My beginning; the missing piece of the puzzle

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 commonly described ‘mother-daughter’ challenges.

As a young child I remember finding mum incredibly hard to relate to. I recall a knowing that she didn’t feel in control and don’t understand stand my feelings. We often communicated by shouting and it never felt wrong or rude; that’s what she did to me. I felt it 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 uni, lead a sheltered life. In comparison, my transition at 11 into a raging hormonal, not afraid to be heard, rebellious, social, drama queen was most likely a shock. Years of screaming rows, slamming doors, lying, and me staying at friends for longer than the usual  night away, 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; 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. I can clearly picture my first lesson, a small classroom of girls 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’.

When later that day, I found myself in the kitchen alone with mum (a situation generally avoided by us both), I tentatively asked mum about my birth. Incredibly, there and then, mum informed me, quite matter of factly, that it had been far from 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. Firstly; I was the smaller twin and so spent time in an incubator, while my brother was deemed medically OK. Secondly; Mum developed Postpartum Psychosis and was committed onto the psychiatric ward. Even today, mum has only shared briefly, things about that time that paint a pretty bleak and uncomfortable picture. Not least the bleakness is caused by mum unable to recall; I think a mixture of her illness, the meds, and the trauma.

This is 30 odd years ago. 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 points to mum for cuddles etc. I was kept with the nurses.

The impact of this tale and having never known such significant stuff, till I asked, was massive for me. My mum and I; our challenges, well it all 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 she has been 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 – see the pattern!) and so my mum also missed out on crucial first moments of her mummy’s 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. My crucial teenage transition at 11 coincided with my mum’s mental health deteriorating. Her depressions were deep and long and she 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 because I can’t rely on it. I’ve become an expert at seeking out ‘maternal’ support from elsewhere. Most often I just decide to be ‘ok’. Sometimes I’m pretending I’m OK. But what my early beginnings instilled in me was a protective behaviour; ‘if in doubt, rely on yourself. You can’t rely on your mum’. That may sound harsh and it’s certainly not always a healthy approach. But my awareness of it means I’ve worked hard in my 30’s to try different approaches.

Because, we are never too old to try, to learn, to be aware and to gain some understanding. I no longer hold any hard feelings towards my mum. The bipolar, yes. My mum, no. And I’ve created ways to help myself so I don’t crash quite so hard when she can’t be what I need. We can be incredibly resilient, us humans, but it takes some love and some hard-work.

4 thoughts on “My beginning; the missing piece of the puzzle

  1. How old are you? Why don’t you post, briefly and in a nutshell why you think you’re so obsessed with your mother… Sorry but I just don’t understand. I had a shit childhood and was separated from my mum after my parents’ divorce so I was in a way obsessed with her for years, but not the type of obsession you seem to describe. Please enlighten me! 😉

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    1. Thanks, gledwood for your comment.
      I am 31 years old. Am i obsessed with my mother? I myself have referred to my relationship with her as an addiction so i guess I’ll concede that there’s something in that. I would say that there is much more in my life but i don’t choose to share this. My blog is about my mum, her mental health and myself because that’s been a life experience of mine that i have found the hardest to live through.I’ve always been interested in people, relationships and the psychology underpinning that and so i give it all alot of thought.
      Hope this answers your question.

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  2. I really enjoyed reading this and think you’ve done a wonderful job of addressing why you feel the way you feel about your relationship with your Mum. My mother had a very traumatic birth with me and had PND and probably with depression and anxiety but has never had a medical diagnosis. She has always found it hard to express affection towards me, and I’m probably not very good at receiving it either, but having a child myself has helped heal things between us as she is very affectionate to my son. It’s nice to see that she can be happy and show love. I’m really enjoying reading your blog, you’re incredibly brave to share your inner most thoughts and feelings on here. It must be very cathartic which can only be a good thing. Thanks xx

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    1. Hi Jess
      Thanks so much. I’m glad that you find my ramblings interesting and helpful. When i first started it was after reading pieces by others and discovering others had lived through similar situations and it made me feel so good to know that.
      So lovely to hear that you are able to see your mum in a new light and through her joy of your son.
      Take care x

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