I have very mixed feelings about writing this post. It's something I really want to write. I know I'm not the only one out there who has had this experience. It can be such a relief to find you are not alone, and I'd love to be able to give that to someone. I also know that the internet is never truly anonymous. My luck, this would be the post that went viral and caused hurt feelings and family feuding and I don't want that. That said, I think the scale has finally tipped. Like I said, I want to write this post. So here it is.
My mother is not like most mothers. I am in the minority. My mother is probably not like your mother. And I can't tell you how jealous that makes me at times.
My mother has a mental illness. Not the kind, like bipolar or depression, where there's medication or therapy. I'm not trying to trivialize those issues, because they are very real and can be very devastating but I'll be honest - if my mom simply had depression, I'd be over the moon. Instead, my mother has personality disorders. That's right, more than one.
To oversimplify things, a personality disorder is an ingrained behavioral response; it's part of her personality. It's like how someone is outgoing or shy or bossy. It's a major part of what makes them who they are and it is not something that changes or goes away. There are certainly times, just like any aspect of personality, where it becomes more or less obvious. But because she has several problematic personality traits, there's usually a problem. Sometimes, there's a lot of problems. Sometimes the police are involved. Sometimes I have to find a place for my mom to live. Sometimes I have to intervene with landlords, neighbors, family members. It's often emotionally and financially draining and there is no light at the end of the tunnel and rarely any gratitude.
I'm not going to get into the specifics, which are long and sordid, awkward, and painful. Most of the time, I feel very sorry for my mom. The cards are stacked against her and the world is a frustrating and difficult place to navigate when you can't follow the rules because they are built from standards you can never meet. She desperately wants the close relationships she sees other people having, but she's incapable of maintaining them and unable to understand why.
Our society places a heavy emphasis on loving your mother, of upholding the bond between mother and child. I spent a lot of years alternating between bitter resentment and guilt. I have finally gotten to a place where, most of the time, I can accept that this is not my fault. I can be honest with myself, that I do what I can, that I can't fix this.
Tell someone that your mom is not normal and that person will try to draw connections between their experiences and yours (or what they assume are your experiences). This is a common response, but emotionally it is like telling someone your house burned down, you lost everything you ever owned, and they tell you they understand because they once burned their finger on a match.
So do you try to explain the level of 'not normal' or do you just smile and play along?
I can tell you from experience that either way is painful. The first option is worse. People suggest solutions because they are unable to fathom the permanence of the situation. People shame you. "You are talking about your mother. The woman who gave birth to you. How dare you be so disrespectful." Which is actually preferable to the flat out disbelief I have encountered on the few occasions that I have been completely open about the issue.
I guess what I am trying to say is that there is a lot of isolation. There have been times where I longed for a mom and it seemed so grossly unfair that she was there but could never fulfill that role. I remember being SO jealous of my friend, whose mother was an alcoholic, because, in theory, her mom could stop drinking, but my mom could never stop being herself.
It's hardest around Mother's Day. I read the postings on Facebook, "Repost if you have the best mom..." or "My mom is my best friend..." I'll be honest. That's not my mom. My experiences are probably not like your experiences. And I can't tell you how jealous that makes me.