My sister came across a paper our mom wrote for college. The subject: Mental Illness. The topic: Me. I debated on whether or not to read it. I had an idea what it was going to say, and I wondered if she would be upset to know it was in my hands. I waited a few hours, and when I couldn’t wait any longer, I skimmed it and decided it was going to be too upsetting.
A while later the pieces that I did read kept playing over in my head and I knew I had to finish reading it. This was my mom’s perspective of her first born daughter. I wrote my perspective when I wrote The Monster That Ate My Mommy, and thought it was only fair to see the situation through her eyes. I have forgiven her, and this was the past, written seventeen years ago.
I sat next to George as I started to read, reading pieces out loud and stopping with a few gasps, “oh my Gods,” and “wows.” I read a sentence, stopped, and explained the truth. There was a hint of truth in a lot of it, but for every truth there was a twist to make it seem like we lived in different worlds. An example: “Jessica was born from a rape.” This was the story I was told as a little girl, maybe to make me understand what a gift my mom gave me when she fought the world and decided to have a baby under such circumstances. The truth came out years later, after the guilt of my conception was carried on my shoulders. My mom and dad went to a convention in Atlantic City, NJ, where they had a mini vacation and I was conceived…consensually. She only admitted to this when I found a letter she wrote my dad that had been used as a book mark in one of Gram’s books. I do not remember the exact words now, but it talked about that weekend, and it talked about how I was created out of love and how it would be best if they tried to work it out and have him in my life.
My whole belief on who I was shifted when I read that letter, and I gathered a little more evidence to store in my mental file, “Your own mother doesn’t love you.” When I confronted her with the letter, she looked like a deer caught in headlights. Surprisingly, she did not deny it. She was angry at me for “snooping.”
Another example, and I think this might have been her favorite, “She said she heard voices and they were always telling her to do bad things….She never mentioned the voices again, until years later. They had never left.” It is true that when I was seven years old I did hear voices, but they were never talking to me and never told me to do anything. When I heard the voices they were two women fighting with each other. I remember telling Mom it sounded like a mother and daughter bickering. I only heard them in my bedroom at Bill’s house, never anywhere else, and they did not last long…I stopped hearing them, and they never came back.
Her eyes lit up like a kid on Christmas when I told her about the voices. “Ahha…she is crazy!” I went to her for comfort and support, but what I didn’t know then, and probably didn’t really realize until recently she was compiling her own mental file, “Reasons why I don’t have to love my daughter, and can prove to the world she is crazy so they won’t love her either.” It wasn’t good enough that she didn’t love me; she had to make others feel the same, to maybe help her ego a little. If others thought the things she did about me, she couldn’t possibly be a bad person. It was me who was the problem.
At seven when I heard the voices I was under an extreme amount of stress and had undergone more trauma than most adults ever face. By seven I had been continually physically, emotionally, and sexually abused. I had my life threatened more than once. I was caught between two mentally unstable adults who made sure I did not love the other while I was in the opposite’s presence. I also had a new baby sister, who was loved by everyone, even my mom, who had been unable to show me love.
The rest of the fourteen page document is much of the same. She took a tiny truth and shaped it to fit into her belief. There was not one part that I could read without feeling like I had to defend it. As I got to the end of the document it became clear, “I think Kate had a much better life because Jessica wasn’t in the home.” My eyes opened wider than I think they had ever before, and my final “wow,” spewed out of my mouth. There we have it folks…a lifetime of being made to feel crazy…and the grand prize…a better life for my sister, who has her own memoir to write.
This twisted view of who my mom saw me to be was how I was raised. The toxic, crazy making was real. I have it in black and white. I cried at the end of reading it and talked it over with George. This. This was my life. It was like what you watch on a Lifetime movie. This isn’t reality. How could anyone survive in this type of environment? But, it was reality. A tiny life came into the world to this unstable person, and she tried so hard to find defects in me, and when I wasn’t who she wanted me to be, when I was able to withstand her venom and hatred, and twisted reality I became a problem. I was not moldable. I was the flower that grows out of the mud. I was the ray of light shining through the dirty window lighting up the room. Sure, I have my flaws, but I will never be the person my mother wrote about in that paper. I never was.
It is even clearer why I needed years of healing. Why I still struggle with loving myself, and seeing the adversity I overcame. For most of my life the air I breathed in was full of poison. The belief system reminds me of a cult, and because I would not follow suit I was punished. I believe my mom thought the devil was inside of me. She tried to schedule an exorcism for me after I told about the sexual abuse by Bill. She had to get the devil out of me, so I could see the “truth.” I never caved. I never went to their world. There were times that I believed I had no worth, and I am working on fixing that still. After a lifetime of being shown an image of yourself, it is hard to see what is really in the mirror.
Positive self-talk is a struggle some days, but it is the only thing that will save me.
I thanked George for seeing me. The real me. The me that my mom tried to hide. And for helping me see myself with different eyes.
The sad reality is that in order to heal, my mom had to die. The spell she cast over me, to alter my reality could only be lifted upon her death. And, then my healing could fully begin.