A Complicated Relationship

As part of my therapy, Anna has encouraged me to process what we’re working on through my art. To draw what I can’t talk about or what hurts. To draw to make sense of things. To draw to help me communicate with Anna. It has been a huge upward curve in my therapy, the drawing. It has helped so much and I now have a folder of about 50 drawings all of which have helped me understand myself a bit better and helped different parts of myself come through.

I drew this a while ago when we started on the grief work of my ‘mother wound’… it’s been like dipping my toe into the cool, lapping waters by the coast. The waves are raging towards the horizon but the edges are gentle and come and go. They reach me, then they recede. They do say grief comes in waves. The fear that I will be swallowed whole by the enormous body of water has had me frozen in a numb state of not knowing. Not really even looking… back to the sea, afraid I will lose myself if I let it touch me. But there came a point where the disconnection was too hard to live with and so it started to come out in therapy. The up until now silent longing, the quiet acknowledgements of things that should never have been… the little voice inside me saying, ‘but this didn’t feel okay…’ Recently the feelings have resurfaced, so I’m looking at this drawing again, this time considering sharing it with Anna. I don’t know what’s stopped me showing her up until this point. I think it has something to do with how personal it feels and how deep the pain goes. I don’t want her to gloss over any of it. But I also don’t want her to feel the gravity of it all either… I’m stuck between two very strong feelings. The familiar contradictory internal dialogue.

I recently found all my school reports. They were stuffed in a box that my mother was chucking out when she chucked me out at 17… up until this point I believed all my teachers hated me, that I was pretty thick, that I was messy and unlikeable. What I read was the complete opposite. I had a higher than average reading age (probably from reading all of the books in the school library that were accessible to me), I was described as ‘friendly’, ‘helpful’, ‘kind’, ‘likeable’… I cried when I read the descriptions of this child that I didn’t know I was. The teachers saw a girl who tried her best, was articulate, thoughtful, artistic, eager to please. I always thought they despised me. Who put those ideas in my head?

When I think about my childhood, especially primary years, my memories are disjointed. I feel as if I am following myself around just a few inches behind and above my head. Never completely in my body. In a haze of ‘nearly there but not quite’… I never knew how to ask for help so I got really good at cheating. I didn’t know how to make friends so I befriended all the boundary pushers, the hurt kids, the angry kids… I was the punch bag for the bullies, an easy target. I noticed other kids who wouldn’t put up with that kind of ‘friendship’ but I knew I wasn’t like them. I don’t know why or how, I just knew. I didn’t even try to be friends with the kids who seemed healthy. I knew I couldn’t match up with them.

At home, I was a parentified child who looked to please everyone all the time. If I take a step back and really look objectively at my relationships with the wider (dysfunctional) family, I was always told that I was mature, clever, caring, helpful etc (though I never really believed them in my soul… I always had a sense that people said these things to me when they wanted something). The most important person to me (my mother) fed me a different story, secretly. She would lavish me with compliments in front of people but between us she told me ‘the truth’. That I was difficult, unlovable, disgusting, fat… my young brain made sense of this by believing the negatives and thinking that my mother was protecting me by lying to other people so I wouldn’t have to suffer being hated by EVERYONE. Only she and I knew the real truth of how utterly repulsive I was. I was grateful to her. After my mum and dads explosive fights or whenever I had an argument with my dad, my mother would come into my room and quietly inform me that if only I could learn to be better, less argumentative, more agreeable, less difficult… then the arguments would stop. I was glad she could be honest with me and let me know all the changes I could make to improve things. Every second of every day I worked on improving. I tried with all my might, with every cell in my body I tried to be better. So the badness would stop.

I thought she was the most amazing mum ever. As I write that I am struck with this sense that inside I still do believe it. There is a part of me, desperately clinging on to the shadow of who I dreamed her to be. A part of me seems to need her to be perfect. I don’t fully understand why. It wasn’t just me who had this delusion though, everyone who met her thought she was amazing too. My friends wished she was their mum. She was cool, generous, fun loving, young hearted… to everyone else and to me in front of people. I was so grateful to her for tolerating me and not sending me to the children’s home (like she often threatened). The more I learn about childhood abuse and the more I look closely with fresh adult eyes at what things were really like, the more I realise the abuse was insidious. Camouflaged so carefully that I didn’t even know it was happening. It’s so hard to heal from something that I understood to be love. So hard to find anger where there is hopeless gratitude. It is a complicated web of confusion. What my head knows, my heart is yet to feel. I guess not all abuse feels like abuse when it’s happening. When she sat with me, telling me these things, I felt mature and loved and seen. I think that’s one of the reasons why I worry so much that I’m fucking up my kids. Because I didn’t recognise the behaviour as abuse at the time. So what if I don’t know that what I’m doing is abusive..? I’ve not been able to explain that feeling to Anna or a close friend… so I don’t know if I’m explaining it right here. It’s a big confusing mess inside. This fear that I’m just like her. My mother tricked everyone into believing she was a great mum, she tricked me… what if I’m tricking myself and everyone into believing I’m a good mum… when really I’m just like her.

Despite all of this, I love her still. I have a strong desire to protect her. All that I have written above is true yet I want to say it’s all lies. I don’t want you, reader, to hate her. I want to say, ‘she has good qualities… her smile lights up a room, she’s beautiful, she is creative and practical, she’s great in an emergency… she’s… she’s my mum and I need to love her and I need you to love her’… Why?? Is it to do with enmeshment? Is my sense of self painfully stitched to her like a voodoo doll… hurt her and you hurt me? Is that it? Or is it similar to how people can fall in love with their kidnapper…? I have a very complicated attachment with her. I hate her and I love her.

I’m going to need to wade deeper into this ocean if I’m to figure it all out. I’m hoping Anna can take me by the hand, offer me a life raft and wade in with me.

12 thoughts on “A Complicated Relationship

  1. I’m in awe of your awareness.
    What you said about the contradiction reminds me of what I used to say to my ex therapist, that he’d be more surprised if there was no contradiction than if there was.
    Good luck with sharing it.
    Love, light and glitter

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Sirena

    I think your mum can be all of those good things, AND an abuser. That’s what makes it so hard to understand. And as for not knowing if you might be abusing your children.. I don’t think an abuser would worry about that or be in therapy to not become one. So assuming you’re telling the truth to Anna and your family then let them assure you that you’re a safe parent. Which I 100% think you are.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you Sirena 💕 part of my brain wants things to be completely black and white but it’s just not that simple is it… she can be more than one thing. I think that’s splitting?? She’s evil/she’s amazing..? Anyway… I’m grateful you read and commented.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. So beautifully written and it articulates how it feels to have that ocean of complicated mixed up feeling threatening your daily ego all the time. I have such similar feelings around my mother. I am so aware of her wounds, I realise more and more how she failed me and could never really see the heart of me, or really respond to me but at the same time I wanted to help and protect her so much. We kept missing each other at times. Sorry to make this comment about me but I love the way you have articulated your struggle here.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. I imagine it’s a very complicated grief. I had a fleeting moment of panic yesterday when I thought about my mum dying and I felt so guilty for not being able to mend things with her. I don’t know how I’m going to cope… a lot more work still to be done!

        Liked by 2 people

      2. You will be okay. The second last night before Mum died we had a moment and she was never able to change her view of me as a bad child on one level but I felt the love she had for me. It such a complicated grief, you are so right, sometimes I feel I am carrying all the feelings she was not allowed to have with her own mother who never once told her she was loved. Thanks for your understanding. I can totally empathise with your fear of coping, its not easy.

        Liked by 2 people

      3. That sounds like a really powerful moment you had and also a very powerful insight into the inter generational trauma that you have carried for your mother. You’re doing the work for her and for future generations (within and out with your family). 💕

        Liked by 2 people

  4. Ellen Plasmans

    Hi Lucy,

    I saw your instagram message and question to DM you. I am sorry, but is DM private communication? (which button is that?) I don’t really understand myself, but it just feels to vulnerable to write things that everyone can read.

    Is it perhaps ok for you to talk through email? My emailadress is ellenplasmans@gmail.com

    I know it sounds silly that i don’t feel safe with instagram, but that is also part of my process, I am respecting my own boundaries more and more and when things don’t feel safe, i just don’t push myself anymore. Hope that makes sense to you.

    Greetings, Ellen

    Op do 11 jul. 2019 om 09:04 schreef Ellen Plasmans :

    > Hi Lucy, > > I don’t know if you will receive this email, but i don’t want to reply on > your website because that feels much too vulnerable for me. > I just want to say to you, that what you write is so recognizable. > I guess our mothers went to the same ‘how to be a mother’-school :-). > I am joking now, but it is not funny at all actually. > > I am at the stage now where i tried to raise her awareness about how she > treated me as a child, teenager, young woman etc. The main reason why i did > that is because of my children. I saw her doing the same things to my > oldest son (6 years old). Something really strong surfaced in me, a major > ‘NO, not again with my kids!’. > We decided to move houses and go live further from her, I limited contact > between her and my kids quite strong AND i tried to talk to her about > intergenerational trauma that is running through our family and that it is > my life-goal to make it stop with me. > > What all happened during the past several months is extremely painfull. > She is just not at all aware of her own inner life. I think she must have > been extremely traumatized when she was young, but has no ability at all to > remember. > It is super sad and also scary, because she is powerfull and has the best > manipulation skills ever. > But i came to realize that no matter how much i try to wake her up, i will > fail. > So i decided to stop talking to her. > At this moment she is turning everyone in the family against me. I let her > do. I am done with her game. I do still feel sorry for her, but it is not > my job any more to carry her pain. > > What you write about being afraid of being an abusive mother is so > recognizable as well. I also talk about it with my therapist, but he is, in > my opinion, not really believing me. > I guess you really have to have the experience to understand how deep, > confusing, painfull, scary it can be, to be a mom when you where abused in > the most insidious ways by your own mother. > Still work to do on myself. > > Thanks a lot for giving me a way of expressing myself. > I hope I am not making you feel bad. > I am very gratefull for what you write on your blog and instagram. > I think you are super brave to do that. Really super brave. > > Take very good care and, for what it’s worth, you are not alone, i read > you, i understand you, i support you. > If you want, i am very happy to share my recources that are/were helping > me finding out what happened to me and giving me strength to totally become > the person i want to be. > > Love, > > Ellen (Belgium) > > > Op di 9 jul. 2019 om 12:15 schreef Lucy in Therapy comment-reply@wordpress.com>: > >> lucyintherapy posted: ” As part of my therapy, Anna has encouraged me to >> process what we’re working on through my art. To draw what I can’t talk >> about or what hurts. To draw to make sense of things. To draw to help me >> communicate with Anna. It has been a huge upward curve in m” >>


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