Despite having not spoken to her in months, my mother had found out about my engagement. I remember not even being surprised. My family collectively has a big mouth, which first became evident when my mother outed me to every person who would listen to her once I came out as bisexual my freshman year of high school – and every iteration of my coming-out since – and later was solidified when my entire extended family found out about my suicide attempt before I was even out of the hospital. I hadn’t spoken to my mother in several years at that point. I wonder if she knows about the attempt. But when she came to my graduation, she congratulated me on my engagement, even though that was the first time I had spoken to her in a year and a half.
I was eighteen. My other family members just avoided the topic altogether, pretended it didn’t exist or that they didn’t actually know about it. I hadn’t told them flat-out, but I wore the ring every day and they knew about my fiancée. My grandmother called her my “special friend”. But I realized they all knew I was engaged and while they were silent about it to me, they gossiped about it amongst themselves and it made it back to my mother.
Now, five years later, it still bothers me more that my mother congratulated me on it than the fact that my grandmother—whom I was living with at the time—didn’t try to dissuade me. I don’t think my other family members would have stayed quiet if they knew my fiancée was abusive. But my mother knew. She knew I was being abused. I had been with my fiancée before my mother lost custody; she knew my fiancée and she knew what my fiancée had been doing to me. She knew because she employed some of the same tactics. She knew because I told her. She knew, and when she saw how much turmoil I was in, she said, “That’s just how love is.”
I like to think that I know that’s not how love is, but it’s how I’ve been shown “love” time and again. And as much as I wish it weren’t true, my mother stays in my head. She’s amorphous to me now; I don’t think I would know her if I saw her. I know her now as a lingering bad feeling. The taste of vomit in my teeth and soap on my tongue. Sometimes this is near fatal.
Sometimes I think of her and remember that they carry activated charcoal at the health foods store. Sometimes I wonder if that is something I should have on hand. I wonder what she would say if she knew that the doctors at the hospital prescribed me Minipress—a blood pressure medication once thought to help people with PTSD sleep through their nightmares. Sometimes I think she’d be proud in knowing that I can’t ever get rid of her; that she still exists amorphously in my brain; that I can’t take medications to get rid of my nightmares because they’re all blood pressure related and I have low blood pressure.
I think she’d be proud if I overdosed trying to get rid of her. She always was so proud of me. But there are other people that I want to make proud. There are people who actually care about me. People who are trying so desperately to show me that what my exes have done to me was not love. People who are trying so desperately to make me know what real, healthy love is. And I’m trying to let them. I’m trying to step away from the feeling that I, too, am amorphous. That I might exist in someone else’s head as the vague understanding of abuse.
I know there is a version of me that exists in her still—I know it from the birthday cards and the way my grandmother mentions that she brought me up in a phone call. But she does not know this version. She will never know this me. This me is trying so desperately to accept real, healthy love. This me is trying to make my real family, the one I have built, proud.
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