DD – Conflicted Feelings of Death

Dear Diary,

I don’t know….

woman in black long sleeved cardigan

Photo by rawpixel.com

So… Mom is officially dying.  The extended family has been in touch, and my Mom has a few weeks to MAYBE 2 months to live.

Damn you, Mom!! Damn you for dying. The “easy way out”, instead of living and learning to be a better person, she’s dying. When I first heard, I was filled with rage and frustration and anger.  How dare she?! How dare she fucking die and never say sorry…. and dunno, after all my emotional-ness, my pain pouring out of me, my crying in frustration, last night and this morning, i’m just…. NOTHING.

 

I feel…. *sigh* conflicted

I am still angry that she was never the mother we kids deserved, that she hurt me, teased me, controlled me, manipulated me, and mocked me.

I am still hurting from those wounds she inflicted.

I am still in disbelief that she either pretends (or actually believes?) she did none of these things; that she was/ is a perfect mom.

I am still deeply sad that I did not have a real mom, and that I will never get the chance to have that…. even to try for it…. because she’s dying, and then there will be nothing of her left on this world to make a mother-daughter relationship from.

I am still feeling unloved that she never made an attempt to reach out to me, except now, to tell my sister and I that she is on her death bed…

I am still frustrated that she could not… did not… HAS not apologized for anything.

I am still sorrowful that she could not tell us her real feelings, speak her real self— and instead we see forever this stubborn hard woman, right until the very end… where is her softness? where is her regret?

I am still enraged that I was “under the spell” for so long, and believed her put-downs of me, and that today I suffer still from those wounds, those hateful words in my mind, the ideas that I am not good enough— this struggle I fight to find my own voice.

.

.

low angle photography of trees

Photo by Todd Trapani 

_________________

And then there’s THE OTHER FEELINGS–

  • Sadness, that she is suffering and in pain. No-one should suffer, even those who have hurt me… No human ought suffer.
  • Hope, that she finds peace and understanding.
  • Wonder, when she dies, do you think she will realize the pain and suffering her narcissism did to us (her children)?
  • Relief, that finally I can be free.
  • More sadness— to that when I am free, I will be completely parentless and I will raise my children without anyone from my family around them, but me.
  • Sorrow, that we did have a few happy moments, and these will just be flickers of memory.
  • Accomplishment, that I have done so much without her, all the things she said I would never be able to do.
  • Worry, that maybe she will somehow recover from her terminal illness after all and then I have made myself vulnerable again, only to be hurt even more?
  • Concern, on how my conflicted feelings may affect those around me.
  • Emptiness, a sense of knowing I am alone now.

 

I do not understand entirely how I can feel so much at the same time.

 

My therapist said I should write a FAREWELL.  For closure. For peace.  And I am stumped at what to say.  I am not a hateful person, and yeh, i know, at times my blogs may suggest otherwise…. I just hurt…. and I feel so lost right now.  I cannot lie to her as a farewell, I want to speak the truth, but I am all but empty.

A Word on Trauma

girl staring at the sky

Photo by Skitterphoto

Many, oh so many autistics experience childhood trauma. We rarely talk about it… and i think that’s a combination of it being a private affair, and that it -well- it HURTS to remember the past.

Yet sometimes it’s important to “go there”, such as when you’re with your counsellor(s), or for an illustrative point…


 

As it gets closer to Christmas, I am reminded ever more of things my parents said to me. Yes, the happier times…. but also the darker times too. This festive period brings up emotions… and memories.  I think that is the same for most people. Holidays make us remember and reflect.

When I, probably like many of us neurodiverse folk, reflect on those things from MY childhood, on closer inspection, I see a lot of it was rather hurtful, inappropriate and ‘traumatic’. So, why go there now? Well, because I think today holds an opportunity for an illustrative point.

 

To hurt another is rarely an act of joy. It comes from a place of hurt. 

*

 

Trauma holds teachings

Traumatic stuff in our lives sucks.  But trauma is universally human.  It streaks across and throughout different cultures, lifestyles, language, backgrounds. Everybody hurts, sometimes (Thanx REM). We really do – everyone has emotional pain… and everyone (even those among you who outwardly claim to have “a perfect childhood”). Trauma is painful and sad and horrible, but it also holds a space for learning.

How?

It was not the act itself that can help you.  That was a yucky thing, and I am sorry it happened to you.  It is the remembering and ‘reauthoring’ of the narrative that can help you now. As an adult, we have the ability to apply critical thinking to our past pains. This is where the learning can happen.

See, hurtful things are just that: HURTFUL.  They are hurtful to the person they are directed at, but also hurtful at the person doing the hurting. To hurt another is rarely an act of joy. It comes from a place of hurt.

 

“No-one will ever love you if…”

  • An example: As a child I used to suck my thumb, have plushie toys and sleep with a blanket. I was still doing this a into my early teenage years.  So, my father used to always tell me: NO-ONE WILL LOVE YOU IF YOU SUCK YOUR THUMB and NO-ONE WILL EVER LOVE YOU IF YOU CARRY AROUND CHILDISH THINGS.

No-one will love me? Ouch. Hurtful!

Now, how is it that such information passed between father and daughter could be a kind act? a loving action? a thoughtful parenting duty? Isn’t it *more likely* that my father was hurting inside himself? Isn’t it more likely that he had deep emotional pain?

Remember, to hurt others is to be hurting yourself.

If you think about the example with a critical mind, isn’t it far more possible that my father was hurting emotionally… and the essence of the attack at me (no-one will love you) (being childish) was the very thing that caused his hurt, perhaps in his childhood?

Certainly, I am not saying that childhood trauma ought be forgotten and forgiven instantly over a notion of “it wasn’t their fault because they were hurting too”, but it is something to consider. Re-assessing trauma in this way helps provide a cognitive release.

Being autistic means we tend to get stuck in these unfulfilling thought-loops, or see things completely black and white.  In autistic reactionary thinking, if father (authority) thinks daughter (subordinate) is unloveable, father must be true/ good/ right, and daughter must be false/ bad/ wrong. With a critical thinking hat on, as an adult, we can see that NO, that was not what really happened here. Father may be an authority at the time, but that does not make everything he says true.  Re-asses, review and release!

Looking at things this way helps shifts the problem too.  It wasn’t your fault. Father may have named you, “THE UNLOVEABLE CHILD”, but that is not true. That is not real. You were never unloveable, or unable to be loved.  It was them, the hurting parent.

 


She made it my problem, but it was not my hurt to carry.

“Don’t do that… you’re embarrassing me”

  • Another example: I was the sort of child who got stuck in her own head, and because I had few friends, I used to make things up.  One of my most favourite self-created games was to find a group of pavers/ tiles and imagine I was making music by standing on different paver stones. Yes, I am aware we now have arcade and computer games that do this very thing, but as a child such entertainment did not exist, and for me, at the time, it was about listening to the sounds of the pavers as I stood on them, and they would “ding” in my head, like a piano dings as you tap a key.  So, I would walk between pavers in an unusual pattern, humming to myself until I found a tune of the pavers that I liked, and could make them make music. I continued to make music through imaginary games and objects until– well, I still do it now! Throughout my childhood, my mum would see me doing this with the pavers, sometimes in public and sometimes in private and say: STOP THAT IMMEDIATELY. YOU ARE EMBARRASSING ME and DON’T DO THAT. WHY CAN’T YOU JUST ACT NORMAL.

 

I am embarrassing? Ouch. Hurtful!

I am NOT normal? Cutting…. Deeply cutting….

These were things my mother continued to say to me, right up until I was an adult – and the year I decided to cut her out of my life.  I was embarrassing her.  My actions, to her, were embarrassing. I was not normal, and God forbid anyone found out!

Applying the cognitive gaze again (and this one is harder for me to do, so bare with me as I try this…): How is it that such information passed between mother and daughter could be a kind act? To say your child is an embarrassment; is that a loving action? A thoughtful parenting duty? Isn’t it *more likely* that my mother was hurting inside herself? Isn’t it more likely that she had deep emotional pain?

To be embarrassed is, according to the dictionary, “to feel awkward, self-conscious, or ashamed”.  How can a child make you feel that, unless you’re just not comfortable in your own skin?

Yep, I am aware, kids do the strangest things.. but they are children! Children who are growing, children who are learning, children who are experimenting with their world… As parents/ adults, we can forget we were all a child once. All children are innocent! If a child is “being embarrassing”, instead of judging that child, why not consider what the child may need? Could the child be wanting something? Could they be trying to communicate with you? Could it be that… its not about you, Mum!? Also, an autistic child is not being a bad child: they are being an autistic child.

My mother was embarrassed by me, ashamed of me — and she told me that regularly as a child and as an adult.  This made me feel like I was not good enough and bad.  I felt I was defective because how could it be that I was a good and right and proper child if my mother is always embarrassed by me? My mother felt I was not normal, and she was ashamed that the secret would get out! So, led by her fear and her hurt, she struck out at me. She made it my problem, but it was not my hurt to carry.

It wasn’t my fault. Mother may have named me, “THE EMBARRASSING CHILD”, but that is not true. That is not real. I was never embarrassing. It was them, the hurting parent.

*


Letting Go, or at least, trying to

It’s hard, that’s for sure — whether working with a therapist, or on your own, to let go of the pain, the hurt, the anger.

I learned a while back that letting go doesn’t mean forgetting.  Nor does it mean that you accept what happened. Letting go is more about YOU, not about them.  They were the ones who through there unresolved (held, and not let go) hurt, HURT you.  They hurt you.  But as you keep hold on to all the shitty memories, you’re also holding on to them hurting you over and over.  They hurt you in the past, so let that go.  They are not hurting you now, but as you hold so tightly to the memory of them hurting you, you’re allowing them to keep hurting you in the present.

I know, it sounds self-helpy, but hear me out– just try letting go.  Just now, right now, for this tiny moment, try letting go.  Take that feeling of the hurt, the feeling of the anger and pain, and breathe it out.  Breathe it so far out that the hurt is across the horizon.  Let it go.  Sure, that trauma happened, and yeh it sucked, and yeh it wasn’t your fault… but all this hurt? Just try to let it go.  Breathe it out, breathe it away from you, far away. You don’t need to carry it any more ❤

 

Bless.

 

Depression and Getting Shit Done

“Every man has his secret sorrows which the world knows not; and often times we call that man ‘cold’ when he is only sad.” ― Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

black and white woman girl sitting

Photo by Gratisography 

 

It has been hard to write recently due to the pervasive sadness that has moved back into my world.  I find it difficult to explain what happens, but let me try.  My depression is like a quiet underlying existence in my life.  It becomes a challenge to manage because it is predictably unpredictable.  When I feel good, I know it will be short lived, for I know the cloud of depression will return– but when?– I do not know.  And so, I try, like most people I guess, to enjoy my happier times and embrace the world and get shit done… but then suddenly the cloud returns and envelopes me.  When the sadness is here, my ability to complete tasks, think more coherently and be a better person in the world– that shrinks, and I’m left this shell of my past self, putting on a smile, lifting on foot in front of the other to walk and force myself to go out, go shopping, get out of bed, or– WRITE.

 

The Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders (DSM5) explains depression is a mood disorder whereby the individual experiences “either (1) depressed mood or (2) loss of interest or pleasure.  Additionally, individuals suffer five or more of the following symptoms during the same 2-week period:

1. Depressed mood most of the day, nearly every day.
2. Markedly diminished interest or pleasure in all, or almost all, activities most of the day, nearly every day.
3. Significant weight loss when not dieting or weight gain, or decrease or increase in appetite nearly every day.
4. A slowing down of thought and a reduction of physical movement (observable by others, not merely subjective feelings of restlessness or being slowed down).
5. Fatigue or loss of energy nearly every day.
6. Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt nearly every day.
7. Diminished ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness, nearly every day.
8. Recurrent thoughts of death, recurrent suicidal ideation without a specific plan, or a suicide attempt or a specific plan for committing suicide.

To receive a diagnosis of depression, these symptoms must cause the individual clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning. The symptoms must also not be a result of substance abuse or another medical condition”.

(Wow, that’s just depressing to read. Thanks DSM!!)



I could write a long lament here about things that suck about depression, but I think it’s kind of self-explanatory, especially after that DSM descriptor! What I will do here is give you some tips and ideas on “Getting Shit Done” when you’re depressed.  May it’ll help you (or me?) today.

 

Tips to get shit done

1. AIM FOR COMPLETION, NOT PERFECTION

Ok, so you have something that needs to get done.  It’s a high-priority task. You have work due, you want to pick up a creative activity, you need to buy toilet paper at the store, or perhaps you just need to eat something healthy today.  Plan to complete the ONE task, and “just do it”.  This is not about perfection; it’s about completion.

With depression, focus becomes harder.  Decision-making becomes harder.  And worst of all, your critical voice becomes louder. Accept that you may not perform to your best, but give yourself a little leeway. You’re depressed today, and that means completion is good enough.

  • Aim to complete one task today, and give yourself permission to feel a tiny bit of pride over that.

I understand it’s hard to do that, because you feel all judgmental about yourself.  I know that when you’re not depressed, you’re like a wildfire of activity– you get shit done! However, today you are depressed. Today is where you are right now. So just for now, let it be.  Just for now, do one task to completion.  Just for now, breathe and be okay with completions.  Yaye, you did a task.  That’s really great!

 

2. GIVE YOURSELF SOME STRUCTURE

While most of us autistics like structure and routine anyway, when we get depressed, all that structure can go out the window.  Like, for example, I used to get up every morning between 8-9am and make myself breakfast, listen to music and dance in the kitchen, before attending to my day of tasks ahead.  Now I’m in bed till 11, 12 or 1pm… sometimes 2pm and I often forget about breakfast, don’t listen to music or dance, start-and-not-finish tasks, or just find myself staring blankly at the wall for hours on end without noticing the time pass.

Now, I’m NOT saying that you must now get up at 8-9am to have breakfast and alike, because that’s my schedule.  What I mean is that perhaps you should aim for getting up at the earliest end of your current wake-up cycle (for me, this would be 11am). Set your alarm clock, and put a plan into effect. Follow this plan, and substitute your own wake-up time and tasks, as indicated by the square ([…]) brackets.

  • Today, I will get up [at 11am], make and eat breakfast, then complete my ONE task [write the blog].  After that, I will give myself permission to feel a tiny bit of pride because I completed the one task I really wanted to do today.

Losing structure creates additional problems in many autistics; our routine is in place because it reduces anxiety, acts as self-soothing, and having this plan helps us to be motivated and ‘get shit done’. When we know what to expect from the day, it is easier to manage our emotions associated with the upcoming activities.

 

3. MAKE NATURE A FOCUS

There is a lot of research (studies here, here, here to name a few) into how spending time in nature can alleviate or reduce feelings of sadness and depression.

I know some of you hate the outdoors.  I am not suggesting you go camping today, or sunbake.  All I am suggesting is that you spend a little time in nature. Here are some ideas on how you might bring nature into focus today:

  • Go for a short, 10-15 minute stroll, passing trees and shrubs.  If you like, it can be a stroll to your local cafe, to buy a coffee/ tea.  Perhaps touch the leaves as you pass, or smell a flower.
  • Find a comfortable place outdoors and take 10 minutes to just watch the insects or birds.  Look for ants or spiders or bees; magpies, crows, cockatoos, parrots– whichever you like and is around you.  Watch them go about their day, think about them, what they might be thinking or doing, and reflect on how they behave.
  • Take a 10 minutes to walk through your garden and pluck 3 weeds.  Should you feel inspired to weed some more, or snip the hedge, do so.  Allow yourself to be with your garden.
  • If you have an indoor garden or plants, take 10 minutes with your plant.  Look at it, explore its leaves, the colour, shape, and feeling of it. Consider if it needs any support (water; sunshine; bug sprays; harvesting; pruning). Take some time to give it what it needs…
  • For winter or rainy parts of the world, take some time to sit on your balcony, or at an open window and watch the outside.  Listen to the rain, look at the clouds, observe the trees in the wind, feel the coldness on your breath and skin.  Take 5-10 minutes to look, listen and ‘be’ with nature.

It seems the breathing-in of fresh air, movement of the body, reflections of the ebb and flow of the seasons, on how nature and trees continue growing in spite of obstacles, and the experience of being in/ around natural environments is calming to the mind and balancing to mood.

 

nature-tree-green-pine.jpg

Photo by Tookapic

 

There’s just 3 possible ideas to help you get better focused and motivated when you are experiencing a downward turn. I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling quite positive having just finished writing this blog… and having reflected on those 3 tips.  I’m now going to make another coffee and look at some of the other work I need to do.  Maybe I can complete TWO things today? *hopeful*

Take care everyone.

As usual, comments are welcome. Much love.