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".....I believe we need to consider, and open up dialogue about limerence and children. How limerence impacts children, how children can become limerent, and how we as adults can support children."
As this is a favorite topic and relevant to my own upbringing, I'll get the ball rolling with this familiar story that was published in the New York Times last year. Definitely rings bells from my own FOO's experience.....
https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/22/well ... or-me.html
No One Helped My Mentally Ill Mother, or Me
The child in me still collapses from the imprinted sorrow of years of isolation.
By Laura Zera
June 22, 2018
When I was 12, my mother cornered me in the bathroom of our suburban Vancouver home. “Your teeth are too yellow,” she said, handing me a can of Comet.
Though disappointed that little about me ever pleased my parent, I understood from past experience how to get through the current predicament. I sprinkled green powder on my toothbrush and did my best to not let any of it go down my throat while I scrubbed.
The things I didn’t do: report her to the authorities; confide in a reliable adult; tell my school friends; cry. Perhaps my mother was right and my teeth were ugly. Or perhaps the shame I felt overshadowed the grievous nature of her request.
As my sole guardian, my mother was the most important person in my life. And under her roof, I played by her rules, no matter how bizarre, because losing her was unthinkable. I didn’t know she suffered from psychosis. I only knew that when she stared at me, her brown eyes near black and glittering with relentless intensity, what she saw didn’t meet her approval.
In addition to my imperfect teeth, she obsessed about the hair on my arms, the bend in my nose, and the bow in my legs. She hated my dark eyebrows. I let her dye them. They turned orange, and I laughed it off. But while the brows grew out, an invasive apprehension moved into my nervous system. Just the tap of her heels on the kitchen linoleum sent my heart rate into rapid ascent.
Through the seventh-grade underground book railroad, I’d already read Linda Lovelace’s biography and constructed a clear landscape of the porn industry in my head. But material on my mother’s paranoia and delusions was not as readily available, and absent from my school health classes in the ’70s and ’80s.
Moreover, in the midst of the maelstrom, I’d reached an unconscious yet uncompromising conclusion: my mother’s behavior was my problem to shoulder, and I shouldn’t expect anything different.
Invisible wounds festered beneath a polite and tidy surface; I excelled in every school subject, and had new and thoughtfully coordinated outfits each September. My doctor’s stethoscope missed the symptoms of my reality, including persistent anxiety, and a cavernous loneliness that overlaid my organs.
My mother was a master of artifice, and her illness went undetected, too. She spent an inordinate amount of energy to appear typical. She held down a job, cooked healthy meals, drove me to figure skating practices and volunteered at my school. Her rage erupted at times in front of my friends’ parents, and my teachers and coaches, especially when she stood rinkside and screamed about my improperly positioned arms and legs. But if her conduct set off alarm bells, nobody said anything.
What could they have said? The odds of initiating a constructive conversation with a shellshocked adolescent or her defensive mother were minuscule. But the child in me still collapses from the imprinted sorrow of years of isolation. It pains me that people thought we were O.K., and we weren’t. Or, they didn’t think we were O.K., and opted not to speak up. What good are manners when someone is suffering?
And yet I don’t know what people could have done, except, perhaps, pay attention and offer an ear. My breath catches as I imagine a grown-up holding the gaze of my child self, their compassion enveloping my despair. I want to fall into it, even if for a moment. But I also worried that any intervention might have caused more chaos. As a child, I feared anything that might disrupt my tiny family.
I wasn’t an only child; I have a sister. Before Mum’s abuse drove her to run away when I was in seventh grade, we traded observations in hushed whispers and forged an iron alliance. Though I was five and a half years younger, she took me along on her dates to get me out of the house. Never once did we circle round a possible medical basis for Mum’s behavior, or say, “There’s something really wrong with her, and it has nothing to do with us.” That salve of knowledge remained out of reach. Once my sister was gone, I barely saw her for three years, and Mum never spoke a word about her departure.
Instead, I hid behind books, or sought approval by trying to win at everything. My scholarly and athletic accomplishments went largely ignored, while my failures drew Mum’s abuse.
When I hit my teen years and tested out greater independence, her responses grew more brutal until I fled my home one night at the age of 15. I stayed with a school friend for a month, and moved into my newly married sister’s one-bedroom apartment after that.
During college, I developed agoraphobia, wrapped tightly in a general mood disorder. In light of a massive, multiyear Kaiser Permanente and Centers for Disease Control research initiative in the 1990s, called the Adverse Childhood Experiences Study (ACES), this isn’t surprising.
From ACES, researchers discovered that adults who experienced trauma as a child had a significantly higher incidence of illness. They scored 17,000 participants on 10 different areas of trauma. Having four adverse childhood experiences was associated with a sevenfold increase in alcoholism, and an ACE score above six with a 30-fold increase in attempted suicide.
My ACE score is five. Like the tidy, studious child I was, I front as an organized, high-functioning adult. I must persevere to move through the world without falling down, and my toolbox has grown into a pantry that includes medication, three flavors of therapy, exercise, a careful diet, supplements, blue lights, neurofeedback, acupuncture and meditation. I labor, as my mother labored.
It was only through years of treatment for my anxiety and depression that I finally came to understand my mother’s illness. I wish I knew how many others are like me. Mothers and daughters, sons and fathers, wrestling with illnesses that surge and recede in waves and cycles, with neurotransmitters the tides. Is my experience — shouldering my mother’s burden, and developing my own — an anomaly, or an inevitability?
Sometimes I go into high school classrooms and talk about my experience with mental illness. It’s the kind of talk I wish someone had given in my school in the 80s. I look around at the 16- and 17-year-old audience and speculate about who in the room is living what I lived. I tell them to ask me anything, I’m an open book. And I plant seeds. Talk to someone. You’re not alone. It may already be too late for some of them, the ones I see fighting to hold back tears. I pray it’s not.
In 2009, my mother’s paranoia became so predominant she almost starved herself to death rather than go shopping and return to what she perceived as the inevitability of a burglarized apartment. In her deteriorated physical condition, she finally surrendered to a psychiatric assessment, and began taking antipsychotic medication. At 73, it was her first time as a mental health patient. Mum stayed in the hospital for three months, but as her psychosis abated, it became evident that she had dementia.
I visited her once she’d transitioned into a nursing home, and continue to do so today. And while our initial visit ended a 17-year estrangement, it was too late to start over. She didn’t remember me.
Laura Zera has completed one book, “Jump: A Memoir About Skating and Survival,” and is at work on a novel set in South Africa.
**Edited to add this clip from the text that I feel is relevant to the budding limerent: "My breath catches as I imagine a grown-up holding the gaze of my child self, their compassion enveloping my despair. I want to fall into it, even if for a moment."
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Anyway, at the time wished I had the courage to forgive an abusive parent and was intrigued by the light shone into the bloggers hideous world of abuse and forgiveness. Her understanding of the abuse and how it came about, how she discovered in the end that it wasn't personal. It was an illness. And not her illness to carry like a backpack weighted down full of shame and pain.
Long story short... my story ended up like the bloggers. With forgiveness and understanding.
Love these stories! Even if they dont bring hope, they certainly bring a different perspective.
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Don't know why this link came out today so long after the inception of the ACE (Adverse Childhood Experiences) study, but some good additional links within as to the association between ACEs and later health problems....including problems in mental and behavioral functioning. A good resource for discussion with partners, within families, and among members of churches, communities, and other venues:
In a way, I still feel my LE to have provided a unique window for viewing and potentially helping others with addictions, fears and phobias, and deep attachment anxieties. It has provided a better mindset and greater accessible empathy for individuals ranging from narcissists to those broken by addiction. Maybe with increasing recognition of limerence by the mental health community, these gifts of empathy can be turned more quickly to aid others suffering from similar attachment deficits.
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It's not personal. It never was about you. It had everything to do with the emotional coping mechanisms of your parents, and their ability to parent.
Good to read you are in a better space with them before they pass. Forgiveness is a personal thing.
I didn't actually set out to forgive. What I wanted was to no longer suffer. I was tired of the suffering. I couldn't have cared less about forgiving, but oddly, I guess this is where the bible's truth comes in. To no longer suffer is to forgive - or something along those lines. It was thru forgiveness that I ended my suffering.
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Very relatable story, especially the part about huddling with her sister discussing her mother's behavior. I used to wonder why no one intervened also. And I knew exactly what the author meant in the quote you highlighted. It is the imagined care that is the source of our craving and reminds me of an insight I had about my last LE:
A few years back in a moving therapy exercise, I visualized the pain inside of me like the grey-green-black seeds inside of a papaya, and I saw/recognized that what I most deeply wanted from LO was for him to pay attention while I opened up and brought forth each seed, one at a time, to show him. And his attention and compassion over what caused each seed of pain was the magic that would make them disappear.
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This is really beautiful imagery. And it feels like a good representation of that need to be seen and loved and appreciated fully.Bridget wrote: ↑Sat Nov 09, 2019 1:12 amI visualized the pain inside of me like the grey-green-black seeds inside of a papaya, and I saw/recognized that what I most deeply wanted from LO was for him to pay attention while I opened up and brought forth each seed, one at a time, to show him. And his attention and compassion over what caused each seed of pain was the magic that would make them disappear.
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