I was just reading an entry on Dulce’s blog, and it occurs to me that I haven’t done the relevant self-forgiveness over a very painful aspect of my childhood. It’s amazing to me that I haven’t written about it yet since it left a raw, gaping wound in my psyche. I’ve already written about my father – a couple of times, actually. But I haven’t yet written about my mother and how I was mentally abused by her as a child.
Even though I have forgiven her years ago – I went thru therapy to be to get to that place – writing about this now brings up a bit of trepidation and a little bit of anxiety. I don’t want to sound like that I’m bitching about my mom in public. That is not my starting point. I just want to effectively release anything left inside me that remains.
Things went badly shortly after my father, a womanizer and drinker, left my mother for another woman. My mother was stuck with bills to pay and four small children. I was the oldest at eight and my three sisters were aged seven, six and three. Mom got a job and kept the wolves from the door for a while. I was deputized “man of the house” while she was gone at work and was pressed into service of watching my sisters until she returned from work. But soon, money had gotten tighter and tighter, and mom could no longer afford to send us to Catholic school.
Mother had been seeing a psychologist for depression. I remember her talking about “Jake,” who was treating her. One day my father picked us up from school. He said, “You guys are going to spend time with aunt so-and-so, because mommy’s sick and in the hospital. I found out later l mom had a nervous breakdown. I didn’t know what that meant, but it didn’t sound good. She was in the hospital for two weeks. I didn’t want to stay at my aunt’s house because we had to spend the night there, and I had begun wetting the bed after my parents split and I couldn’t stop. Of course my aunt didn’t appreciate this in the morning. So she sent us back home to spend the nights there until mom was out of the hospital.
When mother finally returned home, she had changed. Before, she was calm, funny, and would play “Clare de Lune” on the piano, which I never got tired to hear her play. She’d read us poetry, T.S. Eliot and e.e. cummings and recite Lewis Carroll’s “Alice In Wonderland” from memory. And she could sing beautifully. But after her spell in the hospital, she had changed. She was humorless, cold, distant and very impatient. And very angry at everything. I didn’t know this at the time, but she had undergone electro – shock therapy during her stay at the hospital. The mother that I knew had seemingly gone forever.
And so it went. Mother’s anger was a constant presence in my world, yes, she did take her anger out on us, and soon I began to believe that her misery was all my fault.
She began to hector us about how her life was nothing but misery – and how she wished that she’d never had any children. And how her life was worthless and how she was going to climb into the car and drive away and leave us kids for good. Hearing her say this over and over again, seemingly every day, really got to me. It produced a deep anxiety and an immobilizing fear that she’d actually leave – because I believed her. And the bedwetting continued, which drove her insane with anger each and every morning.
Eventually, we were forced out of our house and moved over to the east side into public housing, as my mother couldn’t or wouldn’t work. Though she received welfare checks and food stamps, we always ran out of money for food at the end of the month – the last four days or so there would be nothing to eat. And of course my mother’s anger continued to grow more menacing and hateful by the day.
And apparently, every time she’d go out on a date and have sex, she’d get pregnant. She gave birth to my brother and my twin sisters by two different men. So now she had seven mouths to feed. It was about this time she began dragging us to this crazy Pentecostal church four nights a week. It was horrible. I thought these people were nuts!
Mother found no relief in church, no matter how many times she took us. She’d sit me down and repeatedly ask me why she was “catching hell?” I couldn’t think of anything to say. It broke my heart to see her so unhappy. I tried helping out as much as I could. I looked for ways to help, thinking that would make her happy. I’d fix the babies’ bottles, and wash the dishes and take out the trash without her telling my to do so. Anything I could do, I did.
Not that it mattered. She now began to inform us that she was tired of living and that she was planning to kill herself. Yes, she told us in a calm voice. She was going to get in her car and drive off of the Cherry Street Bridge. Sometimes she was very agitated when she went into this. On these occasions after screaming how her life was worthless and she going to drive off and leave us, she actually did! She got into the car and drove off. She was gone for hours! My sisters didn’t seem to care all that much, but I was sick with worry – blaming myself for all that had happened to us. And I began to hate myself for what had befallen us, thinking it was all my fault. Hours later, mother would return as if nothing happened. This performance would be repeated over the weeks and moths and years. And each and every time, I thought my mother would never return after she drove off in a blinded rage.
One morning, as I was getting ready to catch the schoolbus, she started in on me again about how she was going to kill herself and blah, blah, blah. Something inside me finally snapped. I felt nothing, but a deep, hot anger! I turned to her, tears beginning to well up in my eyes as I looked at her with a hatred I had never felt before.
I yelled, “Go ahead! Go ahead, I don’t care anymore! I’m leaving! I’m going to live with Mama Lyddie! Go ahead! GGo ahead and kill yourself!” And I ran out of the apartment – intending to walk all the way across town to get to my grandmother’s house. I knew the way.
My mother called, “Darryl.”
I turned, my face still hot with anger, and looked at her standing in the doorway. A faint, enigmatic smile was on her face. “I’m sorry. Come back.”
“NO!” I turned and kept walking. I was crying now. I heard her call out again and I stopped, still crying. She walked over and hugged me warmly and kissed me on my forehead. It was the first act of warmth from her that I could remember, and I was staved. “Come on back inside. I won’t ever say those things to you any more.” She took me back into the apartment and closed the door behind us. To her credit, she never did. Well, at least she never said that she wouldn’t kill herself. Though at that time I just didn’t care anymore. And my bedwetting stopped soon after that day. But I was still pretty damaged and emotionally deformed. I blamed her for that. I wanted her to protect me – not be her lasting regret in life. We went over all that in therapy, though. And I found it in my heart to forgive her. And she’s been awesome ever since. I feel bad for what she went through, but I went through it along with her during that painful episode in our lives. I was just a kid.
I forgive myself for accepting and allowing myself to believe that it was my fault that my parents divorced.
I forgive myself for accepting and allowing myself to believe that it was my fault that my mother went mad because of what we kids put her through, but it wasn’t our fault – we were just little kids.
I forgive myself for accepting and allowing myself to burden myself with the responsibility of making my mother “happy.”
I forgive myself for accepting and allowing myself to participate in that “responsibility.”
I forgive myself for accepting and allowing myself to take responsibility for my mother’s mental health.
I forgive myself for accepting and allowing myself to feel helpless about helping my mother, because I tried everything, and nothing ever helped.
I forgive myself for accepting and allowing myself to be emotionally damaged by my mother’s craziness.
I forgive myself for accepting and allowing myself to feel unloved.
I forgive myself for accepting and allowing myself to feel unwanted.
I forgive myself for accepting and allowing myself to feel lost and alone.
I forgive myself for accepting and allowing myself to hate myself for my mother’s condition, thinking that I was the cause for her condition. It wasn’t my fault, because I was only a child, and I was a good kid.
I forgive myself for accepting and allowing myself to feel sorry for myself about what I am writing here.
I forgive myself for accepting and allowing myself to wet the bed at night and not knowing hoe to stop.
I forgive myself for accepting and allowing myself to feel embarrassed and ashamed for wetting the bed as a child.
I forgive myself for not accepting and allowing myself to face this sooner.
I forgive myself for accepting and allowing myself to wish that I was somebody else’s child.
I forgive myself for accepting and allowing myself to wonder why my mother did this to me. But now I know that my parents where specifically placed to probably fuck with me.
I forgive myself for accepting and allowing myself to hate both my parents.
I forgive myself for accepting and allowing myself to participate in that hate.