Yesterday I read this post that Kerri Sackville shared on her Facebook page, talking about signs that you grew up with a toxic parent. Reading through the comments, it became clear that some people really had a very limited understanding of exactly how ‘toxic’ a parent can be. Comments along the lines of ‘everybody has issues with their parents’ and ‘be grateful you have parents’ cut me a little deep I must admit. Not everyone is lucky enough to be that naive. I wish that I was lucky enough to be that naive.
I have spent most of my adult life trying to get away from the hold my toxic parent had over me. To build myself back up from that broken child, to learn to love myself and silence the self doubt that threatened to consume me. I thought as an adult I was ‘safe’, I created a new life with love and laughter and light.
Sometimes though, no matter how fast you run, you can’t outrun your past.
I received a phone call at 6.30 in the morning, about three months ago, that changed everything. My mother was in hospital, and my teenage brother and sister needed to come and stay with us. It soon became apparent that they would not be able to return home for the foreseeable future.
My mother is very ill, however is unwilling and incapable to receive the help she needs. The mental health system in this country is disturbingly inadequate. Psychiatric doctors releasing patients who are clearly unstable, Crisis Assessment Team members saying they will “give her a call in the morning, hopefully she won’t kill herself overnight” (this is an actual quote), a general consensus that unless a person asks or admits they need help, there is nothing that can be done. I questioned a doctor once on how may people they had experienced who requested help when they were in the throes of extreme psychiatric illness… funnily enough he couldn’t answer.
So here we are. Five people living in a three bedroom unit. I have enrolled my brother to start at the local high school next year. He will be starting at his new school the same day as Milla is starting school. They also both have autism, characterised by extreme anxiety. To say I am feeling overwhelmed is an understatement. I am completely out of my depth. The life I have created with my little triangle family has been completely turned upside down. Sometimes I wonder how we are going to make it.
I am exhausted. And scared. And really angry. So damn angry. This is my life, and I have worked so hard to make it what it is, despite of her. Despite the put downs, the criticism, the abuse, the cruelty. I hate what she has done to my life, to my family, to me.
However it is what it is. I know my anger is pointless and I need to move past it. I truly believe that in time we will all get used to our new ‘normal’. We are strong. The one ‘gift’ that our mother gave us, was the ability to roll with the (metaphorical) punches and keep getting back up every time she knocked us down.
So welcome to the next chapter of my life. Bet you didn’t see this plot twist coming.