Posted in Blog, Mental Health

Why Doesn’t Anyone Check In? Pt. 1

As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve been really struggling with my mental health recently, as well as battling an increase in seizures.

I found a draft post that I starting writing weeks ago and never finished, about sometimes feeling like a “Billy No Mates”. Some people put this down to age: once you start reaching your late-twenties/early thirties, existing friendships dwindle and it becomes more difficult to ignite new friendships (don’t we miss the days when you could just walk up to somebody and ask them to be your best friend? LOL). When you have a chronic health condition too, nobody really wants to be friends with you, when you’re the one who’s always cancelling plans at the last minute and aren’t really that much fun anymore.

However, although I can relate to both of these, I also think that I give off an impression that I can look after myself, so people don’t think to check in on me. I was discussing this in my most recent therapy session: I’m the kind of person who, if I know you’re going through a shit time, I’m going to check in on you. You need to know that you’re loved and I need to know that you’re still alive. But I rarely, if ever if I’m honest, receive the same back. Don’t get it twisted, I don’t give to receive, but when I’m hanging off the edge of cliff, I can’t be expected to save my bloody self really, can I?

In yesterday’s session I brought up my mother and my anger that she fails to check in on me, even though we’re not talking and this is something she actually failed to do, even when we were apparently close and was something I desperately needed particularly after my epilepsy diagnosis but I never got. At least my sister would check in to make sure I’d eaten, but my mother… nothing. If she heard from me, then that would be her confirmation that I was still alive.

Whenever I confronted her about this, her argument was that she knew that God was taking care of me, to which my response was, so does God relinquish your responsibilities as a mother? Sometimes, my therapist and I do role-playing in our sessions, where she will play the role of the person I have the conflict with, while I – as myself – take this opportunity to not only confront that person but simultaneously hear their point-of-view of the conflict between us. It’s also a great way of bringing past conflicts into the present and I always find this technique extremely enlightening. It went as follows:

Me: why don’t check in on me? It’s like you don’t seem to care about me.

Mother: Well,  you’ve always been really good at looking after yourself… and I just don’t want to look after anymore you because I’m tired of having to do it. I’ve done enough.

I often think that my mother was never prepared for motherhood and then being thrown into single-parenthood was just too much for her.

I often think that she never wanted to be a mother – particularly to me; it was a role forced upon her by her environment.

I often think that she resented and blamed me for putting her into those situations.

I often think that while I was the practice child, my sister who followed me was the one who received everything my mother could never give me.

Although my mother thinks that she took care of me, our perceptions of my childhood are complete polar opposites: I was consistently lonely and emotionally, psychologically and physically (denial of treatment for my epilepsy) neglected, forcing me into extreme survival mode, taking on the role of the parent for myself.

I’ve been reading a lot recently too, which I’ll get into more in a future post, but I just wanted to reference Halsey Street by Naima Coster, because without wanting to give too much away, like me the female protagonist is often perceived as this tough young woman who can look after herself, when inside she’s still the broken child crying out to be loved and like her mother who made sure that she was one to walk out on her family, mine always wanted to be the one who walked out on us instead of our father.

(Header image source) 

Have you been forced into looking after yourself and often find it difficult to balance that kind of self care with showing a side that people can reach out to when you need it? If so, I’d love to know how you deal with it in the comments.

Posted in Blog, Mental Health

Saving Myself

I told my mum a few home truths on Monday over the phone and now I think that she is deliberately sabotaging a reunion between myself and my sister to spite me, or both of us. Not really sure.

I was going to call the house later that evening (because I don’t have my sister’s mobile number but she still lives at my mum’s house), and I asked my mum to let my sister pick up the phone, just so I could ask how she is. At first my mum didn’t want to help but I begged her so she finally agreed. Plus the reason why I was doing this is because she’d told me that my sister is hurting because she misses me so much. 

Then about half an hour before I was planning to call, my mum sent me a message saying that she had told my sister about our plan and my sister said that it wasn’t a good time to talk right now because she had too much on right now.

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My mum wasn’t supposed to tell my sister that I was going to call. And every single time that I try to reconnect with my sister, I’m told that it’s a bad time because she has too much to deal with right now.

So what? Do I not have shit going on in my life too? Yet I was willing to put all grudges aside, forgive and forget and try to re-establish a relationship with my sister because I miss her and still care about her.

But once again, my mother couldn’t be a parent, she had to be the child that she is and sabotage that. The woman is a joke. 

So let us reflect on what it was I was willing to forgive and forget about, just to muster up the courage to make that phone call on Monday evening: Three years ago, my sister told me that I was faking my seizures for attention, and that I was too much of a burden and she couldn’t deal with me. She also lied about the fact that she hadn’t been returning my calls or messages for weeks. But then after saying all of that, she then expected me to turn the other cheek, she acted like nothing had happened, that she hadn’t broken my heart.

But I wasn’t going to be a doormat anymore; I’d always let my sister get away with treating me like shit because I was not only petrified of losing my best friend. I also didn’t want us to end up like my mum and her sister who don’t talk and hate each other’s guts. So every single time we’d had a fight, I would force myself to be the bigger person and reconcile. However this time I wasn’t going to take her shit, nor my mum’s, so I told them that I needed a “time out” to think about things. I never told them this, but I wanted to re-evaluate my place within a family I’d never felt part of. So I returned back to my home in London and didn’t make contact with either of them for a couple of weeks (which wouldn’t have made any difference to my sister, because as I said before, she hadn’t been returning my calls or messages anyway).

Now, when they retell this story to family friends – particularly my Aunt (my surrogate mum), they tell the story without mentioning that I was bullied out of the family and therefore needed time away. Instead, they tell anybody who will listen that I was getting too big for my boots now that I was living in London and no longer wanted to associate myself with them.

On the phone on Monday, my mum screamed to me that I was the one who left them, when I went to University in 2004 and that I was responsible for going away all those years ago and breaking the family apart. How manipulative must you be to be a mother who holds a grudge against her own daughter for going away to University? And to hold that grudge for 14 years? 

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She also doesn’t tell people that although she was fine with my sister being in a long-term relationship for so many years, while I was still living with her and my sister and I began dating my ex (which was my first serious relationship), she told me that she was jealous of me and wished it was her instead.

She even said that it wasn’t fair, when would it be her time? 

While I was living at home she used to charge me more rent than my sister, even though my sister earned more money than me, which was the final straw for me when I realised that all those years I’d been living at home to help my mum out, she was actually just using me as a cash cow to stop me from growing up and leaving the nest.

She doesn’t tell people that she told me I was too damaged to be loved; and she denies (even to this day) that she blamed my Epilepsy on me and told me that my love for horror films had opened the door to demon possession.

When I told her that I had started to remember what my dad had done to me and had to confess that I’d lied when I told her that nothing had happened to me, she refused to listen and told me that nothing had happened to me – the devil was playing tricks with my mind. In fact, when I then went to try and talk to my sister, instead of her showing empathy, her response was:

Why did he do it to you and not me? 

I also think that my mum actually blames me for the abuse, because she cannot fathom that the man that she loved could do such a thing, so instead of acknowledging that man she once loved was truly a monster (he abused her too), she seems to feel more comfortable with seeing her child as the devil instead.

In regards to my relationship with my sister, my mum denies that she ever used to play my sister and I against each other  just like her mother used to do with her and her little sister – and whenever we fell out, she would be the one in the middle playing Devil’s Advocate and stirring the pot, instead of being a mother and helping us to sort out our differences. She also constantly used to tell me that my sister was jealous of me.

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They think that I look down on them, because I’m more educated than them, when in actual fact even though they were my oppressors, up until three/four years ago, I used to worship them and would’ve taken a bullet for either of them, especially my sister.

My mum and I were actually supposed to finally meet up for the first time in three years tomorrow, but I cancelled after what happened on Monday because I don’t want to see her and I told her to not bother to call me until she can be a mother instead of a petulant child. I haven’t heard from her since, but I’m sure I’ll get a voicemail in a couple of weeks where she begs for forgiveness. Again.

This week I’ve had  all of this to deal with, while keeping on top of my module deadlines and thankfully, regardless of crying myself to sleep two nights in a row and barely actually getting any sleep, not only have I managed to make all of my deadlines to finish the module on time (#win), I’ve also managed to ensure that my anger and heartbreak hasn’t triggered any seizures, which I am particularly thankful for. I have yoga and mindfulness to thank for this – even after everything that happened on Monday, I still went to my yoga class, which gave me an opportunity to focus my energies on myself as opposed to people who constantly hurt me. Yoga is also a great opportunity to be kind to yourself and to be thankful to yourself for taking that time out for self-care, which was desperately needed this week. 

I also have to thank my girlfriend, who let me sob on her on Monday evening and let me wallow in my silent moments of reflection yesterday evening, as I ponder what on earth I did in a past life to deserve such a family. 

I bet not once, did my sister and mother stop to think what impact this would have on my Epilepsy. Because they never do. And I share my story not only to vent about my family, but to also encourage other young women like me, who have struggled with psychologically abusive family members (especially mothers), to not be afraid of standing up for ourselves, and to protect what we have built for ourselves and not let toxic family members destroy our empires.

XOXO

Posted in Blog, Mental Health

What Makes A Good Therapist?

I came to a bit of blows with my therapist this week, where during our session I felt that she accused me of being judgemental and bossy, which is not me at all.

We were talking about my mum; My mum and I are talking again. On Sunday she left me a heartfelt voicemail, apologising for having not been there for me when I was younger and for letting me down. So on Monday I called her and we had a heart-to-heart about our relationship. She’s asking me to forgive her, but my heart has been broken so many times by her that I’m reluctant to trust her. Plus she still has a lot of issues of her own to work through, which she will not care to admit to. In building a barrier for myself, I am protecting myself, because I’ve known my mother for almost 32 years now – I know what damage she can do to me. Also, we’ve always had a problem with communicating with each other, which causes me significant mental stress, and also triggers seizures, so I’ve decided to take charge, meaning that the relationship is on my terms. I believe in being honest and open, because it’s healthy.

This is all advice I also received from my tarot reader, Leona Nichole Black, who pretty much confirmed my gut instincts: before I’d seen her, I’d decided that if I was going to have a relationship with my mum, it wouldn’t be the same as it used to be, it would be on my terms and my tarot reading confirmed all of this for me, which you can read about here.

However, my therapist disagrees, and think that instead of judging my mother on her past mistakes, I should just learn to enjoy being in her presence and get to know her again.

But my stance is, why does there have to be an either or? Why can I not do both?

My therapist also accused me of being quite domineering, because of what I said about things being on my terms, so she asked me to role play, where she was my mum and I was me and we had a conversation about planning to meet up. However, during the role play, it became evident to her that when I say that I want things on my terms, what I mean is that I want open communication. Anybody who knows me in real life, knows that I’m not a controlling person!

So at the end of the session, I came away feeling shitty, because nobody likes to be called judgemental or controlling, least of all me. She did end the session by saying that she feels protective over me and doesn’t want to see me get hurt again, which is why I cannot understand why she cannot see that my approach is the best, if we’re both of the same opinion of protecting myself?

From what I’ve been learning in my MSc about therapists, I understood that a good therapist doesn’t give their opinion – particularly personal ones – about the patient, especially because the patient is the vulnerable one out of the two and will take it to heart…. This is regardless of the type of therapy it is that the therapist is practicing too. Even if the patient is causing harm to themselves, there are ways of conveying concern without expressing a personal opinion.  And this is not the first time that she’s done this either. I just sweep it under the carpet because she pays me so many compliments. This is also not the first therapist I’ve seen, who’s gotten a little too personal either (which you can read about here).

All of this are things I’m taking on board for my own personal learning, for when I eventually go into therapy myself.

Not insulting your patient is definitely a good starting point.

XOXO

Posted in Blog, Mental Health

My Mother & I… Freedom

After my last blog post which you can read here, I spoke to my mother and we finally addressed our past. It’s been a looooooong time coming. We finally openly spoke about what it was like for me growing up after my father left, but also what it was like for me before. While talking, it also dawned upon me that I never ever told her about the final conversation I had with my father on the phone and his final words to me:

You need to be an adult now.

Words that I had carried for twenty years. I didn’t realise the weight behind the meaning of these words, until I uttered them to my mother last weekend. My father wasn’t just telling me to be the adult, to be the second parent; he was telling me to bear the burden of his sins and to keep my mouth shut. For so many years, I blamed my mother for not being able to talk about what happened to me and for the memories that I repressed however, what we both came to realise in those words was that he was just as much to blame for both of us not being able to speak to each other.

Black women are burdened with carrying so much pain – it’s a curse.

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(Image source)

I watched the visuals for Beyoncé’s album, Lemonade last night (finally (!) – if I’m honest, I’ve always been more a fan of her sister Solange – who to me was more woke and more real, however lately I feel like Beyoncé’s been calling out to me lol). The visuals are stunning, but the lyrics and the spoken word parts are incredibly more resonating, because she speaks about Black female pain and its curse – the curse being that we as Black women are never permitted to feel pain. This is why Lemonade spoke to soooooo many Black women.

The exclusive world premiere of Beyonce's 'Lemonade' on HBO

(Image source)

I’ve often thought to myself, why did B stay with Jay-Z when he treated her so badly? He cheated on her, he caused her such psychological stress that she had multiple miscarriages. There’s a lyric that resonates with me in one of her songs, where she sings:

Let me see your scars/ show me your scars

Again, this is breaking the curse.

Yes, she could’ve left him, but then they may never have addressed their issues.

She had to stay with him, to compulse him to address his own issues, and this would’ve taken an incredible amount of stamina from both of them. But especially her. And the fact that he submitted himself to her, considering where he’s from and who he is, is again breaking that curse and breaking down so many barriers here not just in relationships, but for Black mental health simultaneously. Hopefully, they have finally re-created a relationship where both man and woman are now on the same platform, where man is no longer above woman, where woman is no longer inferior to man.

And I really do need to write up my piece on the self-care event I went to (I’ve been unwell, so I’m behind on my tings), because this is one of the things we discussed, and it’s also something my mum and I discussed, and why she couldn’t permit me to talk to her about certain things, for so many years. My mother would shut me down when I tried to open up to her about what my father had done to me, especially so when I was older and the repressed memories began to resurface. In fact, when my father left I originally went to a family friend about the abuse, because I couldn’t talk to my mother.

On Sunday, my mother apologised for not permitting me to address these memories with her, because she acknowledged that she hadn’t yet dealt with her own pain. Through prayer and therapy, she’s now done that and I’m incredibly proud of her because she’s broken the curse in our family. Just like Beyoncé did. Beyoncé had to allow herself to feel pain that perhaps no woman in her family had permitted herself to feel before. This then breaks the cycle of the curse, so that her own daughters will go on to have healthier relationships with themselves, as well as their significant others.

My mother has now permitted me to see her own scars, which is something that has not been done in our family before.

My mother had, and still does have a terrible relationship with her own mother, because of this curse, because it wasn’t broken. In fact, they presently have no relationship. My nan carried her pain; my mum carried her’s; both refused to acknowledge each other’s pain and address each other’s pain, until it festered into an incredibly abusive relationship and now they unfortunately no longer talk. I’ve come to realise that this is not uncommon within Black communities.

Hopefully, my mother and I can continue to progress down this healthy road of mother-and-daughter-relationship.

XOXO

Posted in Blog, Mental Health

My Mother & I (Parentification)

My mind is spinning, and I’ve tried to do some mindfulness; I’ve tried listening to music. I cannot even contemplate reading. I have so many questions that my inner- child needs answering; that only my mother can answer, so I’m waiting for her to call (I’ve sent her a message, I’m not just idly sitting by the phone).

Black women are forced into adulthood so rapidly, that we leave childhood behind without a chance to say goodbye. It’s all the more brutal when there is abusive involved. We are forced into an adult role before our time, while still within our childhood years, in order to help out a parent. Psychology calls this “Parentification”. Therefore, although I’ve now had many years to find an adult identity, my inner-child is still screaming for answers:

Why did my parents have me? Neither of them were psychologically capable of parenthood; So why?

 

Why didn’t my mother deal with her trauma, in order to allow us to then deal with mine together? 

 

Why does my mother deny my abuse? My pain? She confirms my anger, yet constantly denies my own trauma. 

 

My mother has never shown me any gratitude for being the adult she needed. Her response has always been:

“Well I never asked you to”. 

She’s never shown me any appreciation for my sacrifices. When I use the word “appreciation“, I do not mean being thankful or regarding me as her saviour; I mean showing a true understanding of the situation we were in: that I was a child who was being abused by her father, yet I heard my mother being abused simultaneously, therefore, I would sit up each night listening to make sure my mother was still alive. Then when my father walked out, I was forced to step up and never got to have a life of my own. I never got to deal with my own trauma, or my own struggles either (don’t forget that I was living in a religious home at the time, privately struggling with my feelings of queerness).

Speaking to a close mutual friend a couple of days ago, it’s pretty clear that my mother may not only ever accept the parentification I was subjected to, she may also ever appreciate the sacrifices of my inner-child. During our last conversation, she blamed previous generations for mistakes made and the impact this has had upon us on a family, because there is clearly a pattern of the same mistakes of abuse, being made over-and-over-and-over again, to which I replied:

“well then you lot shouldn’t have had children”.

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She couldn’t argue with me then.

One final point I need to make: this close mutual friend mentioned that my mother rarely speaks about my father, or the abuse she suffered from him. This is one of my mother’s best friends. I call this woman Aunty – in fact, she’s like a mother to me. I go to her for guidance and advice as well as laughter and appraisal. She also constantly tells me off for swearing on social media!

My mother has known this lady for almost two decades.

My mother has been using it as an abusive weapon against me that I do no talk to her, when all this time hasn’t even been talking to her best friend. I knew that she did not talk to me (she became more restrained as I grew older), however I thought that it was for a number of reasons (e.g.manipulation), however I am surprised.

Yesterday, I went to an event on Self-Care for Black Women – which I will do a separate post on – and as Black women, we do carry a lot of pain because we don’t want to allow ourselves to feel it. Pain is so normal for us, we’ve actually forgotten to recognise its symptoms. We also do not talk to our own peers enough. My mother was subjected to abuse by her family as well as her husband, but she was coming to me for a listening-ear instead of people her own age.

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Image source

Do not stop talking Black women, as long as you are talking to the right people. 

XOXO