Are you my mother?

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One of the most profound things I’ve ever had anyone say to me was “you don’t have to love your parents just because they’re your parents.” And this was coming from someone who had a good relationship with his parents. He was the guy I dated last year. It shook my world. It shook everything I’ve ever believed to be true about being a “good” daughter. For the first time in my life I felt a sense of relief. All of that guilt and anguish and pain from not being grateful that my mother gave me life associated with Mother’s Day has crushed me for years. Why had no one ever told me this before?

The fact that my parents are my parents is not reason enough to love them. Parents have a responsibility to their child to care for and provide for all their needs. When they don’t do that, a child has every right to hate them, be angry with them, cry over them, hide from them, or any other number of things they can find to cope with not having their needs met. Children, by very definition of who they are, are needy. They are supposed to be. They don’t owe their parent love just because that parent brought them into this world.

That whole discussion about how you should be thankful to your mother for giving you life is rather ridiculous to me. Yes, you’re right, if my mother hadn’t chosen to give birth to me then I wouldn’t exist. But that’s just it, I wouldn’t exist. How could I have my feelings hurt that I never existed if I never existed? My mother didn’t do me a favor by giving birth to me. She chose to bring me into this world. That leaves zero obligation on my part. Thanking someone for giving birth to you just doesn’t make any sense to me at all.

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I’m mourning. I’m mourning the mother that never was. I desperately crave female friendship but I don’t seem to be able (as I have just recently been broken up with) to maintain one. Jealousy and envy and severe anxiety get in the way of me being able to look at a friendship for what it is and instead cause me to clutch on to something that I have never had. Nurturing. Mothering. Emotional support. These things don’t just suddenly appear because a woman gives birth. A child needs these things. When they don’t get them the result is Exhibit A: me.

I still regularly look around me for people who are more “adult” than me. It’s almost impossible for me to think of myself as an adult because I feel forgotten. Someone forgot to raise me. Someone forgot to mother me. How can I possibly become an adult when I was not first a kid with a mother. I had a temporary mother for a short time when I was 14. It was only for a few months, but she came into our home and did things that I never even knew were mothering things to do. I think it’s the only time in my entire childhood that I ever felt that at least someone (love you Mrs. Bailey) wanted to be my mother. That someone was happy to let me be the kid that I was.

I think I have actually been searching for a mother in my life for a long time. It wasn’t recognizable to me until a recent conversation with a family member. I have never been able to associate Mother’s Day or even the word “mother” with anything positive. I don’t feel a close connection with a mother figure. The word brings me pain that I can’t quiet anymore. I’ve searched for a really close girlfriend but have never had one. I think it’s probably because I needed to be mothered. I wasn’t able to be a close friend. I’m like that little bird in that Dr. Seuss book going around to everyone and everything and asking, “are you my mother?” That book always made me so sad.

I went to church this morning and they didn’t put on a big show for Mother’s Day. It was refreshing.

Someone recently posted a comment on a blog post of mine from a while back and it was such a simple truth, yet something that I don’t think a lot of people realize. She said, “Children’s self-esteem begins in childhood, from the way that they perceive that their parents perceive them. Basically, the foundation for self-esteem is based on the way parents treat their child.” And that’s it. Right there.

I’ve experienced the insensitivity of people who make fun of self-esteem as if it’s some sort of privilege that “kids these days” want to have. I’m sorry but no. Self-esteem is a necessary component to becoming a healthy, functioning, contributing member of society. It’s not a pretend made-up thing. It’s not something that kids will just “get over” when they grow up because their parents clothed, and fed, and housed them so how could they possibly have mental health issues or low self-esteem. They are just being ungrateful or something.

With everything that’s gone down with my parent’s divorce last year and some other nasty things, my dad told me the other day that he feels bad for us so much more than for himself. And isn’t that how it should be for a parent? Shouldn’t hurt and disrespected boundaries by someone who was supposed to be a place of solace be a painful thing for a parent to witness. I think so. And it makes me respect my dad more knowing that he wishes it could all go away for us.

I am so thankful for the very small number of women in my past who have at least in some way filled the mother role. I would not have survived without them.

The Hard Stuff

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Note: This is THE HARDEST thing for me to talk about. And those who know me know that getting me to talk about anything is not an easy task. But this is something that embarrasses me and hurts me and makes me feel ashamed. It’s something that I wish I could just ignore and it would be gone. It’s something that makes me feel unworthy to even have friends. Because who wants to be around a depressed person. 

May is Mental Health Awareness month. And I think it’s important because growing up and all through college I didn’t really know or understand that mental illness was a real thing and that you can get help for it. Mental health is so important to every other area of your life including your physical health.

I don’t really have someone I can talk about all of this with personally so I’m just going to tell the entire world. Ok? Ok! And just for the record. I hate this. I hate talking about it. I hate that I don’t know what to do about it. And I hate that I can’t really get people to understand it. I hate that other people don’t want to talk about it either. And I hate feeling lost in this land of nothingness.

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From breadforthecity.org

Right now I am having a bit of a crisis. I am actually a little bit afraid of this because while the feelings are somewhat familiar, they haven’t been this extreme before. I have zero desire to go outside. I can look out the window at the wind blowing in the trees and I can tell myself over and over and over again how good it is for me and that it will make me feel better to get out there, but I simply don’t have enough energy or interest to do it. I tell myself that a beautiful day should make me feel something, but it doesn’t. I don’t care that the sun is shining or the temperature is warming up.

A lot of people post pictures of flowers this time of year which is expected. It’s Spring, the season of new life and energy and movement. People like to see plants and flowers awaking from winter. It’s an exciting and enjoyable time of year. When I look at flowers or a beautiful flowering tree… I feel nothing. That scares me. It’s not normal. You shouldn’t have to choose to find beauty in flowers. It is a naturally occurring feeling for most human beings who aren’t sociopaths. Or depressed.

Do you know how terrible it is to look at things and think about things and feel absolutely nothing? Now I don’t always feel nothing. I do still feel a lot of other things during the course of a week including happiness, joy, excitement, love, pain, loneliness, disappointment, regret, etc. It’s like I keep crossing back and forth between feeling normal feelings and being in this place of nothingness where I feel nothing. And the most frustrating part of that is that I have no idea when it’s going to happen again or how long it’s going to last. It creeps up on me with no warning. And I am frustrated as hell that I feel like I don’t have control over it.

I think it is the scariest thing I have ever experienced. And I have to do something about it. I’m not sure what specifically just yet. I think it’s going to take a combination of a lot of different things. But I do know that I can’t handle it on my own. Lately I’ve had to purposely seek out things that will strongly move me emotionally. Usually something really sad or really funny. But the list of things that do that is getting smaller and smaller.

The hardest thing about trying to talk to someone about depression is that if they haven’t ever been depressed (and I mean actually depressed, not sad), they think it’s as simple as “think positive” or “life is worth living, what do you have to be depressed about?” Except to them those things make sense and are all true. They wake up every day and they choose to focus on the positive and they know without a doubt that their life is something they want and that it’s worth living for.

I don’t have a certain thing to be depressed about. It’s true. I have my own apartment. I have a job that I love. I have transportation. I have good food to eat. I have a lot of beautiful clothes. I have family that love me. But that’s the thing. If you asked me right now what I’m depressed about, I couldn’t tell you. Because I don’t know. There is no one thing that I can pinpoint that is making me depressed. And yet I feel myself falling farther and farther into a place where I just don’t care about anything.

My regular practice now is to zone out. Sometimes I can literally sit on the couch for hours doing nothing but looking at the walls and floor. Some days I cry all day about nothing in particular. Other days I stress out the entire day worrying about the impact this is having on my life and why I just spent the entire day before crying. It’s a vicious cycle that has no predictable course.

Once in a while I will have a random day where I feel pretty good. I feel motivated to get things done. But it doesn’t usually last very long. Sometimes it doesn’t even last for an entire day. And I hate that. I can’t tell you how desperately I hate that. Because I don’t understand why I can suddenly feel good and have a surge of energy to live my life and then it be gone again in the blink of an eye. I don’t know what happens to it. I don’t know where it goes. I don’t know how to hold onto it.

All this to say, take mental health seriously. It is not something you should just assume is simple to fix. And it definitely isn’t something that you should make people feel badly about. Trust me, we already feel terrible, not just about the illness, but also that it affects those around us in ways that we wish it didn’t. We don’t need patronizing comments or assumptions about what our life is like. Just as much as you would want to know everything possible about a physical illness of a family member or close friend, you should also want to know as much as you can about mental illness. It is just as impactful an illness as any other kind of illness.