I love my mother with every cell of my being.
That doesn’t make it any easier being her daughter. In fact, it probably makes it harder.
My Mother is beautiful, hilarious and a true free spirit.
She is also now a beautiful hilarious free spirit who has dementia and Alzheimer’s, making it almost impossible to walk away when you realise how vulnerable she is without any short term and very little medium term memory.
She carries her horrendous and terminal disease with dignity, telling me that she has ‘amnesia.’ We all feel like she has won the lottery when she recalls a small fact. She has no comprehension of what is to come. She has no comprehension that she will lose not only her memory in full, including knowledge of who I am and who she is, but all of her human abilities, too.
So, why am I even talking about walking away?
There’s a special kind of hell that most people only read about in books or see in films. Due to my Mother’s free spirit my destiny in that special kind of hell was already set before my conception. Not to say that her free spiritedness made her life any more enjoyable for her because I truly don’t think it did and ultimately, she is now paying the price.
And so am I.
Is it a personality thing or a WW2 thing?
My grandmother was a 13 year old living in Greece when the war started. I know next to nothing about how and why etc but somehow my Grandmother and her older sister ended up in Germany during the war. When she was 18, my Grandmother gave birth to my Mother.
Six years later, my Mother was left in the care of her grandparents and at some point ended up in an orphanage. I have no details and in fact have only discovered this information since my Mother’s dementia because it’s one of the things she does remember.
Bad things happened.
She doesn’t talk about what those bad things might have been but they are bad enough that she has kept them locked down deep inside all of her life only to have the irony of life turn on her, as her dementia progresses, those bad things will be amongst the last things that she ever remembers in detail.
Mum was left by her Mother and so too was I.
Clearly, it’s what Mum learned from her own mother. But was that because of the war? When you see death and destruction all around you, does fear make you grab life by the hand and run away with it regardless of the consequences?
Or was my Grandmother’s irresponsible and selfish behaviour just because…?
My Grandmother eventually ended up with an alcoholic good for nothing with charm aplenty. Without charm, who would want to be with an alcoholic?
Mum, in turn, paired up with a gambling paedophile. No charm evident. Ever.
Life was hell.
Life still is hell.
(You can read more about that hell here: https://toulamavridoumesser.wordpress.com/2016/02/29/only-dead-on-the-inside/ )
The things is, now that I am middle-aged and have a limited time left on this planet to do the things that give me joy, I seem to be living a life I hate, in a place I’d rather not be so that I can spend valuable time with my beloved Mother. The price is enormous as her choices have always dictated the indescribable offensiveness that has been my life at her and her husband’s hands.
I feel like I am treading water and every now and then I go under when I look ahead for a time when I can stand on solid ground and I see nothing but more pain.
Solid ground = no more Mother.
Having my Mother means existing though each long and arduous day until those times that we see her and even then, the abundance of mixed emotions that race back and forth through me as I watch her, oblivious to the intense pain she has inflicted on me and the intense love that I feel for her, leaves me exhausted and confused.
Mum is disappearing day by day and I cannot bear to watch. But I have no choice. I cannot abandon her like she abandoned me and her mother abandoned her.
The signs that she is disappearing are so small that most people wouldn’t notice them. But they are there.
I don’t want to do this any more than I wanted to be left at a foster home by her at 6 weeks of age and then be sexually abused by her husband for 15 years from the age of 5.
Any more than I wanted to leave my polarized sanctuary of ‘make believe’ in the heart of sunshine, celebrities and road-trips in Hollywood.
But what can I do?
As a teenager, my life was like a real life version of ‘Sybil.’ I was Sally Field (but without the multiple personalities and director shouting ‘Cut!”- one complicated personality is more than enough – just ask my beyond patient husband) and thought that at some point in the future, that like Sybil, I would be ‘fixed’ by a therapist and be able to get on with my own life.
One of those Sybil moments came as I went through one of those teenage rites of passage: my first date.
I say teenage but I was just weeks away from being 20 and I was terrified. My suitor came to the door to collect me. He was wearing a suit and behaved like a true gentleman. He was only 18. We walked locally and found a small restaurant in which to eat. We talked and laughed and then he walked me home, where he said goodbye to me on the doorstep as I opened the front door and let myself in. It was 11pm.
The house was a converted Georgian building with numerous flats. Fortunately all the other flats had access through the neighbouring property but there was still a front door at my home and then a flat door.
On this particular evening, I opened the front door with my key but the front door had been double-locked and no amount of banging and calling to my Mother got her attention so that I could actually be let into the flat.
I counted off the long hours, lying in the cold (it was the end of November) on the lino in the hallway until morning.
Morning came and I was eventually and reluctantly let in. My Mother immediately backed me into a corner whilst she shouted hysterically at me, viciously calling me a slut and threatened to hit me.
All I had done was gone for a meal around the corner.
It seems, however, that a dysfunctional Mother is not just for childhood, she is for life.
The fact that I am able to have this time with her is a prayer answered but when am I truly going to be able to live MY life? Shocking, I know, but everything I am and have experienced (and will experience) has been shaped by the circumstances my Mother foisted upon me from before birth. There will be no ‘MY’ life as this treadmill of constant stress and pain IS my life and I just have to get on with it.
Those memes and words of wisdom stating that we are responsible for our happiness drive me to distraction, adding more responsibility onto my already over burdened shoulders. Responsible for my happiness – yes, of course – but within constraints. The constraints I had no choice in at all that stifle me like a strait-jacket.
I have no sense of safety, of attachment, of trust….of peace and most likely will never experience those fundamental things.
I don’t know what it feels like to be light. Have I ever even known?
My heart pounds with anxiety 24/7 and always has.
But what to do?
I saw my GP yesterday and amongst the many physical symptoms that have developed due to lifelong c-PTSD, the actual c-PTSD is the one there is no real help for.
The care system where I live goes like this:
- referral from GP to Mental Health Services
- a call from a nurse (supposedly within 5 days but was not) to answer a handful of questions about the situation. I was in public when she called and immediately made that known to her but she continued to ask me very painful and personal questions anyway
- an interview weeks later (mine was carried out by a student asking very clunky and uncomfortable questions to ascertain my PTSD – which had already been diagnosed by a leading forensic psychiatrist)
- almost a year wait for 6 sessions of EMDR (where the counsellor acknowledged that 6 sessions haven’t even touched the sides)
- a further year wait for a letter from the counsellor offering anther session
- I explained to my GP that the system does not work for me at all and makes my symptoms worse. She replied, “Well, that’s all I have to offer you.”
- I asked, “What would happen if someone like Elisabeth Fritzl (the girl kept for year’s in her father’s basement) was sitting here – what would she be offered?
- The GP replied, “That hasn’t happened to me.”
- “I,” I answered,”was sexually abused and beaten for 15 years. That’s a lot of hours of terror to live through and I am sitting right here…”
No, really – where do those high profile cases go to get real help?
I love my Mother with every cell of my being and it is because of that that I cannot bear what is inevitably coming my/ our way, one way or another, and spurs me on to endure another endless anxious and painful day.
These words that have spilled on to the page make me sound miserable. That I am feeling sorry for myself. That I need to pull myself together and get on with it.
Getting on with it is exactly what I am doing, regardless of the emotional and physical toll that it is taking.
Looking in from the outside you would have no idea at all that every day is a day to endure. I am tough – life has made me so but I am equally sensitive, carrying my responsibilities squarely upon my shoulders like Tess of the D’Urbervilles carried her yoke and pails.
What else can I do?
Walking away is not an option.
For me, at least.
I love my mother with every cell of my being.
*For all the posts in this series, please click here: