I have spoken before about emotional detachment. I loved my mother but was unable to feel it. I did everything I needed to do and endured her funeral without crying. I wondered what the hell was wrong with me. I was sad but I couldn’t feel it. My chest was concrete even though I could not imagine how life would be without her. I thought I was relieved that she was gone because it meant I didn’t have to feel guilty for being disconnected from her.
Witnessing my mothers prolonged ‘death’, a piece at a time over decades has caused me to lock away my pain. To some degree, this extends to my wider family and I feel disconnected from them. I feel like I don’t fit in.
I am learning to understand why. I don’t blame anyone. The truth is that loosing my mother hurt me so deeply, and I am not talking about when she actually died.
Multiple Sclerosis is not something you hear a lot about. The support for family members is non-existent. I telephoned The MS Society as a teenager, desperate to talk to someone about my mother and was told they didn’t offer a support network for non-carers. This increased my sense of abandonment. I lost my mother to mental illness, my father was under so much pressure and my siblings turned to their friends. I turned myself inward. I thought that if I confided in my friends the level of distress I was feeling, they would abandon me too.
The mother I had known was gone and I accepted the mother she had become. She was unpredictable and erratic; mood swings and frustration isn’t something I was expecting. I didn’t understand why I annoyed her so much – she had such fury that I was scared of her. I knew that she was ill, but my childish mind could not grasp the amount of stress and grief my family was under.
I think this was when I turned my back on my family. Confusion and instability meant that I had no idea of how to form and maintain friendships so I destroyed them instead. I became a tightly coiled spring, rusted that way and unable to change. It has taken the physical death of my mother for me to attempt it.
It’s been so long that I have felt ‘normal’, that I can’t remember when I stopped being me and became her. I had to reach the lowest point possible in order to rise up again. I honestly hope that I never have to go there again.
I think this quote explains it much clearer than I can;
“We all build internal sea walls to keep at bay the sadnesses of life and the often overwhelming forces within our minds. In whatever way we do this—through love, work, family, faith, friends, denial, alcohol, drugs, or medication—we build these walls, stone by stone, over a lifetime. One of the most difficult problems is to construct these barriers of such a height and strength that one has a true harbor, a sanctuary away from crippling turmoil and pain, but yet low enough, and permeable enough, to let in fresh seawater that will fend off the inevitable inclination toward brackishness.”
― Kay Redfield Jamison, An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness
The reason I am saying this now is because in the last six months I have managed to regain the connection with my father and sister. I feel that they accept me for who I am and I do in return. It’s astonishing the devastation that depression can cause in a family. We are all hurting but we recognise that in each other. It’s beautiful.
I want my readers to take from this that every single human being just wants to be seen. We all have our pain that we hide from others. We all want to be invisible at times. However, to be seen you have to reach out. You need to push away your fear of rejection or abandonment and take a risk. It’s frightening and that fear is something you must embrace to succeed. I still have some work to do and I feel nervous every time I face it, but family means everything to me and I will make sure that we recover together.