Saturday, September 17, 2011

My mother, myself

I know this is already the title of a fantastic book by Nancy Friday, but I feel it is an appropriate title for this post. My BFF mentioned to me the other day that I should create a blog about what it's like to be a new mother, and to have a mentally ill mother. I don't like to describe her that way on paper because it sounds... something not nice. It also makes it seem simple. Oh, she's mentally ill. That explains everything. It is SOOO much more complex than that. My mother has bipolar disorder and generalized anxiety disorder. Like many who suffer from bipolar disorder (or manic depression), she is literally unable to take responsibility for pretty much anything. One of her major symptoms is egocentricism- in clinical terms: "the incomplete differentiation of the self and the world, including other people, the tendency to perceive, understand and interpret the world in terms of the self, and being over preoccupied with ones own internal world." What this translates into is that she is never to blame for anything and there is nothing wrong with the things she says and does, ever. What this meant for me as a child is still hard to write about. I was the mother for the most part. I was the one who had to soothe her, listen to her myriad of adult complaints and feel responsible for them, etc. I couldn't trust her and feel safe with her, because she mistrusted the world, and the world was therefore a dangerous and bad place. This behavior has alienated my mother from countless friends and relationships. They have grown tired of the constant complaining, the raging mood swings, the guilt trips, and so on.

Nothing is ever good enough for my mother. She always wants more. Give her an inch, she wants a million miles. I recently told her that I was given a small dose of morphine while I was in labor. She nearly lost it. Now she will be spinning it around in her head forever, and anytime my son is crying or upset or anxious, it will be because I had that morphine. She used to say that the reason I cried over the cat throwing up was because my father was an alcoholic (which he wasn't and never has been). This is her train of thought:

"K sees father throwing up from drinking too much. It upsets her.
K sees cat throwing up and is reminded of this traumatic event.
Therefore, father is an alcoholic."

As much as I have always tried to differentiate myself from her, to "not turn into my mother," she is often trying to make us more similar. Her father was an alcoholic, so mine must be too. I have allergies, now she does too.

Now she tries to tell me how to parent my son. She thinks he has anxiety. She thinks there's something wrong with him when she hears him crying. I have to tell her over and over, babies cry. It's normal. He's perfectly normal. Don't put your neurotic bullshit on him. She is hellbent on babysitting him (she lives 2 hours away from us) and I don't think I want her to. I don't want my little monkey to ever feel what I felt as a child. Unsafe. Adults are supposed to be reliable, consistent, loving, and meet your needs (when you're a kid). I know this is an illusion, but part of it is absolutely necessary for a child to develop a strong sense of self esteem, and to feel comfortable and confident in the world.

It is so hard not to hate her sometimes. But I don't want my son to ever feel this way towards me. Ugh.