Sunday, June 23, 2013
My Mother and Me
This goes along with the Sister Thin and Sister Fat article.
My mother has always rejected me. Some may be shocked that I would say such a thing with such forthrightness but it is true. My being fat just was the icing on the cake. One thing here, not every even supersized person faces this depth of familial rejection, while some may face "concern about their health" and other problems, there are superfat people with loving families even as they face severe obesity challenges.
Every girl wants to love her mother and for years and years, I imagined she loved me and even managed to talk myself into it a few times, but as I have grown older it became harder to do. Even describing this level of rejection to outsiders is hard, many people grew up with loving parents, and while they had their faults like all people do, describing what it is to have a parent like this is very difficult. People who haven't lived it, can't even imagine what it is to live with a parent with NPD.
With my mother, I have never seen her cry. I have never seen her show fear or any vulnerability. She never has shared emotions with me or any feelings. We are talking someone on multiple levels I never could relate to. In the most essential ways, I was absolutely motherless, an artistic, creative, emotional type who existed around freezing icebergs.
Growing up, life for me was constant criticism and being told how I did not measure up. This ranged from having my very personality told that it was 'wrong" to being told that I was a failure and a "loser", even during the times I became a teacher and came out of college because I did not "make enough money". A household of coldness with no love shown, I was never allowed to "be me". Some months ago, I saw an old picture album of me at 14, I was maybe 40lbs overweight, and was very tall and bigger then most girls, and remember at the time, how I was being screamed at for being "fat", which was ironic given what happened to me later.
With both parents having the very same personality and both rejecting me, I had years of counseling, I have been down every road on that avenue. The counselors that I sought out by age 18 would tell me I was a decent person and not at fault for what happened which helped me press on in life at the time before I had God's help.
The problem is even if you heal from earlier emotional abuse and are able to draw boundaries that end overt abuse, toxic people keep doing what they do best, being toxic, and cutting down others. Scapegoats who "rebel" are ostracized, take it from me, and I've had to accept that none of the parties are going to change and to move on the best I can. I have found strength to do this with the loving and kind people I do know and my friends and God especially.
Why I waited this long, I do not know, but finding out about narcissistic personality disorder, and being able to stop the self-blame I had been programmed with for years, blew the door I could walk out of to freedom wide open. At such a late age? But then I have always been a late bloomer.
Low contact was my choice for 15-20 years, 1-2 visits a year with a polite smile on my face, "don't argue", "be nice", "be a good Christian", "forgive and forget", but the weirdness continued unabated. Four weeks of visits a year for my sister, even before she had children, 10 minutes to 30 minutes for me every 4-5 years and often that was on her way home from her trip to my sister's house. My sister was the favorite, the golden child in other words, the one who could do no wrong. My mother's house was plastered in pictures of her and her family, and none of my brother and his or of me and husband. These few visits were with a tight smile, with some decent meals and presents but no place to share opinions, or be a real person and with put downs to be had. The day she told me, "you have nothing to show for your life" , this along with other moments of the mask slipping showing absolutely no empathy or true attachment to others told me exactly what I was dealing with.
Being mocked and put down for being poor, this growing worse with husband's job lay-offs is among my memories. My upper middle class mother and daughter were not only disgusted by my body but also my socioeconomic status and made it known as I grew into further into adulthood. These family roles would not change even into late adulthood. The worse thing was the family lining up behind the "queen bees", I became chopped liver, this means not one ally existed who I was related to due to the constant telegrams from both to the others that I was "worthless" and "fat".
Triangulation with one family member pitted against one another was constant as well as constant lying to each other. In fact the whole family grew to surround my mother like a cult, with each member focusing on her happiness as the highest priority. Even per my religious convictions after I became a Christian around 12 years ago, I knew none of this was healthy.
Also as I grew older I realized how my values were different from my family, my focus in life was far different, I had left the family religion at the age of 17 which didn't bring me overt shunning like some have faced from theirs but perhaps a lower version of it. This is painful for anyone who faces this. Life for me had a different meaning beyond appearances, and acquiring status. While I stayed respectful, this didn't help.
No amount of reaching out, communication and trying to change the status quo worked.
For years, I was quiet, always focusing on my own life even after being disabled, always lived in another town thankfully, volunteered, went to church, had life with my husband and friends. I pushed a lot of these things aside. I am not sure what even made all of it crop back up. Losing my last community? The death of three friends including one I saw as my surrogate Mom? Facing the hard fact I never could have children or a family of my own? A mid-life crisis? Growing older? Growing into more self-respect unable to accept indignities? All I know is things I ignored and accepted for years and years, I seemed unable to anymore.
Other things included being left out of family events finding out about them months later when one of the parties slipped up. Family events I was invited to, few and far between, but then there was no understanding for when I got ill and unable to travel or low on funds to make it happen, and no one was coming my direction whatsoever, even though they were invited. When I got sicker over the last few years, it showed me they really did not care, no one was showing up at my door. Sure, they would abate their last vestiges of guilt tossing me a few presents, or helping during a couple emergencies for appearances or to keep me off their doorsteps, but after the years of doors shut in my face, even this came with too high of a price attached. Even if she could be generous at times, it was not enough to paper over the continued invalidation and the very fact she despised me.
Someone stopping by 2 minutes to dump some presents on your doorstep to look good to others, really is not someone who cares or who is being "present" in your life. That was the weirdest scene this holiday season, me saying "Can't you stay 10 minutes to even talk?" to my mother and husband being told "NO" and them hurrying to the car, to race to their week long visit with my sister. Where is the dignity in this? There is none and the smirk on her face that day said it all to me.
Some may be horrified that I would write negative things about my mother. I guess on this blog I have the gift of some anonymity, because in real life, I usually wait to know someone before I tell them the story of my parents and family, so they know who I am first and that my story is unique. One does not want to spend one's life being perceived as "blaming one's parents" either for everything that has gone awry in their life. I know there is risk involved that I will be seen as the one who is "bad" or "crazy". Some may even say, "You are 500lbs, your mother has every right to be disgusted with you!"
Telling strangers or near strangers that you interact with in person, "My family hates me" doesn't earn you party invitations in other words. People like Alison Bechdel whose graphic novel like Fun Home, I have read despite probably our obvious different worldviews, but with an appreciation for the art and story, have gone even deeper into the story of their childhoods.
I know I am not a perfect person, I certainly made plenty of my own mistakes, but then you realize when you are around people who truly care, and those who reject you to the core. It is like night and day. You grow older and especially with time feeling short in my case, you want to commit your time and energy to the good people.
When I was young, I did not drink, or drug, and was not a juvenile delinquent. I however was a fat bookworm that embarrassed her.
While I remember being called "fat" and then looking in horror at the ages that happened realizing I was just on the cusp of plump compared to now, things got far worse. Whenever I gained weight it seemed to be a reproach against her. When I had the huge weight gain, the parental rejection went up with each pound gained. There was no understanding, no hope, no "why don't we take you to a doctor", a 100lb weight gain that took one year to gain between the ages of 13 and 14 which took me from size 12 and normality to midsized fatness for over 12 years was ignored as well as the 400lb weight gain that would come later as I lost my hair and my skin became covered in sores. My young teens were spent being yelled at for having a filthy neck and other problems that really were medically based. The worse thing, the fact that all of this was seen as a "choice".
Watching shows later with superfat bedbound people in bed with family members feeding and cleaning them, I was incredulous, maybe this is why I could still even walk at 680lbs, knowing that no calvary was coming. Maybe in an odd way what I suffered actually helped me survive.
There was no family waiting in the wings to take me in. Even as a fat asthmatic with crumbling health, I had to go work with violent gang members and young people in a group home in a giant metro city where I knew absolutely no one when I moved there, to keep myself off the streets. I was the one who really needed a group home, a hospital and the support and help I was supposed to give others. Looking back at what I faced, has given me a new assessment.
In 2001, one of her best friends of 50 years duration--an old ex-door neighbor and family friend turned to me and said, "Your mother has been disgusted with your weight, and cannot accept you!" The friend saw this as something she supported. I would regret the visit immediately and remember begging husband to leave which we did early based on this treatment.
One part of my life is reading about others with troubled childhoods, books like Blackbird, Fun Home, and Mommie Dearest as a teen. These books helped to at least say to myself, "Others have gone through the same you have!" I still own the paperback copy of Mommie Dearest that became dogeared from my re-reading it. That one seemed to match my existence the closest though as far as I know I was not adopted and my mother was not a Hollywood Star, but she was very focused on appearances, neatness and seemed to get others to see me in a bad way no matter what I did or how much I tried to change their mind to the positive.
If you want to know what my mother was like, 80% of this link applies:
Characteristics of Narcissistic Mothers
I was basically a fat nerd with a "Mean Girl" for a mother. The meanest Heather from Heathers grew up and was my mother. Socially awkward and unable to read social cues, I was almost squished by a mother that seemed to have an IQ of a 1000 when it came to manipulating people. I was made into the scapegoat, the one who could do no right no matter the appeals I made, or the changes I tried to make to myself. At a certain point you realize that walking down the same road isn't going to work, it's time to take another.
Part of my healing that I seek now is not just the physical but inside too, and that means choosing to be free. I don't need to keep people in my life who are toxic to me. Choosing to be me, and seeking after God's will, those who truly love me and living life according to my values.