Wish You Could Wash Your Hands Of This

, , , , , , | Related | March 9, 2018

(When I was younger, my mother had a whole slew of mental issues that she wasn’t seeking help for, such as OCD and anger issues. It was really difficult growing up, having to walk over eggshells practically everyday. As a result, I grew up very reserved and anxious about everything. A HUGE deal we had was over public transportation. If, for whatever reason, we had to take public transportation, as soon as we came home, we were to take all our clothes off and immediately throw it in the washer. However, during high school, I had to depend on public transportation more frequently. My mother didn’t trust me to do my laundry when it came to the “bus clothes” and didn’t even allow me to put it into the hamper with the other “normal dirty clothes,” so I had no choice but leave it on my floor, in the corner of my room, for her to pick up when she could. However, during this particular incident, she is going through a depressive period where she doesn’t do her regular chores, so my clothing starts to pile up. It’s Monday.)

Mom: “What’s wrong with you?”

Me: “What?”

Mom: “Look at all the clothing on the floor!”

Me: “But that’s the ‘bus clothes.'”

Mom: “I KNOW THAT! Why did you make it so messy?”

(When I get home, I immediately just throw my clothing off and jump into the shower, as we’ve always done.)

Me: “I’m sorry. I can fold them if—”

Mom: “No, NO! Don’t! They’re dirty! Don’t even touch it; I’ll deal with it later.”

(She doesn’t get to it and another day goes by.)

Mom: “[My Name], what did I tell you about your clothes?”

Me: “Well, I tried to fold the ones I took off today and—”

Mom: “NO FOLDING!”

Me: “I just did it for today’s clothes!”

Mom: “No, just… just take them off as fast as you can, but neater, but don’t handle them so much to fold them!”

Me: “I can wash them if it’s too much. I can wash my normal clothes and put on gloves for these and—”

Mom: “NO! You don’t know how! You won’t clean them right!” *starts crying*

(Some variation of this conversation happens for the rest of the school week, where I attempt or offer to do something better but only seem to upset her more. On Friday, however, I’m exhausted from school and something finally snaps in me.)

Mom: “I just wished there was a better way—”

Me: “What. Do. You. Want. Me. To. Do?”

Mom: “…”

Me: “What do you actually want me to do?”

Mom: “…”

Me: “Do you want me to put the pile in a box?”

Mom: “No!”

Me: “I can wash—”

Mom: “NO.”

Me: “Then what, Mom? What do you want me to do?”

Mom: “…”

(It was at that moment it started to sink in that I’d essentially talked back to my mother, and I braced for the eruption of shouting, slammed doors, flipped tables, and broken dishes that usually happened when something triggered an angry episode, but to my surprise she just turned around and walked away. No shouting, no panic attack, nothing. I saw her curled up in the couch later on, not in a depressive daze like usual, but in contemplative thought. For a while, I thought I had cracked the code; when there was something she was bothered with about me, I would “talk back” by directly asking what she wanted me to do, and she would just go quiet, and change the subject or drop the topic completely. It didn’t work all the time, but it was the closest I felt to being “rebellious” towards her. Thankfully, when I went to college, she sought more professional help for all her problems, and through candid conversations between us as adults, I came to realize that those times I would “talk back” were times I was trying to engage in, or practice, direct communication. However, since she had never learned to put her emotions into words, it usually threw her off and made her uncomfortable. She’s doing much better now, and although I acknowledge that I grew up in a toxic environment with her, I’ve pretty much forgiven her, and am still in contact with her to this day. I’ve been fortunate that my school has an awesome counseling center that I shoved myself into from day one of freshman year, and I’ve decided to pursue a degree in psychology to help other people like my mother and myself out.)

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