“And then he smashed it over my head”

I was talking to someone I know. I can’t tell you who exactly, so I’ll just say she’s a friend. She was telling us (my mum and me) about her new job, how she’d been given a verbal warning for the equivalent of brushing her hair briefly at her desk.

She was in shock when she got back home. Her husband, she said, told her it was probably time to just pack it in. Her children told her to apologise to the directors, since there was nothing else she could say to justify her actions (not that her actions were particularly inappropriate). She took the latter option. The directors were sympathetic. She was a temp. They made her permanent. Continue reading

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“I HATE you, Mummy!”

It’s such a common phrase around the house now, I find I hardly blink when she says it. The other morning, I woke Rosie up for school and the first thing she said to me was: “I hate you.”

Anything can prompt these three little words. I might refuse her a piece of cake before dinner or tell her she has to tidy a mess she’s made or simply try to brush her hair. It makes little difference to her. If she’s unhappy about a situation, those are the first words out of her mouth and they are only ever directed at me.

Let me remind you that she is not yet 4.5 years old.

It isn’t just the I hate you’s either. If she doesn’t get her way, she will go from 0 to 100 in mere seconds. She will scream, throw herself on the floor, launch her little body at me head first, pummel me, punch me, hit me in the face and bite me.

This morning, she did all of the above because I told her she had to wear her underpants. To be fair, she has had an underpant issue for months – nothing seems to fit her, aside from those puffy bloomers usually worn by babies still in nappies.

Still, 28 pairs of underpants and about £50 pounds later, I’ve found a style that does fit her. I have checked them thoroughly, but she is so fussy (she can’t abide creases in her dresses or uniform shirts) that the slightest discomfort (and I do mean slightest) will send her into paroxysms of rage.

So, this morning, I insisted she wear her underpants and not the puffy ones which, let’s face it, won’t fit her soon and then what will we do? No, she has to get used to wearing regular underpants and the ancillary discomforts that come with them.

She didn’t shout, she screamed. On and on and on and on. I didn’t know what to do. I thought the neighbours might ring the police. I threatened to walk out – I wanted to walk out. I stood there and watched her thrashing on the floor and a strange cloud descended over me. I got my coat and thought how easy it would be to walk down the stairs, close the door and just go to work, leaving her behind. For the first time, I felt like I didn’t like my own child. I felt like I didn’t know her.

Ironically, she, too, kept saying that I wasn’t her mummy, that I didn’t look like her mummy, that she didn’t have a mummy any more, and that she was all alone.

I wanted to hug her, but she was so angry, so full of rage that I couldn’t – she would have hit me or worse. The last time she bit me, I had a bruise for up to a week. Right now, I have a bump on my arm that came from somewhere at some point this morning – I can’t remember how.

It is all so disappointing and dispiriting. It is also a source of deep shame. I haven’t written about this until now because I am ashamed. She is only 4. She has seen too many things she should never have seen, has experienced too many upheavals for her little lifetime. Her father is an alcoholic. Her mother is most likely depressed. Why should I be surprised that she is acting out now? I just didn’t do enough to protect her from what was happening at home. I failed.

You see, if I really de-construct what she says: I hate you. Shut up. Go away. If I really listen hard enough, I can hear myself. These are exactly the same phrases I used on Ben. I have shouted at him, hit him, pushed him. I’ve done all of these things in moments of rage, when I found him pissed and witless on the couch or in the doorway. Sometimes, I did them in front of her.

There. I said it. I failed to protect her. I let my own rage take control and now my daughter is damaged goods.

She blames me for “sending Daddy away”. She says: Mummy was mean to Daddy. And Mummy is bad. To some extent, she is right. At the same time, when I scold her for doing something naughty (like flinging her yoghurt around the kitchen this morning), she says: “I’m a bad person. I’m a bad girl. Mummy won’t give me any more stars.” And she weeps.

We are trapped in a dark and despicable cycle. First it was Ben and me. Now it’s Rosie and me. And the common ground in all this is… well… me.

I accept responsibility for where we are, but I also need to find a way to repair  the damage I’ve done. All I want is my child back, snug in my heart. But each day, she seems to recede further and further from me. Each day we crawl into this well-worn trench and battle it out, spitting and raging at each other, ultimately losing hold of one another.

source: dancingqueen65.blogspot.com

Managing my anger

Today, I had my first psychology session at our local NHS drug and alcohol service. Sara, Ben’s previous key worker, had managed to do a few constructive things before she left. I’d asked her several times whether it would be possible for me to get some support from the service, and after checking with management, my request was accepted. It took about four months of waiting, but I got it in the end.

My psychologist, Elisa, is young, probably half my age. I feel vaguely ridiculous blurting out my problems to this demi-child. She has a rose ring and black lace-up army boots. She reminds me of me when I was that age (minus the nose ring). She looks like she should be pulling pints in a grunge bar, rather than sitting across from me, listening to me complain about having to clean up Ben’s vomit.

After five minutes of inchoate rambling, I finally tell her what I’ve rehearsed for so long – that my objectives in accessing this treatment are:

  1. having a safe place to unload my stress
  2. diffusing my perpetual state of rage
  3. accepting that alcoholism is a disease and not a choice (my rational mind knows this, but my heart won’t accept it).

I tell her that just before my session, Ben rang me to say that I should be open ‘about us’. He meant that I should accept partial blame for his condition – that if I didn’t recognise this, then there was no point. I tell her that I do accept partial blame – that I recognise how damaging it can be to live with someone who is hyper-critical (that’s me – hyper-critical – of myself and everyone and everything around me).

But I also say that he was drinking before he met me. That he has always been alcohol dependent, and that it is unfair to lay the blame entirely on me. I tell her a lot of other things I didn’t expect to tell her – a tale of neglect and intense loneliness (mine). And darting below all this, like a ravenous shark, my anger.

It is always there, ready to burst and consume us all. Sometimes, I think my temper will set me alight. I imagine immolating myself on the pyre of my own rage. This is the image I carry around with me every day. The thing that makes me tremble when I’m trying to get everything organised and ready in the morning. The thing that drives me up that hill again and again when I’m running (sprint up, jog down backwards, again and again and again). The thing that sends my pressure along with my volume to the top of the scale.

It is a long hour. Just 35 minutes into the session, I think I’ve already exceeded my time. By the end, I’m exhausted, but a little lighter. I make another promise to myself, to Rosie, even to Ben, that I will find a way to check my anger, find a way to  manage and channel it, regardless of its causes.