Monday, March 15, 2021

An Emotional Cutter's Life - Part II

Perhaps I should start Part II with my definition of "emotional cutter." An emotional cutter and a drama queen share many of the same characteristics, but their motivation for their bizarre behavior is at opposite ends of the spectrum. Whereas a drama queen creates situations in order to call attention to themselves, an emotional cutter may perk along for awhile with everything going well and then BOOM! It happens! An emotional cutter can't stand serenity, so they will rip the scab off the wound just to feel alive. Happiness is a foreign feeling...pain is what we feel comfortable feeling and there's nothing like feeling pain to let yourself know you're still alive. As I teeter on the edge, I poke and prod and make myself miserable and blame myself for all sorts of things. The drama is there like it is with a drama queen, but unlike our "drama queen" cousins, we suffer in silence and many times, not a soul will see our pain.  We're masters at covering it up like a cat working diligently in a litter box.  We skillfully cover that pile of crap we call life and wear a smile while we suffer in silence.

When you're young, you can only hold things in for so long before the pot boils over. And when the pot boiled over in my case, everyone just scratched their heads. Of course, it was much easier to just label me as a "bad kid" at that point, but I wasn't a bad kid! I was never a bad kid. Sure, I always had a bit of a rebel in me, but I wasn't bad. I just always had a mind of my own. Is that a bad thing?  I started doing drugs to dull the pain and I kept doing drugs because being comfortably numb worked. Are you acquainted with being comfortably numb? My comfortably numb almost killed me. My comfortably numb almost tore my heart from my body and locked it in a dark dungeon where no one could hurt me. It was a safe place. I felt nothing. No pain! No fear! No hate! No anger! But no joy or pleasure or love either. Emotional bankruptcy is void of everything and anything, but it's a safe place to hide out until either you're forced back into the land of the living or you perish. 

My mother wasn't what I would say was a warm, nurturing person, She was an only child and I don't think she was equipped to handle difficult situations like raising four children while dealing with an alcoholic husband. I don't think many people are suitably equipped for that task. I think like most people who fall in love, they go into the relationship with unrealistic expectations.  Life is wonderful until reality hits. In my mother's case, I believe when reality hit, it made her angry and bitter. Instead of focusing on what was in front of her, she became encapsulated in a cloud of her own angst. Listening to her talk about life on Walter Street, it was always all about her pain. It was as if my brothers and I didn't exist or our pain was less important than hers. A few times over the years, I'd get frustrated from listening her to her synopsis and I'd remind her as she recounted what we all refer to as "the hornet's nest," that I knew the story too well because I lived it, too. I'd let her rave on about what a son of a bitch my father was and at the end, I'd make her say one nice thing about him. 

She didn't hug me much. I guess she didn't hug any of us very much that I remember. She screamed a lot. Just ask anyone in the neighborhood. Anyone not knowing us would have thought we were the children from Hell. She also loved to whack the bejesus out of all of us, but I remember the last time she tried to do that. I was old enough by then to stick up for myself. When she was about to hit me with something, probably a hairbrush, I grabbed her wrist and I told her not to ever hit me again. The look on her face was priceless. A true Kodak moment! I'm sure if I could ask her about it now, she'd claim she doesn't remember it, but I remember it too well. I think it's when Mildred was born. Mildred is pretty fearless and a force to be reckoned with when needed. From that day on, I did things my way. It seemed to amuse her when she'd tell people that I stopped listening to her when I was about 12 years old. Oh yes! Her attempt to control me was a total failure and that beat of a distant drum she claimed I heard was more like a whole symphony. Her need to control things that were out of control continued, but it no longer affected me until much later in life.

I have to admit that it did my heart good to see her life change when she married my step-father. He treated her well and tried to give her everything she wanted. The struggles she had once faced were behind her and she was finally able to bloom. Yes, her dream of becoming a fashion designer was gone, but instead she became an artist. Living life under totally different circumstances seemed to make all the difference in the world. Yes, she still had those "only child" tendencies, but she didn't scream and wasn't angry all the time. It was nice to see her in a different light. When she and my step-father had first gotten to the point of needing someone to live with them, my adult daughter volunteered. About three weeks after she had moved in, I got a phone call at work from my daughter where she announced to me that she now understood why I did drugs when I was younger. To that lightbulb moment of hers, I first laughed and then, I responded by telling her that her grandmother had mellowed out in her old age and that she wasn't the same person now as she was then. 

9 comments:

  1. That one nice thing? Snap. My mother WAS a drama queen and in her later years an alcoholic drama queen. After a while I told her that I would only listen to her tales of woe if she started with one nice thing that happened. She struggled with that but (I think) it helped us both. A bit.
    Love that call from your daughter...

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    1. I see great minds think alike! I loved the call from my daughter also and what made it even better is that she's never used drugs in her life. For someone who is straight to come to that realization, it takes a lot. And like I said to her my mother mellowed with age. What my daughter got was a watered down version.

      I'm glad you made your mother say something nice. I usually can say something nice about anyone. I did say "usually," but there are exceptions to that rule, i.e., Trumplethinskin

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  2. My childhood was much different from yours but there was plenty of dysfunction. I think many of us from that time period became comfortable numb. As much as it may have hurt us, in ways maybe it saved us too? I'm so sorry for everything you and your siblings had to go through. I am glad that when you could you stopped your mother from beating on you. I'm also glad later on you made your mother say the one nice thing, I wish I would have thought of that. It must be very hard for a martyr to do. In the end, I'm glad your daughter got a tiny glimpse of what you went through.

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  3. So many bad memories. It's something my husband doesn't understand, he had a wonderful childhood. He's quit asking about mine.

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  4. Your daughters jaw must have dropped when you told her that your mother had mellowed.

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  5. families....dysfunctional. my daddy was a great father...my mother? not so much. I wasn't a great mother.,, but I kick ass at grandma and great grandma.

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  6. I am accustomed to being comfortably numb, thankfully I didn't require substances to do it, to add another layer of shit to deal with. Numb is often so much easier than Feeling, especially if the Feelings are overwhelming and not Positive ones. I remember being told it's better to work thru the Feelings, but if they're so intense, then often it renders you non-functional and I don't have the Luxury of not being functional. Numb doesn't mean I don't Feel, it means that I often choose not to. Having difficult Loved Ones in Life that we still Love, but who are very high maintenance, or suffer from Addiction and/or Mental Health Issues, is quite the Balancing Act and Challenge that nobody is really up to and nobody really has control over. We are but a sum of Choices... either ours or someone else's. Love you my Friend... you put it all out there, which takes Courage.

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  7. Hi, Mildred. I understand family dysfunctions, and the worlds of painful, confusing emotions it inflicts on a child. I'm a therapist now, and I very much appreciate your perspective. It's helpful, brave of you to share too.

    Go gently and be good to yourself.

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  8. Hi, Mildred, not sure if my comment took.
    I'm grateful to find your blog - honest, brave stories. I very much understand family dysfunctions and the worlds of confused emotions this inflicts on a young child. We have healing for the rest of our lives. I guess the positive is that we must be very gentle and loving towards ourselves.
    Take care.

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