Two Unusual Relationships

I have had “different” relationships with my parents I suppose… well.. it’s natural for me but when I see others with their parents and I read about parent-child relationships I find huge differences between what’s written and what I see around me v/s what I have had in my own life. My father was never really a father to me but more of a friend/soulmate.. our personalities are very similar (i still can’t bring myself to say “were” though he passed away 22 years ago). He had an addiction to alcohol and became like a child when he drank, all emotional and romantic, expressing his love for my mother through songs he would play on his stereo… I felt protective over him and wanted to shield him from the world, from the hurt that he would feel when mom would threaten to leave and indeed from anything else that would cause him pain. I don’t know why it was natural for me to take on that role, logically speaking I was the child and I ought to have been seeking protection from him but it was the other way round for us; and you know what, I don’t think it was a burden or unnatural or too much or anything else you might think because I WANTED it I WANTED to protect him and I CHOSE.. it may seem that as a child I was thrust into the situation and had no choice, but I disagree. I did have a choice, I could have just been the kid and busied myself with my friends and the other adults in the family who did shower all their attention on me (yes I was the golden child who could do no wrong *sigh* and contrary to what people may think it wasn’t fun but that’s another <rather long> story for another day). Coming back to the point, yes I did have a choice and I CHOSE to be his protector, n0t that I could do much other than comfort him in times of distress; like the times he would anxiously ask if mom was actually going to carry out her threat of leaving. I learned the positive side of lying then; I actually had no way of knowing if she would leave or not but I would rein in my own fear and tell him that she would never really leave him. I absolutely DO NOT REGRET any of what I did or went through because of our “different” relationship. I simply think of myself as fortunate to have loved a soul as much as I loved him. In fact, I learned how to love from and because of him! The only thing I regret is not having enough time with him because I wanted to give him the world but all I had, at that time to give, was myself. Somehow I think if he were alive he would tell me that that was enough…

My relationship with my mother has been a lot more complex, with many more hues, than that with my dad. There are a few reasons why this is so, one of which is that I simply have had more time with her. Another is that she and I are very different in terms of our personalities. Mom is someone who has amazing skills in the practical daily living dimension. Emotions, however, seem to be something she has not ever really figured out. She is unable to understand and deal with emotions well; neither her own nor those of people around her. Needless to say, this lack of understanding impacts her relationships negatively. We have had a sort of give-and-take kind of relationship. She used to manage all the practical day to day things that I wasn’t able to cope with very well because of my anxieties and preoccupations. There are many things that I know I have been able to do only because she was there to help me. Examinations are an example. I used to get extremely anxious and would never have been able to study as far as I have if she had not been right there with me, driving me to the exam venue and waiting till i finished so that I would have the comfort of knowing that I wasn’t alone. She provided for us, working hard so that we could have food, decent clothes, and of course my education. My role was to give her a feeling of having someone to live for, a feeling of family. She never had any close friends and would talk to me the way one would to a close friend, confiding in me, telling me things about her relationship with my father, things that most people may not want to know about their parents, but somehow, it seemed natural that she would share those details with me. In recent times she has started depending on me more and more for figuring out the best response in emotional situations like the one with her elder sister, with whom she has never got along very well. I remember a time when I was at work and received a call from her to complain about a fight she had had with that sister. Later, I remember thinking with a smile, “Sometimes, I wonder, which of us is the parent!” With regard to the emotional world I suppose I take over the parental role, and in the practical “getting things done” kind of situation she would take over, until recent times. She now gets panicky even in the real life practical situations, so I have started taking over when she seems overwhelmed. Mom often doesn’t know her own emotional conditions and needs but just as the emotional states of a child are often very visible in the way they behave, it is rather easy to know some of hers. I know, for instance, that she has the need to feel needed by someone. She often says she would enjoy having no responsibilities but she clings to them all the same. Maybe the feeling of being bound by responsibility is an escape from the fear of isolation and loneliness that she would otherwise have to confront. Something that happened recently made me think that this was a possibility. I was telling her that I planned to take some holidays this year to just “get away” for few days at a time. She said somewhat resentfully that she too would like to “get away” and that she “felt so bound by responsibilities of the house sometimes.” As we spoke further about it, and I suggested that we take holidays at separate times (because we can’t leave our dogs with anyone else) she started getting more agitated. I sensed that she wasn’t ok with travelling alone so I suggested a couple of names as potential travelling companions but she shot down all my suggestions with great disdain giving me all the reasons why they would not at all be suitable. At that point, maybe more because of her visible agitation than anything specific she said, I suddenly felt the utter loneliness that she must be going through, which she seemed to be struggling to keep at bay. She actually has no one with whom she is close, other than me. Talk about pressure, eh! I have struggled with my emotions for her. In the beginning, I tried all possible ways to gain her approval. She is someone who has a tendency to criticise much more than praise because she thinks that that is what helps people to learn. The realisation hit me, after many years of trying, that if Sisyphus was to exchange places with me for a day he would beg to go back to Tartarus and his boulder! Seriously, though, for a long time, I refused to acknowledge my love for her. I would stick by her and call it “duty.” I still have trouble openly stating that I love her. Maybe I have been trying to protect myself because to me loving someone also meant having their approval and being “good” in their eyes. I am glad to say that things are slowly changing. I am beginning to be able to acknowledge my love for people as independent of their opinions about and feelings towards me.

These two different relationships I have known, have been the source of both, great joy and great pain for me. I am still trying to navigate the twists and turns in the relationship with my mother. It can be extremely exhausting sometimes, but I suppose, the learning is immense.

 

 

 

Being misgendered

Pain! Gut wrenching, soul shredding pain! Thats what I feel when you misgender me. I know that you dont mean to hurt me, after all what motive could you possibly have to hurt a perfect stranger…. and yet.. the pain… oh the utter misery of being hurt without conscious intent..

Open letter to my mother

Dear mom

I was deeply hurt the other day when you called me and my identity “unnatural”. I was hurt and I responded by trying to hurt you back. I regret that most of all. What hurt me most was that in one stroke everything good that I do is washed away. It seems that you can only see the part of me you deem unfit or unnatural, that part of me is however very real and very natural to me. It is my identity mom. It is who I AM. I tried not to be that. I tried for 25 years to be exactly the kind of “daughter” you wanted. I got depressed as a result and got diagnosed as bipolar. Unfortunately, the doctors did not realize that the symptoms I spoke of were caused by gender and the only reason I would get depressed after a party was that I had to “dress up” each time there was one. I played a role all those years mom. I played it for you and for dad. I learned how to play it well. So well that no one knew it was a role that I was playing. I ought to get an Oscar you know! I searched for approval and validation from others because I never knew what it meant to be me. I had to get approval to know I was playing the role right. Life was rocky because my sense of self was dependent on the mirror others would hold up for me in their approval or disapproval and my self-esteem could plummet after the slightest hint of the latter. The name dad gave me so lovingly was unfortunately never one that I could identify with. I tried, mom, believe me, I tried my level best. How is it that you can’t see the love of a son who is choosing to stay with you, giving up the very easy path of moving away to live his own life, just so that he can take care of you and ensure that you are not lonely or sad, how is it that you can’t see that? You say you tried very hard to have a child, how is it that you cannot accept that child now for who he really is? Is love really that conditional? I know you are trying in your own way, I know you care, you ask me if I have eaten and scold me because the food you kept for me is lying untouched. I long for your acceptance more than food mom. I long for you to tell me its ok, that you may never understand it but that you will still accept it because you love me. As i sit typing this with tears streaming down my face I get a call from you. I struggle to keep my voice from betraying me while you say that the maid has made tea. I somehow manage to tell you that i’l be downstairs in a moment. I will have to stop this letter here and go downstairs acting nonchalant  while my soul is screaming in pain.

sigh…

I love you mom! Always have always will..

your son

Raghav

Just a bit about me and this blog

hi folks

Just a little introduction– I’m Raghav, a transman from India who is currently living well inside the closet with regard to gender as well as orientation. I also happen to be a clinical psychologist and therefore, I’m sure you would appreciate the need for secrecy. My work is my first love and I can’t stand the thought of it getting jeopardised for any reason, even if the reason is my own identity. I am starting this blog as a personal diary of sorts which brings us to the reason why I am publishing it as a blog in the first place. Well, there are two reasons. First, well, it will help me to know that my story will be known to those of you who would take the trouble to read my not so well written posts. It will be therapeutic for me in that sense. Secondly, during the course of my journey so far I have met many who have found a kindred spirit in me and some who have even felt inspired by a few of my stories. I hope that this blog will reach out to others who find themselves in a similar boat and who need to know that there are others struggling with similar life conditions and experiences. This blog will not stick to any particular subject matter, it will simply be about my experiences and my perspectives about the same.

thanks for reading!

cheers!