My mother stood washing the dishes in the kitchen sink one day in the early 1970’s. My older sister was about four years old. My older brother was just old enough to be able to crawl out of his crib on his own.
Mom felt a strong tug on her pant leg and without looking, asked my brother what he wanted. She heard nothing from him, but then felt the tug again, this time more insistently, so she turned to look down at him, but he wasn’t there. He wasn’t even in the room. No one was, but her.
Later that evening she told my father what had happened and he replied that maybe it was time to have another child. She also felt it was time, and they agreed that whoever it was, clearly was impatient to get here.
And yes, I’ve had issues with impatience ever since.
This event, combined with the religion we adhered to growing up, gave my parents the impression that I must be someone very special. When it was discovered that I had an extremely high IQ, it only seemed to confirm that idea in my parent’s minds.
I was told for as long as I can remember that I was very special, and that I must be here on the planet to do big wonderful things.
And then it happened…
My mother was raised in a very affluent household and as a result, they could afford immunizations when she was a child. My father’s family was quite poor. Before anyone knew what it was, my mother developed Asperger’s. This made life in our religion extremely difficult. There were many, many expectations placed on her, including the idea that we must be perfect in all these activities and rules in order to go to Heaven.
My father’s home was abusive, not just from his father, but he was also severely physically abused by his older siblings as well. It’s a terrible thing for a child to grow up knowing that the family they rely on for their support and comfort, doesn’t seem to want or care for them.
Then he met my mother. She was young and smart and beautiful. She grew to respect his intelligence and his wisdom and she admired his ambition. He was putting himself through college to get a degree in business and computer programming back in the 1960’s. My father fell madly in love with her and has worked his whole life to take care of her.
She’s the only person he’s ever really felt that loved him and cared for him.
So imagine his horror when one day, after many months of my mother suffering from depression, he comes to find out that she is suicidal. The pressure of being the perfect wife, mother, and church member was too much. She couldn’t do it anymore and she wanted to die. The Asperger’s made it very difficult for her to see life in any other way. She saw herself as a miserable failure. Her children weren’t absolutely perfect, and this caused her extreme anxiety. She was living up to standards that should have never been set for a man or woman, and her inability to live up to them caused her extreme anxiety.
So at the risk of losing the one person that loved him more than anyone, my father panicked. He sat us children down when I was just 8 years old and told us that our mother was very sick, and that because we weren’t acting perfect, it was making her sicker, and if we didn’t stop being kids and start being perfect and behaving perfect… mom was going to leave and never come back.
I understand now, the fear he must have been feeling. He LIVES for my mother… for her affection and her approval.
I was too young to see it at the time, or at least too young to consciously understand what was going on, because in my mind, all I heard was…
“But Jesus is the only perfect person, and the only person who CAN be perfect… but you’re telling me I have to be perfect in order to be loved by my mom… and if mom doesn’t love me, and she goes away because I’m not perfect, I’m sure dad won’t love me, either.”
From that moment on, I tried to be perfect. I tried with everything in my soul, my heart, and my mind to be absolutely perfect. I wanted to be loved, and now I understood that I had to earn love. I had to earn it with perfection. It took many years for this idea to evolve in my subconscious, but eventually I became extremely critical of myself, which led to being critical of everyone else. I tried to control everything going on around me as if being in control, I could make things go perfectly, and if they did, I would somehow earn a small piece of love.
But even when good things did happen for me, or good things came into my life, I was excited and elated, but secretly thinking I had somehow cheated the system. I had somehow gotten this goodness dishonestly… because I KNEW how imperfect I was. I knew I had negative thoughts, and I knew I did bad things from time to time. I wasn’t perfect, so I didn’t really deserve anything good… but I desperately wanted good things.
I desperately wanted to DESERVE them so I could enjoy them without reservation.
But I never could.
I always had the sinking feeling anytime something good happened for me, that sooner or later the “powers that be” would “figure it out” that I didn’t deserve this wonderful thing and it would be taken away from me.
So I couldn’t even enjoy the goodness or the sweetness of life when it came.
I learned how to play the game.
I learned how to pretend.
I learned how to pretend that I was good and perfect and make people want to give me good things, good opportunities… but I sabotaged everything sooner or later.
I learned how to lie.
A person can go only so long without love.
It’s not that I wasn’t loved, I was. I just didn’t feel loved. This script from that fateful day oh so many years ago has been running like a background program in the hard drive of my mind for decades now.
Whatever happened to being special?
The only reconciliation I could make out of all of this, is that I was God’s cruel joke. I was gifted with intellect, then placed in a church that suppresses women (sees them as nothing more than a life-support system for their uterus). I was given all kinds of talents and abilities.
Then I was cursed.
Everything I tried to do to bring goodness into my life began to backfire, and it backfired in a huge way the day my first husband came into it. I married a bi-polar former Combat Veteran Marine Sergeant with PTSD and sociopathic tendencies (at the very least, full-blown Narcissistic Personality Disorder). Combine this with a brand new baby girl as soon as we got married, and you have a recipe for absolute hell.
I spent so many years wanting to die… just envisioning the freedom we would have if I just put myself and my daughter in a car and drove us off the highest cliff.
Fifteen years of absolute suffering finally seemed to come to an end when he was killed in a freak motorcycle accident.
But the hell inside lives on.
On top of all this, my poor father grew up in such a critical household, that criticism was all he knew how to give. Everything I did was picked apart… every decision I made, questioned and grilled a hundred times until I just wanted to give up.
And then, the constant emotional abuse from my first husband… on a daily basis…
He told me I was mentally ill. I had a black heart. I was crazy. I was worthless. I was a terrible mom. I was a fraud. I could do or accomplish anything in my life. He wasn’t impressed with my capabilities to do anything.
Day after day after day…
Beating it into my head that not only was I worthless, I wasn’t even a human being.
I started hating him.
I hated him so much I shocked myself one day with the realization that killing him would bring me no remorse.
I understood then why victims kill their abusers. I understood all… too… well.
On some levels I was shocked at what I had become. On other levels, it felt like life was finally handing me what I apparently deserved.
I had failed.
I had failed to be perfect.
And now I was reaping the natural punishment.
I deserved it somehow.
I wanted so much to go back to being special… to go back to being someone who had wonderful things to offer the planet.
I just couldn’t bring myself to have enough confidence to do much of anything.
It was all I could do, really… just to tread water enough to keep myself alive.
But I was dead inside.
I had been dead for years.
I didn’t feel like a real person.
I didn’t even feel like I was a part of the human race.
Regular humans were loved by God just because they’re his children. They make mistakes all the time, and yet they had comfortable lives financially, loving relationships with their spouses and children… they still got to enjoy the good things of life.
Other people had forgiveness at work in their lives.
Everyone but me.
For me, there was no forgiveness.
My requirement was perfection, and I failed. Simple as that.
“Be ye therefore perfect, even as my Father which is in Heaven is perfect.”
Every time I went to church, I heard this in my mind.
Is it any wonder I began hating church as much as I hated my ex-husband?
Eventually I hated everyone.
I hated them for having what I so desperately wanted.
The experience of actually doing some things that turned out right.
Nothing I ever did was right.
The very act of breathing I was probably doing wrong.
The pressure was just too much to bear any longer.
I wanted to die.
I wanted the suffering to end.
I didn’t just want to be taken out of my body, because there was no joy in that, either.
I wanted to cease to exist.
Only total and complete destruction and annihilation of my soul would end it.
So now what?
Year after year has gone by.
I divorced myself from the ex-husband and then he died.
I divorced myself from the church. I want NOTHING to do with that religion anymore. I do NOT believe what it teaches women about themselves.
How do I go through life now without feeling like all this just made me mentally ill somehow?
I have looked for opportunities to feel special again… wanted again… loved again… but they elude me.
In the end I find myself flip-flopping from feeling special to feeling worthless. There never seems to be anything in between.
And these feelings don’t seem to go away.
Am I really mentally ill?
Will I ever be whole?
Will I ever know who I really am?
Am I special or am I worthless?
Am I anything at all?
Will the hell that goes on in my mind ever end?