I started writing an article about being too quick to medicate children. I often wonder about the damage done to my developing mind from all the medications given to me as a child (some prescribed for me some for my mother).
I find myself questioning how much of my anxiety can be attributed to taking six different antidepressants and mood stabilizers before age eight. I know my body suffered, and I’m sure my mind did too. My thoughts drift to the sleeping pills my mom had me take when I’d get out of bed to ask for a book or glass of water while I was lying awake at three o’ clock in the morning.
But every time I started writing, I’d stop after a few sentences. My thoughts kept coming back to my mother. Somehow I felt like if I wrote this piece, she’d win.
That’s when it hit me, a realization that hadn’t been that far under the surface, a worry creeping in any time I lose my temper. I was still allowing myself to be a victim of her verbal abuse even though she’s been out of my life for five years.
My mother suffered from substance addiction as far back as I can remember. A side effect of this is that she carried her addiction over to me by teaching me her ways to cope, by self-medicating. It started with her giving me Klonopin to sleep when I was seven during a string of nightmares I was having; then it eventually transitioned into her buying me a pack of cigarettes when I was twelve after I came home crying that my best friend was giving me the silent treatment. But, honestly, all that was in the background, and not something I truly understood until I was away from her. It wasn’t until I was older that I realized all these people coming in and out of the house were buying drugs.
The thing that overshadowed all the substances was the fact that I was her verbal punching bag when she was having an off moment, which happened a lot. I still freak out about going to the doctor; a symptom of being part of her ploy to get her hands on prescription medications. Honestly, only once I had become a mother did I realize the parts in me that needed fixing. I never learned any proper coping technics. My tools were rage and substances.
The truth was I had spent most of my childhood terrified of my mother. The unpredictability of how dark things could get at any moment made me constantly feel on edge. Like all aspects of life, there are peaks, and there are valleys. It wasn’t bad all the time. Some moments were good even. She certainly was able to maintain an image of normalcy when she was out in the world. The facade she put on made me feel trapped, causing me to feel like I had imagined it all. But like clockwork, after a small stretch of relatively smooth sailing, the moment I started not to dread coming home after school, everything would take a turn. Each time worse than the previous. I still find myself to this day on edge, waiting for everything to turn to shit.
I worry myself sick with small details, hoping that if I stay on top of all those things I won’t let life slip through my hands like my mother did, even though the rational part of my brain tells me that’s not the case. In those early childhood years when I was just building my family, I was terrified I’d be the reason it would all break someday. Then I didn’t really understand why. Only recently was I able to put it all together. Every choice, every action has a ripple effect. I understand that nineteen years of emotional abuse is going to have an effect on me. The environment that my mother created directly influenced certain tendencies in my behavior, certain habits (both good and bad), and fears—even my goals and why I work hard to build a healthy homestead.
I learned what not to do.
For a long time any time a glimmer of her would reveal itself to me I’d immediately reject it. It didn’t matter if it was liking tea or losing my temper. When I’m angry, that’s when I remind myself of her the most, which only adds anxiety and self-disdain to the mix. I started noting behaviors of mine, paying attention to why. I didn’t want to give any acknowledgment of how she influenced my behavior, or how I treat myself, or the guilt I feel when I eat a piece of bread. I wanted nothing to do with her, which included the parts of me tied to her.
I have a wonderful family now; we have a beautiful life, and even though things get a little messy, and raising kids doesn’t come with a manual, everyone feels safe and happy and loved, which is honestly all I can hope.
I realize that holding myself to inhuman standards to avoid any similarity to my mother isn’t healthy, or fair to me. For my sake, I have to love and nurture all of me, even the parts that are like her. Because even though I wouldn’t be who I am today without her; I am not my mother.