After reading E.B. Johnson’s article titled Let’s Talk About the Time My Mother Abandoned Me on the Side of the Road.” | by E.B. Johnson | Sep, 2023 | Medium which detailed the trauma she endured due to her mother’s mental health, one thing led to another, and coincidentally, Michelle and I were inspired to write a response in sequence. I wrote mine first, and then Michelle swiftly took over, contributing her wealth of experience in the field of mental health.
She also shared her own story about her mother’s narcissistic life and how she handled it when she understood what was going on with her.
We aimed to make a small contribution to raising awareness about the challenges faced by caregivers who support individuals dealing with mental illness. We recognize that many people in this role experience immense difficulties, and we felt compelled to address this pressing issue, striving to make it a vital source of support for anyone going through this horrendous task.
Not in my wildest dreams did I expect the kind of response and backlash we received from the author, as you can read from the excerpts below.
From the author:
This conversation between the two of you is why more survivors of women like my mother gaslight themselves into silence.
I hope one day the two of you find it in youor heart to hold as much space for the children of conscious abusers (as my mother was) as you do for the abusers themselves.Extremely disappointed to read this and hope both of you do a little bit more searching in your hearts (and my content) before you respond to other survivors this way.”
From my little contribution which brought in Michelle:
“I’m so sorry for your trauma. No doubt, she was an adult but unfortunately, overwhelmed by her mental illness and not by her making. It’s sad to read how no one loved her, including you. Many are going through the same thing today. It’s never easy.”
My perspective stems from my personal experience with my grandmother, whom I believed was experiencing dementia due to her erratic behavior. At that time, during my teenage years, I had no understanding of what was happening to her.
Compounding the issue was the fact that this all occurred in a third-world country, where such behaviors, especially in the elderly, are often attributed to being a bad person — a witch or a wizard — someone who is paying for the evils they may have committed in their lifetime.
Thus, when reading E.B. Johnson’s article, I paid close attention to the actions and reactions, trying to assess the humane aspect of the story.
Consequently, I took issue with the way in which her mother was treated, particularly in the final stages of her life. Both Michelle and I refrained from assigning blame to anyone, especially considering that her mother (may her gentle soul rest in peace) is no longer alive to defend herself.
In effect, our judgments were made solely based on what the author E.B. Johnson conveyed in her writing. The following phrase may serve as an example: “Despite that, she was never really loved — not by me and not by anyone else in her life.”
In her response to the author’s writeup, Michelle, in her role as a Mental Health Professional, nailed the essence of the article as shown below.
“I was thinking the same. I know this was traumatic for her in her teen years, and I completely validate that. But I can’t help but see how much pain her mother must have been in, knowing she had nobody who loved her, her communication problems and being unable to express herself properly and to people who didn’t love her anyways and probably did not care, and how that creates a desperation inside her. She’s acting out and screaming and nobody cares. And obviously there’s references to her also having had a traumatic childhood that damaged her adult self. And nobody cares. It’s very sad really. Perhaps it was less ego and more feeling completely alone in her world. Perhaps her abandoning you on the road that day (and I know that hurt you very much) was in some way a result of her feeling abandoned by everyone in her life.
Not all mental illnesses are narcissism. Of course, this is the only story of your mother I’ve read, so maybe I don’t see the whole picture. But I know that narcissism is the trendy mental illness for everything nowadays, so… Just throwing out the perspective that maybe it was something else.
My mother was a true narcissist, though there were many times she was pretty cool too. It took me a long time to heal from what I went through as an older teen and young adult. I didn’t understand why she was so cruel to me until my 40s. Then it all made sense and I was able to heal and learn how to navigate her. And I didn’t let it get to me anymore because I knew why she was acting that way. My mother is not dead (she has full-fledged dementia now and doesn’t even remember I ever existed; she thinks she’s a teenager again. It’s very sad.), but she doesn’t have to be for me to feel free. I am free. I learned why she acted that way, healed, and rose above it. In all this, the point is, even though it felt very personal to you how she acted and treated you, maybe it really wasn’t as much as it appeared to be. She was obviously fighting her own battles with herself, and you were going through the emotional shifts that teens normally go through, which she was not able to handle on top of her own stuff. It could have been less ego and more desperation and being overwhelmed in so many ways, and she acted out on you (or others, if you weren’t there). Maybe that shift in perspective may help you obtain more healing for yourself and some compassion for her in your eyes. I think your mother did love you very much, but she had so much gone against her in her nightmare inner world that she was unable to express that properly to you. And she probably knew that. And it probably made her sadder inside, adding to her inner demons. See if seeing her from that angle helps. Best wishes to you on your continued healing.”
Though at first there was a misconception about the term “the inner demon,” good enough I quickly discovered that it’s rather a medical term and nothing to do with spiritualism.
In her writeup, Michelle shed light on the different facets of traumatic conditions.
She agreed with me as we sympathized with Johnson going through such a trauma as a teenager. At the same time, drawing her attention to the fact that it’s true her mother was an adult, but she was overwhelmed by her sickness. Besides, the ailment must have compounded because of the lack of love from everyone including herself, E.B. Johnson.
She went further to say not all mental illnesses are narcissism. Thus, some people could easily mistake the real term blaming it on today’s trend.
Michelle could cite her own mother’s case who was a real narcissist, when she said, “My mother was a true narcissist, though there were many times she was pretty cool too. It took me a long time to heal from what I went through as an older teen and young adult. I didn’t understand why she was so cruel to me until my 40s.”
She could point out the double battle that was going on at the same time. Maybe Johnson was too young to understand and handle what was going on with her mother. Her lack of understanding must have complicated the issue as the mother was maybe out of her mind too, and needed someone who could understand what she was going through. Unfortunately, no one was ready to listen to her inner demon.
“Maybe that shift in perspective may help you obtain more healing for yourself and some compassion for her in your eyes. I think your mother did love you very much, but she had so much gone against her in her nightmare inner world that she was unable to express that properly to you. And she probably knew that. And it probably made her sadder inside, adding to her inner demons. See if seeing her from that angle helps. Best wishes to you on your continued healing.”
Finally, since we all write and publish our work for readers to read, this case won’t be an exception. I anticipate that our valued readers will act as the arbiters in this matter. I want to reiterate that our intentions were never meant to cause harm to anyone.
Instead, our purpose, if anything, was aimed at assisting others in our modest manner. As writers, my humble advice is that we should possess the stomach to accept and process the truth at all times, even when it is bitter.