I didn’t need my troubled son Kurt to go away to see just how much his needs have defined my personality over the last few years. But even I have to admit that I’m surprised how quickly I’ve regained control of my emotions away from the glare of his aura.
As you readers probably realize, Kurt is a huge personality in our house and I honestly thought that I would miss that vibrancy, but the quiet has rejuvenated my own personality.
Does that show the depth of inter-dependence some personalities have on others? Or the the intensity of love a mother can feel for her son? Perhaps all it really demonstrates is an ill-thought-out over-indulgence on my part to compensate for my son’s vulnerability and special needs.
I don’t have the answers. All I know is that the perpetual ache in my gut has dissipated for a short while, now that I DON’T know what he’s doing. And it’s nice.
Because deep down, I took responsibility for many of his problems, and that wasn’t good for him, or for me. And to be able to recognise that now is peculiar, because I couldn’t admit to behaving like that at the time. Not until recently, after hours of therapy, where my therapists have drilled into me that no matter what happened in our past relationship, or whatever reasons lay behind his indifference to life and society’s expectations, I am not to blame.
I hate the description of ‘victim’ but I acknowledge that I’ve always been one and that that weakness has escalated into full-blown anxiety over the past few years. I’m equally certain, though, that it would have reared its ugliness at some point in my adulthood without Kurt’s complicated personality to facilitate it.
I sound like to worst parent ever to admit that it has been such a relief to be able to live each day recently – only a parent who has been through what we’ve been through would understand that. The days have been typical, busy work days, full of shitty work pressures, but to live them without that residual, nagging pressure and fear at the back of my mind, that innate heaviness in my heart, the faint nausea that could be triggered just by my phone ringing has been uplifting, a freedom, even.
Of course, I still have to speak to him every day, to check that he’s still breathing, just as I’ve always done since he was a baby. But I try not to delve too deeply during our conversations into what he’s up to. I’m desperate to know, of course, but I don’t need to know because otherwise the fear gremlins will rise up and thwart my chance of recovery. My son is an adult now and it’s better for both of us if I remain in the dark about much of what he does.
It hasn’t been as hard to let him go as I thought it would be. Not because I don’t love him but because I have what the old man describes as an unhealthy love for him. The intensity of my fears for his future had begun to eat away at me, to suffocate me and the thought of losing him had begun to gnaw away at my own health. That might be due to good, old-fashioned parental guilt, too, because when he tested me I didn’t always perform well in the tests. But none of us are perfect parents, nor can we read the thought patterns or motivations of those we created, even when they share the same gene pool.
I hear myself on the phone to him and I sound like a normal mum. I ask him normal questions, not probing questions; I make polite conversation and feign interest. But it takes all my strength not to judge him, not to feel disappointed in him. Because if I judge Kurt’s choices by my own values the pain comes back to my temples, beads of sweat rise to the surface of my skin and I can hear the loud beat of irrational fear drumming in the chambers of my heart.
I’m breathing freely now.