Mom, I love you, but this one’s about you.
I just got off the phone with my mother, who I dearly love and who I consider to be one of my best friends. I can talk with her about anything: my childhood, her illnesses, my anxieties, her crazy bridge friends, my relationship, her allergies, my career choices, her newest exercise routine. You get the picture.
She and my dad are coming to visit us at the end of the week, and I’m really excited about this. I’m also a little scared, as usual, because the house isn’t nearly clean enough and I am not living up to the standard of the perfect daughter–whatever that is. These are fears that I try to ignore or talk myself out of daily anyway, it’s just a little more ramped up right now.
During our hour-long conversation today, we discussed a lot of things including my upcoming nuptials, how tight-fisted CEOs can be on salary allowances, and of course, health issues. This is a common theme, mainly because my mother has struggled with mysterious food allergies that reared their ugly heads over two successive Thanksgivings after I graduated college.
Mom, Dad, and my younger brothers who were still in high school and college would sit down at the dinner table for the traditional feast, and halfway through the bird, mom would swell up like a blow-fish and need to be rushed to the hospital. Anaphylactic shock, anytime she got near turkey, lettuce, yeast, onions, oranges, and a bunch of other foods. Horrible and frustrating, to say the least.
I understand what it’s like to have mysterious illnesses with symptoms that others can’t see. Migraines and depression make you feel like a faker because no matter how miserable you feel, you can’t fully express these things to others. All you want is to feel better, but no one really knows why you’re sick or how to make you feel better. In the end, doctors and other health care professionals end up just throwing medications and diagnoses at you, hoping that something sticks.
Today my mother was talking about her latest illness, and for her sake I won’t detail the symptoms, but as I listened to her, I felt like I could sympathize with the symptoms, and had experienced some of them myself. “You’re just paranoid, you little hypochondriac,” I told myself.
I pretty much tell myself this all the time when I’m feeling symptomatic. Maybe that’s why I’ve been walking around on a sore knee since January.
The fact is, my stomach has been upset a lot lately, actually for the last two years. But I’ve been taking a medication that makes my stomach upset when I eat too much. And I have anxiety. And I ate a LOT of Indian food today (and I enjoyed every minute of that buffet–it’s really nice to eat a veggie buffet). So I could have cancer.
I love my mother, but I know that I feed off of her anxiety sometimes. It’s because the universe revolves around me. When she’s talking about her illness, instead of actually thinking about how bad these things are for her, how much she’s hurting, I’m thinking, “Oh my god, I’m dying. I can feel the life slipping away little by little. With every symptom she lists, the tumor in my brain is growing.”
And it’s not because I don’t like to hear her talk. And it’s not because I don’t worry about her health.
She’s just supposed to be worried about me. I’m the child.