“You don’t matter Jasmine!”
“I don’t matter at all?”
“Okay, so you are telling me I don’t matter?”
“Yeah, You Don-”
My mother paused. Maybe she thought about what she said, finally. Maybe she realized she sounded stupid. Or maybe she realized her unnecessary cruel words didn’t hurt me at all. I don’t know. After that conversation she spoke a little softer. My mother blurted this out when I was telling her about my day at work. It was a random verbal assault that I had gotten all too used to in my life.
Honestly, I never picked up on it until I got therapy. I thought all mothers told their daughters they sucked. I didn’t believe she was trying to prepare me for the real world, but it unfortunately allowed me to let random strangers opinions shape my self worth. My mother was TOXIC all capital letters and she had no idea how much she was like the mother she believed she escaped from.
My grandmother was on drugs, is on drugs. On and Off. She abused her children, starved and neglected them, and sold her daughters off for drugs. My grandmother tore my mother down about her looks, her weight, my mothers depression, her rape, the fact that she had five kids, and everything you could think of. My grandmother was in and out of our lives, she abused me. It was when she was gone that I felt free. See, my grandmother hit my 8 year old ass like I was a 40 year old six foot something man over anything she could think of and often without explanation. My grandmother taunted me like she did my mother and yet my mother did nothing to protect me no matter how many pleas I made to her about my grandma. Maybe my mother accepted this as a way of life.
Fast forward over twenty years. After several abusive relationships, toxic friendships, three rapes, two bouts of homelessness, and meeting and kicking my biological father out of my life. “You don’t matter!” seem to be my mothers hit song on repeat.
In fact “you don’t matter” was a verb because through all of what was listed she helped me with nothing, When I told her I was raped”You wanted that to happen”, when I needed a place to stay”Nope”, when I asked her what my fathers name was in order to find him”Why?! HE DON’T WANT YOU JASMINE!”, when she caught whiff I was in an abusive relationship “You’ll figure this one out on your own”. There had been times I was scared, I felt I was deserving of all the pain that had come my way despite doing nothing to warrant it. I was alone and I couldn’t quite understand why. I was a good daughter. I did more for my mother than she had ever done for me. I regularly called her even though she answered the phone with “What is it Jasmine?” I paid visits to her at work even though she ignored me so bad I would leave after five minutes.
I equated so much of my worth by how much my treated me. I used to think I had to be so awful if my own mother didn’t want me and spent her life expressing that over and over to me. Yet somehow when it came to toxic friends and potential suitors I had had enough. and so I started a purge of awful people from my life. My mother was the last person and the hardest person to remove. I felt tied down by DNA and maybe by hopes. Hopes that she would actually show some sort of sign of affection, but I got nothing.
Here I was last summer. Devastated, alone, and incredibly suicidal. Yet I was doing well! I was acing my classes, I was doing well at work, I laughed and smiled in public , but when I got behind closed doors I cried. I started fantasizing about how the world was a better place without me and I thought of suicide comparable to when I was a teen living with my mother. That terrified me! It had been almost ten years since my last suicide attempt, but the urge was so strong. Determined to not repeat history I sought help. I spent six weeks caching a two hour bus ride to the school therapists office only to discover I was too late and could not see them. One day after work I had decided I was going to end it all and that I should pick a date, it was then I remember there was an emergency therapy center free to public. I went there immediately, waited outside an hour and mustered the words “I needed help” I saw a therapist and it was like everything that happened to me spilled out of my lips and why I was feeling the way I felt came out too. and for that moment I felt a weight lifted off my shoulders although I wasn’t cured of my suicidal urges I began to feel hope.
I saw the emergency therapist for three weeks. The limit was four and she found me a trauma specialized therapist, a support group, and a few resources to help me cope with my depression. I got in as soon as I could with the trauma specialist.
Anyways, after a year of therapy, reading several books on toxic mothers, toxic friendships, listening to a few podcasts, researching the experiences of other black women, joining one club, and pursuing my educational goals.
I began setting boundaries in ways I didn’t think was possible. I began having standards, a belief in myself that I never once in my life had. I began painting again which was something I stopped because I heard all too often”You’re not talented enough!” despite having been in many major galleries. I began to look at the things I accomplished with pride and stop searching for validation from my mother. Also, whenever I spoke to her I would cut the conversation once it leaned towards bullying or shaming me. I stopped tolerating her cruelty. Stopped being hurt by not being invited to family get togethers. I started asking myself questions that I didn’t want to originally answer but I did anyways like “if I met the love of my life and got married would I want my mother at my wedding?” ” If I accomplished a major goal in my life would I want my mother to be there?” I had asked many more questions all related to monumental moments in a persons life and the answer was always “No”.
And it was oddly freeing because it allowed me to see my mother for who she is and see myself for who I am. I had to let go of what if’s because if I didn’t I knew I would never be happy. I am a good person deserving of love and kindness. I deserved to be treated with respect and no matter how much respect or love I showed my mother it was never reciprocated and even though it wasn’t okay, I knew I was going to be okay.