Today is a tough day for many. I posted Happy Mother’s Day wishes on my facebook profile and wished many others too because I genuinely felt it. At first, I was hesitant. I woke up trying to stop myself from looking at my phone and all the wishes that were coming in, staring right at my face.
But I thought to myself, if it brings happiness to others why not. Why base it on my ideas or experiences that shaped me?
So I share this with many of my friends who have been diagnosed with several labels like myself – and also to those who have had to mother themselves (with or without diagnoses). To those who have their womb issues…that is all of us.
To those with the labels, we do feel the same throughout the years of recovery and healing. We know what has driven us to the points of madness, to not being able to understand love or care when given to us by others – but it’s important we let others in. We are doing it in our own way. I know many who had had to move away from their families and their ‘mothers’. Some whose perpetrators were their very mothers. Some whose mothers allowed the abuse and trauma to continue. Some who had mothers who blindfolded themselves to your suffering. Some who had mothers who really didn’t know and were so absolutely ignorant. Some who never had a chance to have mothers or had their mothers taken away from them.
I know many who refuse to have anything to do with them.
I know many who are still working on reparenting our own parents…our own mothers. The subject matter of many of the therapy sessions I have been in which only broke me further. Which made me more ‘schizophrenic’ than I already was.
This is also to those very mothers who are mothering us ‘schizophrenics’ or a child with ‘mental illness’. There is no such day where you get your break from our joint madness. Your child probably hates you, or loves you or does both and likely is aggressive and violent towards you more than anyone else. Your child probably calls you a lot of things, has raised their hand on your, blamed you for everything and you really wish things could change. That the schizophrenia would go away and your child would be returned to you. That he or she won’t have to exist in such ways under your care. Maybe you have sent your child to another care to avoid this. It is all too difficult for both sides. One on hand the world is celebrating this day and you are not quite sure where you fit in either especially if you have a child who is bonkers in the head like me. But nevertheless you wish…like everyone else does.
In the years of understanding the emotional surrogacy that the system also put inside me, I forgot the basis of the human person my mother herself was. It is why I don’t like the mental health system one bit. Not the books, not the studies, not the theories, not the treatment, not the ideas, not the references, not the therapy. They’ve really all failed. None of that worked on making peace with my mother or my parents. Because if you are made to see yourself as a ‘disorder’ or a problem to be fixed, it means those who caused it are also a disorder and a problem. And you would work on fixing them in your own way or your own madness – furthering the psychosis. In fact, my mother never really had a problem with my voices. She being not so educated was told it is a problem she has to learn to deal with.
As Indian women, our identities are reduced at so many levels. Of course, she thought I was possessed by the avatars of our crazy vampire Goddess called Kali – but then again our mutual ideas worked cause that’s exactly the story I have or the delusion I’ve lived with. She did take me to priest and broom sweeping gurus to get the devil out of me. I didn’t like it one bit but I didn’t hate her at that point. I was made to hate her when I learnt from the Mental Health system that ‘religious faith’ is cruel and we must trust the doctors and science behind schizophrenia. Support groups would speak of the wrong doings of faith believe. Movies would show the cruelty in the acts of god men who practice this. But I didn’t end up blaming them, did I? I ended up blaming my mother instead. And clearly, this is something the system has not bothered addressing. They sell you theories based on what they think is right. They remove the functioning of what a family has believed in and tells them to stop. To call one part a ‘myth’ and seek to call the other ‘science’…but all in all we don’t question the system. We end up questioning our parents. I ended hating my dad who was a scientist and my mom who was a religious believer and not those stupid colonial ideas thrown across at us.
Mother’s day is an issue for all of us including our fathers for the subject of nurturing concerning mental illness falls on both or one if they are single parents. There were times my dad had to help me with my sanitary napkins too which is another subject of controversy when it comes to a culture ridden by patriarchy and discrimination. I’ve even had my siblings play mom at times and a transference in born.
So why do we evolve to hate our parents more when we become crazy and realize the truth of our past? Is it because we are not allowed to communicate it to them but to a system guided by professionals who feed us unnecessary jargon when all it takes is a simple ‘I love you’. How come psychology students ask all the supposedly right questions but when I tell them how strong these 3 words can be they pause as if they heard something profound? Maybe this so called system doesn’t need books with theories created by a hundred people. They need one book filled with these 3 words ‘I love you’ as cheesy as it sounds – imagine using these words to replace every single theory in those foolish books and methods.
Instead of ‘You hate your mom cause she didn’t stand up for you. You just read a bit of Laing and you’ll connect to the divided self’…replace it with ‘Why don’t you call her up right now and tell her you love her and wished she could be there for you – but you know she never can and it’s okay’. How come therapist don’t say this? Why are they always trying to play it by the book because the clock has not completely the hour yet?
Why do we hate our mothers then? Because we can’t treat something we can’t see. You can’t fix a womb that you can’t see. Much like schizophrenia, science or spirituality has no answers to the womb issues for a simple reason being: Unless the woman herself has been a mother and has a womb can she really speak about it. She doesn’t need scientific tools or spiritual discourses for it. She just has to put her hand on her lower belly and she can tell you stories that would never end. If you are a good listener, you would understand.
I stuck with something my mom did say to me once, which as a naive rebellious child I thought she was trying to control me. She said ‘Stop paying others to listen to our problems. Why don’t you just tell me!?’
Of course, she didn’t know that there are many issues a child can’t tell her mother when guilt would become a two way street. It is why we pay others to listen. I realized she was right. I’ve fought with my mom and accused her of things that children ‘shouldn’t say to their mothers – stuff like ‘how dare you say such things to your own mother’. The truth is, no one is born a mother or is born with a manual on parenting. Nor as kids are we given such heads up for the mistakes our mothers make. We both learn as we grow and it never ends.
Alot of spirituality is based on repressing the very Mother. If you can’t find peace in the everydayness of all other female human mothers, then chasing an ethereal being is the biggest illusion. People who speak of worshipping the Mother or the Shakti but end up being entitled to their discovery of Her. Of being entitled to tell another woman that ‘I saved you’.
I am not implying that one must be okay with the disrespect, the trauma or the abuse of whatever be attached to that cord or the expectations of that cord. But if one can accept the Universe with all it’s madness as Her womb, then why not your own Mother? She isn’t any different than a reflection of you and the shit you left in her.
Yes, I certainly say the above in order to find my own meaning of my relationship with my biological mother. I have strayed a long way from her. Rejecting her at many levels and seeking comfort of the nurturing in others. I have also grown up as a kid yelling at her often saying ‘You are not my mother.’
Her face would fall and she would be left speechless at my words but she would look at my dad pleadingly ‘Tell her please that I am her mother. That I gave birth to her. She is from here’. My dad won’t be able to say a word for he was caught in the estrangement of this daughter – mother fights. Yet again I think he secretly knew why I said what I did or maybe not. Maybe I will come to know after I share this post with him. 🙂
It was on one of those family gatherings, where a tantric priest who was my dad’s friend passed a comment when I yelled ‘You are not my mother’ and I stormed across the living room into the kitchen refusing to eat the food she cooked for me. He looked at them and said, ‘Ya la. She isn’t yours now. She is Her’s.’
He knew what he meant and I’ve never once felt obliged to correct that sentence because I’ve never felt myself as their kid. It’s question and feeling I have really tried to make sense of throughout my life. It wasn’t a delusion. It had nothing to do with the kind of rejections and expectations I have had. My parents did everything they needed to do in order to get their third child back from the dead at 1 1/2 years of age. Where medical science called me dead, these human parents refused to give up. Dad said ‘Your mother stood outside all the time just praying because that was all she knew. The entire town prayed for you. Our friends went to Church, to the Mosque, to temples, to shrines, they fasted and did their own rituals. Everyone prayed for you’. I returned to them on the 22nd day after my father sacrificed a rooster following a tantric ritual. I was given a new name. It became my spiritual name which I have adopted recently. I was taken to the temple where the Mother whom I was asked to be returned from was called Chamundeshwari. I became Her’s and my parents knew. When I ran away from home, they went back to that temple and that priest and asked him to get me back again. He did.
When I returned, I was made to visit her temple and was told about Her. But I refused to accept it. I simply grew hating my own biological mother even more. This was the irony.
However, throughout my spiritual life which came in many forms unknown to even my own family – it was my dad who first recognized it. Once he sat beside me to try and get me to take my medications and said ‘I know you don’t like them but right now this is all I know on what will help you. As a scientist this is all I know. I have had similar experiences as this but maybe not to this extent. It was when I was journeying in my own spiritual practices. One day yours will make sense to you. Try and be nice to your mother. She will do what she knows and will care for you even if you hate her. And she will pray as she did for you every time we lost you.’
My dad was right. Throughout a lot of different types of care that I needed every time I got sick – my mom was there in her own way. From the age of 1 1/2 years when they first lost me to coma. Then as a toddler, I would keep disappearing and it was important that someone always held my hand tight. Then when I got into intoxicants and ran away from home. Then when I grew hating them. Then when I was thrown in midst of madness called schizophrenia. Then when I developed a brain tumour and pushed them away from me. Then when my seizures and dissociations gave them sleepless nights hoping I don’t attempt suicide. Then when I did attempt suicide. Then when I left home to throw myself in my practice. They’ve lost me every single time. I honestly don’t know how my mom handled the every single time which happens almost every single year. I have been with a lot of women – many who can’t ‘keep up’ with me or my ways even if they have the intellectual capacity for it. But there is something about your own mother – and how she keeps up despite the moral values she comes with that doesn’t swim in the same boat as yours.
She wasn’t there the way I wanted or expected love and care to exist, but she did everything that was really needed. Including keeping her distance when I threw fits and unexplained unfathomable tantrums under ‘psychosis’ and just waited for me to come out of it. I would tell her stories from them and what the gods and goddesses said. She would listen without judgement. If I rejected meat on one day even after she spent 5 hours planning the meal, she would be there to give me another morsel suitable for my sudden cravings. As much as it hurt her, she still did it. Whether this was her shaping up under patriarchy or social constructions – she did what she felt she had to. I tell this story today because – my parents might not have felt or heard me say I love them as much as my other siblings have. I am the third child who still keeps away from them and we don’t talk much or share much as the rest of my siblings would. They yet don’t really know what I do under The Red Door or what I do when I travel. We don’t share much about my work, my personal life, my friends, my troubles, my dreams, my wants, my issues even if we would wish for it. Perhaps, they’re still trying to make peace with my imaginary friends hoping one day I would call them and spill my troubles out to them even if it’s a mosquito bite.
But it’s taken us 36 years to know our own reasons and the relationship we share. My mom might not have been the best of mothers around. I even yelled at her on her last trip here in April and walked out for a mistake she made. A mistake that she didn’t recognize but it came from my intelligence of the way society functions and I had an expectation for her to have seen it…which was nothing but my ego speaking. Despite that, she helped me calm down when I returned, as she knew I have issues I would never speak to anyone about. She doesn’t necessarily have to even understand the issues or their context, but the fact that she can let me deal with it ‘schizophrenically speaking’ by locking myself up in my room is what works for me even if I can hear her sniffing across the room for not being able to run to her and tell her what the problem is. She definitely isn’t the mother I have expected and she’s done everything in her abilities to help me find my spiritual cord to the Mother she borrowed me from. To me, this is the sign of a mother no doubt. We still have our ‘cold’ moments with each other but she continues helping me find the Mother I keep asking for even if it means it isn’t her.
I have understood that like myself my biological human mother is the same child I have also been. The child in me that I lost. There is no forgiving or letting go of the past that I need to conform to. It’s cliché as everything else.
I’ve to give that child the peace she deserves that everyone else robbed. That much I owe myself and no one else can do it.
Embrace that child.
Speak to that child and tell her you’re going no where. That child can be you or your own mother. That my mother’s inner child needs to be assured through me too. And if we let our mothers know this – the estrangement will diminish slowly.
This is what I think mother’s day means for me. As an adjective to the world of schizophrenia, there is a different battle our mothers have to face with us crazies and vice versa. I have always told other caregivers that if you have a schizophrenic in your family – it doesn’t mean you need to treat us or have us return to what we were. Maybe if you look at the spiritual implication of having a crazy person in your life it would help the family heal. Our schizophrenia challenges you at every level it is why it breaks the family at so many levels. Our schizophrenia forces you to adopt methods and believes without much options and choice because perhaps as rational beings you wouldn’t otherwise follow through it. With a schizophrenic you really have no choice and it could be a good thing. It forces you to reach your highest potential as a human being – deconstructing your emotions, breaking your physical strength, fighting your mental capacities, carving through your spiritual ideas…
I only tell my spiritual story for this purpose. I am aware that no one would have the same journey or practice or parents. But likely, if you look into your past – you would find similar metaphors. One of where parenting or mothering is a metaphor in order to help us all evolve as spiritual beings – irrespective of which culture, religion, race, skin, country we come from. Our stories of schizophrenia and families are remarkably similar – and this should be enough to get you to question the meaning behind ‘symptoms’.
This mother’s day I only wish it doesn’t go away as just another celebration and have most people return to the superficiality of life. The womb is a serious place for change and rebirth. Embrace it. Make that phone call and surrender, and you’ll experience an evolution which is full of love, surprises and your dreams come true. – Vajri
(c) Reshma Valliappan 2016