December 30, 2008


Mommy Dearest

I don't want to be dramatic or self-pitying, but my mother has never really loved me in the way a mother is supposed to love a daughter according to society. Love from birth? Nope, admits it flat out she didn't really care about me til I was six months old. Unconditional love at any point in my life ever? Definitely not! I'm used to her conditional love. It bothers me only about 15% of the time. Most of the time I just ignore it. But today, today I realized I think my mother is trying to kill me..No, I don't think she does it consciously, but I think she does it nonetheless.

Are mothers supposed to be nurturing and sweet? Society tells us so, which makes us trust them implicitly, without bounds, and dangerously at that. I trust my mother too much, even though I know she is not without her own agenda. Even though I respect that she has her own agenda. Human beings have motives, and I've never bought that mothers are exempt. But I'm starting to realize that I've bought into the delusion that mothers want to help and protect you, and that my new year's resolution is, well, to trust my mother less, for the sake of my health and happiness. She does not necessarily know my best interests.

My mother, when I was a child afflicted by anorexia, ignored my massive weight loss. I was 11 years old and I lost 30 pounds from my 5'2 frame. Neighbours and teachers noticed. I was frail and sickly looking. My hair was falling out. My menstrual cycle stopped. I had one saltine cracker for breakfast, pretending to have a bagel for lunch that I never ate, and always left my dinner half finished, claiming I was full from the day's other meals. I was obviously and clinically ano. My mother, however, for the year that I was sick, went around telling people that I hadn't lost weight at all when they mentioned that I seemed to be missing about a quarter of my body weight. Her response was, "No, she just grew three inches this year!" I actually hadn't grown at all. I wasn't eating enough to grow. I'm pretty sure the anorexia stunted my growth. In the end, I got better on my own. I was 12 when I decided that I had a problem. I had an obvious problem in fact, and it struck me that it was odd my mother hadn't noticed it, so odd that I felt awkward bringing it up. Miraculously and luckily, I got back to a healthy body weight on my own, because I wanted to. I was a good, healthy size by age 14 once more.

At 14, however, when my anorexia was gone, I became depressed. Anorexia had been more coping strategy. I had controlled my weight to comfort myself. I now no longer had a way to deal with this. I couldn't sleep and had anxiety attacks. I couldn't talk to my mother. Every time I tried, she said not now. This was not the time for a serious chat. Either the car was not the place, while she was preparing dinner/getting ready to go out/relaxing watching a movie was not the time. There was never a time. There was never a place. I wrote a note to one of my teachers telling her I was worried that I was developing suicidal thoughts. I had no one else to turn to; I was crying out to people who would make my parents take notice. My parents were instructed that I needed therapy. They didn't take me. I once again resolved to get better on my own, and very fortunately, I sort of did. I took up extra curriculars I was passionate about and just distracted myself until I forgot about being depressed, for the most part.

The spring after my suicide note, a friend invited me to go with her to Spain for March break. I was not allowed to go. When I asked my mother why not, she said, "I told your father you shouldn't get to go to Spain after the stunt you pulled." I was a good kid who didn't drink, smoke or stay out past curfew. I finished my homework and got straight A's. When I asked her what "stunt" she was referring to, she told me it was my suicide note. Depression was referred to as a "stunt" by my mother. She was punishing me for being depressed! I didn't deserve treatment, but I didn't deserve to be treated normally, either? That was the day when I realized unequivocally that my mother's love for me was negotiated along many other factors, like her desire to be thought well of and to keep up appearances. Her love was not the pure, unadulterated love we're told is typical of motherhood. I was disappointed and it never occurred to me that society had given me unrealistic expectations that my mother would love me without bounds. No other type of love is unconditional, so why should this one be? I never thought my father would love me unconditionally, and I don't believe society ever deluded me into thinking he would, so I was never disappointed when he failed me or when he didn't love me purely and infinitely. I wish I could have accepted the limits of my mother's love just as easily.

We're told mothers will kill for their children. We're told they don't want to live without them and love them from the very first. What a simplistic relationship that would be! Not a realistic way to interact between people who live together for upwards of 18 years.

This past week, I caught a flesh-eating skin disease from my brother. Like, actually. She took him to the doctor and got him anti-biotics. When I showed my mother my rash, convinced I'd contracted his illness, she insisted my rash looked nothing like his, even though it was identical. She insisted I didn't need anti-biotics even if I had his illness. "You caught yours earlier, and the internet says if you catch it early, all you need is the anti-septic cream." I believed her for a couple of days. She was my mother, after all. Clearly she wanted me safe, right? The rash didn't get better. My dad made me a doctor's appointment. The doctor told me I absolutely had what my brother had, and if I had that, of course I needed anti-biotics. No reputable medical website even would have told my mother I didn't need them. She was lying to me. She was trying to keep me sick and make me sicker. That's sick, right? Well, I don't know. I'm not just her daughter. I'm her competitor. I'm her rival for the affections of her family members, I'm a parasite who was completely dependent upon her resources and her time for the pretty much 18 years. I was an exceptionally good teenage, who brought home good marks, never did drugs or even smoked, but still, I can see how she could be resentful of all the time she put into me. What I don't see, is why everyone in society assumes she should not be. I don't want to resent or try to kill my kids, and I will work hard not to, but part of me thinks mothers like that are more the exception than the rule...

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