I either did something very dumb or something very important tonight.
I have access to my mother’s email account (back in the old days, the entire family only had one account, until I was forced to get one in 8th grade). I am slightly embarrased to say that I do check up on it, mostly to find out what my mother is saying about me to her friends (generally, not much, but what she does say consistently irritates me). But tonight, after poring through some old journals, I wanted to see how far back she had kept emails from me. I found a veritable treasure trove– emails from as far back as the summer before my senior year of high school. Although I was looking for earlier, this was still quite a find. I don’t know how everyone else is with this stuff, but I LOVE to dwell in nostalgia.
Tonight, though, it was more painful than usual. I was in tears by the end, and angry, and sad. A few things that struck me:
1) FEB-APR 2007
I relived the pain of my college application process through the emails back and forth with my mom. It was a horrific time for me– although I was excelling academically and was cast in the role of a lifetime, I was only accepted into my 3 backup schools while all of my peers were accepted into programs I was rejected from, PLUS I was months away from leaving all my friends and my boyfriend (my first love!) for a new situation that I was sure was not going to be what I wanted.
The fact that I was wrong and I ended up at exactly the right school did not lessen the pain of reading these anxiety-filled emails.
2) SUMMER 2007
The summer after my senior year was spent at home. I had a small part in a professional production (my reason for living that summer), plus a teaching gig and not a whole lot else except moping and missing my boyfriend and my friends and dreading what was going to happen come fall. The emails from this period are long, pain-filled — me trying to communicate about my sadness with my mother, who couldn’t do anything and didn’t really understand.
3) SEPT-OCT 2007
There’s a lot of good stuff from this time, as I was just starting to realize that this school was actually bomb, but I was also quite anxious about auditions, and just finding my footing with friends. Plus, the USPS lost a large box of all my most important books (my audition book with all my monologues transcribed, my Shakespeare lexicons and Complete Works, my grandmother’s 1st edition Stanislavski, just irreplaceable stuff). It’s still MIA.
4) FEB-APR 2008
Seriously, I hate summer. This always happens. During this time, I was desperately trying to figure out what to do over the summer– when to come home, where to live, whether I needed a job, blah blah blah. I was accepted into a summer program, which was then cancelled, but I’d already gotten housing which meant I couldn’t go home and then I just started dating this boy… I mean, it was crazy. And my roommates began to verbally attack me. So really great overall.
5) MAY-SEPT 2008
Here there’s a jump. The only real thing I got out of this section was a little bit of stuff about my visit to see my then-boyfriend in his show in Chicago. The best thing I discovered was an email he wrote to my mother thanking her for her support of him (or something like that). He ended the email with “See you in December.” Why that’s hilarious is that:
a. He returned back to Chicago a few days early, surprising me with roses.
b. He then stayed with me for two days.
c. He left, and the next week I was in tech for a big show.
d. That week he called me and broke up with me. Like a day before opening.
e. THEN when my mom did visit in Dec to see my show, we ran into him in the hallway. I hadn’t spoken to him since that breakup phone call. HA!
6) DEC 2008-DEC 2009
There’s a jump here too. That’s okay… All that it’s filled with I have a pretty good record of– the lead in a mainstage in April, my summer at the theatre festival in Mass., the semester when I did plays outside school and the semester when I somehow accidentally lost a shit-ton of weight (YES, it was accidental. I was restricting but my goal was never to lose. Just to be clear.)
7) DEC 2009-JAN 2010
This was the section I was initially looking for. I studied abroad in Russia that winter, and in addition to my daily journal logs (good for me!) I sent a few detailed emails to my parents about my time there.
But then I came to the email that really hit hard. The day after I returned to NYC, I received an email from my mom welcoming me home, and telling me that she had sent a letter to my therapist before I even left for Russia telling her about her concerns about me. And that she’d send me the letter IF I WANTED TO READ IT.
I made the mistake of re-reading this letter. It still makes me FURIOUS. (I mean, can you tell, with all the italics and capitols?) The whole first section is about my weight, chronicling how my eating is erratic (sometimes I eat a lot, sometimes I eat a little– that COULDN’T be like a regular human) and how I look gaunt. I do admit that I was underweight, but I also stand strong in my frustration with how my mother NEVER confronted me about this, NEVER asked me anything about it, and NEVER even thought that maybe I was not completely unaware of everything that was happening to and around me.
Much of the rest of the letter focused on how I was more tightly wound than she’d ever seen me before (PS during this time I was moving out of the school dorms in with a stranger in Harlem, preparing to go to Russia for a month, had recently been cast as the lead in a mainstage musical, and was spending my 1st Christmas away from home– totes not anxiety-producing).
She basically discounted many of my pleasant memories of the trip, saying that she felt as though I was trying to completely control the feelings of everyone around me. She said she wasn’t sure that we could ever spend time as a family again. She said she hadn’t seen me in such “black moods” in ten years. She claimed that I had basically pushed my sister into depression. I mean, it was just basically “She is eating-disordered and crazier than she’s been in years and she’s not taking care of herself and she is ruining our family relationships and I think she’ll explode with rage” (that’s a quote) “and she is delusional and she doesn’t know how to take care of herself so that’s why I wrote to you now and didn’t tell her and pretended everything was perfectly fine while she was away and the second she returned I told her that I actually think that she’s crazy and I think she’s going to fall apart.” (I would go back for details, but I can’t bear to look at that letter again.)
Upon receiving this, I became infuriated. It initiated one of the greatest stonewalls of my life against my parents. I didn’t talk to them for a couple of weeks, and I didn’t say “love” for over a month. Eventually things calmed down, but I am still furious. My trip home over the Winter Break, I really tried hard to communicate with them about what I need from them, etc., but what I really discovered over that time was that they (particularly my mother) has not changed from the time of the letter. She simply refuses to see my perspective, and at some point in that argument/conversation, I realized that I just had to let it go because she was not going to listen to my side.
That deep invasion of my privacy, deep betrayal of trust, deep mistrust of my abilities to know myself and take care of myself– it still hasn’t been forgiven. It may never, particularly if my mother refuses to trust me.
I don’t deny that I was underweight (and I told my mother this), but I stand fast in my knowledge that she never talked to me about it, and that I WAS actually doing what I was supposed to be doing to take care of it. PLUS I had TOLD them about the weight stuff over the phone before they even arrived (both the fact that I had lost weight, but more importantly, that I binge-eat– which is honestly the primary problem in all this). So her claim that I am completely unable to take care of myself is just FALSE.
Plus, the presumption, and the actual use of the word “magical” to describe what happened when I took Zoloft for the first time is offensive. I have said before on this blog that my mother believes that being mentally healthy is being PERFECT. It’s something I discuss to no end with my therapist. She mentions my time in boarding school as this glorious, amazing time of high achievement. And it was. But I also am CERTAIN that I’m not the same person that I was then– I can’t be, I wouldn’t want to be. I was fine, fine, fine, until keeping everything inside and in control suddenly failed (the bingeing is an obvious example of that) and I began to unravel. I AM NOT, NOR WILL I EVER BE, PERFECT. NO MEDICINE IS “MAGICAL.” NO PERSON IS “OKAY” ALL THE TIME. ESPECIALLY ME.
Basically, there’s just an inherent mistrust in the letter itself and in the sending of it which just made me SO MAD tonight (obvi). Probs not the best thing to rehash and 12:30am, but ya know, I did it to myself and it’s good I’m venting, probably. I would be able to get into so much more detail if I could BEAR to look at that terrible letter again, but it just makes me so angry, I just will not. I refuse. It’s deleted from my own personal email, so.
WEEELLLLL, that wasn’t a happy fun time. Sorry guys.
Just as an FYI, I’m feeling better. I mean, besides the being immensely angry at my mother thing.
“Any idiot can face a crisis; it’s this day-to-day living that wears you out.”