Enmeshment


“Mom.  Please don’t cut my hair!”  I whine, squirming on the black folding chair.

She jabs me with scissors as a sharp reminder to sit up straight while she cuts my already short hair. Screams fade to muffled cries as I realize, I have to do as she says.

I mature to be the compliant daughter, always willing to please my mom.  I was after all, I thought, responsible for her happiness.

As Auntie and I grow closer, I drop my stiff armor and believe Auntie when says, “You were a child.  It was never your fault.  Never.”  Last night I told Auntie that at first I didn’t think it was bad enough, but she assured me, it was plenty bad enough.

Today in therapy, we discussed the fiery anger I feel burning deep in my spirit, threatening to engulf my life.    After returning home I began watching Keeping up with the Kardashians.  Chloe put Kendal’s hair in the sink to wash out the Smurf blue hair dye.  My mind flashes back twenty-four years.  Mom has washed my hair in the sink and now walks behind me down the basement steps, resting her hand on top of the towel wrapped around my head.  I feel sharp scissors poke the back of my neck.  I always thought it was normal until now.  It wasn’t that bad.  When you misbehave it is okay to have scissors at your neck, my child mind thought.  She was just reminding me to sit still.  I wasn’t sitting still enough.

The more mentally ill she became the more inwardly pensive and quietly angry I grew.  At times I read and wrote, completely leaving my body and experiencing an imaginary world.  When I wrote, I could create what I yearned for in real life.  I could vent. When I read, I could inhabit someone else’s world for a while.  I could be a happy normal kid.

In middle school and high school, I slipped on my running shoes and grew stronger and stronger with each stride, trying desperately to escape the dysfunction of my life.  There were no family vacations.  There were no movie nights.  There were no moments where we all cuddled up on the couch, like families in those sticky sweet sitcoms.

My mom’s birthday was Sunday.  She turned 64.  I have never consciously tried to remember my mom or dad’s birthday.  It is an afterthought.  Childhood was supposed to have been a time of exploration, joy, safety, and unconditional love.  Having a childhood marred by unhappiness and cruelty robs the spirit, leaves it drained and longing for fulfillment.  As adults, we abuse drugs, sex, our bodies, other people, desperately reaching for fulfillment.

Adult survivors of child abuse have a choice to remain close to their abuser or to form a separate life.  Up until August, my life and moms have been enmeshed.  As I untangle myself from the enmeshment, I start to see myself in a more positive, clear light.

Mom’s birthday came and went.  I moved our celebration to Saturday.  As I grow, heal, and change, it becomes more difficult to stand in the presence of a woman who terrorized me.  The little girl deep inside, sobs and balls up her little fists, and sees a crying, raging out-of-control mom.  She feels sad for her mom, more responsible for her mom’s happiness then her own.  The adult BDL leads the little girl up the basement steps, out the door.  The adult looks into the little girl’s green eyes and tells her, “You are not responsible.”  The little girl’s eyes struggle to meet the adult’s eyes.  There is a piece of the little girl’s heart which still loves her mom.  So the dance continues.

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