[CN: dysfunctional families, skeevy assholes]
For the last 15 years of my life, if anyone asked me what my biggest fear was I would have said: “Ending up like my mother.”
Part of this fear has come true.
My mom is bipolar. My mom is suicidal. My mom is toxic.
These things have been my mental shorthand for “crazy” and “instinctive distrust” and “turmoil” and “pain” and “unsettling” and “quietly despairing for my future” for years.
But I am bipolar. I have been suicidal.
And guess what? I am still not my mother.
The bipolar disorder and the anxiety and the melancholy of suicidal despair do not a toxic asshole make. I know this in context of everybody but myself and my mother, but families are complicated and I am harder on myself than anyone else. So much of this is tangled in my head and so many of the painful instances from my adolescence need to be unraveled and dissected to determine what factor played the biggest role in which particular traumatic event, but looking back I’ve always tended more towards self-destruction than lashing out. Which, while not good exactly, it does make it a little easier to sleep at night knowing that I’ve never threatened to kill myself if someone didn’t conform to my behavioural dictates. I’ve never spewed vitriolic bile at a 15 year old and wondered why she never wanted to come home. I’ve never cut myself and told my daughter it was her fault. I’ve never brought strange men home and refused to speak up when they leered at my teenaged daughter because my need for male attention and validation trumped my need to keep my daughter safe. I’ve never prioritized buying booze over buying groceries.
My fear of ending up just like my mother was less about the turmoil and instability of “insanity” than I’d assumed. I’ve actually lived with those things for most of my life. I just don’t want to hurt anybody. I don’t want to be that selfish. I don’t want to be like her.
Best of all, my new Insider Information(tm) does not in any way obligate me to try and build a bridge of understanding and healing between us. To swallow my disquiet at the thought of speaking to her again and try to establish a connection based on our shared disorder.
I have searched my feelings. I know this to be true.
It’s exhilarating to realize that I am in the process of facing fear that has haunted me since I was a teenager and coming out intact.