Strengthening My Resilience: Seeing My Mom For The First Time In 10 Years...

Strengthening My Resilience: Seeing My Mom For The First Time In 10 Years... -

I find it incredibly frustrating that healing isn't linear and often feel like I'm "not doing it right" when I have episodes that trigger my anxiety, depression, flashbacks, and dissociative behaviors.  I wanted to share something that happened to me a year ago this week that helped me look at my progress in healing with a new perspective.

~ To preface this tale, I haven't seen or heard from my mother in over ten years (other than a snarky email after she found out I had cancer). She abused me for decades and, after years of holding out hope she would change and trying to have conversations with her about particular events (of which she, of course, denied), I finally had to make the choice to cut her out of my life. I've had to mourn the loss of her as if she is dead even though she lives about forty-five minutes away, which makes me constantly terrified to run into her one day.

My husband and I sat in our car at a stoplight one afternoon when I felt compelled to look over at the car next to us. It was a white, nondescript vehicle so that twitch in my tummy that I'm learning to listen to is what told me to look. I was struck by how the hair of the driver of that car looked so much like I remember my mother's hair looking. Her profile and the clench of her jaw were also remarkably like my mother and I commented on it to my husband.

As the woman turned her head to look at oncoming traffic, I was shocked to see her face. It WAS my mom! My whole body tensed up and I was frozen in my seat and couldn't stop staring at her. Her car was slightly ahead of us, but there she was 10 feet away. I felt completely stuck in a fishbowl and didn't want her to see me. I was clawing at the car seat because I couldn't run away. But then I also kind of wanted her to see me just so I could see if any recognition or feeling would cross her face in the moment.

She never saw me. She watched traffic and made her turn and drove away. The whole time I just kept saying, "Oh my god, that's my mom" over and over. As our light changed, we continued on our journey and I felt my entire body shaking from the inside out. I started sobbing and I couldn't stop it. It was so jarring to see her.

My husband pulled over into a parking lot and I sat there crying for half an hour at least. I was frantic and just wanted to claw at everything and run, but he actually helped me describe all my feelings and let me cry (whereas my previous reaction would have been to try to regain my composure quickly and squash it all down). In doing that, I was able to process all those feelings a lot easier/quicker/healthier than I normally would have.

And in the processing I realized a few things:
  • Seeing her definitely terrified me, made me sad, made me angry, but I'm glad it happened. Now I know how I will react if I ever see or run into her again. I know I can survive it. I know I can handle it. I know I am safe and can keep me safe.
  • I was able to see this shitty encounter as a sort of positive I could take lessons from instead of feeling like an even more anxious victim of her previous abuse.
  • It did not derail my mental health like it normally would have. I was still able to get things done and prepare for my road trip and enjoy my trip without thinking too much or dwelling on what happened. Previously, this encounter would have set off a spiral of depression that I would have sank into for who knows how long.

So I'm really proud of myself for working so hard all these years to make some kind of progress in my being, and it is rewarding and fascinating to see these lessons come into play in terms of listening to the emotions in my body, listening to my intuition, naming the emotions, etc.

Sharing a pic of me enjoying my vacation (in Cheatham Grove in Grizzly Creek Redwoods State Park where some scenes from Return of the Jedi were filmed.  I've wanted to go to Endor since I was 8!)

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