Once Upon A Time (Part 3)

Part one and two are ‘here‘ and ‘here‘.

So this woman who was once a troubled girl, now the mother to two small children, one of whom was a beautiful little girl with curly white/blonde locks and chubby cheeks and dimpled knees, wondered how she ever gave birth to such perfection.  She was filled with gratitude and felt each of her children were gifts, tiny gifts that she was being given the opportunity to influence and even direct, but who were their own people, with their own temperaments and personalities, unique and wonderful in their own right.  She believed this fiercely.  But do not forget, this woman lived for many years of her adult life, prior to giving birth to her two wonderful children, believing she was bad.  She imagined that inside of her there was darkness, as though there was a bad seed deep within her soul and for many, many years she had tried to purge that badness from her being.  She believed she needed to be “fixed” and that left to her own devices she was fundamentally flawed and that if people got to know her, they too would learn this truth about her and it was only a matter of time before she was found out until others who had once felt similarly about themselves, convinced her that this was untrue.  These people showed her over time that in fact there was tremendous goodness within her and they taught her how to nurture that goodness and how to behave in ways that fostered it and encouraged it to grow and even flourish.

But then, now years later, she saw aspects of herself in her daughter.  Behaviors she used to do, but no longer did.  Her daughter loved to look at photographs and there were a great many to view.  Her daughter liked to sit on the floor with more than a hundred photographs piled in front of her and quickly scan them.  If one was missing, her daughter knew instantly and began to howl in great distress.  The mother watched in confusion as this scene unfurled.  The daughter, perfectly happy one minute, and then in terrible agony the next could not be consoled and would hurt herself by punching herself in the face or biting her hand or arm.  And something inside the mother clicked.  She recognized this desire to control her pain.  It took her back to a time when she needed things to be a certain way and when they were not she felt her entire life was unraveling and that her very existence was put into jeopardy and the only release from the horror was to hurt herself.  There was a kind of twisted logic to all of this, her self-induced pain, a pain that at least she could control, though awful, was not as terrible as her rampant and erratic feelings and somewhere along the way that self-induced pain made her feel she could endure, at least for a little while.

Now here was her daughter behaving, it seemed to her, in similar ways, expressing the agony she once knew so intimately.  She had no words to describe what she was witnessing, but she thought she could feel what her daughter was feeling, the despair, the pain, the fear that if the photograph was not immediately found she might die.  The mother believed this was what her daughter was going through and because she had lived through similar feelings she thought she would be able to help her.  She would provide her with the same sort of safety net she had been given.  A place to land, as it were, a safe space where her daughter could feel comforted, except that the things she said and did, did not provide her daughter with the comfort the mother expected and hoped she would feel.

You see, the mother forgot that her daughter was not a mirror of herself.  The mother forgot the thing that she knew when she gave birth to each of her children – that they were their own unique beings, quite separate and individual from anyone else.  She forgot all of this in her fear and worry over what she was witnessing and imagined her child was feeling and doing.  So she began to look outside herself for answers.  People, many, many people told her that they knew what would help and she listened to them.  These people spoke of her daughter using language all too familiar to the mother.  They used words like “broken,” “disorders,” “pervasive” and likened her neurology to cancer, which to the mother sounded a great deal like what she once thought of herself.  They said her daughter was part of an epidemic and that various methodologies would “treat” her disorder and might even reverse and cure her if done quickly and everyday for many, many hours.  The mother listened to all of these people and nodded her head as these people put into words what she had once believed to be true about herself.

Had she done this to her child?  Had she somehow passed along the worst aspects of herself to this beautiful, innocent child.  Was this some sort of karmic payback for all those years the mother had spent living a selfish, self-involved life?  Was her daughter the direct result of every mistake she’d made?  Was this really how life worked?  She could not believe this, at least not logically.  She refused to believe her daughter was being sacrificed for the sins of her mother.  She refused to believe there was some greater omnipotent power that would cause her daughter so much physical, emotional and psychic pain and yet she was terribly, terribly confused and somewhere she could not fully let herself off the hook.  Somewhere, unconsciously, she believed she was to blame for all that was causing her child pain and turmoil.  And if she was to blame, then she knew she, and she alone must make it right.

(To be continued) contemplation

9 responses to “Once Upon A Time (Part 3)

  1. I can’t help but thinking in reading this that someday Emma will also read it, and she will know how deeply she is loved. That is what radiates off of this post. Just beautiful.

  2. I read this and I want to hug you and hug you and hug you. Is that okay?

  3. You put into words what I feel in my heart but I just can’t seem to get the words out. How in the world do you do that?! This is beautiful and raw and soothing and painful…all at the same time. Thank you for sharing.

    • Brenda – I really appreciate you saying this as I’ve felt somewhat ambivalent about writing this in the third person, but have been grappling with a number of these things for so long and just couldn’t figure out how to write this… hence the third person and suddenly it gave me the emotional distance I needed to say what I have been trying to say for many months now. Glad it is coming through okay in your opinion. Your input means a lot to me.

  4. I can relate completely. I have ridiculously asked “what did I do that my daughter has to suffer like this?” if her therapist wants her to do the puzzle out of order it’s THE END OF THE WORLD! I remember in one of your posts you were saying that people told you “it will be okay” and you didn’t believe it at the time but now you do….reading your blog has helped me get closer to that. For some reason that sticks in my mind. ” it will be okay” thanks again Ariane, you are helping so many parents here and I see my Olivia as very similar to Emma. She just starting playing dress up yesterday…put on a tutu and spangly shawl and spun around. It was awesome! Maybe a microphone is next! She totally rocks the harmonica. 🙂

  5. Emma having Autism is not a bad thing so you don’t have anything to feel guilty about. You’re very insightful to link self-injury with control not many people do.

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