I spent the weekend with my family (FOO) to celebrate Easter and my mother’s birthday. Celebrate might be too strong a word for Easter. We’re not the most religious family. Never have been. Never will be. The closest we come to “celebrating” is buying a tonne of chocolate and piling it on the table in its very own Mount Everest – a sort of bizarre tribute, I suppose, to the chocolate gods.
Funny thing is – none of this chocolate is ever egg shaped. Nor rabbit-shaped, chicken-shaped, bilby-shaped or anything else Easter-shaped. My mother’s had it in her head for decades that all chocolate shaped into animals is garbage, so she buys boxes of “nice” chocolate instead.
I’m well and truly over trying to make her think “normally” on this front, so I just shrug my shoulders and say “meh – whatever”.
I only wish I could shrug off everything FOO-related so easily. Within a couple of hours of being with my parents, I could feel those familiar dark clouds building, waiting to strike me down. I’m not “myself” around my family. I feel like I lose part of myself; become some other person, and long for the return home and the journey back to the real me.
No matter how much I ignored my father, whenever he raised his voice, cleared his throat or used that “tone” I know all too well, I found myself catapulted back to childhood. It’s as if I was ten years old again, with the same fears and the same panic about what’s going to happen next. Rationally I know that nothing’s going to happen, given his age and state of health, but I guess somewhere inside I am still ten years old.
Even when we went out to dinner to celebrate my mother’s birthday, I was constantly on edge – waiting for my father’s mood to shift, hoping we could get through one meal in a civil manner. As always, I ate quickly. I’ve always done that – to get the meal over with and get out of there in peace.
Still, I did find this visit somewhat less traumatic than previous visits – in part because my mother now knows more about what’s going on for me and is making something of an effort; and in part because I had a new toy to play with (my netbook). For each of those few minutes I was online, I felt like I’d returned to “me”. What a blessing.
Thanks to my therapist I found the most perfect birthday gift for my mother – clothes pegs. All blue. Dozens of them. She was delighted. 🙂
I left quite early today. While Mum didn’t say anything, I could see she was sad for me to go. I’m still torn between feeling empowered because I did what I wanted/needed to do and feeling guilty for not staying.
In all I think I came out relatively unscathed. It’s the first time in over six months that I haven’t wanted to drive my car off the road on the journey home, although I did cry most of the way. Now that I am home, I’ve eaten my way through the North Face of that mountain of chocolate. Not the best coping mechanism, I know. And so the cycle of guilt and self-loathing start again. *Sigh*
I’ve been wondering – is this something I’ll ever get over? Will I ever be able to be with my family and not have the same old reactions? Will I always be reminded of the hellish days of my childhood when around them? Will I always fall back into the pit when I see them? And will I ever find the courage to create firmer boundaries, or even avoid contact altogether?