I could not take care of my mother all those years ago, even though the adults in my life forced that expectation upon me. I was missing a key piece of what that meant. Taking care of my mother meant, and still means, that I keep silent. My silence is so I don’t talk or write about my story. It also means that I, in essence, continue to enable the cycle of dysfunctional living and thought. I will no longer be the silent enabler.
I am no longer able to maintain that silence. I am no longer willing to be an enabler. And that is what I mean that I cannot, I WILL NOT, take care of my mother anymore. There is something so freeing about writing that. Heck, just thinking it made me feel lighter. And bonus, I finally have the name of the thing that has been dragging me down for so long. It is the burden of being the silent enabler.
Through the role reversal all of those years ago, I was taught to take care of others first. That sentence doesn’t seem to convey what it felt. I had to compromise myself to take care of my mother and others in my family. I should not have had to compromise myself, my needs, to take care of anyone. I have lived my entire life doing that. It is not healthy.
Me First Unless You Need Something
After writing those first three paragraphs, I had another moment of ‘no wonder I drank all of the time.’ I took care of others first all of the time. I was a second- or third-class citizen in my life. It isn’t supposed to be that way.
I have to take care of myself first. And if that seems selfish to you, perhaps you need to look at yourself and re-evaluate your priorities. You, me, need to begin to realize that our number one priority is taking care of ourselves. It isn’t an easy boundary to put in place, and it is even harder to enforce. But I have to. And perhaps you do too.
I have to continue to be vigilant to ensure that I do that. Otherwise, we all will continue to be the walking wounded. I will continue to be the walking wounded. I don’t know about you, but I know that I am tired of the hurt and the dark cloud that follows me everywhere.
I will no longer take care of you by keeping your secrets, both the ones that you burdened me with and the ones that are my story.
I never said that to my mother. Not the day I moved out just shy of my eighteenth birthday, and not the last day I spoke to her when she turned my happy engagement announcement into a narcissistic rant. That was the final straw. That was the last time I would ever let her ruin an extraordinary moment in my life.
I wish I had known then what I now realize. So that I would have been able to tell my mother that I would not remain silent on the day I walked out. I wonder if that was what worried her more than anything else. When I left, I walked away from her ability to try to control me, to control my narrative.
It’s like the end of the movie Labyrinth. Spoiler alert if you have not watched that movie (and if you haven’t, you should, it is fantastic). When Sarah tells the goblin king that he has no power over her, thus, breaking the spell of control that he had over her. Once she breaks the spell, she is free.
Need to Tell Me
I will never tell my mother that I will no longer be her silent enabler. She will never hear or read the words that I have written here. And even if she did, I don’t think she can truly understand the magnitude of what I say or write. Her brain cannot handle or fathom that she is the only one who is responsible for her emotional well-being, decisions she has made, and for keeping her secrets.
I am done being her silent enabler. Though she will never hear those words, I still need to listen to myself say those words. I may be the only one who hears and truly understands. Well, me and my inner child. That hurt little girl that still exists within me; she needs to listen to those words. She (I) is/am free from that responsibility.
It is Not My Responsibility
Of course, as I write that it isn’t my responsibility, my critter brain tells me that I am a horrible daughter for saying that, and shouldn’t I want to continue taking care of her? Why am I not willing to take that burden on? Because I am lazy, I don’t care about anyone else but myself (ALL the old programming is coming out on this one).
Whoa. Deep breath here.
No, Critter Brain, it’s because it is not my burden to bear. My mother told me that. She is a person incapable of being responsible for their own life choices. And I tried. Holy *bleep* did I try to carry that burden. But I failed. I couldn’t do it, but I kept trying to the point that I became a miserable alcoholic. I was using alcohol to deaden the pain of forever failing. Even though there was no way of succeeding, I kept on trying.
No. No more am I trying. I am not responsible for anyone’s decisions to do or not do something. I will no longer be the silent enabler. I am only responsible for myself. I knew it all of those years ago when I left at eighteen. It still hurt, and I felt like I had failed her as I walked out of my mother’s house. But I knew I had to put myself first. I wanted to survive, to live, and eventually, to thrive.
Wow, that felt really great. I am still having that internal struggle of wanting to help (to people-please) versus wanting/needing to take care of myself first. I now realize that I have been accepting other people’s garbage in addition to the garbage I already have. Wow, that is a massive moment for me. GO ME!!!