I figured out why I was so goddamned mean to my Mom when I was a teenager.
In my morning class, we were talking about the Existentialist therapy model. I’m a big fan of Frankl, since his views seem to really jive with mine… and because the last therapist I saw back when I was starting college seemed to use this therapy model on me, and it worked incredibly well at readjusting my brain to enjoy the little wonders of the present, and feel excited for the opportunities I may have in the future rather than fear it for no concrete reason (wherever you are, Melissa, thank you). I geek about this way of thinking pretty heavily, so I was all up in that discussion.
We came upon the Nietzsche quote, ‘He who has a why to live can bear with almost any how‘. When asked how this applies to therapy, I almost immediately thought of my adolescence. How many times I simply wanted to die, and how strong that desire was. At least two or three times a week, I would think of how wonderful the relief would be, just to get it all over and done with. To no longer have to wake up and know that today was another day of loneliness and suffering. I thought about the hows and whens, wrote little notes of what needed to be done before and after the fact, this that and the other. But every single time I felt that I was at my wit’s end… I’d think of Mom. And as soon as I thought of her, I realized: no matter how much life hurts, the thought of never getting to see her again hurt worse. So, taking Nietzsche into consideration, my mom was my ‘why’. She is what made me survive the ‘how’.
On the drive home from campus today, I realized that was exactly why we had so much trouble when I was a teen. She was my reason for living. She kept me in this suffering. And I hated her for it. Even though I loved her, and knew that I was incredibly lucky to have her (and Dad) as parent(s), I still hated her for keeping me here. It was all her stupid goddamned fault for giving me something to live for. If it weren’t for her, I could have been free from the dark sea of pain in which I was constantly being churned. And I didn’t let her forget it. While I don’t believe I was ever aware enough of my feelings to tell her in direct words that it was her fault (nor do I think she would’ve understood even if I did tell her, because I don’t think she was ever aware of the fact that she was my last lingering shred of a purpose for living), I didn’t hold back on letting her know just how much I hated suffering life for her.
Cue the epic epiphany music. No, seriously. I was listening to Symphonika when I realized this, so the backing track was pretty epic. I had a chuckle about that. You should, too. It was the perfect moment.
Now, of course, I don’t feel this way. Now, having survived it all for long enough to see the other side, I realize how amazing it was to have her as an anchor. Every time I think of how she helped me through those horrible years, I feel more than blessed. And even though it took us years to repair the damage that was wrought, we’re tighter than ever. I’m extremely proud to call her my Mom and my best friend. After all, ‘That which does not kill us makes us stronger‘ (ILU Nietzsche, for reals). We survived it, in entirely different ways, but still together.
This realization made me wonder… how many other parents are in this exact situation with their children? How much of a teenager’s rage against their parents is rooted in the fact that they actually love them? How many times is a mother or father blamed for daring to give us a reason to live? Is “I wish I’d never been born!” just popular subconscious teenspeak for “why do you love me so much that you make me want to stay with you?” And how can we let our parents know this? How can we let them know that the reason we hate them is because honestly, underneath all the sneering and back-talking and scare-tactics, we actually love them? That we still want them nearby? How can we let them know the truth of things, when our actions seem to say the exact opposite? I know I was extremely fortunate that I didn’t push Mom away. There comes a point where enough is too much, and some people have a much lower bullshit threshold than she did. What happens to those kids who find a reason to live in their parents, but wind up pushing that reason away because of this epic hitch in logic? What’s left for them, then?
The thought is rather saddening. Here’s this situation that really does make perfect sense when you sit back and think about it, but when you’re caught in the midst of it, it makes no sense at all. And because it’s so incredibly hard to recognize the why’s and how’s of this new love/hate relationship, some people will never know how to deal with it. Or know how to heal from it. These relationships can be lost forever, when the only reason it was ever volatile to begin with was because of how strong the child-parent relationship was to that teenager. It’s extremely tragic.
As it is so incredibly hard to understand it when you’re in it, I would like to say this to all the parents who have teenagers in the same hateful mess that I was in:
We love you. We love you so much that we do willingly suffer for you. We suffer to keep you in our lives, because you give us reason. You give us meaning. And if you can bear this – if you can stand by and support us through these hellish years we’ve found ourselves in, long enough so we can push through it all and see our own reason in ourselves – we will forgive you. We will be grateful to you for the giving us that reason to live. And we all hope that someday, you’ll forgive us, too.