In previous posts on this blog I have discussed my mothers attempted suicide and the immediate impact it had on me. Please do not misunderstand me, I am not without sympathy. I understand crippling depression and hitting your lowest ebb, being in so much pain that the only way you can see an end to it is to end your life. You are convinced that your loved ones would be better off without you that they will live better lives without you. I get all that. I’ve been there. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t feel ashamed about it. I carry that shame around with me everyday and I shouldn’t have to. I don’t expect my mother to feel shame for her depression or her suicide attempts.
What I am angry about are her expectations of me then and now. My mother expected me to react with the sympathy and empathy you might expect from a close friend. A 13 year old child is not capable of putting their own grief and confusion to one side in order to empathise and support an adult but that is what she wanted me to do and she was bitterly disappointed that my reaction to her suicide was so “selfish”. Self awareness, taking responsibility for her actions and rational reasoning have never been my mother’s strengths and an extremely distressing time now came with added guilt. I felt guilty that I didn’t respond in the way that she wanted me to. I was told I was selfish and demanding and that I had no right to the feelings I had. I was expected to behave and react as if I was her friend. I was expected to sympathise and listen and I wasn’t allowed to be sad or angry or upset. I wasn’t her friend I was her 13 year old daughter.
Even now the emotions that I have that are all tied up with that day are grief and humiliation, desperation and fear. Emotions that I were told were unreasonable and unfair. I had only just started puberty and I had no idea how to deal with any of the things that were happening to me. I was on a rollercoaster. My mother was the rollercoaster and I was dragged along for the ride, she went up and she went down. I had no stability and no emotional resilience because I was trying to deal with things with no adult support and no adult guidance. I was dragged along by someone who was very ill but who had absolutely no regard for my feelings or my well-being.
I understand that mental illness impairs judgement and reasoning but to this day my mother still does not and cannot understand why I feel the way I do and is utterly convinced that I have no right to be upset when she behaves in a certain way.
Responsibility is what is key here for me. If I’ve behaved in a shameful way, which I have done more times than I like to think about, I own it. I did it. It was shit. I feel like shit. I’m sorry. My suicide attempt still makes me feel like shit. That I could have put my kids in the same position that I was in fills me with shame, a shame that I have to live with. People who cannot admit responsibility for their actions have no place in my life. I don’t blame anyone for my shortcomings. I’ve been an adult for too long to blame anyone for what’s gone wrong in my life. Above all I will never expect my children to shoulder the burden or the consequences of my actions.