Note: I wrote this letter last Friday, on the anniversary of my mother’s death. It is a reflection my of my rawest feelings. It does not depict my entire life or everything I think. It is just what I was feeling that morning, what I was struggling with. Maybe putting it out there will help someone. Mainly it will help me to feel better in the knowledge that I am strong enough to put this letter out there somewhere, that I am strong enough to admit to my faults and my struggles. No one should have to hide who they really are and the demons that they are fighting – we are all screwed up and we all have our battles. Let’s be honest about them. I cannot say how much that helps.
A Letter to my Mother
Today is the 3rd of February 2017. This time last year I was in England and was so distracted by all of the other things going on in my life that I barely noticed what date it was (except that I may have used it as an excuse to skype my new boyfriend). I didn’t miss you this time last year. I wasn’t angry at you. I thought about you for a moment in the same way I might have thought about an old school mate who I hadn’t seen for a while. I was ok this time last year.
Today marks five years since the day that you died. I am not ok today.
You probably think that I am missing you but that’s not it. I am angry. I am hurt. More than anything I think it is unfair that I never got to tell you how much you hurt me. You just got to die and I didn’t. I had to keep living and surviving with all of the scars that you had inflicted on my soul – you just got to check out. You never knew the full extent of what you did. You never had to atone. I have had to pay for your faults. I pay for them every day with a piece of my own happiness.
I think I may have stopped believing in God last year so a letter to a dead person might be pointless because I don’t know if I believe that anyone is listening. Not you. Not God. But I had to write it anyway. I need you to know what you did. I need you to know how I have rebuilt myself – slowly, stumbling, picking up the pieces and putting them back wherever they would go even if they didn’t fit quite right. I need to say all of these things because I need someone to know and to understand. To the world I look like a whiny spoilt brat. I look like a privileged rich white girl who has never really faced hardship. That is true to some extent. We were never poor. I have always had whatever material thing that I wanted. I have lived in nice houses with housekeepers and small dogs. Dad is paying for me to go to university so I don’t have to worry about student loans or about getting a part time job. I am so, so privileged that I never feel that I can really justify my depression, my damage, my pain or my anger.
I wish more people would acknowledge that pain isn’t relative. Your personal pain always feel like the worst pain in the world, even when your rationality knows that there are people starving in Africa who have it so much worse. They don’t have food or running water or electricity or internet. They have much bigger things to worry about that a mum who didn’t love them. I know that – but I still hurt every day. I am struggling so much to just talk myself out of bed right now.
I want to tell you what you did to me. Not what you actually did in the moment – you know that bit, you were there – but how it has affected me. What I live with every day because of you.
Every time you got drunk and screamed at me, telling me I was worthless bitch, a terrible daughter, and that I could never be loved – in those moments, you stole a piece of me. Children need to be told that they are worthy to believe it. I was made to believe that I was the worst person on earth and that no one could ever love me, not even the one person who was biologically programmed to. My mother. I have had to build my own self esteem. I have had to tell myself over and over again that I am worth something. No one tells me what good they see in me. I have to search every day for the good that I can see in myself. But I don’t always believe myself. After all, what real value do you have if no one else can see it? On the days that I cannot bring myself to believe in my self-love, I have got pretty good at faking it.
I don’t believe anyone when they say that they love me. How could they love me? You didn’t. You told me in explicit detail every flaw I had and why those faults made me worthless, unlovable, vile. I don’t believe that my partner loves me. Mostly I just think that he tolerates me. I can’t handle it when he asks me to stop doing something or brings up an issue in our relationship. That isn’t his fault – he’s being normal. He is never deliberately cruel to me. Still, sometimes he asks me to speak more softly when I get carried away and raise my voice loud enough to wake the neighbours. I break in those moments. My heart sinks and I crumble, turning my body into myself as if I could disappear. I wish that I could disappear. I feel as if I have failed, as if nothing that I do can ever be good enough. I can never be enough. My faults make me impossible to love. Who could love a girl who sometimes talks to loudly, who makes ditzy comments when she’s watching TV, whose memory is like a sieve, whose face is so chubby? Who could really, truly want me? You made me believe that I am a person people put up with until someone worthy comes along. I am a place holder. You were waiting for your perfect daughter who could save you from yourself. I could never be her but you had to put up with me in the meantime.
Every time my partner and I fight, even about something small, I am sure that he has stopped loving me. I am sure that love can end in a second. You must have loved me once, when exactly did that change? We had a fight last night, which makes today even worse. There is no one to hold me today. No one to bring me a cup of tea and ask me if I am ok. No one to text me to check if I have managed to put clothes on yet. No one to say that your mother was wrong. He slept on the couch last night so I even woke up alone. None of my feelings are his fault. They are your fault. He is good and kind and loving in so many ways. When we fight, it’s just in the way that all couples fight. He sleeps on the couch so he can watch TV and calm down. He is normal and he can openly talk about it when I have hurt him (I’m imperfect so that’s unavoidable). I am the one who cannot handle criticism, who feels that she is worthless even if all she does is spill some tea. I work so hard every day to be pleasant and nice and to go out of my way for the people that I love, hoping that I am in some way earning their love in return.
Working on your relationships is healthy. Constantly fearing that everyone around you will stop loving you if you make even the slightest mistake is not.
Sometimes, when I am sad, I consider killing myself. Who would miss me? I haven’t tried for a long time, not after I spent a few nights with a knife in my hand a few years ago. That’s progress, I guess. None of that progress is thanks to you.
I have gotten better in so many ways since you died and I am proud of that fact. I have had to be so strong. No one knows how strong I have had to be, how strong I am, because I cry so easily. The fact that I am alive and in a healthy relationship and am passing university is proof of the fact that I am strong. Hell, the fact that I manage to get out of bed to keep trying for one more day is proof that I am strong. Can I tell you what I have had to? I don’t think anyone sees any of this except me.
You left me with no self-esteem. You stole my self-confidence a little piece at a time. The confidence that I have is thanks to me and me alone. I look for the good in myself every day. I tell myself that I am worthy. I was able to walk into my first day of university last year and start a conversation with the head of the department. I was able to ask my boyfriend on our first date. I am able to get up every day and work hard and try for something. It is so incredibly difficult because I carry all of your words with me all of the time but I get out of bed and I keep going. I have kept going now for five years. I think I get to be proud of that.
No one understands how hard I find life because of you. Everyone expects me to just get over it all and be normal. It’s hard to be normal when you have never lived a normal life. I spent my childhood sheltering my little brother from the screaming matches you would start with Dad. I had to live with you, a drunk who was addicted to prescription medication and was so co-dependent that she used her thirteen year old as her support system and then turned on her when she failed. I have finally realised that you emotional manipulated and verbally abused me. I have realised that my childhood was more traumatic than I have allowed myself to admit. That was such a positive step in my journey. It means that I am allowed to feel down and to struggle sometimes. Understanding why I am how I am and recognizing that it is ok, that anyone in my position would be scarred and damaged and broken – that has started me healing. Just a little bit.
Some days I am even ok for whole days at a time now. There are days where I am actually happy, confident and able to smile. I am proud of that. Proud of myself for achieving that. I just wish that my world didn’t come crashing down so easily and that I didn’t feel like I am the one person in the world who has to be perfect all of the time.
I can’t get out of bed yet. Getting up means that I have to wash my hair and figure out what I can wear that I might look somewhat nice in. It means dealing with the fight from last night and trying to be a good partner by squashing the insecurities that go a step too far and taking responsibility for my faults whilst being strong enough to highlight his. It means being mature. It means plastering a smile on my face when I pick up my partner’s daughter later and pretending that I am fine. It means using all my strength to survive another day – a day when your effect on me feels at its worst.
Today is the 3rd of February 2017. Today is a crap day. I am so angry at you today. A part of me thinks that I am stuck in this dark hole forever and that the days will all meld into each other in sorrow for the rest of my life.
But you have been gone long enough for there to be just a glimmer of hope that tomorrow might be better.
I may yet survive you.