Letting Go of Pain from the Past with Compassion
The other day, I ran across this this article about dysfunctional families. It took me aback a little bit. I’ve held the words in my mind, processing it for days now. This is how my mind works. I mull things over, adding bits and pieces of information and understanding, until I build a better understanding of a new concept. This process can take days, or it can take years.
As a child, I was always acutely aware of my mother’s sensitive feelings. I wanted to make her happy and proud of me. When I had class parties, I’d always pick out the candies and treats she’d like best, before eating any myself. I’d burst in the door with excitement, presenting the treats I’d gathered for her. I’d do the same at gift shops at class field trips. I’d use most of the money I’d been given to buy her something before I would myself. Sometimes, I’d not buy myself anything at all. While the other kids were busy thinking about what they wanted to buy, or what would make them happy I was busy trying to make my mother happy. This is, as one might have surmised by now, an endless task, as well as not my responsibility. It’s unfortunately one I’ve carried with me as one of those painful lessons you learn as a child. I never learned to look after myself first. Of course, there are positives to this, in that I am a generous person and will share anything I have with anyone in need. I can and do get taken advantage of as well. I attracted people who were abusive to me, and I accepted their abuse as just the way it is in grade school, all along until adulthood.
My father is likely on the spectrum himself, and was emotionally unavailable, as well as physically unavailable due to working long hours. When he was around, he expected order and quiet. He never gave compliments and always let you know in a harshly critical manner when you were wrong. I stayed away from him as much as possible, because we didn’t get along. I got no support from him and my ability to out-argue him relentlessly got me labeled a troublemaker.
As you might imagine, my father was completely unable to handle my mother’s wildly swinging emotions and need for empathy. He is simply unable to do so and she is unable to regulate herself. I firmly believe she has Borderline Personality Disorder. The two together was a recipe for disaster. I became the person that things hinged on. If things were good, I was good. If things were bad, I was bad. I was/am the scapegoat in the family. My mother’s mental health declined year after year. By the time I was in my adolescence, she was pretty neurotic. With me about to leave the home, and my brother most of the way grown, she wasn’t as needed anymore. She saw things that weren’t there and accused me of doing things I never did. If I got a new friend, a boyfriend, or even an interest that took my time away from her, she’d come up with something that I had done or they’d done to keep me away from them — even going so far as to admitting me to mental hospitals, so she could get pity from family. She believed that I summoned evil spirits to terrorize her and so many other things that were equally crazy. Child Protective Services tried to remove me from the home at age 17. My mother said I was responsible for that, too and refused to speak to me for quite awhile after that.
I was tragically scarred by these experiences. As an adult now, I am putting things into perspective, allowing healing and new growth. One of those processes is understanding what on earth made my mother behave the way she did/does. As a mother myself, I can’t fathom treating my kids that way. I have asked this question many times over, and the answer I believe is in this quote:
“When another person makes you suffer, it is because he suffers deeply within himself, and his suffering is spilling over.” Thich Nhat Hanh
I know my mother suffers. She suffers greatly. She can’t help it, but lets it pour over onto others, infecting them with her pain. The last two years, we have not been on speaking terms at all. Her pain of feeling abandoned by me was more than she could handle. A conversation couldn’t go by where, out of the blue, I’d be told how all of my struggles with my ASD kids are my own fault for moving away from her. She won’t visit me, because I made my own bed, so now I can lie in it, as far as she’s concerned. Or if I’d be asking for advice about my daughter, she’d drop in that as long as she doesn’t grow up to be as ungrateful and mean spirited as me, then I’ll have escaped the real pain of motherhood that she has endured. I finally could take it no more. I told her to get help to manage her pain or leave me alone. She chose leaving me alone. That was painful. It was awful for me, and I am still gathering up coping skills to help me deal with it. I don’t think anyone ever really gets over something like that. So, if anything, I have derived some comfort in knowing that it’s not me, or about me. She just can’t contain her massive amount of pain and agony. This may be an important part for me to move forward, and letting myself feel worthy of love, life, and joy.
About the Author: Inner Aspie a stay-at-home mom with Asperger’s Syndrome. She has three kids: CJ, 13 (Dyslexic), Bubby, 9 (mild autism), and Beans, 7 (severe Autism). She loves being a mom and blogging about her adventures in parenting in an atypical household. This piece first appeared on her blog, Inner Aspie, and is reprinted here by permission.