For my whole life I have lived in a family where transparency about my mother and her illness was elusive to us all. We’ve all managed to say so much about so little over the years–my mother has struggled with mental health issues her whole life, but we don’t discuss it. Instead, we all try to ignore the great well of longing that she’s submerged in, that she’s pushed us into, too. This is our reality; I cannot comprehend a life better, or different, a life that wasn’t teeming with imminent emotional warfare. Living with my mother has always been tantamount to living in constant fear. Most days, we (my father, sister, and I) didn’t know what would trigger her. She wasn’t cunning or evil–she was disarming in her innocence. So tender, and yet fraught with tension, like a rubber band around a razor. For this reason alone, I have, and always, always, always will be at the behest of my mother.
She had been violent from before I could remember, her anger moving through her like sharp waves. Her violence wasn’t always physical, however. Sometimes, she’d use words like a weapon, cutting through the very fibers of my being. This would happen often, like a switch that goes off and on. My mother, like my very own Marvel super villain, could shift from good to bad in mere moments, from kind to diabolical in seconds.
When you have parents that are ill, at a certain point you have to remove them from judgment–sometimes.
Then again. What do I owe her?
She is my abuser. And I love her anyway. It’s complicated, and it’s constantly evolving, but these days I hate her less and less because I see her for all that she is, not just as my mother. I see her as a failed adult, one that shouldn’t have had children, but also as a victim of her time, of her own abuse, the abuse she never talks about.