Mother issues

The topic of today’s therapy session was My Mom. Yep, believe it or not, it was.

I didn’t have a great session. I do feel like quitting but will wait and see. I can’t go next week anyway, as I’m starting my new contract and will be tired, so it’ll be a while anyway. It felt like a wasted session to tell the truth.

I’d had a fight with my mother. Not a usual occurrence as we don’t speak of anything ever if we can help it. I happened to be over at my parents visiting my son, whom I took out for lunch. He was a great deal worse again, looking as if he had the flu basically, though he perked up during the outing. It was painful to see him looking so bad when he had seemed to be a lot healthier the last few weeks.

He complained that something my mother does in the kitchen is making his symptoms worse, and he thinks it’s the crappy old dishcloth she uses to wipe the counters. He’s highly sensitive to mold. We’d had the conversation a few weeks ago. I bought some J-cloths and mixed up some natural spray cleanser that would disinfect.

When we were back, I asked my mother if she could use the cloths and cleanser instead of the thirty year old dishcloth and the sponge she favours. Mom was offended. She retorted that my son would like them to tear down the whole kitchen. I said no, no one is asking you to do that. Just use the cloths. She sneered at my cleanser (no biggie – she could use any natural type cleanser, but she doesn’t want to). She said that wouldn’t be enough to solve ‘the problem’. By which she meant my son’t illness. No, of course it won’t. But it seems like such an easy thing for you to try, and he’s so sick.

So she walked off to another room and I went home. I assume she won’t bother with the change I asked for.

I know she is passionate about not creating garbage, so she doesn’t want to throw anything out, including thirty year old dishcloths. She doesn’t like using any kind of cleanser either. Fine. I couldn’t care less what she does, except that it’s affecting my son’s damaged health. It seems like such a small ask – as opposed to tearing down the kitchen, or drugging up my son. If something so small could help, why not try it?

So I related this tale of woe in my session. Also that it’s very unusual for my mother to fight with anybody. She gets her way through avoidance and denial. Except for my dad’s wishes, which are always hers to fulfill perfectly.

I was feeling all this anger towards her. It did feel kind of childish. I wasn’t measured or really understanding – I was just mad. At this, and at the way she’s treated me forever. This person who always demanded that no one display any emotion ever, who was unable to nurture in any but the most basic ways.  Who is always perfect, always quiet and never complains or has any difficulties ever.

So I was in this childish state in the session, and I don’t think I came across that well. And I felt Ron didn’t sympathize much. He did say some validating things I suppose, but I couldn’t feel them. He didn’t seem to get how my family works and that made me feel frantic.

Then he really got up my nose by diagnosing my son, saying didn’t I think his symptoms were psychosomatic. He’s said it before, it’s nothing new. The thing is, he doesn’t see him. There’s definitely something physical going on. I know my son also has issues. Ron starts harping on about this, and I tell him I don’t want to discuss it. I’ve been down such a long road with my son’s illness already. I know what I think. I’ve researched it and read books on what I think he has and discussed ad infinitum with my ex and friends. I started off also thinking it was psychological, but I changed my mind over the years. And my session is only fifty minutes once a week – I need it to try and tend to my own issues, not listen to his uninformed opinion about my son.

A challenge was that I was really not very adult in session and so it was difficult to engage Ron. I did tell him I felt I was wasting my session and that I didn’t want to discuss my son anymore. Ron said he is weighing on my mind and so we should discuss. But a whole lot of things are weighing on my mind and I do have to choose what to discuss and I don’t care to hear his opinions on my son to tell the truth. He can just butt right out.

So obviously I’m still pissed off.

Also, Ron was a bit pre-occupied. He was texting when I walked into his office and kept going for a minute or two, which he never does. Later, I saw he’d phoned me just before our session but hadn’t left a message, presumably to re-schedule. Then he looked at the clock while i was speaking which he really never does. I think he was on edge maybe with some personal situation that he needed to take care of.

Maybe that’s why he was so un-attuned.

I haven’t had this strong urge to quit for quite a few months now. I’d been having more adult sessions, which are useful as we can actually discuss things without being swamped by oceans of emotion. And as an added bonus, I then don’t seem to fixate much on what he does or doesn’t say – he’s just my therapist and I’m not that bothered with what he does.

Now getting back into more kid emotions, all that angst about him seems to be back. I want to get back to adult type sessions. Or quit. Or something.

  1. That’s a sucky combination–you being in a triggered, outraged child place, and Ron in a distracted, poorly attuned space, just when you could benefit from some authentic empathy. I’ve had a few sessions like that with E, and the disappointment is painful because I invest so much hope that in her office at least, if no where else, someone will really get what I’m experiencing. So no wonder you are aggravated, not getting that.

    I think I can kind of relate to your situation with your son and your mom. It’s not quite the same thing, but as you know I have a son with some developmental disabilities. He’s been diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum and then there are some other guesses about what else might be going on. We’ve known since he was quite young that there was something, but it’s been hard to get a diagnosis that fits well. Anyway, for much of my son’s in his father’s mind (that’s my ex), the problems have due to my poor parenting skills, of course. So I’d be working with specialists and trying supplements and diet and medication, and then my son would visit his dad, who not only would not give him the supplements and meds, but he’d also tell me son that “that crap will turn you into a zombie…”

    Well, I could go on and on, but my point was supposed to be that it’s hard to be a parent who wants to protect your child’s health and well-being as much as possible, only to have those efforts undermined by another important adult in that person’s life. It’s more than hard; it’s maddening. And given that you have a lot of pre-existing anger towards your mom anyway, of course this situation would trigger all of that and not necessarily in the most adult way. Just like a snotty email from my ex, in which he pretends to be expressing concern about my son but in fact is again accusing me of being a shit mom, can make me want to strangle someone that I thought I was done caring about one way or another.

    I don’t know, maybe it’s not quite the same thing. But at any rate, I am frustrated with you mom on your behalf (and on your son’s behalf) and would like to volunteer to sneak in at night and burn that damn dishcloth for you.

    • Ellen said:

      Your ex sounds like a piece of work, frankly. Thank God he is an ex. My own ex used to undermine things I wanted to try also, but not quite that overtly. It was so very frustrating, because then this would strengthen my son’s reluctance to trust anything I thought might help.

      With my mother, it’s very complicated. She never says anything about any situation ever, so I’m in the dark in a way. She does have very strong feelings about not creating garbage, re-using, being very frugal – it’s hard to explain. It’s like her religion. She’s a very anxious person and so clings to her way of doing things desperately IMO. And then she seems to think my son’s problems are in his mind so nothing else will help anyway. And she is very angry I think that he’s living with them and making their life difficult. And feels this is somehow my fault. I don’t know. This dishcloth is symbolic somehow.

      Ugh. Thanks for sharing your story. It actually helps that I’m not alone with some of these issues, because I don’t know anyone else whose child has grown up and been disabled like this. It’s such a tangled web.

  2. Ashana M said:

    It does seem like the session wandered from the point, which is your mom’s rigidity and not a diagnosis of your son. Nothing can be tried, since it means compromise and also risking disappointment. I can feel how suffocating this would be as a young person–just the absence of possibility or hope.

  3. I would say you stepped on what I call a land mine….which cloth to use seems minor in comparison to the reaction your mother had. Your reaction to her unusual response to what appeared to be a simple request. In my opinion, there was way too much anger on her part and yours to be just about the wash cloth. Digging deeper may reveal more than the surface conflict, however, as you pointed out you are starting a new contract and need to focus on that for a bit. My suggestion is start writing out all your thoughts and feelings on this situation, maybe limit your time to 30 minutes. Then 30 minutes each day add to the list of things that bug you about the situation. Then take what you wrote out to a session with Ron. Just a thought because it something that I used successfully with my counselor. Sending best wishes and healing thoughts for this coming start of your contract. Cheering for you.

    • Ellen said:

      I actually thought about your description of the ‘lake of rage’ while going through this Ruth. I was so angry, I would wake up at night furious. Your suggestion of writing is good, but I ended up just getting through it. I feel more distant from all this again and last session we did not discuss at all. I am wanting to focus on getting used to working again and so I’ll save this for some other time. Thank you for the good wishes.

  4. Grainne said:

    Your mother’s response doesn’t surprise me, considering how she has always been one to override your needs and feelings with her own need to keep the image of “normalcy” up front and centre. As far as I can remember, no one in your family discusses anything that might cause a hint of emotional reaction or, even worse for them, a change in the routine. They all seem to like to keep the world inside their own perspective and haven’t been able to emotionally understand the needs of others in the family on an emotional level. Sure, your mother can take your son in and give him a place to live, rest, regain strength; but for her to change what she does/wants (which likely is really what your father wants being filtered through her) is another matter entirely.

    I can imagine how frustrating it would be to try to advocate for your son because your own mother (his grandmother!) won’t take his needs into consideration and only thinks of the inconvenience he is causing her (i.e. the catastrophic reaction suggesting he was asking them to “tear apart the entire kitchen” when the suggestion of using a disposable cloth over an old, bacteria and mildew ridden rag was raised.) I’m sorry she immediately took a defensive stance over this with you. It must be causing such emotional upheaval as I’m sure it reminds you of a thousand times she dismissed your needs while you grew up as she is now dismissing your son’s.

    Ron discussing your son’s diagnosis and having the lack of sensitivity to suggest his illness (or symptoms) are partially psychosomatic did not sit well with me either. I’ve been through that with Colt many times and there is NOTHING as frustrating as someone throwing out opinions on things they know nothing about. It felt, from here, like he was taking your mother’s point of view and trying to justify it! To feel the need to defend your son and continuously convince people that he suffering something that is NOT entirely connected to his mental health is exhausting. To have to do it with your mother !!! is even worse. To have your therapists pick up where your mom left off when you bring it into a session seeking some help discharging and/or understanding the feelings…….wow. You must have felt so alone. Ron knows better. He knows how your family affects you and how much you want to be there and help your son, even when you’re struggling with your own life. To have him provide some empathy or to give feedback on how to emotionally cope with your mother’s dismissal and anger would have been helpful. To have him agree with her and try to stick his nose into your son’s diagnosis was not a great therapeutic strategy.

    I hope you can find a way to blow off this stress and focus on your new contract without distraction. Thinking of you xxxxx

    • Ellen said:

      You’re right my family isn’t really able to take others’ perspectives very well. To them, there is just one right perspective.

      What you say about Colt is how I did feel about this session. Like Ron was really missing the point and not understanding. I’m actually not sure anymore that how I perceived him is totally where he was coming from…but it seemed like that to me. He really can’t diagnose from his armchair, and he agreed later that he cannot and should not. I skipped a session so just saw him again two weeks later, and I didn’t bring this whole issue up again. We’re on better terms again now. I think therapists do miss the boat some days.

      Thanks for your empathy. xox

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