I’m curled up on Bea’s couch. We are still discussing my mother.
“I wish I didn’t have to lie to her. I wish I could just tell her everything.”
“And what would happen if you did? How would that go? What would it look like?” Bea asks. She has been gently pushing me to think in this direction for months now, but I have shut her down each time. She has respected that, quickly backed off, let it go. Now that I am bringing it up, though, Bea is going to see this through.
“I don’t know. It’s not happening, anyways.” I shake my head.
“Well, it’s hypothetical. So what would happen?” Bea drinks her tea, she is calm but she’s not going to give up.
“Well. I would have to have her come here so I–” I look at Bea, then, laugh a little, and change my wording, “so you, could tell her. I’d have to call her and tell her I was in therapy and ask her to come here.” I pause then, thinking.
Bea waits a moment, but then she says, “You could certainly bring your mom here, I would be happy to help you tell her. Help you stop living with this secret.”
I shake my head. “She would be upset right away. She would be berating herself that her oldest child is in therapy, she failed as a parent. I would be having to comfort her….over me being so messed up and her failing.”
“Ahh.” Bea’s smile falters. “Surely she should know that her child being in therapy isn’t a failure on anyone’s part. It’s you, working on yourself. That’s all. How awful for you, to be in that position.”
“And if she came, I’d have to be here first. So she would have to meet me here. Probably my aunt would have to come. She’d need someone to support her. So, yeah. We’d need her sister to bring her.” I nod, that makes sense, my aunt is at least level headed and calm, and she loves my mom.
Bea pauses me. “Wait a minute! What about your Dad?”
“Well, he’s not going to support her. What good will he be? No, her sister would need to bring her.”
“Your Dad is part of this, he should be here,” Bea says.
That stops me. I think to myself that my mom will just tell him when she gets home. That’s how it works. “It’s not really happening, so it doesn’t matter, really, but my Dad would just sit there, like a lump.”
“Okay, well, in this hypothetical, both your parents should be here. They each had a part, and they should support each other.” Bea is adamant, this is how it works. This is the way to disclose to a parent.
“Okay. Fine. My Dad can bring her, but he isn’t going to be any good for my mom. So, they can sit on the couch, and I’ll hide in your toy closet, okay?”
Bea laughs, softly. “Well, you can hide in the closet, but maybe you could stay for part of the conversation?”
I nod. “Okay. My mom is going to act….I don’t know the right word. She will behave, I guess, as long as she is here.”
“She will behave in a socially acceptable and expected way,” Bea supplies.
“And then what? Would she blame herself? Believe you? How would she respond?” Bea asks.
“I don’t know….she’d be hating herself over it, that’s what happens. Everything is her failure. It’d be a mess. I would have to go hide, because she would be needing me to comfort her.”
“Okay, well, I could be helping support her, comfort her, even guiding your Dad to comfort her. And the whole time I would be going ‘now when you get back home you need to get yourself a therapist, to work through this, this is a big deal’ and validating her experience.” Bea is so calm about this. Like it’s normal, like it’s fine, like people just destroy their parents everyday with a huge bomb.
“She wouldn’t get help. No way,” I say. I catch myself picking my fingers, this conversation is making me anxious. I move my hands, try to stop.
“I would be willing to follow up by phone a few times, see how she is doing, keep telling her how important it is to work through this,” Bea tells me. I’m amazed. She would call my mom? For me? To help me feel secure and safe in telling my secret, Bea would take time out of her day to call someone who is not her patient? She has to be one of the most caring people I have ever met.
I shake my head. “Thank you..I can’t. It’s a mess. I can’t do it, I can’t ruin everything. And she would wonder why I’m not okay now, and I was okay for so long.”
“You weren’t okay! Look at your teen years. Look at your college years. Therapy, eating disorders, cutting, suicide attempts. That’s a whole lot of not okay. Don’t you think it’s time for others to share the mess?”
I wish….it sounds nice, but in reality, it’s too big and scary. “If I told anyone, I would tell my Grandma.” This comes out of my without my really thinking, and as I say the words, I’m certain about them. Grandma is the one who I would tell, who I want to tell.
“She would validate you, understand you, love you,” Bea says simply. She knows. We’ve talked before about the wonderfulness that is my Grandma.
I can imagine telling my Grandma, but that imaginary scenario is more feelings than anything. It’s love and warmth and safety, it’s feeling protected, and like I have a place to belong even after she knows this terrible secret. It’s everything the scenario with my mom is not. My Grandma is one of the biggest blessings in my life. She gave me love, for no reason other than I was her pumpkin.