Saturday, March 3, 2012

My Remarkable Mother

How's my mental health today?

My mind is still racing, but I'm no longer feeling as agitated as I was earlier in the week. Mind you, that could change quite quickly, depending on what kind of stimulation I get exposed to (and how much).

My head is bouncing in many directions at the moment.

We had invited my mother to join us for supper, and afterwards Heidi, my mom and I sat around chatting - actually, if I remember correctly I was still fairly agitated and kept getting up to do stuff.

I'm not sure why, but I got it into my head to show my mom some of my blog posts. I have never shown my mother any of my writing, because I didn't want to risk inadvertently hurting her.

A little more than five years ago, I wrote some of my personal story. I drafted three chapters and sketched out some extremely brief ideas for more chapters. What started as a brief glimpse of some of my mental illness experiences, began to grow into the possibility of a book. Many people that read what I had written encouraged me to publish the book when I was done. Although the idea of publishing was enticing, I declined. There was no way I was going to publish my personal story as long as my mother was still alive. You see, many people got hurt over the course of my life, especially during the years prior to my receiving a psychiatric diagnosis. There was absolutely no way that I was going to risk injuring my mother emotionally again.

My mother knew that I was writing but she didn't know what.  So here we were, trying to let our dinner settle, when I asked her if she was interested in reading some of my blog posts. There was an immediate positive response.

It was an interesting evening. I handed my mother my tablet computer, showed her how to scroll through the blog, and let her read. She read for almost 2 1/2 hours. I took her through one post after another, beginning with that day's post and then going back to the very first one I wrote last August.

We discussed many things I had written. There were a few eye openers for her. Our chat was quite tangential, just like my blog. I discovered that one of the board members of the organization that owns our building had told my mom that he reads my blog regularly. I had no idea. I wonder how he came across it. Anyway, my mother wants to read more.

So... when Heidi is at work, I'm going to take her laptop computer to my mom's apartment (she lives just across the hall from us and down one suite), fire up the computer, show her how to navigate the blog and use Google and then leave her to it.

As I walked her back to her apartment I started to warn my mother that she might come across stuff that could make her uncomfortable. She dismissed my warning, saying that wasn't a problem - she was interested in my writing, my perspective, and my opinions. In fact, one of the things she did was to encourage me to write more because I've had so many different experiences, both good and bad.


Words fail me... I had not ever dreamed that she would be so keen on reading my stuff or be so accepting and open to whatever I had to say.

Later that evening I dug out the three chapters I wrote five years ago to give to her. I wondered what her response would be to those thirty pages. On my way out the next morning I stopped at my mom's door and offered her the document, strongly cautioning her again that she might find some of it difficult to read. Once again she told me she would be OK - but she added it might take a few days for her to finish reading these pages. I handed her the wad of paper and went on my way.

Two hours later I met with the other members of the "Peters Family Unemployed and Under Employed (PUUE) Support Group". (We've been meeting once a week since last October). The meeting was in Heidi's and my apartment. My youngest sister showed up with the document I had handed my mother earlier. Apparently my mom started reading it and then couldn't put it down until she was done. My sister told me our mother was devastated, but she would be OK. My worst fears seemed to have been realized.

My siblings and I had a great 3 hours together, drinking coffee and talking and laughing about all sorts of things - pretty much the norm for our "Kaffee Klatsches". We spent a fair bit of time talking about our memories, both good and bad, of our years growing up. This time we included the contents of my document. One sister and one brother hadn't read the document yet so they asked if they could read it. They each took a copy home with them/

I tried phoning my mom several times because I was concerned about her. When I finally connected with her she stated she was OK (her words). She wasn't devastated as I had been told - she had been shocked by a few of my revelations, but her biggest issue was her guilt and regret that she hadn't been able to do more to protect me from my father's rages. We had a lengthy conversation - the first of many more I'm sure - and I heard stuff I never knew; I probably blocked a lot of those details out.

The astonishing (to me) part of the conversation was my mother telling me how good my writing was (a mother's bias?). She told me that I needed to write, that I needed to write it all, and I needed to write it now - not after her death.

My mother read a lot to me when I was a child; she taught me to read German (and music). Now she's reading my stuff, giving me her stamp of approval, and the encouragement (directive?) to write my book.

Her words keep echoing in my mind. "You need to write - you need to write it all. Hold nothing back."

Heidi had never seen me cry. She did when I told her about this conversation.

Maybe I will try to write and publish my book before my mother dies.

You may have tangible wealth untold;
Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold.
Richer than I you can never be
I had a mother who read to me.
-- Strickland Gillilan

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