Posts Tagged With: #intermittentreinforcement

grief is a dick punch

My mom’s been gone ten years this week.
I have more feels about this than I’d like.
It’s simpler to just kind of know intrinsically that she’s dead and not really think about it. Because when I do think about it, I mostly feel anger.
Ten years later and I’m still so fucking angry!
I’m angry she was sick and kept the secret. I’m angry at her for choosing to die.

Seventeen days between finding out she was sick to finding out she was dead.
Like, why am I surprised she was selfish? Why am I surprised she kept her declining health a secret? She was nothing but secrets.
Knowing she was who she was doesn’t make the anger any less.

I’m angry I barely got to see her.
I’m angry I had to rush to say goodbye.
I’m angry that helping her ridiculous husband manage his grief kept me from helping my daughters manage their grief.
I’m angry that my grief is more anger than anything.

I’ve worked through so many things in therapy.
Cleary this is not one of them…

TBPH though, most days I’m just a girl with no parents. And I’m OK with that. My anger spends the majority of my life taking a nap. But when it wakes, we just kind of fuel each other and feed off each other and I simply cannot believe things she said and did are still manipulating me. (Perhaps it’s that I’m letting them manipulate me…?)
Either way, I’m not feeling love for her. I’m not feeling sad she’s gone. I’m not nostalgic about her.
I’m feeling really fucking mad.

Feeling all this anger can’t possibly be good for me.
But I’m over here up to my ass in it.

My logical brain understands I need to let it go. (y’all hear Elsa too, right?) Send that anger on it’s way. Even if it’s replaced with nothing, that’s most likely better for me. To feel anything instead of anger, I’m here for it.
My feelings place understands I don’t feel that anger the majority of my life. That it flares up when I do stop to think about my mother’s death.

Our relationship, her life, neither of those had to end the way they did.
Her mom died suddenly when she was only twenty three years old.
My mom chose to die in secret and I found out suddenly when I was forty years old.
She knew what that was like. To lose her mom without warning. Why would she do that to her own daughter?
I don’t understand that kind of selfishness.
She was controlling the situation (and us in it) even as she was dying.
Talk about needing to let it go.
Just fucking be real with your children. We’re adults. We can handle it.

That’s not who she was.
She was a tyrannical dictator who ran her world with an iron fist.
She wasn’t about to give that up at the end of her life.

How disappointing.
She could have done it differently and we all could have felt our feels as we went.
Of course she wasn’t interested in us feeling our feels. To be fair, she wasn’t interested in feeling her own feels either.
It just occurred to me that she’d probably enjoy that I’m angry about her death.
That’s nearly enough to make me choose to never be angry about it again. Why in the fuck would I give her the posthumous satisfaction?

Interestingly enough, simply writing about it helped me feel less angry. (must journal more frequently)
I’m an orphan in this world. An adult child of deceased parents.
Most days I’m cool with it. I adapted. This is my life now.
But the anniversary of my mom’s death got me thinking.
And feeling.
That anger didn’t bubble up in a manageable way, it erupted like a volcano and I was simultaneously burning and drowning in the lava flow.
Somehow I survived and the lava is cooling.
I find myself wondering if this anger volcano can move from dormant to extinct.
I mean, time and work-of-self moved it from active to dormant…so that’s moving in the right direction, yeah?

I don’t know.
I can’t help but wonder if feeling angry is better than feeling unloved.

Grief is weird.
Sometimes it’s just a normal state of being.
Sometimes it’s a straight up dick punch.
I’m choosing to move back into ‘normal state of being’, this ‘dick punch anger’ is painful and exhausting.

That’s what life’s about though, right?
The choices we make.
I choose to feel my feels.
I choose to figure out how to process those feels.
I choose to acknowledge, accept-don’t-judge, and release those feels.

I do think it’s OK that I’m angry about the way my mom died.
I don’t think I need to let it consume me.
Look at me, over here growing.
Huzzah!

Categories: death | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

why I’m “like this”

I’ve always questioned why I’m “like this”. Ever since I can remember, I’ve wondered why I associate love with fear and anxiety. Why, when (even as an adult) I thought, “I want my Mommy” I knew instinctively that I would not be comforted.

Turns out this is because I have what’s considered an anxious/avoidant attachment style. This comes from earliest childhood when attachments with primary care givers are formed. Inconsistency from the primary caregiver can impact brain development and foster an insecure attachment.
In insecure or anxious attachment, a child will often express need for the caregiver but then not be able to make eye contact. The child will be upset by the absence of the caregiver, yet not be soothed when the caregiver returns. The child learns that while her needs will most times be met, there is great inconsistency in the process. This creates an anxious and fearful child. One who learns that comfort and love are conditional.

Bartholomew’s Two Dimensional Model of Attachment

This entire thought process came about because I saw an article Tuesday about unloved daughters attracting narcissists.

This article was total click-bait, but I was waiting at an appointment that was already running late and left my book at home, so I clicked it.
I mean, I knew I spent the first seventeen years of my adult life being married to a narcissist, but was it because I was unloved?

I thought about my mother.
(Let’s face it, my father was absentee and would rather smoke weed, snort coke, and party in discos than be a dad. And his narcissistic shenanigans didn’t really noticeably impact me until I was an adult.)
My mom was my primary care giver. My mom is the one who stuck it out and raised us. My mom is the one who made sacrifices so we could have, and do, and be more.

I have never once doubted that my mother loved me.
(Even the year of my fifteenth birthday when she signed a card ‘Mommy’ instead of the standard, ‘I love you, Mommy’. It was the only time there was proof of her withholding love because she was angry with me.)
Obviously, her actions weren’t always indicative of that love.
She was cruel in the things she said. She placed a great deal of responsibility on me at a young age. She always shut me down when I expressed my thoughts or creativity. She was critical and quick to strike. She had such unrealistic expectations of me that I was always falling short. My brother was the golden child and I was the responsible one.

I grew up knowing that my mother’s love was conditional. That if I pleased her, or met her expectations, I would be loved. I learned to over-function so I’d be sure to get some love even if I didn’t do everything “right” or “well enough”.
I learned that I was not to be loved simply because I’m me. I was to be loved for what I could do, how I could function.

In doing research on this topic to create better understanding in myself, I came across Peg Streep’s blog, knotted.
Um…DAMN!
This chick knows my soul.
She writes that the unloved child longs for specific things even as an adult.
The things she lists are as follows:

to feel safe
to be understood
to be accepted
to simply be
to belong
to be loved for who she is

This.
This is me in six little lines.

Is this why I love so fiercely?
Is it because I don’t exactly know what it feels like to be safe in love?

So it seems that because these patterns are set in childhood, however self-aware one becomes, they are extremely difficult to break. This is because brains are pattern-seeking. And once brain patterns are developed, they can be altered, but those created in earliest childhood will always remain.
These patterns are in my brain. This insecure and anxious attachment. Actively (albeit unconsciously) committing self-sabotage because those deepest patterns are where I lived for so long.

I sought similar situations because they were familiar. Because I understood how to function in them. Of course, I was unaware of this at the time.
I married a man who lead me to believe he wanted nothing more than to take good care of me and give me babies. He was stable and reliable and consistent. All the things I’d been searching for without really understanding it.
Only it was a ruse. He manipulated me from the beginning.
He belittled me the same way my mother had.
His passive aggression was the stuff of legend. Gaslighting was a thing I experienced before I ever knew there was a word for it. Manipulations so subtle that I didn’t even realize what was happening.
I suspected it wasn’t meant to be this way, but because it felt familiar I didn’t question it. I drank the kool aid we made and I even served it to other people.
I learned the hard way not to question what was going on. His rage was epic. His ability to twist my words made me question my sanity. I was suffering from insomnia and chronic migraine pain. I was weak and helpless.
I turned my focus to my girls. To love them so fully they’d never have to question it. To keep them safe always. To protect them from the way their father treated me.
I remember the exact moment I realized that I was not the crazy one. Yet, I stupidly tried to talk with him about it.

I functioned from a place of fear and anxiety. It negatively impacted my health. It negatively impacted my daughters.

All these years later, I’m only beginning to understand that I made the choices I did because I felt unloved as a child.
The guilt inside me is overwhelming. The powerful urge to deny this treatment. My initial instinct is to quickly defend my mother. She loved me. She did everything she could on her own. Blah blah blah. Saying these things out loud, writing them here, it feels like a betrayal of epic proportions.
Only, that’s just how it goes for women (and men) who grew up like me. We spend our entire lives protecting the ones who abused us. That word made my stomach turn. Abuse is a big, scary, bad word. And to outsiders, my childhood, and marriage to the former husband, never looked like abuse. And for most of my life it didn’t look like abuse to me. Only it is abuse. And it’s horrific.
An unloved daughter is trained not to talk about what she thinks or feels. Everyone around her quick to tell her why she’s wrong. Quick to tell her how ungrateful she is. Quick to blame her and be sympathetic to her abuser.

If we don’t talk about it we can’t heal. And healing is of the utmost importance. I am actively attempting to learn self-compassion. Not pity. But honest, healing, compassionate love for myself.

This discovery has had me questioning everything the last few days.
Did I do this to my girls? Are they damaged by me? Did I abuse them? Did I protect them enough from their father? Do they see him for who he really is? Did they know this about me innately, before I ever even had a clue?

Did I specifically choose YBW because he’s not like this? Did I choose him because I question his desire and commitment to build a life with me? Am I simply sabotaging us to create my self-fulfilling prophesy that I’m not special or worthy of anyone’s love?

I’ve sat with these feelings since about eight o’clock Tuesday morning. I’ve struggled to research and understand. I’ve struggled to process and write. And that’s saying a great deal as I’ve damaged the tendons in my thumb and cannot hold a pencil. That means I cannot journal this.

I’ve talked with Jessica at length. Against my better judgment, I even talked with YBW about how I’m thinking and feeling. With one teeny exception of cracking an inappropriate joke, he surprised me and was a kind, loving, and wonderful listener.
Without doubt, I’ll be having this conversation with my therapist next week.
I feel as though I should have it with my girls too. Because if I am either abusive, or simply crazy, they have a right to know why.

I feel like I’m betraying my mother by saying I’m an unloved daughter.
That feels absolutely wretched.
But you know what feels amazing?
Finally beginning to understand why I’m “like this”.
As Albus Dumbledore said,

“Understanding is the first step to acceptance, and only with acceptance can there be recovery.”

Dumbledore knew what was up.

Categories: me | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

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