Saturday, October 25, 2008

Purgatory And My Mom

Purgatory is especially comforting to me. I believe that my mother was a Christian. Granted, I could not see into her heart, but she had a strong love for God. Unfortunately, my mother had a mental disorder that kept her from seeing life clearly.

Describing my mother is a difficult task. She was an extreme. When she was good, she was nearly saintly, but when she was bad, she was a horrible, vindictive, manipulative human being.

Both homeless and stray animals were brought home by my mom. Admittedly, my mom's judgement was off. She allowed one man to live with us who drank all our liquid cold medicines, hid alcohol bottles all through the house and brought porn into our home. His relationship with our mom was platonic, she simply felt sorry for him. But despite her good intentions, this man was a horrible, frightening person to have around young children.

Once she became concerned that another single mother did not have enough money to be Santa for her children. Even though we had very little money ourselves, she decided that we could fix up old toys and leave them anonymously in a box outside the lady's house. It was a wonderful lesson for us in not expecting credit or praise for our good deeds. Mom always stressed that we treat others with kindness and empathy.

My mother entertained us with silly accents(she was actually very good at mimicry) and funny stories. She could turn the worst events of her life into humorous antidotes. I learned the skill of coping with life's problems with laughter from her.

But this same mother could turn on a dime and become, abusive, cruel and manipulative. From the time that I was 11, she started telling me that I was a slut and a whore. I was also cold and unfeeling, at least according to mom.

When my mother was angry, she was a very frightening person. There was a period in my preadolescence, when I slept under my bed because my mother had indicated that she wanted to kill us. When I grew older, I became more concerned with my younger siblings and would sleep sitting up so that I could wake and protect my sister and brother.

Mom was very addicted to pain medicine. In order to get prescriptions she taught me how to fake migraine headaches so she could get more medicine. One time she sent me downtown by way of city bus to buy a dime bag of marijuana for her. She had a car, she just didn't want to get caught buying drugs. As I was under 18, she explained, I wouldn't get in trouble if the police caught me. Besides, she was going to buy the drugs anyway and if she went to jail, she said, it would be my fault if my siblings went into a foster home. So at 16, I went downtown and had a prearranged meeting with a man that she knew. I gave him money that my mother had entrusted to me and brought home my mother's pot.

Sometimes my mom was very negligent and ignored us completely. I signed all my brother and sister's school paper work and wrote their absence notes. Mom just couldn't be bothered. Other times she smothered us by refusing to let us leave her side. We missed school, were told not to ignore her by doing homework and had to sit up all night with her. She was lonely and we kids had to be her confidants, pals and support system.

Because she wanted to be in love, my mom was constantly falling in and out of relationships. Men liked my mom. She never had any problem getting a date or having men fall in love with her. Unfortunately, she was addicted to the adrenaline rush of falling in love and couldn't sustain a relationship. So, we had men constantly in and out of our lives. My mom was married seven times!

It was a very unstable homelife.

My mom wanted to be a good person. She read her bible and, I sincerely believe, reached out in her own confused way to God. She expressed a strong love for Jesus. An untreated mental condition can make a person see faith and religion in a twisted manner. So many family members protected Mom from hitting bottom and assisted her in hiding her mental condition. At one point, a doctor put my mother on lithium but she stopped seeing him or taking the medication. I have no idea if she had received a diagnosis for her condition or not.

You almost have to be an abused child to understand the discordant nature of such a home life. Sometimes my mother was a nearly saintly, intensely compassionate, loving person while at other times she was cruel and selfish. I have always thought that the loving person that my mother could be was her true nature free of her mental illness.

A couple of years ago, my mother died, alone in a broken down single wide trailer. I was the last of her children who had talked to her and that had been six months previously. To protect my own kids, I had tried to set boundaries on their grandmother. Mom wasn't allowed to make them feel guilty, call them names or inform them that they weren't going to heaven as she had said to my older daughter. In other words, I had given my mother rules as to how she could interact with my kids. She chose not to comply with these very basic rules and so we had no contact for six months.

My mother had obsessively written out her prayers to God on little, yellow memo notes. These notes were stuck all along her walls. Many of them spoke of her deep faith that God would change her children's hearts and convince them that they were mistaken. One very sad note read that my mother knew, if her faith was just strong enough, her children would walk through her door and ask for her forgiveness.

I believe that my mother was sincere in both her faith in God and her love for her children. But her mind was so clouded by insanity that she was incapable of understanding her own contributions to her many problems.

Yet, if I meet my mother in heaven-I honestly believe that she is either there or in Purgatory now- she will not be burdened with insanity. She will be the sweet, loving, funny person that God meant for her to be all along. In heaven she won't suffer from the effects of mental illness. That is a great comfort to me.


Simplex Vir said...

This is a great post. I know it must be tough just to write it. We share some of the same history. I pray every day that my mother will change but I cannot allow her around my children unsupervised.

God Bless you for looking for the good in an aweful situation!

deb said...

Thank you, Simplex vir. I debated with my self as to whether I should blog about my childhood. Despite my mom's behavior, I still love her very much and feel a strange sort of protectiveness toward her. My feelings about her are very conflicted.

There are several reasons that I decided to include information about my childhood on my blog. I've had several Protestants inform me that Purgatory just sounds too harsh to them. I wanted to provide them a different idea of what Purgatory is actually about.

Eventually, I want to talk about forgiveness on my blog. In order to do so, I will have to start covering my relationship with my mom and how I finally was able to forgive her.

Lastly, I want to talk about some potential abusive child rearing methods that are becoming more prevalent among some Christians. Perhaps admitting my own background with an abusive mother will help others not follow a similar path.

I am sorry that you had a similar childhood to mine.