I’ve referred to my mum as my addiction in an earlier post but didn’t elaborate. I will attempt to do so now.
As far back as I can recall I felt a difficulty in my relationship with my mum. I can’t explain it much better, except to say that I always knew it felt more than the common and hyped mother-daughter challenges. As a young child I remember finding mum incredibly hard to relate too, my shouting at her to communicate never felt wrong or rude because that’s what she did to me and I felt was needed to really get through to her. I guess for a long while we were different creatures, from polar universes. I know, for instance that my mum, until out of home and at uni, lead a sheltered life; no boyfriends, drinking, rebellion etc. In comparison my transition at 11 or 12 into a raging hormonal, not afraid to be heard, social, drama queen was most likely a shock. Years of screaming rows, slamming doors, me staying at friends for longer than the usual night away, and lying, ensued. Now I know many will say they have experienced much the same as they entered teenage years but like I said earlier, I come back again to this feeling that something just wasn’t right between mum and I.
At 16 I began A-levels and given my experiences of mum’s already faltering mental health I perhaps rather obviously chose Psychology amongst other subjects to study. I can clearly picture my first lesson, a small classroom with all girls present and a new, young and enthusiastic teacher. I can see the text book in front of me now and the image of the teacher writing the first topic up on the board; “Attachment”. What I learnt in that first lesson and what I consequently went home and devoured alone was an epiphany for me. The classic missing piece of the puzzle.
Later that evening I found myself in the kitchen alone with mum (a situation generally avoided by us both). I tentatively asked mum about my birth, about her experience of having myself and my twin brother. Incredibly there and then mum informed me that actually it hadn’t quite been the birth one would hope for.
I’m a twin. We were induced early as my heart had stopped growing. We were born tiny. Two things followed our birth that for me are significant. I was the smaller twin and so spent time in an incubator, while my brother was deemed OK. Then Mum developed Postpartum Psychosis. Mum was admitted onto the psychiatric ward and has briefly told me things about that time that paint a pretty bleak and uncomfortable place. This is 30 odd years ago, I don’t know how they would react now, but there wasn’t a priority placed on us babies being with our mother, gaining that crucial time for bonding and nurturing. My brother, as the weller twin was allowed to be given at some point to mum for cuddles etc. I was kept with the nurses.
The impact of this tale and having never known such significant stuff was massive for me. My mum and I; our challenges, well it began to make sense. We had not had that crucial time to bond. It was also clear from mum’s re-capturing of this time that her memory is poor and she is clearly still traumatized by her experiences.
I later learnt that my Granny (who was also diagnosed Bipolar) first suffered at the hands of depression when she had her first babies ( my mum and her twin sister – yes Bipolar is not the only thing to run in the family) and my mum also missed out on crucial first moments of mummy time.
Now, whilst I don’t reckon that these experiences for my mum or myself are the everything for us, it’s hard to ignore the significance and I have no doubt that for me this beginning and the subsequent difficulty in relating to mum have impacted me ever since. Whether the familial depression tendency was the cause of the negative birthing experiences or whether the lack of strong attachments made at birth are underlying the depression I do not know. It’s probably a nature vs nurture debate that could be discussed endlessly.
Sadly my mums experience of mental health information and services and medication ever since, dispensed by (male) professionals has never fully acknowledged her trauma caused by this first experience.
My mums mental health has impacted enormously on my relationship with her and vice versa. At my crucial teenage transition my mum began to get depressed and became unable emotionally to give me what I needed and I, as the teen described above, became all to aware that our roles were beginning to reverse; I would become a carer and she my charge (some of the time).
What I do know is that the combination of our poor first moments together and my having to relinquish my chances to be parented to mums Bipolar mean that even now, in my 30’s, I WANT MY MUM. or should that read NEED? It is a desire that I’m constantly and consciously aware of. A lot of the time I’m well versed at swallowing that desire back down (when mum is low) and either gaining support from elsewhere or more usually pretending I’m OK. When mum is well (currently) I fight the urge to contact her all the time, to share my life’s details with her, to jump in the car and go see her. Its like all the times of not having her makes her love and attention when I can get it, a huge giant wave of a drug I want to be intoxicated by. I’m pretty sure this level of feeling about my mum at my age is not matched by most of my friends?……….. And so I say unashamedly and with better understanding than before my mum is my addiction.