Bring forth all the Death to 2021 posts! Hold them high, post them frequently until midnight and hope that the Powers That Be hear us and bring us a more prosperous, healthy, loving 2022.
We can all hope and dream, can’t we?!
I wish I could blame Covid for my downfall this year but I can’t, so I’ll try my best not to mention it.
2021 was the year I lost my son; my best friend and the one person I implicitly trusted, and not through death or forced separation, but through my own attitudes. Yet despite knowing how I was complicit in my own downfall, a large part of me is defiant, justified and I refuse to move on it.
I was never a possessive mother. From my own lonely, single-child experiences, I wanted my son to be sociable; always have friends and family around him, be a part of ‘something’ and I largely succeeded. I enrolled him in every school club I could afford, did the sleepovers and parties and despite my dislike of other parents, I did what I could to fit in with them. An oddball with an attachment disorder, I’ve never found humans the easiest to stomach, but for my son I would do anything, including put up with other parents.
As he became a teenager and more independent, I didn’t stop him from doing what he wanted to do or hanging out with the people he wanted to. I trusted his judgement and not once did he give me reason not to. From a very young age, he’d acted older than his years and as a teenager, my son wasn’t easily influenced by his peers and I took pride in his emotional balance. He liked what he liked, didn’t bow down to fashion or trends, had his own views and wasn’t scared to express them. Yet he was kind, always ready to see a situation from an others perspective and much more emotionally mature than other teenagers. Not once did he succumb to the stereotypes of his single-mother, lower class background- he stayed away from drugs, crime, alcohol and not once did he entertain the concept of rebelling. In our mother-son relationship, he was often the voice of reason and motivation, when I was the voice of anxiety and dread.
When it came to his friends, he chose people like him- sensible, thoughtful- and the girlfriends he chose, the same. When he had his first serious relationship at 17 years old (she was 18), I didn’t stop him maturing in the relationship. I allowed overnight stays- welcomed her with open arms- and said and meant every ‘Have a brilliant night’ when he stayed at hers.
When she broke his heart, I was there for him to lean on and he declared that I was his best friend. It was phrase that we both often used. Despite being mother and son, we were also best friends with rarely an argument over anything more serious than the washing up.
But we all change. Sometimes, not for the better.
In 2018, we moved country. It was meant to be a better life for the both of us. A seaside town with a community and low crime rate versus a town only popular for its links to terrorism and a stabbing of a teenager every week. Where would you choose to live? Given the opportunity, we got out of Dodge and took a deep breath of salty air.
It wasn’t easy at first and we both suffered for the changes, but we knew that if we could make it work in our new town, we’d be okay. Eventually, the pain of leaving our ‘home’ would be worth it.
I was used to being lonely. It’s been the pattern of my life. The spare part in my mother and step-father’s relationship, I spent a lot of time in my bedroom as a child and thanks to the frequent home and school moves, I wasn’t allowed to form any stable long-term childhood friendships.
Being the third wheel in my parent’s relationship and always the New Kid, I’ve become used to bullying and being ostracised from a group, so a new town with strangers wasn’t such an adjustment to me, but to my son with his stable upbringing, it was devastating. Despite social media, he needed his friends and more than once travelled the 400 miles on his own to go back and see them. A couple of them even came to visit us.
When he eventually started college 9 months after the move, he began meeting new friends and slowly but surely, the old crowd became a memory, and by 2019 he’d met his current partner.
The relationship was rocky from the beginning and as any best friend would, I pointed out the red flags. She was emotionally manipulative- if he didn’t do what she wanted him to do, she would threaten to finish the relationship. I hadn’t even met her, but every tale he told me about her was disturbing. She suffered with mental health issues, didn’t have any friends, kept getting into trouble at work for her behaviour towards others. But still, I had to give her a chance, because each of those statements was me to a T when I was younger. I suffered with mental health issues, didn’t have any friends and was constantly changing jobs, because of bullying or because I didn’t like someone.
Before I’d met her, I knew exactly what kind of person she was and I really didn’t want my son dating her. However, I knew if anyone could handle her, he could. He’d grown up with me as a mother after all.
Then I met her. We were thrown in to lockdown and after another threat of finishing their relationship, she joined us.
To say she was unpleasant was an understatement. She was rude; over-opinionated on everything from the way I washed-up to the behaviour of my cats. She separated herself from me, choosing to send most of the time in my son’s bedroom bar the odd ventures out to criticise something or eat. She refused to eat anything I cooked, opting for fast food and junk; constantly put my son down- from his clothes to his hair cut, she didn’t appear to like any of it to the point where I wondered why she was dating him in the first place. She never seemed to have a good word to say about anything.
I was honest with him, told him what I thought and gave examples and he seemed to recognise and understand what I was saying. He even agreed, but made excuses for her, many of which appeared to beg for sympathy. She’d had a hard childhood apparently- her father was abusive towards her mother…
And there we have it! She was mirroring her parents relationship, except this time it wasn’t the male who was the abuser- it was the female.
For another six months, I had to frequently listen to her treat my son like shit. Since he’d been with her, he’d put on a dangerous amount of weight from all the rubbish he was eating (despite warnings from his doctor about his liver functioning and blood pressure), changed the way he dressed, cut himself off from his friends from college and his hometown, quit his volunteer work as a local radio presenter and become distant from his family.
When I eventually burst and was honest with him, he completely turned on me. He fed the conversation back to her and began to further distance himself from me. She went back home and refused to come back to the house, and every interaction my son and I had was fraught with tension and arguments. No matter what I said, how I explained or exampled what she was doing, his throwback remained the same phrases and same words, accusing me of being jealous and not letting him grow up, which seeing as he was supposed to be the only person who really knew me, seemed illogical. I’d never once been jealous of my own son and I’d never once dampened his independence. Not once!
And it wasn’t me that was the only person witnessing it. Other family members- his grandmother, my cousin and her partner- they’d seen and witnessed her behaviour too. Even being privy to some nasty comments about me when I wasn’t in the house.
In January of this year, after a Christmas ruined by his bare attendance and lack of want to be with his family, I gave him an ultimatum- he faced up to the reality of the relationship, started listening to what we were saying and got some help, either through contacting a domestic abuse agency or by getting some information online. If he couldn’t choose to do this, then he could choose to be truly independent and move out. He was 20 years old with a full-time job that paid better than my own job in Civil Service, so he could afford to live on his own. By then, due to his girlfriend’s complaints, he was already spending 6 out of 7 nights at hers anyway, so when he moved in with her at her mother’s, it was hardly a massive change for him.
From the day he moved out, I have not spoken to him nor he reached out to me. I attempted to speak to him through Facebook messages, but he still kept saying the same things- I was trying to kill his independence. The words he was wrote- exactly the same phrases he was saying in the months previously with very little deviation, like a practised script, ingrained as the only argument, with little evidence other than I didn’t like his girlfriend. Even the examples I gave, he twisted. Apparently, the half a dozen plus conversations we’d had about her emotional blackmail all of sudden hadn’t happened; the things his grandmother had heard her say were taken out of context; she wasn’t a bossy bully- she was just opinionated. He’d changed the way he looked, cut off friends and quit his volunteer work because he wanted to- absolutely nothing to do with her criticising what he wore or getting jealous over friends and accidently-on-purpose turning up at the places when he had arranged to meet them without her. Absolutely nothing to do with the fact that she thought the volunteer work and paid work took too much time away from ‘Her Time’.
In the year since he’s been living with her, he’s even giving up working full-time and is now working a part-time job near to where they live. He told his grandmother it was his choice, but coincidently it means that she can keep tabs on him easier.
He’s also publicly bad-mouthed me on social media and spun the lie that I chucked him out and made him homeless. I didn’t- I gave him boundaries to live by in my home and a choice to either stay in my home with those boundaries (i.e. seek help for what was clearly a controlling and abusive relationship) or live up to what he was claiming about me- if I was stunting his independence, why didn’t he leave? He was adult, raking in over £1,200 a month in wages and with at least £400 in his savings account. If I was such an ogre, why did it take me setting boundaries for him to leave?
I didn’t ask him to end the relationship or choose between her and his family. I simply wanted him to recognise what was going on so he could nip it in the bud- so they both could. If they could recognise what was going on in the relationship- that she was mirroring her parent’s relationship- they could get help. Not once- ever- did I suggest he split up with her.
Yet I was the enemy. I hadn’t fallen in love with her controlling ways as he had and I needed to be gone.
The week before Christmas, he met up with my mother and told her he would contact me in the New Year, but he hasn’t moved from his stance and is still bad-mouthing me. I’m still the one on the wrong and when he meets up with me, I have to keep my mouth shut. I’ve told her to let him know not to bother. What I am about to write sounds heartless, but given my experiences- my fucked-up childhood, the torment of school and lifetime bullies, the mistreatment from men- kin and lovers; after hurting me so badly- turning on me the way he did considering our strong bond- there is no way back.
Life taught me not to trust- my mother has always been my biggest enemy, constantly choosing my step-father over me, even when it came to my wellbeing and health. Constantly belittled and disregarded as a child; competing with him for her attention and always losing. I was the joke they both laughed at for entertainment; the thing to punish when they’d had a hard day; the object to pack away and move whenever they couldn’t be bothered to pay the rent or he was up for another spell in prison. To other children, I was the oddity that didn’t know how to act around people; the small thing to push around and plaster in bleach; the sap that would hand over her dinner money for their cigarettes. To men, I was the ‘Pull a Pig’, the desperate lush, the vulnerable one-nighter that they didn’t have to remember the name of because I didn’t matter. Even old school acquaintances don’t remember for anything more than the weird girl who tried to commit suicide at 14. That’s if they remember me at all.
To everyone I’ve ever met, I’ve been an arm in a bucket of water. The state of it is unchanged when it’s removed. It doesn’t matter. I don’t matter.
2021 showed me that no matter how much I love someone, no matter how much I invest, I don’t matter. They will inevitably turn on me and disregard me.
So, from 2022, no one matters to me and I will stop caring completely. I’m almost there. I just need to dissolve the anger to know I truly don’t care anymore and right now, apathy is still only a momentary feeling. One day, I envision it to be a constant.
To my son, you gave me the final layer of shell. No one has hurt me like you have and no one will again. You have validated what all the others have been screaming at me for years- I am nothing and nothing I do or say matters.
And I return that. 2022 will be the year I stop crying and the year I stop caring.