My very distinct recollection of my trauma memory with my mother was when I was 10 years old. I now understand that it goes back even further, as a deep feminine wound within my maternal lineage, but my 10-year-old mind specifically recalls that day. The day that I shared with my mother that her former boyfriend molested me, sexually violating my sacredness and tampering with my innocence. I wasn’t prepared for her response. As any child would have assumed, I was expecting to receive an overwhelming amount of support and validation for having the courage to speak up, but instead I was greeted with a cascade of emotions. I sat there frozen, as I watched my mother weep…but she wasn’t weeping for me, she was weeping for the young girl inside of her who has concealed her own story of sexual abuse. Years of holding it in secrecy had just been shattered. Unbeknownst to me, I had activated a deep trauma wound just by sharing my truth. I didn’t know what to do at that moment. The only other time I had witnessed my mother so emotional was when she learned that her father died. I didn’t speak. I just sat there, then came detailed information that no 10-year-old is ever prepared to receive. I didn’t know what to do. I could no longer feel my own emotions because my mother’s were blaring- like an automatic response to a fire drill, reminding me of the steps we were conditioned to take in the case of a fire. Stop, drop, and roll, but I was frozen. No one prepared me on how to handle trauma. I consumed my mother’s emotions, which was the beginning of years of a toxic cycle, an imbalance of rerouting my emotional responses to assist in her emotional processing. I essentially learned how to become emotionally numb. In that moment, my need for emotional healing was placed on hold and would not receive proper attention until years later during a series of activations through my spiritual awakening journey. In the process of retrieving past memories, healing my emotional center, and restoring my emotional switchboard, I learned that I assumed the role of teacher in the form of a parent, and coached my mother through episodes of emotional dysregulation as she simply did not have healthy tools to cope with her emotions. Her attempts at coping manifested through toxic relationships with men and self-medicating.
It was painful to observe, especially during my formative years when I needed a model, someone to guide me through my rites of passage and initiation into womanhood. I was fortunate to have my grandmother for guidance, but I always longed for an intimate exchange, emotional support and nurturing from my mother. As I got older, her behaviors got worse. I struggled with how to articulate my feelings and convey deep pain that I was experiencing. I didn’t share my trauma with other family members. I was too afraid to say anything to someone else and not sure that I could handle the response. As an adult I learned that my mother had shared with some members of the family, but no one talked to me about my trauma. I was left to deal with it the best way I knew how, and that was by not dealing with it at all. I created a facade and vowed to never consider myself a victim. I didn’t want anyone’s sympathy or pity. This facade sheltered me and I felt safe. There were times when I wanted it all to end. I even had thoughts that if my mother were not alive, then I would no longer consume her pain and could truly experience peace… then I battled extreme guilt for giving attention to such negative thoughts. This was during the time when I was mentally exhausted. I remember receiving phone calls about my mother being found incoherent, unconscious, and driving under the influence (drug of choice- abuse of prescription medication). I continued to encounter situations where she repeatedly violated my boundaries by asking me to bail her out.
I was pregnant with my first son (who later was stillborn) and my mother came to me one morning with a request. I’ll never forget that day. It was a sunny morning, as I was home from college for the summer. She seemed so nervous and paranoid. I was an expert in reading her non-verbal body language. By that time her addiction was out of control. She had been in multiple car accidents and her job was monitoring her behavior closely. She was preparing to go to work and woke me up to ask if I would pee in a cup because she was afraid that she would be asked to give a urine sample at work that day. Once again, I was in a position where I had to be responsible and make a decision. Do I use this as an opportunity to set clear boundaries, or save my mother from potentially losing her job? She was a master manipulator and I felt trapped in her web of manipulation every single time. I wonder if she ever considered how I was feeling in those moments, or was she selfishly focused on getting her needs met. There she was again, the 10-year-old girl having to unexpectedly make a decision about how to best support her mother. She didn’t know how to say no, she was too afraid of disappointing her mother. She knew she was being violated, but agreed anyway. She got up and peed in a cup to save her mother from herself.
Throughout the years I continued to endure emotional abuse in the form of deprivation of nurturing that I desperately needed from my mother. I also gained wisdom in how to take back my power. One of the most empowering experiences occurred when I gathered the strength to set clear boundaries regarding my home. My mother was living with my maternal grandmother, helping care for her and when my grandmother made her transition, my mother needed a place to stay. I extended an offer for her to live with me and my family. I was also beginning the process of purchasing my own home. A few months later I was actively searching and found a home that I absolutely loved, it was perfect. Again, I extended an offer for my mother to move with us. During the process of assigning bedrooms, I initially told her that she could have one of the larger rooms. I had two young sons at the time, but after reflecting on the decision and putting their needs first, I told my mother that she would have to take the smaller room. This conversation sparked another bout of emotional manipulation and projection toward me and my husband. Now I was no longer the sole recipient of her abuse and it was impacting my immediate family. A major argument ensued and I told my mother that she had to find another option, as this would not work and I would not tolerate attempts to cause division within my immediate family. For the first time I was able to prioritize my emotional well-being and create emotional balance within myself. I was brave and unwavering in my decision. I felt empowered. My response was received by my mother with silence and distance, but I was also aware that she didn’t have the skills to navigate conflict. Despite not wanting to be the bigger person, I took the initiative to engage in a conversation and provide feedback regarding our exchange. Her defense mechanism was to weaponize her relationship with my children and I wasn’t having that.
My journey to emotional healing and establishing a healthy relationship with my mother feels like an insurmountable feat. The lessons don’t appear to be reciprocal, as I continue to learn and grow, while my mother remains stuck and unhealed. At this point in our relationship, I anticipate and expect certain responses from her. It’s like a choreographed routine, I can cue the exact emotional response or insert a manipulative action. Lately my ancestors have been speaking to me by illuminating how my maternal wound impacts my relationships with women and how my desire to have deeper, genuine connections are blocked. I never recognized how my wound manifests by “ghosting,” distancing myself from relationships when I perceive there is some sort of injustice or that I have been slighted in anyway. It has become a coping mechanism that I’ve subconsciously perfected. I have skills at “ghosting.” I am learning to abandon the narrative of not wanting to be the bigger person and embracing opportunities to be vulnerable and express empathy and compassion. I am also being accountable and reaching out to women who I value in my life, and repairing relationships. I have come to terms with the fact that I might never have the relationship that I desire with my mother, but I am committed to doing my work to heal this deep ancestral wound that has plagued my maternal lineage for generations. I recognize that I agreed to carry out this mission and I know that my ancestors have faith that I will succeed. I serve as a vessel, healing many generations before me and many generations to come. In the process, I am receiving the nurturing that I need to tap into and own my divine feminine power.