Mommy Dearest

I used to call her Mommy Dearest after I saw the movie about Joan Crawford. And she called me Christina Darling, just like Joan called her daughter. She even chased me around the house with wire hangers, and we would laugh and laugh and laugh . . .

What my mother did not realize is that I meant it. Because while her public image showed that she loved me and was a model mother, what no one realized is how she rejected and abandoned me emotionally and spiritually, and her lack of caring for my emotions made me want to die.

When people say that people who commit suicide are selfish, I want to punch them in the mouth. Because I felt suicidal all my life, and when it came down to the actual reason that I wanted to end it was that it was too painful existing in my own mind. When someone kills herself, she is trying to tell you what you don’t want to hear; that her soul is in pain, and it feels like no one cares. Being alone physically is one thing; being completely spiritually and emotionally empty is beyond toleration.

You can’t show your emotional/spiritual pain to others, making it impossible to prove. Just like I am incapable of proving that I can’t use my hands any longer to those who are in charge of the purse strings for disability. They can’t measure and quantify my pain, so it doesn’t exist to them.

The only outward symptom of depression and self-hatred and self-doubt is anger. The anger that comes from no one caring about how sick you are inside. I lash out at people when they hurt me. I haven’t yet learned how to use my words since they never worked with the people I grew up with. Experience taught me that only the very strongest of language will produce any results.

That, and lashing out has become my defense mechanism.

Suicide is the last resort. It’s the last message to those who have somehow rejected that person. It says to us, ‘See? I told you I was hurting!’

I know how it feels because my family members will not discuss my emotional pain with me. They don’t like thinking about how abusive my father was to me. They say things like,

‘You were treated no differently than anyone else!’ In other words, they are somewhat acknowledging that they also felt his wrath. But that’s as far as they’ll go. In general, they paint the man as if he had been some kind of fucking saint.

They forget one important difference between them and me; I defended my beliefs and took stands against his tyranny, unlike the rest of them who avoided his rage and just shut it out and pretended that everything was hunky dory.

My mother’s avoidance of my father’s emotional instability was the other reason that I became emotionally damaged. Her dismissal of my cries for help reinforced his messages of anger at me (calling me stupid, for example) She refuses to see anything she finds unpleasant or distasteful. She completely forgot all about her husband’s vile temper and sexist influence on her children. She literally turned her back on me and allowed her alcoholic husband to terrorize her daughter.

Oh, how he terrorized me, in so many ways.

All my life, I wondered how a mother could be so very cruel. It took me 56 years to realize that I never bonded with the woman. When I hugged her (I no longer see or talk to her), I only felt embarrassment and shame and guilt. I never knew why. Until now.

Her love is one-directional. I never felt it coming from her. She takes it, but never gives it back. She hid that side of herself. She exchanged it for financial security.

She “loves” like Lenny loves his rabbits. Like Father Gabriel loves his flock. She loves to have life around her to draw from since she gave up on living a life of her own. She “loves” dogs, so she always has one sitting next to her on the floor or in the backseat of her car. The two of them walk from the couch to the car. She even drives to her mailbox. The dog is just another thing she keeps next to her to make her feel less lonely.

Her dogs are not allowed to be dogs. They’re more like footrests.

Since she always found it too bothersome to talk to me in any way, and getting her to be open and honest about my life before it All Went to Shit, which was at the age of 3, when my baby brother died is all but impossible.

I doubt she remembers, though, because her life went to shit the moment she realized that she had married a Monster.

She discovered that the Monster had a split personality. She had married a wonderful, intelligent, passionate man who became Mr Hyde with the proper mix of chemicals and the pressures of life.

The Monster was terrifying. My mother admitted this to me one time only; when I was nearing the bottom of my emotional existence, and I was beginning to connect the dots.

‘Mom, how can you honestly sit there and tell me that the man was okay? That he was normal?’ He could be a good man, but his rage was horrifying!

‘Well, how do you think I felt? My parents were wonderful, sweet, kind, quiet people; I was terrified when I discovered that my husband had such a horrible temper! I didn’t know how to act; he was so loud.’

Tell me about it.

Bingo. I finally got a puzzle piece of proof that it wasn’t “all in my head.” At 52 years of age, but what the hell. It was only my life that went by unlived. Just like hers, I guess. Because besides breeding, my mother didn’t do anything else at all with her life. (No, mom, shopping doesn’t count.)

The way that my 18-year-old mother decided to deal with her husband’s explosive rage and anger was to pretend that it didn’t exist. She became the Master of Denial.

Dad’s memorial service was the proof of that. The show made me physically sick and I sat outside for the entire thing.

And the death of her son, her only son, her Pride and Joy (since men are so much better than women in the minds of my parents and the world I was born into) made her even more withdrawn. I believe with all my heart that she wishes it had been me who had gone away. She got stuck with three girls. She tried, but never struck the jackpot again.

And I was just a sad reminder.

My 4-year-old self used to ask about heaven and hell with an urgency; I needed to find peace for my own soul; I was scared to death about what had happened to my baby brother. Mom never realized that his death may have affected me, after all, I was just a stupid child. Dad even said so.

I became obsessed with the afterlife and with spirits and the occult since her thoughtless responses of ‘Just believe in God and everything will be okay” didn’t work with me, I began to think that I had the Devil inside me.

She didn’t feel it important to ever actually talk to me. She dressed me up like a little doll and pushed me around in my stroller and took pictures of me but the rest of the time, a potted plant could have taken my spot on her living room floor next to the television. A fake plant, that is, because she killed every live plant that she brought home. Which weren’t many.

And when dad blew up, she threw me under the bus to save herself. She somehow managed to shut out his booming voice that seemed to rattle the windows. I could not.

I was always braced for the force of my father’s rage.

When dad was in a good mood, he was a child. He loved to play tricks on people and tell jokes. He drank a lot and most of the time he was okay. Sometimes he even had the capacity to be fun. He took me places with him. I became his son. He took me fishing and camping and to the auto races.

But since he never grew up (he began drinking at age seven and began working to help pay the bills at age 12 or 13), he didn’t understand how to act around children. He treated me the same way he acted with his drinking buddies, at least when we were camping. He let me drink beer. When I was 10 or 11, he gave me a boiler maker and laughed like crazy when I choked.

He loved to frighten me. I mean, besides keeping me on the edge of my seat from his explosive and unpredictable temper, he thought it highly amusing to tell me horror stories. Once when I was six or seven, I had a friend spend the night. We set up the tent in our back yard and dad came out and told us the most frightening story about people turning into stone; it was one of those cautionary stories designed to scare the shit out of children to keep them in line. It worked with me. I tried to go to sleep that night in the Phoenix heat in my army surplus sleeping bag pulled tight around my neck. I was sweating and could hardly breath, but I finally began to drift off.

Until I jolted upright suddenly in terror; something huge began growling and scratching and shaking the outsides of the tent, right next to our heads; my little friend and I began screaming for our lives until we heard the laughter and dad popped his head into the tent and I couldn’t believe that anyone could be that mean. I clearly recall my terror and how it made me feel like I needed to get out of my body and go away somewhere safe.

The exact same feeling I woke up with nearly every day of my life.

Dad also had a fascination with car accidents and used to rush off anytime he heard of one near our house to photograph it. Once he got a shot of brains on fire on the San Francisco Bay Bridge. The photograph that scared the life out of me was taken just next to our little house in Shoreline. He would set up the movie screen at night and we’d gather around in the dark and watch daddy’s accident images.

At first, the slide didn’t bother me too much. It was a shot of asphalt with a blue piece of cloth covering something about the size of a bowling ball.

‘This was a woman who died in the back of the car. When they pulled her body out, her head fell off and bounced and rolled on the street. That’s her head right there!’

I was traumatized. For years after that, I used to “see” a severed head in our oven whenever I went into the kitchen and forgot to turn on the light, which was not very often. I used to imagine her headless body walking around, trying to find its missing part, but unable to see. . . .

They used to put me in the back seat and take me with them to drive-in theaters to watch Alfred Hitchcock movies. I vividly remember watching the Birds, and the Iron Curtain which was sidelined with a cop movie with a ton of shooting in it.

And I saw things. To this day, I don’t remember what I was seeing in my room in the middle of the night when everyone else was sleeping, but the things I saw around me and over me were vivid and real and I couldn’t talk to anyone about them because no one believed anything I said. And after my last four years of altered states and soul searching, I know for a fact that what we see is not all there is.

I wish my parents had understood that my soul needed attention.

All my life I hated God. My parent’s unwillingness to talk seriously with me about the afterlife gave me a very wrong view of the world and the people in it. All my life, I have been working under the assumption that people are generally evil. I guess I believed it because the bible-thumping technique of “believe or else you’ll go to hell” didn’t work with me and only made me more confused. I denied and hated God for taking my brother, and at the same time I firmly believed that I was evil and would go to hell. I seemed to see only the bad sides of things from early childhood.

And my mother’s technique of ignorance didn’t work, nor did the only life-tools she gave me: television and alcohol.

My obvious disappointment that I could never hide since I am unable to be phony like the rest of them, made her get frustrated with me at Christmas and birthdays when I saw yet another sweater that I’d never wear.

‘Well, I never know what to get you, you’re so picky.’ I wish I had been smart enough to tell her what she should have noticed: that instead of stuffing my stocking with booze, perhaps film or canvas or books or music would have been good choices.

Maybe her unhappiness in the fact that she was stuck with me (instead of her son) drove a wedge between us, maybe she never bothered to bond with me to begin with. Whenever I look at photographs of her holding me as a baby, it’s obvious that I was merely one of her possessions.

She is a poser. She smiles and agrees with everyone (but me) and never gets involved or makes waves. If you ignore stuff long enough, you never have to deal with it.

She avoided me all my life. So she no longer has to deal with me, either.

I have the capacity to forgive the woman, but I will never be able to talk to her again. She has a way of altering facts to fit her version of reality, exactly like the Church does. There is absolutely no way to win any argument with people who are unable to use logic, and she justifies and makes excuses for her bad behavior and twists facts and I become so confused that she begins to make sense.

And she excluded me from my family home, which she has since sold and handed the “proceeds” over to her son-in-law, who she forgives for anything and everything, no matter what it is.

In mom’s mind, everything I do is wrong, and everything her “son” does is absolutely forgivable, after all, “he works soooooooooo hard. . . .”

She has sacrificed me for the last time. I will not give the woman one more chance to make me feel like the trash that she believes I am.

But one thing I need to tell her, another thing she was dead wrong about:

Men still want to sleep with me mom. I’m over 50 now, and I didn’t have to become a millionaire to pay them to do it, either.

Actually, when I look back upon my life, I did everything exactly the opposite of what she did, so, she showed me how not to live my life, just by living hers.

My mother abandoned me time and time again. I have never felt safe or truly loved. I have never felt protected. As I write this, I am in bed, stoned, with my curtains drawn tight. It’s a beautiful summer day, but I am unable to cope with the world sometimes when I get this sad. It comes in waves; mostly I am happy these days, and I am even learning joy. My joy comes from connecting with people, random people; people I meet on my walks around the city. I feel most connected to others who are also in pain, or have had been oppressed in some way. I have an understanding with them.

But when you discover that you never bonded with your own mother, you realize that you really do have good reason to be damaged. I am not letting myself feel guilty or evil for hibernating like I’m doing. I need to find my sense of security before I can face people again.

The reason that I am writing publicly about this is that my voice was silenced by the group of people that is my family. The reason that I don’t go to my mother with this discovery is because she would obviously not support it; she would deny any “wrongdoing” and say something very much like,

‘So typical! Mothers are always being blamed!’

I really am sorry to have to do it this way, but if I don’t get this out of me, it will rot me from the inside. As it is, I have a lot of cleansing to do. . . .

I’ve been trying to communicate with my mother all of my life. I’ve begged, pleaded, screamed for help, but she is deaf to my confusion and pain. My words were ignored; I was ignored. My pain was of no importance to my caregivers; they were causing it, and I was just a tiny young girl of no importance to anyone.

And my voice became silenced. All of my forms of communication were blocked. I lost my love for dancing and simply quit after 15 years, and although I used to sing all the time as a girl and even hoped to sing professionally, I lost my love to sing as well, especially in front of other people. I just gave away or lost all my music. What is the point of singing, when you feel nothing but pain inside?

I became unable to paint or do photography. I became incapable of expressing my true self in any way whatsoever.

I turned to writing as my last resort to connect with other human beings, since I was never socialized in any good way, and I’ve never been able to tell people how I feel. I assume that they will laugh at me, or not listen, or simply reject me and walk away.

This is no joke; when I am in a crowd and I hear laughter, I “know” that people are laughing at me. I’ve always felt this way. Why shouldn’t I when my own mother and sisters gossip about me as if we were still in high school? They are the mean girls who make themselves feel better by ripping me apart.

And I know how easy it is to slide into that way of thinking and being; I was right there with them for many years.

It never helped that I was a ballerina and have “perfect” posture. I look like a confident “normal” person on the outside (some would say I look like a snob), but it looks quite a bit different here on the inside.

I have become the canary in the global coalmine, and as much as I didn’t want the job, I am forced to talk about how fragile and how resilient the human psyche is, and how it can be derailed without proper guidance and care.

I am in the process of rewiring my brain; I am creating new synapses. I am trying to destroy the circuits that were malformed; the thought processes that send my thoughts back to how hopeless everything is.

I’m still desperately searching for just a small place somewhere on this globe in which I can feel safe and protected and loved. But I no longer feel helpless because I know for a fact that good people exist, and that I can be one of them.

Just not around them.


NEXT: My uninformed decisions and how they led to worse outcomes

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