My mother’s favorite phrase is, “You gotta do what you gotta do.”
This pearl of wisdom is casually thrown at me when I announce a major decision, one in which I may need support or encouragement; for example: I am selling my home or I am leaving my job. What her retort really means is, “I totally disagree with you and you’re making a big mistake; but, go ahead, ruin your life.”
No Safety Net
My mother has many passive aggressive ways of making me feel like total crap. It’s akin to jumping from an airplane with confidence your support system will back you up and then you pull the parachute cord and nothing happens; or a tightrope walker who falls from his wire only to find there was a hole in the net. My mother has that infallible ability to render you dead in the water. It makes me wonder…has she studied Sun Tzu’s “Art of War?”
In this famous work of military strategy, chapter six outlines how the attacker can take opportunity from spotting weakness in the enemy; a “chink in the armor” so to speak. My mother seems to have surgeon like precision when attacking the Achilles heel. Except, she engages in emotional warfare rather than physical. She also fails to see that I am not the enemy.
But the truth of the matter is, an enemy does exist. In navigating my own struggles with mental illness it became glaringly obvious that my mother has a mental illness too. The catch is, she doesn’t know it. My mother is fighting something faceless and nameless and without substance.
The Enemy – Mental Illness
There are no step by step books like the Art of War written about how to defeat that kind of adversary. It’s a malevolent shape-shifter which takes on the form of her children, her co-workers or any person or situation appearing as a perceived threat. What she doesn’t realize is that although her tactics may temporarily stun her assumed opponent, she is loosing the war.
She is launching fireballs at an empty battlefield, at soldiers who are ghosts. We are not the enemy.
Unfortunately, I am an innocent casualty of this raging war, as are my sister, my brother, my father and many others that happen to unknowingly step on her road side bombs.
The War is an Illusion, The Scars are Very Real
For a long time I thought I had to repair my armor, patch up the chinks, strengthen my defenses but then I realized…I’m not in the war, she is. My chinks and holes, my anxiety, mental illness and so called weaknesses just make me human not a soldier. The battle she’s fighting against me is fake so how can I be hurt by an illusion?
But there is a battle going on inside her and unless she can correctly identify the enemy, she most certainly will lose. As Sun Tzu says, “All warfare is based on deception.” He also states, “If you know both yourself and your enemy you can win numerous battles without jeopardy.”