Thursday, 3 April 2014

It's my party and I'll cry if I want to

I have a tab up there at the top of the blog for dreams but I'm not sure what I'm doing with it. Sometimes I write my dreams down on paper when they seem meaningful, other times I don't. I thought I'd like to start a blog for my dreams but at the moment I don't think it's realistic if my frequency of blogging here is anything to go by.

My dream styles vary: there are the mundane ones that include fragments of the day's events, conversations and things I've seen and the ones that are muddles of strangeness and bizarrity (first made up word of the day?). Then there are fascinating vivid adventures that could be made into movies (I really should be writing those down). And then there are the ones that seem to be telling me something about what's going on in some part of my brain that I'm not fully aware of: symbolically. I really appreciate this tool my dreams give me to help me understand myself. I know some people don't think dreams can have meaning but I don't doubt that for me they do and in a very significant way. Many times in my life I have been able to identify what's bothering me after having a dream that plays out the issue in some form of analogy or other for me to look at when I'm awake. The feelings about what's happening in the dream are always a good clue as to what my issue is.

There are phases lasting from days to weeks, in the types of dreams I have too. There will be a period where almost every night there is a dream that seems meaningful, then they will stop and the dreams will be more normal stories and mish-mashes and then there are phases where I don't really remember the dreams at all. I also have phases of sleep where my brain is working on a lot of stuff: but more practical everyday stuff. Like it will figure out the answer to a problem or remind me that I have to do a certain thing. And there are the ones that interfere with my day: they are short, vivid dreams of actions or conversations that I can't then tell if actually happened the next day. I will be convinced I put something somewhere only to not find it and eventually remember I dreamt it.

Anyway, to get to why I'm here. Today in my session with T I talked about a dream I had last night and she suggested it might be useful to note it down and I think she is right. I should record my dreams more. A family member recently told me about a fascinating dream I told them I had once but I had no recollection of it and I though that a pity. Seeing as my sleeping life is often much more interesting than my waking life, I might do well to journal it to look back on rather than journalling my everyday whinings. It's something I love about being me actually: the way I have an amazing dream imagination and that I remember my dreams; and there is not much I love about being me, that's for sure. So I should embrace that I suppose. Eek, I feel bad for saying I love something about me; I'm hearing the voice telling me I'm ridiculous to even think there is one thing to like. So here is the dream. It's not that interesting in itself but it was symbolic to me and I'll try to explain what I thought it meant.

My mum was throwing a birthday party for me in a house (not a house I know in life but in the dream it was one I knew... mine or my mum or sister's perhaps). She was preparing lots of food and there were lots of people there: my sisters, friends, people I don't know (although in the dream they weren't strangers), people from my old church. I went into the next room where a film was being projected onto the wall (something about a girl and demons and evil spirits but this doesn't seem relevant) and I fell asleep even though it was all still going on around me. While I was sleeping I vaguely heard people in the kitchen singing 'Happy Birthday to You' and when I woke up after a while, someone next to me had a plate and was talking about the food. I remarked that I didn't know there was food and they said that there was food, in a way that suggested it had been out for a while and everyone had eaten.

I went into the kitchen to find most of the food gone and the birthday cake eaten. There were just crumbs and left over bits of food on the table. I felt angry that no one had woken me up for the food or the cake and that I had missed the party that was supposed to be for me. I looked for my mum and asked her why she had let the party happen without me there. My mum said something to suggest they just hadn't realised I wasn't there, as if that was completely reasonable. I expressed that I was annoyed that she hadn't saved me any food. She told me I was being ungrateful and rude and had a bad attitude. She was very cross with me and then gave me the cold shoulder. I was holding some straggles of lettuce/salad leaves that I'd picked up from the table and I slapped them against the table in anger and I think I said something angry. Then I felt ashamed that I had lost control of myself and shown people how angry I was. I was ashamed because I could see no one else understood why I was annoyed and they thought I was being ungrateful and inappropriate and had a problem with my attitude.

As well as being angry I myself also felt like I was being ungrateful. I thought: they didn't have to have a party for me. It was nice of Mum to do it and I should just make do with what was left over. I got two bits of white bread and shoved the salad leaves in between them and ate them and I thought that it didn't taste too bad actually. I just ate the sandwich and thought I would just have to make do. But I felt alone and despairing. I was looking about at all the people, wondering who I could go to who would understand my pain but everyone was just absorbed in the party and I knew they wouldn't understand. There was one guy who I thought would understand my pain (a guy from my old church: one of the only people who didn't cut me off when I left, but who I don't really talk to despite that because him keeping me on Facebook seems like more of a condescending grace on his part rather than an actual act of mutual friendship) but I felt I couldn't talk to him because he seemed to have his own pain and I knew mine would be too much. So in essence, I felt alone and despairing even though it was 'my' party and I was surrounded by people.

This is what it symbolised to me:

The birthday party is me: my life; me being born and being alive. My mum preparing the birthday party represents that my mum looked after me as a child and cared for me throughout my life (not always very well, but she did put in effort to doing it). But in the dream, the party wasn't really about me was it? I fell asleep and no one even noticed because the party was more about them having a good time. No one was interested if I was having a good time... or even awake for that matter. That is like my life as well. My mum brought me up and cared for me to satisfy her own needs. She didn't really care if I was happy with how my life was going. I mean, she cared, but only in that I had to be happy to validate her feelings of being part of a 'happy family'. If I wasn't happy, she didn't want to accept that. And if I expressed it to her, she was angry with me and chastised me for being ungrateful, just like in the dream. T added an observation about the salad. In anger I slapped the salad leaves on the table, but then I felt ashamed and then I made a sandwich with the salad and ate it. I didn't think much of that bit of the dream until T said: "You swallowed your anger". I supposed that's true isn't it? The salad in a way represented my anger. I expressed my anger by slapping the salad down and then I suppressed my anger and gobbled up the salad... swallowed it. And I do feel ashamed at my anger and I feel I am being ungrateful for being angry too.

Let me explain why I said my mum didn't really care if I was happy as a child. My mum makes no secret of the fact that she had an unhappy childhood and all she ever wanted was to have a 'happy family', so that's what she went about to create when she married my father and started popping out kids. Her love for me as her child was really a means to an end to satisfy her own need to be in a 'happy family' whatever that looked like to her. Perhaps her efforts at being a good mother were so that she could feel loved by her family. That's all very well and until about a month ago I thought that was not something to hold against your parent.

Because why does anyone have kids really? It's largely a selfish thing isn't it? You have them to satisfy some need you have to be loved or to have meaning in your life, or to create something you can manipulate, but still you love your kids and do the best for them and want them to be happy and healthy and that's all fine if you really do put their needs first. But what if there is something your child isn't happy about or what if they are sick? It goes wrong when your child's lack of perfection disrupts your idea of what your life should be like so much that you have to deny that there is anything wrong and chastise them for telling you about it.

Recently I have come to reflect on the times in my life from childhood throughout life until very recently when I told my mum that things weren't right and how her reaction was that of anger and denial. It has hit me like a tonne of bricks that my mum wants a happy family so much that she has punished me or denied reality to my expense. In the dream the denial is represented by her going ahead with my party despite me not being there and the anger she had when I confronted her about this was like her anger when I have talked to her about issues and her likely anger if I told her how I feel now. There are a few occasions that stand out to me from my life that showed how my mum couldn't accept reality: once when I went to her in tears and said I didn't think my father loved me. I said that because he acted like he hated me; he despised me. He ridiculed me, called me names, ignored me, treated me badly... did everything a person might do if forced to live with someone despicable and unworthy of being treated well. I guess I hadn't really thought through why I was confiding in my mum that I thought he didn't love me but I clearly hadn't anticipated that she would shout at me and tell me not to be so ungrateful and give me a lecture about how he worked long hours in a hard job to put a roof over my head. I felt so ashamed for having been so ungrateful and for having had such awful thoughts about my father.

Another time, my mum got called up to my school because I'd been found out for self harming. I always blamed my school for not helping me after that day. There was a suggestion of counselling but it never came to pass. I have felt so angry for years that they knew there was clearly something very wrong with me yet they did nothing more than tell my parents about it. But what about my parents? What did they do to help me? Why did they never get me any help? Why did I never feel angry with my mum for not helping me then?
Oh there have been other occasions. I think I learnt pretty quickly not to show emotions to my parents, unless it was gratitude, admiration or 'happiness'. I would get the odd interrogation from my mum where she would accuse me of being depressed. But it was never said in a way that would make one feel comfortable to confide in her. Not that I was even aware of being depressed most of the time when she said it. By that stage in my teens I was quite adept at not feeling anything. I wasn't even allowed to be physically ill. I mean, I had stern lectures from my mother about it not being acceptable that I was having stomach cramps and diarrhoea several times in every day. I remember one specific lecture was when we were driving home and I was in agony with cramps and she said I clearly wasn't praying enough because if I was I would be healed by God. It was never an option to go to the doctors to check I was OK. If I had a cold for more than two days I would have been told off for my lack of faith, so you can imagine how much tolerance there would have been if I actually had known about and talked about my psychological problems?

I would also get told of for studying too much. Yes, you read it right... too much. This was also an attitude problem because I should not be putting so much effort into things that weren't God's work. One day I let slip that I hadn't felt supported through my school studies and my mum really made me regret saying that. After a similar 'We put a roof over your head' lecture, she barely spoke to me except in a cold and chastising manner for several weeks. Again I felt so ashamed for how ungrateful I was.

Things never really changed, even after the church. Like I said, I learnt not to show my emotions for the most part but I remember once in my early twenties, when I was going through a really hard time it all bursting out in a flood of tears in front of my mother. I had no money to buy even bread or milk (I'm not exaggerating: after about half way through university I decided I never wanted to 'owe' my parents anything so I didn't ask them for financial help and my student loan and part time job earnings were barely enough to cover my rent and university fees), I was failing my degree, being bullied, I'd just left the church and a million little things were going wrong too. It all came out at once one day... about the money problems and that I was being bullied and didn't have anywhere to live and all this stuff. My mum listened then said she would help me. She said we would sit down and work it out together. I felt better; I wouldn't be on my own with it all. I waited for the time to come that she would help me but it didn't come. She didn't mention it again. Ever.

And so I learnt once and for all that I love my mum but she can't handle my unhappiness. There have been things I can't avoid. I know how it irks her that I am not well often... although at least now she can't blame my lack of faith in God. She used to talk like a parrot about how her side of the family were so genetically robust and any of my illness couldn't have come from her. Then when I got diagnosed with, wait for it... a genetic illness, she refused to believe I had inherited it from her side until she had a blood test done that she couldn't deny and then she was mortified and truly apologetic. She found that hard to handle.

So to recent days. I have not shared anything about my mental health with her where I can avoid it. I don't mind telling her about my physical problems. I guess I feel safe that I can say those now. However, recently she asked me direct questions which meant I would have to lie to her if I wanted to keep my mental health secrets so I told her I have been depressed. She wanted to know more, more, more. So she didn't get angry or deny it or anything. But did she? Is it a coincidence that she seems annoyed with me every time I see her since? Is it a coincidence that she has recently given me her other well used speech entitled: "The mental problems in our family are all genetic" although now renamed: "YOUR mental problems are genetic". And am I imagining things when I feel like she is giving me a silent treatment and that she is expressing her anger at me by not responding to my texts or contacting me and making narky comments and giving me freakish glares when I do see her?

Well you know what Mummy? If you're angry at me for trying to further shatter your delusions of a happy family, I'm as angry at you for denying all the unhappiness that I lived with for my entire life. I'm angry with you for making me feel ashamed for having feelings that should have been taken notice of. You could have helped me. You could have helped me to be able to know the things I had to not know and you could have acted for me to make things different so that I could experience what real life is and what being a child should have been about. I'm angry that I am only now learning how to feel emotions without channelling them into something less dangerous. And now there is so much anger, I don't know if it's ever going to end. And it's all very well me saying it here, but the fact is, I can't ever tell my mum how I feel because I know how she would punish me.

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