When I first began sorting out the kind of impact my parents had had in forming what I believed about myself, I was certain that my Mom had done more damage to me than my Dad. I felt my anger mostly towards her (I was aware of very little anger towards my Dad). When I considered my relationship with my Mom, even though I knew there were good things there, I felt this guilty, restless frustration. I had this feeling of wanting to break free from something but I didn’t know what. I felt hurt and protective but I didn’t exactly know why.
I know now that my anger was there for a variety of reasons. Even though I was a very shy and sensitive child, obedient and well-behaved, my anger came out towards my Mom in fitful fights. It was easiest for me to show my anger to my Mom. However, my anger was treated as disobedience and disrespect; our fights would resolve when I apologized for “getting mad.” I learned that showing my emotions were somehow bad. I also grew extremely observant of my Mom’s reactions to me and instinctively came to know that my strong emotions really unsettled her. Without the words being spoken, I learned very early on that I had to be “okay” in order for my Mom to be “okay.” This was a heavy burden of responsibility, but as a child I didn’t know that. I just didn’t want my Mom to be sad, and I truly wanted to be the good girl that she wanted me to be. As I grew older, I stuffed my hurt and anger away. I didn’t understand why it was there and assumed that I was ungrateful and at fault for even having it. I felt guilty about it. My Mom was a very nice woman, consistent and always there for me. What right did I have to feel dissatisfied or upset? Sometimes what seemed to be an unimportant issue between us would cause my anger to flare up, but I would apologize and we would continue on.
My Dad’s passivity and emotional uninvolvement plugged the belief into my earliest foundations that I was not worth being pursued, not worth being known for who I really was. My Mom was more proactive as a parent in teaching me why I was valuable; but she unintentionally taught me that I was “valuable because”, that I would be good enough “if”… There were burdensome realities in what I learned from her about my value that held me back from getting where I wanted to go. I knew that she desperately wanted me to be happy; I tried very hard to be happy by seeking to fulfill these value requirements. I also knew that my Mom wanted us to be close and I wanted us to be close too; we did grow close, in a very intertwined kind of way. But even our closeness had rules that made me feel confined. My depression only got worse. Here I was, a beautiful, talented woman from what appeared to be a very healthy family- what was wrong with me? Why couldn’t I get it together?
The next few posts are all about the belief system I received from my Mom. They are also about our mother daughter relationship- how it was broken before and how it is healing now. My Mom, Debbie, will be joining me in writing this series, and I am excited to welcome her here. It is our hope that through our honesty and candid sharing, hope and healing will be inspired in any number of ways for your own story.