(Not that I’m a big oak. More like a weeping willow. Or one of those windswept, crippled conifers.)
On my old computer, I used to have a .pdf-file of a text-book on personality disorders. Unfortunately, I do not remember the title anymore, and so this source of information remains lost until I gain access to my old hard drive again. Said text-book not only gave me plenty of insight into the mechanisms of my own mind – many of the characteristics of avoidant personality disorder can also be found in my own avoidant behaviour – but also educated me about my mother’s obsessive-compulsive tendencies (my family displays an abundance mental health problems, namely depression, social anxiety, OCD, and borderline streaks – we’d make for some fantastic study material).
From this book I know that my mum’s rules are just a way of coping with what she perceives as threatening. Her constant criticism is born out of an urge to make a chaotic world appear controllable: for example, by blaming the gastritis on something I did wrong – “you are eating the wrong stuff / cooking unhealthily” – she reduces the emotional helplessness for herself, because in a world where I get gastritis just out of the blue and nothing can be done about it, she is helpless and at the whim of fate.
The problem is, I already am “out of control”: I am depressed and have a plethora of symptoms which come and go seemingly randomly, leaving me unable to function at times. Of course, my mother worries, and tries to bully me onto a path which she believes will keep me safe – oblivious to the fact that her criticism drives me even deeper into depression.
This phenomenon is not so rare, actually: whenever some outrageous crime happens, like a child being abducted and getting killed, you will hear comments from other people afterwards, blaming the child’s parents for something they did wrong or neglected to do – because if they admitted that we are living in a world where such cruelty can happen at random, without anyone who could have prevented it, they would have to face the fact that the same could happen to their own children. This, however, is too painful; it would destroy the illusion of absolute safety – it is so much more comforting and easier to believe the other parents failed and that they are doing a better job.
So, whenever something happens to me, my mother blames it on some shortcoming on my side, because that means she did not do anything wrong and that she is still in control.
From an unemotional point of view, I completely understand her behaviour, and it is obvious that my mum is not aware of the patterns herself. But that does not excuse the fact that my emotional well-being gets thrown under the bus time and again: it’s hard enough to live with what I’ve become, without having to deal with all those other flaws and failings I supposedly am responsible for.
There are a few things I will have to do to ensure my own well-being: short-term, I’ll have to talk to my mum about all of this. The problem is that either I’m in a state of anger about what’s happened, which makes me snappy and defensive – not a good basis for a discussion. Or I am not angry, which by default makes me lack the guts to breach such a difficult topic with her.
Long-term, I need to gain some more distance from my parents, emotionally as well as geographically. And financially. I just want to get to the point where I can have my own life at my own terms, without feeling guilty or pressured all the time.