It is nearly mother’s day here in the UK and I am terrified and miserable.
It would be fair to say that Mother’s day wasn’t a big deal in my family when I was a child so the notion of celebrating it still seems a little odd.
But this will be my first as a mother and I feel unprepared, undeserving and lonely. I feel like a fraud and I don’t know what to do.
I haven’t felt this much dread since and emotional conflict since the first year after my own mother died. The conversations amongst my peers about their preparations that became hushed as I passed coupled with the way that visual cues seemed to compound my sense of uncertainty and loss left me with a knot in my stomach and a feeling of being set apart from the world. Now, althoug it has remained a ‘celebration’ I tend to avoid, the intensity of emotion is back in a way it hasn’t been for so so many years.
Partly I listen to the other girls in my NCT group (my only child-rearing peers) talk about the joys of sharing motherhood with their own mothers and their excitement of having a first mothers day of their own and I feel completely left out.
But more I can barely see myself as a mother.
Technically it seems so ludicrous – how can someone who has carried a child inside of them for months then squeezed it out one of the most sensitive parts of their body and then has nourished and comforted it at all hours of night and day not feel like that child’s mother?
I dont feel like I conform to the expectations of what being a mother is supposed to be and so I’m not a real mother. I don’t feel like my life and priorities suddenly shifted profoundly and I don’t feel like I got new insights or made new connections with others.
When I talked it through with my therapist – yes I’ve been doing weekly CBT (ish) sessions since my little one was about 2 weeks old – we decided that one of my key issues is that I feel that I am going to be judged by everyone else because it seems like there is a stack of rules which I didn’t get, especially for motherhood. And that is probably true. Seeing it that way is comforting but it doesn’t make the ache go away.
Sometimes the Cancer Research adverts still make me cry.
I am up to 5 sessions with my counsellor now (out of the proposed 8 designated by standard NHS procedure) and I can tell he’s not going to drop the mother thing.
I was 13 when mum died and she had been ill for about 4 years. It had a profound impact on me and on my lifestyle and it has shaped my attitudes to certain things including myself.
However, it is no more the root cause of my depression than it is the reason I fancy women – I don’t care how Freudian you want to be, it is not the be all and end all of my existence and my life is not all about her absence.
I know that it is perfectly possible and probably legitimate to read my (ongoing) anger at people’s fixation with my mother and my rejection of sympathy on the topic as symptoms of my inability to grieve or due to a developmental gap caused by the lack of a mother-figure and the requirement to grow up and take resonsibility I didn’t want. I grant you that its probably not entirely a helpful attitude to take but I can’t help it – it pisses me off.
So here are some of my psychological issues that I think are related to my mother dying followed by some I think are not:
- A rather mixed attitude to life and death – I’m hyper-conscious of mortality which sometimes pushes me to take risks in order to make sure I experience life; I am occasionally flippant about my own death and unfazed by putting myself in danger (a habit I am working on breaking for the sake of my partners) & I can seem cold and unfeeling or over-emotional about other people’s illness and death
- A need for control – I had no control over her illness and I hated it since then I have endeavoured to take control of what I can and shut out what I cannot (linked to but not the same as Quitting whilst ahead, see below); Being forced to take on more responsibility caused anger and confrontations but ultimately led to me having to have more self-control – leading to suppressed feelings and
- Self-harm – although I believe that my anger turned inward in order to get things done and my need for control ultimately tipped me over that precipice, I also remember the signs of a desire to punish myself and a lack of ability to express myself before my mother’s illness so this one is a little double-edged.
- Fear of attachment/commitment – pretty self-explanatory really, don’t get too close cos it’ll hurt when its gone
- Sense of not being good enough – try as he might my therapist still hasn’t quite worked out how to link this to my mum’s death, and I think this is because I believed I was inherently flawed before I started school
- Quitting whilst ahead/hating to lose – in this world there are some things I am destined to only be OK at, I have come to accept that, what I can’t accept is being second-best (or worse). I hate knowing I did everything I could and it could never be enough so I try to avoid situations where this might come up. This is not the same as situations where I feel if I work harder, longer or more concentratedly I would and therefore should be better (like say a thesis, housework or relationships)
- The crushing sense of responsibility – in my heart of hearts I know that only I can change me (inevitably leading to the knowledge that my depression and physical issues are my fault) and that it is my responsibility to make everyone’s lives that I touch in any way better by some increment, my duty to always consider the impact of my actions, words and emotions on others and to therefore act, speak or express myself in such a way as to help not hurt them. It is a moral/ethical stance I stand by but it can lead to obssesive behaviour and thoughts and a spiral of guilt.
I can’t help but feel that my sense of self and self-worth had a profound impact on how I reacted to my mother’s death and therefore on the way it affects me now.. but hey ho I’m no professional and I can’t quite get the eagle-eye perspective
Tomorrow the mrs is going to visit her Mother for mother’s day. This floods me with a whole host of feelings –
– I am sad she is going away
– I am anxious that her mother will make her upset and start to doubt herself and our relationship
– I am pleased that I can spend the weekend with B
– I am guilty about being pleased (and about not doing it more often, and about being guilty)
– I am bittersweet that its mother’s day and others will be able to enjoy the presence of their mothers and children.
Onwards and upwards… its B’s birthday on monday. 🙂