A Journey Through the Emotionally Absent Mother Class, #3 EAM Class Check-in

by Kristin Mitchener

Read the first blogs in this series here:
An Introduction to the Emotionally Absent Mother Class Blog Post Series
A Journey Through the Emotionally Absent Mother Class, #1 Pre-EAM
A Journey Through the Emotionally Absent Mother Class, First Class – Readings

I don’t feel like I’m doing well. I suffer from depression as it is, so my behavior since the class started and my normal behavior aren’t far from each other. Not showering, not changing clothes, not completing much of anything. Finding escape mechanisms that are unhealthy. All of the same behavior, just for a longer period of time, for four days instead of two days. Is my depression being triggered by the emotions and memories I’m meeting, for the first time? Realizations to process for the first time?

After the first class I’m reminded of the time my mother called me the B-word, the first and only time to her credit. I feel it’s necessary to say that. For her. My mother called me plenty of other things but never curse words, even though she did curse when yelling at me.

I must have been around 11 years old. We were at the apartment complex where we lived, and we were leaving to go somewhere. It was raining and my mother was trying to get my sisters in the car without them getting wet. The first realization I have is that she wanted my sisters not to get wet. What about me? Yes, my sisters were younger but they weren’t babies. They could get in the car by themselves. I opened the back-passenger door to get inside. At the same time one of my younger sisters, can’t remember which one, was working on getting into the front seat. And my mother starts yelling in this raspy, nasty voice, “Help your little sister!” I was confused and my mind started racing quickly on what to do. Help them how? It’s raining on everyone. “Help your sister get in the car, Bitch!” I was stunned.

My mother and my eyes locked the millisecond after she uttered that word in this weird dissociative trance, almost. Her face told me she was surprised and regretting she had just said that.

Spoiler alert: We all got in the car unscathed. I usually sat in the front seat of the car, but for whatever reason I sat in the backseat that day. I was so relieved that I didn’t have to sit right next to her. The chastising would have continued. I don’t remember the car ride, just the relief of being away from her. She never apologized.

So why does such an insignificant memory make me not change my clothes for four days? What is that pain? A wise friend would tell me, “Name your pain.” Can I put a name on it? Does giving it a name lead to my healing? Thinking back to that day in the rain, which I have at many different points in my life, for what reasons I’m not sure. It was a memorable moment. But I see that I could have waited for my sister to get in the car and then shut the door for her. My question is, “Did I deserve any of what happened, the yelling to begin with, and the frustrations of my mother, so much so that she would call me a bitch?” Should I give her grace? Maybe she was having a rough day as a single mom.

These are the moments I question my experience. My head says I was being a selfish, bad older sister. My heart says two things. First, “Those are the exact words your mother would utter to you repeatedly.” The second thing my heart would say is, “You were 11 years old. You were just getting in the car like your mother told you, like you’d done hundreds of times before.”

Another question comes to mind. Was I expected to help my sister previously get in the car? Answer: No, I wasn’t in charge of getting my sister into the car. Shouldn’t that be my mother’s job anyways? Thinking back on it, she wasn’t getting wet. She was already fully in the car.

I’m still left wondering if I deserved that moment. Was it even a moment? Am I making it a bigger deal than it is? Maybe if it was an isolated incidence, but my mother yelled and spoke mean to me throughout my childhood. I was never being good enough. That’s what I remember feeling most—I’m not good enough and I have no worth. Who cares if I’m even here?

And when I say childhood I mean from the age of four or five. My earliest memories are of hearing those words and feeling icky feelings. Now I think my anger is coming out and I’m blaming my mother for false things. But that’s what I remember. Those feelings are still with me.

So, I guess the point of all of this is to say, “Yes, not showering for four days when you’re processing moments like this is not unwarranted. It’s being human and digesting your truth. This is how I’m digesting. But I showered today so that’s good. I’m here, I’m writing when I could be taking advantage of unhealthy coping mechanisms. My go-to coping mechanism is lack of self-care. That may not make sense but the way I cope is to self-sabotage. Even though it makes me feel worse, that’s how I cope. By not taking care of myself. Another pain to name.

No names come to mind, so I’ll continue my journey through the Emotionally Absent Mothers class until I discover them.

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