My healing journey started in college.
One rainy day, I was on my way to class and I had forgotten my umbrella. On the 2 minute walk from my bus to the English building, the sprinkles turned into a total downpour for which I was completely unprepared. When I got to class, I immediately went to the bathroom to wring out my clothes and blast them with a hand dryer.
As any stressed out 18-year-old might, I called my mom. I was beside myself. Now, I had to sit through class soaking wet and freezing. How could I have forgotten an umbrella? How could I be so stupid?
My mother snapped at me to stop crying.
“You know, you can’t call me with this kind of stuff all the time. You really ruin my day.”
My sobs stopped instantly. I suppose I did call her to get me to stop crying. Not only was I stupid, I thought, but I was weak, too.
“You can’t keep getting this worked up over little things. I have to go. Just go to class and call me later.” Click.
I took off my pants in the bathroom and put them under the hand dryer. An umbrella became a permanent fixture on the side of my backpack for the rest of college. I carried that thing around without a cloud in the sky.
That was when I started going to therapy.
The emotional wounds my mother carried into adulthood made it nearly impossible for her to have any empathy for me. She simply didn’t my have the time or energy to care about my problems.
Generational trauma is not a mystical force that passes sorrow down through your bloodline. My mother abused me the was she was abused. She neglected me the way she felt she deserved to be neglected.
The shame that she piled on my shoulders, she must have assumed, was nothing compared to the boulders she was carrying herself. She needed to unload all of that dead weight somewhere.
So many of my childhood memories are trauma stories that aren’t even mine. My mom spent my childhood dumping her worst stories on me instead of going to therapy.
I do judge her for this. There are many reasons I don’t speak to my parents, but this is a big one. I am not the kind of survivor who forgives my abusers and says “they did their best; they were victims themselves.”
They had all the opportunities to heal that I had.
My mother recounted her trauma to me in the same dissociated manner you might tell a true crime story. These things just happen, especially to my mom.
If she slept until noon, her father would flip her mattress off its frame. She experienced her first sexual assault in high school. My dad moved in with her roommate for the entire summer before they got married. Her boyfriend threw her down the stairs in front of my eyes, and the only comfort waiting for her at the bottom was my four-year-old face asking her if she wanted me to kiss it better.
Every night, in my mind space, I take off a metaphorical backpack of trauma. I unload the luggage that weighs on my mind during the day. Half of the crap doesn’t belong to me, but I hold onto it anyway.
A large part of me feels strange about talking about my mother’s trauma. The same part that looks over my shoulder every time I sit down to blog. These wounds don’t belong to me, and I shouldn’t have to feel that shame. But I do. I don’t have a choice in that. I was handed down the aftermath of my family’s trauma like a pair of jeans that had gotten too small.
My mother couldn’t do her own healing, so I have to heal on her behalf. Add that to the list.