Day 113: Reaching out to Emptiness
I wasn't held as an infant. I learned this from a cousin who, one day apropos of nothing said, "It was so sad the way you were as a child. You would stand way back away from people. I think it was because your mom didn't hold you. You didn't know how to let anyone touch you. Then, when you decided it was OK, you'd run for my lap and shove anyone else off. You seemed just desperate for affection."
Desperate for affection, from toddlerhood. That's when this cousin knew me: age 1 to age 5.
I was startled by what she said. At that point in my life we hadn't been through the familiy confrontation. I didn't think of my family as abusive or neglectful. So, I asked what she meant. She said my mother wasn't able to hold the younger ones of us. She thought my mom just couldn't handle having five small children at one time, especially with the way my dad was (meaning he was a mean and jealous man). She said I would lay in a crib or a play pen for untold hours, crying.
My mom speaks of me as being an "exhausting, colicky baby." She has said many times, "I never got any sleep with you and with those two older brothers of yours who were always into trouble of some kind."
I have thought about that hated crying. She must have genuinely resented it. She must have wanted to run screaming away because she was trapped with all of these small children and no chance to rest.
I realize such thoughts are how I excuse her neglect. She neglected me because of undiagnosed and untreated post-partum depression. She neglected me because my father was gone most of the time and when he was around he was an asshole, possibly even dangerous. She neglected me because I was difficult. I couldn't eat the usual foods.
I know now that I couldn't eat the usual foods because I was suffering from failure to thrive, which was wreaking havoc on my digestive tract. I didn't sleep because of that either.
In other words, her neglect gave me the very symptoms that made her want to stay away from me.
The root of this is an unwillingness to ask for help. She should have asked for help. She was on a military base. They had resources for the families. My mom has always been someone who believed one should never reach out for help. It's weak. People will take advantage of you.
So, I learned these beliefs from her and I was neglected because of them.
I spent infancy reaching out to emptiness and have lived a life bereft of love as a result. I have repeatedly found people who cannot love me because I didn't learn what love is or even that it exists.
But, I think this will start to change. As I process the pain, as I allow love in, I will find something solid when I learn to reach out again.