The last four days have been brutal.
I mean, the last couple months have been tough for me (great blog content, but tough), the last four days though, really sent me over the edge.
It hit me hard, pinging every emotional trigger that I have. I withdrew for four days from pretty much all of life. My tears flowed constantly and intensely, my breath would catch, and all I could really do was keep reminding myself I’ve been here before and it will eventually get better.
I truly believe that my newly found acceptance of my illness, as well as my responsibility to manage it (whether I like it or not), pulled me out of the darkness and to my blog sooner than past experiences on this precipice.
I also attribute this new-found ability to have more forceful dialogues with myself to stop negative thinking, to my new understandings of this illness and how it manifests. It’s quite a breakthrough for me to be able to redirect my thoughts with success.
The short version – my oldest moved out, suddenly, and in a fit of rage.
The longer version – I have a 20-year-old, who struggles with his own mental health issues. Together, we are really good at setting each other off in all the wrong ways. He doesn’t know how to handle all the big emotions he feels. I get that, I’m still learning myself. However, he won’t take responsibility for his own actions, or his own healing. It is impossible to help someone who doesn’t want to help themselves.
Last week, a series of events led to a rather loud and unacceptable blowup. His inability to express emotion or control his rage coupled with my own back and forths as I learn how to navigate heighten emotions makes for quite a mess.
The next day he made arrangements to stay somewhere else until a previously planned move out date at the end of the month. Even though he was planning to move anyway – this has been extremely painful and shocking to the system.
Why it was so Triggering
The night of the argument, my child, engulfed in his own mental health issues and unable to properly communicate his feelings, felt justified in trying to shame and embarrass me regarding the whole situation. He also indignantly stomped around my house slamming doors and screaming at me. His disrespect for me, the family, and the house was over the top.
The average parent without the mental health issues I have, would likely never tolerate this type of behavior. In fact, I believe proper boundaries preventing even the thought that this behavior would be acceptable would have probably been put in place in the early years of life along with the skills to regulate emotions correctly.
Well, I am not the average parent, and I do have a mental illness.
All I heard through all of this explosion, all that I felt was exactly what he wanted me to. Exactly what I have always felt in situations like that. Ashamed, filled with self-doubt, I blamed myself, and I was scared of more loss.
The Next Four Days
For the next four days, I spent most of my time, in my own head. Thinking about what I could have done differently. Wishing I had been more patient and understanding. Wondering if I should text him and let him know that I love him. Running moments of his childhood through my head trying to see if maybe I really was such a horrible mom who deserved such wrath.
Hello, anxiety, self-blame, shame, silence, self-doubt, insomnia, panic, lethargy, depression …
I felt it all. I blamed myself for everything, his behavior, and treatment of me. I also believed it all, and I felt it to my very core. I was going to lose my child because I wasn’t good enough. It consumed me.
Then Something Clicked
I started to get angry that I was letting my child make me feel so bad about myself. I started to remember and believe the realities of the mother that I am and the love that I have for him. I started to make the connections from past to present and separate logic from intrusive thoughts. I started to believe it when I thought out loud that his behavior was not okay.
I started to realize –
Then I started to feel bad for not posting to my blog; I was so proud of my commitment and disciple to daily posting. So I pushed myself down to the office to write yesterday and posted a poem about my internal struggle.
While writing, I text a friend who shared some self-care and thought-correcting techniques for stopping the negative thoughts and replacing them. She promised me with practice I will get it.
Then I read something that talked about thought patterns for those with anxiety. The article explained how the first thought is the truth and the second thought is your fear which translated for me as:
Thought #1 (the truth): I love my son SO much, I wish I could fix his pain. His pain is not an excuse for how he behaved and his refusal to address his issues is not acceptable. I am allowed to set boundaries regarding behavior and expectation in my house and to express anger when it is disregarded.
Thought #2 (my fear): But maybe if I were just a little bit more understanding, perhaps if we just talk this through, if I give him one more chance, put up with the treatment and the upheaval it causes one more time – try to see his view a bit more, maybe he will finally seek the help he needs. Maybe then he will realize how much he means to me. Maybe then he won’t be upset and walk away from me like this. And on, and on, and on …
It occurred to me that thought #2, with its direct connection to my past traumas and emotional triggers, had taken over from there and that is where my downward spiral begins.
And thus, where it can be stopped.
It suddenly made sense and I realized that I could, in fact, stop it.
Of course, it hasn’t stopped my sadness at this new normal with my first born moving out and spreading his wings, or the general anxiety a worried parent feels for their child. And yes, there is additional sadness at how angry and hurt he is and how he is pushing me away. But today – I have been managing all of my thoughts and emotions much better. I have been very intentionally changing my thoughts. A couple times I have even said things out loud.
I do not deserve to be treated like that.
I am allowed to set boundaries in my home.
I love my son, I disapprove of his behavior.
I am also writing about it.
This is a hard post for me. I worry about judgment, I am still battling thoughts of what more I could have done – I have to continually remind myself he is responsible for his actions.
I Walked Right into the Pain
I have been unapologetically my broken self the last few days. I haven’t even attempted to manage or hide the ugly, I haven’t had the strength. I have just felt it, identified it, honored it, and shared it all with my husband. Now I am sharing it with you.
I see with a new appreciation, that my emotional reactions and thoughts patterns are in fact those of my inner child. I see her pain more clearly than I ever have before – her shame, self-loathing and self-blame. I can sense how afraid she was to lose the people who terrified her most; yet how she still looked to herself as the reason for their treatment. I can see how she came to believe her worth was reflected in how she was treated and so she always tried to adjust herself to please others.
In addition, I have been reading about developmental trauma disorder, I am beginning to understand how my brain actually processes thoughts and emotions, how it produces hormones, and how all of that affects my behavior.
These realizations complicate the grief of my recovery; realizing how hurt I really was as a child feels like a huge weight on my chest. Continuing to learn about the changes in my brain and the magnitude of the illness I am trying to heal offers some comfort, accompanied by anger.
It does, however, help me as I work to separate my childhood grief triggered by my son’s behavior towards me from that which I feel as I watch my child struggle with his mental health, and all the anger and pain he feels.
The Lessons Learned
- I can absolutely control my thoughts if I really put in the effort
- I am allowed to set boundaries
- I am only responsible for my own actions and responses
- Loving the person and disapproving of the behavior are two separate things
- My son has a responsibility to himself, I cannot force him to get help
- Sometimes a few days away is exactly what is needed
- Being brutally emotionally honest with myself was challenging yet very rewarding
- I am not perfect, but I am Enough
Added Bonus: My husband really can handle the weight of my illness. Sometimes being reminded is needed more than I realized.
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Love & Support 💜💚