Five years ago I had my first stay in the hospital due to a mental collapse. My medications were not doing what they needed to be doing and I needed help. Desperately. As a recovering alcoholic, the powerful desire to drink that included a plan to drink, is the threat of self-harm. I had to be hospitalized. There was no question and that decision saved my life. I owe my life to my AA sponsor who insisted I admit myself to the mental health section of the hospital. I had been awake for three weeks’ straight, had not been eating well and now, had lost track of time. I was in horrible shape with bipolar going out of control. However, there were three other people I had no idea I was hurting.
My teenage daughter and two teenage sons, who had been watching this unfold as they had been much of their lives. And as I would come to find out over the coming months, I would come to pay for that in pure anger due to shame, embarrassment and absolute anger based on hatred that had been building for years. One of my sons began to harm himself as well and had to be evaluated; no doubt out of pain for what was happening to me. That part passed as he worked through his emotions. He also gained a girlfriend, who is now his fiancee. As I was hospitalized and struggling, the kids grew up into young adults. They wanted less and less to do with me and when they had anything to do with me at all? It was because they wanted something. But don’t tell them that. They’ll never admit to that. I’m the one at fault. It’s Mom’s issues.
Before you ask, yes, their father and I divorced when they were young. I was no saint when it came to discussing their father in front of them. I made terrible mistakes. Horrible ones. My mental health symptoms were flaring for years. Years. And the kids watched it all. The job hopping was a huge one and it impacted them greatly.
For me, returning to work was a huge victory; huge. I was very proud of that accomplishment. Making it one week was a victory. Now, I have to deal with the struggles of getting to work consistently because I can’t drive – it’s transit I must use to get to work. But so far, I’m making it work. And in that light, I decided it was time to reach out to my three now grown children as, during this process of returning to work, I realized I had garbage to clear with them. This garbage was mine – I caused a great deal of pain to them. I never fully accepted my share of that garbage and needed to do so. I was blaming others but never acknowledging that I caused a tremendous amount of pain to them and to others, but most of all, them. I sent off a draft email to my therapist for her to review before I sent it. I could not reach the kids any other way – I was being blocked by one son and didn’t have the phone numbers of the others.
Then, I get the “ok” for the email, made some minor changes – the timeframe – then off it goes and I get the phone number updated. I debate then call the youngest. My kids, now 19, 20 and 22 (boy, boy, and girl; the boys are US Marines and the 20-year-old is engaged – and I was never told until this phone call), are all in various stages of anger, resentment and all have refused to deal with me. And it’s the youngest, the 19 year-old I speak to – or try to. What I get is an angry, rude, belching, disrespectful US Marine who I can’t believe I gave up 9 months of my life – and destroyed my body – to grant life. He’s that angry. Normally, I would not say something like that but what he said to me was….beyond despicable. For instance, a very sarcastic son says, “Congratulations! You’re working again! Let’s see if you keep it. It might impress me if you keep it a year but I doubt you will. I’ve given up hoping anything on you at this point.”
Deep breathing begins on my end – a lot of it.
I asked about his older brother and that’s when I get the shocking news that my son is now engaged, nonchalantly as if it’s yesterday’s news and I should have already known. Translation? I’m not to know and not welcome – quite easily from the bride AND the groom (she’s like a sister to both my daughter and this kid).
Next thing? A rude, loud belch into the phone, a swearing tirade at a “brother” Marine then…”I gotta go.” He adds when I can call him – oh and he conveniently forgets that I’m working – and he hangs up.
I cleared my mess. The pain I felt was horrible. The pain still burns right now. But, I know where I stand – nowhere in the priority list for this kid or any of them. That means for me, for my life and sanity, I must move on. They may be my flesh and blood, that does not give them the right to treat me so badly and I do have the right to walk away to keep myself safe.
If I had anything to pass on to anyone reading here, it’s the same thing – for anyone who is toxic in their lives, whether it be a child, a significant other, a co-worker, a friend, a relative or even a spouse, you have the right and the obligation to set boundaries to protect yourself. There’s no reason to have to put up with the actions of a narcissist. There’s no reason to have to deal with the words of a manipulator that makes you feel “less than.” You (and I) are better than that. Life is far too short to have to deal with asses like these.
As for what I did for these kids? I said I’d be here for them. But I also have the choice as to what I can do should they decide to take me up on that. I don’t think they will. This isn’t just age-related any longer. There are family of origin/mental health issues lurking and none have any interest in dealing with me any longer. I’m an embarrassment to all of them and they don’t want me around. I now have to accept that and build my life. But if they change their mind, I can also refuse. And so do you.
Now, it’s time for me to move on; the pain will ebb from here forward, I know. It doesn’t make it any easier. But at least I can take comfort in knowing that I’ve done all I can do.
Peace to all of you, my friends.