I really did have nothing nice to say for a few days. Earlier this week on an already extremely shitty day I received a phone call from my mother that really trashed any chance of me mentally keeping it together enough to discuss anything of relevance. At least without trashing her mercilessly or falling apart completely in emotional crisis.
When my phone first rang, in true Ms. Mango style, I let it go to voicemail (my mother has a special ringtone as does everyone else important, if its the school, Mr. Mango, My GPs office or my grandparents I answer right away if I can). Not only does screening my calls mean I don’t have to run for the phone or worry about interrupting whatever important thing I was doing (at the time it was laying on a tennis ball…there was no fast getting up) but especially when it comes to my mother it helps me gauge by her message what kind of conversation I’m going to be stuck dealing with.
Her voice was shaky and she sounded tired and out of it, she also stated it was an emergency that I get back to her by the end of the day, Monday (it was Wednesday….I checked). Now most of you would be thinking “oh my God, you mean woman, call your Mom back right now, she’s upset you heartless child!” while if I had told Mr. Mango about the message, he would have had one single response…..
I have a hard time talking about her on here because I don’t want to feel like I’m bashing the woman who gave me life, loved me like no other could and has been there through a lot of the rough patches in my earlier years… in her own way. I also know that unless you’ve struggled with a parent with untreated issues like mental health problems, substance abuse, gas lighting and extreme bouts or narcissism it can be very hard for an outside audience to understand why I’d even need to act or vent the way I do about her and our relationship.
Over the last year since my newer diagnosis have added up, my mother and I’s relationship has actually gotten better. Mainly because she’s getting a little more help and she’s feeling a little more clear, making it safe for the grandchildren to visit again (will not go into details, but it was for a while, an unsafe environment and there were a couple accidents leading up to us not letting them babysit the kids). Or I guess I should say, mainly because she’s finally decided to forgive us for putting the kids well-being first above hers, above ours and above any issues or tension that it may (and did) cause. If there’s anyone that can hold a grudge, it’s that woman and I think at the very least she’s learnt that it wasn’t doing anyone any good holding on to that kind of anger.
The problem right now though is, she may have forgiven us for calling her out on her issues and giving her the ultimatum of seek help or we don’t feel the children are safe left alone there, but I have a lot of past pent up history too that I haven’t forgotten. I accept that she is who she is, I’m happy that she seems more mentally stable (most of the time) and I know that our relationship will never be an easy one to maintain and that I’ll be the one feeling the stress of it. I accept that.
What I do not accept, is now after a few months of working towards talking more often, spending small amounts of time altogether and just in general not as much tip-toeing around, it seems like old habits are dying hard, or more like rising up from the grave. Again, I don’t feel comfortable divulging a ton of information, its too hard and nasty and in the end not completely my story to tell, but lies and a shit ton of manipulation are a major problem. Where bad habits and personality flaws end and mental illness start is a very very blurred line and it makes it very difficult to not only to talk about it with her (more like impossible) but it also makes it hard to be open about to others.
Because it it’s much like treading in murky shark infested waters, handling conversations with my mom is not only difficult, it can be scary and stressful.A lot of the time I can’t tell what’s a lie, what’s manipulation, what’s her misunderstanding things/ blowing things out of proportion and what’s her illness taking over that she has no control of. No sudden movements or ‘accusations’ because we’re in for a shit show then. Usually it’s just listening, a little small talk and as little possible telling her any details about my own medical crapola as possible.
Why? Because of the chameleon effect. I got lupus, my mom got lupus. My migraines increased, so did hers. I started having more nerve trouble, she’s been blasting me with questions about vasculitis, ANS and peripheral neuropathy….the list has gone on for a while. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad to help but that’s usually not where she’s going with it. Most recently I accidentally mentioned my upcoming scopes and biopsies (in regards to planning Thanksgiving dinner) and since then she’s been able to talk about nothing else but the poop shoot, colonoscopies and barium enemas.
As soon as I had a second, I called my mom back. The phone call started with “So can a doctor tell from a blood test that you have colon cancer?” To which I answered a big fat no….abnormal results yes….but as far as I had ever read, no conclusive diagnosis, not even close actually. She went on to talk about how her doctor had told her point blank that she had severe colon cancer and needed to come in for a colonoscopy right away and to discuss treatment (all over the phone and not in person I might add). At this point the conversation moved from discussing anything medical to simply just trying to keep the woman calm enough to not hyperventilate on the other end of the line.
An hour later and I was beat. She was calmer, but I’m pretty sure only because I resorted to calling her doctor an unprofessional bitch who didn’t know what she was doing and that she was probably going to get fired…. I’m glad she felt better, but honestly I had no idea what to think or how to feel. I’m not sure if I felt worse for not wanting to believe a word she said because of all our past history and if it turned out to be true I’d never forgive myself or because I know if I go along with it yet again and it turns out to be a giant ring around of attention getting and misinformation, we’re going to be back where we started a year ago and worse it means that if and when a time comes that she really does need us to believe her…. we really, really won’t. I told her I loved her, that I hoped her tests would go well and that in the end it was a misunderstanding with the doc and to give me a call when she was back home.
It was a really weird and difficult couple of days emotionally and this was all on top of feeling like someone has been ramming hot pokers throughout my body and wiggling them around at will (whomever has a voodoo doll, seriously… lets just sit down and talk this out like adults mmmmkay?).
When she finally called back, she kind of put off talking about the actual event itself, or the results. I know in general its not something you’d go into detail about, but considering all our previous conversations, it had nothing to do with discretion or tact. She took her time getting to the point that everything seemed fine. The scope camera pictures were inconclusive…..some details about…corn. I’m assuming that’s more of a risk when you rush someone in with less than 24 hour notice who has a notorious habit of not following pre-op/test orders, but hey, I can’t say. From what I’m to understand there was no way to manipulate or misunderstand the new information. Nothing seemed wrong, the previous lab results were discussed and her (and my step dad’s) mind was put to rest about the abnormal markers and she has another scope scheduled for 6 months from now. So in the end all of that for nothing.
While I still feel like I was/am trapped in an “I’m damned if I do I’m damned if I don’t” kind of situation I DO know I’m pretty fucking happy my mother doesn’t have colon cancer and that the genuinely told me the truth about that with relatively little hassle. I also know I have to be more careful with what I talk to her about and the kind of information I pass on, not just for my sake and peace of mind, but for her own. I’m sure this week hasn’t been emotionally easy on her, my step dad or my younger brother either.