All alone

I talk quite a bit here about my mother. She’s not a bad person, really. It’s just she has no clue.

I’ve been struggling a bit at home post-surgery. Not only do I still have a 20cm slash in my belly, but I also have an infection in that slash, so I’ve been feeling quite … well, blah.

It’s hard when you’re on your own, have no siblings, and most of your friends are away. I still need a lie down after a shower, and find it hard to do simple things like preparing meals, washing, making the bed. I went to the chemist this morning. It nearly killed me. By the time I got there I thought I was going to pass out.

My therapist convinced me that it would be good to have my Mum around to help me. Even if she does drive me nuts, what I really need right now is someone to take care of me, to help out, even just to keep me company. Apparently she thinks my mother cares and that may be she just needs to hear that she’s needed. We all like to hear we’re needed, right? Apparently not my mother. She said:

“It’s too hard right now with your father. Why don’t you ask your cleaners to help make the bed?”

I’m so upset. I know I’m extra fragile right now, but really… does she honestly care more about a man who has treated her like sh!t for the last 50 years than she cares about me? Even when she’s been telling me how rude and obnoxious he’s being, just this week? And what about my friends? Apparently they don’t care either, even if most of them are away on traditional summer holidays.

So I’m alone. All alone. So completely and utterly alone. It makes me wonder what the point of anything is. It hardens my heart and makes me realise that everything the wonder therapist told me about people caring and me not being alone was just baloney. And before you all rush to tell me you care: at the end of the day I’m just words on a page. It doesn’t matter whether those words appear or not. There are plenty of other words out there to fill the space.

It makes me wish I’d done the unthinkable when I had the guts and the irrationality.

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19 thoughts on “All alone

  1. I will respect your wishes and not tell you I care — instead I am going to ask a couple of questions about practical solutions.

    Does your doctor/hospital/medical system have home visit caregivers? This is something we have where I live, for exactly this reason — there are people who have major surgery, and who just don’t have easy access family or people who can perform necessary tasks for them. The service is usually affordable, and is sometimes covered under medical plans.

    The second thing is that I wonder if you can find a pharmacy that delivers. Again, I’m sure there is some provision for people who are housebound or who are, for example, not safe to drive due to drug interactions, etc.

    You should not be home alone with an infected incision, trying to do everything for yourself. Nor should you be home, in a weakened and vulnerable state, with your mother.

    I have to say, I am surprised at your therapist’s repeated insistence that your mother loves you and that she cares, but just doesn’t know how to show it. Of course, I’m not there, so I’m not seeing the whole picture. But frankly, the kind of “caring” she’s shown is something just about anyone could do without.

  2. Hope you recover from surgery quickly and feel better soon Kerro.

    ((I am guessing your surgery wound will heal faster/easier than the wound your mother has inflicted on your soul. Keeping her on a distance and not let her infect you more seems like a good idea to me. But I dont know for sure of course, and am on thin ice, hence the brackets)).

  3. Hi Kerro. I hate it when therapists do that. My last breakdown – which I have still not recovered from – was caused by a stupid therapist who kept going on about reconnecting with my father (my mother is dead). She even suggested I go and stay with him for a weekend. This is a man who hasn’t phoned me in the last decade, who hit my mother and whose nastiness caused her an early death, who has stolen from me, etc etc etc. She knew all this and STILL insisted I would never be OK unless I pursued this relationship. As though ANYBODY could be ok having a relationship with this man …

    Therapists are only human. An individual therapist can not know everything.

    At some point you have to accept reality with your mother. It is painful. It is difficult. But she is not able to give to you in the way you need. You have to accept her limits (which are considerable). Because you cannot change her. Why keep putting yourself through the pain of such disappointment? IT IS NOT GOING TO CHANGE. Don’t ask for or expect anything from her.

    You will have to find friendship, consideration, love, caring, generosity elsewhere.

    Luckily it seems as you have cleaner(s!) you can clearly afford to pay for some home help. Obviously this is not the same as having people who care about you that you don’t have to pay. But compared to those who cannot pay, you are in a fortunate situation.

    I know the aloneness you speak of. I have it in spades. I am also unable to work so I have virtuahlly no social contact at all. I would love to be able to pay for staff. It would significantly improve my quality of life.

    Hope you are feeling better on every level very soon.

    Bearfriend xx

  4. Hi Kerro,
    I honestly don’t know what to say really but I wanted to check in and I see that David has said probably what I was feeling but didn’t have words for. Perhaps this will illustrate to your therapist that your Mother cannot or will not be a “mother”. I know we’re all just words on a page too…so I’m not sure if commenting will cause harm. I hope not. But…Geez…feeling for you…hope your wound heals soon.

  5. I don’t have anyone who would come stay. No family. No friends close enough to as that of. The biggest thing I understand is the wishing I’d done “it” when I had the chance. Truth is, we all threaten to kill ourselves, no one does. Wanna know why? All these words on the pages. What I do in those situations is absolutely nothing. When I’m hurt/sick and all alone, I do only what I want to do, not what someone thinks I should do. It’s all about me at that point. Give yourself time to feel better.

  6. Kerro, I am awfully concerned and I hope you will take David’s advice.
    You have made quantum leaps of growth in a short time, please do no let,
    – a silly but well-meaning T
    – a grueling surgical procedure
    – frayed nerves
    – physical pain
    – loneliness and frustration
    – and a rather frequently insensitive and infuriatingly clueless mother

    push you back to the starting line!
    And for what it’s worth I DO CARE even if it is just words it is better than silence.

    Get well soon Kerr, you deserve feeling well and secure again.

  7. Thanks for your comments everyone. I did the unthinkable and burst into tears with my mother today. After being told to “stop being silly” and “you’re getting upset over nothing” … my mother has decided to come take me shopping tomorrow. It’s a start, I suppose, but I am still upset that I basically had to fall apart for her to see I needed some help.

    @ David – I’m sure there are such services, but I don’t have the energy to find them. Most of them are income tested anyway, and as I am not on the bread-line, I wouldn’t be considered eligible. As for the private ones, I wouldn’t even know where to start looking.

    I have spent much of the past year opening myself up to people, believing that life would be richer if I did. Even before then I would help friends when they needed it (and sometimes when they didn’t). I have cooked for them, cleaned for them, done their shopping…. countless other things when they were ill or had babies. And most of them had partners, siblings and caring families. I guess it would have been nice to have had some of that reciprocated. Not that I did those things with any expectation… but even a phone call would be nice.

    My therapist keeps saying my mother loves me and cares for me because she’s had my mother on the couch. I have given my therapist the benefit of the doubt because she’s usually a good judge of character, and most things she has suggested to me have worked out ok (p-doc and Stone Therapist being prize winning exceptions, though in both cases she didn’t know the individual but had taken recommendations from others). I will quiz her (the therapist) on the mother again this week.

    You are right, though, most people could live without the kind of “caring” my mother dispenses.

    @ Rainbow Socks – thank you, no need for the brackets. My mother has hurt me – again – I don’t know why I keep letting this happen. Perhaps because I trust my therapist’s judgement too well (see reply to David above)? I don’t know.

    @ Bearfriend – it sounds like your therapist should never have suggested staying with your father. Thankfully my therapist has never suggested I try to repair my relationship with my father – she doesn’t believe such things are necessary, particularly when that father has treated me as mine has. Pardon me for saying this but it sounds like your therapist comes from the Forgiveness School of BS.

    You are right about my mother’s limits. I wish I could accept them, but I long to have a mother who really does care and who really would support me. Hell, it wouldn’t have to be a mother. Just someone to do that would be nice.

    I am “lucky” I suppose, that I can afford cleaners. I have been a workaholic for the last decade, so earn a good income. Trust me when I say that having money for these things is nice, but it doesn’t make you any happier. I don’t want to go through life paying people to care for me. That’s not a life. That’s pathetic.

    @ Cat – I’ll talk to my therapist about this later in the week, so will let you all know what she says. Your words don’t cause harm at all. Thanks for being here.

    @ Ivory – I’m so sorry you’re alone, but I take comfort in knowing I am not the only one. I long for a “real” family. I long for a family that loves me and supports me. I long for a family to share happy meals around a table. I need to realise that is something I will probably never have. I’m glad you’re able to do what you “want” to do when not well. I struggle with that. I struggle thinking I am being lazy vs needing to rest and heal. I’m doing better in this respect than I was this time last year, but it’s still a struggle.

    @ Phoenix – thanks for seeing the growth underneath this current sh!t. I know I am extra sensitive post surgery, but really…. you’re right, my mother is “frequently insensitive and infuriatingly clueless”. Thanks for saying that you care. I’ll be honest and say I’m not in a space to believe you right now, but I’ll hold it for later.

  8. Honey, call your doctor’s office or hospital and ask for a referral to a private caregiving service. If they don’t have them on file, they should know what direction to nudge you.

    I don’t in any way mean to criticize your therapist, but she has had your mother on the couch exactly once, if I recall correctly, and your mother refused to go back — is that right? At this point, it doesn’t matter whether your mother cares. You need a safe and calm space in which to recover physically and emotionally from major surgery.

    Do your friends know how tough things are for you? If they do, and they’re not helping, then please add them to the list of people I will be slapping when I visit.

  9. Dear Kerro,

    I believe that your mother does love you and she doesn’t show it well. But love in a dysfunctional family is something different than even the love of a friend. Real love is expressed in care, concern, action. Love is an action word. It is in how we treat others and it is obvious. I won’t dispute that she loves you. You are loveable. It is just that she doesn’t know how to love you and that is the most important part of loving and she shows no interest in doing so.

    I am thinking of you. Good and healing thoughts to you.

    Kate

  10. @ David – I cannot possibly ring a private caregiving service. There’s part of me that believes that would be a good move (although I am starting to feel more human) and a bigger, more powerful part that says, “What? Am I so pathetic that I have to pay people to care about me?”

    As for my friends, perhaps I haven’t been as black and white with them as I could have been. I have said I am “not great” and “finding things difficult” but perhaps I need to spell it out more. This was highlighted to me today when a friend asked if I was doing anything “exciting” this weekend. If by “exciting” she means lying on the couch and watching the sun move from east to west then yes, but I suspect that’s not quite what she had in mind.

    @ Kate – Thanks Kate. You’re right, my mother does love me, she just doesn’t know how. Sad but true.

  11. I’m not trying to be obnoxious here, I swear, but — why is it any more pathetic to hire a caregiver than it is to hire a housekeeper? In both cases, the service provided is daily-living care that you can’t (or would rather not) do for yourself (either at the moment, in the case of some help w/the surgery — or on a more ongoing basis, as with the housekeeper).

    In some profound sense, every service we engage is paying someone to care for us. You are paying your therapist to care for you. The fact that your friends and family cannot or will not step up to the plate does not negate the fact that you need (or needed) some help. There is nothing pathetic about getting help you need. In fact, it’s arguable that it’s not fair to expect friends and family to provide that help — sometimes they can, but sometimes they themselves, even if the willingness is there, do not have the emotional or physical capacity to assist.

    My sense is that this issue is closely related to the guilt about the Christmas presents … you are displacing the actual problem onto yourself in a way that is emotionally painful, and in this case, potentially dangerous to your physical wellbeing. This is probably not something that can be shifted right now, but it worries me on your behalf, especially since you have had repeated surgeries in the past year … if this happens again, I think it will be important to have a realistic, workable plan for safe and careful recovery.

    Regarding friends … they really may not know you need help unless you specifically ask for it. I know it seems that they should know, and volunteer to help, but what seems like lack of caring may actually be ignorance. Especially since you are a very independent and strong person, it may actually feel like it would be insulting or an imposition to offer to help you (I’ve run into that one several times myself). If someone asks you how you are, be honest. Don’t downplay it. ‘I’m finding things difficult” is quite different from “I’m trying really hard to manage without pain meds, but that means I can’t stand up for more than five minutes at a time.” I cannot imagine that someone hearing that wouldn’t offer to help you out in some way. The challenge then may be for you to specifically ask for what you need … because the other piece of this is that chances are, they’re not going to intuitively know. Do you need food? Someone to wait in the living room to make sure you don’t pass out in the shower? Errands run? All of the above?

    Just one closing thought … I have a friend who is a massage therapist, and one of the things she routinely says is that many of her clients come to her simply because they need gentle human touch that they do not receive in their daily lives. They pay her to touch them lovingly and kindly, to provide them a basic human need and right. Does she find them pathetic? No. She considers it a profound honor to be available in that way. She is not an advanced soul or wise-woman; she’s a nice 25-year-old girl who knows that she can be of service in the world. She considers it the most beautiful part of her job.

  12. Thanks David, I know you’re only trying to help.

    Why is it more pathetic to hire a caregiver? Because in my freakish mind I associate that kind of thing with being the sad, pathetic, lonely and bitter old cat lady I am so afraid of becoming.

    In that same mind, hiring a cleaner, or a gardener, is no different to hiring a painter or a plumber or an electrician. These are jobs I either don’t want to do or don’t have the expertise to do.

    I would like friends and family to help out – as I have helped them, and as I know other people’s friends and families do. Perhaps that’s how I see that people show they, even if there are a million ways that they do. Or perhaps it’s just my cop out for not having to ask. It’s so very difficult for me to ask. You’re right – I don’t want to impose, I don’t want to insult them, and I certainly fear them saying no.

    What can I say? I am FITH.

    I’m interested in you see this issue as displacing the problem onto myself. Can you talk more about this please?

  13. I’ll try — I’m really “feeling my way,” groping in the dark to express what I mean about this, so please forgive me in advance if I accidentally say this clumsily.

    What I mean when I say that I see you displacing the problem onto yourself is that I feel you are misidentifying the source of the problem. You are identifying it as being your fault, your problem … that you are unworthy somehow … whereas the issue actually is that the other people are at fault. Whether that is through selfishness, or ignorance, or stupidity, or whatever it is … it is NOT about you.

    I also know that there is no such thing as absolute reality … things aren’t one way or the other, and in some profound way, everything each of us knows is illusory, and is subject to change hugely in a matter of moments, under the right circumstances. All of us get stuck in our own ways of thinking about things — and there’s so seldom a definite “way things are” — it’s more the spin we put on them.

    Our discussion about hiring a caregiver is a perfect example of that, for both of us. Your conditioning and circumstances lead you to feel that doing it would be shameful and an admission of personal failure, and a reinforcement of lack of caring from your family and friends. Given the same set of variables, I would feel a great deal of independence, liberty, and dignity in hiring a caregiver, because my “hot spot” is being seen in a vulnerable position by people whom I know and have to face again, because I have a terrible fear of weakness being cast up to me or used against me somehow later.

    So. When these very sensitive issues come up, what I try to do is reduce the issue to its absolute basic components:

    1) What is possible?
    2) What is safe?

    What I see you doing, which is so painful to witness because I really do care about you, is setting up expectations that are absolutely going to be horribly disappointed because the person on the other end has not consciously or willingly entered into their end of the contract. The expectation you have is: “If I were lovable, my friends and family would care for me voluntarily and properly.”

    But that assumes so many things that might not be true, about the other people involved, and so you will have terrible pain associated with this expectation not being met. You are lovable, and that is an entirely separate fact from what other people do or don’t do. But seeing that people do not do what you expect, you put the disappointment back onto yourself, and interpret the disappointment in terms of your own worthiness.

    I guess another way of saying this would be to say that you are identifying a cause and effect that are not related to each other … and your doing that is constricting how you are able to create and maintain your own self-care and safety.

  14. I wanted to say that whatever I write are not just words on a page, they come from my heart, I am real, I see you and value you, I love you and honor your healing work, your heart, your soul. I honor you.

    I am sorry that I cannot be close to do those things that close friends can do. I am sorry that most of my best friends are online because I can’t be there in person nor can they for me, but I bless the day I shambled online and found friends. I found you and you live in my heart and nothing can take that away from me.

    Good and healing thoughts to you.

    Kate

  15. @ David, I’ve never known you to say anything clumsily, feeling your way or not!

    I think you have hit a nail on a head. I do identify myself as the source of the problem. I do think I am unworthy… that if I were a better person or a better friend, then people would want to help me, visit me, etc. This has been a constant theme my whole life. The not feeling good enough at least, and the not feeling loveable. Perhaps it stems from childhood experiences, I don’t know. That is – if I were loveable, and if I were good enough, wouldn’t my father have treated me the way a father should? Clearly I wasn’t loveable or good enough then, as I am not now.

    You are right. This is exactly how I interpret things.

    But haven’t I spent over a year in therapy learning that the heinous things of the past were not my fault? They were never my fault. I was just a child. How, then, do these things come back to haunt me in this insidious way now?

    I think my therapist said something akin to what you are saying. For example, the time of year is a factor here too, with many people busy with Xmas/NY and away for the summer holidays. So, if I hear you and her correctly, it is not my fault – it’s other reasons that mean people can’t or won’t help me, not because I am not good enough. Is that right?

    The obvious thing is to disentangle the two thought processes, right? Do you have an instruction manual for that? 😉

    You say that my thought processes are jeopardising my self-care and healing and safety. Is that because by blaming myself I am also saying that I am not worth the care that I need, whether administered by myself or by others?

    @ Kate – Thanks. Hugs and healing thoughts to you too.

  16. Hi honey —

    So, here’s an instruction manual for untangling the heinous shit of the past from things that happen today. 🙂 It is extremely simple, but it can be challenging to implement.

    It’s this: if someone did not interact with me as I needed or wanted them to, the first thing I ask myself is whether I was clear about what I needed or wanted.

    If the answer is no, the problem is not that I am unworthy or that the other person is a jerk — the problem is likely that they don’t understand what I need or want, because most people are not mind-readers. Therefore the problem is one of communication.

    If the answer is yes, I did clearly and explicitly express what I needed or wanted, the question then is: did they understand it? The only way to find out is to ask. (Note: Clearly and explicitly means exactly that. If, for example, I want Beth to stop forgetting all our social engagements, I need to say to her: “Honey, your forgetfulness is really stressing me out. Would you be open to the idea of getting a day-timer, and carrying it with you everywhere you go?” Simply saying, “I wish your memory were better,” isn’t a clear request.)

    If you clearly expressed yourself and it was not understood, then again, the problem is simply one of communication, and a renegotiation of the communication commences at that point.

    If you clearly expressed yourself and it *was* understood, then the question becomes why the person did not hold up their end of the contract. Again, the only way to know is to ask. There are ways to ask that don’t sound accusatory. For example: “Hey, I thought we’d agreed that you would keep a day-timer, but I’ve had to remind you all week of where you were supposed to be. Did I misunderstand how we were going to try to work on that?”

    If the person is simply human and forgot or got sidetracked or confused for reasons of their own, you can forgive and move on.

    If the person deliberately violated the agreement you made with them, then you get to make a choice. I have a very clear “three strikes and you’re out” rule. If someone deliberately violates or betrays an agreement more than three times, they have a problem with integrity, and I don’t want someone like that in my life. If the person is willing to own up to what they’ve done and why, and have an open discussion about how it’s going to change, then they get another chance. But if not — buh-bye.

    You will notice that all of this is about present communication. The only judgment of worth here is the one you get to make about someone who cannot hold up his or her end of a mutually-agreed-upon interpersonal contract. And at that point, it’s irrelevant why they can’t be responsible — let’s just say they really don’t like you, or they want to manipulate you, or whatever. That’s still not really about you, unless you choose to keep them around. And then, and then only, does the question revert to something about you: Why do you want a destructive presence in your life? And that probably relates right back to what you were conditioned to expect as a child. But it does not, in any way, relate to whether you are worthy. It relates to a choice you are making now, as an adult; and as an adult, you have the power to choose differently.

    The other point worth noting is this: You are worthy and lovable. That fact does not mean that all people will love you or treat you as you deserve to be treated. They make their choices, and you get to make yours about whom you have around you. You may have people around you whom you chose because their abuse was familiar, rather than because they treat you as you deserve to be treated. And if this is the case, you may go through a difficult phase of purging people from your life. But this still does not reflect on anything except the ways in which you are conditioned to make choices. Conditioning can be changed, but nothing on this earth can change the fact that you deserve to be treated with kindness, respect, and love — because that is what every human being deserves.

    And yes, I am saying that by blaming yourself, you are boxing yourself in as far as seeing options and possibilities for care and healing, and this is not a safe thing to do.

  17. Hey David

    Thanks for the instruction manual. 🙂 Are you sure you’re not my therapist in disguise? Much of what you say is similar to things she has said.

    You say that if someone doesn’t interact with you as you need or want, then you clarify if you were clear. Of course, I don’t do this. I just automatically assume that I did something wrong (or that the other person is an “idiot”…)

    Clear and explicit. I’ll try that.

    The three strikes rule is a good one. I don’t have such a rule but have started thinking in threes as well – once is an incident; twice a coincidence; three times a pattern. Next step is clearly “out”.

    You also say that as an adult I have the power to choose who I interact with, and how. That’s interesting because it wasn’t until I started therapy that I realised I have any choices in life… about anything. What a screwy way to bring up a kid, eh? Worse – what a screwy way to live nearly two decades of your adult life.

    I am struck by a few things from this conversation:

    1) I have no idea how to communicate. So bad is this that if I ever do find myself in a relationship I will have no idea how to ask for anything or communicate about anything of meaning.

    2) The dissonance between what I value in life, and in human kind, and how I see myself. I agree that every human deserves to be treated with kindness, respect and love. But for some reason, I don’t see myself in this equation.

    3) That perhaps I am not as fully “healed” on the “it’s not my fault” road as I thought. Possibly this is related to 2), I’m not sure.

    Thank you again. I do appreciate the time and effort you’ve put in to helping me with this.

    K
    xoxo

  18. I promise I’m not your therapist in disguise — I’m better than that, in a way, because I am not speaking theoretically. I know these things to be true and workable because I figured them out for myself and started doing them, and they work. They work miracles.

    You do know how to communicate; you’re just not used to doing it. I know you know how because communicating is as natural as breathing … however, you are conditioned to have a taboo around it. Once you start breaking that barrier, you will be astonished at how your life changes. Once you ask people what they meant, you will be amazed at how frequently they have no idea what they just said, and how often you are filtering their responses and actions through your own fearful and defensive lenses.

    I can guarantee that you will not enter into a partner-type relationship until you have learned to do this, because both you and your therapist will know you are not ready until you learn to do it. And I promise, you can learn. It might take a while, but you’ll get there.

  19. You’re right. I can communicate. Or I am learning to. I have used the clarify technique with my a$$hat boss a few times. He is King of the Generalisation and Murky Statement, which is great when you are having conversations that go from “you are not performing” to “I rate you 3.5 out of 4 for performance” in a five minute time frame. Asking for clarification has frequently left him dumstruck – either because he’s surprised I am doing it, or because he has no idea what he’s saying.

    I guess I need to apply the same skill to my real life, though for some reason that seems more difficult.

    Interesting what you say about relationships and readiness. This is something I’ve been contemplating blogging on for a while. Stay tuned.

    Thanks again so much for all your input. 🙂

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