from her book. She knew my father molested me and told social services I was imagining things. When I told the social worker I needed therapy because I was so suicidal I was sure I wouldn’t survive much longer, my mom snapped, “We can’t afford that.”
For more than two decades she was abusive and awful. So mentally ill. Telling me when I was little that I was the only reason she didn’t kill herself. Using me as friend replacement - a constant barrage of how and why she hated my father. Telling me she’d have left him years ago but I had begged her not to. So, ultimately, it was my fault.
As much as our relationship improved, some things were business as usual. When I had my gastric bypass surgery, she drove me to the hospital but complained the whole way about it. I was so fucking terrified and all she could do was scream at other drivers and bitch about the long trek. The surgery was hours longer than expected because there were difficulties. When I woke up I couldn’t see or speak or move. I was screaming in my head, trying to get the words out of my mouth to no avail. People were yelling at me to wake up. And I was, I just couldn’t show them. I can’t even explain the pure, raw terror that caused in me, thinking this was how I was going to die, blind and mute and motionless. Eventually I was able to nod my head, the rest of me paralyzed, my eyes still not open or working. I felt my mom take my hand. And then she informed me she was leaving now in order to avoid traffic.
I was paralyzed and I repeat, she was leaving now in order to avoid traffic.
She didn’t come back until it was time to pick me up a week later. That week in the hospital was due to being unable to walk. Due to back pain so severe that the morphine pumped into me didn’t even touch it. A few years later, I spent eight days in the psychiatric hospital. So suicidal and desperate that I didn’t take the time to tell anyone or pack; I just ran to the hospital before it was too late. She didn’t visit me there either.
I should never have been surprised by it. She didn’t come to my high school graduation because she didn’t feel like it. She didn’t come to see me when I received awards for my volunteer work. But, I suppose, I wished for things to be different. People don’t understand why I do things alone. Why I drive myself to the hospital and sign myself in. Its not that I don’t want company, per se. It’s just that I don’t understand that that’s normal.
When she went into the hospital and then the nursing home, I hated myself for not being able to take care of her. I hated myself for not knowing how to deal. I hated myself for not visiting as often as I should have. I just...hated myself. But what's new, right?
Her death destroyed me. I spiraled so hard and so fast that I ended up in another psych ward. Everything hit hard and I couldn't deal. I couldn't handle the fact that I'd left her alone. That I wasn't there to tell her it was okay to let go. I didn't care that I was being illogical. I didn't care that she had been drugged into unconsciousness for the last several months. I still should have been there. She didn't deserve to die alone. I know she loved me. She told me it was time to create a life of my own; to stop worrying about everyone else and to do what made me happy. Those words gave me a break from guilt. Well, to some degree.
My therapist pointed out how much power both of my parents have over me, even in death. I spent so long living for them - making decisions they wanted, taking care of their problems - that I never learned how to live for myself. I struggle to make choices based on my own needs. But I'm trying, I really am.
I know she was mentally ill; undiagnosed and unmedicated. I try so hard to forgive her for the pain she caused me. I try to focus on the years filled with love and care taking. She was broken and I loved her. She was broken and I still do.