Mommy, when I grow up, I want to marry you," D said, cuddling up closer and resting his head on my shoulder. We were snuggled in his little blue race car bed for book time, his words, so innocent gave me an unwavering feeling of joyful contentment.
I was confident I would never love anyone more than I did my little boy at that moment.
"He hates me," I said to my therapist Kirsten during our session, one that followed a particularly explosive incident between D and me. I wasn't trying to be dramatic. I believed my words wholeheartedly.
"He is rebelling against the robotic, overcontrolling, psycho mom persona," she said, citing the words D had used to describe me as of late, "he doesn't like her, but he loves you, Sherri."
"I deserve his hate," I choked, my throat tightening so I wouldn't cry. "I wasn't there for him then."
Kirsten paused, leaning back in her chair as if to allow space for her words to float through the air, and find their way into my heart. “But you can be there for him now."
I didn’t know how to be there for Dylan without hurting myself. Despite my year striving to recover from anorexia, I was struggling to forgive myself for allowing the disease to get in my way of being the mom my boys deserved. I held, and still hold, anger at myself around that. I believed I deserved D's anger too. My guilt made it difficult to find the balance between enforcing consequences for D and setting healthy boundaries for myself. I thought my stringent rules were my way of taking care of him. Keeping him safe. His constant violation made me feel he was being disrespectful and ungrateful. He thought I was a bitch. My husband, fearful of pissing one of us off, made no stance at all. Our time together as a family was spent in raised voices and mean words or holed up in our separate corners, avoiding the tension that seemed to be constantly present in our household. A tension I held tightly in my body, for fear, if I unleashed it, I would destroy what little relationship any of us had left.
My body had felt this way before, the never-ending restlessness that craved a physically demanding outlet. My belly full and distended, made eating a simple snack feel unbearable—the undigested emotions making no room for real food of any kind. Although I had worked tirelessly in treatment to learn new ways to cope with emotional discomfort and distress, I was unprepared for the onslaught of emotions brought on by watching my son slipping away from me. I wanted to blame his rebellious, disrespectful behavior on substance use, but I knew it was more than that. He was being seduced by something more potent than any drug he might be on.
I feared my love for him did not stand a chance against it.