Anger Made It Hard To Forgive Mom
(Takoma Park, MD)
As far back as I can remember, I became tied to the world through my mother--and to some extent, my brother. My mother put her speech therapy training to use after I lost most of my hearing due to spinal meningitis at age 16 months. I went to audiologists, hearing aid centers, other speech therapists, and even once went to a Chinese doctor in New York with the belief that his herbal concoction would heal my hearing.
Today despite a severe-profound hearing loss, I speak well and write well--even got a doctorate. I've been told I'm one of the smartest deaf people some have ever met. However, if I mentioned my mother's role as a speech therapist in my life, I feel like she steals the limelight. The fact is that most of my achievements have been on my own merit.
I believe my mom and I were co-dependent, and my brother was as well. Of course, there were good, healthy times, but sometimes they seemed shadowed by the sexual abuse I endured (the one time this happened with my mom's then-boyfriend, we were all sleeping in the same big hippie bed), my brother's mental illness and ultimately his death from side-effects of a medication.
When my brother died in 2002, it was sudden, and tore our family apart. I had felt protected by him, and it was surreal to see both my parents (divorced since I was 4) in the same room at his deathbed. I felt my brother helped "dilute" my mom, and I felt very vulnerable. Sometime afterward I lapsed into depression.
They say depression is anger turned inwards, and I believe the anger at my brother's death, my mother, my father, and possibly other repressed emotions I hadn't dealt with--came up like a Pandora's Box. I was just devastated. I couldn't understand why my anger at my mother intensified so much. I had a hard time expressing my emotions, but also felt I wasn't given the opportunity to express my emotions.
I recall that my grandfather once told my mother to stop treating me like a retarded child. I had no idea why I hung on to that anger, but part of it may have had to do with the fact that I depended on her to be my "ears" and interpret for me, but at the same time I was angry I couldn't be fully independent. In therapy more recently I learned that possibly the intense anger was related to this paradox, and maybe it felt more intense without my brother there as a "buffer".
I'm doing my best to let go of my anger. It does feel a little addictive--as if the angst I had at the world, my anger at whatever, is heaped on her because I can't deal with it fully myself. I think cognitive behavor therapy is helping me to let go. In terms of codependence, maybe it was easy for me as a kid to blame my problems on the parent, and now as I'm older I need to take responsibility for that and move on. I hope I get to the point where I feel like I can be in the same room with her and not be affected, be able to say "no" and guard my boundaries.
If anyone is reading this and cares to comment, I would like to know this: growing up I functioned as deaf/hard of hearing person in a hearing world. I had a lot of hypervigilance trying to understand people and "pretend" to be hearing. (I learned sign language later, which my mother initially did not like).
Because I have to strain to hear, it feels harder to protect my boundaries. I try to catch every word, and this can sometimes feel uneasy. I'm not accepted by all deaf/signing people either, and this whole paradox makes me kind of angry. Where can I find a win/win situation? There's so much I want to say, and I want to be heard and be a part of something on a more regular basis--not at the margins!
Thanks for reading.
Response from Dr. DeFoore
Hello Anne, and thanks for telling your story here. I greatly respect your journey, and your sincere desire to find a way to be heard. I will try to help.
Before you share your story with others, in an attempt to be heard, I encourage you to make sure you have fully explored your own story--that is, your own deepest feelings. You have been through a lot in your life, and an important first step for healing is for you to write about the significant experiences of your life. Use the journaling processes on this page to help you with that. Regarding the sexual abuse you experienced, I recommend that you use these imagery processes for emotional healing to resolve that trauma.
In terms of finding something where you belong, and where you can be heard (not at the margins), the only thing that comes to mind is for you to create your own web site, where you provide the content. Here are the reasons I think this might be a good fit for you:
1) You are an excellent writer, which really helps when creating original content for a web site.
2) You have a unique "voice" or story to tell, and you have the passion to fuel the process.
3) There is most likely a need for what you have to offer...something along the lines of how you succeeded in life as a hearing impaired individual.
Do the exercises I've recommended here, Anne, and I think it will help you to get in touch with your heart and your passion, which will guide you in the direction that is right for you. And feel free to write again on this site.
Above all, believe in yourself and the gifts that are uniquely yours.
My very best to you,