In which I discuss my upbringing:
The title is something my mother actually recited, advocated and believed in for the entirety of my formative years. Actually, I think she may still be a firm believer in this phrase. She has also, in her 50s, transformed into a firm believer in the “bootstraps” mindset and that no one should receive any assistance of any kind from anyone, especially not the government. This is coming from a woman who was raised by parents who gave her everything and allowed her a place to live and support whenever her life fell apart, even after their deaths. But I think that must be the case with all of these folks who don’t believe anyone deserves anything. It’s because they have never truly gone without.
I could go on for ages about narcissist parents who turn you into a crazy ball of co-dependent as an adult . . . in my mother’s world she is never wrong, is allowed to say and do as she wishes no matter the effect on anyone else, and if you say the slightest thing wrong to her or do something she does not like you endure a wrath and fury like no other. Not to mention the old diatribe of how she never does anything wrong to you and all she has ever done is try to help you and basically break her back for you. Funny, I’m pretty sure I mostly raised my sisters . . .she has also told me as I’ve been sick that medication is basically evil, I should try not being sick, maybe I’m just stressed out, and I should just not have surgery if it messes with my intestinal motility. Because, you know, I can control whether or not I have to have a procedure done.
The times I have dealt with mental health issues I have dealt with her denial and disbelief of the medical model and telling me I am crazy and that taking psychiatric medications makes me crazier, so I should never take them. This has created huge hurdles for me in getting any type of therapy or psychiatric treatment. I was very depressed as a child and never received treatment until I ran away from home at 17. Even then, my mother took me out of treatment after a week. I was also sick a lot and had stomach issues and never got treatment. As a teenager (19), I sat on my mother’s couch for three months, did not bathe, and wanted to die–and no one thought that maybe I should be in a hospital setting. I have a constant battle with myself of whether to take care of my mental health or to just ignore it because obviously there is something wrong with me if I think I have a mental illness. According to mom, I should just “stop being depressed and make myself happy.” And don’t dare take medication. Not for psych issues…oh, and not for pain either. Because that’s evil, too…in her own, expert, Dr. Google opinion.
This is the person who called me a “fat, lazy pig” as an eight-year-old and who still thinks she can spank my children with whatever object is laying around. And yet, as children often mother is our only constant and so no matter how she treats us we want so much for her to be near us and to love us the way she is supposed to. Looking back it is immeasurably sad. Children fiercely love the mother they have, even when she is toxic and damaging to them. There is obviously so much trauma from being a child that I have just let sit and marinate and have not processed well. Instead, I tend to just explode or go silent. I can not talk to someone for years. I haven’t spoken to my dad’s mother in 14 years . . .
My dad. What is there to say about an absent alcoholic who came around sporadically when he could and later became a heroin addict? He died of an overdose when I was 22. Growing up, we would visit and he would get drunk and talk about how we no longer loved him because we had a step-dad. We were in single digit ages at that point. In my later years, he would get drunk and we would fight, both verbally and physically. I became a parent to my sister at a very young age because of his alcoholism and inability to parent. I later became a parent to him and would pick him up from bars when we would go visit. I was so happy when I got my driver’s license. It meant that when we visited him, we no longer had to ride with a drunk driver. In spite of those things, I think my dad loved us. He just loved his addictions more and was incapable of seeing beyond them. I know we loved him. Even in my anger I desperately wanted him to be the father I deserved. And so I oscillated between hero worship and romanticizing who he was to utter hatred of his existence and pathetic excuse for being a father. He was such an intelligent man with a wasted life. In death, I still took care of everything, even previously mentioned grandmother. I carried out wishes that I think were not actually what he wanted but went along with them anyway because I am also a peacekeeper. Alcoholics forever need to be taken care of and I’m a class A caretaker.
These were the largest influences in creating who I am today. I wish I were better at moving past what these things created in my behaviors and coping skills. I wish I were better at confronting problems and not internalizing everything. I wish I did not feel the need to fix everything all the time. I wish I loved myself more and felt the need for everything to be perfect less.
I wish, I wish, I wish . . . but that’s how life goes, right? We are always wishing for something that was better.