First Impressions

Let’s go back to something that happened when I first came to America, right before I started second grade (I didn’t go to first grade because of my birthday date). I remember vividly sitting in the passenger seat, while my mom was driving us somewhere, and the talk she had with me. She said something along the lines of, “You need to reign in your always funny demeanor and be serious sometimes, especially at school because first impressions are everything and you don’t want your teachers thinking you’re stupid.”

As I am writing this now, I feel immense disgust almost for the words she uttered at that moment to a young, vulnerable and very impressionable little girl. I remember back then feeling extremely hurt by this and vowing to myself that if she wants me to be serious all the time, then that’s what she is going to get. It’s important to point out that for the first 7 years of my life I found it very easy to find joy and humor in just about everything. My days consisted of crazy laughter, nonstop talking and just everything you can possibly think of that has to do with truly enjoying life. Of course, I probably either inherited or picked it up from my dad, who was the same way. It also took me aback for the simple fact that I never thought it bothered her in any way and she never mentioned anything about it ever before.

I think in that instant, my demeanor flipped and I went from a happy-go-lucky kid to an always serious, attitude-prone and at times moody mini adult. The best way I can even describe it is that a dark cloud had been put over my whole existence in that one single moment. Whereas I had no problem enjoying life before, now I found myself feeling melancholy even at the happiest of times. A friend of mine once mentioned to me that I have sadness in my eyes, even when I smile and now that I think about it, it probably started around that time.

It really makes it clear just how big impressions can be when we are small and malleable and totally clueless about life or anything that has to do with living it independently. What was even more messed up about the whole situation was that, as I became serious permanently, my mom and stepdad (at the time) made almost daily comments about how pouty or sad I looked. To this day I still have problems controlling my facial expressions because the heaviness and instinct to remain serious are still there.

Always being serious also took a lot out of me because it became difficult to find the humor in the funniest things and when someone joked with me, my only reaction would be to shut it down, there and then. It might even be the onset towards my depression, which I didn’t get diagnosed with until much later in life but that could have easily stemmed from this instance. Oftentimes, me not being able to have light and funny conversations would then give off the impression that I was a stuck up bitch, which was probably why I had such a hard time in high school and am oftentimes told that I can be “unapproachable” but only initially because I am a very warm person once you get to know me a little bit.

So, my mom spent a good portion of my life trying to deal with my negative attitude, even though she was the one who put it there in the first place. This is further example that I was never really allowed to just be myself, regardless of what that meant, as long as I wasn’t hurting anybody of course (and I wasn’t). It’s like my mom had this picture of what her only child would look and act like and she started grooming me towards it at a very young age, even if the tactics were a bit intense.

Thankfully, I have found my soulmate and fiancé, Mike, who is the perfect balance to all my seriousness. He is funny, easy going and we spend our days laughing and joking with one another. Since my communications with my mom are usually serious in nature, it’s a breath of fresh air not to have to be so rigid and tense all the time.

Master Negotiator

Another thing that has impacted me quite a lot is my mom’s major negotiations growing up. Now, I know this didn’t come from a bad place but it definitely bothered me back then and it’s bad because I find myself doing the same thing with my kids these days.

When I was growing up, there were lots of times my mom would trick me into doing something she thought would expand my mind by bribing me with something else, something she knew I wanted or was actually interested in. And don’t get me wrong, there is nothing bad about this when it’s done to an extent but I feel like my mom wen’t a little overboard with this.

For example, I have always had a big love for puzzles, I’m talking the more pieces, the better. And since my mom took me to a lot of museums so I can learn to appreciate art, getting puzzles of famous paintings was a treat and combined my mom’s love for art and my love for the puzzles. There was nothing wrong with that, until I would finish a puzzle and she would proceed to tell me that I had to report to her about what painting the puzzle depicted.

I am not going to lie, I resented her for it. It seemed my mom was really good at taking the fun out of things that should be only that. I mean, I wish I had the upscale tastes that she did (opera, ballet, art….etc) but I absolutely did not. I could definitely go to a museum and enjoy looking at paintings for an hour tops as compared to her being able to spend days and days there, never even getting bored. I think she was always hoping that she could fit me into her same “interest mold” and the more she saw that that wasn’t the case, the more she desperately tried to make it so.

But no, I could mildly enjoy doing all those things once in a while but it wasn’t something I ever felt any passion for. On the contrary, I had my own interests, at the time I was really into classic movies, yummy food and some other typical things kids my age were into. I wish my mom would have let me pursue my own interests with as much passion as I would have liked without trying to convert me over to hers. I know she was trying to expand my wisdom and get me more cultured but at the time it just made me feel even more like a complete failure because I couldn’t enjoy the upscale things that she did.

Some other examples of this include having to watching documentaries about things we were studying in school in exchange for things I wanted or even just her very emotional pleading with me to do it “for her”. Maybe I’m not as evolved as some more upscale kids, but I didn’t know many kids who wanted to study or do anything school related when they weren’t in school. No, that wasn’t my idea of fun or even remotely enjoyable. I was into teenage drama shows and computer games and other stuff like this. I feel like kids at school are exposed to a lot of information during the week and they need to refuel and recuperate on the weekends.

When I was younger, we also went to a lot of operas, ballets and other such upscale events. When I was younger I had a hard time even pretending that that kind of stuff interested me and when my mom would tell me where and when we were going to one of those, the look on my face spoke volumes to exactly how I felt about it. So, she took to bribing me with food. I have always been a big foodie and so of course I happily agreed with the promise that she would take me to a nice restaurant afterwards.

It’s import to mention here that my mom is the opposite of someone who’s a foodie, and by that I mean she really doesn’t care what or where she eats, as long as she gets something in her stomach. Although, on the other hand she will eat any kind of yummy food or take out that we have at home, almost as soon as it appears there. It just goes to show how complicated and contradictory my mom really is. With most things in life she tends to walk on opposite sides of both extremes, carefully navigating the middle area has never been a strength of hers.

So she’s always hated spending money on food but was more then willing to do it if it meant exposing me to the kind of upscale interests and society that she herself was really into. Oftentimes, she told me that I would appreciate all that I have seen and learned when I got older but all I really appreciate now is the effort that she put into at least trying to awaken a passion in me, even if it was strictly her passion.

The conclusion that I can draw from this, now that I’m older and wiser, is that a lot of my insecurities stemmed from her trying desperately to fit me into her personal bubble of exactly what she wanted for my life. Image and prestige are very important to her, so she has always tried to make me see similar. This is even more detrimental to a young girl who is still just trying to figure out who she is and what she can make of herself and her life. Lots of my arguments with my mom stem from the fact that I see different, I don’t care so much about being upscale as I do about being comfortable or happy. I guess that’s why I fell in love with my fiancé, Mike, because even though he was rough around the edges, the connection was otherworldly and my heart told me that he was the one I’ve been looking for my entire life.

The Spoon Incident

I have decided that since my relationship with my mother has been the longest and is obviously one of the most significant, if not the MOST significant one, I will start delving into my psyche with her. And the first thing that popped up was a seemingly unimportant incident that I realize now was actually MAJOR for me, as a young girl trying to figure out this thing called life and navigate its rocky waters.

Even though my mother’s bipolar really took off when we moved to America and she started navigating her relationship with Yuri, I remember instances that could point that she was dealing with it even back then, when we were still living in Russia, before our big move. One of my earliest memories was actually sitting at the table, at my grandma’s apartment, eating something and asking her if she could get me a utensil to eat it with. It’s important to point out that my aunt was there as well since she lived there with her family too.

Now being the little girl that I was, I remember vividly her answer as it made a huge impact on me back then and gave me a sense of possible future things to come. Her answer was, “Why? Get it yourself!”, and the way she said it, it was almost like there was a hint of pent up anger in there or some kind of frustration or something. I remember feeling so upset and hurt, it wasn’t like I was some spoiled, rich kid who’s parents did everything for her, it was actually quite the opposite.

Now, this next part gave me a sense deep down that my mom was a bit different from other kids’ moms. My aunt, seeing the hurt written in my face, in turn looked at my mom and responded with, “Why can’t you give her a fork? Is it that hard?”. I remember feeling a really intense sense of gratitude towards my aunt who literally treated her own kids as if she was their personal servant and did EVERYTHING for them, even if what they asked her to do didn’t come from the best place.

I don’t remember what happened after that but it occurred to me only recently that this is the perfect symbolic description to show how my mom is versus how my aunt is. I am not saying that all moms are as helpful as my aunt but most of them don’t have the edge that my mom has had for as long as I can remember. I don’t know if it was dealing with life or her own personal problems but it seems to me that many times she was unnecessarily strict or curt with me or just had an unnecessarily tense tone that she used.

She must have spent her whole entire life on edge because it definitely affected the way she dealt with me a lot. Many times she would be downright mean to me or talk to me in a mean way and then would later apologize. It’s alarming to me in the present moment because I find myself doing the same thing to my kids and fiancé sometimes. I understand why she did it because being in that much emotional pain, I can relate now that I’m older and also hurting on the inside.

It’s like you don’t mean to do it but something possesses you and you just can’t control your attitude or your general feelings overall. I am trying desperately to deal with the emotional trauma that has been the root cause of this because I don’t want my kids growing up in fear of me or how I will react/act day to day.

In Pursuit of a Lightness of Being

Life is slowly progressing, moving, seemingly in the right direction. There have been a few disagreements here or there but nothing major since the huge blowout we had in the end of last year. However, even though things have been slowly improving, I haven’t quite been able to get rid of this feeling of dread in myself, almost like a weight that is pulling me down from the inside. It’s like I can’t enjoy things fully, not really just enjoy them without a hint of sadness always there, always reminding me of past or even present pain.

I mentioned this to my therapist, even though I had a hard time trying to find the right words to describe what exactly I was feeling and she gave me hope, told me that I am not the only one who feels this way and actually said that it is quite common, at least amongst her clients. When I asked her what I can do to help myself break free from these emotional restraints, she said that I need to confront all the instances where I have ever felt sad, upset or any other kind of strong, negative emotion. Next, came the part that really opened my eyes, she told me that in order to be able to truly move on I have to allow myself to feel the emotions that these instances bring up in me, which undoubtedly were brought up when they were actually happening.

As human beings, we are really good at suppressing things deep inside and all that negative energy can manifest itself into different symptoms for each individual. For me, I find myself in a state of permanent emotional drainage and this in turn affects how much energy I have and how I am able to go through life. Because of all the mental pain that I always have, I lash out at my fiancé for the smallest things and make him the scapegoat for the psychological pain that I am enduring every moment of everyday. In the past I did this to my mom as well but since she is the root of the majority of where my psychological problems stem from, I have quickly learned that that just causes more problems and further psychological trauma and I have enough to deal with already. More then enough.

So, what I am trying to say is that for the unforeseeable future, I am dedicating this blog to aid me in my journey to heal and work past all my trauma that I have acquired in my 28 years that is obviously still holding me back from living my very best and meaningful life. I will be taking a very personal journey into the recesses of my mind and will be bringing up experiences that have molded me into the psychologically anxious person that I have become in order to then, feel it all over again (cry, scream…etc) so that in turn I can let it go and become free of it forever.

Free Fall

Do you ever feel like you were walking and then all of a sudden the floor is ripped open from under you and all of a sudden you are in free fall, not sure which way is up and which way is down? Well, that’s exactly how I feel right now.

Ever since the big fight with my mom and my fiancé transpired, things were a bit rocky at first and then gradually, they started to get better. We were quite a ways away from being back to how we all used to be but we were on the right path. Today, all of that changed.

There have been some fights here and there but I’ve been working hard on how I react to things and haven’t allowed those fights to become anything more then just arguments in their initial states. However, I am human and sometimes things just trigger me and I can’t help but snap.

Growing up, my mom was often snippy and curt with me and at the time I thought it was just out of nowhere or that I have messed up in some way or other. Well, now I know better. All thoughtout her life, she was always going through something stressful and these things would take a toll on her nervous system and as always, I was the scapegoat. At this point her nervous system is so fried that I am not even sure we can ever get to a good place again considering we can’t even seem to be able to calmly talk things out without her hyperventilating or screaming her head of or crying buckets.

At the moment we are going through something particularly difficult, especially for my mom. My grandma is not doing well with her cancer and she is all the way in Russia so it’s extremely stressful. We are all coping with this in our own way.

Today my mom announced to me that she will be delivering the renewal passport applications to the post office, weather I’ve done them or not. She has been asking me to fill it out for a few days already but since I rarely have a moment to myself without kids climbing on me or making a mess somewhere, I wasn’t able to get it done. In response, I asked her if she could hold off for one more day to which she got angry and replied with a firm no. Oftentimes my mom gets these notions into her head and she needs to do something NOW. And even if it came out of nowhere and somebody isn’t ready, she will make that person sorry they failed her so horrifically. And don’t even think about trying to reason with her, that’s a language she is not accustomed to and will just say that you are bullshitting, even if your reasoning is on point.

So, after the kids are done with school and naps, she storms down demanding her stapler, which apparently I’ve misplaced or lost and for which she is pissed off at me. After I find it, she is working on putting all the applications together and makes one of her negative remarks. I think in this instance it was something about her not being able to live with us anymore and how she is going to move out. I’ve heard all of this so many times before and at this point I usually just roll my eyes and walk away but something prompted me to continue the conversation. Perhaps it had something to do with my desire for everyone to get along and my undying hope that we can fix this and should do anything in our power to do so.

I ask her a question about when we are going to talk about our fight and something triggers her to reply in a very mean and negative way and from there things just took on a life of their own. I tried to talk about things in a very calm and understanding manner but I was met with nothing but ridicule and negativity. She started hyperventilating and freaking out like she does when people don’t say things like how she believes them to be and screaming like a banshee. I was terrified for my kids to have witnessed a person literally be driven mad for no legitimate reason.

Then all of a sudden, at the height of her tantrum, she sees the kids and says out loud, “she is a blank space, don’t pay attention to her. She is just baiting you.” I stood there in shock, all I wanted was to have a calm talk with her and I wanted to be heard by her, finally, for the first time in my life. She proceeds to ignore me as I’m pleading with her to talk to me and to hear me out. At one point I try to get her attention by standing in the doorway and she literally pushes me and I am slammed against the wall.

And this is what really pissed me off above everything else, as she is ignoring and killing me with her treatment towards her own daughter, she talks to my kids as if nothing is wrong. As if their mother isn’t coming apart at the seams, sobbing her head off and wondering what she ever did to deserve that kind of disregard for her as a human being. This really upsets me and I go up to her and say, “Oh no, don’t talk to the kids as if nothing is wrong when you can’t even pay attention to what I am trying to say to you.” Her reaction of, “really?”, totally does me in because it’s unbelievable. They are a part of me and Mike and you have some kind of personal vendetta against us that you can’t get through? How about you work on that salvaging that relationship before the circumstances turn out dire for everyone.

She left, slamming the door and telling me that she is moving to a family friend’s place. This kind of hurt is unbearable. If it wasn’t for my kids, I would not be able to stay on this earth and continue living this nightmare. I think it’s true what they say, we were put on this earth to fulfill a purpose and I think mine has to do with overcoming my relationship with my mother and either healing myself from her or something like that.

She keeps saying that what Mike did to her was unforgivable but I’m pretty sure that everything short of murder is forgivable. It just goes to show how important mental health is, once it’s out of balance and damaged, you can’t really get it back. I am beyond fearful that at this point, especially with how far things have progressed, that we can never fix what has been broken. My mom is who she is and it’s extremely difficult for her to open her mind up enough to see things from others perspectives.

This incident has stressed me out beyond anything and at this point I am realizing that getting a house together with my mom has been a dire mistake and at this point it’s more of a curse then anything else. I need to be able remove myself from her to be able to be truly happy but that’s not possible in the current circumstances. I pray that God will give me the strength to get through this and to ultimately deal with this once and for all. I can’t go on living like this, I just can’t.

And I realize, I did not handle the situation in the best way possible either but I am only human and there’s a kind of hurt you just can’t tolerate no matter how hard you try. At this point, I just need to focus on working through the damage that has been caused so that I do not repeat the same thing with my daughter.

And It All Gets Better In Time

Things are starting to improve and return to normal, slowly but surely. This past month or so I have grown immensely, I feel like a brand new person and that’s not even an exaggeration. I went from a girl who felt like she was stuck in her childhood because of constant fear of getting in trouble and doing something wrong to an adult who is more than capable of doing her own thing and making her own decisions and ultimately living her own life.

When this whole mess with my mother and Mike happened, I was terrified, mostly because I felt like my whole world was getting turned upside down and I knew that things were never going to be the same ever again. My carefully constructed world came apart at the seams and it was difficult to cope at first. And then when my mom didn’t talk or even look my way, that was downright unbearable in the beginning.

And then at a certain point it just clicked, I broke free and stopped letting her mood and actions control my own mood and actions. She would say something hurtful to me and instead of getting highly riled up and responding in tears and my own hurtful words, I would just feel a heightened sense of calm that was unpenetrable, even for her. I have thought about the reason for this and I seriously think it has to do with discovering and figuring out who I am at the very core, the very center. I have my own beliefs and my own perceptions and my own truth and for once I stand firm in all of it.

I was always so scared of speaking up, of having my own opinions because my mother has cemented in me that the only right way to think and act is her way. Well, guess what? I now know that that’s just not true. We are all too intrinsically complex to see the world one specific way and I understand that, for once in my life I see it clearly.

Just because she’s crying and speaking passionately about her truth doesn’t mean it has to be everyone else’s truth. I think the fact that I grew up in a different culture and then came here only to experience a totally different one has given me a greater openeness and understanding of different perspectives and point of views. I said this before but the world is not black or white, there’s a lot of other tones in between that make the world even more colorfully beautiful.

She’s starting to come around and as much as that makes me happy, there is always going to be a sense of being a bit on alert whenever she’s around. I guess I’ve just realized that I can’t completely lay my heart out to her and trust that she won’t be judgemental or unsympathetic to what I share with her. That’s okay though because recently I’ve gotten my mojo back and I found that as much as I like having her company around, I don’t need it!

The Intrinsic Uniqueness of Every Individual

Slowly but surely, I’ve been working through the issues that I have with my mom and how she acts when a conflict comes up or something bad happens between the people living in the house. For her, she tends to close everything inside of herself and retreat until she can come out and face the other people head on. For me, I hate conflict and tension in the atmosphere, so I tend to want to fix the situation right away and talk it out to get everything out in the open and to clear the air. This has been a huge factor in the dynamic between my mom and me and how a conflict between us unfolds usually. I have often found myself driven mad by the fact that my mom needs days (sometimes even weeks) to work through it all and be able to face me again.

What I am starting to understand for the first time in my life, is that the bad things that might come out after a conflict has already transpired between us and my mom is triggered again by something, have nothing to do with me in any shape or form. They are merely issues that she is still working through and if she calls me a mean name or says I am bad in any kind of capacity, it’s just her dealing with her own inner pain in order to find peace. In the past, I have always believed that what my mom said to me, even when she wasn’t fully aware or in control of the logical and rational part of herself, was indeed fact and I internalized those negative and mean things about myself to be true, believed it with every inch of my being. Thankfully, I am working on not doing that anymore and it’s getting easier and easier.

I just had a session with my psychologist so I just got a lot of very useful and amazing insight into myself, my mom and my fiancé (Mike). It’s truly amazing how different we all are and how the different ways that we were brought up and the different experiences that we’ve all had have shaped us all completely different from one another, into completely unique and different kinds of people. Of course, I do believe that we are born with some qualities already instilled in us but as to how extreme or to what capacity those qualities are revealed later on in life, has a lot to do with our lives and the obstacles we have overcome/ how we dealt with them.

I have found that, as if it’s not already hard enough being the middle person between Mike and my mom, that I am rather malleable and can see many different sides of a situation and how it could make sense either way and this only contributes to my crisis in dealing with both and trying to not get in conflict with either of them. Most of the time I feel as if I am being pulled in both directions, by the two most important people in my life and I honestly hate this feeling. So why haven’t I just told them that “enough is enough”, and made them deal with each other on their own? It all goes back to my hatred of conflict and my inability to move on with my life when I am stuck in the thick of one conflict with someone that I really care about.

And then, it’s all completely connected. Because of my fear of conflict and growing up with a mother who has bipolar, it’s really made me very in tune with energies and people’s auras. I had to navigate my mom’s mood my whole entire life and for this reason I have developed a “survival skill”, in which I test the atmosphere and the flow of energy in the room before deciding how to approach my mom in this particular instance and situation. The funny thing is, that even though growing up with my mom has made me rather skilled at reading other people’s energy and aura, it has not made me that skilled at reading my own mother’s. It might have to do with the fact that she is unpredictable and her behavior varies so much but it’s frustrating because that would have saved me so many tears and emotions.

I did like that Lisa made it a bit more understandable to me, she said, “unpredictable behavior is still a pattern of behavior” and this really stood out to me. So maybe the reason I haven’t been good at deciphering my mom’s moods day to day and her particular energy is because what she does doesn’t have a pattern. Delving this deeply into my own mind and psyche has really just helped me open my eyes even more and see things I have never seen before about myself. We really are such complicated and intrinsic individuals and it’s truly extraordinary just how deep our thoughts and minds can go.