Thursday, September 24, 2015

The Time I Told My Mother the Truth About Everything

This is an excerpt from an email I sent my best friend on the day I told my mother "The Truth As I See It."  It happened a couple years before my wedding, on the day my mother received divorce papers from my dad.  I count that phone call as one of the most important conversations of my life and one of the few times I was honest with my mother about her behavior and refused to back down when challenged.  I believe this conversation was at least part of the reason my mother has reached out to me to reconnect but has never once asked me why I stopped talking to her.  I said what she needed to know (if she heard it).

I mention unofficially diagnosing my mother as bipolar in this email, which in hindsight I kind of wish I hadn't done, though I thoroughly believed it to be true and that proper treatment -- especially a prescription mood stabilizer, which was one of the few things she didn't already seem to be taking -- could make her better.  She did receive a formal diagnosis of bipolar disorder a couple years after this phone call took place, but I no longer believe it to be accurate.  More on all that another time.

Dear Jerry,

My mom was served the divorce papers today.  She called me sobbing and, when I answered, said, "I just called to say I love you."  I acted sympathetic and didn't say much until she started in on my dad, at which point the invisible string that my voice had been hung up on just broke and I announced loudly, "You sold ALL OF HIS STUFF," and basically told her the truth on just about everything.  I didn't yell, but when saying things I'd wanted to tell her for a long time, I announced them loudly like an orator.  I was still gentle through a lot of it though, particularly when talking about mental illness, and she was the only one who cried.  I told her she is bi-polar.  I told her she should be on meds for it and not on meds for EVERYTHING else.  I told her she appears to have Munchausen's syndrome and her car wrecks seem to be on purpose ("You think I rolled the car ON PURPOSE?!"  "Yes.").  I told her maxing out someone else's credit card is NOT OKAY, regardless of her defense that it was "only $500."  When she complained that no one speaks to her, I told her it's because she acts crazy now.  When she asked why I didn't call her at Christmas, I told her I didn't want to get yelled at.  When she acted shocked and asked, "What?" I repeated myself, only more loudly and enunciating better.  I did this every time she acted shocked at something I said.  I asked her if she didn't remember yelling at me and leaving voice mails in which she called me a selfish little bitch, or if she really believed it didn't hurt me.  She said she only remembered calling me that when I didn't send cards to my grandmothers.  I don't really remember how she said it, but it came out that she thinks I am bad for that, and I can't really remember that part through the haze of anger... 

When she said my father took the money away from her and that she would have to live without lights and heat, I explained that, if the bank account is empty, it's because she empties it every month.  Several thousand dollars every month.  I explained that I am handling their money now.  I explained that it comes to me so that I can pay the house payments that she would not.  I explained I had been instructed to put the rest back into their joint account each month, leaving my dad with nothing, so that the automatic withdrawal bills could be paid and she could blow through the rest the way she always does ("Blow through?"  "Yes."  "You think I BLOW THROUGH money?!"  "Yes.").  She said she spends money but (or because?  I can't remember) she has no other vices.  She said she doesn't own furs or diamonds; she pays bills and sometimes buys things for other people.  She said that nothing will make people happy.  We weren't happy when she was spending no money, lying on the couch all day refusing to move, eat, or bathe, and that we aren't happy now that she is out spending money.  What do we want from her?  I said, "We want you to act like a normal human being." 

She cried a lot.  She said we used to be best friends.  I told her she used to be the center of my world.  I told her she used to be my entire support system and that she dropped me in college, or in high school really, and I was forced to get over it.  She claimed it was the menopause.  I told her she should have admitted to it then rather than just yelling at me and accusing me of changing.  I told her she is bi-polar.  Again.  She said she might as well take all of the pills she has and end it all.  I confessed that I had thought about suicide in the last few months too, and then she cut me off to tell me about her problems some more.  Honestly, it's what I expected to happen.  It was more of a test than a confession.  But a normal person would have at least acknowledged the fact that the other person had spoken.  I realize it's hypocritical, but I hated her for not caring even a little bit.  I told her that, kill her or not, most pills don't just put you to sleep, they make you sick and kill you painfully (it's true -- I've read it in books).  I told her to think that over before making any rash decisions.  

She told me what a good mother she was, and how she made me independent.  I'm VERY independent, I told her.  Still, I confessed things I maybe shouldn't have told her, like how much it matters to me what she says to me and the fact that she doesn't seem to care about me.  I told her how fucked up it makes me when she calls and yells at me.  I told her that being told I'm a bad person doesn't make me a better one.  And I announced over her complaints, perhaps a little callously, that I know that's all I'm good for -- being her punching bag and something to bitch at -- to which she replied "no" and then returned to bemoaning her own sufferings, interspersed with bitching about how I don't send people greeting cards.

I guess that's why it doesn't matter how much I told her.  She doesn't care enough to hear it.  Ever.  I know it was a bad day.  I know it only makes sense that she would be upset about being sued for divorce and be focused on her own pain.  I know today might not have been the best day, after years of mostly silence, to announce The Truth As I See It.  And when she wasn't criticizing me or saying horrible things about my dad, and I had a chance to relate to her, I felt bad for her.  But she couldn't leave it alone for long, and I couldn't feel bad WITH her, because it wasn't just today.  It's her.  This will sound ridiculous, but I can't think of a better way to say it:  there is a quote that Christmas isn't a day but a state of mind.  So is the worst day of your life.  And she keeps that day alive in her heart all year round, and it makes sense to be focused on your own misfortunes on the worst day of your life, so maybe it makes sense to her to act this way.  Or maybe I'm trying to make it make sense to me and I'm giving her too much credit.  It's been a long time since she showed an interest in another human being, so it's hard to tell.

I don't envy her situation, but I don't pity her either.  She makes her own choices.  Her life hasn't been happy, but it has been in her control.   If you are unhappy, you have to decide whether or not to do something about it.  Doing nothing is still your choice.  It's just a stupid one.  I asked her to do something about it.  I asked her to see a different psychiatrist and be evaluated for bi-polar disorder so that she can get better.  She asked why she should bother.  I told her, because it isn't all about her, and if she cares about her mother as much as she claims to, she will do it to make her happy.  We'll see.

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