Things My Mother Taught Me

m-is-for-mom

I haven’t even really started writing this post and I already don’t know what to say. I usually have a small outline of what I want to write/say in my Notes app on my iPhone but all I had written down for this post was the idea/title. And I only have the title because I have already decided to do a Father’s Day post with the same title…except that one, even though it’s a month away, has practically already written itself. We’ll see how this Mother’s Day post goes…

I’ve made it no secret that my mom and I do not have the best relationship and I don’t want you to think that I just completely hate and despise her because I really don’t…but she does make it difficult for me to like and love her at times. I am grateful for what she’s done for me…letting me live back at home, etc. But while most people view that as “rent free” because I don’t give her any money (because I don’t have any to give), I have pretty much had to sell my soul to live here…not even sell it, I just had to give it up. THAT is the price I pay to live here. “Why don’t you just move out?” Good question and the answer is: I’m working on it. Baby steps, people. I JUST started “working” again for the first time in two years but $30/week isn’t going to get me far…but it’s a start. I deposit that money in an account I affectionately call my “GTFO Fund” (GTFO = Get The Fuck Out). M (my therapist) and I have decided/agreed that no matter how crazy I was/am, I would have done/do a lot a better if I were living on my own. It’s not gonna happen tomorrow…but we’re working on it.

So now, the nitty gritty…things my mother taught me…

1. Communication: My mother has taught me how to not communicate effectively. She is the type of person who says and does things that force people to ask her what’s wrong and nothing gets under my skin faster than a huge sigh or whine coming from the corner of the couch. She has also taught me what happens when you are not honest with your partner or your kids. She constantly expects her boyfriend (and even her children) to read her mind and…NEWS FLASH: we are not mind-readers. If you want something or need us to know how you’re feeling, ask and/or talk to us…don’t make us guess because chances are, we’ll get it wrong and then she just gets mad at us for not picking up on her “subtle” hints. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

2. Finances: My mother has taught me that I don’t want to be an impulse shopper or spend money I don’t have. My mother is the queen of the impulse buy, especially from QVC. She will later feel guilty about it and return it or is too lazy to return it and waits too long to where the store will not accept the return. I understand why people do that but it’s dug my mom a pretty big financial hole that she is now kicking herself for. She takes her anger out on those around her and in doing so, has taught me to think twice before I purchase anything, no matter the price or reason…be it a want or necessity.

3. Love: My mother has taught me about the things I don’t want to do regarding love and relationships. She sees what happened with my dad one way and I see it another so we just agree to disagree and I disagree with what she did and how she handled that situation. So she taught me that I don’t ever want to do that to someone, be they my husband or not. I believe it was wrong. As for her current boyfriend, there’s a lot of things she’s taught me about that relationship too…again, mostly about what not to do.

(I think it’s kind of sad that I had to pull those three things out of my ass and I’m desperately trying to think of more things she has “taught” me. We might be here a while…)

4. Makeup: My mother taught me that less is more. She refuses to leave the house without makeup on or hair done…so she’s also taught me that I don’t want to be that kind of woman. I am proud to be one of those women who can easily waltz out of the house with no makeup and not be mortified. When I do wear makeup, it’s minimal and looks natural.

(Seriously y’all…I am looking around my room grasping for topics. I should have given this post more thought before I sat down to write. Maybe I should have called this “Things My Mother Didn’t Teach Me”…that might have been easier to write…)

5. Parenting: My mother has taught me about the kind of mother I don’t want to be. I am not a mother myself but I do take notes and think about the kind of mother I want to be should that time ever come. This is a pretty big “lesson” but suffice it to say that there are several things I will never do or say to any future children I may have and I want to give any future children I may have all the things I was never given. This is not about material things such as, “I will give my child a pony because I never had one.” No. I want to love on and hug my children often, always tell them I love them and always kiss them goodnight. I want my children to know I support them no matter what path in life they choose and I want them to trust me and feel comfortable talking to me about anything, no matter the subject.

6. Laundry: My mother taught me how to do laundry…how to separate your colors and your whites, how to fold clothes and she taught me how to fold that blasted fitted sheet of death. She also taught me how to iron…always a useful skill. I still can’t sew a button back on to save my life.

7. Manicures and Pedicures: My mother taught me to enjoy being pampered and that little things, such as having your nails and toes painted, can make you feel good.

8. Lotions & Potions: My mother taught me the joys of lotions and perfumes and the importance of smelling good without going overboard. Although I may have taken this one a bit far because I think I’m a lotion hoarder…

9. Cooking: My mother taught me to use a pinch of salt and oil when boiling pasta so the noodles don’t stick together.

10. Logic: My mother taught me how to just accept, “Because I said so, that’s why.”

11. Life: My mother taught me that she brought me into this world and she can take me out. Sometimes I wish she would.

12. Bones: My mother taught me to grow a backbone as well as a funny bone because she lacks both…no bones about that.

Okay, that’s 12 things. Can I be done now? Happy Mother’s Day to all the mother’s out there…especially the ones who have stepped in and care(d) for me even though “YOU’RE NOT MY REAL MOM!”

Oops, I did it again…

NewYear

I’ve been quiet for a while…no new posts…and that’s because I’ve been too busy crashing headfirst BACK into an emotional shitstorm. Yep, I did it again…I “fell off the wagon”…I took my one step (I would say it’s more like one and three-quarters of a step) back after taking two forward. I was |___| this close to believing all the people who told me that things were going to get better and that my misery wouldn’t last forever. I was SO close to accepting things for what they were and just living in the moment. The evidence is right here in my blog! I was so busy being awesome that for the first time in 18 months, I gave up my suicidal ideations…I was too busy to entertain those thoughts. For the first time in 18 months, I marked a “0” or “1” on my diary card for suicidal ideations. I told my therapist to file that under “miracles” because I didn’t think there would ever be a time where I would be able to do that. I never pictured myself in a spot where I could actually leave my suicide security blanket and “go out and play.” It. Was. Awesome. And I say “was” because I am writing this while under my suicide security blanket…my fort. I will, for now, collectively refer to the past three months as “The Awesome Months” for they were indeed awesome and as much as I hate to admit it, they are also over…for the time being.

I’m so angry with myself because I don’t know if I had a say in whether or not I fell off the wagon. Do I have a legitimate chemical imbalance somewhere in my brain that I have no control over? Or am I so “whipped” that it is this easy to fall back into a pattern of misery, suicidal ideations and self-harm? I’m mad that I let myself get kicked down again. And I’m also mad because I don’t know why or how it happened. Things were great…they were AWESOME…and then I tripped over myself right before Christmas…and I don’t know if Christmas is to blame for my current mood or my fall just happened to coincide with the holiday. I honestly don’t know if Christmas was just way too emotional. I had (or thought I had) mastered acceptance and mindfulness by the time Christmas rolled around, but I hadn’t quite yet mastered distress tolerance (the module, ironically, that we just finished in group therapy) or anything else, thus allowing Christmas to inadvertantly get the best of me. I felt great because I had these stupid DBT skills by the balls and then I trip over a piece of lint and here I am at rock bottom again. WTF? My therapist (and her cohort, K) always says that it is easier to use the skills when you’re NOT in a crisis; the true challenge comes when you need to use them while IN a crisis. And she is absolutely right. My therapist also always tells me that emotions and situations, good and bad, don’t last forever. She’s right about that, too. I don’t know what to do right now…except strangle the next person that mentions mindfulness or distress tolerance to me. DBT can suck it right now.

I think I’ve mentioned before that my home life is not a very validating environment, so my DBT skill usage is constantly being challenged. M and K tell me every week that I’m doing good and fine and awesome and they give me gold stars for getting out of the house on non-therapy days and for participating and talking in group. Then I come home, still feeling awesome, and I actually feel like talking…so I do…to my mom and her boyfriend or whoever else happens to be at the house. But after about one sentence, I am told to take a chill pill and shut up. So in all honesty, I get really confused. I get a “yay!” from one peanut gallery and a “shut up!” from the other. Uhhh…what? Encouragement from one source and invalidation from another. I would like to say that I am reasonably intelligent, maybe more so than the average bear, but there are times where I feel so absolutely stupid because I don’t understand simple concepts. At almost 30, I do not know when I am talking too much. I have M and K (and my peers) telling me that I’m doing great and that they value what I have to say, but I say one sentence at home and am told to shut up, that I am talking too much. WTF? What is too much and what isn’t? At this age, you would think I would have figured it out by now…but no, I haven’t.

My mom, as I’ve come to learn, is very good at being passive-aggressive. This isn’t really a new revelation but it’s more obvious to me now than it was before. I did, miraculously, receive a pair of Beats headphones by Dr. Dre for Christmas…and they made me really happy…momentarily. Because, you see, the headphones came with an unspoken annotation of, “I bought these for you, now suck it up and be happy.” Translated: “I have no reason to be unhappy and moody right now because I just received a really expensive gift from the person that I have managed to financially drain and thus, shouldn’t have ever received the headphones in the first place and I don’t deserve the headphones because I’ve also been emotionally draining and a complete shithead this year…but here are the headphones anyway…go…you must be happy from here on out, no exceptions.” Yep…ALL of that crammed into one set of headphones. Fuck it. Take the headphones back. I’m not going to be bought. I’m not going to smile and be awesome just because you made tuning (puns are so much fun!) you out more awesome and fun (I don’t think my mom realized these were noise canceling headphones). It’s really not worth it if it’s going to be a quid pro quo sort of deal. Thanks, but I’ll keep my cheap-o headphones that allow me to ride and deal with my emotional waves as they come.

God, I’m so pissed! Pissed at the world and pissed at myself. I didn’t want to see the bottom ever again, much less so soon after catching a glimpse of that silver lining. Fuck. The light at the end of the tunnel turned out to be another oncoming train. It’s like life is fucking with me…dangling that proverbial carrot in front of my face…teasing me. “See what you can’t ever have? Na na naw boo boo!” And I’m pissed because I don’t understand. I was doing everything right, everything I should have and could have been doing to make my life better and going in the right direction. Where did I go wrong? Unfortunately, there is no disclaimer anywhere, in the DBT manual or otherwise, that says if you do steps A, B and C…you will get X, Y and Z. Oh, if it were only that simple… I really have no other words to say other than that I’m pissed…and fuck. That’s a good word to use right now. Fuck. Therapy is nice but screaming FUCK! at the top of your lungs for 10 seconds is a lot faster and cheaper…instant gratification.

I spent a majority of today’s one-on-one session with M apologizing. I must have said “I’m sorry” about a hundred times. She finally told me to shut the fuck up (and not in a mean way, but in a nice I-know-you-and-it’s-really-okay-because-you-have-absolutely-nothing-to-apologize-for kind of way). I also apologized to M last Thursday for giving her a shitty group therapy session. K was gone and so it was M and one of the original facilitators I had and a “guest” therapist who was thinking about getting trained in DBT. The group was small last week…I’m guessing it was due to the holidays…a lot of people busy and out of town. Not to say that I bring the party, but group therapy sessions have been a little more fun and awesome over the past few months (at least for me) due to my “enlightenment” and good mood. I was in a bad mood on Thursday and in fact, I didn’t even want to go to group…but I wanted M, so I went. That guest therapist picked a really shitty day to observe a DBT group. I felt like shit later because it was not what I would call a “typical” group therapy session…it was smaller than usual, K was gone and it was a review of the distress tolerance module; no new information. M, bless her heart, was facilitating and trying desperately to get the four of us that did come to group to give her the answers to the questions she was asking. I am normally like Hermione from Harry Potter…first hand in the air, pick me pick me!…except I usually ax raising my hand and just vomit out the answers. I was in no mood on Thursday and M was struggling to get us going…and I felt like shit for not helping her out and for giving that guest therapist a shoddy glimpse of our DBT group. We were SO quiet, in fact, that M actually ended up letting us go a few minutes early and I headed straight for the door but not fast enough because M managed to grab me. I had put 3’s on my check-in sheet in response to suicidal ideations which meant she had to do a safety check and she also sensed that I wasn’t doing so hot, and thankfully (for me), it also gave me a chance to apologize to M right then and there for my shitty group performance instead of ruminating about it until I saw her today. Then, as I said before, I spent most of today’s session apologizing to her for God only knows what…everything…to the point where I actually said sorry for saying sorry so much. Fo’ realz. She told me to shut the fuck up. And I tried…but a few more “sorry’s” slipped out…and I apologized for those, too… I should probably mention that over-apologizing and apologizing for things like this, things that don’t need to be apologized for, is a DBT no-no…as in it’s something we should refrain from doing.

As I recounted Christmas to M and all that happened over the holidays, we spent an extra few minutes talking about my relationship with my mom and how we just seem to “feed” off each other’s emotions and/or how mom’s mood so dramatically affects my own mood. And it’s very true. I won’t deny it. I’ve said from day one that if momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy and she will make damn sure that you are not happy if she is not happy; how dare you be happy if she is not. I love my momma, don’t get me wrong…but a lot of the time, I feel it’s more out of obligation than because of how I actually feel; she is my mother and as her child, I am obligated to love her because that’s what children are supposed to do…but that’s another post for another day. My mom and I don’t talk about the deep and serious stuff. When and if we try, one of us ends up in tears and it’s usually me because I can’t get any sort of validation from her and I just end up more upset than I was before we even had the conversation, so I’ve learned to just not have the conversation at all…damage control. My mother is the queen at passive-aggressiveness. She will never come and directly ask for things and she will never tell you how she really feels. She wants to make you guess and read in between the lines instead of saving everyone the headache and just spitting it out. Some examples: I recounted the last few Christmas’ for M today and one involved the year where my mom and her boyfriend agreed that they weren’t going to exchange gifts with each other that year and they were going to just buy things for us kids. Boyfriend was cool with that; didn’t get my mom a thing. Mom goes and buys Boyfriend a really expensive gift and gets her panties in a knot when there is not a present for her from Boyfriend under the tree that year. Boyfriend is very literal and if you agree to not buy presents for each other, he ain’t gonna buy you a present…and it’s not because he’s a dick, that’s just how he is…they each agreed to not buy presents for each other so he didn’t. He doesn’t play mom’s games and why he’s even still with her after eight years is anyone’s guess but bless his heart because he takes the heat off me sometimes because my mom will end up being more mad at him for coming home late than at me for my pissy attitude and not emptying the dishwasher. Next example: my mom, in passing and through “subtle hints”, says she really wants to go out with Boyfriend for New Year’s. Remember, Boyfriend isn’t good at reading in between the lines and you have to pretty much tell him point-blank what you want or he won’t get the hint. My mom wants to go out REALLY bad but does she ask Boyfriend? No. She gets pissy at him (“punishing” him) and everyone else because she’s now in a bad mood because she’s not going out tonight and Boyfriend is all WTF? And I come along and whisper to him that she’s mad because he didn’t take her out and he’s all, “She didn’t ask!” And I’m like, “Duh.” That’s what most days are like in this house. You would think, with all my psychological and emotional issues, that I would be the one causing the most turmoil in this house but I really don’t think it’s me…or at least not all the time. I don’t like to rain on other people’s parade so instead of chatting or hanging out with people, be it mom or her boyfriend or whomever, I prefer to put on headphones and write or self-soothe BY MYSELF in my room away from everyone. This often gets misconstrued and misinterpreted; I am often accused of avoiding and being a bitch. I may be avoiding, but it’s a coping skill, not a bitch skill…I need to step away from you so I don’t snap and kill you…you are exacerbating my emotions and I need you to leave or I need to leave. And also remember that I am a hardcore introvert and I don’t possess the best people skills nor do I possess the tolerance to be around people, no matter how many, for any length of time. I enjoy me, myself and I and as a coping skill, this works out great because I have no one adding to my misery but me…but in a backasswards sort of way, choosing to avoid and isolate adds to my misery because I get chastised for it. Damned if I do and damned if I don’t.

All that to say that I am constantly invalidated at home. M and K work their asses off to set up skills for me and teach me how and when to use them and when I try in therapy or group, I am praised and “rewarded” for my attempts, even if I fail. When I try those same skills at home, it blows up in my face and/or I somehow come out feeling like I just totally failed using the “right” skills and I beat myself up for doing “wrong” when I really did “right.” I only get M and/or K for a total of about two and a half hours every week…and they spend that time teaching me skills and helping me navigate the rough waters…but that leaves however many more hours and days at home where people proceed to wipe away every skill and piece of information I learned. What I’m getting at here is that my therapist gave me another great metaphor today: Learning to use the “right” (“healthy” is a better word, I think) skills in an environment like mine is like trying to set up a tent during a windstorm. Picture yourself doing that…go on…I’ll wait.

Not easy is it? Frustrating, isn’t it? You said a lot of cuss words, didn’t you? Welcome to my life! Not only do I get frustrated and mad, I end up making things even worse for myself because I beat myself up for improper skill usage when in actuality, I did a great job…I just didn’t get the desired result, validation or reinforcement and am somehow manipulated into thinking I did something wrong. WAY back in one of my first posts, I said one of the first things you have to learn in DBT is that you cannot control how other people react to you or your behavior. I can do everything “right” and I can do it until I’m blue in the face, but that doesn’t mean I am going to get any other reaction than what I get out of my mom, her boyfriend, or whomever else I am interacting with. As easy as that is to say and believe and know, I still fail to remember it in the midst of being manipulated into thinking I did something wrong when I actually just executed a skill correctly and in a healthy way.

I’m not going to blame my mom for me being in the place I am right now or for the place I have been the for the last 18 months, but I will say that she has probably hindered more than she has helped. After visualizing M’s metaphor today, I wondered how different the last 18 months would have been had I not been living at home. M and K get two and a half hours every week to get through to me and help me work on getting healthy and my mom spends the rest of the time completely (and inadvertently) destroying everything M and K have set up for me. M and K and myself are trying desperately to set up that damn tent and my mom (or someone or something else) is the wind that knocks it right over as we are cussing and throwing our hands up in the air. I know that song by Chumbawamba that says, “I get knocked down, but I get up again, you’re never gonna keep me down”…but I’m a little tired from getting up every single time I get knocked down. I tried physically doing this to prove my own point. Sit down (and not in a chair…get on the ground, legs crossed). Then get back up. Sit down. Get back up. Keep doing it. You get tired after a while, don’t you? You just proved my point. I’m tired. I’m worn out. Do I want to give up? Not entirely, but I’m too damn tired to give a fuck and I’d rather just take the easy way out (interpret that however you want). The easy answer to this whole conundrum is to just move out and get out of this environment. The caveat is that I am not well enough to hold down a job and I am, even at almost 30, completely and financially dependent on my mom. I hate it. It hurts my pride. It’s one more thing my mom can hold over my head (and she does). But I don’t have any other choice right now. I have to make this work in order to make myself work, emotionally and physically and it’s just an unfortunate revolving door that I have yet to figure out how to get out of. So again, I won’t blame my mom for my current emotional state but I can’t help but wonder how different things might have been or might be in the future if she didn’t spend so much time blowing down my carefully constructed tent. I need to find some tent posts to hammer into the ground somewhere and I don’t know if that needs to come from within (as in trying harder to not let my mom get the best of me) or if it needs to come from learning some other DBT skill and knowing it well enough to execute it at home. The answer, my friend, is probably blowing in the wind but it’s definitely not the wind coming from my mom.

Throughout the past three months, I tried really hard to not psych myself out (no pun intended but lol anyway) by telling myself that I was finally happy and that I was finally “getting better.” But in the deep recesses of my mind, that is what I really wanted to be happening…I wanted to start New Year’s off with a literal bang of awesomeshitsauce…but I failed. And now, I get to greet another year that I was not ever supposed to see because I wasn’t supposed to have lived long enough to see it. I also have a birthday coming up that I wasn’t supposed to see, either. And I don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions because I usually break them sometime around 12:02 AM on January 1st. Very futile. And resolutions are also a great setup for disappointment which I seem to be doing just fine at without adding a New Year’s resolution to my stack of shit to do.

Here’s to fucking up and here’s to the end of another shitty year we’ll one day be strangely nostalgic for. (I really should have purchased some alcohol…)