I’m anxiety filled and sad. I don’t want to lie to my mom. I want to tell her the truth, the whole truth. In all honestly, my nightmares, panic attacks, flashbacks, emotional outbursts— in other words, my PTSD symptoms– were causing me problems from the time things started to calm down with my daughter, so around spring 2013. It was a whole year and a few months before I started therapy. Looking back now, I wonder if the symptoms began to leak because I was exhausted from caring for an undiagnosed autistic, colic like child who never slept, if it was because things were finally appearing as through we were getting some answers and help with Kat, or of it was because my mother had gotten a new puppy the previous fall.
What does that have to do with anything? My mom getting a dog? Well, when she got her puppy, she started having less time. The dog became her main focus in her life, she poured all of her energy into taking care of the dog as if it were a new baby. She effectively distanced herself from me, because she has less time to spend on the phone, less time for visiting; her time was now given to the new puppy. When she created even that small bit of distance, it gave me a safety, a space to allow me to have the memories and to separate from her.
In the spring of 2014, Kat started play therapy with Bea. It wasn’t much later, early summer 2014, when I began seeing Bea for my own “stuff.” The distance I had from my mom by that point, between her dog and Kat’s schedule, made it safe to talk, to tell my truth, for the first time in my life. At 30 years old, I was finally on the path to healing, with a therapist who could actually help me.
But. And there’s the catch. Such a small word. But. It holds such power at times, though. But.
But, I miss my mom. I miss feeling that she is my best friend. I miss calling her and gossiping, talking for hours. I miss feeling like we could tell each other anything. I know that feeling wasn’t real, wasn’t authentic. But I miss it. And more than anything, I wish it was real.
I’m sad. I don’t want to be even more distanced from my mom. It’s what I feel myself doing, though. I have to pull away, separate myself from her experience, so that I can set boundaries and take care of me. It’s not fair. I want her to be the mom I thought she was, the mom we have spent years pretending she is, the mom that she has written herself as in the family story. In my head, this is what I want to happen, this is what I wish, and dream, and hope for.
I call my mom, I’m scared and nervous, but I need to do it. “Mom? I have something I would really like to talk to you and Dad about. I have been seeing Kat’s therapist, Bea. I would really like it if you guys would come to a session with me.”
“Of course we will. Give me the day and time and we will be there. Is everything okay? We love you and want you to be okay.” She would just support me, be willing to go, and she wouldn’t push for details or need me to comfort her because I’m in therapy. It wouldn’t turn into how she has failed as a mom, that her oldest child needs to be seeing a shrink.
The day of the appointment, my parents would meet me there. I would have a session before they arrive, to be able to get my panic out, or whatever else.
My mom would look apprehensive, worried, but she would hug me, say hello, act normal, like everything is fine and this is a social gathering. My Dad would be withdrawn, shut down, not talking. He would say hello. Bea would be calm and kind, saying hello, telling them to have a seat.
I’m not sure where I would sit, but maybe the floor, by Bea’s chair. Not the couch, because my parents would sit on the couch. Either way, I know I could be closer to Bea than to them. Maybe she has a chair she would move into her office.
I would be nervous. I’m not sure I would be able to talk. I hope I would, but it would probably end up a repeat of when I had Hubby come in with me. So Bea would have to start things off.
“Alice asked you here because she has some hard things she wanted to share with you. She’s very scared to tell you, afraid of your reaction towards her, and afraid you will be hurt and upset.” Bea can be so calm and kind, I imagine she would reassure them and try to put my parents at ease. Maybe she would talk about childhood. “There’s things from childhood that Alice needs to talk to you both about. They are things that will be hard for her to tell you, and things that will be hard for you to hear, but once they are out and in the open, you can all begin to heal together.”
My mom will look nervous, afraid she is going to be attacked as a bad mother. My dad will be stoic, nothing penetrates his hard exterior.
I’ll be shaking, not looking at them. Tiny voice. I will be really afraid. “Kenny started to sexually abuse me when I was 5.” If I get that much out, it would be amazing. I’d probably shut down then, dissociated, head down, gone, too afraid to see my parents’ reactions.
Maybe they show disbelief, shock. Maybe my mom cries, maybe my dad reaches to hug me, and Bea stops him. She has to take over talking. She has to tell them how long it went on, how he raped me, how I was afraid and confused, and alone. Maybe she reminds them my story I played with my barbies, and they remember that. Maybe she explains how that is trauma play.
Maybe mom breaks down, crying, blaming herself for not seeing. Bea would know what to do. Maybe my dad puts his arm around her.
In the end, they would tell me they love me. They would cut ties with the smith family. They would never expect me to see Kenny again. They would protect me now. My mom would understand why coming back to my hometown is hard and triggering and scary right now. She would rearrange things so she visited me more, and wouldn’t expect me to come visit right now. She would learn about childhood trauma, and PTSD. She would schedule a few more appointment with Bea to learn more about how she can help, and about sexual abuse and after effects. She would believe me. It would be okay.
That’s my dream, my wish.
There’s that little, powerful word again.
But. It will never ever happen.
I’ll call my mom on Friday, I’ll tell her I am sick. I’ll withdraw from her more, as she withdraws from me. I’ve lost the idea, the pretend perfect mom I had, the perfect mother-daughter relationship I have faked my way through for the last 8 years. It hurts, because now I know how fake it really was, and I want the real thing. Today, I’m so full of grief for what I never had, and what will never be, I’m not sure I can hold it. It threatens to overwhelm me. It hurts.