Someone who liked one of my posts suggested I try reading a book by Louise L. Hay called “You Can Heal Your Life”.
While I’ve only read the first chapter so far, something has been mentally highlighted that I was inclined to share. She talks about how we should not blame our parents. When I first read that, my thoughts were completely against it. However, I kept reading to find that she makes a good point. “We are all victims of victims…” What a strange thought. I’ve always thought about my mother as this terrible person, who used being sick as an excuse for doing truly awful things. Instead of just being “sick”, what if she was just doing the best she could with what her parents and life experiences taught her?
My body and mind fight against the thought of forgiving her. I know this is something I’m really going to struggle with, but I am willing to give it a shot. This morning I started to think about my life and all of the struggles that I have because of my mother. Then I imagined all of the struggles that she could have because of her life.
It is exceedingly difficult for me to set aside that anger and disapproval for how she treated me. I feel a physical and mental uprising inside myself when I think of feeling compassion and empathy towards her. It is like bile rising from my stomach, burning my insides trying to get out.
Thoughts permeate my mind when I try to feel compassion for my mother. “She doesn’t deserve forgiveness”. Then I try to think about the things that I have done because of my story. Do I deserve forgiveness? Of course, because I am truly sorry and didn’t intend to hurt others. I was doing the best I could at the time. It is soul wrenching to try to extend that to her, however it is likely she was also doing her best at the time.
“Forgiving her means condoning what she did”. Body and mind I feel the need to fight against the tide to forgive her, that it will somehow wash away all of the hurt and pain from the sand and it will be forgotten forever. My logical mind then tells me that the hurt and pain isn’t affecting her, it’s damaging me. It hurts my partner and everyone in my life. I don’t yet know how to forgive her without making it seem ok that she tried to break me, but I can and I will.
This anger I carry towards her is like a safety blanket. I feel it protects me from ever wanting to reach out to her again and trying to create something with her. It has always been with me and is comfortable. Anger is an old friend, loyal and true. Anger is safe and covers up any other emotion that makes me vulnerable. Anger is socially acceptable. Anger can be shown everywhere and is ok. I was raised to believe crying and being upset was bad and worth punishment. Anger, disapproval and hatred were acceptable because my mother taught me those.
Compassion and empathy is hard. I regretfully admit that sometimes I have to pretend to be empathetic and compassionate towards others. That is painful to say. When it is socially required and I’m not able to contact those feelings inside of myself I have learned how to pretend. “Fake it till you make it”, I guess. Mentally I want to be there for those that I care about and love. Emotionally I am often unable to be vulnerable in a way that I can truly extend compassion and empathy.
When the tide of emotions threaten to overwhelm me it is old hat to shut down and numb everything out. It is my escape when I cannot stay afloat anymore. A wall goes up, the armor goes on and I am impenetrable inside my safe zone. Sometimes I don’t notice it has happened, other times I struggle to take it down while it is going up. Often it is a losing battle. 8 bricks to 1 that I can remove. Before I know it the wall is 10 feet high and I can no longer reach the bricks being added.
The disappointing aspects of my safe zone are many and difficult to deal with. While I am protected from those feelings that caused me to retreat, I am also unable to connect with others. Often when my partner needs me, my exterior is cold and impassible. Often I do not realize what is happening, and my alter ego that we have named “Roxanne” comes out. Roxanne hates everyone and everything. Roxanne is the schoolyard bully that will not only steal your lunch money but also tell you every single flaw that you have. Roxanne has the same voice as my mother, and rails against others in order to “protect” me. Her favorites are things that I see in myself that I criticize and judge, only exploding out against those closest to me.
I imagine my mother has a Roxanne, and likely for the same reasons as I do. I’m not sure who put Roxanne’s voice in my mother’s head. Maybe it was her parents, maybe it is being bipolar that she struggles with. Maybe a boyfriend, husband, best friend. Regardless, I fight tooth and nail against Roxanne every day so she probably does too. I have had the fortune of finding an amazing therapist through Talkspace last December. Maybe my mom never had the opportunity to get real help and learn about her “Roxanne”. I can’t blame her for that any more than I can blame myself for not being able to tame that wild beast inside of me when I get anxious and overwhelmed.
I guess Louise is right in her book, “You Can Heal Your Life.” We are all just victims of victims of victims of victims… and so on. Generations and generations of people just doing the best they could with what they were given. I know when I reached adulthood my toolbox was pretty empty, and at times it still is. I was fortunate to not have children, but I have exposed my partners to Roxanne and my lack of tools. So I guess in a lot of ways they are now victims of victims too.
Words cannot express my sincerest apologies to everyone that has become my victim. I own that. While I was doing the best I could with what I have, that doesn’t condone my behavior. I am truly sorry and willing to fight as hard as I can to change. I want to build people up instead of tearing them down. I want to bask in the warm glow of knowing that I helped someone, made someone’s day brighter, said something that made the difference in their week.
I want to stop creating victims of victims, how about you?