I miss my mom when I eat angel hair pasta or hear Martina McBride playing. I miss her when my friends talk about spending time with their moms. I cried the other day at my best friend’s house when her mom asked us if we would help her set up for a dinner party. I stood in their kitchen with tears running down my face because that was something my mom always used to ask me to help with.
My mom and I are working on our relationship. In the first fifteen years of my life, we were best friends. I loved her more than anything in the world. I thought she was perfect, flawless, invincible. It’s a really strange feeling when you grow up and realize that your parents are people too. They make mistakes, they don’t have all the answers, and they aren’t perfect. I realized that all of these things were true about my mom around my sophomore year of high school.
That was when I began to uncover who I really was; not the person I wanted to be perceived as, but the person that I was at my core. My energy slowly shifted as I was discovering what I liked, who I liked, how I wanted to spend my time, and how I would allow myself to be treated. What some people saw as a negative change, I knew was a positive one. I felt more comfortable in my skin, but that made some people around me uncomfortable. They started treating me differently as if I was inferior for not following the expectations and norms they had set. At school, I would hear people that I used to call my friends talking about me behind my back but still being nice to my face. With my mom, she would make remarks about how I didn’t wear “girly” clothes anymore and should show off my figure more. This is when I realized that some people only loved the person I was when I was unhappy and living life to make my mom and peers happy. They no longer loved who I was once I was happy, grounded, and confident. Unfortunately, I felt like my mom was one of those people.
My mental health was unstable throughout my junior and senior year of high school. I had been diagnosed with depression, and later anxiety and PTSD. I had no healthy coping mechanisms, no skills to set boundaries, and I felt like no one was listening to me when I was crying out for help. My mom made me believe that my mental health made me harder to love. I learned, albeit the hard way, that I am not a burden or an inconvenience even though she made me feel like one. As my brain was telling me that life was not worth living and that it would never get better, more toxic thoughts were fueled by constantly hearing that I was not living up to expectations.
She would never admit to me that I didn’t turn out the way she had expected or hoped for, but I picked up on those cues my entire life. The comments she made about my physical appearance crushed me. Hearing that it was not acceptable to go to school in sweatpants and a hoodie clearly showed me the importance of my appearance and how others viewed me. I was supposed to be there to get an education. I didn’t feel the need to impress anyone or wear clothes that made me physically and emotionally uncomfortable just to fit my mom’s, or anyone else’s expectations. When I dyed my hair pink, she asked me what people in public would think of me and what her friends would think of me? Respectfully, why on earth would I care what strangers think of my hair? I loved it and it made me happy. Why would I sacrifice that to make other people comfortable?
After years of comments about my appearance, my friends, how I spent my time, my schoolwork, and my life choices, I had reached my limit. I finally snapped and suddenly her view of me became completely irrelevant. I was horribly depressed and living life was hard enough without someone finding fault in my every action. I couldn’t take it anymore. Even though I stopped caring so much about her criticisms of my life, there is always a part of me that mourns the fact that I don’t have the relationship with my mother that I had, when she was my best friend and whole world. It hurts knowing I’m not who she wants me to be, but what hurts, even more, is not having a maternal relationship or even a female presence in my life right now.
Though I haven’t talked to her in months, I think about her every single day. I have been working on learning how to set and maintain boundaries, and I now realize that I’m not a bad person for making decisions to protect myself. I have to remind myself every day that I’m not a bad person for setting and maintaining those boundaries. I was in the emergency room at the beginning of August talking to a crisis nurse. She had me close my eyes and envision my mom standing right in front of me. She asked me to thank my mom and then imagine taking a pair of scissors and cutting some, not all, of the ties between us. I sat there with tears rolling down my face. I thanked my mom for allowing me to learn how to set boundaries, for making me see my own worth, and learning that it comes entirely from me. She taught me how to make decisions that felt selfish, but in my best interest, even if it meant hurting someone else. Just because we don’t have the relationship I want yet, doesn’t mean I don’t still love her. I know it will get better. Mom, I know you won’t see this because you don’t even know I’m queer, so there’s no way you could find me on an LGBTQ+ blog, but I love you. I’ll talk to you soon.
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