Sad Birthdays and Separation From My Mother

My birthdays are sad.

I fight this each year. I pingpong from frenetic planning for lots of autumnal things to despondent hopeless nothingness. It is exhausting and feels like something so primal in my psyche that I cannot escape. And that dramatic sentence reflects my post-birthday emotional reset. My plan is to work out via this blog post and get on with the month.

I’m not sure that I really understand why I feel so bad about myself around my birthday. Yes, I had some crummy birthdays as a kid. Yes, this heads into the holiday season which is basically emotional for everyone.

But it is different.

Ledcat has said that it is as if nothing could ever possibly touch the core of my unhappiness around my birthday. And it makes sense only when I realize that I was separated from my parents on my first birthday. My pregnant mother was hospitalized for her mental health for months and my father was unable to care for me, so I was sent to live with family members whom I later learned were not safe people.

No one talked about it, at least not much. When I did learn some of the truth, I did not realize my grandparents were not safe so I thought they had saved me.  I still have the rag doll my grandmother made for me during that time frame. I have no clear sense of how long we were separated, but I was reunited with my parents and my new brother in the spring of 1972 when I was around 18 months. I think.

The precise timing doesn’t actually matter so much as the acknowledgement that the abrupt disruption of my relationship and proximity to my parents, especially my mother, at such a tender age caused a lot of harm to me.  When I learned the half-truth version, I thought it was an unavoidable issue because my mother was ill and my father had to work so it wasn’t preventable. Over the past year, I’ve learned that there were precipitating events by other adults in our family that certainly triggered my mother’s collapse. And there were adults who turned a blind eye, then and now.

So I had an attachment barrier from the primary fact of being separated from my parents. And this was compounded by the lies, distortions, and lack of accountability by the other adults in my life all of which stripped me of trust of almost any adult in my family. There was no conscious effort to address that stolen bonding time or help me understand what happened.

It was all preventable. They could have stopped it. And they didn’t.

And I think that’s why I’m so deeply sad and why I feel conflicted appreciation for the smallest birthday gesture. I think it is why it is a really big deal and, yes, why my birthday is tied to a core of unreconciled unhappiness.

Why am I blogging about this? Well, I try not to shy away from difficult issues. I realize that some of you lovely folks contributed $500 to help me buy this lovely laptop on which I am typing, just a few days before my birthday. You might have thought “Did she forget/not appreciate that?”

No, I did not. I am and was grateful. I know in some cases it was a birthday gift and I felt the love. But it was a separate thing from the sadness I was discussing online and on social media.

Blogging is a way to destigmatize our life experiences that feed into our emotional and physical health. This thing – this separation – happened *to* me when I was a vulnerable infant. All of the people who could fill in the gaps are almost gone. So I have to reconcile this with the limited information I have on hand.

It isn’t a Hallmark or Lifetime movie. I don’t know if having said this aloud, I’ll be able to figure it out by October 2018. I hope so, but I’ve also learned that just when I think I’ve figured out the worst things in my lifestory – something new comes to the surface. That’s what happens when you grow up in chaos with addiction, alcoholism, abuse, and lies. Life is hard and seems to get more difficult as you work through the specifics. There’s no big climatic showdown, no resolution, no clearcut dialectical synthesis.

And maybe I’m wrong. I’ll certainly discuss this with my therapist. Because even though life is hard and sometimes gets harder, the truth is that there is the capacity for happiness and contentment. Shattering the illusions and delusions creates space for truth and security. Identifying my anxiety opens the door to feel secure.

My birthday weekend was nice enough. But the best moment for me was when I woke up this morning (Monday) to drive Ledcat to work. She had let me sleep in and walked down to the T on her own even though it was 6:30 AM on a Monday. She knows sleep is the best tool in my toolbelt. I woke up around 8:15 and went about my day. When I picked her up, I told her how much I appreciated that moment. I store it away in my heart as a sweet and loving memory. It is a secure moment in a backstory that is anything but.

 

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