Turn the other cheek?

I haven’t spoken to my mother since the day before Easter.  The story doesn’t need to be rehashed at this point.  Suffice it to say, that in the midst of a conversation in which I was trying to convince her that two hospitalizable manic episodes in two years meant she should really take better care of herself, and that she should listen to her kids when we recommend courses of action, she told me I had no idea what it meant to be depressed, and to suffer.

I wasn’t angry at her for saying it– she was coming down, still, from a manic episode, and couldn’t be held fully responsible for her words.  But I was heartbroken, because it brought home to me that her underlying narcisissm is so strong that she would likely refuse to fully accept her bipolar (1) illness, and refuse to take all the medication, therapeutic and other steps necessary to assure that her illness was (more) under control– because doing so would mean having to admit in the first place that there was something wrong with her.  She couldn’t focus on anything beyond her conception of self, and that necessarily impairs (fatally impairs?) her ability to manage the overlying illness.  And that?  It’s just bad for my own mental health, so bad it’s almost like I’m anaphylactic allergic.  I feel my throat start to close around her, sometimes.

The fact that she gave me the damned genetic craziness that makes me more than qualified to say what it means to suffer from depression is in most ways beside the point.  The point is, the genetic relation isn’t enough to bring her focus outside herself.  She’s always on Planet Mom.  Not Planet Earth, which is shared with everyone else, including her kids.  So I decided that if I was not going to keep getting pushed off Earth and back onto Planet BLC, I needed to shut her off.

It’s been mostly great.  I wish I could say I missed talking to her, but I don’t.  Instead, I have enjoyed speaking with friends and with family who understand was social interaction is.  Inter-action.  Not lecturing, or talking non-stop.  I have always known I would need to resume some kind of relationship with her, because I would feel guilty not at least doing what’s feasible to assure her health and well-being as she gets older.  But I have not looked forward to speaking to her, because I knew, I just knew, in my heart, that when we spoke to each other again, her interpretation of why we hadn’t spoken would be totally from Mom, and not Earth.

– – – –

I picked up the phone tonight, and it was her.  She’d called a few weeks ago, late, while I still was at work, and the BH spoke to her, then told me what he thought about all of it.  He was right, and I was right, too.  Her interpretation of why we hadn’t spoken had nothing to do with what really happened, and instead, was based utterly on some other interpretation of things– that never happened.  She didn’t even remember the reality of our last conversation.  So I let her talk, as she told me all about all the things that had changed since last we spoke, all her new activities and medications and new grand schemes to rule the world.  She spoke for twenty minutes, telling me all about herself, trying to prove to me why I should talk to her again, I guess.

But it didn’t.  Because in those twenty minutes, there was one thing she didn’t say.

“How are you?”

I’ll deal with her again– it has to be done, and she’s too sick, or too old, or too… something to change.  But in turning the other cheek, I’m just allowing myself to be slapped again.  I hope my time off has allowed me to grow some cast iron cheeks and a cast iron heart, though I know that it hasn’t, since I’m writing this ‘oh poor me’ post to myself.

I’m breathing, Mom.  Thank you for asking.

– – – – –

Nobody’s perfect.  When I’m inside my hypomania, I withdraw and ignore my loved ones, especially my poor, patient, beloved Better Half, because I’m so intent on what (often legitimately creative) obsession is at work inside my brain.  But when I snap out of it, or slip on the mushy banana peel that’s all that’s left of my brain when I’m done, I try to come to awareness again, and make amends, apologize, reach out and socialize, inter-act again.  I try to say,  “I’m sorry I’ve been out of touch.  I apologize.  It had nothing to do with you, I was just stuck in my head again.  Please, tell me what’s going on with you.”

– – – –

So, here goes.   I’m sorry I’ve been out of touch.  I apologize.  It had nothing to do with you, I was just stuck in my head again.  Please, tell me what’s going on with you.

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22 thoughts on “Turn the other cheek?

  1. Mike Golch

    Life sucks,than the next day shows up and you do it all over again.
    We alll have our things that give us grief. I think that is one reason we got into blogging as a way to vent that stuff that would consume us if we did not.
    this being said we love the ones that are part of our lives even if they give us grief and they frustrate us. Parents and Kids do that.It is part of life. Just remember you are a parent and someon’s kid as well.
    I hope that you have a great day.

    Mike Golchs last blog post..A Prayer Request

    Reply
  2. CTJen

    I missed you and am glad you’re feeling better and back to your wonderful bloggy self. Not much going on for me. Same old same, really, so you didn’t miss anything. 😉

    Reply
  3. Irene

    You must draw a line even though you are talking about a sick person. There seems to be more going on with your mother than just the bipolar issue and possibly she has a personality disorder as well. Either way, you should not be the victim of the consequences of it and I would stay away from her as much as possible and not expect in any way any sort of normal interaction. It sounds as though she is not capable of that and you would be highly disappointed. Protect yourself and be happy that you have not inherited this gene.

    Irenes last blog post..A Dye Job.

    Reply
  4. Phil

    it’s funny because that sounds exactly like my mom, if we don’t talk for awhile because of an argument or whatever, she’s oblivious to it, or if I’ve had to pick up the pieces because of some offhanded comment she made in mixed company with my soon to be ex-inlaws (outlaws?) and I call her on it asking her to apologize she reacts as if it never happened and I’m making stories up. when my soon to be ex-wife was pregnant with our first child, there were months that went by where the only reason it came up was because I mentioned it to her to give her an update and she’d ask yet again, when the due date was…WTF? your first grandchild and you can’t even remember the month that he’s due to come in to this world?

    and she’s definitely on her own planet too, telling my 17 year old half sister that I was such a great student and she should be more like me because I was a straight A student, and I told my sister that yeah I got A’s but I also got a fair amount of B’s and the only thing keeping my out of the Honor Society was my D in geometry, my D in physics, and my D in chemistry…

    I caught my mom the other day taking her medication (at least she’s cognizant of her problem) with a glass of wine (WTF?)

    I just want you to know that I completely understand what you’re going through

    Reply
  5. cathy

    I relate to your experience with your mom, too. I envy you the extended communication break you’ve had, though.

    I can’t decide if I should call my mom to check in or not. It’s been a couple of weeks since our last conversation/argument. Every conversation is painful. And she never calls me. I am the one who maintains the “relationship.”

    She isn’t interested in my life except when it affords her an opportunity to judge or seethe about something outside of herself.

    cathys last blog post..in the kitchen

    Reply
  6. g

    My heart aches for you.
    You are doing the right thing for your health to distance yourself from her. But of course it’s understandable that you feel guilt and sadness about it.
    Your description of Planet Earth vs. Planet Mom is spot on.
    I have a mom who is slipping into agoraphobia, and I am powerless to help her – she doesn’t want help. It’s frightening, sad, and yet…it’s her choice.

    gs last blog post..Tarpon Springs – Whirled Peas

    Reply
  7. poet with a day job

    This is a truly amazing post, BLC – thank you for sharing it. Sometimes I just wish it were as easy as cutting my mother out, my father, enabler, too, for that matter. And during those times when I do not speak to her, I don’t sweat it – I barely think about it. Until I do. And then, I begin longing for something – maybe for something that never actually existed, and never will. And then I think about myself, and all the ways in which I, who inherited her earth, have changed so that I can be an active part of society. And I just don’t understand why, if I made that choice, why can’t she?

    poet with a day jobs last blog post..Put your boots on…

    Reply
  8. Janet

    You know, I had a better conversation with you at Michelle’s then I do with most of my friends (Michelle excepted), because while they might ask me how I am, in reality it’s just politeness so they can ramble on about themselves.

    Janets last blog post..modern / primitive

    Reply
  9. LD

    My mother’s birthday is tomorrow. She would have been 84. She died 14 years ago, as a result of her various diseases, none of which she managed well. She did not have a BP diagnosis, although I believe that was clearly the case. Her behavior was a lot like your mother’s.

    I still “poor me” sometimes.

    Reply
  10. Jenn @ Juggling Life

    Dealing with a mentally ill family member is so tough. On the one hand you know much of their behavior is out of their control; on the other hand you have to protect yourself. The only advice I can think of is to follow your instincts and your husband’s advice–it sounds like he has a good grasp of what you need.

    Welcome back!

    Reply
  11. Cheri @ Blog This Mom!

    “She’s always on Planet Mom.” i have that mom, although mine is from a different side of that planet than yours. After decades of decline in her mental health while her inappropriate (and sometimes dangerous) behavior escalated, I moved to my current house over three years ago and left no forwarding address or telephone number.

    There is a time for turning the other cheek, and there is a time for setting healthy boundaries so you have cheeks left to turn.

    Reply
  12. Michelle

    I love that you are online more these days! We all need our time away but its better when I hear from you!

    I am sorry to hear that the simple words “How are you?” did not happen for you. Sometimes it is so hard to realize we aren’t even getting the smallest of things. Your perspective on it all sounds healthy, and strong. We all need to slip away from others, into ourselves or our own hyper focus at times, but recognizing like you do to acknowledge it is such a great thing!

    I know you will, but always remember to take care of you. I hope that without waiting around for it someday you get the question asked, “How are YOU?” from those that you most need to hear it from.

    Michelles last blog post..My Whirlwind

    Reply
  13. zeghsy

    i can only hope and pray that your relationship with your mother doesn’t become my relationship with my daughter. i know in my head i would feel horrible that i was doing that to her. well, the sane part. as soon as i found out, i told her (she’s only 11 now) and we found someone she trusted to talk to (who happens to have the same situation — her mother and sister are bi-polar, she’s not). but she loves me and tries to understand and help me when she can.

    zeghsys last blog post..which classic 1930’s actress are you?

    Reply
  14. Tara

    Hello BLC,
    I feel compelled to reply to your blog post as I can identify with it so much, unfortunately all I can offer you is my two cents worth. So, I shall ramble on in an attempt to be coherent. Your Mom sounds like my Mom only sans the bipolar diagnosis. However, my Mom more than richly makes up for this in an undiagnosed personality disorder. I shall not get into the details of this, or I could quickly fill the annals of a psychiatry index with ease…
    And, horrors of horrors, I have returned from Oz to stay with my parents while I move from one city to another (theirs); don’t ask, my twin sister is pregnant with her second child and I feel compelled (guilted) to be closer and a more accessible sister, daughter, aunt. But this has not been nor ever will be easy, as I have spent the last five years away from my parents and have gone many months (as you have) not speaking to the “antichrist” (laughs here), my Mother.
    But in the case of delusional self-absorption, stubborness, lack of insight, irrationality and self-righteousness I have found the best thing to do is to smile, (if you can, I can’t), agree (curtly and without being genuine; observant Mother’s know this; it hurts, that’s why you do it) and then to walk away. Believe or not, your mental health is sometimes more important than Mom’s, she made her decision a long time ago and based on this, ideally, so should you…
    My revenge is blogging about mental illness. “You said that about yourself on the internet?” Yes Mom, mental illness affects many (including you) and blogging about it is both healing and cathartic, (not that you would know about catharsis..) and educational to many, so I will continue to do this both for myself and others. But Mom is too selfish to think of others….
    So, in a nutshell, don’t feel guilty, carry on as they say, be diplomatic, hope for the best and remember all things happen for a reason, even, horrors, the genetic inheritence of our forebears and perhaps with a begrudging thought, we wouldn’t be who we are today without them, although now I am just waxing poetic and trying to cheer you up with philanthropic and self-indulgent words. So be kind to them, but also be kind to yourself.

    Taras last blog post..The Kiss

    Reply
  15. Alesia

    Oh, honey. How I do get this. I told my mother last week that Owen may not be allergic to peanuts anymore (ALERT! HUGE LIFE CHANGE!), and she looked right through me and started talking about herself. WTF? All I can do is sigh. And say, “It’s her, not me.” And surround myself with people who do listen. It’s not in her DNA to be a mother. It just isn’t.

    Reply

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