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Re: And now for something completely different....... » paxvox

Posted by leeran on April 25, 2003, at 18:24:59

In reply to And now for something completely different......., posted by paxvox on April 23, 2003, at 20:11:32

Paxvox -

I'm relatively new here and responded to your post the other night not knowing your situation. Since I had never read any of your posts I didn't know what family member you were referring to.

My background: I am the adult only child (44, female) of a mother diagnosed with dysthysmic depression and suspected (by her family doctor) BPD. My father is probably depressed but has never been diagnosed.

I wrote most of this last night but I just couldn't post it then. I needed to sleep on it I guess. Because this is about your daughter, a young child, I felt like I should choose my words carefully. However, I've cut through a lot of my own feelings in the last several hours and I think, because of what sounds like a similar situation, I should tell you how it was for me growing up.

Two nights ago I answered the start of your thread with:

"As I child I sort of wished it (my mother being committed) would come to pass because I thought someone else might be able to "fix" things."

Now I'm going to tell you what I REALLY thought as a child, versus the "approved for general audiences" version that I previously wrote . . . (I still protect the family secrets),

I didn't "sort of" wish for anything. I wished with EVERY fiber of my being that someone would take charge because things were so out of control in our household. Toxic? You bet. Scary? Absolutely. As early as first grade I would lay in my bed at night and feel compelled to touch the foot board of my bed, the window sill, and then the foot board again because I thought that weird ritual might make everything okay. And when I laid back down I would feel so anxious that I would sit up and do it all over again, repeatedly, until I was too tired to sit up and do it again, or until I finally felt like I had satisfied (for at least that night) whatever fear was eating away at my insides. As an adult, I now understand that one of my primary fears (to this very day) is "waiting for the other shoe to drop."

These four sentences of yours summed up our own household thirty to forty years ago:

"There is nothing "normal" about our interactions, or lack there of, to be more specific. It has become toxic, and I cannot allow it to become terminal. The cycle HAS to stop here, I do not want my daughter's life to be intractably scarred by this."

Last night, when I read your post, I felt like "the daughter" all over again, and oh how I wish my father could have had the same strength you've shown in your posts! I have so much admiration for you because of this.

My dad and I were afraid of the repercussions of my mother's endless anger (or her cold silences, that would sometimes last for a week or longer). She would go downstairs to the dark basement and she wouldn't come up, sometimes for as long as a week. I guess my father couldn't handle the stress because he would come home from work, eat something, then go to the racetrack until about 1:00 in the morning. As an adult, I write this thinking "why did he do this?" and I honestly don't know if it was the stress or selfishness, or a combination of both.

After he would leave I would sit on the sofa as straight as a board watching TV with the volume turned down, praying she wouldn't come upstairs while he was gone. When my bedtime came I would turn off the TV and go to bed as if everything was normal. Or as normal as it could be when you haven’t seen your mother for almost a week because she’s in the basement and won’t come out.

My mother hated my father and tolerated me. If she sensed any solidarity between my father and myself she would shift shapes (in the figurative sense) to confuse things even further. She was the maestro and we danced to her pain. She’s kept us guessing for forty years.

I took my husband to work today and I railed against my parents for most of the drive. Typically, I keep all this carefully concealed inside. But Pax, your post helped me realize that I AM ANGRY and it's leftover anger that doesn't taste good.

I'm on my third marriage and I live my life never quite sure who the heck I am. I used to be driven to perfection and because my mother equated power with money, I worked even harder to become successful in my career. It felt good along the way*, but because her mantra had been:

"Get a college education and make a lot of money so you won't have to put up with some S.O.B. the rest of your life"

I was never sure if I was doing it for me - or for her.

For seventeen years I became my work because that’s what I do, I go as fast as I can until I hit the wall. My husband says I don’t know how to use the brake

Even as an adult, our weird triangle endured. They moved closer to where I lived because my father would plaintively say "She (me) is all we've got" when in fact, my mother has always been "better" around me, so that makes his life easier. Better??? Yes, better because I was her little manchurian candidate who learned to read her every cue for dissatisfaction - and tried to satisfy that dissatisfaction any way that I could.

Whenever I made any decision that was in violation of her skewed belief system she would give me the silent treatment. For days, weeks, months - whatever it took until I would break my resolve. When, after SEVEN years of marriage, I found out I was pregnant (by surprise, with an IUD in place) she stopped speaking to me for two months, but not until she spat out the words "you know, there is the option of abortion." You see, a child would take time away from her – and because she was never happy with my father – I was the “next best thing.” My mother has always said she loves dogs because they don’t talk back. Of course, she forgets that I only talked back twice in my entire childhood.

I don't paint a pretty picture. I realize that. I've never written this down before and I don't know if I'll have the courage to post it once I finish.

So, how does it turn out? I don't know.

Luckily, I am married to a wonderful person who is far more evolved than I'll ever hope to be - and who, for the first time in my life, loves me unconditionally. Something I didn't know until I was 39 years old. What does he get out of it? In my opinion, not much - but you see, that's because my opinion of myself is sh*t. When I left my job of seventeen years and no longer made "the big bucks" I felt like a complete and utter failure because that's what my prescription for happiness was supposed to be: "Make a lot of money so you don't have to put up with some S.O.B."

It finally hit me, after two failed marriages, that I didn't even know how to "behave" in a marriage. There hadn't been any positive examples.

Do I blame my parents? The child in me does. I know I sound bitter and mad at the world and the scariest part is that even though I have everything in the world to be happy for, I never seem to be able to pull it off. Scratch that. The scariest part may be that I'm afraid I'll become her, or worse yet, that I’ve already become her.

The adult in me knows full well that mental illness was to "blame," yet my childhood created so many situations wherein I had to be the adult that I now feel tired of keeping up the front. I'm tired of protecting, and I'm tired of the anger I feel about protecting, and I'm tired about the guilt and shame I feel when I realize that everything I wrote here would kill them. But even now, all these years later, what I really feel like is a failure because I could never fix "it" (whatever “it” was).

I see you, Pax, as the white light for your daughter. Your wife may not be able to let you in to help, and that isn't her fault. And it isn't your fault, either. But most of all, it isn't your daughter's fault, and she may grow up feeling somehow that it is. I know I did.

I am praying for you and your family, Pax. My post is just one of many and I can only relay how it was for me. You have some tough decisions ahead but your words show a lot of resolve. And love.

Wishing you strength,


*material things are nice, but they don't fill the hole.




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