As I mentioned in my last post, I really wanted to talk to my therapist about both scheduling and money in our last session. We got through the scheduling conversation fairly quickly, which left nearly 45 minutes to tackle the money part.
My therapist and I have tried to have conversations about money, primarily within the context of how the financial cost of therapy impacts me. It’s a lot of money. A LOT. It is the biggest expense for my wife and I (and that includes rent in NYC). It wasn’t so bad when I started with this therapist because it was just one session per week. But then one became two and a few months later, we settled into three sessions each week.
It’s pretty clear that this frequency works well for me. I don’t mind seeing her so often, but I won’t pretend the cost isn’t a burden for me. My wife insists that my health, including my mental health, is worth the expense. I believe her. But there is still so much intense guilt that comes up for me, especially since I’m still in school and thus not generating income for myself.
I do get a small stipend and all of my education is paid for in grants and scholarships, so at this point all of my therapy expenses have come from my own bank account. I am happy about that, but it also means that I’m literally contributing NOTHING to our other bills – rent, utilities, groceries, cell phones, transportation, etc. And that is very hard for me to swallow.
I have such profound shame around this – money, insurance, needing healthcare, and paying for my own self-care. It’s hard to even initiate a conversation around any of those topics and whenever my therapist does, I almost immediately descend into a shame spiral. I value my therapist and I believe she is worth what I pay her. But there is just something that holds me in this awful place, where it’s nearly impossible to process any of these emotions or thoughts.
But something about the way she allowed me to just sit and experience the visceral grief I felt towards my biological mother on my birthday made me curious. I have this collection of email exchanges between my mother and myself, written in 2007. I printed them out in December of 2008 and then did absolutely nothing with them. So her words, and mine, have just been sitting in a pile, waiting to be heard and processed.
So on Tuesday night, I dug through my old therapy materials and found the emails. I skimmed through them, highlighting the parts that stood out to me. I wasn’t sure exactly why I wanted to share them with my therapist, but it felt really important. I wanted her to hear my mother’s actual words. I wanted her to understand the way this woman spoke to me; the way she manipulated me, specifically as it relates to the aforementioned issues of money, insurance coverage, and healthcare. I thought it might help my therapist better understand part of what holds me in such a horrible place of shame and fear whenever we bring up these topics.
So I read her the emails. ALL of them. She sighed and scoffed and laughed at the appropriate places. I was worried she wouldn’t catch the nuance of my mother’s manipulation. Her abuse is subtle and pervasive. I think for most of my life I felt insane because I couldn’t quite explain it. I knew something was wrong, but I struggled to articulate what that something was, or how it impacted me.
Here are some samples of what I read.
*For context, my mother is upset because she discovered I was not taking my prescribed dose of Lithium (after rummaging through my coat). I was still taking Lamictal and Wellbutrin, but the Lithium was hurting my body and giving me horrible side effects, so I stopped taking it. When she tried to bring it up with me, we were in the car, driving 65 miles an hour. I told her I didn’t want to discuss it, but she insisted on pushing my buttons. We were both very animated and at one point she gestured very close to my face. I thought she was going to hit me, so I struck my hand out to block her arm. She took this as me hitting her and flipped the hell out. Then she drove to her best friend’s house and started screaming at me, so I took her car and left. She gave me an ultimatum: take Lithium or move out.
I moved out.
This is a compilation of her email responses to me afterwards:
Well here we are again. You hate me now because I am the one that always has to deal with the problems. Everyone else can just deal with you when they want to then walk away until you’re in a better mood – the great and wonderful side of you.I can’t. I want to. I only want the good side of you, the side I enjoy to be with and share my life with, but I am your mother and I have to deal with the tough part of your life.You are right – sometimes I don’t talk when you are around. I am upset because I have been running around all day and I have to come home and the first thing out of your mouth is “what is for dinner?”. You sit on the computer and let me make dinner, NOT help, and then just come and get it like you’re 10 years old. Then you put your plate in the sink and go back to whatever you were doing. You start your laundry and leave it for me to finish because if I want to do mine, I have to move yours. YET when you’re at college, you have to do your own laundry – you don’t leave your clothes in the machine for days.You don’t offer to help with anything around the house yet you are an adult living here.Is that the way an adult acts? No! I want to say something but I am afraid of the fight it will end up to be.I have been wanting to talk to you again about going to that doctor for your medications. It took me weeks to find a doctor that would take you that was part of a large group that had both psychiatrists and therapists – everything you needed so you could build a trusting relationship for yourself. But you won’t utilize it in anyway. I wanted to talk to you about being proactive about your Bipolar Disorder, but I was afraid. Now you know why.You are not in control of your emotions or you would have not left me at my friend’s house that night, taking off with MY CAR. You would have not hit your mother in the car when we were driving. You would have not broke my glasses and threw stuff all over the car. I had to get out of the car because I was so upset, I drove through a stop sign.I don’t know what else to say.YOU HAVE EVERY RIGHT TO ASK A DOCTOR TO ADJUST YOUR MEDICATIONS OR CHANGE THEM IF THEY MAKE YOU SICK OR THE SIDE EFFECTS BOTHER YOU.But like it or not, you have Bipolar and you will always have Bipolar and you can choose to have a normal fulfilling life with good strong relationships with the people you love or you can choose to self-medicate yourself in a irresponsible way, causing harm to the relationships you value.I will always be the one that has loved you enough to deal with telling you face to face.I have lived all of my adult life with doors closed because of my chronic pain and inability to do the things I want. I remember what it was like to realize I could never bowl in the league again or go roller or ice skating with my daughters or sledding at the park. I would never ride a roller coaster again. Something as simple as not be able to open a jar in the until Dad gets home. Nothing will ever bring that back to me or fix it. It will only get worse. The pain every day and every night of my life is present.For the past 6 months, my oncologist has been looking for and worried about cancer. When these test are done I have to deal with my uterine tumor and cysts. They are sending me to a specialized hospital for that because no one here will touch me for that surgery either. So I know what it is like EVERY DAY.If you have noticed, I have been pushing you to make phone calls yourself and take control of things yourself. I will not be here forever and I realize that now more then ever. I want you to be able to deal with all your life will bring, but how can I feel that way if you acted the way you did yesterday and I confirm once again you’ve stopped taking your lithium?That is not responsible and you know it.You could have done this a better way, working with your health care provider building a relationship like you had with your first therapist. Talking about your anxiety on the phone and dealing with that through therapy or medication instead of just wishing it away. THAT WON’T WORK and you of all people should know that.I can’t have someone hurt me verbally or physically in my own home. It’s not right and you know that.You also know that no person on this earth has gone through more, understands more or loves your more or could be more proud of you then me. Sometimes I think we can almost feel each others feelings we are so close but this always gets in the way.Your sister is 26, you are 24. I have to for once in my life start thinking of my life and I can’t live like this anymore. If you choose a responsible solution to this problem, your life has nowhere to go but wherever your dreams can take it.My dreams are gone now and maybe I didn’t make anything of myself, but I don’t have to live a nightmare. I just want peace. I want to enjoy the times I have left with my own mother still living on this earth. I want to enjoy the little time your brother has left at home before he goes to college.But more then anything I want to know YOU are going to be OKAY…and not just in school, in life. I HATE doctors, but we all need them one way or another. Sometimes we have to make choices we don’t like, but its called being an adult. You are not a child anymore – you are an educated, smart, personable young woman. Act like one.No one in your life should be afraid to express how they feel to you because if that is the case then you really don’t have a true relationship with them anyway.Please understand that I just want some peace and respect. I think I at least deserve that.All I am is just your mom, but I am the only mom you are ever going to have.The only thing I want from you is an apology and your word to start taking your Lithium in my presence as long as you are in this house. And you need to make an appointment with that doctor’s office to start building a trusting relationship with someone on your side so you can explain why you want to change your medications. It starts with ONE visit at a time. There are new drugs developed everyday – new treatments.It’s time to be responsible about this because YOU know it is the right thing to do.I told you before that you would no longer be allowed to stay here if you were not on the Lithium. You have to find a doctor and choose to be honest and allow people to help you. I know you know the game and how to tell them what they want to hear, rather then what is really happening in your life.I hope and pray you will have the strength to be honest.But in light of what happened during your stay here with us, I feel you have no respect for us (or at least me) in anyway and haven’t for some time. When you get upset and we ask you to leave so things can calm down you just say “F— it.” You even told your brother that you would just go to your room until we get over it. If we ask you to stop using bad language, you just act like we are not even in the house.Calling the police on you when you were in high school to get you admitted to the mental hospital was the worst day of my life and I never want to go through that again in my life. But I should have called the police that day in the car when you hit me. But even then, I was still thinking of your future. Even then! Even after you had just gone off on me and hit me and almost caused me to crash the car. I should have called the police.I will tell you now – make no mistake. If anything like that ever happens again, I will call the police and you will just have to deal with your own future. I was upset for days and days after that incident.
I love you more than any words can ever express and I am sure you will never know what kind of love I feel for you unless you have your own child. There is no other love. This pain consumes me. It takes over my life. I worry 24/7 to the point that I can’t sleep or eat. You are my child.I really wish things could be different. We will always love you. But we can’t put up with your behavior and I am sure you will never understand what this does to me and your father and sisters and brother. You can go to other people and play the game but we know the problems. They are there and they won’t go away. You have the mood swings and we are all afraid of them. I know you can’t see them or even accept them.So I can’t help you any longer. I did the best I could, gave you to the best psychiatrists I could find in the United States.Now it is time to let go.You do have the right to live your life any way you choose. I have no right to tell you what to do any more, you are right about that. But I also have my life and I won’t, I can’t, watch you do this to yourself anymore. I can’t allow you to hurt me and your family anymore and I have that right.So if you choose to come back, call us. I will not read an email response. I just personally can’t take anymore insults from you ever again. From this point on in my life I will only demand respect from all of my children.A day like that day in the car will never happen in my life again. You can’t expect to treat people that way and not have consequences. I was beat up by a boyfriend for several months and I swore then I would never live in fear of being hit again, never.I am you Mother I need to feel that you respect that. I have always been there for you for everything and you know that. I am not doing this to hurt you or get you to do something. But that day really really hurt me.If you choose to never come back, I will be sorry for that. I had hoped that since this is probably our last summer together before you moved into your own apartment and on to a wonderful adult life, it could be our last special time together.But we all have choices in our lives and we each have to make them.Good luck. I hope your life is what you think it will be. It’s too bad you just can’t accept the Bipolar and live with it to the best of your ability and put it in the past. Lithium is just a pill. Just a pill.Love Always,Your Mom